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.

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