Research Notes: Frida Kahlo

Rough notes in preparation for this  final review pdf.

Notes from Thames and Hudson book. (Burrus, C, 2008)


Born in Mexico to a Mexican depressed tyrannical mother and German photographer father. Received her maternal nurturing from her sisters and half-sisters.

Enjoyed helping her dad with his work. She was his favourite.

Had an illness around 6 (polio?) which left her with a limp/wasted leg which she was self-conscious of.

Went to study at medical school but had an accident where a bus hit a tram when she was 19 which was nearly fatal. She broke many parts (back, pelvis, etc) and her health was never the same again. She had health issues for the rest of her life. Parts of the wreckage even took her virginity (unless you believe the film with Selma Hayek) .

Her parents and most of her family were too busy mourning the accident to actually go and see her for the first 3 weeks!! Only her sister came. Her first love was with her so was recovering from his own much lesser injuries so also didn’t visit but she wrote him many letters during her stay in hospital. Her father brought her a mirror and paints.

Her oerdeve was made of self-portraits mainly from that first moment.

Diego was already an established painter (muralist ) at that time and already married and in his forties. They fascinated each other from the first moment she demanded him to stop work and see her pictures. He divorced his wife and married Freda against her family’s wishes (even though he came from a better off family). Only her father was there to witness the marriage of an ‘elephant and a dove’.

They loved and supported each other. Her famous mode of traditional Mexican dress she wore because he liked it. Eventually he was unfaithful but even that didn’t completely destroy them until later, when he had a long affair with her favourite sister. She had affairs too, (many of whom she remained friends with). They got divorced and remarried a year later, Freda’s conditions for that were financial independence and no sex. They remained together until she died aged 47.

During their life together, Diego’s fame took them to NYC. Where he was well received at first. She didn’t like America and was homesick but it features in many of her paintings of that time. There she met Dr Eloesser whom she confided in for the rest of her life.

Andre Breton, the founder of the surrealist movement in Paris discovered her in Mexico and tried to persuade her she was a surrealist. She didn’t think so but exhibited with them on numerous occasions. She went to Paris and was disappointed in their lack of professionalism and practicality. Only Marchel Duchamp  helped her arrange the gallery and exhibition. She was disappointed with the number of pictures of hers the the group show too. She said she detested the whole lot of them for being too into the theory. She said ‘I paint my reality’

In his introduction to Frida in the ‘Mexique’ catalogue, Pierre Colle gallery, 1939, Breton said ‘The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb’ (Burrus, C, 2008)

Both her and Diego were communists, often protesting and going on marches together. When Trotsky feed Europe he came to stay with them in Mexico. Politics entered both Frida and Diego’s art. Even in her last days she was out protesting.

She was very prolific during the year due and Diego split. She poured her emotions into paint as she always had.

Her one and only solo show was arranged at the very end if her life and she was too sick to attend so they brought her and the whole bed, with sirens blazing, to the gallery opening.

In her work, she is very connected to place and what is going on with her medically. She had a kind of visual short hand.

For a while she was a teacher of Art at the Mexican college and she was take everyone out onto the streets and into the markets for inspiration.

Women artists and the Surrealist movement book by Whitney Chadwick, Thames and Hudson , 1991 (written 1985)

Carrington remembers finding the theoretical and judgemental side of Surrealism extremely distasteful ; in a recent biography of Frida Kahlo, Hayden Herrera makes clear the Mexican artist’s scorn for Breton’s position. (Chadwick, W, 1991) p12

Note: (Herrera, frida, p263 and passim)

P88: todo write up notes

P90/1: todo write up notes

‘Kahlo used painting as a means of exploring the reality of her own body and her consciousness of that reality; in many cases the reality dissolves into a duality, exterior reality versus interior perception of that reality, or two selves, one loved, the other not.’ (Chadwick, W, 1991) p92

eg the two fridas, 1939 when frida was getting divorced from Rivera.

As Chadwick points out, many of the Surrealist women use luxurious flowing hair as a metaphor for sexual/creative energy and femininity. Vegetation or its deficit as a metaphor for psychic reality. ‘In Kahlo’s The Broken Column (1944), the bleak, forbidding landscape becomes a potent metaphor for inner desolation.’ (Chadwick, W, 1991) P95

‘I paint myself because I am so often alone…  because I am the subject I know best’. She said… ‘Surrealism provided a supportive environment for women artists’ exploration of inner reality; it did not furnish them with a shared set of artistic goals. As a result, most of them did not see themselves as true Surrealists; at the core of their art lay only individual reality.’ (Chadwick, W, 1991)  p95

P98 todo write up notes

Berger portraits book (Berger, J, 2015)

when commenting on her decision to paint on metal, or Masonite,  Berger in his book on portraits, sees more than just to incorporation of traditional Mexican retablo, he posits that it actually affects her vision not to paint on a surface that is as smooth as skin, something that can only be noticed when viewing the original works.

‘The sensitivity of her own mutilated body made her aware of the skin of everything alive – trees, fruit, water, birds, and naturally other women and men. And so, in painting her own image, as if on her own skin, she speaks of the whole sentient world.’ (Berger, J, 2015) p337

He points to Diego and I, 1949 as a sort of confession to this.

‘Her art talks to pain, mouth pressed to the skin of pain, and it talks about sentience and its desire and its cruelty and its intimate nicknames.’ (Berger, J, 2015) p337/8


she remembered what she had touched, what was there when the pain wasn’t. She painted, for example, the feel of polished wood on a parquet floor, the texture of rubber on the tyre of her wheelchair, the fluff of a chicks feathers, or the crystalline surface of stone, like nobody else. And this discreet capacity – for it was very discreet – came from what I have called the sense of double touch: the consequence of imagining she was painting her own skin.’ (Berger, J, 2015) p339

About the self-portrait 1943, where she’s laying on a rocky landscape where plants grow from her body, her veins giving way to leaf veins, he comments that the flat rocks that extend to the horizon are ‘like waves of a petrified sea’ (Berger, J, 2015) p339 Yet what the rocks are exactly like is what she would have felt on the skin of her back and legs if she had been lying on those rocks. Frida Kahlo lay cheek to cheek with everything she depicted’. (Berger, J, 2015) P339/40

Frida Kahlo – Roots, 1943, oil on metal, 12″x19.5″
Frida Kahlo – El suicidio de Dorothy Hale (The Suicide of Dorothy Hale), 1939, Oil on Masonite with painted frame,
Collection Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of an anonymous donor



Alexandrian, S. (1970) Surrealist art. Thames and Hudson Ltd

Bauer, C. (2007) Frida Kahlo. Prestel

Berger, J. (2015) Portraits: John Berger on Artists. Verso Books

Burrus, C. (2008) Frida Kahlo : ‘I paint my reality’. Thames and Hudson Ltd

Castro-Sethness, M. (2004-2005) ‘Frida Kahlo’s Spiritual World: The Influence of Mexican Retablo and Ex-voto Paintings on Her Art‘In: Woman’s Art Journal Vol. 25, No. 2 (Autumn, 2004 – Winter, 2005), pp. 21-24 [online] At:
(Accessed on 19 Aug 17)

Chadwick, W. (1991) Women artists and the surrealist movement. Thames & Hudson

Encyclopedia Britannica, (2016), Huitzilopochtli: AZTEC God, [online] (Accessed 19th Aug 2017).

Harrison, C & Wood, P (Ed.). (2003) Art in theory 1900-2000, an anthology of changing ideas. Blackwell publishing

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Kahlo, F. (2006) The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (essay and commentary by S. Lowe & introduction by C. Fuentes). New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc

Pankl, L & Blake, K. (2012) ‘Made in Her Image: Frida Kahlo as Material Culture‘In: Material Culture Fall 2012, Vol. 44 Issue 2, p1 [online] At:,%20Frida%20Kahlo%20as%20Material%20Cutlure.pdf
(Accessed on 19 Aug 17)


Research Notes: Rene Magritte

Magritte notes in preparation for review comparing Rene Magritte and Frida Kahlo:

Rene Magritte and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) could be thought of as Surrealist yin and yang. While she was causing a stir with her revolutionary husband and exotic traditional Mexican dress in the streets of 1930s New York, he was blending in with all the other bourgeois bowler-hatted, besuited men in Brussel and Paris. Both in their own way might not be wholly Surrealist in the Andre Breton definition. Neither were interested in the automatic, stream of consciousness techniques and theories, and neither really painted dreams. Breton patronisingly ‘discovered’ Frida, who insisted she ‘painted her own reality’ and Rene aways painted reality – with a twist. Magritte’s work was outward looking, external, from his days making wallpaper, to his advertising work, to his paintings all his work was intended for an audience. To interact with that audience he enjoyed creating puzzles, mysteries and witty visual puns with his work. His aim as he, (and Berger) pointed out, was to paint the impossible. Conversely, Frida Kahlo’s work was introspective. She made her work for herself, true to her own vision and first and foremost about exploring her own identity. It is interesting then to contrast the two Surrealist-outsiders for similarities as well as differences. As there are so many forms this could take, this review will be limited to looking at self-portraits of the two artists (an important aspect of Kahlo’s work) and their different approaches to use of text (and important aspect to Magritte’s work).

Self Portraits:

One obvious difference that jumps out in the respective oeuvres of Magritte and Kahlo is that Magritte is known for doing almost anything to avoid showing faces, he employed apples, birds, flowers, cloth, to cover faces, and more often than not the male figures in his works are turned away. In contrast, Kahlo takes a long hard look in the mirror, faces her pain and bares all to us, with over a third of her paintings as self-portraits. Freud posited that repetition was a sign of trauma, some art historians link Magritte’s tenancy to obscure faces back to 13 year old Magritte’s mother’s suicide, in which her face was allegedly covered with her nightgown when she was pulled from the river, maybe this true, or maybe it is nonsense as he always insisted, perhaps individual faces would only distract the viewer from the real subject of the works? Or perhaps Magritte liked the unsettled affect that not seeing the faces produced.

Magritte on Son of Man:

He explained the apple covering the face in The Son of Man, 1964, as follows:

“At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” (Torczyner, H, 1979)

In this painting the man stands in front of a low wall by the sea (or a large body of water), a recurrent theme despite his hometown being landlocked, water is often associated with the subconscious but perhaps for Rene it would be deeper than that. There are dark clouds gathering. He is directly facing the viewer but with a big floating green apple blocking the view of his face. His eyes are just visible peering around the side of the apple. Another strange detail is the left arm, it appears to be on backwards, i.e. that arm is from a man facing the sea. Perhaps he is showing us a duality. Some critics have speculated that he is comparing himself to Jesus, with the title, Son of Man, and the biblical association of the apple. He is known for hating symbols and rejecting organised religion so I suspect that is not the case, both the apple and bowler hatted men are recurrent motifs in Magritte work, it’s more likely that son of man refers to the generic nature of his figure. He revisits the imagery in several paintings that year that do not have the religious title with the series La Grande Guerre and The Taste of the Invisible.

The Son of Man, 1946 by Rene Magritte

Looking at Magritte’s earlier self-portraits (where he has paint his face), they are not really about him at all either, but yet another a setting for exploring the problems with visual perception or generic commentary on mankind. For example, in Attempting the Impossible, 1928. Magritte uses his banal deadpan style to depict a man (himself) painting a female nude (his wife), set in a typical bourgeois interior. However, instead of painting onto a canvas, he is painting her life size, into existence. She even has a shadow. He is playing with several things here, the bourgeois (which the Surrealists mocked at every turn) art-school practice of painting nude females, by painting his beloved wife, Georgette, he is calling on the tale of Pygmalion from Greek mythology (another dig at bourgeois art-school and classical painting traditions) and of course, as the title helpfully points out, attempting the impossible. A reminiscent paradox is presented in M.C. Escher’s Drawing Hands, 1948. 

Attempting the Impossible, 1928 by Rene Magritte

Another, self-portrait, The Clairvoyance 1936, depicts him again in the act of painting. He is painting a bird, but looking at an egg for reference. Here again he is using the title to make you really examine what you are seeing. This is a very uplifting painting, here Magritte is showing man’s capacity to the visualise potential in things. He is painting the future. In this painting the background would add nothing to the motif so has been blended out as unimportant. The colours in this work are much more saturated than the narrow palette of Attempting the Impossible, with contrasting red and blues. The red of the tablecloth highlights the white egg as the source of his gaze, and the coolness of the grey/blue bird and background area make them recede in the picture. Perhaps influenced by his time in advertising, his illustrative style clearly articulates the content of his paintings, avoiding stylistic distractions. The way in which he is painted reminds me rather of the non-nonsense look of the models in advertisements of the time. Again, the concept is not really personal to him although he did like to think of himself as a magician who pulled back the curtain of illusion with his art, to which a much later portrait (Magician, self portrait with four arms, 1952) attests.

The background in Frida’s paintings is always of relevance.

  • Cracked earth
  • Lush vegetation


René Magritte. La Clairvoyance (Clairvoyance). Brussels, 1936
Oil on canvas
Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Ross Size: 54.5 x 65.5 cm. Location: Private collection.

The impossible:

Magritte and the impossible by John Berger, in selected essays. P345

Berger points out that Magritte uses the language of painting of Van Eyck, and the last 500 years of artists since. Tangible illusions which assume continuous space & time in which material things can be represented by appearances. It is what most Europeans still expect from visual art, a realistic likeness of objects and events in a certain setting. However, by using it, he destroys it with what he has to say, ‘destroyed the raison-d’etre of the language he used; the point of most of his paintings depends on what is not shown, upon the event that is not taking place, upon what can disappear’ (Berger, J, 2001) p345.

Berger takes as examples an early work, L’Assassin menace, 1927.

Here a naked woman lies dead, the murderer (assassin) stands rather composed listening to the gramophone. Two men (Berger thinks plainclothes police) wait to capture him with a net and a club. Three men stare through the window at the scene.

we are shown everything and nothing. We see a particular event in its concrete setting, yet everything remains mysterious – the committed murder, the future arrest, the appearance of the three staring men in the window. What fills the depicted moment is the sound of the record, and this, by the very nature of painting, we cannot hear’ (Berger, J, 2001) p345/6


Magritte frequently uses the idea of sound to comment upon the limitation of the visual. (Berger, J, 2001) P346

 Another example, La Femme Introuvable, 1928.

‘it shows a number of irregular stones embedded in cement. These stones frame a nude woman and four large hands searching for her. The painting stresses the quality of tangibility. Yet although the hands can feel their way over the stones, the woman eludes them.’ (Berger, J, 2001) p346.

Berger third early example is Le Musée d’une nuit.

In The Treachery of Images, 1929, Magritte painted a picture of a pipe with the words, ‘ceci n’est pas une pipe’, this is not a pipe underneath. Here ‘he made two languages (the visual and the verbal) cancel one another out.‘ (Berger, J, 2001)  p346

Rene Magritte – La Trahison des images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe) (The treachery of images (This is not a pipe)), 1948, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Berger quotes Magritte, saying he thought his pictures should be thought of ‘as material signs of the freedom of thought […] Life, the universe, the void, have no value for thought when it is truly free. The only thing that has value for it is Meaning, that is the moral concept of the Impossible’. (Berger, J, 2001) P346

Magritte explains that our experiences encroach on the ability for our thoughts to be truly free. He tries with each painting to shake off the coincidental and contingent which restrict the impossible, which is slightly confusing since one of the aims of the Surrealists was to tap into just that which floats on the surface of unconscious thought.

Berger Splits Magritte’s paintings into two categories, one in which we only have the ‘sensation of the impossible’, for example La Chambre d’ecoute, and the 1950s images where everything is made of stone. And the other where ‘the impossible has been grasped, measured and inserted as an absence in a statement made in a language originally and specially developed for depicting particular events in particular settings’. (Berger, J, 2001), p347 examples of these are Au Seuil de la liberte, Le modele rouge and Le voyageur.

Au Seuil de la liberte, on the threshold of liberty.

Le modele rouge , the red model, 1935

Plain boots would suggest that someone had simply left their shoes behind, cut off feet would point to murder or violence but shoes turning into feet makes you stop and ponder. Perhaps, as Berger thinks, this points to ‘a self that has left its own skin. The painting is about what is absent, about a freedom that is absence’. (Berger, J, 2001) p348

Le voyageur, 1937

‘if a painting by Magritte confirms one’s lived experience to date, it has by his standards, failed; if it temporarily destroys experience, it has succeeded’. (Berger, J, 2001) p347

Paradoxically, he used a familiar language to destroy the familiar.

Our idea of freedom extends, our experience of it diminishes. It is from this that the moral concept of the impossible arises’. (Berger, J, 2001) p347



Alexandrian, S. (1970) Surrealist art. Thames and Hudson Ltd

Calvocoressi , R. (1992) Magritte. (2nd Ed) Phaidon Press

Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Harrison, C & Wood, P (Ed.). (2003) Art in theory 1900-2000, an anthology of changing ideas. Blackwell publishing

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Torczyner, H. (1979) Magritte: Ideas and Images. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Brutalism – A Visit to the Barbican Estate

The 500 words task for Assignment 5 reads as follows:

A 500-word analysis of a maximum of four works in any media other than painting or sculpture which demonstrate the influence of the political, social and economic changes that have taken place since 1945.  (course notes)

Does Architecture count as a media? The WHA has included it all along so I’m assuming yes. Also, the second visit task is as follows:

Look at some twentieth-century buildings If you live in a big city you’ll be spoilt for choice but most towns will have something of interest. Go for something different from your earlier visits. This could be a tube station, a block of flats or a shopping mall. Don’t just think about the way it looks or the materials and building methods used. Try to imagine how easy it might be to maintain and clean, how efficient it might be in terms of its use of energy, how secure it might feel for someone on their own at night, etc. Make notes in your learning log. (course notes)

I thought I’d try and combine the two but depending on time constraints this might not develop enough to cover the visit task, I primarily visited this area to discover for myself what the big deal with Brutalist architecture was so that I could develop my 500 words from more than just reading research.


As a post war evolution of Modernism, the lofty, utopian ideals of Brutalist architecture have been lost to the mists of time and what we are left with today are big, blocky public buildings (whose exterior concrete facades have not aged well), with various social problems such as graffiti and antisocial behaviour. Some people subscribe to the ‘so ugly it is beautiful’ school of thought and many existing Brutalist buildings, such as the Barbican Complex, are now Grade II listed. The style was popular in the postwar era many people needed rehousing after the blitz, the economy was in tatters so new developments needed to be cheap, with easily sourced building materials such as concrete. The name is actually a wry English twist on Le Corbusier’s French term béton brut (raw concrete) popularised by British architectural critic Reyner Banham.

Barbican Estate Visit

The Barbican Estate is huge. Its infamous amongst visitors to the barbican arts centre as being impossible to navigate, a fact to which I can attest having got lost trying to find my way out once I’d finished with my visit!


I loved this fantastic short film about the barbican from 1969:

References: (2017). Introduction to Brutalism. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

City Of London. (2017) Barbican Estate history At:
(Accessed on 15 Aug 17)

Clement, A. (2011) Brutalism: Post-war British Architecture. The Crowood Press

Financial Times (2013). Brutalist architecture: a concept made concrete. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

Hyett, P. (1999) ‘Trellick Tower – a giant among high rises ‘In: The Architects’ Journal 1999, May 6, p.20. [online] At:
(Accessed on 15 Aug 17)

Painting Review: Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911

Following on from my Cubism Research, and in preparation for assignment 5 annotations I have decided to research Georges Braque’s Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911. The obvious choice of Cubist painting to annotate would be a Picasso which is precisely why I choose one by Braque. Picasso is the household name of Cubism but it seems from my research that they participated fairly evenly in the collaboration, even at times so closely as to be indistinguishable. This was the period known as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Additionally, I could go and see this one in person which always helps me!

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. I went to the Tate Modern to see it (apolgies for the wonky picture, there was a rope around an adjacent exhibit so I couldnt start square on to get the photo).

Georges Braque –
Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece (Clarinette et bouteille de rhum sur une cheminée),
1911, Oil paint on canvas, Support: 810 x 600 mm
frame: 935 x 723 x 74 mm, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The section in the middle triangle with the bottle, the clarinet & scrolls of paper (?), then the writing Valse, then the glass.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? Your eyes rove around the painting from plane to plane trying to make sense of what you’re looking at from one recognisable bit to the next to try and piece together what is there.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? I looked at it all but I still don’t understand many elements.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The little round bit under the clarinet because I know it should be recognise it but I’m still not sure what it is.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.


  1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very narrow colour palate typical of Analytical Cubism has been used to concentrate the viewer on the forms.
  2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really
  3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? slightly warm colours
  4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? The colours are muted and earthy to concentrate on the forms
  5. In what way is dark and light colour used? dark and light colour is used to separate the planes

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Very wide from light to black

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out the various planes of the work. The light is not coming from any clear direction.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are in places used to model three-dimensional forms, for example the clarinet mouthpiece and holes, which in this part of the painting is lit from above.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? In contrast to tradition paintins where the distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light here is used almost randomly to separate the various planes and sections.


  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in various ways across the surface of the painting. Thinly in places, for example at the edges where you can see the the texture of the canvas. The black lines and white space opaque smooth:
    [Detail 1] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
    and some parts are rather more thickly applied it little dabbing brushstrokes for texture:
    [Detail 2] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, but nothing about Cubism is!
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the planes sort of shimmer above the canvas. its an odd effect.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? yes, the different paint textures mean you associate different sections with different elements


Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what.
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale.
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective.
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top.
(e) linear perspective N


One of the tenants of Cubism is the abolishment of single point perspective to explore forms ‘plastically’

Looking at this a bit longer I’ve changed my mind here, there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious.

(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above.

I found it hard to see just by looking and making a sketch helped me here:

The different view points overlay so its a bit confusing so here I’ve tried to break down what i see i my head as separate views. I started with the bottle, on which the scheme seems to rest on. it has serveral view on it. the most obvious being the frontal view, where you can also see the glass and the nail. I’ve left the clarinet out of this picture because i dont think it was placed behind the bottle on the mantelpiece.

Here is one view that i think sets out the main pieces in their places on the mantelpiece. I see the clarinet, the rum, a glass, a scroll of paper (probably sheet music given the words written on it) it looks to me like he has pages under the objects which jut out and overlap the edge of the mantelpiece.

Perspective view from the edge of the mantelpiece

Its possible that this view in blue below is the same scene from the other end of the mantelpiece.

this is my suspected bits of mantelpiece views, from all different directions including underneith to see the corbel.




here i thought these were scrolls of music sheet

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There are plenty of diagonal lines radiating out and upwards from the bottom like a fan and a slight overall pyramidal feeling to the composition. The main elements are in an internal triangle section. Internally to that there are bisecting vertical planes and pieces (eg the Clarinet is horizontal and the bottle is vertical) and various little triangles made of overlapping planes of various textures and detail

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are thick contour lines all around the painting but many are for the contours of the plane not actual for an object as such.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’/ Context & Meaning:

I’ve blocked these two together because without understanding the concepts Cubism it’s really hard to read the painting and understand any of its ‘evidence’ or even what you’re looking at.

In Harrison & Woods Art in theory 1900-2000 anthology there were quite a few articles which helped me understand this painting (and Cubism in general).


mostly I put my research straight into the annotations, the other painting review here and the main research notes page here.


Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago
Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing


Painting Review: Georges Braque – Yellow Seacoast

Following on from my Assignment 5 prep looking at a Cubist painting by Georges Braque, here I’m going to look at a Fauvist painting also by Braque – Yellow Seacoast also known as Boats on the Beach, L’Estaque. Braque came Fauvism late and left early but for a time was fully engaged. I picked this Fauve painting for annotation over the more obvious choices of Matisse or Derain because I thought it would be more interesting to compare two paintings of the same artist from the two (opposing) avant-garde styles of that period. I specifically picked this one because it seemed like this was when Braque was at his most Fauvist, you can tell that by the time he painted The Large Trees, L’Estaque, that he’s starting to waver.

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. Unfortunately, unlike the Cubist painting, I could not actually visit this one in person so I has to analyse an online reproduction. They vary so much too, here are just two of the ‘versions’ of reproductions I could see online. I have choose to use the one from the official website where the painting resides (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) as (hopefully) this should be the most faithful.

Boats on the Beach
Georges Braque (France, 1882-1963)
France, 1906
Oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (49.53 x 69.85 cm) Frame: 27 × 31 × 4 in. (68.58 × 78.74 × 10.16 cm)
Gift of Anatole Litvak (53.55.1)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© 2015 Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format, but I keep the comparison grid that my tutor liked on the previous assignment feedback.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The boat in the foreground, then the boats behind in the middle ground, then the sky.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? My eyes strayed out of the picture at the sky and then back in on the reflection on the water and the boats on the right.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? The little town in the background looks like it has a smoking chimney stack in it.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? That boat at the front
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.


    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very wide colour palate which is not all realistic but conveys an atmosphere of joy.
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Yes, seemingly everywhere
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? It’s mostly balanced but perhaps a bit on the warm side or that could be an optical illusion of the colours.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? All the colours are bright.
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used? The only dark colours really are blues, greens and purples. The purples form the shadows and the colour of the distant hills, the blue is in the water is quite dark, and in the dark blue contours and there are some darker greens as shadowy bits in the boats and in the background.

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Not as wide as it first looks, there’s no blacks or whites

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest, the boats on the water, the lands edge and the boats masts against the dramatic sky

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms and boundaries such as where the water meets the land

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition and model shadows without using dark and light tints.


  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? Like the Cubist work, the paint has been applied smoothly in some places and in little dabbing strokes in others. Unlike the Cubist work, here the brush strokes are much looser. Its difficult to tell from the small online reproduction anything about the texture or thickness of the application.
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It’s not really the medium that is used unconventionally but the colours.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? The mood is a joyous reflection of nature
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? not especially

need this large gap because the table runs into the side of the blog



Representation of depth Technique: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Effect: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Technique: Yellow Seacoast Effect: Yellow Seacoast
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what. Y The boat in the foreground overlaps the water, the masts of the background boats are  overlapping the town on the horizon and the pontoon
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale Y  The painting has tradition one point perspective with large close boats in the foreground and smaller boats in the background
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective Maybe Its hard to tell if the colour purplish in the background hills is to represent atmospheric perpective of just because he wanted them purple
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top Y  The boats in the background are above the ones in the forground
(e) linear perspective Y there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious Y  You can tell by the boat in the forground and the one just behind it, there might as well be drawn on  guide lines
(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above Y Yes but very slight. There is slight modelling on the boats using colours

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal):  There are implied diagonal lines as you look up the beach from the stern of the boat in the foreground. From there your eye zigzags across the painting along the towns horizontal line, up the slope of the hills to be carried across by the texture in the sky. Several points in this visual zigzag are broken by ship masts pointing into the sky or from the edge of the sky, down the masts into their reflections on the water and across the other colourful water reflection lines.

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness.  True to Fauvist style many of the main objects (such as the boats and waters edge) are outlined in thick contour lines. This has the effect of breaking the colours reactions to each other by circling in dark blue. Other elements are not outlined, allowing the colours to react against each other, for example in the purple of the hills and the red of the sky.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

It looks like he’s expeimenting with colour theory. Many places that I’ve read that the fauves and the expressionists were similar but I don’t think so at all. Superficially maybe, they both use lots of bright direct colours in their work, not necessarily naturalistic either. They also use similar subject matter. But the expressionists seem to be full of anger, doom and gloom. Their colours are used to spit in your eye. The colours in this painting are clearly coming from a different place.

Context & Meaning:

much of my Fauve background reading notes I’ve left in this blog post

The name of The Fauves is from the French Les Fauves, wild beasts, this was a derogatory term coined from the first Exhibition where these bright colourful canvases were hung all together in one room with a Henri Rousseau and more traditional sculpture for maximum contrast. Colour was freed from descriptive representation and used to represent emotions. Braque came to Fauvism late and left early to move towards a more geometric look before fully developing Cubism with Picasso.

Fauvism’s hallmark was amplifying colours and making them richer than they are in real life. A pale red leaf might become a fiery red colour in a Fauvist painting, whilst a splash of watery yellow sunset on the sea would become a strong, bold yellow. (, 2017)

André Derain, Landscape of the Midi, oil on canvas, 1906, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The choppy dabbing brushstrokes are reminiscent of Van Gogh, or some contemporary work by André Derain but the space on the picture plain is less flat than Derain’s work (eg Landscape of the Midi, 1906)




‘The principles of Fauvism may be listed briefly as follows: construction of space with colour, purity and simplification of technique, economy of means’. (Ferrier, 1995)

Braque had plenty of opportunities to paint boats and their masts up on the sky when he lived in Antwerp in 1906 with Friesz eg Le Mat – Le Port d’Anvers, 1906. As with those paintings, here he paints across the water, with no figures and a sense of separateness from the local town although the bright Mediterranean light would have been a much intense than the grey atmosphere of Antwerp.

The composition follows the Impressionists basis for framing the landscape in a 1:2 sky/land ratio, and weighted in the lower left corner. Due to social and economic changes in French tourist towns between the visits from the Impressionists and the Fauves, the Fauves were more likely to make their landscapes nonspecific and idealistic.

Braque painted the same scene over and again until he’d worked out the nuances of the water, wood and rock. Eg Paysage a L’Estaque  (landscape at L’Estaque), 1906 and Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) 1906, Fridart Foundation. They evoke a more daytime feeling that this one which seems like it might be painted at sunrise or sunset when you see the three together you can see more of the colours are representational after all. Painting L’Estaque was a rite of passage for the Normans, allowing them into the fauve circles.

Georges Braque – Paysage a L’Estaque (landscape at L’Estaque), autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas, 49.9x 61cm, Private collection
Georges Braque – Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas,, 50×61 cm, Fridart Foundation

Dufy, Braque & Friesz all came from Le Havre, in Normandy. Dubbed The Fauves Havrais, they have a slightly different take than the more Southern Fauves.  Friesz & Dufy had been taught by the same local art teacher, Charles Lhuillier of Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Braque his successor. At different times they all received a grant to go to Paris. Also at different times they all entered the studio of Leon Bonnat at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Braque initially studied art at night school and had an apprenticeship with House painter Laberthe. He did military service 1901-2, then off to Academie Humbert, Paris. All three artist spent some time together in the studio of Bonnat in 1903, having an impressionistic style in muted colours.

The Fauve landscape book has a fascinating timeline featuring all the fauves, I picked out the Braque bits:

Start of 1904  – Braque studying in Paris and living at 48 rue d’Orsel.

Summer 1904  – he holidays in Brittany and Normandy. Spends time in Le Pouldu near pont-aven where Gauguin painted.

Summer 1905  – he stays with sculptor Manolo (Manuel Martinez Hugue) & the critic Maurice Raynal in Honfleur and Le Havre. According to note 52 (G. Habasque, Les Soirees de Paris, 1954, p37), (Freeman, J, 1990) he acquired a Gabon mask from a sailor.

1906 June – September – Braque and Friesz stay in Antwerp painting the harbour.

Mid-september to Oct 1906 – He’s back in Paris after staying with friesz in nearby Durtal at painter Alexis Axilette’s home.

October – Nov 1906 Fourth Salon d’Automne exhibition features many Fauve works (not braque yet thou)

October 1906 Cezanne died

October – February 1906/7 – Braque stays in L’Estaque at the Hotel Maurin. Starts painting in Fauve style.

Nov – Dec 1906 – Derain back in L’Estaque and writing to Vlaminck notes that Braque, Friesz, Girieud are there and most of the artists from the Salon des Independants are in the region. Matisse spends 8 days there on his was to Collioure.

1907 Mar – april – Matisse is on the hanging committee of the 23rd Salon des independents. Braque exhibits & sells six paintings including those made at L’Estaque. 5 bought by Uhde and 1 by Kahnweiler. Vauxcelles describes the fauve movement as dangerous (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 spring – After possibly travelling to Le Havre to prepare for the Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition that is open in early June, Braque and Friesz go to the south of France. Derain convinces Picasso to visit the ethnographic museum at the Palais de Trocadero. (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 April – Braque meets Kahnweiler, who’d already met Picasso.

1907 may-early September – Braque and friesz in La Ciotat

1907 early june – Braque exhibits two in 2nd exhibition of the Cercle de l’Art Moderne along with other fauves.

1907 summer – Kahnweiler buying many paintings from the fauves including braque.

1907 July – Braque & Friesz stay at the Hotel Cendrillion, Cassis, and the visit Derain (note 190: 9/7/1907 postcard from Friesz to Druet)

1907 July/Aug – Braque & Friesz at La Ciotat and Matisse visits on his way to Italy.

1907 late August – Braque in l’Estaque, sends his Salon submission recommendations to Kahnweiler

1907 September – Braque and Friesz return to Paris. Braque sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon with Apollinaire (notes 199, 200: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 346-47) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1907 Autumn – Matisse exchanges paintings with Picasso. ‘Mercure de france publishes Cezanne’s correspondence with Bernard, which serves as the clearest statement published to date of cezanne’s ideas about composition and form’ (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Nov – ‘Braque goes to l’Estaque, following the Cezanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne’ (note 206:  Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 347), (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Oct – 5th Salon d’Automne. Braque only one painting. Matisse and Marquetry fauves on the jury.

1907 Nov-Dec – Matisse and Derain maybe see Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

1907 Dec – Braque begins to pain Nu (completed in June 1908)

1908 February – Braque and Picasso make drawings of deaf female model, (Freeman, J, 1990) p109

1908 March – May – 24th Salon des Independants. Braque shows 5. ‘In his review Apollinaire says that Braque’s work is the most original effort of the Salon’ p110 ( note 218: Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Les Salon des Independants’ Les Revue des lettres et des arts, May 1, 1908) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 April – may – Braque shows 5 in Salon de la Toison d’Or, Moscow

1908 April – Burgess and Inez Haynes Irwin visit Braque’s Parisian studio (note 222: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 350) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 after May 2nd – Braque goes to help organise Cercle de l’Art Moderne in Le Havre

1908 Mid may – Braque stays for a 3rd visit in L’Estaque, this time at Hotel Maurin.

1908 June – Braque shows 2 in Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition

1908 summer – Braque joined in l’Estaque by Dufy. He possibly visited Derain in Martigues

1908 September – Matisse sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon according to Gertrude Stein (note 237: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 354-441) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 October – Nov – 6th Salon d’Automne. Matisse has his own section which gets positive reviews from the critics (note 239: Louis Vauxcelles, ‘Les Salon d’Automne’, Gil Blas, Sept 30,1908), (Freeman, J, 1990). Matisse and Marquet on the jury. 6 pictures by braque rejected, Marquet saved one. Braque removed himself entirely to show later that November at Kahnweilers gallery. It was his first one man show. 27 works 1906-8 with catalogue text by Apollinaire. Vauxcelles repeats Matisse cube observations in his review.

1908 Nov – Picasso hosts a banquet for Rousseau. Apollinaire, Braque, Friesz, Marie Laurencin Andre Salmon Gertrude Stein + others also attended.

1908 Late Nov – Braque in Le Havre

1908/9 Dec/jan – Braque shows six in group exhibition Gallerie Notre-Dame-Des-Champs.

1908 December – Matisse published notes of a painter

See the final annotation here.


Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago

Freeman, J. [et al.]. (1990) The Fauve Landscape. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ferrier, J. (1995). The Fauves. Paris: Terrail. (2017). Yellow Seacoast by Georges Braque. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Georges Braque. The Large Trees. L’Estaque 1906-07 | MoMA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

Cubism and Fauvism Research Summary

Gobelins L’École de L’Image, clip from “Au Lapin Agile” (2016)

Cubism is such a vastly written about subject there comes a time when I need to stop reading and start writing before I run out of time again. In previous assignment feedbacks, my tutor has suggested I break out the WHA reading notes into additional and separate blog posts about the main themes of each chapter, so while I was reading I was also compiling longer format notes for that with regards to Cubism & Fauvism especially since it forms one of the annotation tasks in upcoming Assignment 5. Since then I’ve also been reading about it in other books and websites to try and understand it. Here I’ll try and summarise some of that so that I can get it out of my head before my more focused annotation task. I loved the clip above from animation department of Paris’s Gobelins L’École de L’Image from their animated short featuring a fictitious bar brawl between Fauvists & Cubists, specifically Matisse & Picasso in Cubist and Fauvist-inspired hues and forms. see on youtube here.

Key players:

  • Matisse lead the short-lived Fauvism movement before developing it into his own mature personal style. Derain/Vlaminck/Braque and others.
  • Picasso and Braque developed Cubism together but there was a whole bunch of other Cubists who, with the help of Poet/Critic Apollinaire helped make it fashionable.
  • Everyone loved Cezanne in their own way.
Picasso (Extended Notes from WHA)

Picasso was a child prodigy. By 1900 he’d already mastered academic paintings. Blue & rose period 1903 – 1906 full of wistful poetry (P782 WHA)

In the early 20th century there was a culture of Primitivism, ‘myth of the primitive’, engendered by Gauguin (see section four) and works from Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Especially ‘interpretation of dreams ‘, published in 1900, which involved theories of the subconscious, including sexual urge & understanding instinctual side of human nature with emphasis on emotion and sensations being more important than rational thought. This had a profound effect on artists & intellectual thought of the time in fact, it transformed 20th century attitudes & values. Add to that a French colonial scandal in 1904 that rocked the newspapers, bringing Africa into focus & sparking anti colonial public outrage. French officers were hunting black people for amusement like lions, and set with gunpowder like human firecrackers, and generally being degraded and murdered.

The Paris salon work at the time was very refined, eg Monet’s waterlilies. In a direct rejection of this was Picasso. He was influenced by Cezanne, he commented that ‘around 1906 cezanne’s influence flooded everything ‘ (p771,WHA), Matisse & Iberian (pre-Roman Spanish) sculpture. He started his revolutionary work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon ,1907, a nearly flat painting of a complex of invented forms, (p771, WHA). This was a revolutionary break with Western illusionistic art.  He abandoned the traditional single viewpoint & proportions & reordered human form into geometrical lozenges & triangles. New intellectual treatment of space/ form /unexpressed emotions /states of mind. Rejected coherences of representational art. It was named after a brothel in his home town, it was originally to have a sailor and a student with a skull but they were soon dropped.

Pablo Picasso
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
Paris, June-July 1907
Oil on canvas
243.9 x 233.7 cm
Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest
© 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fauvre painters introduced Picasso to African art, whose influence can be seen in the right hand two figures. He said (reflecting in the 1930s), that African sculpture & masks were a creative revelation & a source of liberating energy (p771, WHA). He reflected on his first visit to a ethnographical museum in great detail almost 30 years later so it must have made a massive impact on him, despite playing it close to the vest at the time (didn’t want to be seen as too much the anarchist). He deemed African art to depend on knowing rather than seeing.

Picasso recognised the genius of self-taught Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), a naive artist, having some of Rousseau’s enormous canvases of imagined, mysterious & menacing exotic jungle landscapes in his studio. He also had many African, Iberian and Oceanic sculptures.

Notes from Cubism: a history and analysis 1907-1924 by John Golding:
Cubism Vs Fauvism

The formation of Cubism was in sharp contrast to that of Fauvism. Where the Fauves drew from a wide variety of sources, the development of Cubism, except for the joint influences of Cezanne and tribal sculpture, was remarkably self- contained. And whereas the Fauves borrowed restlessly from the art of their predecessors, the Cubists reverted to fundamental principles; they began, so to speak, from the bottom upwards. Feeling that traditional painting was exhausted, they took each of the elements that comprise the vocabulary of painting – form, space, colour, and technique – and substituted for the traditional use of every one of them a new interpretation of their own. In short Cubism was a completely new pictorial language, a completely new way of looking at the outside world, a clearly-defined aesthetic. As such it has shaped the course of almost all twentieth-century painting. (Golding, J, 1988).

The other important style of the early 1900’s in Paris was Fauvism, which came first and was essentially lead by Matisse. Contemporary critics  (Apollinaire for example) routinely compared the two, seeing a direct connection between them in that they are both moves towards abstraction, they both encourage artists to ‘to take greater liberties with visual appearances‘ (Golding, J, 1988), (in which Fauvism foreshadowed Cubism). Cubism and Fauvism approach the move towards abstraction entirely differently however. Cubism was expression through line and form, and Fauvism was expression through colour (sounds like the age old colour vs line argument popping up again in a new format).

For while Fauve painting at its most typical sprang from a free, spontaneous and often highly subjective response to the external world, and for this reason seemed occasionally to be far removed from conventional appearances, the Cubists, on the other hand, were led to still greater abstraction by the fact that their vision was conceptual and intellectual rather than physical and sensory. (Golding, J, 1988).

Interestingly, Braque was a Fauve before moving on to develop Cubism with Picasso.

Both, the Fauves (especially Matisse) and the Cubists admired Cezanne, and tribal art but they put these influences to different uses.

Between 1904 and 1906, the works of Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck all resembled each other to a certain extent and had clearly-defined characteristics in common – it was a synthesis of elements drawn from the art of the past fifty years: Impressionism, Divisionism, the decorative rhythms of Gauguin and the expressionism of Van Gogh, all contributed equally to its appearance. And since Fauvism evolved no really consistent technique of its own and was not governed by any very clearly-defined aesthetic, it was not a style that could have anything more than a very fleeting existence. It could well be interpreted as a sort of final paroxysm of post-Impressionist painting. (Golding, J, 1988)

Henri Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life), 1905-06, oil on canvas, 176.5 x 240.7 cm (The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia)

The Bonheur de Viure, while it is generally considered to be one of the key-works of Fauvism, and while it incontestably represents a summary of Matisse’s work of the previous years, shows him in fact taking the decisive step towards the formation of his own, individual, mature style. Apart from a few isolated sketches of Derain’s done under the direct influence of the painting, there are really no Fauve works quite like it. The refined, undulating outlines, the subtle blending of colour, the whole feeling of carefully calculated formal precision and intellectual control, even the arcadian symbolism, all these factors are at variance with the immediacy, the sporadic, broken or violent contours and the deliberately loose, occasionally even dislocated appearance of Fauve paintings done by Vlaminck and Derain at Chatou and in London, the Collioure landscapes of Derain and Matisse, and Matisse’s portraits of his wife painted in 1905 – the sort of painting that originally earned the movement its name. (Golding, J, 1988)

Picasso & Braque

todo finish writing up notes from Golding 1988.

Notes from Art in theory 1900-2000, an anthology

The most useful reference book I found though was Art in theory 1900-2000, an anthology of changing ideas edited by Charles Harrison & Paul Wood. The assignment calls for several aspects that various chapters in this book will provide interesting research for. First up the annotations, Cubism (made between 1908-1914) & a Fauve artist. However, it poses a problem of secondary sources. The book is an anthology made so that all the hard to find texts are in one place for students, which allows me to read texts I would not otherwise have done but often it references a translation of an original French or German text, so actually I’m getting it third hand and translated. I see the point of trying to get some of the translated texts as primary souses. However in the interest of making the assignment deadline I’ll list them as secondary sources for now. There was lots of interesting background reading but the two I most found practically useful in understanding my chosen Cubist painting were

BraqueThoughts on Painting‘ Harrison & Wood, 2003, p214/5 (which I’d already read in the WHA too) and Daniel Henry Kahnweiler The Rise of Cubism, Harrison and Wood, 2003) p211/2.

Daniel Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1976) The Rise of Cubism. This article first appeared in Zurich in 1916 after he’d had his collection taken and had retired to Switzerland. The translation presented in the book is from Robert Motherwell (Ed.) Documents of Modern Art, New York, 1949,p1,6-8,9-14. I found interesting Braques limiting of background spaces. Interesting explanation of the scheme of a Cubist painting and how the scene is built… see below. Kahnweiler was the leading contemporary art dealer for Cubism, and friends with Picasso & Braque. This allowed them not to worry about public exhibitions. Braque & Picasso started to paint in a new fashion completely independently in 1907, they got together in late 1907. Started with landscapes and still life’s boiled down to simple shapes and their position in space. 1908 saw them tackle more complex still life’s and more detailed representations of nudes. Braque introduced musical instruments. Also fruit bowls, bottles and glasses. In 1910 Braque painted a naturistic nail with shadow (trompe-l’oeil nail) trying to incorporate this real element into the unity of the painting was difficult so they started to limit the background space in their paintings. Cezanne had frequently used this trick of limiting the space. Then Braque introduced writing, another real element. Picasso had discovered open form, meaning they could do away with the illusionistic skin of objects as described by chiaroscuro.

with the representation of solid objects this could be effected by a process of representation that has a certain resemblance to geometrical drawing. This is a matter of course since the aim of both is to render the three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane. In addition, the painter no longer has to limit himself to depicting the object as it would appear from one given viewpoint, but wherever necessary for fuller comprehension, can show it from several sides, and from above and below.’ Daniel Henry Kahnweiler (Harrison and Wood, 2003)

 To represent an object in space:

  • start from a clearly-defined background.
  • Working towards the front, indicating each form’s position with a scheme.
  • To avoid it being a mangle of planes and geometrical shapes introduce some ‘real details’.

The viewer then mentally combines the memory of those real details with the shapes and positions to ‘see’ the scene in their head.

in other words, there exist in the painting the scheme of forms and small real details as stimuli integrated into the unity of the work of art ;there exists, as well, but only in the mind of the spectator, the finished product of assimilation, the human head for instance. There is no possibility of a conflict here, and yet the object once ‘recognised’ in the painting is now ‘seen’ with a perspicacity of which no illusionistic art is capable’ Daniel Henry Kahnweiler (Harrison and Wood, 2003).

After reading that I went back to Braque’s own ‘Thoughts on Painting’. These were jotted down in the margins of his drawings and collected & published in Pierre Reverdy’s Journal Nord-Sud, Paris, December 1917. The translation presented in the book is from Edward Fry, op. cit., pp. 147-8. Interestingly, Breton attacks these in p462/3

Selected quotes I found the most interesting/pertenant to my understanding of Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911:

  • The subject is not the object; it is the new unity, the lyricism which stems entirely from the means employed.
  • The aim is not to reconstitute an anecdotal fact but to constitute a pictorial fact.
  • To be pure imitation, painting must make an abstraction of appearances
  • The senses deform, the mind forms. Work to perfect the mind. There is no certainty except in what the mind conceives
  • Trompe-l’oeil is due to an anecdotal accident that makes its effect through the simplicity of the facts.

Braque ‘Thoughts on Painting’ (Harrison and Wood, 2003)

Critic & Poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), was chief cheerleader for Cubism, close friend with Picasso & highly influential in Parisian avant-garde circles in the first two decades of the 20th century.
His essay The Cubists appeared as part of his review of the Salon d’Automne in 1911, published in L’Intransigeant, 10 Oct 1911. The translated version in Harrison & Wood 2003 is taken from Leroy C, Breunig (ed.), Apollinaire on Art, London, 1972, p183. Distinguishing between the formal & monumental quantities of Cubist & Impressionist-Fauvist work this plugs directly into my annotation comparison.
He explains that cubism is a school of painters who ‘want to transform their art by returning to first principles with regard to line and inspiration he points out that many of them were previously from the Fauvist school who returned to first principles with regard to colour and composition’ (Harrison & Wood, 2003) p186

He explains that the term Cubism comes from Picasso’s showing some paintings in 1908 with simply drawn houses which face the illusion of cubes to the public, he doesn’t mention it may have come from a derisive term applied to some of Braque’s early work.

He explains away the shock of seeing paintings with shadows & contrast in after getting so used to ‘the brilliant but practically formless daubs of the Impressionists’. ‘The monumental appearance of compositions that go beyond the frivolities of contemporary art’. ‘Cubism is the most noble undertaking in French art today.’.(Harrison & Wood, 2003) P186

His next two paper also include some interesting parts on defining different aspects of Cubism and the ‘plastic’ arts. 

Author/Contemporary Critic Jacques Riviere (1886-1925) wrote extended critical discussion ‘Present Tendencies in Painting’, published in Revue d’Europe et d’Amerique, in March 1912. The translated extract in the book is taken from Fry, op. cit., pp. 75-80.

He explains that the Cubists are on the right track but haven’t quite got there yet. ‘They are precursors – clumsy, like all precursors – of a new art which is henceforth inevitable’.(Harrison & Wood, 2003) P190

He goes on to help them ‘by supplying them with the deep reasons for what they are doing’. P190

Essentially he explains that they are trying to depict ‘objects as they really areie not how one might see them. So they have to do away with illusionistic devices such as foreshortening, perspective & lighting. Light & shadow play across and object as we move around it but the light on an object is just an instance, so to perceive the object as its plastic reality we must blend many perceptions of it. Equally, perspective is an object only from one point of view and is subject to the same issues.

He outlines the mistakes he feels the Cubists have made, that instead of showing enough faves of an object to suggest volume they show all its faces, they fill the empty space in the picture with walls and fortifications. And when they dismissed lighting & perspective they subordinate nothing in the picture

 ‘They thus condemn themselves never again to select anything from reality; and since there can be no subordination without selection, the elements in their pictures relapse into anarchy and form a mad cacophony which makes us laugh… ‘  (Harrison and Wood, 2003) p193.

Interesting pointd/quotes/notes:

From the introduction section of The idea of the modern world :

In the decade before the first World War, cubism, expressionism and futurism mark different facets of a European avant-garde’s reception of the modern into an established artistic tradition whose example was predominantly French.   (Harrison and Wood, 2003) P127

It remains a central paradox of the new art that it sought its authenticity in a remote Nature, but that this repeated incantation to Nature was made under urban circumstances.  (Harrison and Wood, 2003) P127.

With cubism the situation is different. Particularly in its ‘analytic’ phase, cubism is a hermetic art. The still live and the single portrait figure – characteristic Cubist subject matter – give few clues to the storm of modernity blowing outside the studio… By a strange inversion, it seems as if the modern picture, rather than depicting the machines and buildings which made up the modern world, had internalized its modernity. (Harrison and Wood, 2003) P130.


Interesting terms re cubism : (Harrison and Wood, 2003) p130

  • New pictorial language
  • The opacity through which the world is represented
  • Technical innovation… Imbuing the form of the art with modernity.
  • Autonomous decoration of a surface
  • Penetration below surface appearance to the constants of ‘true’ reality
  • Continued referentially
  • Etc

Notes on Modernism :

Tension between two ways of conceiving art theory, the Realist view (Barnes below) and the view in which the artist is unquestionable author and the theorist attempts to follow on and document after the practice. Theoretical criticism based on understanding historical process & understanding historical process which is formed by critical experience of Art.

Clement Greenberg’s name is virtually synonymous with Modernist criticism.

Artist don’t always do what they say they’ve done.

‘representations are always built out of pre-existing cultural resources, and hence have always to be explained as developments within an ongoing cultural tradition’ Barnes, Interests and the growth of knowledge,  p19. (Harrison and Wood, 2003)

Notes on Fauvism:

Fauvism. (see Barr text p381-3).

Fauvism is a tradition of emotion & intuition in contrast to the intellectual of Cubism. Curvilinear rather than rectilinear. biomorphic or organic rather than geometrical. Decorative rather than structural. Spontaneous & mystical.

P69 Matisse, ‘Notes of  a Painter’

Originally published as Notes d’un peintre in La Grande Revue, Paris, 25 December 1908. The translation in the book is from J. D. Flam, Matisse on Art, London and New York, 1973. Pp32-40.

Many of the points he made I found more easily applied to Cubism than his own art which us strange.

He explains that he sacrifices some of the decorative charm of his paintings to plough past fleeting sensation such as the Impressionists are drawn to depict. Like the Cubists later, he is looking to express a more full interpretation of a scene or object. ‘underlying this succession of moments which constitutes the superficial existence of beings and things, which is continually modifying and transforming them, one can search for a truer, more essential character, which the artist will seize so that he may give to reality a more lasting interpretation’. (Harrison and Wood, 2003) P71.

I wonder if it is to this point that Picasso refer when he said ‘in my opinion to search means nothing in painting. To find, is the thing.’ (Harrison and Wood, 2003) p215 ‘Picasso Speaks’ an interview in 1923 where he remains sceptical of attempts to intellectualise Cubism. ‘We all know that Art is not truth. Art is the lie that makes us realise truth at least the truth that is given us to understand…. If he [an artist] only shows in his work that he has searched and re-searched, for the way to put over lies he would never accomplish anything. ‘ (Harrison and Wood, 2003) p215/6

Back to Matisse, he says some things which can be applied easily to Cubism, for example when talking of sculpture in Luxembourg, ‘and yet movement thus understood corresponds to nothing in nature: when we capture it by surprise in a snapshot, the resulting image reminds us of nothing that we have seen. Movement seized while it is going on is meaningful to us only if we do not isolate the present sensation either from that which precedes it or that which follows it.’ (Harrison and Wood, 2003) p71/2

This reminded me of nude descending a staircase, which I’d seen in WHA.

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity  devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter. Matisse, (Harrison and Wood, 2003) P73.

In his article, he refutes some criticism from M. Peladan in the way the Fauves dress like ordinary people and that they don’t follow the ‘rules’ of painting. He lays out his opinion on the lack of universal rules and his opinion of Raphael, Titian, Manet and Renoir. He thinks artists should be of their time and not slavishly copy the greats.

Notes from – The fauves: the reign of colour By Jean – Louis Ferrier

As offspring of Newton and Cheverell, the fauves explored the spectrum ;for them, the colours were not only mere stimuli on the retina but could also express feelings. (Ferrier, 1995) P9

The first exhibition of Fauvism, and where they got their name was in the 1905 Salon d’Automne, they were all in room VII, 2 by Charles Camoin, 5 by Andre Derain, 4 by Henri Matisse, 5 by Henri Manguin, 5 by Albert Marquet and others by Maurice Vlaminck, Van Dongen, Frieze, Puy and Valtat. A mixture of subjects, nudes, landscapes, still life, and portraits. Additionally a huge jungle picture by Henri Rousseau. Added for contrast in the middle of all that colour they put a traditional marble bust and bronze Statue by Albert Marque.

Critic Louis Vauxcelles said of the spectacle “C’est Donatello chez les fauves” (it’s Donatello amid the wild beasts) and the name stuck. Everyone in the room was hated by the public and ridiculed by the critics. Only Andre Gide recognised it was ‘a by-product of theories’. The same public was only just coming to accept the ‘palette scrapings’ of Impressionism. This new art was an evolution too far for them.

The Fauvist movement was a natural progression of the two movements that succeeded impressionism, Neo-Impressionism & Syntheism (ie the works of Seurat, Van Gogh and Gauguin). Theories of Chevreul that inspired the former, colours placed next to each other appear more vivid on the viewer’s retina. Eg red/green, blue/orange and yellow/violet. These colour combinations can be seen throughout annotation 2. And the large areas of flat colour of the latter.

Vlaminck and Derain for example, aware of their similarities, used colour as “sticks of dynamite“‘ (Ferrier, 1995) P20

By 1908, the public was coming around to the fauves and with a slightly younger generation of critics, people were starting to understand it a little. Matisse and Marquet were even on the jury, which caused a new scandal when they rejected Braque’s new work. ‘Matisse, when asked by Vauxcelles which paintings had been refused, answered “Braque sent canvases covered with little cubes.“‘ (Ferrier, 1995) p23 Braque exhibited them in Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s little gallery instead. ‘The avant-garde had changed sides and cubism was born’. (Ferrier, 1995) P23

Braque biography

Born in Argenteuil, France in 1882, died in Paris 1963. He started as a house painter, taking courses at the Academie Humbert. He rented a studio in Antwerp with Friesz in 1906 doing Fauvism. 1908-1914 he was invented Cubism with Picasso. He went into the army for WWI, and got injured and discharged in 1917 with temporary blindness which meant he couldn’t paint again for a while. From 1943 he started making massive canvases and sculpture.

See also research put straight into the Assignment annotations and the assoicated painting reviews here and here.


Ferrier, J. (1995). The Fauves. Paris: Terrail.

Golding, J. (1988) Cubism :a history and analysis 1907-1924. Harvard University press

Harrison, C & Wood, P (Ed.). (2003) Art in theory 1900-2000, an anthology of changing ideas. Blackwell publishing

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing


Essential Reading WHA: Post-War to Post-Modern

Political, economic or social factors

WW2 ended 1945, with it European imperialism/overseas rule/economic power. NY overtakes Paris as cultural capital of West. Many intellectuals fled to US during 30s, including Einstein, artists, musicians & Bauhaus figures (as previously mentioned) who established Institute of Design, Chicago. After fall of France in 1940, many more, eg Surrealists & Purist-abstracters eg Leger, Mondrian, thus transferring the 2 major movements. O’Keeffe & others became cultural heroine for new liberated women. Horror of USA atomic bombing Hiroshima, 1945. Mid-50s Abstract expressionism ‘could be interpreted as an expression of American liberalism in contrast with the Social Realism prescribed in the Soviet Bloc’ p843. Berlin wall erected in 1961, Capitalist Realism of West Germany forming the front line against soviet bloc Socialist Realism. Consumer affluence & optimism of Kennedy years replaced post-war austerity in 1960s bringing changes in artistic climate. Home TV sets with satellite transmission from 1962. Kennedy assassinated 1963. Martin Luther King assassinated 1968. Space race between US & USSR. 1st man in space 1961, man on moon 1969. 1960s Revolutionary Cuba, Che Guevara (killed 67 guerrilla fighting against right wing Bolivian gov).Offbeat generation, student uprisings of 1968. Golub’s raw disturbing pictures only became acceptable after nightly TV reports of Vietnam War (1961-73), intended to shock, giant images seen in galleries not just on banal TV. Art no longer needed a gallery in 60s/70s, exhibitions/works in catelogs/books/magazines. Art market denied a ‘unique object to sell’ p855 eg Dan Graham’s Figurative in Harper’s Bazaar, 1965. Art just another commodity. Mass media, ‘rampantly consumerist society’ p855 & fledgling computer technology in 70s. Greenberg’s ‘extreme version of modernism can now be seen as belonging essentially to the cold War years’. P844

Changes to status or training of artists

Che Guevara, 1968. Painting by Andy Warhol

NY painters of 40’s/50’s of similar age & all knew each other but didn’t form a movement.  NY art school of Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) was central melting pot of Cubism, Fauvism & abstraction. Work of artists such as Warhol & Hamilton foreshadowed importance of Photography from 1980s onwards eg Gilbert and George, Cindy Sherman etc. Many commercial photographers turned to documentary/art, eg Warhol, Arbus etc. Che Guevara, 1960, Korda is best known image of time & most famous revolutionary image ever, interesting it is a photograph (not any other form of art). Reproduced in every format imagined rather writing since.

Alberto Korda – Che Guevara, 1960, Photograph
This 5-story relief sculpture of it can be found next to the Plaza of the Revolution in central Havana, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
Artists unknown, Graffiti, Havana, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Development of materials and processes

Hofmann experimented with ‘drip’ techniques & mixed media. Pollock furiously abandoned trying/failing to master traditional painting techniques & externalised struggle by making act of painting its own subject by pouring/throwing/dripping paint onto huge unstretched canvas on floor with his whole body. Liberated from representation, a record of his emotions in his transported state engaging with paint, creating texture eg Autumn Rhythm, 1950. Equally colossal, Rothko soaked paints into surface leaving opulent colour & canvas texture which he thinly scumbled over creating effect of luminous grandeur p838. Matisse coloured paper in gouache, then cut & arranged them. Created book: Jazz, 1947 & large scale cutouts eg The Snail, 1953. Joyous & lyrically ebullient. He said ‘cutting into colour reminds me of the direct action of the sculptor carving stone’ p841.

The Snail 1953 Henri Matisse 1869-1954 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962
Jasper Johns – Three Flags, 1958, Encaustic on canvas, 77.8 × 115.6 × 11.7 cm, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928) stained unsized canvas by pouring on pigment. Jasper Johns Three Flags, 1958, painted in Old Master technique of encaustic, giving a ‘fine-art’ surface, not clear if he was mocking the flag, art or sophisticated public. 1950’s Leon Golub used technique of scraping/roughening unstretched canvas with a meat cleaver to give impression of tendons/muscles in his lifesize paintings of fleshless figures. Rubbed raw. Rauschenberg adapted frottage technique to transfer newspaper images using silk-screen stencilling by inking/screening directly onto canvas in Dadaist grid-like patterns, adding drips/swirls of paint. He also participated with Cage in 1 of 1st ‘happenings’, anticipating Beuys p845 and experimented with future uses of technology in art. Andy Warhol 1st to use silk-screen technique for painting, & got his assistants in the ‘factory’ to make his works. Donald Judd also had his work fabricated for him. Liechtenstein painted in closely spaced dots to simulate Benday pattern shading of comics/commercial art to achieve impersonal look. Downplay on craft skills/materials for conceptual art. Planning/decisions upfront & execution perfunctory. Texts, maps, plans, images etc found in conceptual art termed ‘information’, linking it to mass media & fledgling computers. Photographs had significant place as carrier of concept, undermining accepted ideas of photographic art & silver gelatine print eg Vito Acconi (b 1940), Edward Rusha (b 1937) & John Bernhard (b 1931).

Bruce Nauman – Self Portrait as a Fountain, Eleven Color Photographs, 1966-67, printed 1970, Chromogenic print, Image 49.5 × 59.1 cm, Edition 7/8, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, © artist or artist’s estate

Video commercially available 1960’s, Bruce Nauman (b 1941) filmed himself walking around a square in his studio in Minimalist spoof. He used his body for his work eg Various flexible materials separated by layers of grease with holes the size of my waist and wrists. See Process Art below.



Styles and movements

Early pre-war Abstract style of several US loner ‘gifted mavericks’ such as Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946) & Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Doves ‘extraction’, 1910 among earliest abstracts anywhere. Nature’s elements simplified to colour/force lines, eg Fog Horns 1929.

Arthur Dove – Foghorns, 1929

NY painters of Abstract Expressionism in 40’s/50’s had no common style eg Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Franz Kline (1910-62), Willem de Kooning (1904-97), Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Robert Motherwell (1915-91), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-74), Mark Rothko (1903-70), Clyfford Still (1904-80) & Barnett Newman (1905-70) but common ‘feverish energy & extremism as typically American as their taste for the colossal’ P84.1st group labelled by critics as Action Painters, they enacted their expression onto canvas. Hoffman created form with colour tensions. Arshile Gorsky (1905-48) catalyst between European & American painting, combining Hoffmans abstract painterliness with surrealism. Disturbed/melancholy loner Pollock created ‘portable murals’ with sense of limitlessness, delicacy & neurotic volatility p836. Similarly, Kline ‘painted experiences’ NY city scenes & abstract B&W paintings. De Kooning remained somewhat representational, theme of human figure but more abstract action works harsh/raw colour/thick texture of reworked paint eg Excavation 1950.

Willem de Kooning
American, born Netherlands, 1904–1997
Excavation, 1950
© 2017 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

2nd group, colour-field painters. Clyfford Still, similar to Pollock in size of work & temperament & reoriented away from European traditions. Asymmetric planes in thick paint, feeling of density but not space, earthy colours & scaly texture lend primitive power of American West landscapes. He, Rothko & Gottlieb defined Abstract expressionism in letter to NY times in ‘43. ‘simple expression of complex thought’ p837 Wanted to reassert the picture plane, revealing truth with flat forms & impact with large size. Rothko, just as depressed (suicide in 1970), later works deeply religious/spiritual. Demand silence & complete viewer absorption (as I can attest having seen some in person). Not interested in colour relationships but conveying human emotion. Similarly, Newman wanted art with human significance, unknowable & sublime. Eg vir heroicus sublimis, 1950,& Broken Obelisk, 1963/7.

Barnett Newman – Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-51 , Oil on canvas, 242.2 x 541.7 cm, © 2017 Barnett Newman, Foundation / Artists rights
Society (ARS), New York
David Smith – Hudson River Landscape, 1951, Welded painted steel and stainless steel, 123.8 × 183.2 × 44 cm, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, © Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

‘Abstract configurations carrying implications akin to meaning and with references to human hopes and anxieties’ p839 also created by Sculptor David Smith who made 3D scenes enclosed in ‘space frames’, approached from front like a picture eg Hudson River Landscape, 1951. Later work eg Cubi series, started new era in US sculpture. In contrast to Abstract Expressionism, ‘blatantly representational’ p843 images of Jasper Johns (b 1930) & Robert Rauschenberg (b 1925) were known as Neo-Dada. Incorporated commonplace objects such as flags that ‘suggest the world rather than suggest the personality’ p843. John’s later work becoming even more paradoxical/complex eg Periscope (Hart Crane), 1963. Rauschenberg ‘bed’, 1955, was his own bed, smeared with paint (action painter like) & stood against gallery wall.

Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram, 1955-59, Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Purchase 1965 with contribution from Moderna Museets Vänner/The Friends of Moderna Museet.

His ‘combines’ paintings incorporated real 3d objects & collage eg Monogram, 1959. Both artists questioned meaning of Art. Meanwhile in Europe, Matisse summed up his life quest for naive art with his large scale abstract cut outs. Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) made bronzed figures seen from front, famous elongated figures anticipating Existentialist philosophy with aim to capture essence of personality rather than likeness.


Morris Louis – Alpha Phi, 1960-1961, 102 x 180 1/2 in. (259.1 x 458.5 cm), Acrylic resin (Magna) on canvas, du400, © 2014 MICA Rights administered by Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Frankenthaler broke through from Abstract Expressionism to pioneer Post-Painterly Abstraction/Colour Field Painting. Cool, elegant & restrained. Morris Louis (1912-62), Jules Olitski (b 1922) & Kenneth Noland (b. 1924). Louis ‘unfurled’ series, 1961 allowed paint to drip down, & soak into, channels in folded fabric, juxtaposed hues creating ‘optical phenomenon of projection & recession’ p843. This style justified Greenberg’s Formalism. Spiritual unease of 1960s conveyed by geometrical abstraction & optical illusion of Op (Optical) Art eg Bridget Riley.

Roy Lichtenstein – Big Painting No. 6, 1965, 235 cm × 330 cm

Another rejection of Abstract Expressionism was Pop Art, defined as ‘making impersonality a style’ p845. eg Big Painting No. 6, 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97) ironically depersonalizes their brushwork, commenting on their ‘cult of the gestural manipulation of paint as a means of unfettered, spontaneous self-expression’ p845 Style emerged simultaneously in UK & US.

Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes so different, so appealing? (upgrade) 2004 Richard Hamilton 1922-2011 Presented by the artist 2004

1st pop art work, collage (of pinup, TV, pulp romance, consumerism etc) ‘Just what is makes today’s homes so different? So appealing?’, 1956 by Richard Hamilton (b.1922) was aiming at new witty, low-cost & glamorous art, not ‘sardonic comment on our society’ p846 as critics took it. Mass media images not glamorous for Americans so US pop art more complex/ambivalent/awkward/provocative. Eg Claes Oldenburg (b 1929), Giant Hamburger, 1962, 2m across foam filled sailcloth burger, brings focus of Art to something ordinary that doesn’t look like art. Andy Warhol (1928-87) too. Commercial artist turned painter/sculptor/film-maker/writer/creator of a Pop Lifestyle. ‘He stood all theories of mass culture on their heads, notably the Marxist predictions of Walter Benjamin concerning the suffocation of art in the glut of commercial images’ p846. Repeating images of commonplace/infamous/glamorous echoed mass media making subject meaningless. ‘nihilism of the contemporary media-saturated world’ p847. Pop sensibilities named Nouveau Realisme in France by critic Pierre Restany in attempt to reassert Paris as central in contemporary art world. Torn posters of Raymond Hains & Jacques de la Villegle, ‘zen-inspired theatrics of Yves Klein’ p847 & accumulated rubbish of Arman. Who literally blew apart relationship of artist/patron/ gallery with White Orchid, 1963 (he dynamited patrons car as commission), alluding to cultural issue of obscuring horrors by spectacles.

Arman (Armand Pierre Fernandez) –
White Orchid , 1963, Exploded sports car mounted on wooden plate, MMK Museum of Modern Art Frankfurt am Main, Photo © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017, Axel Schneider
250 x 510 x 130 cm
Yves Klein – IKB 79, 1959, Purchased 1972
Diane Arbus, Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967, National Gallery of Australia

Klein sought weightless existence in a spiritual void p847, Klein blue dominated his paintings/sculptures. German version was Capitalist Realism, artists Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg, Wolf Vostell used images from media. Tensions of the time expressed most memorably by photography eg Boy with a straw hat… 1967, by Diane Arbus (1923-71). Attention to misfits & twins. Walker Evans harsh realities. Book The Americans by Robert Frank. Garry Winogrand (1928-84) 50s & 60s split by public event images & individual spontaneous, detached work. 70s large format work by Stephen Shore, after working in Warhol’s factory, recalled 19thC landscape pioneers & transformation into contemporary America eg Uncommon Places. Alberto Korda (1928-2001), Che Guevara, 1960, ‘extremely forceful projection of a peculiarly mid-20th century hero’ p851. ‘Self-consciously AmericanMinimalismaimed at complete purity & integrity, the reduction of Art to that which is intrinsic to its medium’ p851.

[title not known] 1967 Frank Stella born 1936 Purchased with assistance from an anonymous donor 2000
Frank Stella, Black paintings, pinstripes eliminating any individual gesture/expression. Donald Judd (1928-94) pointed to a tendency towards 3d – Stella’s stripes, Rauschenberg’s combines, John’s Targets, his own minimal sculptures of rectangular forms in mathematical sequences eg Fibonacci. Art is what an artist says it is. Similar mechanical precision used by Robert Morris (b 1931) & Carl Andre (b 1935), eg Equivalents.

Equivalent VIII 1966 Carl Andre born 1935 Purchased 1972

Andre foreshadowed Conceptual art, creating for a specific installation/user interaction/experience, transformation from form/structure to place. Unfolding relationship of viewer & work/environment over time challenges traditional art timelessness. Dan Flavin (1933-96) commercially available fluorescent lights bring colour to gallery space with nod to Russians. John McCracken (b 1934) used colour to build his forms (pigmented resin on fibreglass-resined wood). Conceptual Art de-emphasis of material aspects such as uniqueness/permanence, attractiveness, aka dematerialisation, precursors including 50s happenings, Japanese Gutai artists & Fluxus group. Idea over making, emotionally & intellectually interesting to viewer. If concept was clear then actual implementing artist irrelevant. Questions on nature of Art eg One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth (b 1945).

Joseph Kosuth – One and Three Chairs, 1965, Wood folding chair, mounted
photograph of a chair, and mounted photographic enlargement of the dictionary definition of “chair” , Chair 82 x 37.8 x 53 cm, photographic panel 91.5 x 61.1 cm, text panel 61 x 76.2 cm, Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund, © 2017 Joseph Kosuth / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Mario Merz – Objet Cache-Toi, 1968, Iron rods, wire mesh, linen bags filled with wooden wool, 5-piece fluorescent lamp marking, ©Mario Merz, VG Picture Art, Bonn 2016, Photo: Helge Mundt

Photography intrinsic to style to spread ideas. Bernhard commentary on media saturated society full of hidden/paradoxical meanings. European style Arte Poverty, poor/impoverished art, used cheap/available materials. Straightforward/poetic rejection/challenge of glorious artistic tradition eg Igloos covered with glass, Objet Cache Toi, 1968 by Mario Merz (1925-2003) & his use of Fibonacci to portray human nomadic journeys. Michelangelo Pistoletto (b 1933) moved from 2 to 3d in Minus Objects series. Pistoletto’s ‘Orchestra of Rags’ created using rags, singing kettles and glass, challenged considered norms of art. Process Art focused on visibly showing process of work,

Eva Hesse – Hang Up, 1966, Acrylic paint on cloth over wood; acrylic paint on cord over steel tube, 182.9 x 213.4 x 198.1 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Through Prior Gifts of Arthur Keating and Mr and Mrs Edward Morris © Estate of Eva Hesse

‘passage of time to experience of art’ p857 eg Richard Serra’s molten lead quickly solidifying as splashes on gallery floor, Splashing, 1969. Barry Le Va (b 1941) ‘distributional sculpture’, Eva Hesse (1936-70) used pliant impermanent materials, hung from ceiling, or lent against wall, almost Dadaist parody of picture frame, eg Hang Up. Body Art ‘practices threw attention onto physical activity & presence of artist’s body’ p857 eg Nauman’s work. Related to earlier performance art of happenings & spectacles but with deeper suspicion of Art market where they hoped to elude the system.

James Turrell – Roden Crater project, 1974

Art moved out from galleries into landscape which became medium/materials for artistic expression in Earth & land art. Nothing comparable since Peruvian earthworks BC. Eg Spiral Jetty, in Utah’s great salt lake by Robert Smithson (1928-73). Mainly American responses to landscape. Walter De Maria (b 1935) lightning field in New Mexico. Huge ‘transient works’, often wrapping coastline/buildings in fabric, by Christo Javacheff (b 1935) often survive only as concepts with detailed plans etc. James Turrell (b 1943) took over a volcano for Roden Crater project, 1974 to function as observatories for celestial events. Gordon Matta-clark (1943-78) urban projects condemned buildings eg splitting houses open for view in Splitting, 1974. Anti-monuments. Photo realism, rejection of minimalism but just as targeted. Trompe l’oeil of flat snapshot of illusionistic space/images. Richard Estes (b 1936), Chuck Close (b 1940), gigantic heads. No connection to New Image /New Figurative painters of 1960s US. Representation had never been abandoned in Europe eg Balthus (Balthazar Klossowski de Rola 1908-2001), Francis Bacon (1909-91) & David Hockney (b 1937). Bacon used existing images as starting point to open imagination/feelings eg Three studies for a crucifixion, 1962. US dismissed his work as ‘decadent, irrelevantly European’ p862.

Francis Bacon – Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962, Oil with sand on canvas, three panels
198.1 x 144.8 cm each, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, © 2017 The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved./ARS, New York/DACS, London

Hockney settled in California, artistic /sexual liberation. In US return to figurative seen as rejection/challenge, launched 1967 by Abstract Expressionist Philip Guston (1913-80), who also invented New Deal Style murals mid-century. His New Image painting, grotesque figures with deliberately brash handling, subjects: Ku Klux Klan, menacing still lifes & huge heads. Leon Golub (1922-2004) Chicago ‘Monster school’, obsessed with human corruption. Cy Twombly (b 1929) art that seems incomplete, scattered memories/musings, combination of pictures, words, numbers, lines.

Architecture :

Modernism/Post-Modernism, last stage of modernism seen as purist trends from post painterly abstraction to minimalism during 70s. Charged as ‘artistic narcissism’ p865 sculpture like architecture, minimal grid emblem eg So LeWitt’s Untitled Cube, 1968. Post modernists such as John Perrault were ‘sick to death’ of silent cubes, white walls & monotonous curtain wall metal & glass skyscrapers eg Lever House, NY, (1951-2) by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-90) p865. Polarized most in architecture, Mies van der Rohe’s purist International Style designs implemented in opportunistic post war US. Not everyone a fan, Dr Farnsworth tried to sue him because her house too expensive to live in. Le Corbusier & Frank Lloyd Wright also felt hostility after 1945.

Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp
Photo : Cemal Emden 2015 © ADAGP

Expressionism crept into formers designs about 1950 eg Church Notre Dame du Haut, Ron chap, curves, irregular plan & biometric forms. High Court building, Chandigarh, India, 1956, less conflict between plasticity & geometrics. Powerfully monumental. These sparked worldwide Brutalist style, sculptural, irregular, rough, aggressive & chunky, eg Paul Rudolph (1918-97), James Stirling (1926-92), Kenzo Tange (b 1913) etc. 70s publications by Venturi & Scott-Brown sparked Post-modernism, more democratic, less idealistic/earnest eg Piazza d’Italia, 1978/9, New Orleans, Charles Willard Moore. International Modernism/revisionist, blend of several historically based styles eg Michael Graves (b. 1934), Public Service Building, Portland, Oregon, 1979/82, skyscraper with art deco/Nouveau trimmings & classical elements. Europeans Ricardo Bofill (b 1939) & Aldo Rossi (1931-97) autonomous architecture derived from past. Former, grandiose public housing and latter taken from Boullee & mostly remained unrealised. English founded High Tech, a concept/approach to architecture more than style, opposed to Postmodernism. Use modern technology to create precision engineered architecture eg Lloyd’s of London, 1986 by Richard Roberts (b 1933) & Hong-Kong & Shanghai bank, Hong Kong, 1986, by Norman Foster.

Inside and outside influences

Dove influenced by Romantics & nature. Surrealist techniques influenced Abstract expressionists. Influential teaching of Hoffman.  Pollock influenced by south-west Indian art/sand painting, Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), apprenticeship with Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), social realism of Mexican artists David Alfaro Siqueiros (1898-1974)/Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), Picasso & Surrealism. David Smith influenced by open form of Picasso, Gonzalez, Surrealism, abstract expressionism, crude metals, large machines & experiences as assembly line welder. Giacometti also influenced by surrealism, Picasso, Gonzalez, Calder, post-war climate & relationship to brother eg Head of Diego II, 1955. Matisse continued to influence all sorts of artists eg Louis. Jasper Johns influenced by Hart Cranes labyrinthine poem ‘Cape Hatterass’ & Duchamp. Rauschenberg influenced by Duchamp, composer John Cage & home TV sets. Andre influenced by Brancusi’s plinth separation, ‘laying Brancusi flat’ p852 Minimalism influenced by Duchamp, Russians Malevich & Tatlin (eg Flavin), & Bauhaus teaching of Josef Albers (1888-1976). Duchamp influences Conceptual/Process artists, art can be made from anything. Eg Nauman’s Self-portrait as a fountain, 1966. Walker Evans inspired new generation of photographers. Stephen Shore influenced Thomas Struth & Andreas Gursky. Photographers eg John Baldessari became influential on later developments and students. Pistoletto influenced by Picasso & minimalists. New Deal style influenced by Mexican Muralists & American Regionalists eg Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975). Twombly influenced by oriental art/scrolls & Mediterranean culture. Architect Charles Willard Moore (1925-93) inspired by Disneyland.

Critics, thinkers and historians

Critic Harold Rosenberg unofficial spokesman of Action Painters, 1952. Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that Giacometti’s sculptures would come closer than any previous artist ‘to achieving the impossible when his portraits would affect us with all the force of a corporeal presence’ p841. Critic Clement Greenberg wrote of artistic possibilities after Abstract Expressionism calling for a more formalist/disciplined art & essential qualities of flatness & it’s delimit action. He defined formalism, saw art object as self-contained, independent of maker/viewer/cultural context. Art characterised by surface & pattern. Critic Gene Swenson commented that British Pop Art looked like it was ‘made by librarians’ p846. Robert Morris texts on minimalist sculpture & the anti-form. Critic Lucy Lippard commented on late 1960’s/early 1970’s ’dematerialisation’ of the art object p853. Sol LeWitt wrote ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’, 1967. Italian critic Germano Celant coined the term Arte Povera in 1967. Jane Jacobs Death and life of Great American Cities, 1961,appeal to return to traditional urban life. Critic Lewis Mumford wrote against Van der Rohe in The Case against modern architecture, 1964. 70s publications Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi (b 1925) & Learning from Las Vegas by Denise Scott Brown (b 1931).


I feel like information overload. I’m sure my notes are massively overboard as I struggled to get to grips with the concepts. I’ll have to be ruthless for the assignment. This chapter tied up a few things but I think was slightly confusing too. Clearly this and the last couple of chapters have been talking about Modernism but this is the first time that’s really laid out. The difference between Modernism and Formalism is confusing, if I’m understanding correctly Formalism is a subset, a radicalisation of Modernism. Postmodernism is really only touched on by architecture. Seems like architecture has been the turning force for both thou, with Modernism clearly embodied by Gropius & Le Corbusier in the 1920s and the post modernisation being pushed again by architects.

Clearly in this century artists have been struggling with the need to ‘feel of their own time’ (p844) and reject the past in the process.


Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing