Bauhaus Utopia, Paul Klee and Some Character Design

 Haus party … students at the Bauhaus in 1931. Photograph: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Haus party … students at the Bauhaus in 1931. Photograph: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Motif

Bauhaus canteen,Bauhaus canteen, Dessau 1930 Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Bauhaus canteen,photography, Dessau 1930 Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Personally I had a pretty intimate experience with the term “Bauhaus”. I graduated from an old liberal art college in New York who followed a Bauhaus course arrangement in their undergraduate Art Department. I lived in a new Bauhaus style dorm in my first year there. I later studied post-war architecture history with an emphasis on Bauhaus.

I didn’t like it at the time. I did not take all the required classes in art department. I did not like the dorm’s height or contour that blocked my view when I was walking. I did not like the inner design of it that did not serve its purpose. I did not like the Bauhaus slides in my favorite architecture history class because they were impressively ugly.

To some extent, coming across this term in art history study aroused my memory at the east coast. Now given this chance, I seriously revisited this term and felt refreshed towards it.


 Bauhaus Story

Lucia Moholy Photograph by Michael von Graffenried 1987

Lucia Moholy
Photograph by Michael von Graffenried
1987

Bauhaus 1919-1933 – A Chronology

The Bauhaus occupies a place of its own in the history of 20th century culture, architecture, design, art and new media. One of the first schools of design, it brought together a number of the most outstanding contemporary architects and artists and was not only an innovative training centre but also a place of production and a focus of international debate. At a time when industrial society was in the grip of a crisis, the Bauhaus stood almost alone in asking how the modernization process could be mastered by means of design.

Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus rallied masters and students who sought to reverse the split between art and production by returning to the crafts as the foundation of all artistic activity and developing exemplary designs for objects and spaces that were to form part of a more human future society. Following intense internal debate, in 1923 the Bauhaus turned its attention to industry under its founder and first director Walter Gropius (1883–1969). [16]

Henry van de Velde’s building of 1904, housed The Bauhaus from 1919 to 1925.

Henry van de Velde’s building of 1904, housed The Bauhaus from 1919 to 1925.

Dessau Period 1925-1932 – Prosperity of Bauhaus

The Dessau phase of the Bauhaus is characterized by the consolidation of its orientation towards the new unity of art and technology, which was initiated in Weimar in 1923. In Dessau, the Staatliches Bauhaus became the Hochschule für Gestaltung (school of design). In a departure from craftsmanship, there were now professors and students in place of masters, journeymen and apprentices. In the aspiring industrial city of Dessau, the Bauhaus found the ideal environment for the design of models for industrial mass production. [17]

Surprisingly, following the politically motivated closure of the Bauhaus in Weimar, the change of location to Dessau did not result in a crisis in the school. If anything, it fostered its consolidation on the path to the design of new industrial products for the masses.[17]

On Gropius’s recommendation, the director’s post was handed over to the Swiss architect and urbanist Hannes Meyer, previously the head of the architectural department established at the Bauhaus in 1927. Cost-cutting industrial mass production was to make products affordable for the masses. His rallying cry at the Bauhaus was, “The needs of the people instead of the need for luxury.”[17] Despite his successes, Hannes Meyer’s Marxist convictions became a problem for the city council amidst the political turbulence of Germany in 1929, and the following year he was removed from his post. [17]

With Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1930, the Bauhaus acquired its last and – in contrast to Gropius and Meyer – least politically minded director. The school’s orientation towards architecture grew under his direction; however, there was also an increasing lack of socio-political reference.[17] The students were most affected by the ban on any type of political activity and the discontinuation of production lines. Under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Bauhaus developed from 1930 into a technical school of architecture with subsidiary art and workshop departments.[17] After the Nazis became the biggest party in Dessau at the elections, the Bauhaus was forced to move in September 1932. It moved to Berlin but only lasted for a short time longer. The Bauhaus dissolved itself under pressure from the Nazis in 1933. [17]

Walter Gropius’ building for Dessau Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius’ building for Dessau Bauhaus.

Recently I read The Bauhaus Ideal: Then and Now. In the book, William Smock presented a vivid overview of the Modernist design and its legacy. I got to know more about the famous Bauhaus dictums “form follows function”, “truth to materials” ,”less is more”.

The Bauhaus story first started out as a school of design. Walter Gropius was the first director of this modern art and design school called Bauhaus. It was an invented word: BAU = Building , HAUS = House. He wanted to unify arts, combining fine art and design. So people could see and use aesthetically pleasing, yet functional artworks/products. However, the Bauhaus school had to go through ups and downs. It had altogether three directors which represented three different periods. It was controlled by Nazis and forced to shut down for good during WWII. Later, it got rebuilt as “the Black Mountain College” in the USA. During this process, it kept changing and widely affected our modern design and aesthetics.  [1]


Masters in House

bauhaus staff

The Bauhaus masters on the roof of the new Bauhaus building. 1926. From left: Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper, Georg Muche, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer,Joost Schmidt, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger,Gunta Stolzl, Oskar Schlemmer. From http://bauhaus-online.de/en/atlas/das-bauhaus/lehre/meister

When I read the Chinese version of The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism [18], I saw other sides of those masters who created a new wave of design movement in the early 20th century. I realized that they all had their own belief and personality. The Bauhaus “internal” path was not at all as smooth as we could imagine. What amazed me was their collaboration in building the Bauhaus utopia. Even though they were all giants in their fields, they all served a greater purpose: art enlightenment. This openness of artists’ teamwork truly moved me. Working with others, sharing ideas, not fear of losing credit would happen when the whole team valued growing together and becoming better. The timelessness of Bauhaus was a testament to their achievement.


Paul Klee

Reading the book of The Bauhaus: Masters and Students by Themselves [2], I became very fond of Paul Klee’s works. Since the Bauhaus contained a wide range of styles and values, I chose to study Paul Klee’s art and do a formal breakdown of his work.

Klee said, “A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” [3] In Klee’s art, I saw an “untutored simplicity”[9]. This might be a result of his admiration for children’s “positive wisdom” [10]. “The more helpless these children are, the more instructive their art, for even at this stage there is corruption ‐ when children start to absorb, or even imitate, developed works of art, ” he once said.[10] He tried to break the traditional rules constantly. He didn’t want to have any anticipation or presumption in his creating process. He wanted to stay free and discover things along the way.

Indeed, I always thought that his work is poetic. As I read his book did I recall that when I was a very little kid, it was his painting that I pointed at a music note in it and sang to my parent. I knew nothing about him or that image at that time. But I felt it. Then I read about his theory of “active lines” and “passive planes” in the book[3], I could still feel the same individual behind it – to me, his works were happy, carefree melodies. Therefore, I was not surprised to know that he was also a musician. He played violin to a professional level, yet his father, a music teacher, always encouraged his passion in art. He was a gifted and diligent artist who naturally related drawing to music. He often practiced the violin as a warm up for painting.[7] From 1921 to 1924/25 in Weimar, Klee taught classes in elemental design theory as part of the preliminary course. [8] In his Bauhaus lecture, he even compared the visual rhythm in drawings to the structural, percussive rhythms of a musical composition by the master of counterpoint, Johann Sebastian Bach. And yes, he succeeded in doing so.[7]

Klee said, “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” [3] Klee tried to reveal his vision. As a Modern master, he said, “formerly we used to represent things visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are other, more latent realities…”[11] But how to make the unseen seen? “Klee challenged traditional boundaries separating writing and visual art by exploring a new expressive, and largely abstract or poetic language of pictorial symbols and signs.”[12] That’s why I still remembered a music note in his painting. He used symbols as a language to describe his poem or song; but he used the symbols so simple that even a child could spot them out. I believe this was one of his ways to reveal something invisible to us. But were those jargons?  He did not shout out any definition of his vision if he only used abstract symbols. He might be hiding, or he was simply open to any explanation that the viewers would have. He delivered a vague situation for the audience to experience. I believe this was another reason that his works stayed expressive and provoked interaction.

On the other hand, Martin Heidegger commented Klee’s work that something never seen before was visible in these paintings.[13] This might be another way to make the unseen visible. Klee once said, “Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.” [6]

What were those things never seen before? Well, here I found some other comments on Klee’s works.

“Klee’s career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities – its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity), he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object, from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches, makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space. So most of the time Klee could get away with a shorthand organization that skimped the spatial grandeur of high French modernism while retaining its unforced delicacy of mood. Klee’s work did not offer the intense feelings of Picasso’s, or the formal mastery of Matisse’s. The spidery, exact line, crawling and scratching around the edges of his fantasy, works in a small compass of post-Cubist overlaps, transparencies, and figure- field play-offs. In fact, most of Klee’s ideas about pictorial space came out of Robert Delaunay’s work, especially the Windows. The paper, hospitable to every felicitous accident of blot and puddle in the watercolor washes, contains the images gently. As the art historian Robert Rosenblum has said, ‘Klee’s particular genius [was] to be able to take any number of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the early twentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and translate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child’s enchanted world.

“If Klee was not one of the great form-givers, he was still ambitious. Like a miniaturist, he wanted to render nature permeable, in the most exact way, to the language of style – and this meant not only close but ecstatic observation of the natural world, embracing the Romantic extremes of the near and the far, the close-up detail and the “cosmic” landscape. At one end, the moon and mountains, the stand of jagged dark pines, the flat mirroring seas laid in a mosaic of washes; at the other, a swarm of little graphic inventions, crystalline or squirming, that could only have been made in the age of high-resolution microscopy and the close-up photograph. There was a clear link between some of Klee’s plant motifs and the images of plankton, diatoms, seeds, and micro-organisms that German scientific photographers were making at the same time. In such paintings, Klee tried to give back to art a symbol that must have seemed lost forever in the nightmarish violence of World War I and the social unrest that followed. This was the Paradise-Garden, one of the central images of religious romanticism – the metaphor of Creation itself, with all species growing peaceably together under the eye of natural (or divine) order.“- From Robert Hughes, “The Shock of the New” [4]


Now let us look at some art.

Formal Analysis of Paul Klee’s Work Senecio (An old man)

Senecio, Paul Klee, 1922, oil on gauze, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel

Senecio, Paul Klee, 1922, oil on gauze, 15.9 x 15 in , Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel

Shape & Line

We see many lines, either hard contours or edges of colors. A big circle, triangles, ellipses and rectangles depict the subject – a human. Proportions are way off. With the face being divided into two halves, basic geometric shapes lay out unsymmetrically. Two halves of the face look unbalanced. Because of the nose shape happening on the left side, we can almost guess that the two halves are separate sides of the face ( This reminds me of Picasso’s works that reveal all the hidden aspects of a figure at the same time ). Lines join together to create eye stopping points. We see shapes mainly divided by flat colors. The lips are abstracted into two squares. The left brow forms a sharp triangle while the right brow remains a smooth curve. Their difference creates different rhythms on the two parts of the face. Apart from the centered eye area, we generally see lines in vertical and horizontal directions, which is overall unified.

Color & Value

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.59.17 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.59.17 PM

Primary warm colors, red, yellow and white, take the lead. We see pink, purple and orange colors too. Colors do not respond to value changes. Values do not respond to light and volume changes. However, the right side’s yellow is higher in saturation and brightness than the left one’s; the orange down below head is less saturated and darker than the upper area background. Also, the value palette shows that there is only one or two darker hues. It is very much possible that Klee uses value to separate colored shapes. High contrast colors accentuate the playfulness of his patterns.

Texture

We see texture of rough brushworks everywhere except for the pupil areas. In the pupils, we see flat rouge. Also, the eye and eyebrow areas have line contours. They are connected, leaning towards one side. Their content density creates our focus.


Character Design

As the saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery. After studying the Bauhaus story and ideal as well as Paul Klee’s work, I fell in love with the Bauhaus age. It had its limit, yet so full of youth and vigor. How I wish to go back to the Bauhaus “golden 10 years” (1923-1933) to witness the masters’ glory. However, time flies only forward. Today, when I look at the master’s work, there is something I can do more than merely looking at the beautiful surface of the final product. I did formal analysis and guessed his process, pretending that I would have been one of his students in the Bauhaus workshop. Hence, when I create something in the master’s style, instead of simply mirroring what I see, I can explain what I do.

Now I am designing characters based on the Bauhaus ideals after studying Paul Klee’s vision of form and color. 

Paul Klee also made some puppets for his son. When making my designs, I looked at some images from this book below. “The artist neither counts them as a component of his oeuvre, nor does he list them in his catalogue raisonné. Thirty of the preserved puppets are stored at the Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern. ” [5]

Paul Klee Hand Puppets Edited by Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Foreword by Andreas Marti, Texts by Christine Hopfengart, Aljoscha Klee, Felix Klee, Osamu Okuda, Tilman Osterwold, Eva Wiederkehr Sladeczek English 2007. 152 pp., 182 ills., 86 in color 23.00 x 26.60 cm hardcover ISBN 978-3-7757-1740-3

Paul Klee
Hand Puppets
Edited by Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, 
English
2007. 152 pp., 182 ills., 86 in color
23.00 x 26.60 cm
hardcover
ISBN 978-3-7757-1740-3

I want to mix those element with geometric shapes and flat colors. Going after Paul Klee’s belief, I will intentionally mimic children’s artwork. When composing my lines and colors, I will connect ambiguous shapes and forms with minimal details. Applying textures to those simple, crisp shapes will result in a collage-like style, which is a lovely trick for eyes that the modern digital media can make. In this sense, I respond to the tech reality of my age, the digital media.

Here are my character designs of a male figure and a female figure:

Character Design by Yunxia 2015

Character Design by Yunxia 2015

How my design reflects my knowledge and their ideas:

Design comment by Yunxia

Design comment by Yunxia


Bibliography

1. William Smock, “The Bauhaus Ideal: Then and Now”, Academy Chicago Publishers, 2004

2. Frank Whitford, The Bauhaus: Masters and Students by Themselves, October 1, 1993

3. Klee and his teaching notes(Chinese Edition) (Chinese) Paperback, Chongqing University Press Pub. Date :2011-6-1, January 1, 2000

4. http://www.artchive.com/artchive/K/klee.html

5. Daniel Kupper: Paul Klee. p. 81

6. As quoted in the film Der Bauhaus, produced by TV-Rechte in Germany (1975)

7. Andrew Kagan, Paul Klee: Art and Music , Cornell Univ Press, 1983

8. http://bauhaus-online.de/en/atlas/personen/paul-klee

9. Paul Klee, On Modern Art , Faber & Faber, 1966

10. Susanna Partsch, Klee 1879 ‐ 1940 , Taschen, 1999. p 17

11. Fred Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, Volume 2 , Clark Baxter, 2009. p 948

12. Rocky Mountain, Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels , Denver, CO, June 2012. p. 2

13. Watson, Stephen H., Heidegger, Paul Klee, and the Origin of the Work of Art , Academic journal article from The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 60, No. 2

14. Art in Theory: 1900-1990, An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, pp. 338-343

15. Paul Klee – Making the Visible, Nedaa Elias, January 22, 2014

16. http://www.bauhaus-dessau.de/bauhaus-1919-19333.html

17. http://www.bauhaus-dessau.de/dessau-period-1925-1932.html

18. Nicholas Fox Weber, The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism,ISBN:9787111409199,Jixiegongye Press Pub. Date: April 1st, 2013

Fin de Siecle And Frye Art Museum Trip Project

Fin de Siecle

Reine de Joie, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892, chromolithograph ,136.5 × 93.3 cm

Reine de Joie, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892, chromolithograph ,136.5 × 93.3 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum

“Fin de siècle” is French for end of the century. The term “fin de siècle” is commonly applied to French art and artists as the traits of the culture first appeared there, but the movement affected many European countries. The term becomes applicable to the sentiments and traits associated with the culture as opposed to focusing solely on the movement’s initial recognition in France. The ideas and concerns developed by fin de siècle artists provided the impetus for movements like symbolism and modernism.[1]

Artistic conventions

In the late 19th and early 20th Century art world, fin de siecle will encompass Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, the Vienna Secession, Aestheticism, Japonisme, and other associate movements.

The works of the Decadents and the Aesthetes contain the hallmarks typical of fin de siècle art. Holbrook Jackson’s The Eighteen Nineties describes the characteristics of English decadence which are: perversity, artificiality, egoism, and curiosity.[2]
The first trait is the concern for the perverse, unclean, and unnatural.[3] While Romanticism encouraged audiences to view physical traits as indicative of one’s inner self, the fin de siècle artists accepted beauty as the basis of life and so valued that which was not conventionally beautiful.[2] The Scream (1893), an expressionist painting by Edvard Munch is a prominent cultural symbol of fin de siècle era.[4]

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, Oil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard, 36 in × 28.9 in, National Gallery, Oslo, Norway

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, Oil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard, 36 in × 28.9 in, National Gallery, Oslo, Norway

This belief in beauty in the abject leads to the obsession with artifice and symbolism, as artists rejected ineffable ideas of beauty in favor of the abstract.[2] Through symbolism, aesthetes could evoke sentiments and ideas in their audience without relying on an infallible general understanding of the world.[5]
The third trait of the culture is egoism a term similar to that of ego-mania meaning disproportionate attention placed on one’s own endeavors. This can result in a type of alienation and anguish, as in Baudelaire’s case, and demonstrates how aesthetic artists chose cityscapes over country as a result of their aversion to the natural.[3] At the Moulin Rouge (1895), a painting by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, captured the vibrant and decadent spirit of society during the fin de siècle.

At the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892-1895, Oil on Canvas, 123cm x 141cm

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-1895, Oil on Canvas, 123cm x 141c, The Art Institute of Chicago

Finally, curiosity is identifiable through diabolism and the exploration of the evil or immoral, focusing on the morbid and macabre, but without imposing any moral lessons on the audience.[2]

From the art critique below, we can see how people reacted to this term at that time.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 3.03.52 PM

”What Is Fin de Siecle?”‘ ‘The Art Critic’ , 1893

Note on Art Nouveau, Post-Impressionism, Les Nabis, Vienna Secession and Japonisme

  • Art Nouveau

What is Art Nouveau (“new art” in French) ? It is a stye in art, architecture and applied art at around 1890–1910, tied up with the industrialization. It was inspired by natural forms and structures, not only in flowers and plants, but also in curves. Formally speaking, often we can find them of

  1. flat
  2. geometric shapes, curves
  3. decorative
  4. natural forms
  5. historical designs
  6. industrialized products like wallpapers, prints, ironworks

The desire to abandon the historical styles of the 19th century was an important impetus behind Art Nouveau. The academic system that dominated art education from the 17th-19th century believed painting and sculpture were superior to crafts such as furniture design and silver-smithing. While industrial production was widespread, and yet the decorative arts were increasingly dominated by poorly made objects imitating earlier periods.

Deeply influenced by the socially aware teachings of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau designers endeavored to achieve the synthesis of art and craft, and further, the creation of the spiritually uplifting Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) encompassing a variety of media. [6] The practitioners of Art Nouveau sought to revive good workmanship, raise the status of craft, and produce genuinely modern design. Although Art Nouveau was later replaced by 20th century Modernist styles, it is now considered as an important transition between the eclectic historic revival styles of the 19th-century and Modernism.[7]

Painting styles such as Post-Impressionism and Symbolism (the “Nabis”) shared close ties with Art Nouveau and each was practiced by designers who adapted them for the applied arts, architecture, interior designs, furnishings, and patterns. They contributed to an overall expressiveness and the formation of a cohesive style.[6]

Maude Adams (1872–1953) as Joan of Arc, 1909 Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860–1939) Oil on canvas; 82 1/4 x 30 in. (208.9 x 76.2 cm) Signed, dated, and inscribed: (lower left) Mucha / 1909; (bottom) MAUDE ADAMS as JOAN of ARC Gift of A. J. Kobler, 1920 (20.33)

Maude Adams (1872–1953) as Joan of Arc, 1909
Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860–1939)
Oil on canvas; 82 1/4 x 30 in. (208.9 x 76.2 cm)
Signed, dated, and inscribed: (lower left) Mucha / 1909; (bottom) MAUDE ADAMS as JOAN of ARC
Gift of A. J. Kobler, 1920

Influential graphic artists included Alphonse Mucha and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, whose vibrant poster art often expressed the variety of roles of women in belle époque society—from femme nouvelle (a “new woman” who rejected the conventional ideals of femininity, domesticity, and subservience) to demimonde. Female figures were often incorporated as fairies or sirens in the jewelry of René Lalique, Georges Fouquet, and Philippe Wolfers.[6]

  • Post-Impressionism

However, when we speak of Post-Impressionism, we usually mean a predominantly French art movement that developed roughly between 1886 and 1905; from the last Impressionist exhibition to the birth of Fauvism. The movement was led by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat.

Symbolic and highly personal meanings were particularly important to Post-Impressionists such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. Rejecting interest in depicting the observed world, they instead looked to their memories and emotions in order to connect with the viewer on a deeper level.[14]

Artist: Vincent van Gogh Completion Date: 1889 Place of Creation: Saint-rémy-de-provence, France Style: Post-Impressionism Technique: oil Material: canvas Dimensions: 73.7 x 92.1 cm Gallery: Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

Artist: Vincent van Gogh
Completion Date: 1889
Place of Creation: Saint-rémy-de-provence, France
Style: Post-Impressionism
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 73.7 x 92.1 cm
Gallery: Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

  • Les Nabis

Breakfast, Edouard Vuillard, 1894 Medium oil on cardboard, 26.9 × 22.9 cm (10.6 × 9 in), National Gallery of Art

Breakfast, Edouard Vuillard, 1894 Medium oil on cardboard, 26.9 × 22.9 cm (10.6 × 9 in), National Gallery of Art

Ambitious decorative painting enjoyed a resurgence in Europe from the late 1880s through the early 20th century. In Paris, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, and Édouard Vuillard were among the most influential artists to embrace decoration as painting’s primary function. Their works celebrate pattern and ornament, challenge the boundaries that divide fine arts from crafts, and, in many cases, complement the interiors for which they were commissioned.

Ker-Xavier Roussel, Édouard Vuillard, Romain Coolus, Félix Vallotton, 1899

Ker-Xavier Roussel, Édouard Vuillard, Romain Coolus, Félix Vallotton, 1899

The Nabis rejected the Renaissance ideal of easel painting as a window onto a fictional world.Disavowing illusions of depth, they abandoned both linear perspective and modeling. Like many of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, they were inspired by the broad planes of unmediated color, thick outlines, and bold patterns that characterize Japanese prints. Unlike prints, however, Nabi paintings often feature textured surfaces created by varied brushstrokes. In the words of Maurice Denis, the results remind us that painting “is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.”[9]

Edouard Vuillard, Place Vintimille, 1911, five-panel screen, distemper on paper laid down on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Enid A. Haupt 1998.47.1

Edouard Vuillard, Place Vintimille, 1911, five-panel screen, distemper on paper laid down on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Enid A. Haupt 1998.47.1

Many of these artists designed large-scale decorative schemes for specific interiors. Vuillard’s Album series of 1895 (2000.93.2) adapts large-scale painting to the needs of a domestic interior.

Album, 1895 Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868–1940) Oil on canvas; 26 3/4 x 80 1/2 in. (67.9 x 204.5 cm) The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Partial Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 2000

Album, 1895
Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868–1940)
Oil on canvas; 26 3/4 x 80 1/2 in. (67.9 x 204.5 cm)
The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Partial Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 2000

After the Nabis disbanded in 1899, Bonnard and Vuillard continued to develop an “Intimist” style of decorative painting. Their small-scale works depict the artists’ friends and families in tight, domestic spaces packed with competing patterns. Abandoning perspective and emphasizing surface texture, the paintings merge figure and ground into a single plane so that discerning independent forms becomes a perceptual challenge. [10]

The Nabis most enjoyed painting their family and close friends. One interesting thing I found here in “the great book of Post-Impressionism“: Among Vuillard’s close friends, Misia, wife of Thadee Natanson, later claimed that Vuillard had been in love with her at the time of this work below, which might explain the extraordinary force of personality that radiates from the composition that the lady’s decoration taking the dominance. My comment is if this is true, this painting does convey the artist’s emotion and idea upon abstract decorative patterns, which belongs to the spirit of post-impressionism.

Èdouard Vuillard, Misia, e Valloton a Villeneuve ,1899 William Kelly Simpson Collection, New York

Èdouard Vuillard, Misia, e Valloton a Villeneuve ,1899 William Kelly Simpson Collection, New York

  • Vienna Secession

    vienna

In modern art, the phrase “Vienna Secession” (Wiener Sezession) refers to the actions of progressive modern artists in Vienna, who broke away from the conservative Academy of Arts in the city, whose annual Salon and art schools remained wedded to an old-fashioned style of academic art. The Secessionist trend appeared in several cities across Europe, beginning in Munich in 1892, where the newly formed Secession, led by Franz von Stuck (prime example of popular Symbolist content), soon outshone the official arts organization.[13]

Salome, Franz von Stuck,1906,oil on canvas,115.5 × 62.5 cm, Lenbachhaus

Salome, Franz von Stuck,1906,oil on canvas,115.5 × 62.5 cm, Lenbachhaus

The Viennese Secession, formed in 1897 under Gustav Klimt, was the most influential breakaway and published its own periodical Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring) to promote its ideas.

ArtistGustav Klimt Year 1907 TypeOil, silver, and gold on canvas Dimensions 138 cm × 138 cm (54 in × 54 in) LocationNeue Galerie, New York

Artist Gustav Klimt
Year 1907
Type Oil, silver, and gold on canvas
Dimensions 138 cm × 138 cm (54 in × 54 in)
Location Neue Galerie, New York

It also built a spectacular new headquarters building (Haus der Wiener Sezession), designed by architect Joseph Maria Olbrich.

Secession Building by Joseph Olbrich

Secession Building by Joseph Olbrich

There were no unifying characteristics of Viennese Secessionist painting or sculpture, or even architecture: instead, its members were committed to the ideal of modernising Austrian art by acquainting it with the latest modern art movements, including the latest trends in Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, as well as the fashionable styles of decorative art, like Art Nouveau. [13]

Back row from left to right: Anton Stark, Gustav Klimt (seated), Adolf Bohm, Wilhelm List, Maximilian Kurzweil )with cap), Leopold Stolba, Rudolf Bacher. FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Koloman Moser (seated), Maximilan Lenz, Ernst Stohr, Emil Orlik, Carl Moll.

Back row from left to right: Anton Stark, Gustav Klimt (seated), Adolf Bohm, Wilhelm List, Maximilian Kurzweil )with cap), Leopold Stolba, Rudolf Bacher. FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Koloman Moser (seated), Maximilan Lenz, Ernst Stohr, Emil Orlik, Carl Moll.

However it was Klimt’s paintings that caused the greatest controversy. His pictures Philosophy and Medicine (both 1900), commissioned for the University were deemed to be too explicitly physical, as was his Beethoven Frieze (1902) and The Kiss (1907-8), whose shimmering canvas benefited greatly from Klimt’s extensive knowledge of applied art. [8]

Gustav Klimt Start Date: 1900 Completion Date:1907 Style: Art Nouveau (Modern) Period: Golden phase Genre: allegorical painting Technique: oil Material: canvas Gallery: Destroyed

Gustav Klimt
Start Date: 1900
Completion Date:1907
Style: Art Nouveau (Modern)
Period: Golden phase
Genre: allegorical painting
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Gallery: Destroyed

Philosophy, 1899–1907. Ceiling panel for the Great Hall of Vienna University. Destroyed by fire in Schloss Immendorf in 1945

Philosophy, 1899–1907. Ceiling panel for the Great Hall of Vienna University. Destroyed by fire in Schloss Immendorf in 1945

  • Japonisme

Interior with a Hanging Lamp, 1899 Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868–1940) Color lithograph; 14 x 11 1/8 in.,Metropolitan Museum of Art

Interior with a Hanging Lamp, 1899 Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868–1940) Color lithograph; 14 x 11 1/8 in.,Metropolitan Museum of Art

After Japanese ports reopened to trade with the West in 1853, a tidal wave of foreign imports flooded European shores. On the crest of that wave were woodcut prints by masters of the ukiyo-e school which transformed Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art by demonstrating that simple, transitory, everyday subjects from “the floating world” could be presented in appealingly decorative ways. Parisians saw their first formal exhibition of Japanese arts and crafts when Japan took a pavilion at the World’s Fair of 1867. But already, shiploads of oriental bric-a-brac—including fans, kimonos, lacquers, bronzes, and silks—had begun pouring into England and France.[11]

The Old Plum, Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1645 Kano Sansetsu (Japanese, ca. 1589–1651) Four sliding door panels (fusuma); ink, color, gold leaf on paper,

The Old Plum, Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1645
Kano Sansetsu (Japanese, ca. 1589–1651)
Four sliding door panels (fusuma); ink, color, gold leaf on paper,Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is said that James Whistler discovered Japanese prints in a Chinese tearoom near London Bridge and that Claude Monet first came upon them used as wrapping paper in a spice shop in Holland. James Tissot and his friend Edgar Degas  were among the earliest collectors of Japanese art in France, but their own art was affected by exotic things in very different ways. Unlike Tissot, and others who came under the spell of Japan, Degas avoided staging japoneries that featured models dressed in kimonos and the conspicuous display of oriental props. Instead, he absorbed qualities of the Japanese aesthetic that he found most sympathetic: elongated pictorial formats, asymmetrical compositions, aerial perspective, spaces emptied of all but abstract elements of color and line, and a focus on singularly decorative motifs. In the process, he redoubled his originality. Degas’ American friend Mary Cassatt, who declared that she “hated conventional art,” found in Japanese woodcuts like those of Utamaro a fresh approach to the depiction of common events in women’s lives. After visiting a large exhibition of ukiyo-e prints at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the spring of 1890, she produced a set of ten color etchings in open admiration of their subjects, compositions, and technical innovations. Experimentation with a wide range of pictorial modes, and with printmaking techniques as well, coincided with the growing popularity of Japanese woodcuts during the 1890s. Toulouse-Lautrec adopted the exaggerated colors, contours, and facial expressions found in Kabuki theater prints in order to create his eye-catching posters. Meanwhile, Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, who called themselves “Nabis” or “prophets” of a new style of art, relied upon the piquant, unusual viewpoints of ukiyo-e printmakers for inspiration. Only Paul Gauguin, who was attracted to the native arts of many cultures, sidestepped the then-current practice of lithography and adapted Japanese woodcut techniques to the abstract expression of his forward-looking art. [11][12]

image

My Researches

My Researches

Frye Art Museum Trip – Pan Selection

We had a field trip to the Frye Art Museum to see the exhibition of Pan: A Graphic Arts Time Capsule of Europe 1895-1900.

  • Pan: A Graphic Arts Time Capsule of Europe 1895–1900 is organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, in association with Denenberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood.

This exhibition presents graphic works by renowned artists of the fin de siècle that were published in Pan, the journal of an eponymous Berlin-based cooperative of artists, poets, and critics. Published from 1895 to 1900, Pan served as an important document of the transformation of taste and ideas during this period. It recorded the transition from modern forms of representation in the nineteenth century to the emergence of abstraction and expressionism in the twentieth.

The exhibition includes works by Aubrey Beardsley, Käthe Kollwitz, Auguste Rodin, Georges Seurat, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as well as key figures in the Frye Founding Collection such as Wilhelm Leibl, Max Liebermann, Hans Thoma, and Franz von Stuck, who designed the distinctive logo and first prospectus for the journal.

The creation of a truly polystylistic, polyglot, pan-European publication such as Pan was in the spirit of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or great united artwork (which is also expressed in the architectural designs presented in the concurrent exhibition 1900). At the direction of Pan’s editors, illustrations were printed with the same care and integrity as the original works of art, in the belief that graphic arts provided access, for all, to the finest artists of the day.

We saw a lot of impressive graphic artworks of that period. However, my phone was out of power so the image quality below are low. I added them here as a record or an impression, if you would like to know more about the show, please visit the museum’s website.

2015-03-18 12.05.282015-03-18 12.05.34

2015-03-18 13.50.35

Atelier Haebler, Plate 63, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

Formal Breakdown of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was inspired by Degas and Japanese woodcuts, in which areas of color are a decisive structural element. Toulouse-Lautrec developed a similar formal way of expression which led to his characteristic artistic style. His motifs were inspired by the colorful world of Montmartre with its typical institutions like the famous Moulin-Rouge.
Toulouse-Lautrec loved this milieu and was able to capture it better than any other. He never ceased sketching scenes which he then elaborated in his works in different techniques. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec most favorite technique, however, was the lithograph, which he discovered in the early 1890s and soon mastered.

Here is the lithograph work by him from the Pan selection.

Toulouse-Lautrec-Marcelle-Lender-4602015-03-18 12.34.20

Composition and Space

Diagonal, irregular, dynamic crop of a figure’s upper body in a textured nowhere. Yet he still put the most important thing, her face, at the center of the image as well as the crossroad of all the visual flow lines. We could find balance* from the flat shapes layout. We could find emphasis from the density or rhythm of their layout too – the more dense, the more important.

Shape and Line

Clear line contours defined precise silhouette of the subject. However, we could still see some draft pencil marks as supporting lines.  Contour lines were long and accurate. Supporting line were broken and loose. They had 2 functions: One, they were there to describe the motion and flow or simply edges of the cloth. Two, they were there to act as detailed shadows or turned surfaces with their line weights.

Color and Value

No value. Flat color shapes were interlocking with each other. He used different color lines according to different content of the figure. He used only a few colors. Besides the greys, they were complimentary in hue (red – green, blue – yellow) and mostly dull in intensity. Considering he was using lithographic method, the “multiply” effect of colors might result from applying layers of colors one after another. So the color used could only be less than the color swatch I guessed below.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 5.29.49 PM

Please Note Here: Lithography can produce whatever colors. But at that time, they often used limited color palettes and layered colors to get a new one, because it was more economical to use fewer colors.

Texture

Symbolic flat, rough dots, lines and circles only. We can see he design his logo as a graphic pattern too. They were vivid decorations as well as loose indications of the details. They unified with the overall line style of the image.

* The text in Bold talked about Design Principles.

Project

1.Digital Painting

I will make a digital painting similar to the “Pan” selections.

Yunxia Jia Digital Painting 2015

Yunxia Jia, Digital Painting, theme: fin de siecle, 2015

Evaluation

In this painting, I used a limited palette with dull, complimentary colors. I separated clean flat shapes with different colors. The main shapes formed diagonal cropped composition. I overlapped some of my short supporting lines with long contour lines in various colors according to their contents.
Here is the sketch draft screenshot.
sketch draft screenshot
  Note:

My color palette should be limited and simple to start with since the lithograph at that time would not be able to produce random colors. They had to combine color layers to get new colors.

2. Art Nouveau Pattern Sheet

We saw some Art Nouveau pattern sheet designs. Those sheets designed by art studios are pattern samples for print models. They can be simple or complicated depending on the need of industrial production and market demand.

Atelier Haebler, Plate 63, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

Atelier Haebler, Plate 63, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

Alex. Schopp Plate 67, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

Alex. Schopp Plate 67, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

Atelier Haebler, Plate 42, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

Atelier Haebler, Plate 42, Ornamentik der Gegenwart, 1905-6 Published by Verlag Christian Stoll, Plauen, Germany

I will make an Art Nouveau pattern sheet containing at least 5 motifs (with in-depth formal thinking involved).

  • Study on Natural Patterns in Volunteer Park, Capitol Hill, Seattle

I took some photos as a reference here for you.

On-Site Study from Nature

On-Site Study from Nature

2015-04-04 14.32.07

On-Site Study from Nature

On-Site Study from Nature

On-Site Study from Nature

  • The Sheet Pattern Formal Analysis:
  1. flat, abstract
  2. geometric shapes, curves
  3. decorative
  4. natural forms
  5. historical designs

My Draft:

DRAFT

DRAFT

My Design:

sheet design toned small


REFERENCE

  1. Has-Ellison, J.Trygve. Nobles, Modernism, and the Culture of fin-de-siècle Munich.German History 26(1), 2008:1-23, 2.
  2. Goldfarb, Russel. “Late Victorian Decadence.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20.4 (1962): 369-373. Web. URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/427899.
  3. Hambrook, Glyn. “Baudelaire, Degeneration Theory, and Literary Criticism”. The Modern Language Review. 101.4 (2006): 1005-1024. Web. URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/20467025.
  4. West, Shearer. Fin de Siecle: Art and Society in an Age of Uncertainty. Overlook Press.
  5. ”What Is Fin de Siecle?”‘ ‘The Art Critic’ ‘ 1.1 (1893): 9. Web. URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/20494209
  6. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/artn/hd_artn.htm
  7. Michèle Lavallée, “Art Nouveau”, Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press [accessed 11 April 2008].
  8. Gilles Néret (1999). Gustav Klimt: 1862-1918. Taschen. p. 94. ISBN 978-3-8228-5980-3
  9. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dcpt/hd_dcpt.htm Auricchio, Laura.
  10. “The Nabis and Decorative Painting”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dcpt/hd_dcpt.htm (October 2004)
  11. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jpon/hd_jpon.htm
  12. Ives, Colta. “Japonisme”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jpon/hd_jpon.htm (October 2004)
  13. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/vienna-secession.htm
  14. http://www.theartstory.org/movement-post-impressionism.htm

Impressionism Artist Study: A Touch of Light and Time

Monet’s Note

Path under the Rose Trellises, Claude Monet, Oil on canvas, 1918-1924

Path under the Rose Trellises, Claude Monet, Oil on canvas, 1918-1924

Today I will continue my study on the works of the leading impressionist of the early 20th century,  Claude Monet.

Robert Gordon introduced Monet in his book saying:

When Monet was away on painting expeditions he would write home almost every day. He tells about the weather, about his encounters; he defends himself against reproaches for being so long away from home. Above all he tells about the trouble he is having getting anything finished. Wherever he is, on the Normandy coast, in Brittany or Antibes, in Norway or Italy, the story is the same: first the search for motifs, then an explosion of activity with many starts, followed by fury and frustration at the fickleness of the weather, despair at not being able to finish as much as he had hoped, promises of a happy conclusion next week, the week after, reports of work destroyed, his departure  again postponed… Day after day he sits down to tell the same story, an incantation of hope and despair. He prefers the darker side, it seems, even if we allow for the fact that he would have more time to write on rainy days.[2]

Monet

Monet

In 1905, answering a question about his colors, Monet wrote :
“As for the colors I use, what’s so interesting about that ? I don’t think one could paint better or more brightly with another palette. The most important thing is to know how to use the colors. Their choice is a matter of habit. In short, I use white lead, cadmium yellow, vermilion, madder, cobalt blue, chrome green. That’s all.”[1]

So I am going to do a outdoor study of landscape outside my home with a limited palette.

Pencil Sketch and Color Pastel

Based on my previous post of color study on Monet’s painting,  I decided to do a study of two paintings of Monet’s using his technique of painting the same subject two times of day following this direction from my previous blog:

In Rouen, the colors are valued closer to the middle range, allowing them to keep more of their coloristic identity and react with each other in more chromatic ways. In direct sun, the shadows on a façade like this would likely have had much greater contrast. But Monet opts to express that contrast not with value but with a delicately balanced relationship based on temperature and complements. The overall effect is greater luminosity. What value can achieve through contrast, color achieves through chromatic identity.

In the book of The Unknown Monet, I got to know that he also worked in pastel a lot. And “Monet used his lines, his sticks of color, and his paintbrushes with a similar fervor, making the only work in pastel of his new home and perhaps the first, modest contribution to his series of grainstacks.” [3]

wheatstacks end of summer, claude monet

wheatstacks end of summer, claude monet

Monet started with pencil sketch. With a proper composition to express his emotion about the subject in his mind, he finished the landscape with paints or pastels. In the image and quote below, he moved the composition to the middle of the paper length, letting the image divided across the center. We can see it emphasized the bulk of the Normandy massif and its precipitous conjunction with the sea. What mattered to the artist was emotion, not classic composition.

2015-03-26 12.25.29

He just waited for the idea to consolidate, for the grouping and composition of themes to settle themselves in his brain. When he felt he had enough cards, he determined to pass to action, and did so.

Cap d'Antibes, Mistral, Claude Monet, 270mm by 346mm, 1885, pastel, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Cap d’Antibes, Mistral, Claude Monet, 270mm by 346mm, 1885, pastel, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Pastel in impressionism had enormous potential in color expression.

It could be used casually, spread in gossamer-thin veils or in dense, dynamic strokes of saturated hue and built up into multi-layered crusts that rivaled brushwork. It was also susceptible to manipulation on the paper surface, merging its powdery traces with previously applied colors and excelling in the representation of clouds, shadows, and reflections.  [4]

So I will try to do my study on site with pencil and pastel.

Preparation

Before that, I did some study of Degas and Monet’s pastels to get a basic knowledge of how this medium felt like.

Yunxia Jia Study of Degas Pastel Painting, 2015

Yunxia Jia Study of Degas Pastel Painting, 2015

Also, I believe some knowledge can only be obtained by practice, not word.

Through the first image study of Degas, I learnt that I can use the base color of the paper as one of my color.

Yunxia Jia pastel study of Degas, 2015

Yunxia Jia pastel study of Degas, 2015

Through the second image study of Monet, I learnt that I can mix colors by apply two layers of different ones, with an 18 color pastel set.

FullSizeRender 2

Through the third image study of Monet, I learnt that leaving too much space to be colored with one side of a pastel stick can be too loose to show the dense volume.

Yunxia Jia pastel study of Monet, 2015

Yunxia Jia pastel study of Monet, 2015

Through the fourth image study of Monet, I learnt that applying two mix hues densely can generate color noise.

Yunxia Jia pastel study of Monet, 2015

Yunxia Jia pastel study of Monet, 2015

Project

My scene:

IMG_0775 IMG_0794

Pencil

Yunxia Jia Pencil Sketch

Yunxia Jia Pencil Sketch

Process A

Afternoon

Pastel

Evaluation A

  • I did not do the second one right after the first one as planned, because by the time the first one was done, it was nearly after dark. Once you are commit to chasing the swift moments of the day, it really demands your preparation and speed of working. Now I can understand deeper with Monet’s works:

You’ll understand, I’m sure that I’m chasing the merest sliver of color. It’s my own fault. I want to grasp the intangible. It’s terrible how the light runs out. Color, any color, lasts a second, sometimes 3 or 4 minutes at most…

Most people think I paint fast. I paint very slowly. [5]

  •  “When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever… merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives you your own naive impression of the scene before you.” [6]

So I encountered this Monet quote after I finished the first practice. I think this is why he did not paint his marks following the volumes of the object, but rather in all directions to make it flat pattern – because he wanted to focus on the color only. Whereas I made my brushes following the surface of the object, like in the grass on ground. Hence this is the thing I need to keep in mind in my next painting.

  • The colors in my practice are too saturated. It may because I only have a general palette of 18 saturated colors. But noticing that Monet mixed complimentary colors and made other subtle color combinations for optical illusion, I would keep myself examining my next painting from a far distance while laying down complimentary colors to neutralize each other.

Process B

Dusk

IMG_0882

Evaluation B

The dark side needs to go darker. Given the pastel color set I have, I struggled to achieve the darker colors but not really satisfying. Other than this, I had fun in doing these. I shall practice more with pastels outdoors when the summer is here.

IMG_0816IMG_0882


Reference

1. Monet’s Years at Giverny, p28, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1978.

2. Monet, p9, by Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge, Abradale Press 1989

3. The Unknown Monet – Pastels and Drawings, p150, by James A. Ganz, Yale University Press 2007

4. The Unknown Monet – Pastels and Drawings, p114, by James A. Ganz, Yale University Press 2007

5. Letter from Monet to G. Durand-Ruel – Giverny, 3 July 1905

6. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, Volume 2, p656,  by Fred Kleiner, Cengage Learning, Jan 7, 2009

The Romanticism: Heart in the Sublime

Intro

EUGÈNE DELACROIX, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, 1834. Oil on canvas, 5’ 10 78” X 7’ 6 18”. Louvre, Paris.

EUGÈNE DELACROIX, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, 1834. Oil on canvas, 5’ 10 78” X 7’ 6 18”. Louvre, Paris.

Joseph Mallord William Turner,Snow Storm Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps,1812,Oil paint on canvas, 1460by 2375 mm,Tate

Joseph Mallord William Turner,Snow Storm Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps,1812,Oil paint on canvas, 1460by 2375 mm,Tate

  • Around 1750-1850, at the same time of Neoclassicism, an art movement called Romanticism functioned as an opposite reaction to Enlightenment thinking. They thought intellect, reason, and logic were narrow tools for understanding the human condition.
  • Ideologically rooted in the human’s freedom belief by Rousseau, writers such as Byron, Blake, Shelley, Poe, Emerson, Keats, Goethe emerged.
  • More art topics on the Emotions, the Irrational, Nature Sublime, the Past, the Exotic were created from the artists’ personal voice. Ordered compositions would give rise to storms of paint and color.
  • In many ways, this movement was the beginning of a greater artist independence, reflected in the art world throughout the course of the 19th century.

Goya and Spain: a transition between Reason and Romanticism

“The third of May”. Francisco Goya. 1808. Oil on canvas. 8’8″ x 11’3″. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

“The third of May”. Francisco Goya. 1808. Oil on canvas. 8’8″ x 11’3″. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Goya mostly worked with rational Neoclassical style, but definitely his most powerful work is seen under his deep thought and imagination. We can also see some loose paint and color in this painting such as above.

To push his emotions even further, he painted Saturn devouring one of his children, part of a series called Black paintings, which were frescoes created under his mental illness and loneliness over his final years. The individualism in his work and his ability to express his inner emotions and thoughts make him an important romantic artist.

Saturn Devouring His Son, c. 1819–1823. Francisco Goya. Oil mural transferred to canvas, 143cm x 81cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Saturn Devouring His Son, c. 1819–1823. Francisco Goya. Oil mural transferred to canvas, 143cm x 81cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Formal Breakdown of Raft of the Medusa

Raft of the Medusa”. Théodore Géricault. 1818-1819. Oil on canvas. 16’x23′. Louvre, Paris.

Raft of the Medusa”. Théodore Géricault. 1818-1819. Oil on canvas. 16’x23′. Louvre, Paris.

Composition and Space:

We see a triangular mass of twisted body. Our eyes are guided by the visions and gestures of the people from left down to upright point, from suffering in despair to striving for hope. The sea level is very high, placing viewers very low in the painting as if we were one of the survivors, experiencing the moment.

Colors:

A lot of desaturated hues to make the scene crude; restricted color scheme. All the in-between (form)shadows are composed of dark green and dark bown, cold VS warm to show forms.

raft color

Line and Value:

See form lines along the body, sharp values (from extreme dark to whitest white); Use dark value to add drama to the scene, accentuating expressions, muscles and body twisting. Lots of darkness also add horror and despair.

Texture:

Realistic, yet we can see some loose brushworks in the sky and waves.

Project: 2 Color Thumbnails

Color Thumbnail study by Yunxia Jia

Color Thumbnail study by Yunxia Jia

color comp 01 romanticism

Color Thumbnail study by Yunxia Jia

 Color Thumbnail Concept Illustration for Ozymandias

Percy Bysshe Shelly
I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said—-“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinked lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart, that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch faraway.”

Illustrated By Yunxia Jia

Illustrated By Yunxia Jia

More here:


Reference:

  • kuler.adobe.com

Neoclassicism: Back to Reason as Enlightment

Intro

“Grande Odalisque”. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. 1814. Oil on canvas. 2’11” x 5’4″. Louvre, Paris.

“Grande Odalisque”. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. 1814. Oil on canvas. 2’11” x 5’4″. Louvre, Paris.

  • During late 18th century, Europe started to turn back to Greek and Roman Classical art again.
  • Inspired by the idealized canons of Classical Greek values (liberty, virtuosity and morality) as models of political organization. This art period was the result of an intense shift in philosophy.
  • Thus the Enlightenment was born, which was in essence a new way of thinking about the world independently of religion, myth or tradition. This is the period in which the humans became overconfident in the human Reason an rationality.
  • Two key beliefs: faith in the European Reason to reject the tradition; Search for the practical knowledge as the power to control nature.
  • Artists began to follow the direction that reason should govern life and art.

Jacques Louis David and Napoleon Proporganda

“The coronation of Napoleon”. Jacques-Louis David. 1805-1808. Oil on canvas. 20′ 41/2″ x 32′ 1/4″. Louvre, Paris

“The coronation of Napoleon”. Jacques-Louis David. 1805-1808. Oil on canvas. 20′ 41/2″ x 32′ 1/4″. Louvre, Paris

First, I studied the painting Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David. The artist Jacques-Louis David is one of the most well known Neoclassical painters. David depicts Napoleon as a victorious and powerful leader. His work shows intense realism with attention to every detail in the human form as a statue, and the surrounding scene as real as possible. His painting is a great example of solid Greek art in subject and aesthetic.

Formal Analysis of Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard Pass

Jacques Louis David, Napoleon, Calm on a Fiery Steed, Crossing the Alps, 1801, oil on canvas, 102″x 87″, Musée National du Château de Malmaison, Rueil

JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID, Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard Pass, 1800–1801. Oil on canvas, 8’ 11″ X 7’ 11”. Musée National du Château de Versailles, Versailles.

Composition and space:

Large, front and center, emphasizing Napoleon’s presence and importance. A dynamic compositional diagonal line through the horse’s body, and finally up and out through the tip of Napoleon’s finger – highest point of the painting, as if we were there following him. A beautiful statue-like balance is created within unstable lines(cloud lines in the negative space also play an important role to the balance). The Negative space wraps around the painting invitingly. Yet, we can see some depth in the landscape because his smart use of the soldiers scales.

Shape, line and lighting:

Clear shapes, sharp contours, crisp edges, no formal lines. We can see silhouette of the main figure very clearly. Strategic cinema lighting from up-left is used to enhance the tension of the scene, giving need shadows(semi-shadow gazes towards the viewer in a calm, yet ominous manner) and showing his power as a great leader.

Color and value:

Mostly desaturated cold colors in the background pop up the main red burst cape (an ideal of passion and power) and Napoleon of the highest contrast in value. The far landscape is grouped in one value and one tone. Atmospheric perspective to show depth. Warmer tone in foreground. Sharp transition down the horse, again we have value grouping low at the corner, together with layers and folds, making the figure and horse have weight within the image.

Texture:

Hyper realistic, yet perfectly smooth; Layers and folds are used to add weight and balance to the image.

Project: Harriet in a Neo-Classic room

Ms. Harriet

Ms. Harriet

Reference:

444px-Ingres_Princess_Albert_de_Broglie 428px-Jean-Auguste-Dominique_Ingres_-_Comtesse_d'Haussonville_-_Google_Art_Project409px-Jean_auguste_dominique_ingres_baronne_james_de_rothschild 416px-David_Etienne_Maurice_Gerard

More pictures here in these videos:

“Art of the Western World – Episode 11: The Age of Reason”

Baroque Art 2 (Northern): Roughly Vivid

Intro

In my last post, I talked about the Baroque art in the Catholic part of Europe. Meanwhile, the other part also had something going on. When Spain was at its peak of political and economical power (rulers of The Netherlands and Austria as well), art was an important asset to enforce their political figures and the royal family. But later on, The Netherlands declared their independence from Spain. Proud of their freedom, artists of this region flourished with new ideologies, both political and religious (Protestants).

Because of this, Dutch artists did not have the commissions by the Church or State, focusing on other subjects and topics for an art market invented by the people. Today we are gonna look at the protestant part of the 1700 Europe, incredible painters such as Peter Paul Rubens (Flanders), Diego Velázquez (Spain) and Rembrandt Van Rijn(Holland) emerged as important icons of Western art.

The Laughing Cavalier

The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals, 1624, Oil on canvas, 83 x 67 cm Wallace Collection, London

The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals, 1624, Oil on canvas, 83 x 67 cm Wallace Collection, London

This is one of the most famous portraits in the world, yet the identity of the man is unknown. The portrait is inscribed at top right “Æ’TA SVÆ 26/A°1624”, which expands to “aetatis suae 26, anno 1624” in Latin and means that the portrait was painted when the sitter was 26 and in the year 1624.  Its modern fame is founded partly on the incomparable skill with which Hals has painted the brilliant costume (including the love emblems on the doublet), but above all on the vivid portrayal of swaggering self-confidence.

As early as the 17th century, people were struck by the vitality of Frans Hals’ portraits. For example, Haarlem resident Theodorus Schrevelius noted that Hals’ works reflected ‘such power and life’ that the painter ‘seems to challenge nature with his brush’. Centuries later Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo: ‘What a joy it is to see a Frans Hals, how different it is from the paintings – so many of them – where everything is carefully smoothed out in the same manner.’ Hals chose not to give a smooth finish to his painting, as most of his contemporaries did, but mimicked the vitality of his subject by using smears, lines, spots, large patches of color and hardly any details. It was not until the 19th century that his technique had followers, particularly among the Impressionists. Pieces such as The Regentesses of the Old Men’s Alms House and the civic guard paintings demonstrate this technique to the fullest. [2]

Formal Breakdown

Composition and Space:
Lively and spontaneous, the turning pose and low viewpoint allow emphasis on the figure’s attitude as well as on the embroidered sleeve, lace cuff.

Line& Edge:
Loose lines and fussy edges, yet daringly placed with a well plan.

Value& Shape:
Full range of value, but mainly use high contrast value to create shapes. Most of the painting is in mid value. (See the image below)

Color:
High saturation colors of mid value mainly lie in the costume. Color shapes also appear rough done by long, quick brush strokes.

Texture:
Loosely mimicked the vitality of the gorgeous, expensive, silk costume by using smears, lines, spots, large patches of color and hardly any details.

Value Analysis

Value Analysis

Other:

There are many emblems in the embroidery: signifying “the pleasures and pains of love” are “bees, arrows, flaming cornucopiae, lovers’ knots and tongues of fire”, while an obelisk or pyramid signifies strength and Mercury’s cap and caduceus fortune.[3]

In general, commissioned portraits such as this rarely showed adults smiling until the late 18th century, though smiling is often seen in tronies and figures in genre painting. But Hals is an exception to the general rule and often showed sitters with broader smiles than here, and in informal poses that bring an impression of movement and spontaneity to his work.[4]

James Todd of Ohio State University and co-author of the study said: “If a person in a painting is looking straight out, it will always appear that way, regardless of the angle at which it is viewed.”
The effect of the eyes appearing to follow the viewer from every angle is a result of the subject being depicted as looking directly forward, toward the artist’s point of view, combined with being a static two dimensional representation of this from whichever angle the painting itself is viewed.[5]

Project: Hierarchy of Genres in 17th Century Dutch painting

What genres are those 17th Century Dutch paintings?

“The Adoration of the Magi”. Diego Velázquez. 1619. Oil on canvas, 203 x 125 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

“The Adoration of the Magi”. Diego Velázquez. 1619. Oil on canvas, 203 x 125 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

“Las Meninas” or “The Family of Philip IV”. Diego Velázquez, 1656-57. Oil on canvas, 318 x 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

“Las Meninas” or “The Family of Philip IV”. Diego Velázquez, 1656-57. Oil on canvas, 318 x 276 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

“The Dairy Maid” Aelbert Cuyp. c.1650. Oil on canvas. 106×172 cm . Hermitage museum.

“The Dairy Maid” Aelbert Cuyp. c.1650. Oil on canvas. 106×172 cm . Hermitage museum.

Jacob Isaakszoon van Ruisdael. 1649. Oil on canvas. 134 × 193 cm. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.

Jacob Isaakszoon van Ruisdael. 1649. Oil on canvas. 134 × 193 cm. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.

“The Dissolute Household”. Jan Steen. 1661-64. Oil on canvas, 81 x 89 cm. Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London

“The Dissolute Household”. Jan Steen. 1661-64. Oil on canvas, 81 x 89 cm. Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London

“Vanitas Still-Life”. Pieter Claesz. 1630. Oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague

“Vanitas Still-Life”. Pieter Claesz. 1630. Oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague

Choose from – History, Portraiture, Genre, Landscape, Still-life

So here is the answer plus my explanation:

pyramig of genre

It is interesting that we can see those paintings applied in the movies:

History: by the mid-1580s, war with Spain could no longer be avoided. When Spain finally decided to attempt to conquer England in 1588, the failure of the Spanish Armada associated her with one of the greatest military victories in English history.

History: from Elizabeth: The Golden Age movie. By the mid-1580s, war with Spain could no longer be avoided. When Spain finally decided to attempt to conquer England in 1588, the failure of the Spanish Armada associated her with one of the greatest military victories in English history.

Portrait: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie

Portrait: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie  – Both 2D and 3D: We have 2D paintings at display and 3D figure posing in the same frame

Genre: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie

Genre: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie

Landscape: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie

Still-life: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie

Landscape: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie

Landscape: from the Girl With a Pearl Earring Movie


Reference

1. www.frans-hals.org

2. Schjeldahl, Peter (8 August 2011). “Haarlem Shuffle: The Fast World of Frans Hals”. The New Yorker (Condé Nast): 74–75. Retrieved 26 November 2011.

3.Ingamells, p.135–136; Slive p.38

4.Middelkoop and Van Grevenstein-Kruse, 76; Ekkart and Buvelot, 106; Slive, 38

5.”How the Laughing Cavalier keeps an eye on everybody”, The Guardian, by Ian Sample, 22 September 2004

Baroque Art 1 (Catholic): Feeling for the drama of the human presence

Intro

  • Because of the Counter Reformation of the catholic church which emerged by 1600 across Europe, the artists in Italy and Spain during the 17th and mid 18th century  worked to meet the needs to showcase the glory of Christianity.
  • Inspired by the idealized canons of Classical Greek artwork, the art works became irregular, contorted, grotesque (original meaning of Baroque), yet well planned and visually appealing.

John the Baptist

First, I studied the painting by Caravaggio. I chose this one from his beloved John the Baptist series.

John the Baptist, Caravaggio, c. 1604, Oil on canvas, 173 cm × 133 cm (68 in × 52 in), Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

John the Baptist, Caravaggio, c. 1604, Oil on canvas, 173 cm × 133 cm (68 in × 52 in), Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Caravaggio biographer Peter Robb has pointed out that the fourth Baptist seems like a psychic mirror-image of the first one(shown below), with all the signs reversed: the brilliant morning light which bathed the earlier painting has become harsh and almost lunar in its contrasts, and the vivid green foliage has turned to dry dead brown.

"John the Baptist" by Caravaggio (1571-1610), painted about 1598. Toledo, Museo del Tesoro Catedralico. Scanned from 'Caravaggio' by Gilles Lambert (pub. Taschen, 2000, ISBN 3-8228-6305-X).

John the Baptist, Caravaggio (1571-1610), , 1598. Toledo, Museo del Tesoro Catedralico.

There is almost nothing in the way of symbols to identify that this is indeed a religious image, no halo, no sheep, no leather girdle, nothing but the thin reed cross (a reference to Christ’s description of John as “a reed shaken by the wind”). The painting demonstrates what Robb calls Caravaggio’s “feeling for the drama of the human presence.” This adolescent, almost adult, John seems locked in some private world known only to his creator. Caravaggio’s conception of the saint as a seated, solitary figure, lacking almost any narrative identity (how do we know this is the Baptist? What is happening here?) was truly revolutionary. Artists from Giotto to Bellini and beyond had shown the Baptist as an approachable story, a symbol understandable to all; the very idea that a work should express a private world, rather than a common religious and social experience, was radically new.

Here to mention another painting among his John the Baptist series :

The Mattei Baptist proved immensely popular – eleven known copies were made, including one recognised by scholars as being from Caravaggio’s own hand. The collectors ordering the copies would have been aware of a further level of irony: the pose adopted by the model is a clear imitation of that adopted by one of Michelangelo’s famous ignudi on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (painted 1508-1512). The role of these gigantic male nudes in Michelango’s depiction of the world before the Laws of Moses has always been unclear – some have supposed them to be angels, others that they represent the Neo-Platonic ideal of human beauty – but for Caravaggio to pose his adolescent assistant as one of the Master’s dignified witnesses to the Creation could also be a sign of genre art, which was mainly happening in the other part of Europe, like Netherland.

John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram), Caravaggio, c. 1602, 129x94 cm, Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome.

John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram), Caravaggio, c. 1602, 129×94 cm, Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome.

Ignudo by Michelangelo, c. 1508-1512. Sistine Chapel, Rome.

Ignudo by Michelangelo, c. 1508-1512. Sistine Chapel, Rome.

Formal Breakdown of John the Baptist

41baptis 2

Design Principals:

  • In this particular painting, except for the red drapery, the color scheme is desaturated and almost monochromatic, making the image very intimate and unified. Then it is the vivid redness that saves the gloomy theme, making the image a lot more vibrant, even seducing.
  • The leaning triangular shape is helping the image to remain balanced, yet we can find so many unstable shapes created by high contrast values of the figure at tension. It is the moment that he is going to do something. There is movement beyond the image – in the observer’s prediction.
  • Creating so many layers in space without leaving the image too messy, Caravaggio achieved his rhythm by grouping values and colors. Bright colors have pale skin tone and red tone. Dark side is mainly dark. All the smaller parts are close to the main tone in value and hue, as well as in the density of high contrast.

Baroque Style Key Point:

  • dark
  • emotion
  • dynamic, more action than thinking revealed
  • spacial complexity
  • high contrast
  • overlapping layers of light and dark ( use fabrics instead of nudity )
  • in-moment, unstable twisted tension, robust drama
  • structure and support revealed
  • naturalism and classicism
  • illusion and reality
  • movement

Specific Content:

Show strong feeling, emphasize dramatic experience, using extreme topic such as sex, violence, not interested in understanding through logical analysis. But their categories are limited to religion, history and portrait.

Erotism in Caravaggio

In addition, I found Caravaggio’s lips of boys – we can see an indirect or direct sign of erotism.

Caravaggio's lips

Caravaggio’s lips

Caravaggio never showed any of his figures in open daylight, but instead found a way to place them in the darkness of a closed room, putting a lamp high so that the light would fall straight down, revealing the principal part of the body and leaving the rest in shadow so as to produce a powerful contrast of light and dark. The painters in Rome were greatly taken by this novelty, and the young ones particularly gathered around him, praised him as the unique imitator of nature, and looked on his work as miracles.[2]

Shadows, he felt, offered shelter as can four walls and a roof. Whatever and wherever he painted he really painted interiors. Sometimes – for The Flight into Egypt or one of his beloved John the Baptists – he was obliged to include a landscape in the background. But these landscapes are like rugs or drapes hung up on a line across an inner courtyard. He only felt at home – no, that he felt nowhere – he only felt relatively at ease inside. … A body flares with light in an interior of darkness. The surroundings – the world outside the window – can be forgotten. Only the worst news can come from there. The desired body disclosed in the darkness – which is not a question of the time of day or night but of life as it is on this planet – the desired body, disclosed like an apparition, beckons beyond, not by provocative gesture but by the undisguised fact of its own sentience, promising the universe lying on the far side of that skin, calling you to leave.[3]

Project

Based on the studies above, I created a picture in Baroque style featuring a baroqued comedy cartoon character.

Background story

Gintoki Sakata (坂田銀時) is a fictional character in the Japanese comedy manga and anime Gin Tama(Silver Soul).

Sakata Gintoki

Sakata Gintoki

He is introduced as a former rebel samurai who lives in a fictionalized version of 1860s Japan after being invaded and transformed by aliens. Gintoki once fought the alien invaders until he realized the lack of sense in doing so, leading to him choosing to instead make a living as a freelancer for hire in Edo alongside his friends in order to pay the monthly rent. The comedy is mainly about his life as a freelancer now.

However, I had my inspiration coming from the comedy show that has a sad background hidden beneath the ridiculously funny everyday life scenes serialized for over 10 years.

As a tramp kid who looked for food among battlefield, Gintoki was found and taught by his teacher Shoyo. Later Shoyo was unjustly accused of raising an army, which resulted in his execution and Gintoki joining the War against the government with his buddies in order to save him. During that period, he was known as the “White Demon” due to his silver hair and impressive capabilities as a swordsman.

During the War when he and his buddies were captured, Gintoki was forced to execute his beloved teacher, Shoyo, without any choice to keep his promise with Shoyo as protecting his buddies and living on.

So he lived on with this heavy past, instead of killing himself(a common samurai code). He used a bokken (a wooden sword for training) instead of a real katana while keeping his own samurai code.

Once during a funny scene, when Gintoki was asked by his buddies that whether he had kept Shoyo’s textbook as everyone else did. He said he tossed it long ago for he spilt ramen on it.

I like Gintama especially because all of its characters have historical prototypes.So I chose to do a Baroque style of the ramen scene from this animated comedy.

In this practice, I imagined that there might be a moment, or many moments during the countless long nights he spent alone, that Gintoki wanted to kill himself, yet he finally let go of the past because of the accidental ramen split. Who knows the accident happens without blessing from the other world?

Image

Baroque Style Gintoki "I tossed the book lone ago for I split ramen on it(ラーメンこぼして捨てた)" By Yunxia Jia 2015

Baroque Style Gintoki “I tossed the book lone ago for I split ramen on it(ラーメンこぼして捨てた)”
By Yunxia Jia 2015

What is Baroque about this painting?

Choice Making Analysis of Baroque Style Gintoki "I tossed the book lone ago for I split ramen on it(ラーメンこぼして捨てた)" By Yunxia Jia 2015

Choice Making Analysis of Baroque Style Gintoki “I tossed the book lone ago for I split ramen on it(ラーメンこぼして捨てた)”
By Yunxia Jia 2015


Reference

1. YouTube. “Art of the Western World – Episode 9: The Birth of Baroque” YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmvs8uKz15U.

2. Caravaggio’s biographer Giovanni Pietro Bellori, writing in 1672
3. John Berger, “Caravaggio: A Contemporary View”, 1983, Studio International, Volume 196 Number 998