Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Bauhaus and the 100-years Legacy


Last week's blog was about how Art Nouveau styling still shows up in this century. The same holds true to even a higher degree with the Bauhaus School of Design that began in Germany in 1919, but was closed by the Nazis in 1933. Although the school only existed for 14 years, the premise lives in our designs to this day.


Bauhaus represented an aesthetic sense that in architecture, furniture, appliances, posters, fine art, textiles and furnishings tended to an early "form follows function" premise. There were no elaborate decorations and a belief that furnishings should follow the design of the building. 


Rounded corners were often designed for walls, furniture, and even fonts. In many respects, Art Deco and Bauhaus ran parallels in geometric forms, time and theory; although the former was more likely to have decorative aspects.




There's still many examples of the Bauhaus belief in not only designing the architecture of the building, but also every single bit of lighting, art, furniture and furnishings that made for a complete experience. This theory of design can be seen in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and a local Oregon beauty - Timberline Lodge.     

The inspiration of Bauhaus can be noted when describing "mid-century" or "modern" or "contemporary." Nevertheless, the source is the 14 years that Bauhaus-inspired designers and artists - over 100 years later. 

Below are samplings of either Bauhaus designed or Bauhaus inspired. Care to try to guess which is which? 


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Anton Seder: Major Designer of Art Nouveau

 Art Nouveau was very popular art form inspired by natural forms that began in 1890. It was the most popular from then until 1910.The style was represented by flattened and abstract objects with sinuous and flowing forms. 

A highly recognized artist, designer and art professor in this form was Anton Seder (1850-1916). He was born in Munich, Germany and trained as a painter, sculptor and architect. Later, he became the first director of the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, founded in 1890, in Strasbourg, Alsace. (now France)

Three years after becoming the director, Seder would submit the winning design for a new building to house the school. It is a beautiful campus and the building looks quite imposing. Here's a couple of photographs to try and capture his hand in Art Nouveau. (If you're a fan of this art form, you might enjoy visiting there on your travels.)

Besides Seder's teaching and his design for the school, he was also involved in gold and iron works for a church and wrote at least 10 books in 11 years! His books are still available and as recently as 2020 there was a calendar printed of his Art Nouveau designs.

Alas, post WW1, there was a shift in the "modern" style of art towards Art Deco. In many ways, it's the opposite of Art Nouveau with its geometric patterns and Asian influences. Seder would live long enough to be criticized as his work went out of style, but not long enough for him to evolve. He was such a brilliant man, one can only wonder what he might have done.



Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Richard Avedon: Nureyev's Foot and the 20th Century




A few weeks ago, I was looking through a website when I came upon a truly amazing photograph. It was titled, "Nureyev's Foot." I was struck how beautifully it was lighted and cropped. That foot seemed to say everything about the control, power and strength required of such a famous ballet dancer as Rudolf Nureyev. I had to know who had taken the photo.

After some digging through the internet, I found the photographer. It turned out to be Richard Avedon and I thought, "but, of course."


Avedon (1923-2004) has been described as the premiere photographer of style and beauty for the second half of the 20th century. Yet, a career that started at age 12 using a Brownie Box camera and later by taking Merchant Marines' photographs for I.D. cards hardly seems like the basis for such an outstanding career. 

However, with his passion for photography, he evolved a style that immediately identified a picture as an "Avedon." While Avedon was known for his fashion magazine work, his real love was portraiture. 

He preferred not to use props or soft lights, but to capture the inner worlds of his subjects. He would ask probing questions and find the vulnerable and interior for his portraits.

Beyond the fashion and portraiture, Avedon spent his time taking photos that chronicle images of the times. He even created a book titled, "In the American West." It was full of the images of the everyday lives of people.

In 1974, Avedon, who was only 51, had to limit his activities due to heart inflammation. Yet, he would continue to work until age 81. It was while on assignment for The New Yorker, Avedon suffered a stroke and died. He left a legacy of the most iconic representations of famous figures of the 20th century - including Nureyev's foot. Do you recognize any of these photos?


Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Caravaggio: The Scoundrel of Beautiful Art


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 aggression 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?