Saturday, February 2, 2013

Paul Gauguin's Experiences and Works in Tahiti

       Among the famous painters of post-Impressionism were Gustave Moreau (The Apparition), Georges Seurat (La Grande Jatte), Paul Cezanne (Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Les Lauves), Odilon Redon (The Eye like A Strange Balloon Mounts toward Infinity), and Henri Rousseau (Carnival Evening). One artist that stood above the others, however, was Paul Gauguin. As a part of the Symbolist movement, Gauguin was a powerful figure.
       Like most artists in the avant-garde of post-Impressionism, Gauguin felt disillusionment with the results of the Industrial Revolution: spreading pollution and changing socioeconomic hierarchies, the most notable being women rising into the labor force from traditional roles. From this disillusionment was born Gauguin's idea of primitivism: that non-industrialized societies are purer than what most of Europe was going through. Gauguin eventually became separated from his family after losing his job, and traveled literally around the world to find some civilization that was untouched by the ever-spreading influence of European imperialism, which was colonizing large portions of the world.
       After spending some time in Panama, Gauguin eventually settled down in Tahiti, an island located in the South Pacific. Even in this remote location, European influences were still present in the population and their attire. Nevertheless, Gauguin settled down and started a new life, marrying for a second time. Unfortunately, their first attempt at a child resulted in a stillbirth. It was at this time that Gauguin painted his last iconic work, Where Do We Come From? What are We? Where are We Going? This work was a representation of his anguished mind: his inability to escape industrialization, and his inability to start properly at least a semblance of an escape from European imperialism.

       The work is a summary of all of Gauguin's experiences in the South Pacific: a collection of Tahitian people at perfect ease in each other's presence, with no signs of European imperialism in view. In the background stands a statue of a Tahitian deity, whole with no imperfections. Gauguin described this work as part of "a mysterious language of the dream." It represents his ideal view of a pure, untouched culture that is at peace with itself. However, when this image is placed alongside its title, the mood generated is completely conflicted: if this is an idealized view of a perfect culture, then why does it have such a cynical title?
       This work was not the only one that Gauguin produced in Tahiti. Another notable work that he produced was Oviri, the last of his ceramic works.
        The statue consists of a bare-chested woman who is sitting on top of a dead wolf and strangling a wolf cub in her left hand. Her emotionless face suggests that this is not the first, nor the last time that she will do this. Oviri means "savage" in Tahitian, and Gauguin described her as "a cruel enigma" and a "murderess." Given that Gauguin moved to Tahiti to escape the industrialization of Europe, it is possible that the wolves represent Gauguin's hopes of starting completely fresh in Tahiti, and the woman the cruelty of industrialization and European imperialism.
        Ultimately, after spending roughly ten years in the South Pacific, Gauguin moved to the island of Hiva-Oa in the Marquesas Islands, where he died in 1903. His idea of primitivism, however, would live on in the works of artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, who went to the Americas and experienced their own share of indigenous cultures.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, by Pablo Picasso.

An inspirational starry night

Van Gogh (pronounced like the "ough" in "cough") painted one of the most well recognized pieces in America when he painted "Starry Night". The swirls and peaceful yet tumultuous mood of the piece inspires both creativity, wonder, and possibly some fear. It makes me think of all of the things in the universe that we don't see or know about, and about how all of them are moving and interacting constantly. Van Gogh painted "Starry Night" from his insane asylum. It is possible that he was trying to convey the foreboding mood of that night, as sleep was clearly offering him no refuge and the night no one to which to turn.

The poet Anne Sexton published a poem with the same title in1981. The poem has a fatalistic tone, relating to the tone of the art piece. She describes part of the scene in one paragraph:

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.   
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die. 
She talks about a drowned woman, and later states that somehow, this painting is how she wants to die. Possibly she simply felt a melancholic romance toward death when she saw this piece. She, like Van Gogh, committed suicide.

Not all people see this painting as foreboding. It can be found on dorm walls or computer desktops, serving as a beautiful display of art and culture. In fact, apple has produced a starry night app in which one can interact with the swirling stars as they float across the screen. The app transforms this piece into a magical swirl of colors and music which can be manipulated with a simple touch.

Innovation in Modern Art

Innovation in Modern Art

Gustave Moreau's The Apparition in comparison with Matthew Fox's embroidered x-rays

What I believe most separates The Apparition from other works of its time is the style that the materials are presented in. the artist was able to transcend the realm that simply paint exists in with the carving out from the paint, a design in the background. In this way, Moreau is able to stay within the lines of traditional art in a subject matter which is relevant to the bible while putting his own spin on the presentation, both in the storyline and aesthetics of the picture. When I consider art today, the ability to do this is essential in order to separate one’s art from the many other pieces that are presented today. I believe this trend is something that started, or was at least catapulted forward from Modern Art. Starting arguably from impressionism, art was no longer seen as a contest of how much detail and precision an artist could convey in the image or work they are representing, but how they could do something which no other artist had tackled previously. Moreau certainly does this with The Apparition. One modern Artist’s works reminded me greatly of Moreau. Matthew Fox’s creations involve stitching on x-rays. These beautiful works take something seen as utilitarian and clinical, and redefine them by using embroidery. Although hundreds of years between each other, Fox and Moreau both re-evaluate the use of material and content in art in order to create innovation.

A work of Matthew Fox
Part of The Apparition, with etching in the background

Metropolitan Museum 100 Works 100 Curators

Metropolitan Museum of Art - 100 Works 100 Curators

Vincent van Gogh, Works, Classic Artist Tragedy

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most known names when it comes to art appreciation. Previously I had thought myself to be a fan, I still am, I was just unaware of his story. 

After struggling to find his place, Van Gogh's brother offered to take him in and support his art career. It was discussed that van Gogh had an unclassified mental illnesses and it was not until further researching that I came to an hypothesis as to its causation. Apparently van Gogh would paint and dip his paintbrush in his mouth, essentially eating paint. The paint contained lead and there is a correlation between lead poisoning and mental illness. And if I'm not mistaken schizophrenia is included within this. It was also noted that he drank turpentine, which I can only imagine the consequences of that. It is his later works such as, "The Starry Night" (which was painted from the view from his asylum), that receive most credit today. So, one could say, the more he began to "lose it" the more his art began to gain in popularity. 
Another piece of art, "The Night Cafe," also gives light to some mental issues. Which I was unaware of this piece but am a big fan. However, apparently van Gogh was not one for cafes and crowds and became very anxious when put into these environments. The lights in the cafe in this painting closely resembles eyes. Being a psychology major I interpret this as paranoia or even symptoms of paranoid schizophrenic. He feels like everybody is watching him and the eyes in lights illuminates that. I also feel that the distortion of the pool table and tilted perspective gives the viewer a feeling of being sucked in. And maybe that is how he felt in these situations, drawn in into an escapable pit of anxiety with everybody is watching his every move and reaction. Genius in a sense of letting the viewer look through his eyes and feel his emotions. 
"Classic Artist Tragedy" is in the title because the all to familiar scenario is tragic. Many artists are not fully recognized or appreciated until after they are dead. This is the case with van Gogh for he only sold one painting while alive and now his paintings are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Also the case with Paul Gauguin. However, this tragedy is not only limited to "painting" artists. There are many accounts of literature scenarios and in music. What my generation can most likely relate to is the death of Kurt Cobain. He was the lead in the band Nirvana that gained popularity in the early 1990's. It was not until after he committed suicide that Nirvana and Kurt Cobain received worldwide acknowledgement and recognition. He now is referred to as a musical genius. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Absolutism or Revolution and Reform?

This Huffingon Post article includes disturbing images

The One Who Captured Light

Claude Monet, the man who has always so captured my imagination with his ability to see light.  As a photographer, my work is light.  That a person could transfer the light to a canvas using only a brush and pigments is something I am completely in awe of.  Musée l'Orangerie is, in my opinion, the most incredible immersion into the work of the Impressionists.  It is in this museum that the viewer is surrounded by Monet's waterlilies, bathed in natural light.  Les Nymphéas are displayed in an oval space, the long canvases surrounding the viewer.  This is how Monet experienced nature, it is how he wanted the viewer to experience what nature had impressed upon him.
The elements captured in Impression, soleil levant are precisely what a photographer might hope to capture, the reflections and colors of the landscape.  Impressionism was a phase than many artists of the time went through, they gave it a go and then gave it up when it bored them.  For Monet, Impressionism was his only style, the way in which he saw the world.  
The ideas which drove the work of the impressionists are also found the the thoughts of contemporary philosophers.  Frederic Nietzsche said "Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest."  Art became how man viewed nature, or how he cared to mold it.  
An article on the ideas of Impressionistic Aesthetics can be accessed at JSTOR here.  The ideas seen in painting also carried over into the other art forms.  Debussy was considered by many to be the leader of musical Impressionism, though he continually denied the title.  He didn't believe that his music followed  Impressionism, but it seems that he merely wanted to claim distinctness.  
Like his contemporary artists, Debussy was influenced by the import of Asian traditions and rejected traditional European formulas saying "There is no theory.  You have merely to listen.  Pleasure is the law."  As painters were titling their work in musical fashion, Debussy was creating musical interpretations of visual experiences.  The following piece in entitled "Voiles" or "Sails."
Post-Impressionism emerged as many artists tired of Impressionism, and has no cohesive definition of criteria for inclusion.  This movement is primarily made of painters who exhibit a strong Impressionist influence, but have departed from the practice.  Paul Cézanne is considered among the best examples of this period.  He also pushed the transition from naturalism to abstraction as we can see by comparing two paintings of the same subject, but from different points in Cézanne's career.  First from 1868 and then from 1902:
Cézanne isn't striving to capture the light of the moment as was Monet, but rather use strokes of color to represent his subject.  The rules of academic painting were further suspended by Cézanne and other painters followed suite.  Symbolists painted what they felt and imagined, what they subjectively believed about the world.  The only moralizing now came from the artists' personal codes rather than what was dictated for the collective.  Gauguin painted his most intimate feelings in Where Do We Come From? What Are We?  Where Are We Going? instead of depicting an actual observed scene.

These movements, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Symbolism are best understood in terms of each other and how each was born of the previous. 

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

This painting here is something apart from the usual. The painter, Vincent Van Gogh, checked-in at a mental hospital in the spring of 1889 in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, around 15 miles from Arles, where he used to live. (PLEASE REFER TO MAP)

He had a severe mental condition, but despite that fact, he executed The Starry Night while being institutionalized. The painting appeals to me in many different ways, and it will be a little hard for me to express how it goes about, but I will try my best.

From a environmental point of view, I believe that this painting appeals to me due to the numerous times I have encountered this image on billboard, projectors in educational institutions, charity parties, and the list goes on. (BELOW IS SOME EXAMPLES)

This a little blend of "The Starry Night", "The Scream" by Edvard Munch, and a little pop culture from the movie also by the name: "Scream".

On the clock

The Starry Night cake

and of course, Snoopy is included.
Many other paraphrases can be found online, but now I would like to describe the artistic perspective behind the painting.

I feel like this painting is rather gothic, soaring, very nocturnal, but also round and smooth. I feel like death arises upon the church steeple and cypresses winds up in a spiral of glowing stars. The painting is extremely interconnected, but yet there is a little discomfort arising when I stare at it.

I will never know if I feel the way I feel because of the context or based solely or choice of color, composition, and appeal.

It does come to my observation that Vincent Van Gogh is merely obsessed with "The Starry Night" due to the fact that he executes yet another painting, or better yet a ink drawing of the same concept of "The Starry Night", but this time "Cypresses in Starry Night. (DRAWING BELOW)

The rotating skies and the yearning cypresses are offset by the village's church spire, which is a superimposition of a large complex system to be viewed as a single element.

Here is the same drawing in different colors. I felt like including it to show how the elements play together in the previous one.

One can see that in the yellow-ish/brown-ish drawing, the cypresses play together as one unit, where as in the black/white drawing, the cypresses are more separated.

Maybe it is something that I am imaging in my mind, but I feel like that it is what distinguishes good art from not so good art.

Last, I would like to add this picture, because it "LITERALLY" brings "The Starry Night" to life.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Lasting Impression

Cezanne's Influence

Paul Cezanne was one of the most influential artists of the 19th century. His work as a Post-Impressionist painter laid the foundations for the transition from the academic definition of art into the radical world of 20th century art. Cezanne is credited with bridging the gap, so to speak, between Impressionism and later forms of art such as Cubism.

Cezanne's artwork can be broken up into four blocks, or periods, each with their own defining characteristics. The first period, deemed the dark period, lasted from 1861 to 1870. Cezanne was influenced by the young and rising Impressionist group but didn't quite 'fit in' with them. Socially inept and given to bouts of depression, Cezanne's paintings during the dark period are characterized by dark colors and heavy use of black which contrasted highly with his earlier water colors around 1859.

Also during this period, influenced by Courbet, Cezanne began to use a palette knife. He painted mostly portraits and later called this series une couillarde. English artist Lawrence Gowing [1918-1991] once wrote that Cezanne's palette knife phase "was not only the invention of modern expressionism, although it was incidentally that; the idea of art as emotional ejaculation made its first appearance at this moment"

The second period that Cezanne's work can be broken into is his Impressionist period. [1870-1878]
During this period Cezanne regarded himself as a pupil under fellow artist Camille Pissaro. Under Pissaro's influence Cezanne began to paint more landscapes, abandoning dark colors and roducing much brighter works. He exhibited in the first (1874) and third (1877) Impressionist shows where his works were often received with hilarity, sarcasm and outrage. Critic Louis Leroy said Cezannes portait of art collector Victor Chocquet was "the color of an old boot" and "might give [a pregnant woman] a shock and cause yellow fever in the fruit of her womb before its entry into the world

During his third period, or mature period [1878-1890], Cezanne began to paint multiple copies of the same thing over and over experimenting with different techniques and breaking down the forms. He painted several "Bathers" as well as several landscapes of  Mount Sainte-Victoire. He used different colors to represent the depths of objects in space and geometric shapes to define nature. This use of geometry would continue to ultimately culminate in the first forms of Cubism. Many famous artist list Cezanne's works as a large influence and both Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso have been quoted saying Cezanne is "the father of us all." Also during this period he began to paint still life paintings, mostly consisting of apples, baskets and things of the such. In these paintings Cezanne chose to convey the passage of time in a very peculiar way: by painting from two different angles. This disjointed perspective gave Cezanne's works balance because of their unbalance. These paintings were especially important in making the leap from Impressionism to  Cubism.

Cezanne's fourth and final period [1890-1905] was marked by long periods of solitary confinement as troubling events in his personal life led him to delve further into his painting. With the onset of diabetes in 1890 Cezanne's personally became destabilized causing him to strain personal relationships and alienate others. In 1897 his mother died allowing him to reconcile with his wife. The relationship between the two continued to be tumultuous however. In 1906 Cezanne died of pneumonia. 

Rue Transnonain

Honoré Daumier was a prominent lithographer. Born in Marseilles, it was his father's literary ambitions as a poet which brought Daumier to Paris as a child. Best known for his caricatures, Rue Transnonain departs from his well known work, taking the viewer down a much darker path. In early photography as well as lithography, the dead were advantageously still for the artist. As a result many works come from the documentation of the dead. Daumier, however, does not merely use the medium for documentation's sake. He uses his art as an impetus for revolution. 

His lithograph is of a family, shortly after a riot, brutally murdered by French soldiers. The innocent families were decimated, unarmed. In his lithograph we become aware of the tragic abuse of power which the government was taking advantage of. The desperate form of a father attempting, futilely to protect his daughter, did precisely what Daumier intended. It spread discontent and outrage among the people, inciting further rebellion. Thanks to the lithograph's ease of duplication, this image quickly found its way into the hands of many people who, regardless of education or literacy, were able to see the need for a change of system. The image incites the reader to look more closely, astonished at the horrific nature of the image. Upon closer inspection, the other bodies of the family appear in the dark recesses of the image. Its power is  just as astounding today as it was to French populace in 1834.

Paul Signac Opus 217

Paul Signac Opus 217

The topic of today’s discussion involves symbolist and pre-Fauvism painter, Paul Signac, who is best known for his belief in combining themes of pointillism, divisionism, and music into his artwork. Thus, before discussing Signac and his work any furtherI suggest clicking the link of Claude Debussy's composition Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune listed above in order to view the artwork the way Signac thought art should be viewed in 1890. It should be noted that Signac was a major supporter and mentored by Seurat, which is where he developed his skill and use of applying divisionism and pointillism to his paintings. Divisionism occurs when two colors are pushed together in order to create the impression of a third color, and Pointillism is the process of using the theory of divisionism and applying it to paint on canvas. The main difference between Signac and his mentor Seurat is Signac’s incorporation of music into his artwork (a major theme in Modernist Art).
image  image
In Opus 217, Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Felix Feneon 1890 we see how each of these features contribute the paintings overall meaning. This painting makes me feel the power of music, you look at this painting and that’s the first thing that comes to mind. The colors used and the images of stars and optical allusions remind me of a circus, or a dream. In the painting above we clearly see Signac’s use of color and pointillism as well as his portrayal of music in both the title as well as the background of the painting. Signac’s skill and style distinguished him from other nineteenth-century artists and influenced the Fauvism movements as well as artists such as Henri Matisse.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Apparition by Gustave Moreau

       Gustave Moreau was appointed professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1892, but well before that, he was also a painter.
       At the time that he created The Apparition in 1876, the Post-Impressionist movement was underway; the rapid progress of society made possible by industrialization was beginning to have drawbacks, including the pollution of the environment and changing social norms revolving around socioeconomic status.
       The work tells the story of the biblical princess Salome, who danced for her stepfather Herod before demanding the head of St. John the Baptist as a birthday present. Salome is shown the work pointing accusingly at the floating head of the recently executed St. John, which is bleeding profusely and is surrounded by a halo of light. In the background is the silhouette of a shrine in the center, an armed guard to the right, and two unidentified onlookers staring silently at the scene from the left.

         This work gives manifest the trope femme fatale (deadly woman). As mentioned earlier, changing social norms brought about by rising socioeconomic expectations in Europe. At the same time, the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, bringing about a case of mal-du-siecle (roughly "bad of the cycle"). Tendencies toward dark subject matter became common at this time, and this work served to portray women, who were proving themselves as capable as men in working, as a dangerous force, as Salome's crown and bare chest suggest.
       The trope femme fatale is significant in that it persisted in literature for decades to come.

Pointillism: New Style

"A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Seurat has to be one of the most famous paintings that there is. It especially received a large amount of publicity when it was showcased in the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". I have seen the painting before viewing the movie, but it was not until seeing the movie that I truly appreciated it. Originally I had thought that it was just a painting, a little fuzzy to add "character" or something. However, a scene where the camera switches from the character viewing the painting and the painting itself, zooming in each time, which made me realize how complex the painting is. The entire painting is made by pointillism, or dots.  
It is amazing the time an effort put into pointillism, especially the size of "A Sunday Afternoon...". I was reminding of a fairly new technique of art that I stumbled upon that must have been inspired by pointillism. There is an artist by the name of Chen Chun-Hao (and more) that is basically doing pointillism with nails and a nail gun. You do not get the complexity of colors through the nails, but they are NAILS! And the painting? or rather art pieces entail exquisite shading and depth. If viewed in person I'm sure there would almost be a 3D effect. This technique is driving everyday nails that carpenters use to make pieces of art. Amazing. Let this not take away from the "A Sunday Afternoon..." for there is no comparison in the time and depth spent creating different levels of divisionism to create such a large piece. All I'm saying it is interesting as to how modern artists are putting their twist past techniques to create a new distinguishable style.

A Bar at the Folies Bergere

Until the late 1800s, most famous paintings on a single canvas were frozen images. In other words, artists  did not convey the passage of time. Edouard Manet drastically changed this when he painted "A Bar at the Folies Bergere." 

At first glance, the background looks like a mirror. Because of this, we are able to visualize everything that the bartender is seeing. Part of the background, however, does not make sense physically if we are to believe in the mirror image interpretation. Notice the two people conversing in the back. One is obviously the bartender and the other is a man. It is clear that this can't be a reflection because the angles are completely off. This proves that in once instance, the young woman is serving this stranger and afterwards they move off to the side and discuss other business. Of course, there are numerous other things that can be said about this painting (i.e the social position of this woman, the reason why she is looking at the viewer, what was being discussed, etc.) but this post is specifically about the importance and influence of the fourth dimension--time. 

Paul Cezanne, a famous painter that emerged in the late 1800s, was deeply influenced by the passage of time in paintings. "Still Life with Basket of Apples" (1895) is a great example of this. 

When Professor Caffey first showed us this painting, I honestly thought "so...?" It was beautifully crafted, however, I failed to see message that was being conveyed and how it linked to Monet's "A Bar at the Folies Bergere." The message isn't shown by the apples or champagne bottle or eclairs, but by the table. Like "A Bar at the Folies Bergere" the angles are off here. This shows us that Cezzane began his paintings in one area, and started in other, thus showing the passage of time.

 Another one of his works include "The Card Players."  

Even though he did not depict moving hands or cards, the fourth dimension was still emphasized through his use of light. 

With the rise of television, internet, photography, etc. It's much easier to display time passing. We take it for granted and fail to realize how different it was back then. The fact that these artists conveyed time in such a subtle but powerful way (in their day and age) is revolutionary. 

For the Whovians

Just for fun and for you Whovians, this:

I almost put this piece in my blog post instead of a copy of the real George Seurat painting.

Point the way, Seurat

George Seurat's pointillism introduced a whole new way of making art, and many artists have either replicated his style or put their own new twist on it. To the right is an example of Seurat's work, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte". One can click on the image to view all of its details, including the tiny dots that make up the picture. Pointillism is characterized by small dots that blend together when viewed from far away. Generally, one wouldn't have to stand back to far in order for the dots to blend together simply because the dots were not very big. The modern artist Chuck Close took Seurat's idea of pointillism and played around with it.  Close decided to make the dots significantly larger so that they are not disguised. He also put smaller dots within bigger dots, creating little targets of color that draw in the viewer. Some of his works are hard to decipher from arms length, and the viewer must really step back.
Close up... What is it?

Chuck Close also uses a lot of bright colors, I think because of the 90's influence when neon colors were considered hip. Below is a picture of him working on one of his portraits. He usually paints portraits. To go to his website, click here.
Other artist have also been influenced by Seurat's art, and many use his technique. This is a video of a portrait of Opera using pointillism. The caption on the bottom said it took 55 hours! One can also use Photoshop to make a picture look like a pointillist piece. Another artist that developed a style similar to Seurat's is Karen Morgan. She, like Close, uses bigger dots than Seurat used, but she also used clay to give the dots a 3D quality.  The following is a video of her work.

Diagramming Relationships

A Lasting Impression

The Sleeping Gypsy by Henry Rousseau (1897)

I have seen paintings with the same style as Henry Rousseau as a kid, and I remember that they appealed to me in a very specefic way. I still have not researched that specific term, but "The Sleeping Gypsy" is the best way for me to describe my feelings about this particular spark.
The painting contains many different factors that together creates a very stimulating image. It is very dreamlike with the color, the environment creates a spurring poetic mood, and most importantly the the smooth surface with rich detail where the central perspective is ommited.
Henry Rousseau was described as a naivist, which means that the artwork is executed with simplicity in its subject matter and technique (SOURCE: google definitions). Personally, I do not think that this definition applies to anything painted on "The Sleeping Gypsy" canvas. The reason for this rather unconveinent name is due to the relevance of the academy. As I understand it, art around Rousseau's time was set in stone; academic art idioms or nothing pretty much, but rather than looking at it with a very rigid perspective one can consider that this is the aftermath of folk art traditions. Here is an example of how folk art traditions can go from exciting, to be revived by Rousseau to what we see in our everyday life.

This examplifies a paraphrase of the real painting projected on a traffic bollard in Winchesterm, England. (SOURCE: Wikipedia images).
This is deliberately an interpreation of the reality that is really hard to imagine, but yet its purspose is to strengthen the painting's emotional expression.
On the other hand, I now understand the rise of naivism that later was shown through artists inspired by Rousseau, like Le Moulin de la Galette by Louis Vivin (circa 1929)

or like Dan le Pre by Camille Bombois (1930)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Observations on A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere Link

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

What immediately struck me about The Bar at the Folies-Bergere is the relationship it brings to light between artists and “low life” individuals. Although at the time, Manet had become an esteemed player in the art community, there has been and to some extent still is a view of artists as in a sense, low life individuals. About a year ago, I was going to art school at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and studying Studio Arts. As someone who has always loved art and had art as a positive influence all my life, it became an environment in which I thrived and enjoyed. However, when I shared what I was studying with friends, family, or even aquaintances, the most common response was not one that was supportive, but rather one which was critical and at times disgusted. Further, when I was trying to engage in intelligent conversations with my peers, my views were often regarded as incorrect by default because I was a student of art rather than other classical subjects. In summary, I myself experienced the discrimination that artists face. I believe that to some extent, this degradation is something Manet wished to convey in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. The painting depicts a female server who likely also acted as a prostitute. The viewer is standing in front of her (as if the artist painted the scene while at her bar). By placing the person depicting the scene in a context which assumes interaction with the server, Manet effectively places himself on the same level as her- which was not high in society. Although prostitution is a trade which has been been practiced by both elites and lower class men in society for years, the blatant interaction between the server and artist displays them as peers rather than an actor-servant dynamic. When we evaluate the impact that artists have on society (as depicted in many of the recent works we’ve seen, especially those which bring political power into question) it is an interesting phenomenon that even today artists are still seen on a level with lower-class individuals; as Manet here has depicted. In conclusion, it is essential that in the promotion of an art community at A&M, we work to emphasize the importance art (and the artists who create it) make on society. By doing so, we can slowly start to counteract the ancient prejudices which artists have been subject to so that the art and artist can gain the full respect which they deserve.

Impression, Sunrise

Claude Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise” marked the beginning of a new genre of painting. Wildly popular among artists yet a cause for skepticism among critics, this new style called “Impressionism” sought to capture the fleeting effects of light on otherwise stationary subject matter. Utilizing a technique called imposto, the thick application of paint on canvas, paired with the plein air style, Monet captures the transient beauty of the sunrise over a French harbor in rapidly executed brushstrokes of contrasting color. Unlike traditional artists who paid close attention to detail and delivery, Impressionist painters focused more on the emotion their works evoked rather than customary methods. Although impressionism isn’t my favorite genre of all time, I love the fact that Monet was so willing to experiment with new techniques. His layering of colors on the water adds depth and movement, while the sun’s smoldering ascent into the morning sky adds a certain tranquility to the piece. Although what fascinates me the most is how even with the absence of detail and definition, colors that blend and bleed into each other so effortlessly, the viewer is still able to make out exactly what the artist is trying to convey.  A fleeting moment, a snapshot, a frame of time that won’t last, captured so beautifully and instantaneously without the time to second guess.

J.M.W. Turner's "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying"

J.M.W. Turner's "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying"

Personal Interpretation: When first viewing Turner's painting above I am immediately captivated by the sunset in the background. The sun pierces through the canvas with a bright yellow then mellows out to more depressing surrounding colors. The "depressing colors" that are the rest of the painting, are selectively chosen in order to convey the morbid action that is taking place. Apparently the ship was en route and the captain ordered for the dead and dying to be tossed overboard in order to make tax cuts. The turning sea emphasizes the violent act and the bodies floating about with the ship in the distance portrays the betrayal of humankind. I believe Turner painted the ship in one of the more dark colors and also a mere silhouette in order to disgrace the morbid decision to toss the bodies. 
Interestingly, I found that Turner showed the painting at an event in which Prince Albert was scheduled to speak,  possibly in hopes of further influencing the antislavery movement. It is said that recently after the event, public policy on slavery was indeed changed. As to if the painting had an effect we are unsure but it is peculiar. He also wrote a poem that goes with the painting:

“Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
Yon angry setting sun and fierce-edged clouds
Declare the Typhon's coming.
Before it sweeps your decks, throw overboard
The dead and dying - ne'er heed their chains
Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
Where is thy market now?"   

The last line "Where is thy market now?" I believe is the strongest and most important line. Here he is bluntly calling people out stating that slavery is a dying trade and is trying to catalyze is definite end.