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!
Entrance stairway to the highwalk obviously inspried by ‘the tower’
Highwalks to navigate around the green areas
Lots of enclloused open green spaces to play
Staining typical of aging concrete in English climate
Frequent stairwell blocks
Large windows let natural light into the stairwell
doors to stairs seem secure
Close up of concrete pillar
Central area view from highwalk
Central area view from highwalk
Blocky stairways to apartments
No flats seem to have a blocked view
Small Japanse pool
The bottom of one of the towers
Natural lighting filters in by clever design
supplemented by electric lights
The seedier side underneath that the public dont see
Neat lower play areas for children
Outside the conservatry
Inside has strange ceiling
Lifts detail, I like the rounded edging which has a 60s feel
I loved this fantastic short film about the barbican from 1969:
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.
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.
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)
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
Braque ‘Thoughts 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 are’ ie 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.
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
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
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
I really enjoyed the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museam on friday. In recent research I learnt that many Western artists (especially Van Gogh) were influenced by Japanese art so I thought I’d go a long to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t realise that the Japanese were equally influenced the other way too from pigments used to different perspective.
For conservation reasons there was a rotation of about half the artworks halfway through the exhibition run because some works can only be displayed for a limited period of time due to their light sensitivity.
Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists, this was a 30 year retrospective. He started off as a wood block print cutter but mostly he made print ready drawings and other people cut and printed them for him, he had close working relationships with his publishers.
His most famous picture is the Great Wave, reproduced on pretty much everything by now. The original Great wave was printed 8000 times, using four seasoned cherry wood blocks carved on both sides.
Some notes I made as I went around:
He used many different names throughout his career, sometimes passing them on to pupils.
Red stamp is painters seal, different for each new name.
His daughter helped him in old age complete his work. He thought he be a true artist at 100 but only live to 90. She tried to pass off her work as his because it brought in more household income.
He designed hair comb and illustrated books with woodblock prints.
36 views of mt fuji
He didn’t cut the wood himself except in his teens
Loved his ghost stories. His sketchbooks of ducks and frogs and insects. The last room his dragon
Experiment with European paper & perspective and shading & Imported Prussian blue pigment.
The visit for this section is actually a choice of two (or both if I get time). I thought I’d go for the a piece of public art choice first. I’ve walked past this sculpture on occasion for many years and never really know why it was there so I thought this would be a good opportunity to find out something about my local environs.
My intension for this visit (since its local and out in the open), was to visit it first knowing nothing about it and record my reactions to it, then do a bit of research and perhaps have another visit to see if I see anything new about it.
So initial visit:
This sculpture is tucked into a corner next to a building, Woolgate Exchange which is basically a little annex of Coleman Street, City of London, EC2R. As you see there is a little bench behind it, so I had to wonder is the ‘front’ facing out towards the street or the bench for viewing, or is the bench just in a convenient out of the way spot behind it. There are no other benches in the area. After walking around the sculpture, I’ve concluded the latter and that the front faces onto the street.
There is a plaque at the base of the sculpture (see last photo) it’s a bit faded but you can still make out: ‘Ritual’ by Antanas Brazdys 1969. Prize winning sculpture in a competition for British scultpors under 35 years of age. And it lists the sponsors and judges etc.
Before reading the inscription I would have said this might represent a woman or a mother, with a flared skirt, tiny waist and big arms coming in for a giant hug. It still might be female related, depending on what Ritual (if any specific) the artist is referring too. I guess I’ll find out when I research this a bit. As you move around the sculpture, even fractionally, the distorted reflections on every surface change and swirl. You can see the sky and the surrounding buildings in the ‘arms’ and the middle tube. The cube reflects more flatly without the warping of the building frontage and the ‘skirt’ relects a very warped upward view of the buildings. I was wearing a bright red top and looked for myself in the reflections and I was harder to pinpoint than you’d think given how reflective the surface is. I’m in there, my legs in the skirt, as a tiny button in the middle of the tube and in three places on the arms, facing forwards in the centre, and facing away to each side on the side of the arms. It’s like this all the way around, cleverly almost masking the viewer or changing their direction. This makes me ponder the surroundings in this little officey square more than I would have if I’d just been walking past, or even if I’d been sitting on the bench.
I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed an exhibition more than the recent David Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain. It spanned a period of 60 years of creating, as he approached his 80th birthday he’s amazingly still learning new technology and has replaced his sketchbook now entirely with an ipad!
This exhibition shows how the roots of each new direction lay in the work that came before (Tate Britain, 2017a)
I tried to make some notes on my way around the exhibition, which I’ve supplemented with the supplied room guide (picture above). I actually bought the catalogue too.
Room One: PLAY WITHIN A PLAY
I felt that this was the introduction room for those who don’t know Hockneys work. Probably so you don’t launch straight into room 2, which is probably the less interesting one in the show (at least I thought so). After this intro room the show progresses mostly chronologically. It also allows the show to come full circle as some works in the last room of the exhibition relate to those in this room. Showing, through the exhibition Hockneys subtle use of repeating themes. This room sets the scene for the rest, setting the viewer thinking about how Hockney questions the conventions of picture making and illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface. It’s quite clever curation.
Play Within a Play 1963
Inspired by the image of his friend John Kasmin, pressing himself against the glass door of the gallery, this large painting plays with illusion, reality of 3D space with theatrical panache. Kasmin is painted on the canvas standing with his back against a tapestry backdrop/curtain in a tiny space, with a chair next to him. A plexi-glass sheet is a few inches in front of the canvas with his pressed hands and body imprinted on that so what appears real is an illusion and what appears to be an illusion is actually there. Clearly inspired by Domenichino’s Apollo killing the Cyclops, 1616-18 from the National Gallery (below). Hockney has a vast understanding and appreciation of art history (I’m still reading his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters) so it’s unsurprising that he would take an old Fresco as his starting point here. Similarly with 4 Blue Stools, 2014 (also in the room), Hockney is playing with illusion of space and reality. Here he’s using stitched together digital photos to create a scene which on first glance looks real but is actually impossible.
Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975
The title refers to John Kirby’s 1754 pamphlet on linear perspective, cleverly illustrated by William Hogarth with his engraving Satire on False Perspective. The inscription of which reads
Whoever makes a DESIGN without the Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE will be liable to such Absurdities as are shewn in this Frontispiece (Hogarth).
Throughout the exhibition it becomes obvious that Hockney is obsessed with issues pertaining to the convention of one-point perspective, so it’s no wonder he remade this parody of false perspective. This is another example where the scene, which on first glance looks real, is actually impossible. I’m not sure of the significance of the stand-in of Michelangelo’s David, presumably some sort of artistic in-joke.
Model with Unfinished Self-Portrait 1977
I didn’t realise at the time but just rereading the title here and the blurb from the exhibition room guide, the figure of Hockney in this one is actually a picture within a picture. It’s the unfinished “Self-Portrait with a blue guitar”, 1977. And the curtain in both paintings looks to be the curtain attached to yet another, unseen painting on an easel behind the sleeping figure of Hockneys boyfriend.
Rubber Ring Floating in a Swimming Pool 1971
I think of all the paintings in the first room this was my favourite. A witty take on abstract art, which is blasted once you read the title and cannot unsee the realistic representation.
Room two: DEMONSTRATIONS OF VERSATILITY
Early work. This room, of all the rooms, I found the least interesting, because it’s the least Hockney-esk. This room showed works from his early years at art school, where he was showing off his art prowess and trying on different styles. As he noted, ‘I deliberately set out to prove I could do four entirely different sorts of picture like Picasso.’
Although I did like The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961 and some of the ones with Graffiti in them.
Initially, Hockney experimented with abstraction, making a small group of free-flowing paintings in which symbols of personal desire began to emerge. As his interest in different pictorial conventions and concepts of space developed, he employed graffiti, cryptic codes, phallic shapes and freehand writing to suggest themes of sex and love. Here, child-like scrawled bodies, identified by numbers corresponding to letters of the alphabet, are situated in areas of spatial ambiguity, offering recognisable representation while drawing attention to formal qualities such as texture and brushwork. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room three: PAINTINGS WITH PEOPLE IN
Largely based on his first exhibition, Paintings with People In, at the Kasmin Gallery in London in 1963. A few from his series Domestic Scenes, celebrating longer term gay relationships with portraits of the domesticity between couples. The paintings from this point start to be more observational.
Illusion and artifice remained a strong feature of his work of this period, typified by paintings including a curtain. The curtain frames the passage of light, identifying the stage of Hockney’s painting as a theatre of representation. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
The hypnotist 1963. I love the ‘rays’ from the hypnotist’s fingers zapping towards the other figure and the way the figures are so near the edges of the frame with the massive space between them.
Room four: SUNBATHER
From 1964, Hockney lived in his ‘promised land’ of Los Angeles. The images in this room reflect his sunny outlook where he found inspiration in the outside spaces, geometric office blocks, patterns in swimming pools and gardens. These are possible what he’s best well known for.
I love the simplicity in A lawn being sprinkled 1967. I enjoyed being able to see in person how crisp those lines are of the jets of water, and how the lawn texture is built up (you cannot really glean this from a picture) and how the lawn and sprinklers seems to come out at you whilst the grey building behind recedes. I could almost hear the sound of sprinklers when I stood before this painting.
A bigger splash 1967
Unlike Britain, swimming pools aren’t seen as a luxury in California and they feature heavily in Hockney’s work around this time. So much has been written about this painting it’s hard to know where to start. I love that he said the part that took the longest to paint was the splash when in reality the splash is the most transient part of the painting. Todo: further reading links: here, here and audio here.
Hockney’s laboriously painted splash might be seen as a dig at the macho spontaneity associated with abstract expressionism (Tate Britain, 2017b)
He was obsessed with how to depict transparency, of glass and especially of constantly moving water. I didn’t realise that the patterns in the water are from the painted pattern on the bottom of patterned until I saw some photographs of it (later in the exhibition). I thought they were stylistic references to sun glitter but they convey the feeling of the motion of the pool either way. Futurist tendancies Mr Hockney?
Man in the shower in Beverly Hills. 1964
Hockney has said: ‘For an artist the interest in showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three hundred year old tradition of the bather as a subject in painting.’ (Tate, 2017c)
Savings and loan building 1967: Abstract art was dominant at this time and in typical witty Hockney fashion he satirises this by representing observed, realistic looking office building as a modernist grid style.
Room five: TOWARDS NATURALISM
Towards the end of the 1960s, naturalistic representations of the human figure became a key element in Hockney’s work. Drawn to the psychological and emotional implications of two figures within enclosed settings, Hockney worked directly from a circle of friends and acquaintances in a series of double portraits that capture their intimate and often complex relationships. Near life-sized, these carefully staged compositions combine informal poses and settings with the grandeur and formality of traditional portraiture. Almost all these works are painted in acrylic, which dries quickly and cannot be scraped off the canvas, thus demanding a greater degree of planning and meticulous application. This process, with its greater capacity for scrutiny and observation, meant that Hockney could work from photographic studies to sketch out overall compositions but he chose to paint his figures from life. (Tate,2017b)
I loved this room. Here I show them in chronological order, except the first, which I remember seeing first in this gallery, fresh from the sunny swimming pools to serious contemplation on art history, was this intentional curation to emphasis the varied nature of Hockneys interests?
Looking at Pictures on a Screen 1977
Henry Geldzahler studying reproductions of historic paintings in Hockney’s studio. I thought this must be the start of the ‘great wall’ of images that Hockney gathered together for his thesis and book Secret Knowledge? Interesting to see the seat, for viewing the picture he is gazing at. I wondered why not have them all on one wall so you can sit in one place and look to see which one you want? I wondered how much of this was staged.
I love his series of double portraits. As I discovered when researching the Arnofini Portrait, a double portrait is a complex thing. With one person in a portrait, the artists wants to capture the likeness/personality of the sitter, his or her relationship to their surroundings, and to their relationship to the viewer. For a double portrait he has to think about all that for two sitters, plus the relationship between them.
Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970–71
Fashion designer Ossie Clark and textile designer Celia Birtwell with their cat in their Notting Hill home shortly after their wedding (where Hockney was best man).
This is much larger than I imagined. Hockney really must have laid the acrylic paint on thickly here because can hardly see the texture of the canvas at all, the surface is completely smooth. He’s made things hard for himself here by situating them against the light. Usually in his double portrait paintings, one of them is looking at the other (to create a “cyclical movement of looking” (Tate, 2017d), see the two others below), here both figures stare out at the viewer, as with the Arnolfini portrait (AP), the viewer feels like a third person in the room, as though you’ve just walked in they both turn to look at you. Perhaps they couldn’t agree on who should look at whom, it is a power play? Percy, the cat looking out of the window from Ossie’s lap, takes the place of the little dog from the AP, but whereas the dog represented fidelity, the cat has “symbolic resonances of the libertine and somebody who disregards rules and does as they please” (Tate, 2017d). This is sort of reflected in Ossie’s relaxed seated pose too. Oh Dear. Celia’s pose looks more guarded, and her expression almost rueful. His expression seems very serious. His bare feet are buried in the rug, and as with the AP, Celias long dress covers hers entirely. Traditionally lillies were symbol of the Annunciation and feminine purity, they sit in the foreground close to her. Hockney has reversed one of the conventions of wedding portraiture by having the man seated while the woman stands, and the two figures are separated by the large open window, perhaps Hockney subconciously picked up signed that their marriage wouldnt last right from the beginning? If Hockney was drawing some parallel between the two paintings he may have also got a kick out of the fact that this was their bedroom but doesn’t look like it, and the AP is not their bedroom but everyone thinks it is (because of the bed)!
Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 1968
English novelist and playwright Christopher Isherwood (right) and his partner, artist Don Bachardy, in their Californian home.
Interestingly, in this portrait, the background is strangely similar but this time the blinds are firmly closed. Both figures are seated and the light streams in from the right. One looks to the other, who looks at the viewer, creating that aforementioned cyclical relationship. There is a bowl of fruit between them on the table and a stack of books on either side, one more book on the left that the right presumably to break up the symmetry? The power somehow feels more balanced in their relationship as represented than either of the one above or the one below.
Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969
The figure in the centre is Henry Geldzahler, friend of Hockney and his partner, painter Christopher Scott, looks on. This one is interesting, when continuing to think about the power distribution in the relationship. Here, we as the viewer are at eye level with the seated figure who is looking at us. His partner is looking at him, and standing off to the side with his coat on. Geldzahler was the Curator of Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum, New York at the time so he almost looks like he could be conducting an interview here, sitting right in the middle of the sofa is a massive power play, especially when you can make or break the career of everyone in the room. This window has no blinds at all, combined with the view of skyscapers one could assume they are in an expensive high rise appartment. The window, the glass table and Geldzahler’s glasses allow Hockney to play again with three different interpretations on the transparnecy of glass. Although the window is behind them, the light is coming from an unknown source from the left, and since the lamp is not on, this is most likely daylight from another great window.
American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) 1968
American art collectors Fred and Marcia Weisman outside their modernist Los Angeles house with sculptures by British artists Henry Moore and William Turnbull in the garden. I love how he’s choosen the paint them out here as though they are works or art along with their statues.
Some of Hockneys work reminds me of the work of artist Jason Brooks (famous for Hed Kandi Illustrations). I wouldnt be suprised if Brooks if heavily influenced by Hockney. They live in the same sun drenched, stylish, happy flat world.
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972
Painted at the time of their break-up, Hockney’s then boyfriend, artist Peter Schlesinger, looks down at the figure of John St Clair, one of Hockney’s assistants, swimming underwater. (Tate, 2017b)
I found it interesting that the blurb in the booklet stressed that they’d just split up. It makes you assume from the picture that something was going on romantically between the two figures in the painting and perhaps this is the reason for the break up (I have no idea if this is true or not though). Why would you paint someone like this if you were broken up with them? Was this painting, getting them together like this the cause of the breakup? The blurb poses more questions than the painting alone would have done. Interestingly in this painting, neither people in the painting is looking at the viewer, we’re all looking at the man in the pool, and the other man looking at the man in the pool, interesting when the view out across the mountains is spectacular and no one is looking at that.
My Parents 1977
The artist’s parents, Kenneth and Laura Hockney.
In this work, painted a year before his father’s death, Hockney’s style has shifted towards a closer study of human behaviour. His mother poses, attentive and graceful, while his father, who fidgeted during sittings, was painted reading Aaron Scharf’s book Art and Photography. A book on Chardin draws a parallel with intimate domestic scenes of the past, as do the volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past visible on the shelf. Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ (now in the National Gallery; see below) is reflected in the mirror, forming a triptych with the two figures. Gallery label, August 2004 (Tate, 2017e)
I found it really interesting that he abandoned painting a self-portrait in the mirror in a 1975 version of this but I cannot work out if that means anything or if I’m reading too much into it? Placing himself in the middle connects the two figures of his mother and father in a familial relationship. Placing The Baptism of Christ in the middle, as it was in the middle of the altarpiece, makes the two painted portraits of his parents essentially panels either side (as there were panels either side it on the altarpiece painted by another painter). Is this another art history play with reality vs painted surface conundrum? Also, this one struck me suddenly again, how many square paintings he has in this exhibition, in this one its obvious because he’s left the top of the painting unadorned, perhaps as space for God the Father (the third member of the Trinity) which may have originally have been represented in a roundel above The Baptism of Christ.
Contre-jour in the French style – against the day dans le style-francais 1974
The last one on the way out of this room caught my eye. this fantastic 70’s wallpaper with the beautiful formal garden beyond. This was directly inspired by a window in the Lourve.
“The first time I went,” he wrote, “I saw this window with the blind pulled down and the formal garden beyond. And I thought, oh it’s marvellous! marvellous! This is a picture in itself … So I took some photographs of it, made a drawing, and started painting.” (David Hockney. My Early Years, op. cit., p285) Consciously drawing on a traditionally French style, the pointillist technique of the neo-Impressionists, helped him to loosen his brushwork again, and from the start the painting went well. The result beautifully depicts the light passing through the translucent blind and its reflection in the parquet floor. (Sykes, C S, 2012)
Room six: CLOSE LOOKING
I spent ages in here, the behind the scenes room full of sketches, prep drawings and pen & inks. I love the outline ink on paper portraits and seeing the difference using a camera lucidia had on his drawing. And his study of water, phonex arizona 1976 crayon on paper. Too much looking and not enough note taking for this room thou! The blurb from the exhibition booklet states the following:
From the beginning Hockney’s ability at drawing has provided the bedrock for his art. The earliest work here, a self-portrait, was made when he was a teenager. For Hockney, drawing is primarily a way of looking more intently. Many of the drawings in this room – in pen and ink and in coloured crayon – are from the late 1960s and 1970s. At this time, Hockney developed a way of working that enabled him to capture the essence of a scene with the most economical of means: a few lines express the character of a sitter; one or two items conjure the feeling of a place or a moment in time. Because Hockney tends to make drawings when away from the studio, many reflect his travels and include friends and boyfriends in exotic places, the loneliness of hotel rooms or the pleasures of a lazy lunch. In the 1990s, Hockney proposed that many artists since the Renaissance had used optics as aids to depiction. He made a series of drawings using a camera lucida, a device which transfers the observed object to enable the artist to draw it with optical accuracy. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room seven: A BIGGER PHOTOGRAPHY
This room was dedicated to Hockneys ‘photography’. I remember being especially inspired by this when I was at high school. It’s really much harder than it looks to make a decent looking picture using this technique, especially with a film camera. I can see why he used polaroids to start with which he got used to the technique. A continuation of Hockneys issues with single-point perspective and a revisit to many familiar themes. Taking a cubist approach and trying to communicate the experience of the world as it actually is in 3 dimensions.
He described conventional photography as akin to ‘looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops – for a split second.’ In contrast, he sought to create a photography that could accommodate different viewpoints as well as time and movement. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Billy +Audrey wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982
Don+Christopher, Los Angeles, 6th March 1982
Gregory swimming, Los Angeles, March 31st 1982
Capturing the motion of a swimmer around the pool.
Grand canyon with foot, arizona, Oct 1982
He got tired of the annoying white borders so swicthed to 35mm photographs. This was an extrodinary collage of 35mm borderless images with the artists foot right on the edge of the cliff. Vertigo inducing. This one doesnt really incorporate motion unlike the next…
Walking in the Zen Garden at the ryoanji Temple, kyoto, Feb 1983
Another foot one, which shows a tranquil walk around a Japanese Zen garden.
The scrabble game, Jan 1983
I love this slice of family life one, reminds me of playing scrabble (very badly, and taking pictures) at my husbands family.
Pearblossom hwy 11-18th April 1986 #1
This is the famous one that everyone knows. Its huge!
Room eight: EXPERIENCES OF SPACE
I wasnt so keen on the this room. Too ‘jazzy’ and abstract. I dont think abstract was really his speciality (with the exception maybe of The eleventh v.n. Painting 1992). The discordant colours made my eyes sore. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it a bit more once I’ve studied part 5 of the coursework. These did catch my eye (in a good way) though:
Breakfast at malibu, Sunday, 1989 & Breakfast at malibu, Wednesday, 1989
I love everything about them, the setting. the different tea sets, the view, the handling of the sea, the table surfaces, the title that specifies the day but not the month. everything.
Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990
This looks abstract at first glance but is actually very realistic view of winding roads and a high up view of Santa Monica (very small buildings on a giant curve of the bay). It has lots of texture. I’ve never been there but if I ever get the chance to go and see this view in person I’ll be delighted.
Through the 1980s and 1990s Hockney’s paintings focused on the experience of looking. The freedom and variety of markmaking within his paintings of this period – descriptive and decorative, denoting space, material and experience – reflect the layers of memory and invention within them. The post-cubist space that he created during this period was applied to landscapes and interior scenes of his new home in the Hollywood Hills. Landscape became the subject for paintings that were about moving through the terrain, the winding roads of Nichols Canyon and Outpost Drive being routes from his hilltop home to his studio. In these works flatness collides with illusion of spatial depth. But above all, these are paintings through which the eye dances, drawn by a sensuousness of line and colour where edges of viewpoints fold into and across each other. Hockney’s painting describes the complexities of space and there was an interchange at this period between his designs for operas and his painting. One tool he exploited was reverse perspective, which in his stage designs was intended to make the audience feel directly involved in the production by exploiting fluctuations of deep and shallow space. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room nine: EXPERIENCES OF PLACE
This room concentrates on Hockneys time in the late 1990s when he was producing landscapes (East Yorkshire where his mum lived, Grand Canyon, his house in Hollywood). I especially liked his images from Yorkshire, the English countryside is bright colours of summer and hairpin turns in the roads vividly reminds me of my frequent trips down to Dorset where you get glimpses of bright yellow rape seed, greenary and various other amazing field patterns whilst trying to fight off the spectacular carsickness.
He used multiple viewpoints to create a sense of his movement through the landscape, in particular up and down Garrowby Hill which rises from the Plain of York to the higher Wolds. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
The road across the wolds 1997
15 canvas study of the Grand canyon 1998
His multi canvas work is so big it lends some of the vastness of the view by being so vast itself. There is apparently a 60 canvas version! (see here)
Hockney also determined to paint the vast spaces of the American landscape. When he saw the Grand Canyon described as ‘the despair of the painter’ he could not resist the challenge, capturing the view with multiple perspectives. In depicting such places Hockney created an illusion of depth by the use of a foreground plain on which were arrayed objects, whether bails of wheat or small desert bushes. These derived directly from the abstract forms in his ‘very new paintings’ of a few years earlier (in the previous room) which themselves had been influenced by his stage work. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room ten: THE WOLDS
This was what my friend described as the room full of worm paintings (because of blossom on some has a giant maggoty feeling to it). She’d seen them at the Royal academy show a few years back (unfortunately I didn’t make that one) and they are amazing. Huge studies of the English landscape across multiple canvases, May blossom on the Roman Road 2009 in particular clearly has a Van Goghishness about the sky.
Hawthorn blossom near Rudston 2008
May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas
Woldgate woods, 6&9 November 2006. 6 canvas
Six part study for bigger trees, 2007
In 2006 Hockney returned to his native Yorkshire to paint the changing light, space and landscape of the Wolds. Works such as The Road to Thwing 2006 and A Closer Winter Tunnel, February – March 2006 show that Hockney was painting outside on larger canvases, sometimes moving between several before assembling them to create the effect of a single image. His move to a warehouse studio in Bridlington enabled him to create ever more complex and expansive pictures and begin exploring computer-generated images to aid their production. Hockney shares with earlier artists including the Romantics an engagement with the landscape based on memory and observation, but his focus is different. ‘Artists thought the optical projection of nature was verisimilitude, which is what they were aiming for,’ he said, ‘But in the 21st century, I know that is not verisimilitude. Once you know that, when you go out to paint, you’ve got something else to do. I do not think the world looks like photographs. I think it looks a lot more glorious than that’ (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room eleven: THE FOUR SEASONS
Following on from the big trees and woods pictures in the previous room, this video room gives a slightly motion-sickness-inducing look at a similar scene across 4 seasons. I didn’t even know Hockney did video installations but here they are. Like his photography, it isn’t just from one point perspective. It’s like cubist video would be. On each wall is a giant bank of screens showing one season creating an immersive environment.
In 2010 Hockney began making multi-screen video works by fixing a number of cameras (one or each screen in the final work) to the outside of a vehicle which was then driven along the road at Woldgate, near Bridlington, Yorkshire. The result was like a cubist film, showing different aspects of the same scene as perceived by a moving observer. As well as an exploration of the way a subject is seen over time, this work was a celebration of the miracle of the seasons. The experience of spring in 2002, after more than twenty years in seasonless California, had been one of the stimuli for Hockney settling in Yorkshire for about a decade. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room twelve: YORKSHIRE AND HOLLYWOOD
I didnt write any notes for this room. Here is the blurb from the booklet:
Hockney’s move from Yorkshire back to the Hollywood Hills in 2013 was marked by two different views of the landscape. His last work in Yorkshire was a sequence of 25 charcoal drawings celebrating the arrival of spring at five locations along the singletrack road running between Bridlington and Kilham that had provided him with much of the subject matter for his painting of the previous years. The first works he made on his return to California were two charcoal drawings of his poolside garden at morning and evening.
The last four years have seen an intense diversification of Hockney’s practice and the media he has used in his constant search for ways to represent the world of three and four dimensions, emotion and feeling, on a two-dimensional surface. Through arrangements in his studio of furniture and people – family, close friends and assistants – he finds new ways to represent the experience of looking. His art springs from a personal environment, yet, for Hockney, the most important place is the studio, where his consistent questioning and hard looking is manifested in pictures that encompass and transform how we see and respond to the world around us. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Room thirteen: iPADS
Ipads! And the card players, 2015,photographic drawing printed on paper and mounted on dibond
One of my favourite rooms, I spent ages in here watching the timelapse videos of how the images on the ipads gets built up. Despite the difference in technology his style still completely shines through. He’s totally given up using a normal sketchbook and draws on his ipad so he can email straight to his friends. This is amazing use of technology but given his age its extraordinary. I found it very inspiring.
Hockney has always welcomed the challenge of picturing transparency. The sheen of glass, passage of light, splash of water, all predominate within his paintings, drawings and photography since the mid-1960s. Something else that has characterised his work from the outset when, as a student, he started printmaking, is his constant desire to master new media. In 2009 glass and technology came together in his discovery of the iPhone, and the following year the iPad, as a new drawing instrument. On the iPhone he drew on the small back-lit glass screen with the side of his thumb, changing to a stylus with the larger screen of the iPad, to offer a different variety of line and a new luminosity of colour. (Tate Britain, 2017b)
Queen Victoria died 1901. Start of 20thC saw revolt against all forms of naturalism, pre-war era most daring. New methods and ideas in painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, music, philosophy & science. French colonial scandal in 1904 of black people ‘hunts’/murders brought Africa into focus & public outrage. German architects ideas of creative autonomy led to forms of anarchy, their ‘alliance with leftist political utopianism with artistic avant-garde most pronounced’ p778. Futurist ideas spread throughout Europe & US (better known than Cubism), not solely concerned with the arts. Marinetti wanted to obliterate culture of the past & replace with need society based on new dynamic sensations/speed/noise/mechanical energy of the modern city. Movement cut short by WW1 with death of Boccioni & architect Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) before futurist utopian designs built. It’s links with Fascism mean revival failed after the war Intellectual nature & ‘sense of social destiny’ of Abstract art linked with contemporary politics & social theory P793 Russian Revolution. World War I 1914-1918.
Changes to status or training of artists
Paris still artistic capital for Avant-garde Western art. Exhibitions here, and from 1910 in pre-war Czarist Russia, raised individuals & movement profiles. Chief patrons of Matisse/Picasso 1910+ were wealthy Moscow merchants whose collections were open to public meaning Russian artists aware of latest European trends. US architect Wright achieved international fame (but little influence) by 1910 publication of his work in Berlin.
Development of materials and processes
Radical innovations underpin all further developments to date, eg Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon ,1907, nearly flat painting of a complex of invented forms, p771. Revolutionary break with Western illusionistic art. He abandoned 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.
Also, Kandinsky created some of 1st completely abstract/non-objective works (simultaneously with others elsewhere in Europe). Landmark painting ‘Composition VII’ 1913. His earlier Improvisations had spiritual relationship with primitive art and artists. Plastics developed, 1909. Expressionists exploited woodblock/lino-cut to create graphic art with brutal powerful effect of distilling introspective emotions . P777. Matisse’s spontaneity misleading, colour & shape laboured over to the ‘right’ balance. Painting from subconscious, reactions to own reactions. In architecture, Poelzig’s Expressionist Grosse Schauspielhaus (1918/9) in Berlin was an innovation in theatre design, high stalactite covered ceiling with central circular stage. Picasso invented the collage (paste-up) by incorporating commercial print of chair pattern into 1912 still life. Went beyond play with natural & artistic reality by adding real items so they could be understood in either/both senses. Further refined by Braque , limiting the pasted elements to paper, Papiers colles, flat surfaces, eliminating illusionistic space. ‘we tried to get rid of trompe l’oeil to find a trompe l’esprit‘, Picasso, p787. Items pasted on meaningless, artist making meaning & beauty from nothing. Also, 1912,Picasso creates radical sculptural revolution by using all sorts of materials (wood, tin, card, paper, string etc) & assembling much like a collage. Liberating western sculpture from traditional material /techniques /subjects. Given new intellectual dimension although most sculptors stuck with traditional eg Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). Futurist Boccioni’s Technical Manifesto of futurist sculpture,1912, anticipates/parallels Picasso’s sculptural breakthrough. Using all sorts of materials ‘absolute & complete abolition of the finite line & closed-form sculpture’,p791
Styles and movements
Opposing tendencies, Subjectivism of Symbolists & objectivism/transcendent ‘otherness’ of Cezanne further explored bringing an end to artistic traditions from 14th C. First completely abstract work, 1912. Apparent dilemma between ‘cult of pure form & cult of inner truth’ p768. Period characterised by urge to break down convention & search for new ways of looking.
Impressionism culmination with Monet’s last series, Nympheas eg WaterLilies, 1907. His aim to present impressions of nature resulted in almost abstract view of his pool with its light, atmosphere and colour.
New way of seeing
Self-taught Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), naive artist, genius recognised by Picasso, technical & conceptual naivety, ‘innocent eye of a savage’ p769 enormous canvases of imagined, mysterious & menacing exotic jungle landscapes.
LesFauves (Wild Beasts) group lead by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) held 1st ‘event’ in 20thC art 1905 in Salon d’Automne. Exhibition of ‘strident colours, rough handling & distorted anti-naturalistic drawing’ p774 Affinity with naive art. Others included Andre Derain (1880-1954) & Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958). ‘deliberate disharmonies’ of flat arbitrary clashing colours express artists personal emotional reaction to subject. Colour freed from descriptive representation. Devoid of social comment. Matisse’s The joy of life, 1906, key. P775. His Harmony in Red, 1908 sums up Fauve style, light a function of flat colour, no perspective/modelling/space. Childlike simple pictorial means. Georges Rouault (1871-1958) broke with the group early, became ‘finest religious painter of 20thC’ p776. More of an expressionist painter of spiritual anguish.
German Expressionism developed to convey oppressive mood of prewar apprehension. Charged with spiritual significance, nationalism & anti-French bias. Lead by Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938) who wrote Brucke Manifesto. Spontaneity & sincerity. Style pioneered by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) who remained independent of the group,considered herself a realist. Mystic evangelist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) painted his deeply religious feelings, ‘strength & inwardness’ p777. No general Expressionist architecture definition but roots in Gothic/Art Nouveau/anti-classical simplifying combination & expressive of function eg Erich Mendelsohn(1887-1953), Einstein‘s Observatory, 1919, & Hans Poelzig (1869-1936) (see above), AEG turbine factory, 1909,by Peter Behrens (1868-1940), & Max Berg (1870-1947), Centennial Hall at Wroclaw, 1911.
Der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider) group, Munich, 1911/16, abstract/non-objective works. Leading painter, Vassily Kandinsky (1886-1944), expressed through colour/form to strengthen emotional, spiritual & imaginative impact. Warm/spontaneous/organic. Revelation from seeing his upside down painting as ‘glowing with inner radiance’ p779. Franz Marc (1880-1916), killed in WW1, obsessed with animals. His most abstract, fighting forms, 1914, was left unfinished.
Georges Braque (1882-1963) & child prodigy Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) invented Cubism in close collaboration in 1908, tricky to define. Art simultaneously representational & anti-naturalistic. P783. The label of the Cubist movement was applied to a group of derivative artists in 1911, including Gleizes & Metzinger. Brought to US in 1913 exhibition. It raise Q of ‘figuration as against abstraction as a conscious and serious issue’ p782 . Never intended to be non-representational, Picasso: ‘no such thing as abstract art. You must always start with something’. P782
Picasso ditched perspective /single viewpoint to combine several views in a single image. Surface of figures broken into facets lit from different arbitrary directions, space eliminated. Picture conceived as independent construction, picture-object/’tableau-objet’ p784. Layer more controlled, narrow range of close-value earthy colours. Less spatial, more volumetric & sculptural than Braque whose semi abstract natural forms of tilting overlapping planes in shallow space protrudes to the viewer. Their work 1910-12 known as Analytical Cubism less sculptural, ‘painterly dissolution of their 1908/9 manner’ p784. The term (by Juan Gris (1887-1927)) is a misnomer as there was no rational process of dissection. Forms more fragmented, they didn’t use observational references, leading towards intellectual abstraction just short of unrecognizability, near monochrome colours grey/green/ochres, dry matt surface. Unimportant ‘ostensible subjects hover like after-images behind geometrical structures‘. P785
Synthetic Cubism, mirror image of Analytical Cubism working back from abstraction to representation, developed alongside collage, object depicted with forms not derived from it, decorative and disunity. Eg Picasso’s harlequin, 1915. P788.
Orphic Cubism group: Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), Sonia Delaunay-Terk (1885-1979), Fernand Leger (1881-1955), Marcel Duchamp (1884-1968), & Francis Picabia (1879-1953), interested in prismatic colour (when Picasso/Braque not) with contrasts and Cubist planar structure. Inspired by light itself, the sun, the source of life. Vibrant, dynamic. Leger’s style slightly different, genuine alternative to cubism. Contrasts of both line and form, instead of light, his subject was dynamic, discordant, urban, modern life. He became the artist of the machine age after the war.
Futurism, short lived, high impact movement. Ideas by Marinetti & artist Boccioni (see thinkers below), aim to represent ‘psychical & total experience’ p790. Cubist broken forms, emphasising intuition/action & ‘simultaneity’ rejecting static compositions, pictures small sections of continuous wholes P790. Subjects moving through, or gone. Some abstract eg Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) created some of earliest non-objective paintings with his Iridescent Interpretations series 1912. Boccioni’s work more naturalistic eg. The city rises, 1910. The aims of the movement fully realised in his sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913. The construction of the action of the body ‘pure plastic rhythm’. P791. Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918), The Horse 1914 bronze cast of a mechanized/abstract but recognisable form.
Abstract/non-objective art implicated by Cubism (resisted by Picasso/Braque). ‘absolutely self-sufficient entity of value entirely in and for itself’ p793 Ideologically different from Kandinsky. Incorporated maths & ideal harmony between humans/environment.
Russian abstract movement lead by Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) & Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) in 1912/13 called Rayonism by Larionov because their works resembled rays of lights p794
Constructivist movement formed by Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) during/after Revolution. Notable painter Liubov Serbeevna Popova (1889-1924). Although deeply Christian, Malevich interested as Kandinsky in theosophical speculation. His style ‘Cubo-Futuristic’ developed into totally abstract ‘Suprematism’, ‘elemental visual forms, which convey the supremacy of idea over matter, over the chaos of nature’ p794 which ended in 1922. Progression of mathematical shapes & simple colours.
The 1917 Dutch De Stijl (the style) abstract group, led by painters Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931) & architect Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud (1890-1963) wanted to develop ‘abstraction towards its ultimate goal’ p795. Used Cubist ochre/grey colours but more spiritual form of art with close textured, dynamic compositions, high minded ideals of absolute purity, harmony & sobriety. Impossible to detect subject but based on nature.
American architecture grew in prominence with Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959). Extended Sullivans ‘form follows function’, applied to affinities of man & nature with ‘organic architecture’ suggestive of Cubism. Buildings in harmony with their environment eg ground-hugging prairie houses with free forms interiors & bespoke furnishings, ‘Robie House, Chicago, 1907-9’ p796.
In Germany, Adolf Meyer (1881-1929) and Walter Gropius (1883-1969) pre-empted the post-war International Style of architecture with their Fagus Shoe Factory, 1911-1914, ‘glass curtain-walling, flat roof without cornice, an unrelieved cubic block’ p797.
Inside and outside influences
Freud’s theories had a profound effect on artists & intellectual thought. Transformed attitudes & values. Engendered Primitivism, ‘myth of the primitive ‘ (ref Gauguin, section 4), influence of primitive arts of naive, folk art & children, especially African & Oceanic area art (seen in anthropological & ethnographical museums & fetishes in junk shops) on many Fauve/Expressionists/Cubists. Picasso found African art a creative revelation & liberating energy p771 He was influenced by Matisse & Iberian sculpture, el greco, symbolism & rejection of refinement (of his contemporary Monet). Said ‘around 1906 Cezanne’s influence flooded everything ‘ p771 (with his large figure compositions, a final attempt at classical tradition).
Art Nouveau & classical pastoral tradition influenced Matisse’s The joy of life & early Kandinsky/Gabriele Munter (1877-1962).
Rouault inspired by religion & van Gogh.
German Expressionists influenced by Nietzsche & Munch.
Abstract art originates in theories of Romantics, music & colour. Anti-materialist Kandinsky influenced by occult & theosophical ‘thought forms’ & Steiner lectures. Franz Marc inspired by Futurist & Orphic art.
Cubism influenced abstract movements such as Orphism, De Stijl, Constructivism etc.
Futurism influenced by fast paced modern life/technology, Cubists, Expressionists & multiple exposure photographic studies of movement.
Futurism influenced all subsequent contemporary artistic movements (including synthetic Cubism & Duchamp brothers). It’s exuberant optimism inspired Battle of Lights, Coney Island, 1913 by Joseph Stella example in US. P791. Also, Romanian sculptor Constantin Bruncusi (1876-1957) who’s main influences of native folk art/‘primitive’ African art were completely at odds eg The prodigal son, 1915 (hand-made/organic quality hated by Futurists) & Bird in Space, 1928 (eloquently embodies futurism).
Rayonists inspired Constructivists.
De Stijl influenced by Calvinist background.
Malevich’s lofty ideas influenced Vladimir Tain, El Lissitzky & Alexander Rodchenko in post-Russia Revolutionary period.
Critics, thinkers and historians
Philosopher Henry Bergson (1859-1941), Creative Evolution, 1907, also, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) parallels between artistic innovations & philosophy.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) ‘interpretation of dreams ‘, 1900, 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.
Writer Andre Gide ‘the time for gentleness and dilettantism is past. What are needed now are barbarians’ p769.
Poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) wrote about Rousseau.
Art historian Elie Faure described Fauves as young ‘primitives’ in exhibition catalogue. p774
Matisse’s Notes of a Painter, 1908, widely read, immediately translated into Russian & German.
Polemical French Catholic writers, Leon Bloy, Charles Peguy & Jacques Maritain friends & admirers of Rouault
Influential Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) inspired generation of writers/artists with oppressive pre-war foreboding eg novelist Franz Kafka (1883-1945).
The term ‘Expressionist’ coined in 1911, with regard to Matisse & Van Gogh at 1st, by writer Wilhelm Worringer (1881-1965) who published ‘Form in Gothic’ & ‘Abstraction and Empathy’ (1908, abstract art & need to withdraw from material world).
Critic Roger Fry wrote about Kandinsky in 1913, ‘Pure visual music‘ p778. French philosopher Bergson, ‘importance of the intuitive in the apprehension of truth’ p779 . Pioneer Gestalt psychologists asserted that shape/size/colour /spatial orientation etc produce certain perception, meanings inherent in forms/colours despite context. Kandinsky’s book ‘concerning the spiritual in art’. Abstract art as ‘inner-necessity’ not meaningless decoration. Occult/ theosophical theorist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) taught that artistic experiences & art were best stimulants for understanding spiritual matters.
Artists Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) & Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) wrote book, Du Cubisme . Georges Braque, Aphorisms on art published 1917, emphasised the autonomy of cubism. Picasso’s only recorded discussion on Cubism 1923 with critic Marius de Zayas, he was sceptical of intellectualising it, should be judged on results not intentions.
Critic/poet/writer/close friend of Picasso, Apollinaire spoke of Orphic Cubism as ‘pure painting’ in 1912 p789.
Italian poet Emilio Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) launched Futurism ideology, Milan 1908, manifesto published Paris 1909. Taken up by Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), further manifestos, on painting, 1910, ‘universal dynamism must be rendered as dynamic sensations; movement & light destroy the substance of objects’ p769, and sculpture, 1912.
Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), ‘Ornament and Crime’, 1908 gospel of modern movement in architecture.
The course notes bid us reflect upon the proliferation of -isms, and the usefulness or otherwise of categorising art history into a series of styles of movements. In this first of the three chapters there was not as many -isms as I was expecting. Yes I think these -isms are more than a useful shorthand to facilitate art historical discussion, for example, Cubism was seen at the time as a school, the artists involved were in a circle of likeminded artists pushing the boundaries of art. They exhibited in the Saloons together, they got criticised as a group. Many movements (not all) were like this, a ‘scene’ at the time, and of course also useful for us looking back.
The main thrust of this chapter is the radical changes in such a few short years. Newness across the spectrum of art, literature, music, philosophy & science. In art, each ism moved it that little bit closer to the complete break with traditions of Cubisms new pictoral language and revolution in sculpture of open form. And the post war optmism of Futurism.
Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing