Today is the birthday (1799) of Walenty Wańkowicz (Lithuanian: Valentinas Vankavičius, Belarusian: Валенты Ваньковіч). Not one of those names that springs to your lips, but I chose him because his name is a cognate of Valentine. He was a Polish painter of Belarusian origin whose paintings are better known in Slavic countries than in Western Europe.
Wańkowicz was born on the family estate near Minsk. He was brought up with Polish culture and Catholic faith, however, also with his Belarusian (Ruthenian) noble ancestry in mind. From 1811 he attended a Jesuit academy in Polotsk, where he was trained in civil and military architecture and drawing. His teacher was Jakub Pesling. Wańkowicz graduated here in 1817 with honors. In 1818 he enrolled at the University of Vilnius and studied there under Jan Rustem and Jan Damel. From 1825 to 1829 he attended the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. In Petersburg he made many friends among the rich and famous. One of these was the young, but already celebrated, poet Adam Mickiewicz, he portrayed him at the turn of the year 1827/1828 (Portrait of Adam Mickiewicz on the Ayu-Dag Cliff).
Around this time, he also painted portraits of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, the pianist Maria Szymanowska as well as of the poet and satirist Antoni Gorecki (an uncle of the artist).
In the following years Wańkowicz lived near Minsk in Ślepianka Mała and in Minsk itself, where he had a studio together with Jan Damel. From here he frequently traveled to Vilnius, whose Malszene exerted a great influence on the painters in Minsk. He painted a number of portraits including the allegorical portrait of Napoleon “Napoleon before the fire.”
In recognition of his artistic achievements, the Senate appointed him in 1832 as a member of the Academy. By the end of 1839 he began traveling. In 1840 he lived for some time in Dresden, followed by short stays in Berlin, Munich, and Strasbourg. In 1841 he reached Paris, where he remained until his death in 1842. Wańkowicz was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre.
Zhurek is a well-loved Polish soup of Belarusian origin, much like Wańkowicz – so it seems fitting. It has kvass at its base, a beverage made from fermented rye flour or rye bread, commonly drunk throughout Slavic territories. It gives a strong sour note to the soup. You will need to begin preparations 5 days in advance.
¾ cup rye flour
2 cups water boiled and cooled to lukewarm
½ lb peeled and chopped soup vegetables (carrots, parsnips, celery root, leeks)
6 cups beef stock
½ lb fresh (white) Polish sausage biały kiełbasa
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups kvass
1 garlic clove crushed with ½ tsp salt to make a paste
3 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved
To make the kvass
In a medium bowl, mix together the rye flour and lukewarm water. Pour into a glass jar or ceramic bowl that is large enough for the mixture to expand. Cover with cheesecloth and let stand in a warm place for 4 to 5 days. This should make 2 cups or enough for the soup. Strain through muslin and store in the refrigerator after it has fermented.
To make the soup
In a large soup pot, bring the soup vegetables and the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the sausage and cook another 30 minutes. Remove the sausage from soup, slice when cool enough to handle, and set aside. Strain the stock through a sieve, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the vegetables, skim the fat off the stock and return the stock to a clean soup pot.
Add the potatoes and kvass to the stock, adding salt if necessary. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until the potatoes are al dente. Add the reserved sliced cooked sausage and garlic-salt paste. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Serve in heated bowls with half a hard-cooked egg in each serving, and rye bread on the side.
Today is the birthday (1798) of Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school. Delacroix was born in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, now a suburb of Paris, southeast of the center. His mother, Victoire, was the daughter of the cabinet-maker Jean-François Oeben. He had three much older siblings. Charles-Henri Delacroix (1779–1845) rose to the rank of General in the Napoleonic army. Henriette (1780–1827) married the diplomat Raymond de Verninac Saint-Maur (1762–1822). Henri was born six years later. He was killed at the Battle of Friedland in 1807. There is reason to believe that Eugène’s father, Charles-François Delacroix, was infertile at the time of Eugène’s conception and that his biological father was Talleyrand, who was a friend of the family and successor of Charles Delacroix as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and whom the adult Eugène resembled in appearance. Throughout his career as a painter, Delacroix was cared for (one way or another) by Talleyrand, who served successively the Restoration and king Louis-Philippe, and ultimately as ambassador of France in Great Britain, and later by Talleyrand’s grandson, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, duc de Morny, half-brother of Napoleon III and speaker of the French House of Commons. His legal father, Charles Delacroix, died in 1805, and his mother died in 1814, leaving Delacroix an orphan at 16.
Delacroix’s early education was at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, and at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen where he received classical training and won awards for drawing. In 1815 he began his art training with Pierre-Narcisse Guérin in the neoclassical style of Jacques-Louis David. An early church commission, The Virgin of the Harvest (1819), displays the influence of Raphael, but a like commission, The Virgin of the Sacred Heart (1821), shows a freer interpretation. It precedes the influence of the more colorful and open style of Rubens, and Théodore Géricault. The impact of Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa was profound, and stimulated Delacroix to produce his first major painting, The Barque of Dante, which was accepted by the Paris Salon in 1822.
The work caused a sensation, and was largely derided by the public and officialdom, yet was purchased by the State for the Luxembourg Galleries.Two years later he again achieved popular success for his The Massacre at Chios.
Delacroix’s painting of the massacre at Chios shows sick, dying Greek civilians about to be slaughtered by the Turks. One of several paintings he made of this contemporary event, it expresses sympathy for the Greek cause in their war of independence against the Turks, a popular sentiment at the time for the French people. Delacroix was quickly recognized as a leading painter in the new Romantic style, and the picture was bought by the state. His depiction of suffering was controversial, however, as there was no glorious event taking place, no patriots raising their swords in valor as in David’s Oath of the Horatii, only a disaster. Many critics deplored the painting’s despairing tone; the artist Antoine-Jean Gros called it “a massacre of art”. The pathos in the depiction of an infant clutching its dead mother’s breast had an especially powerful effect, although this detail was condemned as unfit for art by Delacroix’s critics.
Delacroix produced a second painting in support of the Greeks in their war for independence, this time referring to the capture of Missolonghi by Turkish forces in 1825. With a restraint of palette appropriate to the allegory, Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi displays a woman in Greek costume with her breast bared, arms half-raised in an imploring gesture before the horrible scene: the suicide of the Greeks, who chose to kill themselves and destroy their city rather than surrender to the Turks.
A trip to England in 1825 included visits to Thomas Lawrence and Richard Parkes Bonington, and the color and handling of English painting provided impetus for his only full-length portrait, the elegant Portrait of Louis-Auguste Schwiter (1826–30). At roughly the same time, Delacroix was creating romantic works of numerous themes, many of which would continue to interest him for over 30 years.
By 1825, he was producing lithographs illustrating Shakespeare, and soon thereafter lithographs and paintings from Goethe’s Faust. Paintings such as The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan (1826), and Woman with Parrot (1827), introduced subjects of violence and sensuality which became recurrent in his oeuvre.
These various romantic strands came together in the Death of Sardanapalus (1827–28). Delacroix’s painting of the death of the Assyrian king shows an emotionally stirring scene alive with beautiful colors, exotic costumes and tragic events. It depicts the besieged king watching impassively as guards carry out his orders to kill his servants, concubines and animals. The literary source is a play by Byron, although the play does not specifically mention any massacre of concubines.
Delacroix’s most influential work came in 1830 with the painting Liberty Leading the People, which for choice of subject and technique highlights the differences between the Romantic approach and the neoclassical style. Liberty Although Delacroix was inspired by contemporary events to invoke this romantic image of the spirit of liberty, he seems to be trying to convey the will and character of the people, rather than glorifying the actual event, the 1830 revolution against Charles X, which did little other than bring a different king, Louis-Philippe, to power. Although the French government bought the painting, officials deemed its glorification of liberty too inflammatory and removed it from public view. Nonetheless, Delacroix still received many government commissions for murals and ceiling paintings. Following the Revolution of 1848 that saw the end of the reign of Louis Philippe, Liberty Leading the People, was finally put on display by the newly elected President, Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) and is now on exhibit in the Louvre. The boy holding a gun up on the right is sometimes thought to be an inspiration of the Gavroche character in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Misérables.
In 1832, Delacroix traveled to Spain and North Africa, as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco shortly after the French conquered Algeria. He went not primarily to study art, but in hopes of seeing a more primitive culture than Paris offered. He eventually produced over 100 paintings and drawings of scenes from or based on the life of the people of North Africa, and added a new and personal chapter to the European interest in Orientalism. Delacroix was entranced by the people and the costumes, and the trip influenced the subject matter of a great many of his future paintings. He believed that the North Africans, in their attire and their attitudes, provided a visual equivalent to the people of Classical Rome and Greece:
The Greeks and Romans are here at my door, in the Arabs who wrap themselves in a white blanket and look like Cato or Brutus.
He managed to sketch some women secretly in Algiers, as in the painting Women of Algiers in their Apartment (1834), but generally he encountered difficulty in finding Muslim women to pose for him because of Muslim rules requiring that women be covered. Less problematic was the painting of Jewish women in North Africa, as subjects for the Jewish Wedding in Morocco (1837–41).
In 1838 Delacroix exhibited Medea about to Kill Her Children, which created a sensation at the Salon. The painting depicts Medea clutching her children, dagger drawn to slay them in vengeance for her abandonment by Jason.
From 1833 Delacroix received numerous commissions to decorate public buildings in Paris. In that year he began work for the Salon du Roi in the Chambre des Députés, Palais Bourbon, which was not completed until 1837, and began a lifelong friendship with the female artist Marie-Élisabeth Blavot-Boulanger. For the next ten years he painted in both the Library at the Palais Bourbon and the Library at the Palais du Luxembourg. In 1843 he decorated the Church of St. Denis du Saint Sacrement with a large Pietà, and from 1848 to 1850 he painted the ceiling in the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on frescoes for the Chapelle des Anges at the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris. The work was fatiguing, and during these years he suffered from an increasingly fragile constitution. In addition to his home in Paris, from 1844 he also lived at a small cottage in Champrosay, where he found respite in the countryside. From 1834 until his death, he was faithfully cared for by his housekeeper, Jeanne-Marie le Guillou, who zealously guarded his privacy, and whose devotion prolonged his life and his ability to continue working in his later years.
The winter of 1862-63 was challenging for Delacroix. He was suffering from a bad throat infection which seemed to get worse during the winter. On June 16th 1863, he was getting better and returned to his house in the country. On July 15th he was so sick he went back to see his doctor who realized he could not do anything more for him, by then, the only food he could eat was fruit. Eugene realized his condition and wrote his Will, for all his friends he left a memento. For his trusted housekeeper, Jenny Le Guillou, he left enough for her to live on and ordered everything in his studio to be sold. He also inserted a clause forbidding any representation of his features “whether by a death-mask or by drawing or by photography. I forbid it expressly.” On August 13th Delacroix died, with Jenny by his side. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
This still life attributed to Delacroix appears to be an odd conflation of images: English huntsmen on horseback in the background, and lobsters plus assorted game in the foreground. But it reminds me of this quote of his:
In the midst of the activities that distract me, such as shooting partridges in the woods, when I remember a few lines of poetry, when I recall some sublime painting, my spirit is roused to indignation and spurns the vain sustenance of the common herd.
Not much to go on, to be sure, but it’s a start. Escoffier has this section on partridges, which is fairly typical for 19th century Parisian cuisine:
Wrap each partridge in a buttered vine leaf then in a thin slice of salt pork fat and roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes or on a spit for 25 minutes.
Place on a Crouton of bread fried in butter and coated with Gratin Forcemeat “C” (# 295), and garnish with half a lemon and a bouquet of watercress.
3950 Perdreau Truffé—Truffled Partridge
Stuff the bird in the same way as for Dindonneau Truffé (# 3914) allowing 100 g (31 oz) fresh pork fat and 80 g (2 oz) truffles; cover with thin slices of salt pork fat and roast in a moderate oven for 25 minutes.
Partridges are rather small, so you need to allow one per diner. They are not very fatty either, so wrapping the breasts in some kind of ham or bacon before roasting is generally recommended by chefs. The flesh of the partridge is not strong, so adding too much to a dish of partridge will mask the subtle flavor. Escoffier’s second recipe here seems close to ideal (although I am not generally well off enough to afford truffles). The pork fat does not flavor the partridge unduly, but allows the bird to remain moist when roasting – as does roasting at a very high temperature as briefly as possible. For all game birds I find simplicity is best. If you want to be extravagant with your flavorings and whatnot, stuff and roast a chicken. If you want a gravy for partridge, make a roux of the pan juices and flour, and then add some chicken stock with, maybe, a little fresh parsley. Simple.
Today is the birthday (1903) of Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz (Ма́ркус Я́ковлевич Ротко́вич in Russian and Markuss Rotkovičs in Latvian), later Mark Rothko, Russian-Latvian-American artist born in Dvinsk, Vitebsk Governorate, in the Russian Empire (today Daugavpils in Latvia). His father, Jacob (Yakov) Rothkowitz, was a pharmacist and an intellectual who initially provided his children with a secular and political, rather than religious, upbringing. In an environment where Jews were often blamed for many of the evils that befell Russia, Rothko’s early childhood was plagued by fear. Fearing that his elder sons were about to be drafted into the Imperial Russian Army, Jacob Rothkowitz emigrated from Russia to the United States. Markus remained in Russia, with his mother and elder sister Sonia. They arrived as immigrants, at Ellis Island, in late 1913. From that point, they crossed the country, to join Jacob and the elder brothers, in Portland, Oregon. Jacob’s death, a few months later, from colon cancer, left the family without economic support. Sonia operated a cash register, while Markus worked in one of his uncle’s warehouses, selling newspapers to employees. His father’s death also led Rothko to sever his ties with religion. After he had mourned his father’s death for almost a year at a local synagogue, he vowed never to set foot in it again.
Markus started school in the United States in 1913, quickly accelerating from third to fifth grade. In June 1921, he completed the secondary level, with honors, at Lincoln High School in Portland, at the age of 17. Rothko received a scholarship to Yale. At the end of his freshman year in 1922, the scholarship was not renewed, and he worked as a waiter and delivery boy to support his studies. He found the Yale community to be elitist and racist, so he and a friend, Aaron Director, started a satirical magazine, The Yale Saturday Evening Pest, which lampooned the school’s stuffy, bourgeois tone. At the end of his sophomore year, Rothko dropped out, and did not return until he was awarded an honorary degree, forty-six years later.
In the autumn of 1923, Rothko found work in New York’s garment district. While visiting a friend at the Art Students League of New York, he saw students sketching a model. According to Rothko, this was the beginning of his life as an artist. He later enrolled in the Parsons New School for Design, where one of his instructors was the artist and class monitor Arshile Gorky. This was probably his first encounter with a member of the American avant-garde. However, the two men never became close, due to Gorky’s dominating nature. Rothko referred to Gorky’s leadership in the class as “overcharged with supervision.” That same autumn, he took courses at the Art Students League taught by Cubist artist Max Weber, a fellow Russian Jew. Weber had been a part of the French avant-garde movement. To his students, eager to know about Modernism, Weber was seen as a living repository of modern art history. Under Weber’s mentorship, Rothko began to view art as a tool of emotional and religious expression. Rothko’s paintings from this era reveal the influence of his instructor. Years later, when Weber attended a show of his former student’s work and expressed his admiration, Rothko was immensely pleased.
Rothko’s move to New York established him in a fertile artistic atmosphere. Modernist painters were having more shows in New York galleries all the time, and the city’s museums were an invaluable resource. Among the important early influences on Rothko were the works of the German Expressionists, the surrealist art of Paul Klee, and the paintings of Georges Rouault. In 1928, Rothko exhibited works, with a group of other young artists, at the appropriately named Opportunity Gallery. His paintings included dark, moody, expressionist interiors, as well as urban scenes, and were generally well accepted among critics and peers. Despite this modest success, Rothko still needed to supplement his income, and in 1929 he began giving classes, in painting and clay sculpture, at the Center Academy of the Brooklyn Jewish Center. As it later turned out, he would remain active in teaching at that location for 22 years, until 1952.
During the early 1930s, he met Adolph Gottlieb, who, along with Barnett Newman, Joseph Solman, Louis Schanker, and John Graham, was part of a group of young artists surrounding the painter Milton Avery, who was 15 years older than Rothko. According to Elaine de Kooning, it was Avery who “gave Rothko the idea that [the life of a professional artist] was a possibility.” Avery’s stylized nature paintings, using his rich knowledge of form and color, would have a tremendous influence on Rothko. Soon, Rothko’s paintings took on subject matter and color similar to Avery’s, as seen in Bathers, or Beach Scene of 1933-1934.
Rothko, Gottlieb, Newman, Solman, Graham, and their mentor, Avery, spent considerable time together, vacationing at Lake George and Gloucester, Massachusetts. In the daytime they painted artworks, then discussed art in the evenings. During a 1932 visit to Lake George, Rothko met Edith Sachar, a jewelry designer, whom he married later that year. The following summer, his first one-person show was held at the Portland Art Museum, consisting mostly of drawings and aquarelles. For this exhibition, Rothko took the unusual step of displaying works done by his pre-adolescent students from the Center Academy, alongside his own. His family was unable to understand Rothko’s decision to be an artist, especially considering the dire economic situation of the Depression. Having suffered serious financial setbacks, the Rothkowitzes were mystified by Rothko’s seeming indifference to financial necessity. They felt he was doing his mother a disservice by not finding a more lucrative and realistic career.
Returning to New York, Rothko had his first East Coast one-person show at the Contemporary Arts Gallery. He showed fifteen oil paintings, mostly portraits, along with some aquarelles and drawings. Among these works, the oil paintings especially captured the art critics’ eyes. Rothko’s use of rich fields of colors moved beyond Avery’s influence. In late 1935, Rothko joined with Ilya Bolotowsky, Ben-Zion, Adolph Gottlieb, Lou Harris, Ralph Rosenborg, Louis Schanker and Joseph Solman to form “The Ten” (Whitney Ten Dissenters). According to a gallery show catalog, the mission of the group was “to protest against the reputed equivalence of American painting and literal painting.”
Rothko was earning a growing reputation among his peers, particularly among the group that formed the Artists’ Union. The Artists’ Union, including Gottlieb and Solman, hoped to create a municipal art gallery, to show self-organized group exhibitions. In 1936, the group exhibited at the Galerie Bonaparte in France, which resulted in some positive critical attention. One reviewer remarked that Rothko’s paintings “display authentic coloristic values.” Later, in 1938, a show was held at the Mercury Gallery in New York, intended as a protest against the Whitney Museum of American Art, which the group regarded as having a provincial, regionalist agenda. Also during this period, Rothko, like Avery, Gorky, Pollock, de Kooning, and many others, found employment with the Works Progress Administration.
In 1936, Rothko began writing a book, never completed, about similarities in the art of children and the work of modern painters. According to Rothko, the work of modernists, influenced by primitive art, could be compared to that of children in that “child art transforms itself into primitivism, which is only the child producing a mimicry of himself.” In this manuscript, he observed that “the fact that one usually begins with drawing is already academic. We start with color.” Rothko was using fields of color in his aquarelles and city scenes. His style was already evolving in the direction of his renowned later works. Despite this newfound exploration of color, Rothko turned his attention to other formal and stylistic innovations, inaugurating a period of surrealist paintings influenced by mythological fables and symbols.
Rothko’s work later matured from representation and mythological subjects into rectangular fields of color and light, culminating in his final works for the Rothko Chapel. Between his early style of primitivist and playful urban scenes, and his later style of transcendent color fields, was a long period of transition. This development was marked by two important events in Rothko’s life: the onset of World War II, and his reading of Friedrich Nietzsche.
It always intrigues me to leaf through a well-known artist’s progression from early works that are in all manner of styles to the mature works that we all recognize. Here’s a sampler for you sort of in chronological order:
Back in 1958, when Mark Rothko was commissioned to do a series of murals for The Four Seasons restaurant in New York — a place he believed was “where the richest bastards in New York will come to feed and show off” — his acceptance of the assignment was subversive at best. He hoped his art would “ruin the appetite of every son of a [beep] who ever eats in that room,” according to a Harper’s magazine article, “Mark Rothko: Portrait Of The Artist As An Angry Man.”
His distaste for the social elite led to a series of paintings that continue to captivate art enthusiasts of different backgrounds, tastes and generations. His painting, Orange, Red, Yellow 1961, sold on May 8 this year for $86.9 million at Christie’s.
Rothko eventually abandoned The Four Seasons project. Instead, he gave some of the pieces to the Tate Modern museum in 1969, just before committing suicide.
But the murals that were meant to ruin the appetite of wealthy patrons inspired chef/stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves to interpret Rothko’s collection using rice.
“We had been doing a project about gradient food dye using several kinds of food like bananas, bread and rice and we thought, how about using rice to recreate Rothko’s paintings?” says Levin. Although dyeing rice is time consuming, Levin said it is an easier medium to work with than other foods when recreating the depth of color found in Rothko’s pieces.
After coloring, styling and photographing the rice, chef and food stylist Caitlin Levin made coconut rice. “It tastes the same,” she says.
So . . . I’d say coconut rice is the order of the day. Here’s south Indian coconut rice (in Tamil). You’ll get the drift. Coconut rice is festive rice through south and southeast Asia with numerous variants.