Reflecting on art

Literally.

Light reflects on the glass adding – or hiding – details. I tried to filter them out somewhat and the result was this mellow, pastel effect. Still, rather pleasing.

”Repent in Haste”, Gouache on board, by Harry Anderson (1906-1996)

Illustration for the story by Katherine Greer.
Caption: ”Here, in this very window, might be her ring!”
Redbook magazine, January 1950

Couple on balcony in formal evening dress. Pastel, guache and charcoal on board, by John La Gatta (1894-1977)

Caption: ”It was restful to be near Sara, thought Vilas. You didn’t have to explain things to her. She understood.”
Cosmopolitan magazine, 1949

The Clever Sister. Guache on bard, by Edwin Georgi (1896-1964)

Illustration from ”The Clever Sister” by Margaret Culkin Banning
Caption: ”Beneath the strangely different melodies of their lives ran hidden themes that others never heard; yet one refrain they had in common: ‘Whom does Barney love – my sister or me?”’
Woman’s Home Companion, January 1947

The Butterfly Man. Watercolour on paper, by Harrison Fisher (1875-1934)

Illustration for the book by George Barr McCutcheon
Caption: ”They, too, were seen together very often of late.”
This work also appeared in ”A Garden of Girls”, published by Dodd, Mead & Co., 1910

The Temptress. Oil paint on linen, by Mortimer Wilson, Jr. (1906-1996)

Title illustration for the story by Ann Pinchot
Caption: ”This way, darling” she said… He followed her, as he would follow her anywhere.
The American Magazine, ca. 1945

James McVane, M.D. Oil paint on board, by John La Gatta (1894-1977)

Illustration for a story by Philip Wylie
Caption: ”Every night I dream I’m being chased by a green locomotive. Does that mean  I should give up Creme de Menthe?”
Redbook magazine, April 1938

 

<<The Permanent Collection of the Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is one of the most comprehensive collections of this genre in the world. Comprised of over 3,000 works by many of the greatest names in illustration and comic and cartoon art, this celebrated collection is ever expanding thanks to purchase and donation from our membership, art patrons and estates. These works are fully catalogued with portions of the collection constantly on rotating display.>>

February 11th, 2017

Alex Katz @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 11]

A stylish gentleman Mr. Katz is in his business suit and hat – the clean, sleek lines of his self-portrait devoid of all superfluous accentuating his steady, direct gaze.

Passing, 1962-63. Oil on canvas || Αlex Katz

<<Ambitious, elegant, impersonal, large in scale, and simultaneously timeless and reflective of its time—these, according to Katz, are the qualities of “high style” in painting, and they are also the qualities of many of his own works.>>

MoMA, views form the Permanent Collection

January 30th, 2017

I am the Eye in the Sky @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 7]

«…Looking at You
I can read Your Mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind…»

The False Mirror, 1929. Oil on canvas || René Magritte

<<”Le Faux Miroir” presents an enormous lashless eye with a luminous cloud-swept blue sky filling the iris and an opaque, dead-black disc for a pupil. The allusive title, provided by the Belgian Surrealist writer Paul Nougé, seems to insinuate limits to the authority of optical vision: a mirror provides a mechanical reflection, but the eye is selective and subjective. Magritte’s single eye functions on multiple enigmatic levels: the viewer both looks through it, as through a window, and is looked at by it, thus seeing and being seen simultaneously. The Surrealist photographer Man Ray, who owned the work from 1933 to 1936, recognized this compelling duality when he memorably described ‘”Le Faux Miroir” as a painting that “sees as much as it itself is seen.”>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

A touch of Americana @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 6]

Speaking of American friends ~ since Labor Day was very inappropriately coupled with two very European artists, today we will appropriately balance it out with some quintessentially American art.

A vibrant painting where the artist is exploring his African-American roots:

Three Girls, 1941. Oil and pencil on wood panel || William H. Johnson

When the eye has to wander away from the target, and one begins to wonder which the real target be:

Target with Four Faces, 1955. Encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas surmounted by four tinted-plaster faces in wood box with hinged front || Jasper Johns

<<In the mid-1950s Johns incorporated symbols such as numbers, flags, maps, and targets into his paintings. Here, he transforms the familiar image of a target into a tangible object by building up the surface with wax encaustic. As a result, the concentric circles have become less precise and more tactile. Above the target Johns has added four cropped and eyeless faces, plaster casts taken from a single model over a period of several months. Their sculptural presence reinforces the objectness of the painting, particularly as the faces may be shut away in their niches behind a hinged wooden door.>>

The power of the thin white line:

The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II, 1959. Enamel on canvas || Frank Stella

<<Stella used commercial black enamel paint and a house painter’s brush to make The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II. The thick black bands are the same width as the paintbrush he used. The thin white lines are not painted; they are gaps between the black bands in which the raw canvas is visible. Stella painted the black bands parallel to each other, and to the canvas’s edges, rejecting expressive brushstrokes in favor of an overall structure that recognized the canvas as both a flat surface and a three-dimensional object.

Stella identified his materials and process with those of a factory laborer. About his manner of painting, Stella famously said, “My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there… What you see is what you see.” Instead of painting something recognizable, Stella’s painting is about the act of painting, and its result.>>

Is this a flag or a painting?

Flag, 1954-55 (dated 1954 on reverse). Encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels || Jasper Johns

<<“One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag,” Johns has said of this work, “and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” Those materials included three canvases that he mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint—a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a surface of lumps and smears. The newspaper scraps visible beneath the stripes and forty-eight stars lend this icon historical specificity. The American flag is something “the mind already knows,” Johns has said, but its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection. A critic of the time encapsulated this painting’s ambivalence, asking, “Is this a flag or a painting?”>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

Keep calm and enjoy… @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 5]

Lay back, relax, let go, dream. Let your fantasy guide you to places unknown. This Day is for You.

Happy Labor Day!

(exceptionally dropping the ”u” in honor of my American friends [Labour Day in Europe is celebrated on May 1st – May Day])

Reclining Nude, c. 1919. Oil on canvas || Amedeo Modigliani
The Anxious Journey, 1913. Oil on canvas || Giorgio de Chirico

 

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

Wait, is that a Rothko…? @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 4]

How subtle and feather-light, how wonderfully surreal, how utterly refreshing from his later work where drawing gave way, drowned under thick layers of colour.

Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea, 1944. Oil on canvas || Mark Rothko

<<”Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea” pictures two creatures dancing between sea and sky, surrounded by arabesques, spirals, and stripes. The forms ”have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms,” Rothko said. For him art was ”an adventure into an unknown world”; like the Surrealists before him, Rothko looked inward, to his own unconscious mind, for inspiration and material for his work.>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

 

Meanwhile, back at MoMA… [permanent collection, part 1]

Fascinated as I was with the depth, width and length of Picabia’s work retrospective, you didn’t think I’d leave MoMA without taking a long, refreshing look into the treasures of their permanent collection, did you?

In this series, we will walk through the sleek minimalist galleries, explore highlights, share favourites, be inspired and intrigued by some very stimulating works of art indeed.

Beginning with this charming postman, his suave royal blue uniform in contrast with the dark leaf green backdrop, the swirl of his beard echoed in the wind-swept flowers, the healthy colour of his skin reflected in their petals:

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1889. Oil on canvas || Vincent van Gogh

<<This portrait of Joseph Roulin is one of six Van Gogh painted of his close friend, a postal employee in the southern French town of Arles. Van Gogh had moved to Arles in 1888, hoping to create an artists’ cooperative. The plan never came to fruition and Van Gogh became lonely and isolated. He found comfort and companionship with the Roulin family and they are the subjects of many of his paintings. In this portrait, Roulin is depicted in the uniform he always wore, proudly, set against an imaginative backdrop of swirling flowers. In a letter to his brother Theo, the artist wrote that, of all genres, ”the modern portrait” excited him the most: ”I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we try to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our colouring.”>>

***

Something about the strong, almost geometric lines; the contrasting colours; the warmth and energy; the bright yellow light falling sideways on the bodies and making them glow:

Bathers, 1907. Oil on canvas || André Derain

***

Of all the paintings by Gauguin, this is my favourite one:

Still Life with Three Puppies, 1888. Oil on wood || Paul Gauguin

<<When Gauguin painted ”Still Life with Three Puppies”, he was living in Brittany among a group of experimental painters. He abandoned naturalistic depictions and colours, declaring that ”art is an abstraction” to be derived ”from nature while dreaming before it.” The puppies’ bodies, for example, are outlined in bold blue, and the patterning of their coats mirrors the botanic print of the tablecloth. It is thought that Gauguin drew stylistic inspiration for this painting from children’s book illustrations and from Japanese prints, which were introduced to him by his friend Vincent van Gogh that same year.>>

***

I am captivated by the fine elegance of Picasso’s work during his Blue and Rose periods. Anything beyond that leaves me indifferent:

Nude with Joined Hands, 1906. Oil on canvas || Pablo Picasso

***

Au contraire, all due respect to the real master of Cubism and his hypnotic, geometric perspectives:

Man with a Guitar, 1911-12. Oil on canvas || Georges Braque

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The dynamism and violence and forces of nature, all in one picture:

The City Rises, 1910. Oil on canvas || Umberto Boccioni

***

And all the sadness of the world, in one body:

Hope II, 1907-08. Oil, gold and platinum on canvas || Gustav Klimt

<<A pregnant woman bows her head and closes her eyes, as if praying for the safety of her child. Peeping out from behind her stomach is a death’s head, sign of the danger she faces. At her feet, three women with bowed heads raise their hands, presumably also in prayer—although their solemnity might also imply mourning, as if they foresaw the child’s fate.>>

***

These Munch-like faces with a neon colour palette:

Street, Dresden – 1908. Oil on canvas || Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

<<At the time he made this painting, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was living in Dresden, a large city in southeast Germany. In a letter to fellow painter Erich Heckel, he wrote of the Dresden crowds, “Completely strange faces pop up as interesting points through the crowd. I am carried along with the current, lacking will. To move becomes an unacceptable effort.” Kirchner heightened the colors of this city scene, depicting the figures with masklike faces and vacant eyes in order to capture the excitement and psychological alienation wrought by modernization.”>>

***

This couple looking bizarrely distant in their two separate worlds, gazing in different directions had me wondering about their pose – until I read the accompanying note:

Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat, 1909. Oil on canvas || Oskar Kokoschka

<<In 1909 the Viennese art historians Hans and Erica Tietze asked 23-year-old Oskar Kokoschka to paint a marriage portrait for their mantelpiece. They were strong supporters of contemporary art in Vienna and together helped organize the Vienna Society for the Advancement of Contemporary Art. Mrs. Tietze recalled that she and her husband were painted individually, a fact suggested by their separate poses and gazes. Kokoschka used thin layers of color to create the hazy atmosphere surrounding the couple, and added a sense of crackling energy by scratching the paint with his fingernails.>>

Extracts from accompanying tags, either on site or on line (under the ”Artists” section)

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

The Shapeshifting Master of Modern Art~ Francis Picabia @ MoMA [part 5]

The Kiss (Le Baiser) c. 1925-26. Oil and enamel paint on canvas in a frame likely by Pierre Legrain
Idyll (Idylle) c. 1925-27. Oil and enamel paint on wood
Woman with Matches [II] (Portrait of a Woman on a Blue Background) (La Femme aux allumettes [II] [Portrait de femme sur fond bleu]) c. 1924-25. Oil, enamel paint, matches, coins, curlers and hairpins on canvas
Promenade des Anglais (Midi) c. 1924-25. Oil, enamel paint, feathers, pasta and leather on canvas, in a snakeskin frame by Pierre Legrain

Painting (Flowerpot) (Peinture [Pot de fleurs]) c. 1924-25. Enamel paint, Ripolin paint-can lids, brushes, wooden stretcher wedges, string and quill toothpicks on canvas
Woman with Monocle (La Femme au monocle). Alternative title: Woman with Pink Gloves (Man with Gloves) (La Femme aux gants roses [L’Homme aux gants]) c. 1925-26. Oil and enamel paint on board
From the accompanying tag: ”In 1926, the review ‘This Quarter’ reproduced thirteen of Picabia’s ‘Monster’ paintings, including this one, which bore the title ‘Woman with Pink Gloves’. By the time of the painting’s first known exhibition in 1956 however, it had acquired the title ‘Man with Gloves’. The work is displayed here with both titles restored. Although neither necessarily originated with Picabia, both speak to the androgynous character of his wasp-waisted, white-suited figure. With its green face, single oversized eye, and pustule-pink hands presumably clad in driving gloves, it is one of Picabia’s quintessential Côte d’Azur Monsters. The Surrealist André Breton was one of its early owners.”

Sphinx, 1929. Oil on canvas
Μélibée, 1930. Oil on canvas
Aello, 1930. Oil on canvas
Portrait of the Artist (Portrait de l’artiste), 1934. Oil on wood

From the accompanying tag: ”This work began as a portrait of Picabia painted by the German artist Bruno Eggert in 1934. Eggert gave it to Picabia, who then added his own touches: a pair of dark-tinted glasses on his nose, a face in the lover left corner, a transparent female body across the picture, the edge of a stretcher in the upper right corner. He also signed and dated the work. Here, Picabia adopted another artist’s work as the support for his own, with over-painting used to assert rather than deny.”

Portrait of a Woman (Portrait de femme), 1935-37. Oil on canvas
Fratellini Clown (Le Clown Fratellini), 1937-38. Oil on canvas

Part 5 concludes our round of Francis Picabia’s retrospective at MoMA.

Connecting the pieces:

January 30th, 2017