Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wassily Kandinsky (December 16, 1866 – December 13, 1944) II

Almost Submerged


"Painting is an art, and art is not vague production, transitory
and isolated, but a power which must be directed to the
improvement and refinement of the human soul–to, in fact, the
raising of the spiritual triangle.

If art refrains from doing this work, a chasm remains unbridged,
for no other power can take the place of art in this activity.
And at times when the human soul is gaining greater strength, art
will also grow in power, for the two are inextricably connected
and complementary one to the other. Conversely, at those times
when the soul tends to be choked by material disbelief, art
becomes purposeless and talk is heard that art exists for art's
sake alone."

– Wassily Kandinsky

Park of St. Cloud with Horseman


Park St. Cloud in Autumn


White Sound


Binz on Rügen


Kochel - Lady Seated by the Lakeside




Moonlit Night


Kochel Waterfall II


Friday, May 3, 2013

Elihu Vedder (February 26, 1836 – January 29, 1923)

Head of Minerva


Vedder was a talented and interesting Symbolist painter with strong Pre-Raphaelite influences, yet he was also, I think, a bit generic. Still, there is a sort of excellence in his genercism, as he often seems to approach novelty, in theme or style, though never quite reaching it. I would write more about Vedder, but, frankly, his life, as far as I know it, was not filled with many noteworthy moments, outside of mentioning that he was also a poet (honestly, not a very good one). But, while Vedder may have had an uneventful life and produced somewhat generic art, there is a quality that transcends the plain in his works, and makes him an artist of worth–and perhaps it is that which I find so interesting about him. 

The Questioner of the Sphinx


Japanese Still-Life


Fisherman and Mermaid


Roman Model Posing


The Last Man


The Cup of Death


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Johan Barthold Jongkind (June 3, 1819 – February 9, 1891)

Moonlight over a Canal, Dordrecht


Monet said of Jongkind, "I owe the final education of my eye to him." No faint praise. Jongkind was an amazing artist, who expressed a constant softness in his art, which travelled from Romanticism into Impressionism, and enamored many Impressionists in the earliest days of that style to him for that softness. But there is also a considerable amount of tragedy in his works  I can't quite put my finger on it, and if you know better how to explain it, please leave your version in the comments, but there is a constant melancholy, in the calm darkness and sunlight. This is not too surprising, though, as in his life, Jongkind was very unhappy and only briefly successful. 

Perhaps the tragic quality is a calm too calm.

Skaters in Holland


Near Dordrecht


Boatman by a Windmill at Sundown


The Interior of the Port at Rotterdam, Effect of Moonlight


Monday, April 29, 2013

Fernand Pelez (January 18, 1843 – August 7, 1913)


The Little Lemon Merchant

c. 1895

Pelez is a very interesting, though not particularly well-known artist, who remains unknown, I think, not because he was unoriginal or demonstrated poor execution in his works, but because his novelty was very nebulous. While a French Realist, he shared far more in common, once we look forward, with American Realists, who were greatly interested in social criticism, than with his contemporaries. At other points, Pelez's art takes on strong aspects of Romanticism, as in Adam and Eve, and even foreshadows Photorealism, as in Misery at the Opera. Hard to define, don't you think?

Grimaces and Misery or Circus Performers


Adam and Eve


Misery at the Opera

c. 1885

A Martyr or The Violette Merchant

c. 1885

Friday, April 26, 2013

Takashi Murakami (February 1, 1962)

Tan Tan Bo Puking - a.k.a. Gero Tan


I've decided to introduce a very popular new style today: Superflat. Superflat was created by Takashi Murakami as a way of modernizing the Japanese art world. In most cases the influences of the  various works are not rooted in classical Japanese art, such as Ukiyo-e (works like Daruma, below, being rare exceptions), but in Japanese popular animations and comics. In fact, though I haven't included examples, they are often indistinguishable from Japanese pop culture pieces by any standards; if you're inclined, I've linked to one such piece: see Miss KO². As a Pop Artist of sorts, he is often compared to Warhol, but I think the comparison is very loose at best, as Warhol tended to utilize pop icons, whether people or brands, in a clean fashion within an experimental composition, while Murakami tends to manipulate popular Japanese animaton and cartoon motifs and characters in creating bizarre and shocking effects. Murakami, if anything, is closer to Lichtenstein, but even that is a stretch, as Lichtenstein was far subtler in his approach. And I don't know whether I would even say that he is very unique within a wide scope, though he certainly is unique as a founder within the art world. 





Eco Eco Rangers Earth Force


And then, and then, and then


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Raphael (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520)

The Nymph Galatea

c. 1512

Firstly, apologies for the delayed post. I'm still dealing with the results of the fire, so often enough I don't have any available time in the day. But I will try to post as consistently as possible. 

Now, as for Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing), I was completely surprised to find, after I had finished writing my first post of this year, headed with a painting of his, that I had never written an article on him. What an oversight! And just now, as I think of setting some examples against Raphael, I realize I haven't written about Michelangelo, who was both an example for and a rival of his. And, frankly, there is little to say of Raphael's art that has not been said and echoed a hundred times. I will try to write a bit, but forgive my repetitiveness. 

Raphael was a very dynamic painter, taking into himself the influences of the art world around him; and, since he travelled often, it made for a wide array of influences. For example, Raphael freely took into his process the technical interpretations of da Vinci, his smokey transitions (sfumato), and of Michelangelo, his dramatic color changes (cangiante). But what made Raphael interesting was not the constant evolution in his style, but the constant stroke of excellency at the heart of his work. And I will venture to write that this excellency came from Raphael's peculiar meticulousness, which, unlike da Vinci's perfectionism, did not cause a loss of soul in the appearance of the subjects (I'm sure many will disagree with that comparison). 

What do you think, readership?

Portrait of Bindo Altoviti




St. Catherine of Alexandria


The Coronation of the Virgin

c. 1503

Portrait of Julius II




Sunday, April 21, 2013

Roberto Matta (November 11, 1911 – November 23, 2002)

The Earth is a Man


Roberto Matta was a painter who constantly married Surrealism with Abstract Expressionism to quite a high level of success. His works are strange and ethereal, often featuring cloudy emanations of colors. And Dalí seems to have had a strong influence on Matta's paintings, especially in their compositional schemes, which I think is interesting as a reference within the works, but also somewhat damaging, as Dalí is often faulted for the composition of his elements.

It's also interesting to note Roberto's relationship with Arshile Gorky, one of the painters of the twentieth century with the most tragic life. Matta had had an affair with Gorky's wife, who afterwards left Gorky. As Gorky put it, "I made a terrible mistake getting in with these Surrealist people. They're terrible people. The husbands sleep with each other's wives and they're terrible people." Gorky soon after hanged himself, which is something a large part of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the time blamed Matta for. 

X-Space and the Ego




The Day is an Attack


A Grave Situation


Years of Fear


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Otto Dix (December 2, 1891 – July 25, 1969) II

Sylvia von Harden


I decided to do a second post on Otto Dix because of a recent comment on the first. (You can find the first post here.) To begin with, out of all of my posts, the one on Otto Dix has so far been the most popular. Yet the only comment I have received on it is that the work of Dix is not art because it looks demented. While I suppose the person who posted it was a young teen, judging by her skill in writing, the sentiment I think is very common among adults: that is to say, art and clearly perceivable classical beauty go hand-in-hand. To me the question of what defines art has always been rather difficult, and my current theories are a bit too lengthy for a single post, but I want to try to address her comment at least shortly. For me, what I define as art is always beautiful, but it is beautiful by its transformation through the medium and not by the real-world qualities of its parts. That Otto Dix often painted the grotesque does not mean that the painting is just the grotesque mirror of the world, because by many factors, such as subject, symbolism, style, composition and color palette, the objects and ideas are, if you will allow the reference, transubstantiated into something completely new. But I also have to admit that what we accept as art is ultimately subjective. And I can no more successfully argue against a teen's disgust and rejection of Otto Dix than I can of an art critic's rejection of the Avant-garde. 

What do you think?

Grazing Horses


Three Nudes on the Beach


The Street of Brothels


Prague Street




Portrait of Dr. Fritz Glaser


Prisoners of War


Seated Nude with Blond Hair


David and Saul