Tag Archives: art history

Collage History

8 Sep

The earliest records report  Japanese artists, from over 800 years ago, may have been the first people to paste descriptive poetry onto paper backgrounds.  Over time collage has appeared on valentines, all kinds of backgrounds, on furniture and lampshades and more.  It really wasn’t until 1912 that collage appeared in the fine arts world with Picasso and George Braque who used collage to embellish their canvases.

Many French cubists and Italian Futurists experimented with collage, expanding its popularity.  The surrealists began combining realistic visual images with collage in unnatural combinations to express their dream-like ideas.

In 1960 Elmers (Elmers & Willhold at the time) invented the polymer emulsion glues which vastly improved this new medium.  The photocopier was another invention that greatly improved this medium.

Assemblage, which is the art of gluing three dimensional objects to the canvas, was a new interesting direction that emerged from collage art.  Technology made it possible for artists to include lights and sound with the addition of electricity.  Some artists produced kinetic art (moving sculpture).

De’collage was a process where a glue piece was torn off giving the old and aged look to an art piece.  Other techniques included stencils, transfers, collagraph( a low relief print of collaged paper) and photo montage.

Artists continue to develop new collage techniques even today. 

Have you used collage in your art?  What is your favorite collage process?

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3. The Third Wife, mixed media (includes collage & assemblage) by Katie Turner

Inspiration from Anselm Kiefer

20 Aug

Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) is a German painter and sculptor who is known for his confrontational art.  He has lived and worked in France since 1992.  Much of Kiefer’s artwork is inspired by Paul Celan (b.1920 d.1970) who was a Romanian Poet originally born Paul Antschel to a Jewish family.  He was a major German language poet from the post WWII era.  His parents died in Nazi labor camps and he spent 18 months in one before escaping.

Reading the book “Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein (Publisher Thames & Hudson) I learned how Paul Celan’s poetry is so incredibly influential in Anselm Kiefer’s work.  Sometimes Kiefer will use a word or fragment or theme from Celan’s poetry as his title. Other times Kiefer will write the text itself on his canvas.  Often, Kiefer translates the concepts using straw, ashes, sand and hair on his canvases.

Anselm Kiefer’s works feel like a visual memory – a shimmery unsettling poetic image.  Prior to 1980’s Kiefer’s work was concerned with German origins – the history of the Jews, consequences of Nazism, using German codes of identification and the viewpoint of the generation of executions.  Kiefer undertook the difficult task of decoding different ideas.  His art often references German national iconography which has been poisoned by historical events.

After the 1980s Kiefer’s work turned to focus more on Paul Celan’s poetry, moving from political to poetical – yet the poems he references in his work are still full of historical context.

Paul Celan’s  poetry allowed Anselm Kiefer to escape the cycle of fascination and disgust of the Third Reich – moving to confront memories of Holocaust, Kabbalah and traditions.  Kiefer’s art examines the myths of German identity and Jewish Identity putting them in opposition yet pointing out their interdependence and reciprocity.

Kiefer’s art takes the position of confronting the German viewer with their own history during a time when many wanted to forget.  The art world in Germany after the war had substituted Western art for German art but Kiefer denounced contemporary artistic trends.  He felt that importing formal art design was reformulating German history whereas cultural individuality was vital.  He didn’t want art to purge every hint of tragedy but to allow complexity and restoration through his compositions.

“My thought is vertical and one of its planes was fascism. But I see all its layers.  In my paintings I tell stories in order to show what lies behind history.  I make a hole and I go through.”  Kiefer explains.

Your Ashen Hair Shulamith, 1981, Watercolor, gouache & charcoal on paper 18″x22″ Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer’s conviction was that German maimed itself and its civilization by destroying its Jewish members.  He doesn’t regularly include the human figure in his works – only occasionally.  Some of his pieces that include figures are symbolic of those who died in the concentration camps with the painting showing properties of destruction.  There are also clear elements of these pieces that represent a hope that is part of the soul.

Kiefer creates spontaneously and uses all kinds of unusual materials in his art which has created issues with stability – a concern that is shared by collectors, dealers and curators.  He acknowledges the issue but explains that change, transformation and deterioration is part of the process and the art pieces essence will stay the same.  He likes the properties of lead and metals, heating and melting them in his process.  He also is fond of oxidation of white on lead and tries to create artificial oxidation using acid.  He has used straw in his work and explains that the color gives off energy, heat and warmth when it’s burned.

Nuremberg 1982 Acrylic emulsion & straw on canvas. 110 1/2″x149 5/8″ Anselm Kiefer

It’s recorded that Christie’s auction house set a worldwide record in 2011 of $3.6 million for Kiefer’s piece “To the Unknown Painter” to a private American collector.

If you’d like to read more about Anselm Kiefer and view some of his art at the MET: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kief/hd_kief.htm

His art is in many more museums and galleries. Links:

 Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; the Tate Modern, London; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Albertina, Vienna. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns 20 of the artist’s rare watercolors. Notable private collectors include Eli Broad and Andrew J. Hall.[53]

“Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein

Poet Paul Celan

Kandinsky Abstraction

14 Jul
colorful abstract art
My Version of Kandinsky’s Improvisation 26, Watercolor & Watercolor crayon by Katie Turner

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) a Russian painter and art theorist was one of the first artists to move into non-objective painting.  He based his content on emotions and used his materials to trigger like-minded response from those viewing it.

He took what once had been material subjects for a painting, such as a motif from nature or, as the Impressionists did, painting a perception and moved on to painting the absence of object, subject or representation.  Kandinsky focused primarily on spiritual reality he termed “pure painting”.  His art is non-objective abstract art that conveys universal emotion or ideas.  He felt it his mission to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.

As a spiritual, intuitive creator he experimented and investigated all the tools, finally coming to a whole new form of abstract art. 

After reading several books about Kandinsky and learning about his development, I zeroed in on his theoretical writing concerning the spiritual side of art.  In my own simple understanding, he defines three types of painting: impressions, improvisations and compositions.  He compares the spiritual world to a pyramid with the artist having the responsibility to lead others to the top through their art.  The theories are very interesting and go into the physical and spiritual effects of colors which I found fascinating.  Of course there were others who had written about color theory, such as Johann Goethe who wrote “Theory of Colors” in 1810.  I read there also was a possibility that Kandinsky had some form of autism that might have contributed to his artistic abilities.

Although I wasn’t impressed with his personal life choices, I did admire his dedication to his art and his exploration of theories.  An updated version of his book is available if not at your local library, then on www.bookdepository.com.  In fact, they have many different books covering Kandinsky at reasonable prices and they even carry stickers and cards with Kandinsky art.

There are many online resources if you’re interested in reading about Kandinsky here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Kandinsky

https://www.theartstory.org/artist/kandinsky-wassily/

https://www.wassilykandinsky.net/painting1896-1944.php

https://www.wikiart.org/en/wassily-kandinsky

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488319

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“Vasily Kandinsky” by Thomas M. Messer, 1997 Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, NY

“Kandinsky: The Journey to Abstraction”, 2007 Taschen, CA

“Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction”, 2006 Tate Publishing, London

Mary Cassatt: Onward

3 Jun
My watercolor version of “Lilacs in a Window” 1889 Oil by Mary Cassatt.

Reading on in my book “Cassatt” by Jay Roudebush (1979 Bonfini Press Corp., Switzerland) I was surprised to read that Mary Cassatt didn’t have her first solo show until age 46.  The solo show (1891) was at the Durand-Ruel which had several galleries within.  She had worked long and hard to prove herself and considered herself equal to her male contemporaries.  She felt gender was irrelevant when it came to art. Unfortunately, a group of artists (many of whom had exhibited with her in the past) formed an organization “Society of French Painters and Engravers”.

Their organization, which still exists today, only allowed French artists, thus excluding both her and Pissarro.  While they had their group show in the large gallery of the Durand-Ruel, Pissarro was in one of the smaller galleries and Cassatt in the other.  Pissarro wrote to his son before the exhibition opened saying “We open Saturday, the same day as the patriots, who, between the two of us, are going to be furious when they discover right next to their exhibition a show of rare and exquisite works.”*

Cassatt’s exhibit of four paintings and ten color prints received praise and a subsequent exhibit in New York.  Soon she was offered a commission to create a mural for the 1893 Chicago World Fair.  It was a project larger than anything she had ever done.  She created a magnificent work with a wide ornamental border all around and divided the composition into three panels.  The panels were labeled: Young Women Picking the Fruits of Knowledge and Science, Young Girls Pursuing Fame and Music and Dance.

Unfortunately the mural was hung 40 feet off the ground which was nearly impossible to see.  Even more disappointingly was the news that at the close of the Fair, the murals were either lost or destroyed and to this day there in no trace of them.

Cassatt never again attempted mural work but she did start painting larger paintings.  In 1893 she held another solo show with 98 works at Durand-Ruel’s Paris galleries and found a lot more success in France than America.  In 1895 Durand-Ruel opened a New York gallery and she had her first solo show in America.  The response was disappointing.

After some time, Cassatt decided to focus her energies on helping her friend Louisine Havermeyer and her husband build a family art collection.  They traveled together through Italy and Spain collecting bargain art that included Goya, El Greco and Titian.  Many are on display at the MET.

Mary Cassatt continued painting but after her mother died she decreased in output.  Her reputation in America continued to grow and she was awarded some prizes which she rejected.  Cassatt declined awards on principle, which all who joined the Independents (Impressionists) had agreed: no jury, no medals and no awards.

Cassatt’s story has many analogies for artists (and all creatives) today.  She was focused and determined to create her art as well as sharing art with the world through great collections.  I find it a positive story in many ways.  Do you have a favorite artist or writer that is a good example for you?  I’d love to hear from others.

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 *Pissarro, C., Letters to his Son Lucien, John Rewald, p 158

Mary Cassatt: Favorite Mediums and Subjects

19 May
My watercolor version of Mary Cassatt’s Oil painting “Young Woman Sewing in a Garden” from 1886

By the late 1870s Cassatt was producing a body of work that was far from the Salon conventions.  She was using strong brushwork and color in the Impressionist style and selecting a familiar theme of young women or children in relaxed or quiet poses.  She had a passion for structure in her compositions.

Cassatt, like Degas, enjoyed the freedom of pastel, creating a number of works.  The two artists began experimenting with layers, steam, turpentine and fixative to keep their layers pure rather than chalky.

In 1880 the Impressionists were planning to publish a journal of original prints called “Le Jour et La Nuit”.

Cassatt spent time working on engravings which she hadn’t done since her studies in Parma ten years earlier.  Unfortunately funding ran dry and the journal was never published but the preparation had pushed Cassatt to once again delve into intaglio printmaking.

Mary Cassatt chose women and children as her primary subject for her work.  What is your favorite subject?

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 “Cassatt” Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1979

Mary Cassatt: Becoming a Professional Artist (Part 2)

14 Feb
Woman bathing at sink - my copy of Mary Cassatt painting.
My watercolor rendition of Mary Cassatt’s oil painting “Woman Bathing”.

Continuing deeper into my Mary Cassatt book, I discovered that she spent about four years in Europe transitioning from an art student to a professional artist.  I think this is REALLY quick.  Apparently this change happened when her painting “The Mandolin Player” was accepted into the Paris Salon.

 “The Mandolin Player”

The Salon was the famous art gallery in Paris, the center of the art world.  The Salon Art Show was the annual event the world watched and anyone who was anything would be there!  She was proud of her accomplishment but her father and her family were not so impressed.  Her brother even wrote the following letter to his fiancée:

              “Mary is in high spirits as her picture has been accepted for the annual exhibition in Paris.  You must understand that this is a great honor for a young artist and not only has it been accepted but it has been “hung on the line.”  I don’t know what that means but I suppose it means it has been hung in a favorable position.  Mary’s art name is “Mary Stevenson” under which name I suppose she expects to become famous, poor child.”

Cassatt did use her middle name “Stevenson” in her Salon submissions thinking it sounded more American than Cassatt and that it might help her acceptance.  To be “hung on the Line” meant your work was hung at eye level when many artworks were hung all up and down the wall, Salon style.  It was an honor to be hung at eye level.

I’ve often thought about the transition from art student to professional artist.  What makes the difference?  Is it being accepted into a prestigious show? Is it selling a piece of art?  Is it when you’ve completed your University degree?  Or is it more than that?  I like to think of it as an attitude and how you approach your creative calling.   There is a definite commitment – of time, of resources, of energy – and it involves passion and determination.   It’s also when you pursue your passion despite naysayers or roadblocks.  I’m finding Cassatt’s story very inspiring.

I’d love to hear others ideas on turning professional or overcoming negatives to pursue their calling!  Please share with me.

Here is another interesting article on becoming a professional artist.

On becoming a professional writer.

On becoming a professional musician.

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Mary Cassatt: American Qualities

4 Feb

Little Girl in Blue Armchair
My watercolor sketchbook version of “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair” by Mary Cassatt, 1878, oil on canvas

I’ve been slowly reading through a very large pile of old art books that I’ve had in my studio for years and was inspired by a 1970s Swiss paperback by Jay Roudebush, “Cassatt”.  This thin book is wonderful with full pages of color prints and inspiring stories of Cassatt’s life.

Mary Cassatt has been listed as one of the three greatest female impressionist painters.  (The other two: Bracquemond & Morisot)  Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, PA which is now the North Side of Pittsburgh, in 1844.   She spent most of her adult life in France where she met with other Impressionist painters, including Edgar Degas. 

Cassatt came from a wealthy family which enabled her to travel and receive her art education in Europe.  Her father had actually objected to her artistic career choice early on as an unorthodox and scandalous thing during the Victorian times.  “I would rather see you dead,” he once told her before he later relented.

Cassatt’s mother served as an escort to Paris, enabling her to begin her formal art studies.  But she found her teacher to be a bland academic painter and abandoned the training, choosing instead to study independently at the Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

“One does not need to follow the lessons of an instructor”, Cassatt said, “The teaching of museums is sufficient.”

Cassatt sounds like she was a very determined and strong-willed artist with a serious focus.  This book explains these as “American qualities”.   I’m looking forward to sharing more from this old book.  Have you ever considered what “American qualities” you have that may influence your creativity?  I’d love to hear what you think!

More about Mary Cassatt .

Mary Cassatt Information.

Web Museum

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The 9th Street Women

27 Apr

Hard cover book "The 9th street women"

The 9th Street Women by Mary Gabriel

The 9th Street Women is a book about the New York City art scene from 1930 through 1950s written by author Mary Gabriel.  The book covers five influential women who helped to revolutionize the modern art world: Lee Krasner, Elaine DeKooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler.

This book is long at 944 pages but it kept my interest the whole time.  I was impressed with the way Gabriel developed the characters into memorable artists weaving history into the stories.  I was able to see how these artists impacted the art world.

Each woman played a role in the new art movement.  They challenged the traditional roles of women, questioning what society was telling.  They challenged the male dominated art scene of New York and in their own personal lives.

Elaine DeKooning boldly rejected the housewife role to take up her brushes with a more fulfilling role to her as an artist.  There were even times when other women discouraged her, yet she ignored their criticism to pursue her art career.

The book does a great job setting the stage with American history and gives the reader both historical and artistic reference.  I liked that Gabriel took time to point out the men who supported these women throughout their various challenges.

I find it inspiring that these women set aside discouragement and negativity to exercise their talents by pushing forward with their art.  They didn’t do it for fame or fortune but to become the best artist they possibly could be.  This book reminded me that we all have talents and need to continue to use them and develop them regardless of who acknowledges or approves.

Reading about how the women networked, strategized, and developed their art made it clear to me how challenging it must have been for them and how brave they were to push ahead with their art.  Although women still have a lot of challenges in the art industry we can draw encouragement from these 9th street women.

Have you felt challenged to give up your art?  Have you overcome artistic discouragement?  Please share!

Technology & Art

3 Nov

david hockney book

After reading David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, I can begin to see how technology changes the arts.  In the same way the camera lucida and its lenses changed the way paintings were developed, technology continues to impact the art world.  Today digital art and computer manipulation continues to impact art through multi-window perspectives, multiple viewpoints and easily blurs the lines between illusion, fantasy and reality.

The same way the camera has shortcomings with perspective, computer aided art, and film also has shortcomings.  The computer cannot provide vision or passion.  Only the artist can supply the heart and vision behind the art.  There is a danger of relying upon the computer and forgetting that it is only a tool.  The hand, heart, eye and passion of an artist are far more complex than any computer will ever be.

Still the technological advances we have today are amazing.  We have gone from 2-D still pictures, to moving film, even to 3-D!  Who knows how the next 100 years will change art or in what way?  These are exciting times to be an artist!

Have you ever thought about the tools you use and how they impact your own work?  In what ways has technology impacted your creative endeavors?

 

Kitaj Depicts Agitation

1 Mar

I was reading about R.B. Kitaj (October 29, 1932 – October 21, 2007) an American artist who developed a love of Cézanne while at the Royal College of Art in London.
Kitaj’s brightly colored figurative paintings influenced British pop art. His later works became very personal with complex compositions. He developed special line work he called “agitational usage”.  In his art, he would depict disorienting landscapes and 3D constructions with exaggerated and pliable human forms.
Kitaj published “First Diasporist Manifesto” in 1989 and in 2007 the “Second Diasporist Manifesto”.  He was one of several artists in 2000, to make a post-it note for an internet charity auction.  Surprisingly, it sold for $925, making it the most expensive post-it note in history, a fact recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The influence Kitaj had on the art world and the record-breaking post-it note were interesting to read about. If you’d like to see some of his dramatic artwork or read about the history, here are some links.

https://www.independent.com/news/2007/nov/08/r-b-kitaj-1932-2007/

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/arts/24kitaj.html