Longing, 1899, by Almeida Júnior
Just as I was getting in the mood to write about something political, I came across the great Brazilian realist painter José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior (8 May 1850 – 13 November 1899) on the Google Art Project; in particular, his superb 1899 work ‘Longing’, showing a woman reading something and overcome with emotions.
It is a stunning realistic depiction from any angle. Look at the woman’s body language, the way she is leaning against the windowsill, the way her waist angles at it, the way the weight of her body is greater on her left foot than the right and, the best of all, the angle of her head and the gaze of her eyes.
I mention the last two points because I paid close attention to her eyes and the way they are precisely focused on the paper she is reading. For your benefit, I have sliced them out (See below). These are the details that make a realist painter a master. Almeida Júnior captures even the rough edges of the paper brilliantly. You can feel that it must have been handcrafted paper.
However, perhaps the most extraordinary part of the painting is the woman’s hair. Quite apart from the fact that it is a cool hairdo, this is probably the best realistic representation of a woman’s hair in a painting that I have seen. I almost ran my fingers through it. This is obviously a good looking woman whom Almeida Júnior caught in an emotional moment.
The painting below is titled Caipira Cutting Tobacco. Caipira (Kaii Pira)is a Portuguese word used to describe a certain kind of rural folk of Brazil. Once again, Almeida Júnior’s mastery in the precision of his subject’s gaze at whatever objects they are looking at is remarkable. In this case the man is looking at the the tobacco in his hands. Compare the close-up frames two and three to see what I mean about the gaze. It is perfect. Once again the painter does a fine job of capturing the hair. Also look at the hands, especially fingers, and they accurate angles.
Caipira Cutting Tobacco, 1893