Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Japonisme and the Impressionists

There I was sitting in Early Modern Art History class in a darkened room admiring large slide-screen images of paintings by artists such as Monet, Pisarro, Degas, Van Gogh and Renoir. I dreamed of the day when I could stand in the presence of these works of art. However, before I could do that I had to pass the class and the required (and dreaded) final essay. This meant I needed to do some serious research.

Online and in the library I found many interesting facts about the major influences on the Early Modern artists. One of those was Japanese woodblock prints known as "ukiyo-e." (This will be a future topic.)

The story goes that when the French were exposed to Japanese art and culture in the 19th century, it became a craze. "Japonisme" was coined by the French for all things Japanese. Among the many Japanese imports, were Japanese art prints which served as wrapping paper for the imported goods.

The principles of ukiyo-e deeply influenced certain young artists who longed for an innovative approach to painting. They wanted to move away from the strict rigor or order required for art at that time. They found ukiyo-e designs exciting in their differences... ...asymmetrical compositions with strong lines of delineation, areas of intricate patterns and large areas of unshaded flat colors.

Some of the better-known artists whose work we admire today studied the techniques and developed a blend of both western and eastern methods. Names of some of the artists include : Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas.

On the two paintings below, can you spot some of the ukiyo-e influence? Care to take a stab at the names of the artists? (Hint: It's definitely not Moe, Curly or Larry.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mrs. Edward Hopper...

One of my favorite artists is Edward Hopper. In design class, I chose one of his paintings for an assignment in analyzing design elements. During the analysis, I realized the brilliance of the layouts of his paintings and drawings. (On the left is one of his most popular paintings titled "Nighthawks.")

However, he's not the Hopper that I want to share with you. The Hopper I have in mind is Mrs. Edward Hopper AKA Jo Hopper. Since she was also an artist, she was familiar with the intimacy of the artist-model relationship. In her marriage she was having none of that. So, from their 1924 marriage to his death in 1967, she was his only female model.

Why would this matter to Edward's art? Answer: Since Jo was his only model, we can view the female form in its stages of aging. The first image below was completed in 1944 and the other two are from 1954 and 1963, respectively.

What are your observations of Edward paintings of Jo over the 20-year span? Does it seem fair that as an artist he was limited to only one female model for 45 years?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Caravaggio: The Gifted Scoundrel

Michelangelo Merisi, better known as "Caravaggio," was possessed of immeasurable, original talent as an artist and an immeasurably bad temper as a man.

There was no doubt as to his talent. In his fairly brief lifetime - he was about 39 years old when he died (1571-1610) - he received many top commissions. Art historians have referred to him as the most original and influential artist after the period of Da Vinci.

Caravaggio was painting in the age of Mannerism art. Yet his work was not mannerly. Instead, he used rough street people complete with dirty feet and shabby clothes for his subjects - even for lofty religious commissions. His realism would stand as a precursor to the Baroque period.

His best works used the drama of deep shadows and directed light. This technique, referred to as "chiaroscuro," probably influenced such later well-known artist as Vermeer, Rubens and Rembrandt.

In spite of all his talent and originality, his personal life was marked by many arguments, fights, and arrests. (He was brought to trial on at least 11 occasions.) His aggressions culminated in the killing of a man during a fight over the score of a tennis match.

Caravaggio fled. Ultimately, he was found and arrested. Powerful patrons arranged clemency for him from the Pope. In circumstances that would make an intriguing movie script, Caravaggio died before the Papal document arrived. It is thought that he died of pneumonia and the cumulative effect of his lifestyle.

Postscript: He was a fugitive and relentlessly pursued for 4 years. Yet, historians consider the art work during this period to be his best. The question is: What muse lived in him that required the payment or homage of such stress and violence in return for his talent?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Three of a Kind - More Triptychs...

I so appreciated all your good ideas after posting the first triptychs for the "Progressions" series. (tomato to Bloody Mary, lime to Margarita, and lemons to lemon meringue pie) Your interest so encouraged me that I've created even more for the Holiday Studio Art Sale.

A tip of the hat to Francis and Chloe, who gave me the idea of apples to apple pie, and to Barb, who suggested cucumbers to a jar of pickles. Keep the comments coming. The collaboration is so much fun!

For now, here are the two suggested "Progressions" plus coconut to coconut cream pie... yum!

One last thing: All of the confusing areas of commenting have been eliminated.
(1) Click on Gray/Blue Area just below that reads, "(number) comments" for comment box.
(2) Scroll down to box, write your suggestion/comment and your first name so I know who wrote.
(3) Click "anonymous" in "Comment as" and then "Post Comment."

It's easy and allows us to share without the worry of spamming. (Sometimes I post a comment back to you using the same method.)After all, you're my peeps.