Choose a town or country house to visit. The idea of this visit is to look for evidence of how art has been used as part of a way of life, whether aristocratic or bourgeois. Don’t choose an artist’s house (e.g. William Morris’s Red House),
A large town house will be impressive and is likely to have classical features. Reception rooms may be spacious, perhaps with murals, tapestries or sculpture. In a smaller house your interest is likely to focus on private rooms, with their more intimate detail and decoration – a drawing room or a study containing well-loved objects.
Write an illustrated account of your visit in your learning log.
If you can’t make this visit for any reason, write a report on your chosen building based on information from books and the internet. Choose a building that’s well documented, particularly online. If there’s a website dedicated to the building, you may be able to make a virtual tour of at least some of the rooms, for example. You may also be able to order audio-visual material as well as guidebooks, etc., through the website. (Course Notes p106)
originally i visited hylands house for this visit (see the comments in my Assignment 3 feedback) but that visit was more suited to the assigment 4 visit so i need to redo this one.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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 ‘theimpossible 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.
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.