Monday, November 29, 2010

Symbolism

"We have proposed Symbolism as the only denomination capable of describing in a reasonable way the present tendency of the creative spirit in art [...] Enemy of teaching, of declamation, of false sensibility, of objective description, Symbolist poetry intends to clothe the Idea with a sensorial form which, however, will not in itself be the final aim but, while serving to express the Idea, will be subjected to it.[...] In this art [...] all concrete phenomena do not manifest themselves as such: they are the sensorial appearances whose function is to represent their esoteric affinities with the primordial Ideas.[...] For the exact expression of its synthesis, Symbolism requires an archetypical and complex style "

Le Symbolisme - Manifeste de Jean Moréas ,
Figaro, September 18, 1886.

the above is my translation from:
Les premières armes du symbolisme
edited and published by Léon Vanier
Paris, 1889
available at: http://www.archive.org/details/lespremiresarme00vanigoog




Odilon Redon (1840–1916)
Les yeux clos 1890


Gustave Moreau (1826–1898) 
Thracian Girl Carrying the Head of Orpheus on His Lyre
1865, Oil on canvas
Musée d'Orsay, Paris





Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901)
Der Toteninsel (Isle of the Dead) 1886
Oil on wood, 80 × 150 cm
Museum der bildenden Künste
Leipzig






Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) 
Die Nacht (The Night)  1889-1890
Oil on canvas, 116.5 × 299 cm
Kunstmuseum Bern
Bern (Switzerland)




POST-IMPRESSIONISM

The term Post-Impressionism applies to the artists that, around and after the 1880s, were both developing and deviating or departing from the original aspects of Impressionism. Focusing on particular formal and expressive possibilities opened to painting by the first generation of Impressionist artists, a number of Post-Impressionists painters developed to their “logical conclusion” some of the formal inventions and tendencies of Impressionism. Others, within the visual languages of Impressionism, refashioned painting and refined or redirected the new artistic structures into new ground, deepening and radicalizing aspects of the formal revolution started by Monet and his colleagues. While others still, focused on the expressive possibilities that the new art made possible.

The first and second aspects of the Post-Impressionist adventure are exemplified in the explorations of a number of artists in the period from Seurat to Cezanne.  Gauguin and Van Gogh are examples of the uses of new formal concepts to explore the subjective aspects and the cultural conditions of art at the end of the century.

The art of the period is also influenced by Symbolist aesthetics.  With Symbolism, the development of an art of the imagination, the dream and the fantastic, expressing a kind of exacerbated Late Romantic sensibility, a type of “Romanticism of exhausted passions”, impacts the literature and visual arts of the period, as a counter-current to the realistic and positivist tendencies or allegiances of Impressionism and of the dominant Post-Impressionists currents. Symbolism represents a “spiritualist” reaction to the “materialism” of the age, taking these terms in a generalized sense and also as relative and specific to some of the ideological self-representations of the period.  These artistic categories and classifications do not exclude transitional and mixed forms. In fact, the art of the Fin-de-siècle is also marked by cross-fertilizations and by diverse kinds of conceptual and formal “hybrids”.

Marcelo Guimarães Lima



 Seurat, The Circus, 1891; 
Oil on canvas, 73 x 59 1/8 in; unsigned; 
Musee d'Orsay, Paris




 Van Gogh
The night café, 1888; 
Yale University Art Gallery

 

Gauguin
Femmes de Tahiti [Sur la plage] 1891
(Tahitian Women [On the Beach])
  Oil on canvas, 69 x 91 cm 
Musee d'Orsay, Paris





Cézanne
Still Life With a Basket (Kitchen Table)
c. 1890-95; Musée d'Orsay, Paris 




Sunday, November 28, 2010

NEOIMPRESSIONISM

"Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable." wrote Baudelaire. The paintings of Seurat  offered the modern  practical synthesis between the "fleeting" and the "eternal", between the contingent forms of modern experience and its artistic expression as a prospective and enduring vision across time, that is, as a kind of  "transhistorical" expression of historical experience. 

For Seurat the function of the work of art is to preserve as artistic form the memory of the actual, of living time, at the same time that it provides the seed of future artistic developments.  In the works of Seurat the  basic elements of the temporal flux of perception that the analysis of visual experience by the impressionists revealed are systematized into a method of color analysis and of synthetic formal expression. In his paintings the elementary particles of color and their exchanges provide the energy for the construction of  large linear rhythms and imposing stable forms. The result is the monumental representation of modernity. Of which the heroic and the prospective is one half, the other being a type of  reification of time and of historical experience and structures.

Seurat's Neoimpressionism reflected important aspects of the scientific and progressive ideologies of his period. Charles Blanc (1813-1882) in the Grammar of the Graphic Arts (1867) had summarized, and therefore popularized among the artists of the time, Chevreul's researches on color. 

Marcelo Guimarães Lima



GEORGES  SEURAT


Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of 
La Grande Jatte
1884–1886
Oil on canvas
207.6 cm × 308 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago





Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)


Bathers at Asnières, 1884,
National Gallery, London






Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
Circus Sideshow (or Parade de Cirque), 1887–88, 
Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York City



detail of Parade (above)





PAUL SIGNAC




Paul Signac (1863 – 1935)
Breakfast, 1886-1887, 
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, 
The Netherlands





Paul Signac
Portrait of Félix Fénéon, 1890

Oil on canvas
73.5 cm × 92.5 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York






Paul Signac (1863–1935) 
View of the Port of Marseilles, 1905
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City


The Painters of Modern Life


Charles Baudelaire, profile by
Manet, Edouard (1832 - 1883
Etching,  1869



 
 Portrait of Charles Baudelaire by
Manet, Edouard 

 Etching, 1869



Charles Baudelaire

The Heroism of Modern Life

"Before trying to isolate the epic quality of modern life and to show, by giving examples, that our age is no less rich than ancient times in sublime themes, it may be asserted that since every age and every people have had their own form of beauty, we inevitably have ours.... All forms of beauty, like all possible phenomena, have within them something eternal and something transitory -- an absolute and a particular element. Absolute and eternal beauty does not exist, or rather it is nothing but an abstract notion, creamed off from the general surface of different types of beauty. Parisian life is rich in poetic and wonderful subjects. The marvellous envelopes and saturates us like the atmosphere; but we fail to see it." -- pp. 104-107.

Charles Baudelaire from "The Salon of 1846"
Baudelaire; selected writings on art & artists, 
P.E. Charvet, ed., 1981.  
http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/fa257/baudelaire1.html


The Painter of Modern Life

Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable. There was a form of modernity for every painter of the past; the majority of the fine portraits that remain to us from former times are clothed in the dress of their own day. They are perfectly harmonious works because the dress, the hairstyle, and even the gesture, the expression and the smile (each age has its carriage, its expression and its smile) form a whole, full of vitality. You have no right to despise this transitory fleeting element, the metamorphoses of which are so frequent, nor to dispense with it. If you do, you inevitably fall into the emptiness of an abstract and indefinable beauty, like that of the One and only woman of the time before the Fall. If for the dress of the day, which is necessarily right, you substitute another, you are guilty of a piece of nonsense that only a fancy-dress ball imposed by fashion can excuse. Thus the goddesses, the nymphs, and sultanas of the eighteenth century are portraits in the spirit of their day.

No doubt it is an excellent discipline to study the old masters, in order to learn how to paint, but it can be no more than a superfluous exercise if your aim is to understand the beauty of the present day. The draperies of Rubens or Veronese will not teach you how to paint watered silk d'antique, or satin à la reine, or any other fabric produced by our mills, supported by a swaying crinoline, or petticoats of starched muslin. The texture and grain are not the same as in the fabrics of old Venice, or those worn at the court of Catherine. We may add that the cut of the skirt and bodice is absolutely different, that the pleats are arranged into a new pattern, and finally that the gesture and carriage of the woman of today give her dress a vitality and a character that are not those of the woman of former ages. In short, in order that any form of modernity may be worthy of becoming antiquity, the mysterious beauty that human life unintentionally puts into it must have been extracted from it. It is this task that M. G. particularly addresses himself to.

Charles Baudelaire (1863)




Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883)
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe
("The Luncheon on the Grass")
1862–1863
Oil on canvas
208 cm × 265.5 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris




Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
Place de la Concorde
1875 Oil on canvas,
78.4 x 117.5 cm

Hermitage, St Petersburg



Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)
Au Moulin Rouge
1892, 1895
oil on canvas
123 × 140,5 cm






Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841- 1919)
Le Moulin de la Galette 1876 

Oil on canvas, 131 x 175 cm;
Musée d'Orsay





Saturday, November 27, 2010

IMPRESSIONISM


Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant)
1872
Oil on canvas
48 cm × 63 cm 
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris






Claude Monet
Haystacks, (Midday), 1890-91, 
National Gallery of Australia 




 


Claude Monet
Wheatstacks (End of Summer)  1890-91
Oil on canvas,  60 cm × 100 cm
Art Institute of Chicago






 Claude Monet
Wheatstack (Snow Effect, Overcast day)
(Meule, effet de neige, temps couvert),
1890-91. Oil on canvas.
Art Institute of Chicago. 






Impressionism was a pivotal moment in the development of art in the 19th century. In the genesis of Impressionism we can point out the demand for truthfulness in art interpreted in a radically new way, and also the interrelated demand for the expression of contemporary life.

These demands allow for radical formal innovations affecting all at once the procedural or technical aspects of painting, the notion of representation, and with it the very concept of painting as an art form. Landscape painting becomes the quintessential genre in which the experimental nature of Impressionism is played and displayed. Painters like Monet, Sisley and Pissaro among others, paint the French countryside. Manet, Degas, Renoir and others celebrate modern life in their artworks.

The impressionist artist paints not simply the object of his gaze, but the relationship itself between the observer and the world. The dynamic nature of reality requires a dynamism of vision. The shifts in the appearance of the painter´s subjects such as the changes of form and color in landscape painting due to the transformations of light call for a new understanding and a new expression of the painted form. Color becomes the central element of painting in ways departing  radically from the past: it is now a foundational or  infrastructural element (in the end,  color becomes both medium and subject.) A new understanding of the activity of perception introduces the dimension of time into the art of painting.


Marcelo Guimarães Lima

link: Monet Haystacks series


Claude Monet
Rouen Cathedral, Full Sunlight, 1894,
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.






Friday, November 26, 2010

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) : the Passion of the Present



The Painter's Studio; A Real Allegory, 1855
Oil on canvas, 361 x 598 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris 



The original title of The Painter´s Studio by Courbet is:  'Allégorie réelle: intérieur de mon atelier, déterminant une phase de sept années de ma vie artistique'. The Studio is therefore a 'Real Allegory'. But allegory, as we know belongs to the order of the symbolic, not of the real. The designation by Courbet appears to be a contradictio in adjecto, a contradiction in terms. And yet, as a functional designation it does clarify the meaning of the scene for the viewer: it locates the subject of the painting in the painter´s life and career. 

Courbet transforms, recreates and supersedes traditional genre by fusing formal and rhetorical elements of historical painting, allegorical representation and the self portrait. Indeed The Studio is the reinvention of the self portrait as autobiography, a symbolic and yet real or realistic narrative centred in the figure of the painter. 
Perhaps its sole predecessor is Velazques´ Las Meninas, that also revolves around the figure of the artist. Both paintings present to the viewer, in their own specific forms and contexts, another contradiction in terms: they are "clear enigmas".

The life story of the modern artist is the subject of Courbet´s masterwork. The Studio is a place that congregates a multitude, colleagues, friends and the public, and where the real and the imaginary or symbolic come together, clarifying each other in isonomic exchanges and relations. The work of art is identified to the life work as the construction of a subjectivity.  In this case , an artistic subjectivity. By way of the artist, the subject of  The Studio is therefore Modern Art itself, the self-representation or self-elaboration of the concept of art in the changed cultural and historical context of the 19th century.


Marcelo Guimarães Lima





Gustave Courbet,
A Burial at Ornans, 1849-1850,
oil on canvas, 314 x 663 cm.

Musee d'Orsay, Paris.



Monday, November 22, 2010

Jacques-Louis David and Neoclassicism: the Past as Future

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) became the artistic interpreter of the revolutionary historical changes in France at the end of the 1700s. The style he created, Neoclassicism, responded to the ideological context of French society within the developments leading to, and under the impact of the Great Revolution of 1789. David reinvested the tradition of Classicism, and therefore modified also its aesthetics, in the sense of a new understanding of the context of art, and of the role of art and artists in the new times. In this sense, we can say that his works and ideas united both a retrospective and a prospective perspective on the history of European painting and on the place of the visual arts in society and the culture. He is at the same time the "last" of the Classicists and the first Modern artist. 

That the future social-political reality of Europe had to appear first  in the guise of its "ancient origins" was explained by Karl Marx as a kind of "law of historical representation as repetition". Before understanding the historical novelty as such of their deeds, the French bourgeoisie had to represent to itself their historical actions in the model of past myths, it had to universalize its motives and goals, before it could come to terms with its historical specificity.  A process that will be the task of the next century, that is, the bourgeois post-revolutionary century, which will be also the century of new ideological and artistic revolutions, or anticipations of revolutions.  

 “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and theRoman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.”

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852

Coming to terms with the specificity of its changed situation will be also the task assigned to the arts in the 19th century.  In the  early part of the 19th century, Neoclassicism transformed itself into a conservative style in the hands, for instance, of Ingres, a disciple of David. The 19th century is the time of the "final" crisis and demise of the Classicist or Renaissance Paradigm, that is, of the long tradition of the concept and practice of art as mimesis.  In this process art will lose its grounding on "Nature". It will find itself  with  new foundations established, from now on, on the soil of History: a dynamic, shifting and unstable ground. 

We can state that David is, in many aspects, the pioneer of this epochal shift of territory, and that the historical destiny of the art he created is one example, among others, of the new challenges, the risks and perils of art forms in the new times. From the "transcendental" domain of real, that is,  of ideal forms, art descends into the arena of history. Its vicissitudes from now on will be those that affect all the products of Time, and the first condition of what exists in Time is, indeed, mortality.


Marcelo Guimaraes Lima




Portrait of the Artist
1794
Oil on canvas, 81 x 64 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris




The Combat of Mars and Minerva
1771
Oil on canvas, 146 x 181 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris





Portrait of Marie-Francoise Buron
c. 1769
Oil on canvas, 66 x 54 cm
Musée National des Beaux-Arts, Algiers





Count Potocki
1781
Oil on canvas, 304 x 218 cm
Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw




 The Oath of the Horatii
1784
Oil on canvas, 330 x 425 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris






The Death of Socrates
1787
Oil on canvas, 130 x 196 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York






The Lictors Returning to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons
1789
Oil on canvas, 323 x 422 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris







Death of Marat,  1793




 View of the Luxembourg Garden, 1794










Napoleon in his Study
1812
Oil on canvas, 204 x 125 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington




Napoleon at the St. Bernard Pass
1801
Oil on canvas, 246 x 231 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna




Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces
1824
Oil on canvas, 308 x 262 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels