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


Friday, April 19, 2013

Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli (October 14, 1824 – June 29, 1886)

Fishermen Lifting the Nets before the Storm, Coastal Scene


"I think of Monticelli terribly often here. He was a strong man–a little cracked or rather very much so–dreaming of the sun and of love and gaiety, but always harassed by poverty–of an extremely refined taste as a colourist, a thoroughbred man of a rare race, continuing the best traditions of the past. He died at Marseilles in rather sad circumstances, and probably after passing through a regular Gethsemane. Now listen, for myself I am sure that I am continuing his work here, as if I were his son or his brother."

Reverred by van Gogh, adored by the likes of Cézanne, today Monticelli is not only mostly forgotten, but quite often disliked when remembered. For me, his paintings are clearly fantastic combinations of classical themes and a completely novel style. Where does all the dislike arise from?

The Hay Card




Various Flowers 

Visit to a Princess


The Adoration of the Magi


Thursday, April 18, 2013

John Constable (June 11, 1776 – March 31, 1837)


Flatford Mill from the Lock


Yetserday, in my post on Turner, I mentioned Constable quite a bit, so today I thought I might give you some visual context. To begin with, despite what most people think of him today, Constable was quite unorthodox at times; and it was in those times he was absolutely brilliant, such as in the pre-Impressionistic pieces Flatford Mill from the Lock and Tree Trunks. And though the revolutionary aspects of his works might have been less common and less fantastic than Turner's, it is only because the comparison between the two tends to be forced, owing to their tense history, that the legacy of Constable is small in the world of art today: a sad and unwarranted placing, I think. And I should add, while labeled generally as a Romanticist, he displayed many similarities to Realists, especially to Corot, such as in Malvern Hall and in The Cornfield, below. 

Malvern Hall


Tree Trunks 




The Cornfield


The painting beneath is from the infamous encounter between Constable and Turner mentioned in the previous post. And, quite frankly, among the oeuvres of both painters, I prefer many other works. Still, it's a very interesting part of art history. 

The Opening of Waterloo Bridge


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Joseph Mallord William Turner (April 23, 1775 – December 19, 1851)

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament


I had once heard a story that John Constable, a contemporary of Turner's and a Romantic painter, upon visiting a Turner exhibition for the first time, swore he would quit painting from then on, as he could never reach the heights that Turner travelled on. Looking back on this story, I think it's most likely apocraphyl, because I can't seem to locate it anywhere at the moment and Constable and Turner's relationship was far from amicable; at one point, the two had their paintings exhibited side-by-side, in light of which which Turner placed a bright-red stroke on his piece in order to detract from the duller and more common reds of Constable's; Constable famously said soon afterwards, "He has been here, and fired a gun." But, no matter the veracity of the tale, if  any artist in his time could shake the resolve of his contemporaries, it would be Turner. I find it almost impossible to compare him to any of his contemporaries in the least regard. Most of Turner's works bear such strangely wonderful and misty exhalations of colors and such ghostlike compositions that only by stretching forward towards the Impressionists and Tonalists can one begin to feel some sort of similarities. Futhermore, some of his later works move even further in time, towards Abstraction, such as Sunrise with Sea Monsters, just below. 

How can you truly approach describing these paintings?

Sunrise with Sea Monsters


 Moonlight, A Study at Millbank




Death on a Pale Horse

c. 1825-1830

Stamford, Lincolnshire

c. 1828

Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhon Coming on 



c. 1799

Just to add a bit of context to the story, the painting that Constable so despised is now featured below. It unfortunately is not the best version of the piece, but through it I hope you can better imagine Constable's surprise whenTurner, right before the exhibition's opening, stepped beside him and dabbed onto his somewhat somber piece a bright red buoy.