Paintings/Painters that you love.
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I've been enjoying the Simon Schama PBS series, which is now out on DVD. I liked the program so much that I ordered it and have been watching over and over the episodes on Rothko and Van Gogh.
What does it mean to "get" a painting? For it to enter into your consciousness and speak to you? Schama finds a way to enlighten us through drama. You really begin to feel that you know these artists.
The one on Van Gogh presents him as a sensitive, outcast, highly intelligent, spiritual man who thought of his paintings as representing what was in his heart. It shows you how he developed his style and suggests that he died just when he had mastered style and form.
Schama said that each brush stroke is like a personal letter to the viewer. If you've ever read Van Gogh's letters, you'll understand this.
I used to be passive about Van Gogh's sunflowers. But slowly I came to feel the power in these images. They are not paintings of flowers but of life. All life. Continuance. Mortality. His brush strokes make them alive. The sunflowers have all the strength and light of Apollo.
I was looking through a book of Rubens at work the other day, and though I had been introduced to Rubens' paintings years ago, even in the color plates the works had such a vibrancy and freshness and kind of manic presence -- I was really surprised at how moved I was by all of them.
I also find Caravaggio's paintings terribly expressive and meaningful. Religious themes aside, the light and contrast and palette of his works are phenomenal.
Joan Miro, Max Ernst, as well. I'm listing painters instead of paintings aren't I?
Kiki Smith isn't strictly a painter, I know, she's a sculptor and printmaker, but her work spins my head (which is a good thing). I would hate to neglect mentioning her in a conversation about how art moves.
One of the things I'm frustrated with about myself is that I don't really know how to talk about art. I have a BA degree in art, but that was long ago, and I can't really talk about the art that moves me. I'm much better with literature because I write it and teach it.
Watching Schama has made me want to learn how to talk about art--for real. His intimate, poetic and dynamic style of writing and speaking have made me want to work harder to express myself. For instance, this is what he says about one of Rothko's paintings, indeed the room filled with Rothkos, in the Tate Gallery:
This is a place where we come to sit--on the kind of bench Rothko specified, naturally--in the low light, and sense the aeons rolling by; where we can feel beckoned towards those hanging veils with their mysterious interior glimmer, or through the portals that seem to suggest both a vision of infinity and its unattainability. One of the words Rothko used most often about his art--but it could be extended to all art-- is "poignant," for the best of it is suffused both with a sense of the inevitable passing of things, including us, and with art's determination to trap, consolingly, those fugitive visions. It's impossible, then, to come to this room and not be touched by that poignancy: of our comings and goings, entrances and exits, womb, tomb and everything in between.
(POWER OF ART, 439)
"One of the words Rothko used most often about his art--but it could be extended to all art-- is "poignant," for the best of it is suffused both with a sense of the inevitable passing of things, including us, and with art's determination to trap, consolingly, those fugitive visions."
Okay, here is one of my favorite artworks. This particular piece is a poster, but somewhere in it's genesis it had to be painted. I know this isn't what others may think of as art, but by the above quote, for me, this image is filled with poignant passing.
When I look at this I see lost friends on the other side of the fabric of existence. This has been a theme of the tragedy of warfare since Odysseus visited Achilleus and Ajax in the underworld.
I like other, more conventional art, but this moves me in a special way.
As to the Schama on Rothko -- wow. That is just such an apt description of not simply Rothko, but what feeling Rothko inspires in an audience, or audience member, being me, I guess. I know it's a reference to what's in the Tate Gallery, but it could also apply most readily to the Rothko Chapel in Houston. Being in that space gives that sense of "aeons rolling by."
I also think that Gene in message #5 has it right when he talks about a very personal connection to art and connects his feelings to the past through mythology
At the moment, as I write about Renaissance Antwerp, I am also appreciating Brueghel - so much roundness and substance to his figures.
"At the moment, as I write about Renaissance Antwerp, I am also appreciating Brueghel - so much roundness and substance to his figures."
This brought to mind today's crop of high fashion models. The only men that could possibly desire one of these women are men who really hate women.
Now, look at Rubens. There was a man who obviously loved women.
Renee was, what, 14, when he went to the beach with his mother and sat on the blanket as she walked out into the sea, placed a bag over her head
and just kept
I've often wondered, even if a parent had told me not to interfere, what i might have done at that age, in that circumstance. One of the oddities of living through art . . .
and yet, in the years to come, he certainly brought us humor. I think he was smirking at life more than we ever imagined.
Gene, Hurrah for Rubens! What you said about the fashion models rings true. It's kind of scary to me.
German Expressionism in general.
And I've loved Peter Max since I was little, but I think it's more a family thing than a taste in art - I was brought up knowing that this, the Peter Max sheets Mom put on my bed, or the blanket, or the prints, was priceless, and was a part of my mom's childhood that she was sharing with me and not with my brothers.
One of my favorite kids observations about Van Gogh's self portrait - the squiggly lines are the tears he's crying on the inside.
I have learned to appreciate works I would have dismissed at first glance, and love when there are layers of meaning to a painting. Some of the artists have laid their souls bare for us to see once we learn their visual language. I love Van Gogh's desperation to explain what he saw and felt, and am mesmerized by his flowers and moth prints. My favorite coffee table art book is Van Gogh's Flowers. I can stare at O'Keeffe's flowers for hours.
Off the top of my head, I like Man Ray, Duchamp, Shwitters, the collage works of Picasso; Robert Longo and Rauschenberg, yes, TheresaWilliams, Mark Rothko, American plastic artists. I admire Van Gogh's persistence (I hope that is the right word) and vigor of his works. Kandisnky and Calder for their unique vision. Durer for his seeming horror vacuii. Louise Nevelson and, yes, readaholic, O'Keefe for their guts. Miro and Kandinsky for their playfullness. :) I hope to be able to visit this group often.
At the moment - love Vermeer (his use of light and shadow), Brueghel, and the Impressionists.
DMTripp, when I looked at the watercolor of the small town at the top right hand corner of your watercolors page, I first thought you must have painted a watercolor that my mother has cherished as long as I can remember. But you're not old enough. www.recollections54.com
Now the reason you shook me was because I have, for over a decade, been absorbed with Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, not just for their pictures that move me, but for their incredible theories that echo my deepest sentiments. The one thing that has plagued them (despite their incredible success and fame) has been the viewers that only look at the appearance of their paintings, and marvel at the details, the craftsmanship, the selection of colors, etc., and declare these men to be fine illustrators. So also, in all my years of painting, my "evil internal editor" tries to convince me that I'm just a talented illustrator. And of course at the art festivals, 49 out of 50 people will remark about my details, and then one, like you, finally notices and talks about what all of this really Is.
So for that, I thank you. You've made my decade. And I will always carry around with me your statement about what novelists do: ". . . we are, at the least, aiming for a truth deeper than the surface truth of the factual." That is the finest written philosophy of my watercolor explorations that I've ever encountered, thank you.
"I have discovered many a world on paving stones and tree bark." Mark Tobey, from Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper
I think he has been overshadowed and forgotten but his MESH paintings and white writings suggest "cosmic realms."
the art institute of chicago has a great tobey painting which i haven't seen on the wall in ages. he does seem to have been overshadowed. i love his work, or at least the work that i've seen.
speaking of artists that time forgot, the art institute has a show by an artist i knew nothing about -james bishop- that is fantastic. they are showing small paintings on paper, i think no bigger than 5" x 5". mostly white and grey paint, and pencil. abstract, minimalist but not cold at all. very intimate.
i was going to put a link to the museum but of course the image they are showing is the one painting on canvas that doesn't look like anything else on the show. in any case reproductions don't do them justice, i think.
If you particularly love drawings...
check out www.drawingcenter.org
DM there is a lot of construction at the art institute because of the expansion and not everything in their collection is on show now. the hopper show however will not disappoint you. i loved it and everybody i've spoken to about it loved it. its actually kind of a surprise because of the way it has been presented. its a very different Hopper from the one i had in my mind.
Raven, the drawing center yes, i went there last thanksgiving. they put up really interesting stuff, and they are pretty cool people too. thanks!
I'm fond of Wyeth, too. I think it's the melancholy behind all those fine details. As in your work, there's a sense of nostalgia. I know he was painting contemporary scenes and people, but for me, there's such a feeling of the evanescent in his work.
the two things that kind of surprised me about that hopper show were the colors and the brushwork. the walls of the museum were all dark so the colors of the paintings really popped. and the brushwork was so much looser than i would would've thought. i had never realized how sensuous these paintings are. hopefully i'll go again before the show closes and finally sit down to watch the video.
Regarding the Van Eyck above, a painting I have always loved too, I always enter at the bottom left where the shoes point the way. Then I go up the man's robe and my eye jumps from his bent arm to the hanging candleabra.
I enjoy the repetition of the shape of the man's arm and the arm on the candleabra. Then I enjoy the hanging drapes and how that shape is repeated in the fur on the sleeve of the woman's dress.
I follow the folds of the dress down and then over to the little dog. Then the dog's tail points to the rug which leads me to the furniture in the background.
Then I'm at the mirror, the roundness of the mirror is repeated in the shapes of the man's hat and the woman's head scarf.
For some reason, I always enter this painting this way. And I end by contemplating the hands reaching out to each other.
Theresa, I never noticed the shoes before - thank you for pointing them out. I don't know quite what to make of them. They do make me think of the fact that at certain times in European history, the streets were full of raw sewage, and the upper classes wore elevated shoes to keep their feet out of it.
I don't believe I especially noticed the round mirror on the back wall until I read a commentary on the painting. Now, it's always the first thing that draws my eye.
When we were first married, my husband wrote a poem for me in which he said: "As in a pair of chopine her gentle brush will set you high." It was so sweet. :-)
As for how I "enter" or view the painting - I have always looked first at the couple, especially the lady, her face and her dress. Then I would see their linked hands. That would lead me to the mirror behind them. Then the chandelier. Only after a while would I notice the little dog and the shoes. It's a fun painting to gaze at because each element symbolizes some aspect of fidelity and fertility ( so I have read). It would have made a wonderful wedding present.
hey phlox how did you insert the image in the post? would love post some images too.
"couple in bed" by philip guston. not my favorite guston but one i that i remember fondly. when i first saw this painting - at the art institute of chicago i was very angry. i thought it was a joke and didn't have any place in the museum. oddly enough the painting appeared in my dreams that same night and within months i was imitating this cartoonish style. oddly enough i wasn't the first person to have that type of reaction. guston's abandonment of abstraction in favor of figuration is now legendary.
The Sea, That Has No Ending
by Stanley Kunitz
Who are we? Why are we here,
huddled on this desolate shore,
so curiously chopped and joined?--
broken totems, a scruffy tribe!
How many years have passed
since we owned keys to a door,
had friends, walked down familiar streets
and answered to a name?
I'm interested in a couple of Czech painters:
Franz Kupka and Max Svabinsky. Both working around the first half of the 2oth cent. Kupka was
one of the first abstract painters. Svabinsky was
a realist, figure painter.
I like to stand up close, about five or six feet and have it just take over all my thoughts.