Getty Highlights: 19th-Century Paintings

Discover the stories behind 10 of our most notable paintings.

By The J. Paul Getty Museum

Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino (1839) by Joseph Mallord William TurnerThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino

Joseph Mallord William Turner 
Ten years after his final journey to Rome, Turner captured the city through a shimmering veil of memory and imagination.  

Churches and ancient monuments in and around the Roman Forum seem to dissolve in iridescent light shed by the moon rising at left and the sun setting off to the right. 

Amid these splendors, the city’s inhabitants carry on with their daily activities.

Sunrise (Marine) (1872 or 1873) by Claude MonetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Sunrise (Marine)

Claude Monet
Monet’s paintings of the northern French harbor of Le Havre in the early 1870s marked the birth of Impressionism in the popular imagination. 

In this remarkably well-preserved example, Monet concentrated on capturing the effect of early morning light, diffused by fog and smoke, shimmering on the water.

The rapid, sketch-like execution of such works shocked art critics at the time, who considered them unfinished “impressions” rather than full-fledged pictures.

Sunrise (Marine), Claude Monet, 1872 or 1873, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
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Starry Night (1893) by Edvard MunchThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Starry Night

Edvard Munch
In this painting, Munch translated a familiar view from the Grand Hotel in Åsgårdstrand, a resort town in Norway, into a rapturous lyrical vision. 

Stars pulsate in the sky . . . 

. . . and trees and seashore fuse together in a flowing line.

A mysterious shadow on the white fence—reminiscent of Munch’s images of fatefully entwined lovers—introduces a note of psychic disturbance.

Starry Night, Edvard Munch, 1893, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
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To the Forest, Edvard Munch, 1897, From the collection of: Tel Aviv Museum of Art
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Starry Night (1893) by Edvard MunchThe J. Paul Getty Museum

The town was the setting for many of the artist's emotionally charged works.

Study of the Model Joseph (about 1818 - 1819) by Théodore GéricaultThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Study of the Model Joseph

Théodore Géricault 
This moving tête d’étude, or head study, depicts a man known as Joseph, whose full name has not come down to us. Born in Saint-Domingue (today, Haiti), he emigrated to France, where he found employment as an acrobat before being recruited by Géricault as a model. 

Study of the Model Joseph (about 1818 - 1819) by Théodore GéricaultThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Joseph became renowned in the studios of Paris and eventually won a competitive position as a model at the École des Beaux-Arts, France’s premier art school.

Arii Matamoe (The Royal End) (1892) by Paul GauguinThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Arii Matamoe (The Royal End)

Paul Gauguin
Gauguin’s readings about traditional Polynesian mortuary rites helped inspire this macabre fantasy, which he painted during his first trip to Tahiti. 

The title alludes to the 1891 death of Pomare V, the last monarch of Tahiti, which for Gauguin symbolized the tragic demise of indigenous culture in the face of European colonization. 

He wishfully identified with native Polynesians in his opposition to modern Western society, but his primitivizing art was nonetheless steeped in racist notions of Polynesian “barbarism.” 

Still Life with Apples

Paul Cézanne
There is nothing haphazard about Cézanne’s tightly orchestrated arrangement of modest Provençal objects, yet its composition brings up a number of questions for those contemplating it.

Still Life with Apples, Paul Cézanne, 1893–1894, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
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Still Life with Apples (1893–1894) by Paul CézanneThe J. Paul Getty Museum

What viewing angle is implied by the rims of the green-glazed vase and adjacent ginger pot? 

How does the dark blue wedge at right relate spatially to the corner of the tabletop visible at left? 

Do the vertical lines in the upper register describe corners of a room or folds of a cloth backdrop?

Such ambiguity is typical of Cézanne’s art, which continually tests our visual assumptions.

Portrait of Madame Brunet (about 1861–1863, reworked by 1867) by Édouard ManetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait of Madame Brunet

Édouard Manet
This painting’s bold brushwork, stark contrasts of light and dark, and frank presentation of the model reflect Manet’s impatience with prevailing modes of society portraiture. 

Madame Brunet, the wife of an artist friend, rejected the picture because she considered it horribly unflattering.

Manet consequently retained the portrait in his studio and eventually exhibited it in his solo show in Paris in 1867—a gesture of independence timed to coincide with the official survey of French art at the World’s Fair.

Caricature of Portrait of Madame Brunet (1867) by Gilbert RandonThe Getty Research Institute

Caricaturists were quick to mock the portrait for its supposed ugliness. 

A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Love (Main View)The J. Paul Getty Museum

A Young Girl Defending Herself against Love

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
A nude young woman fends off a rascally Cupid, who playfully directs his arrow at her heart. This painting is the “reduction,” or small-scale copy, of a picture Bouguereau exhibited at the 1880 Paris Salon.

Getty’s version of the painting is half the size of the one Bouguereau made for the Salon.

A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Love A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Love (about 1880) by William-Adolphe BouguereauThe J. Paul Getty Museum

After serving as the model for a reproductive print commissioned by Bouguereau’s dealer, this version was promptly exported to the United States, where aspiring collectors greatly valued the technical skill, mild eroticism, and sentimental appeal of the artist’s paintings.

After the Bath

Edgar Degas
After the Bath radically challenged 19th-century conventions for depicting the nude. Degas presented his bather in an angular, disjointed, back-facing pose that appears extremely awkward.

After the Bath, Edgar Degas, about 1895, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
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After the Bath (about 1895) by Edgar DegasThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Rather than offering up for the viewer’s pleasure a clichéd image of a voluptuous female body, Degas emphasized the tactile properties of paint itself.  

After the Bath (about 1895) by Edgar DegasThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Both figure and background are subsumed into a richly colored, heavily manipulated surface in which the artist’s own fingerprints are visible. 

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant (1866) by Jacques Joseph TissotThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant

Jacques Joseph Tissot
Casually elegant in her attitude, the Marquise  de Miramon stands on a thick fur rug and leans on a mantel in her husband’s château. 

Surrounding her is an eclectic array of decorative objects, including a fashionable Japanese screen that actually belonged to the artist.

Tissot rendered all the details exquisitely, but the real showpiece is the marquise’s ruffled pink velvet peignoir, or housecoat, which stands out boldly against the room’s deep red drapery.

Credits: Story

© 2021 The J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles

A version of this material was published in 2021 as the in-gallery text accompanying the exhibition Getty Highlights: 19th-Century Paintings and Sculptures on view at the Getty Center from October 19, 2021–January 9, 2022.

Learn more about paintings in the Getty collection in the following resources:

Masterpieces of Painting: J. Paul Getty Museum (Getty Publications, 2019)

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collection (Getty Publications, 2015) 

To cite these texts, please use: "Getty Highlights: 19th-Century Paintings" published online in 2021 via Google Arts & Culture, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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