Monday, April 3, 2017

March Madness: Van Gogh and Gauguin

Key Works Focus: 

Maria Sibylla Merian, Dissertation in Insect Generations(14-35),
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, (18-17), 1872
In the Dining Room - Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot, In the Dining Room, (18-19), 1874

Daguerre, Boulegarde du Temple (not in book),  daguerrotype, 1838
File:Edgar Degas - Rehearsal on Stage.jpg
Edgar Degas, Rehearsal of the Ballet on Stage, (18-20),  1874
 Cassatt, Maternal Cares, (18-23), 1891
 Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, (19-32), 1936

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.

North Carolina Julliard Trained musician Nina Simone

,James VanDerZee, Couple Wearing Racoon Coats, (19-34), 1932

 Paul Gauguin, Mahana no atua  (the Day of the Gods) (18-27), 1894

Vincent van Gogh, The night café, 1888, , (see below, with passage)

Keywork: Vincent Van Gogh,The Night Café, 1888, oil on canvas
I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green. The next day (September 9), he wrote Theo: "In my picture of the Night Café I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house, by soft Louis XV green and malachite, contrasting with yellow-green and harsh blue-greens, and all this in an atmosphere like a devil's furnace, of pale sulphur. And all with an appearance of Japanese gaiety...

[Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, (18-29)"This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrisewith nothing but the morning star, which looked very big." (from a letter to Theo.) 


Vincent Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, 1885

I have tried to make it clear how those people, eating their potatoes under the lamplight, have dug the earth with those very hands they put in their dish, and so it speaks of manual labor, and how they have honestly earned their food. I have wanted to give the impression of quite a different way of living than that of us civilized people. Therefore I am not at all anxious for everyone to like it or to admire it at once. (Letter 404, van Gogh)

Keywork: Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888

"I painted it at the height of the mistral [strong wind]. My easel was fixed in the ground with iron pegs, a method I recommend to you. You push the legs of the easel deep into the ground, then drive iron pegs fifty centimeters long into the ground beside them. You tie the whole lot together with rope. This way you can work in the wind.

This is what I wanted to say about black and white. Take the sower. The picture is divided in two; one half is yellow, the upper part, the lower part is purple. Well, the white trousers help rest the eye and distract it just as the excessive contrast of yellow and purple starts to jar. There you are, that’s what I wanted to say."

—Vincent van Gogh, 1888 source

Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888
"This is a sketch of the latest canvas I am working on, another Sower. An immense citron-yellow disk for the sun. A green-yellow sky with pink clouds. The field violet, the sower and the tree Prussian blue."

—Vincent van Gogh, 1888 source

Vincent van Gogh, The night café, 1888

Paul Gauguin, The night café, 1888

"I’ve also done a café which Vincent likes very much and I like rather less. Basically it isn’t my cup of tea and the coarse local color doesn’t suit me. I like it well enough in paintings by other people, but for myself I’m always apprehensive. It’s purely a matter of education: One cannot remake oneself. Above, red wallpaper and three prostitutes, one with hair full of bows, the second (back view) in a green shawl, the third in a vermilion shawl. At the left, a man asleep. A billiard table. In the foreground, a fairly well-finished figure of an Arlésienne with a black shawl and a white [….?] in front. Marble table. The picture is crossed by a band of blue smoke, but the figure in front is much too neat and stiff. Oh well."

—Paul Gauguin, 1887 source

Keywork: Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going, 1897

"It is a canvas about five feet by twelve. The two upper corners are chrome yellow, with an inscription on the left, and my name on the right, like a fresco on a golden wall with its corners damaged.

"To the right, below, a sleeping baby and three seated women. Two figures dressed in purple confide their thoughts to each other. An enormous crouching figure which intentionally violates the perspective, raises its arm in the air and looks in astonishment at these two people who dare to think of their destiny. A figure in the center is picking fruit. Two cats near a child. A white goat. An idol, both arms mysteriously and rhythmically raised, seems to indicate the Beyond. A crouching girl seems to listen to the idol. Lastly, an old woman approaching death appears reconciled and resigned to her thoughts. She completes the story. At her feet a strange white bird, holding a lizard in its claw [sic], represents a futility of words.

"The setting is the bank of a stream in the woods. In the background the ocean, and beyond the mountains of a neighboring island. In spite of changes of tone, the landscape is blue and Veronese green from one end to the other. The naked figures stand out against it in bold orange.

"If anyone said to the students competing for the Rome Prize at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the picture you must paint is to represent Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? what would they do? I have finished a philosophical work on this theme, comparable to the Gospels. I think it is good." source

Mont Sainte-Victoire - Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne, Mont Saint Victoire, 1906 (18-25)

Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Basket of Apples, 1894  (18-26)
"It is hard to imagine a circumstance of everyday life in which these objects would occur together in just this way. We are led to consider the whole as an arrangement by the artist, a pure invention. The basket rests on a block, the cookies on a platter set on a book, the apples on a richly folded cloth, and all these together lie on a table. This insistent superposition of things--very clear in the biscuits--is the clue to the artistic idea: the painting is a construction. The table too is treated as a kind of masonry with strongly banded forms. What makes all this more interesting is that so many of the elements are unarchitectural in feeling: the thirty or more apples, irreducibly complex in the sequence of colors, each fruit a singular piece of painting, a unique object; the tilted asymmetrical bottle and the basket: the hanging, rumpled tablecloth. This carefully considered still life, so exact and subtle in its decisions, retains an aspect of randomness, of accidental grouping. It is an order in which sets of elements of different degrees of order are harmonized; the apples in the basket--the apples on the tablecloth; the broken folds of the latter--the regular pattern of the biscuits. Balanced as a composition, the painting risks a great unbalance in the parts. It is not simply an equilibrium of large and small units, but of the the stable and the less stable. The odd tilting of the bottle must be understood in relation to other instabilities as part of a problem: to create a balanced whole in which some elements are themselves unbalanced. In older art this was done with figures in motion, or with a sloping ground, or hanging curtains and reclining objects. What is new in Cézanne is the unstable axis of a vertical object--a seated figure, a house, a bottle. Such deviations make the final equilibrium of the picture seem more evidently an achievement of the artist rather than an imitation of an already existing stability in nature. Here we cannot help but see together as balanced variations of a common unbalance the diagonals in different planes--the tilting of the bottle, the inclined basket, the foreshortened lines of the cookies, and, corresponding to these three tilted forms, the lines of the tablecloth converging to the lower edge."

"The color is luminous, robust, and clear; tempered in the large objects, more intense in the small; and everywhere finely nuanced--the product of a visibly active brush. Although the bottle has the smoothness of glass, the other objects are fairly neutral in texture; assimilated to the qualities of the pigment and the stroke, they look solid but are not distinct substances--in the table this character goes with the astonishingly radical "abstract" treatment of its structure. The bottle too is submitted to this concreteness of paint and touch in the loosened, open rendering of its right edge. "
-- Art Historian Meyer Schapiro, quoted on ibiblio

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