Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Student.

One look is capable of communicating a plethora of messages in a matter of seconds. The gaze in this particular painting offers an infinite number of possibilities. When I first approached this piece at the Museum, I could not help but wonder what the subject (the Student) is so intently focused on.

He is holding an artist's palette. Yet the colors on that palette are faded and barely visible. His face indicates calmness, but his posture demonstrates some frustration. The neutral scene and colors contribute even further to this "moment" picture. It fascinatingly maintains the audience in a dimension that stands between reality and abstraction. The situation itself is undeniably realistic; the Student's focus is left for the audience to decide.

As I continue to search for answers in the subject's facial features, I am stunned. I, a student, stood there with an undoubtedly similar expression--perplexed--staring at this painting wondering where it was trying to take me when I realized he was staring back at ME doing the same thing! Felice Casorati successfully engaged my subconscious in his reflexive work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"My Uncle Daniel and His Family by Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta"

One of the many things that made me gravitate towards this painting is the sense of darkness and mystery that was projected in the overall image, and the night time on a hill setting that the painting took place in. The use of minimal coloring fascinated me, especially the dress that one of the young woman was wearing that really stood out among the other characters in the painting, while black and grey seemed to be the main coloring theme. Judging by the title of the painting, which is "My Uncle Daniel and His Family", I'm guessing that this is a family portrait that was meant to portray their relationship with each other, there is even a cat in the painting, a pet that I guess was really beloved by the. It brought me to questioning when I noticed that among 6 of them, the oldest woman on the far left and the man on the far right was not really looking towards me as the viewer, the old woman were looking away and the man was positioned behind the shades of the others. It is really interesting that it was only them that was not looking towards the center and they were both on each edge of the painting. I believe that the painter made this image from an audience perspective, and it is also interesting that one character was also working on a painting. Even though the painting is titled "My Uncle Daniel.." , which I assumed is the oldest man holding the color palette, I felt like the strongest point of my relationship with the painting is to the young women on the other side of the painting, I felt like as if they were meant to be the center of attention because their position was very forefront in the painting, and one of them was wearing the only colorful dress. Also, the amount of work on the details of the other woman's dress next to her was really outstanding for me, so I believe that it was the purpose of the painter to do so. In terms of resemblance, this painting is very subjective and simple to me, no contents of abstraction I believe, even though I feel like I have yet to discover the mysteries behind the painting.

White Rose with Larkspur No.2

I believe this image holds no specific audience or gaze, but rather is an observation of the painter. The observer is allowed to notice the natural shapes the rose takes on in this painting. Owing to the fact that this rose is an older rose, blossoming, it offers many angles and forms. If it were a newer rose, just in bloom, the shapes would undoubtedly be different.

What purpose is behind the painter choosing to paint this rose at this stage?

I feel that the viewer is positioned also as an observer, just as the painter is. The difference is, we are observing the observation of the painter in its finished state. We too can see the shapes inside and outside of the rose and larkspur and the specific state both are in. We can see the very interesting shapes formed in the center of the rose, which seems abstract. We also notice the condition of the rose. Seeing that it is indeed in full bloom, the pedals are beginning to tear and curl at their edges.

O'keeffe was careful to capture all of the details of this flower to effectively allow the viewer inside of her observation. She even captures the shadow it leaves on the surface it is sitting on, which seems to have a similar hue to the larkspur in the picture.

Further more, after looking up what type of plant Larkspur is, I was informed that this plant bears spikes.

With that knowledge, how does that affect the meaning of the painting and/or observation?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Uncle Daniel and His Family by Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (1910)

The first thing that stood out to me in this painting is the use of very dark colors, which seems a bit strange for a family portrait. A majority of the colors used are blacks and grays. What also stands out is the one woman's dress, which is floral and is one of the only parts of the painting with color.
The characters themselves are very interesting. The women have a happier facial expression then the men do, and they are also very pale in color. The men have very stern faces and don't show much emotion.
The environmental setting of the picture stands out a lot. It seems that they are on a hill top over looking a town. But the artist decides to paint the sky a very dark color, which makes the scenario very mysterious. The brushstrokes also add to the detail, especially in the sky and on the ground.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?' by Paul Gaugin

The concept behind Paul Gaugin's 'Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?' is the progression of life. When viewed from right to left the viewer follows the human development from early childhood, through adolescence, adulthood, and eventually the elderly on the verge of death. One of the interesting things that one can't quite distinguish from the picture, however, is that each figure is looking as the viewer. It's as though the people starring at you cause you to reflect upon yourself and the relationship between your stage of life and the painting.

The bright yellows draw the viewers eyes and highlights the more impassioned stages of life. However, the intensity can mask some of the more subtle parts of the piece. While not very discernible in the attached photo, in the background on the right the stage in which the couple is content with each other and at peace. The dull pink shade blends into the background and, like in life, is indistinct when next to times of passion and distress. It also seems that the shade of yellow correlates with how intense the stage of life is. On the far left, Gaugin shows a woman who has accepted death and thus she is the most at peace and the darkest figure present.

The backdrop of the piece is fairly intricate, though it is painted with cool colors to help bring out the points the artist wanted viewers to focus on. The landscape that's depicted contains a variety of things one would find on an island. In this case, the artist assembled the background in order to add to the ethereal, almost magical atmosphere, rather than to depict an actual island scene.

Still Life With Skulls by Max Beckmann

This painting is by the Modernist Max Beckmann and it is called Still Life With Skulls. It was painted in 1945 and it is oil on canvas. It immediately grabbed my attention because of the broad strokes and heavy outlines. The scene is chaotic, as if everything was thrown onto the table at once, and the painting style matches this sentiment. The painting may be interpreted as showing signs of the sins of life (cards for gambling, alcohol) and how they juxtapose the skulls.

The perspective is from slightly overhead, which gives the viewer the best angle to see everything on the table. It also allows for the background to be seen, which are probably windows. The background colors of black and yellow are also visible. The tone of the painting sets is one of fast motion. The large outlines enhance the images and draw them to the eye, which the little lines in the tablecloth and the skulls suggest that there is a chance the pieces haven't even settled yet.

The size of the painting is around 2 feet by 4 feet. The painting is the correct size to show the size of the objects proportionately. Because the painting deals with the subject of death and also subjects some might consider "sinful" the way it was painted truly reflects this. It is painted with enough clarity to clearly know what the images are, but it is also distorted using heavy shading and thick color. It challenges the standard of conventional painting because it is not 100 percent realistic, but for an image that deals with these things I think the style suits it well. There are lots of physical brush strokes which makes your eye not only wander from subject to subject, but also from texture to texture.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MAX BECKMANN - 1884-1950

"THE TEMPEST" (1947-49)
Oil on paperboard mounted on plywood

From a distance, Max Beckmann's 'Tempest' was eye-catching and alluring; I was drawn in by the painting's contrasting colors. But once I stood in front of the painting, the "excitement" I felt for it turned into a bit of a confusion; I wondered where all the charm of the painting escaped to. The painting is earthy, spiritual, chaotic and suggests psychosis.

The picture is immediately disorienting because there is no clear gaze in the image. The "creatures," for lack of a better word, in the painting, have crazed eyes and are not looking at anything in the picture. Also, the objects in the painting are not organized in a way that you would see in real life. It forces the viewer to cock his head, this way and that, to get an idea of what he is looking at.

The painting leans towards abstraction and is a subjective piece. The "creatures" are simple in form. The tone of this piece screams insanity and unrest; even the brush strokes are a testament to this sentiment. Some of the strokes start strong and then squiggle off in an unfocused and fleeting manner. Even upon careful examination of the objects in this painting, the viewer fights to make out what the lower third of the panel is and tries to relate it to the other figures; as a result bringing about a frustration and a feeling of chaos. The description provided by the museum even says "this paintings exact subject remains something of a mystery."

Upon further investigation into the history of Max Beckmann, during the time period of the painting (1947-49), it turns out that Beckmann was suffering from anxiety and the depth of his condition was affected by the first World War. Author, Charles S. Kessler, writes in his book, "Max Beckmann's Triptychs":

He was a man made sleepless by the subconscious projection of his anxieties and fantasies. He told me he had been plagued by wakefulness for twenty-five years. Insomnia had left its mark; his was the face of a tired man, a man with a burden... there is no reason to suppose that he was any the less ridden by anxiety, especially because of the ominous political situation in Germany, which was having immediate repercussions on his career and personal welfare...He never developed any ease of life and rarely knew solid contentment. Ever since the traumatic experience of the first World War the element of anxiety in his nature continued to deepen. (Kessler)

Kessler's account of Max Beckmann confirms my perception of psychosis in this painting. As this painting was created in the modernistic time period, it is not a surprise that this painting is "self-conscious" and expresses the painter's emotion. The abstract nature is also a product of this era of painting. After inspecting this piece for about 5-7 minutes, I definitely imbibed a dose of psychosis and unrest and perhaps felt a little of what Max Beckmann was experiencing at the time.

Renoir's Dance at Bougival

In Renoir’s impressionistic, Dance at Bougival, your eye in drawn immediately to the two faces framed in the upper third of the painting. The painting does not look back at you in any way, which leaves the audience feeling like they’ve just seen something they shouldn’t have. The girl looks at the ground, her partner looks at her intensely, the other people in the painting look at each other. His very dark and undefined suit against her white and detailed gown creates two very different energies in the painting which are also the biggest contrast between dark and light in the painting, an interesting parallel. Your eye travels from her averted gaze, to the group of sitting partygoers all looking at each other and seeming to be enjoying themselves, to the riffles of her skirts, and down to the flower on the ground.

The tone and emotion of the painting is tense, in contrast with the couple’s gay surroundings. The dancing girl looks away as if she unenthused by her dance partner. He seems very forward and seems to be encouraging her appeal, but she isn’t having any of it. . The red hat that surrounds almost her entire face pulls the eye to the expression on her face. She seems very unhappy and as she looks away, her mind somewhere else, anywhere but where she is. Renoir’s impressionistic brush stokes emulate the spinning, the movement of the dance while the couple remains in focus as if you, the audience is another dancer on the floor who happened to look over and see this. Painted so the audience would be eye level with the dancers, the viewers can easily imagine themselves involved in the strange scene, although the painting itself is smaller than life-size.

This painting has a very interesting place on the picture plane. The backdrop of the scene, painted with wide, undefined strokes, remains more abstract and subjective than the focal point of the painting. The trees and lights and sky cannot be distinguished from one another. As the focus moves forward in the painting, the faces become more defined, but still not specific. However, when you come to the couple in the forefront of the painting, Renoir has painted their faces with much more detail. The man’s face is given much less importance. It’s been hidden under his hat and his beard obscures most of his face. Her face however is very realistic and specific. Her emotions are plainly written on her face. It is the emotions and movement in the painting make it much more specific and realistic and much less iconic or universal.

A Student by Colt Wolff

A student (1930) Felice Casorati

One of the interesting things about this painting is that the person in the painting is looking at the people looking at the painting. I find this intriguing because this person looking at you is holding a paint palette so it feels as if you are the painting. The image is looking slightly to his right which makes you wonder exactly what he is looking at or looking for. It is a very strange perceptive having a painting look at you when you are supposed to be looking at it.

As you look at this painting, most people normally just stand in the center of the frame and analyze the image. With this particular work the fact that his eyes aren’t facing directly at you makes you want to meet his glance. So personally I moved to the left trying to figure out exactly why he was looking in that direction. There isn’t much hidden in this painting. The room the student is sitting in is very open and bare. The only place you really can’t tell if something could be lurking there is in the shadows behind the cracked doors. I don’t feel like these doors really have anything to do with the image other then giving the background depth and providing the idea that he is sitting in some sort of apartment or home with not much in it. So there for I don’t personally feel that anything is “hiding” in this image.

I feel that the artist may have been painting a self-portrait in a sense with this work. Although I am unfamiliar with what this artist actually looks like. It would make sense to me if he was trying to show himself at work and give the viewer an inside look at an artist at work. He may have also been just trying to be clever and flip the whole art viewing scenario around. Instead of the people just viewing a piece of art, this image implies that they are the art and the artist is working on them.

The image isn’t cartoonish but it is far from being photo realistic.

You can definitely tell that it has been painted. I find it interesting that the way his right hand is sitting gin the image would be quite uncomfortable for any real person. It has a very strange angle at the wrist. I like the fact that this painting wasn’t done with realism. Since it is not super realistic it allows the viewer to pay less attention to the image and more attention to the meaning of it as well as what is really going on. I know that if it would have been this beautifully realistic work I personally would have a harder time getting past that and may not have noticed the idea behind the painting.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Portrait of Fernande Olivier by Pablo Picasso

This oil painting by Picasso struck me immediately as not his 'typical' style that he is famous for. The dark spot below the woman's bun immediately draws the eye in contrast to the white and then the viewer focuses on her face. I found that I could not stop looking at this woman's face. The choice of the white background is so non typical for a portrait. There is usually always something else there. Upon closer inspection the woman's clothing falls into the abstract art category Picasso does so well. The lines of her garment seem to have movement which adds life into a shockingly sparse portrait. This painting really feels like a mixture of styles; like he is in the middle of moving from one to the other.

The woman's gaze is clearly off to her right which adds to the intrigue. It seems as though the artist's gaze is upon the woman's face. His choice of detail on her head makes clear his intention of presenting what he thought was important. 

Remarkably, I feel that this painting moves along the plane from resemblance to abstraction as you look and study it. At first it appears as an unfinished painting, but the choice of white space in the background is in itself a form of abstraction. The viewer is meant to fill in the rest, and imagine where she is and who she is.