Monday, October 17, 2016

Session Eight: Moderns in New York

On August 13 of 2015, Dan and I flew to New York City. We toured the art museums there. Then we flew to Amsterdam. We visited the museums there and in 3 other towns in the Netherlands. Then we took the train to Paris and spent several days touring its famous art museums. Finally we took the train to Madrid to see the museums there.

For our course, I wanted to follow art history in chronological order. The oldest paintings we saw on the trip were at the Louvre, where they have an impressive collection of early Italian art. We moved on to Holland for the art of the Dutch Golden Age. We went back to Paris to look at the long period in the 1700s and 1800s when the French dominated the art world. Then it was time to plunge into the art of the 20th century. We got an introductory survey in Paris, then we filled in the picture in Holland and through an important exhibit from Switzerland that we saw in Madrid.

Tonight we're returning to New York to continue our investigation of the art of the 20th century. In the 1940s and 1950s, the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York City. Since Europe had been devastated by decades of warfare in the 20th century, New York City became the hub of the world economy, and art collectors there bought up many of Europe's treasures and built museums to display them.  Manhattan has 2 of the greatest art museums in the world: The Metropolitan Museum of art, commonly known as 'The Met,' like the great opera company; and the Museum of Modern Art, commonly known as MoMA. Touring these museums is like the culmination of our studies because for many painters, their very best work is owned by one or the other of these museums.

Tonight's lesson has a change of format. Instead of looking at these museums one at a time, I have combined my photos of the two collections. So, instead of seeing Picasso, for instance, in 2 different museums, we'll see all of the Picasso paintings together. Not only that, but I brought in photos I took on our visit in 2012, plus I borrowed many photos from Dan.

So what we'll have tonight is about 150 art photos and not too much talk. I featured artists that we already know. I added work by selected stars of American art, a few neglected black American painters, and all the paintings by women that I have photographed in these museums.

  • Women artists: Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Suzanne Valadon, Katherine S. Dreier, Alexandra Exter, Georgia O'Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler
  • African-American artists: Romare Beardon, Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, Basquiat.

Start slide show.

  • landscapes
  • still lifes with different kinds of contours
  • later landscapes
  • *male nude is exceptional
  • early portrait of Mrs. Cezanne; cockeyed angle and red dress suggests she is in a bad mood.
  • *he did a long series of card players; they show his strength and why he had more influence on 20th century.
  • agapanthus
  • water lily movie and details
  • vague landscape approaching abstract expressionism
Berthe Morisot
  • Excellent example; decorative figure; composition has illusion
  • Family portrait has exquisite rhythms of color and diagonal composition
  • Little girls making harmony
  • Vaseline smeared landscapes; look at it from the right distance
  • Floral painting is very firm but too busy.
Mary Cassatt
  • Still life has simplified composition centered around one point of interest; and beautiful color scheme.
  • Two sitters who appear to be doing something natural, not posing; rich enjoyment of color and brushwork.
  • Mother and child is much firmer; in a religious tradition.
  • Instead of a bouquet he paints flowers still in the ground; unusual perspective
  • Transcription of Christian stories to a primitive setting; he felt the way of life in the islands was like the ideals of Christianity.
  • Dark nude respects island tradition; the Areoi is a Polynesian secret society.
  • The Siesta is more natural snapshot like picture
  • 2 semi nudes are performing a ritual.
van Gogh
  • 3 landscapes from 1889; starry night is a vision of the nature of the universe.
  • 4 flower paintings in the Dutch tradition, but much more free and open.
  • Brushy self-portrait; every brush stroke has contrasting one next to it to make each one defined.
  • Character studies of postman and his wife with similar wallpaper.
  • The woman from Arles is a reader.
  • Creative response to Millet
  • 2 bay-scapes with gleaming light.
  • A river view with illusion of reality.
  • Circus theme in flat, decorative style.
James Ensor
  • One symbolist piece with masks.
  • Pointillist landscape with romantic color manipulation
  • Only one example; Guggenheim has a large group.
  • Typical intimate post-Impressionism with intense colors and moods.
Susan Valadon
  • Masterpiece nude and self-portrait; what is this woman doing?
  • The Dance is deliberately crude to focus attention on the movement and interactions.
  • Red Studio is color experiment; likewise, Blue Window.
  • Laurette in green robe is very friendly and casual.
  • Spanish lady looks very uptight.
  • 2 similar odalisques; highly decorative; impersonal.
  • Woman artist painting male nude.
  • Two paintings that are very close to abstraction.
  • 2 typical works.
  • *Broadway boogie boogie; give interpretation.
Katherine S. Drier
  • Substantial and well-structured abstraction.
Paul Klee
  • Free-hand geometric abstraction with exotic deep colors.
  • Fish-on-the-mind cat is humorous.
  • Fish on a dark ground arrays a lot of symbols in a surrealist manner.
  • Russian abstractionism became constructivism became suprematism, which is like minimalism, but much earlier.
Francis Picabia
  • Very early abstractionist; more hard-edged.
  • Very complex and colorful example of Fauvism.
  • Gertrude Stein is vision of her inner nature, not her outer appearance.
  • Nude from unfinished classical phase; boy and horse from same period.
  • Demoiselles D'Avignon represents whores offering themselves; ramp up to cubism; African masks might symbolize the ritual nature of an encounter with a prostitute, or the primitive nature of prostitution.
  • Analytical cubist nude achieves great dimensionality.
  • Three musicians looks pasted up; an obvious example of synthetic cubism.
  • Woman in mirror makes cubist de-construction of forms to make a flat, decorative design.
  • The dreamer is expressionism, with very pretty arabesques.
  • The Reader is also expressionism; the pinks and blues make her seem happy in her studies.
  • Two paintings treating the female figure like an appliance.
  • Painting of men is much more relaxed and personal.
George Braque
  • Nice example of Fauvism.
Alexandra Exter
  • 2 works in Russian constructivist style; 2nd artist in this style
Edward Hopper
  • Americans didn't go in for cubism, expressionism, and other introspective styles.
  • Most American artists were more focused on the real world they saw themselves.
  • Edward Hopper did studies of buildings; we have 3 examples.
  • He did interiors featuring women who aren't aware of our gaze; 2 examples.
  • 2 typical elongated nudes.
Max Beckman
  • Biographical triptych represents childhood, maybe his own.
Robert Delaunay
  • Very beautiful example
Georgia O'Keeffe
  • First came to fame for extraordinary abstractions.
  • New York riverscape.
  • Colorful desert scene.
Marc Chagall
  • Fantasy pertaining to a Russian village.
  • Surrealist romanticism.
Juan Gris
  • 3 cubist pieces.
De Chirico
  • 3 metaphysical pieces; one is identical to one we saw at the City of Paris museum.
Lyubov Popova
  • Russian suprematism; 3rd artist in this style.
Joan Miro
  • 1 primitive landscape
  • 2 typical surreal abstract
  • One color experiment with old shoe
George Grosz
  • New Objectivity portrait
Varvara Stepanova
  • Russian Constructivist figure; 4th artist in this style.
  • The Eye is one of most famous paintings; typical illusion and paradox.
  • Murder mystery.
  • Painting depicting day and night at the same time.
Alice Neel
  • A typical gritty portrait.
  • Coffee grinder is erotic humor. He satirizes the conventions of high art.
  • City street seems messy but is fairly detailed. He gives people the opposite of their expectations. Use of unconventional materials.
Mark Rothko
  • Russian born American abstract expressionist.
  • Raised in this country.
  • Rectangular fields of color and light.
Salvador Dali
  • The Persistence of Memory has fabulous vastness in a small canvas; limp watch in big space is suggestive of the space time continuum.
  • Contemplating the sacrifice of Christ.
De Kooning
  • Two paintings showing his hatred of women.
Frida Kahlo
  • Typical self-portrait.
Dorothea Tanning
  • Surrealist comment on time.
Roberto Matta
  • Trying to evoke the human psyche; the mind as a 3-dimensional shape.
Romare Beardon
  • Black American realist with strong composition.
Jackson Pollock
  • 3 examples
  • Organization and rhythm
Agnes Martin
  • Typical horizontals and minimal means.
Andrew Wyeth
  • Christina's world is attractive, but poignant.
Leonora Carrington
  • Surrealist self-portrait; compare to Dorothea Tanning.
Jacob Lawrence
  • Important black American painter.
  • Brilliant story teller; simplified composition.
  • Two examples from migration series.
Charles White
  • Superb draughtsmanship; too sentimental for white art critics.
Ellsworth Kelly
  • 2 examples of minimalism.
Roy Lichtenstein
  • Good example of pop art.
Joan Mitchell
  • One of her better abstract expressionist paintings because of color statement and organization.
Helen Frankenthaler
  • Abstract expressionism featuring poured paint on raw canvas. Spontaneous gestures.
Sol LeWitt
  • Typical wall drawing.
Bridget Riley
  • Op art from the 1960s, as before.
  • Portrait featuring drawing journal.

That completes our Great Museum Marathon. We have toured 14 museums in 4 countries. We have covered about 700 years of art history. We learned the names of numerous painters, we studied many aesthetic terms, and I gave you some pointers on interpretation.

The news has been ugly during the 8 weeks of our course; I hope you have found the course an enjoyable distraction from all that. We have treated ourselves to two hours per week of thinking about color, shape, composition, and meaning. Instead of occupying ourselves with the depravity of the human spirit, we have considered the heights of creativity. I hope you found that comforting, and even stimulating.

Thanks for being good students. Everyone listened so intelligently. Thanks to Elizabeth for her report and to Andy for his enthusiasm. Thanks to Kehsin for the lovely interpretation of Fauvism. Thanks to Dan for his nice report on the Picasso museum, and for being supportive and enthusiastic all the way through the process.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Lecture Seven

Last week, we had two goals:
  • To present Dutch art of the 18000s and early 1900s.
  • To survey the international art of the 20th century in Dutch museums.
We did pretty well with Dutch art:
You can summarize the history of Dutch art on one hand: Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer—then a long gap before—van Gogh and Mondrian.

My presentation on the international collection in Holland got a little scrambled. Tonight I want to clarify the picture.

We started our exploration of 20th C. art at the Pompidou in Paris. We looked at art in terms of movements. Let's review that art with the purpose of learning the names of artists we'll be seeing at museums in The Hague and Madrid. Here are some names to know:
  • Matisse
  • Picasso
  • Braque
  • Leger
  • Sonia Delaunay
  • Robert Delaunay
  • Leger
  • Kandinsky
  • Paul Klee
  • Mondrian
  • Kirchner
  • Chagall
  • Magritte
  • Ellsworth Kelly
  • Yves Klein
  • Frank Stella
Go over Pompidou slides of these artists in chronological order.

Holland's largest collection of 20th century art is at the Gementemuseum.
  • Symbolism: Ferdinand Hodler is one of the few Swiss painters to become well-known. In this example, the figure symbolizes "Day." 
  • German expressionism: Jawlensky, Modersohn-Becker, Kirchner, Beckman, Meidner.
  • Minimalism: Agnes Martin
  • Conceptualism: Sol LeWitt.
  • Op Art: Special exhibit by Bridget Riley.
Amsterdam's museum of modern art is the Stedelijk. We covered most of the art there.
  • German Expressionism: Kirchner; also at Gementemuseum and Pompidou.
  • Minimalism: Agnes Martin.
  • Conceptualism: Sol Lewitt; Donald Judd.
  • Note the shaped canvas by Frank Stella, like the one at the Pompidou.
  • De Kooning is a Dutch American who painted abstract expressionism.
  • Abstract expressionist paintings are reflections of the artist's individual psyches. The artist hopes that he also taps into universal inner sources. These artists valued spontaneity and improvisation, and they accorded the highest importance to process.
Now we're ready to get on with today's lesson. Today we have two goals, similar to last week.
  • To continue our survey of European painting in the 20th C.; we're going to Madrid, but the first art we are going to look at there is an exhibit that continues our theme of 20th C art in Europe and the U.S.
  • Then we'll go on to look at Spanish art in the 20th C.
The Reina Sofia Museum
  • Spain's largest museum of 20th C. art.
  • They were hosting a special exhibit from the Kunstmuseum in Basel called "White Fire".
White Fire

Post Impressionism
  • Ferdinand Hodler: A Swiss post-Impressionist; we saw a naked dancer at the Gementemusum. The Mountain is a perfect mountain with a halo of clouds.
  • Ernst Kirchner: German Expressionist; we saw conversation at Gementemuseum and woman at a dressing table at the Pompidou; Mountain Village uses color to express joy and magic.
  • Edvard Munch: Norwegian Expressionist; Coastal Landscape is typical of Norwegian landscape; interesting perspective; interesting brushstroke.
Analytical Cubism
  • Georges Braque: Point out architecture and jug
  • Fernand Léger: Importance of the pattern of blues and whites
Synthetic Cubism
  • Braque
  • Picasso
  • Leger
  • Paul Klee borrowed from Cubism, Expressionism and even Surrealism, but always in his unique style. He was initially associated with Expressionism.
  • Several nice examples by Kandinsky 
  • Geometric abstraction by Mondrian
  • Theo van Doesberg joined Mondrian in The Style movement.
  • Vantongerloo was a Belgian who also allied himself with The Style.
  • Josef Albers is classed as a geometric abstractionist, but his theme is color, not geometry.
  • Two examples by Barnett Newman show significant textures. Considered abstract expressionism.
  • Agnes Martin: Drawing a large grid would induce a meditative state.
Pop Art
  • Andy Warhol used a newspaper photo, in a grid pattern, with clashing colors.
  • Gerhard Richter created the illusion of a faded snapshot.
Two Swiss Collectors

  • Pissarro
  • Monet
  • Early Gauguin
  • Later Gauguin: When will you marry? Dan will add comment
  • van Gogh
  • Ferdinand Hodler is sometimes called a symbolist or a art nouveau painter
  • Suzanne Valadon paints unidealized and self-possessed bodies that are not overtly sexualized; she takes male themes and makes them more realistic from a woman's point of view.
  • Picasso: 2 very different portraits from 1901; also a classicist portrait of harlequin.
  • Jawlensky: 3 examples show increasing abstraction.
  • Chagall: Self-portrait.

Reina Sofia Permanent Collection

International Collection in chronological order
  • Kandinsky: 3 abstractions.
  • Gleize: cubism
  • Orphism: Sonia and Robert Delaunay
  • Matta: His mature work blended abstraction, figuration, and multi-dimensional spaces into complex, cosmic landscapes.
Spanish Art in the 20th Century: major artists 
  • Picasso: 2 portraits from 1901; most of their collection is in galleries around Guernica, and the whole area is closed to photography, and heavily guarded.
  • Guernica: use internet grab for talk; great example of how to use cubism expressively.
  • Juan Gris: 3 cubist works.
  • Joan Miro: 3 examples show his development.
  • Dali: Big trove of his work in chronological order.
Spanish Art in the 20th Century: minor artists
  • Francisco Iturrino, 1864-1924, is a Spanish post-Impressionist.
  • Daniel Diaz, 1882-1969: late cubism
  • Balbuena and de Togores are known very little, even in Spain.
  • Benjamin Palencia: one cubism and one realism.
  • Ángeles Cantos, 1911-2013, is not referenced on the internet at all. But her works are described on the museum's website.
  • Un mundo is halfway between the proposals of Surrealism and the poetics of Magic Realism. The female characters in the scene surround a globe that has changed from its original form into a cube. In a silent procession, large-headed women are lighting the stars with fire taken from the sun, while in a corner of the painting, another group of women play musical instruments.
  • The Gathering is New Objectivity.
  • Rosario de Velasco, 1910-1991, achieved little recognition or sales. Most of her work is held by her family.
Sorolla Museum Slide Show


Tonight we followed the major trends in 20th century art that we learned about in Paris into the museums of the Netherlands. We saw some of the same painters and the same movements that we had seen in Paris, and we learned about new movements such as Op Art and Conceptualism. 

From the Netherlands we went to Madrid where we picked up some of the same trends and the same artists that we had seen in Paris and The Hague and Amsterdam at a special exhibit from a major museum in Switzerland. Next week we'll follow some of those same trends and artists to New York, where we'll visit the Museum of Modern Art.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lecture Six: Modern Art in the Netherlands

About Styles:
  • You don't need to know the style of a painting to appreciate and understand it.
  • But if you do know the style, it gives you a way into the painting.
  • Painters tend to be experimental and self-conscious about style early in their careers; then they use what they learn to develop their own style.
  • Fauvism as such lasted only a few years. The key component of Fauvism was manipulation of color for expressive reasons. It morphed into Expressionism.
  • Matisse did 3 times as many Expressionist canvases as Fauvist.
  • Analytic and synthetic cubism were experimental phases that lasted only a few years. The key component of cubism was manipulation of shapes for expressive reasons. They became a more generalized form of cubism.
  • Picasso continued to paint in a generalized Cubist style sometimes; he also did Surrealism and Expressionism.
About biography:
  • You don't need to know the biography of a painter to appreciate a painting.
  • Biography is a distraction; the artist is not writing a diary.
  • He is trying to create an image that generalizes his experience.
  • He is trying to transcend his personal struggles to create something more general, more symbolic.
  • Example: Picasso's Woman in Armchair
Returning to the City of Paris Museum:
  • Story of Matisse's La Danse
  • Most important artists are Delaunay and de Chirico
  • Going to see another Jenny Holzer later.
Transition to Modern Art in the Netherlands:
Show map of the Netherlands

Dutch art in the 19th Century:
  • Introduce Gementemuseum
  • After the Golden Age, Dutch painting went into a slump.
  • There was a tepid revival starting in the 1830s.
  • The Hague school flourished in the 1870s, the time of Impressionism in France.
  • Follow art up to van Gogh
  • First major painter of modern era was van Gogh.

 Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam:
  • Has the largest collection of van Gogh.
  • Does not allow photography.
  • When we were there last, many of their best pieces were on tour and the museum was being renovated, so their galleries were disrupted.
Kroller-Muller Museum:
  • Second largest collection.
  • This museum was established by a woman named Helene Kröller-Müller.
  • She recognized his value early and picked up a great quantity cheap.
  • She was heir to a German industrial fortune and married Kroller, a Dutch industrial magnate.
  • She had plenty of money to spend.She and her husband donated the museum and the surrounding park land to the nation.
  • The building we visited was built fairly recently on the site of the original.
  • Second big attraction is her big collection of pointillism.
  • They also have a few other classics from earlier in the 19th century.
  • Review slides.
  • Mention Dan's blog on sculpture garden.
Return to Gementemuseum:
  • Finish Dutch art.
  • Review their collection of International Art.
  • Last week we worked hard to learn the styles and big names of 20th C. art.
  • Tonight, we reaped the benefit of our investment.
  • We visited three museums: The Gementemuseum, the Kroller-Muller, and the Stedelijk.
  • We saw works by artists we already knew.
  • We saw works in styles we already understood.
  • We also built on that by adding new styles and new artists.

  • Kirchner was a German expressionist.
  • Sol Lewitt is not Dutch. Born here. Parents from Ukraine.
  • Théo van Rysselberghe, 1862-1926 is a Belgian.
  • James Ensor is Belgian, associated with expressionism and symbolism.
  • Jawlensky was a Russian expressionist painter who lived in Germany.
  • Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.
  • Paula Modersohn-Becker was an important German expressionist, but she died age 31.
  • She painted with tempera, with a limited choice of pigments. She scratched into the paint.
  • Sol LeWitt: "In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."