Henri Matisse – Reclining Nude

In the light of Henri Matisse’s birthday on the 31st here are some of my favourite paintings and a bit of text about them.

If not for a bout of appendicitis, Henri Matisse may have lived the quiet life of a lawyer and remained unknown to the world. In 1890 Matisse took up painting during his convalescence at the advanced age of 20. He soon abandoned the study of law and became a regular presence in the studios of salon painters like Adolphe-William Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau. He took every opportunity to draw from live models and attended a range of public and private art schools to make up for his lack of youthful training. At age 30 Matisse was forced out of the Paris École des Beaux Arts on the grounds of his age.


Up to this point, Matisse had paid close attention to the palette and painting practices of the impressionists. He began to move past the influence of that style and emerged in 1904 as a leader of a group of artists that came to be known as the Fauves, or wild beasts. The Fauves were noted for their use of bright colors in place of naturalistic hues and expressive brushstrokes. Throughout his career, Matisse retained his interest in the human form and the use of color, form, pattern and line to enliven a painting.


Large Reclining Nude, a masterpiece of composition and form, is evidence of Matisse’s enduring interest in using the live model to investigate the formal and emotional aspects of the human figure. By the time Matisse ceased work on this painting, his model (and assistant) Lydia Delectorskaya may not have immediately recognized herself. The finished painting went through 22 separate stages before Matisse was finally satisfied. Matisse documented the evolution of the painting with photographs. In the finished work, the figure stretches across a blue and white checkerboard plane that is set in contrast to a thick red stripe and the white and green plaid of the wall. The flat design elements and use of checkerboard pattern are missing in the first versions of this work. During the artistic process, Lydia’s body changes from a realistically proportioned figure to an elongated torso with strong legs and arms and a diminutive head. Her blue and white resting place can be identified as a couch in the early versions. The rounded brown, yellow and flesh-tone shapes above her stomach originally appear as a vase of flowers perched on a chair set behind the sofa. The thick red strip of color resembling a chair rail is actually the floor.


Beginning with the sixth revision, Matisse pinned paper shapes directly to the canvas to work on the composition. Pinholes remain visible on the canvas. (This practice predates Matisse’s cut-paper compositions he occupied himself with during his years of waning health.) The shapes of the room decorations become flatter and more geometric after this stage. Matisse introduced the checkerboard motif halfway through the process. The regularity of the line pattern and the languid pose of the figure balance each other out to create a sense of stability in the composition that demonstrates Matisse’s mastery of his art and faith in his process.


Rejoice by JamesPresley


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Success at Last

Hey everybody, I am so pleased because I just discovered that those greetings cards that I spent so much time preparing have been a raging success and I will be getting work out of it next year.


This is so cool because I so much want to do what I enjoy doing most in the World ART.

Well wish me luck and a Merry Christmas to everybody.

Emil Filla

The beginnings of modern Czech art and painting, particularly Cubism, are inextricably linked with the name Emil Filla. After training under Franz Thiele and Vlaho Bukovac at the Prague Fine Arts Academy, he travelled extensively before joining other young artists, among them Procházka and Kubín, to found the group ‘Osma’ (the Group of Eight) in 1907.


Osma was under the sway of both the Paris Fauves and ‘Die Brücke’. To Filla, however, Munch’s ‘marine painting’ was also important and, a few years later, the influence of El Greco became apparent in his work. In 1909 Filla joined the venerable secessionist artists association ‘SVU Mánes but left it in 1911 to join forces with fourteen other young avant-garde artists to found ‘Skupina’, which was the centre of Czech Cubism until 1914. Filla, working as an art agent at that time, kept abreast of trends in Paris and Germany, procuring for himself and friends reproductions of paintings by Picasso, Braque and ‘Negro sculpture’.


The sculptures he did in this phase, such as ‘Relief of a Head’ and ‘Head of a Man’ (1913/14: both in the Prague National Gallery) are, with the works of Gutfreund, among the earliest Cubist sculptures and can be classified as an independent reaction to Picasso’s ‘Fernande’ (1909). In 1914 Filla was in Paris with Gutfreund and met both Braque und Picasso. He married Hana Krejcová and moved with her to Amsterdam, where he joined the anti-Habsburg resistance group ‘Mafia’. He entertained a close dialogue with the Dutch abstractionists and was implored by Theo van Doesburg to work for the journal ‘De Stjil’ but by 1920 Filla had returned to Prague. There he participated in almost all nation-wide exhibitions with works dealing with the human figure. He developed what he called the ‘Animal of the Steppe’s Style’ in reaction to fascism. Inspired by Scythian reliefs and executed in various techniques, this style highlights combats between man and animals or animals fighting other animals. Filla was interned during the war years 1939-45 in the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald, where he wrote the book ‘On Freedom’. In 1945 the ‘Mánes’ devoted their first post-war exhibition to Filla’s work. That year he was appointed professor at the Prague Applied Arts Academy and the government made it possible for him to show his collection of Buddhist, Czech, African and Italian art permanently at Peruc Castle. After the communist take-over, he spent the last years of his life in retirement, painting landscapes revealing his intensive preoccupation with Chinese painting.


From: Art Directory

I Hear

I Hear by JamesPresley


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Tomorrow is the birthday of Wassily Kandinsky, who is one of my favourites, so here is a quick recap.
The Russian painter and graphic artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was one of the great masters of modern art and the outstanding representative of pure abstract painting that dominated the first half of the 20th century. Wassily Kandinsky produced his early work in Russia, his mature and most revolutionary work in Germany, and his later work in France. He invented a language of abstract forms with which he replaced the forms of nature. His ultimate intention was to mirror the universe in his visionary world. He felt that painting possessed the same power as music and that sign, line, and color ought to correspond to the vibrations of the human soul.


Kandinsky was born on Dec. 4, 1866, in Moscow; his father was a tea merchant. When he was 5 the family moved to Odessa. The young Kandinsky drew, wrote poems, and played the piano and the cello. He grew up in a bourgois, cultured family and learned to play the piano and the cello. In 1886 he began to study law and economics at the Moscow University. After passing his exams he started a teaching career at the Moscow Faculty of Law. He had many interests and apparently a great gift to teach himself different skills.


In 1895 Kandinsky saw an exhibition of French impressionists in Moscow with paintings of Monet and others. He was at first confused and would later described how upset he was about Monet’s painting The haystack. He thought that the painter had no right to paint things in a way that made it difficult to recognize the subject. In 1896, at the age of thirty, he decided to start a new career as an artist and went to Munich in Southern Germany. He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts for four years until 1900. The art of Kandinsky established itself rather fast from 1903 on through many exhibitions in Europe. In 1911 he formed together with other ex-pressionist painters the group Der Blaue Reiter. Other members of the group were the Swiss painter Paul Klee, Franz Marc, August Macke, Gabriele Münter, Alexei von Jawlensky and Alfred Kubin. Kandinsky was the leading head of the group together with Franz Marc. His dominant position was not always to the delight of the other members.


Kandinsky became the theorist of abstract painting. In 1910 he created his first abstract work – a watercolor. In 1912 he published a book on the theory of abstraction. The Blue Rider had only a short life due to the outbreak of World War I. In 1914 Kandinsky returned to Russia where he stayed until 1921. In 1922 he came back to Germany to teach and work at the Bauhaus in Dessau until 1933. During the years at the Bauhaus the artist had his most productive and prolific time.


When the German Nazis came to power in 1933, all modern art was considered as entartet (degenerated art) and the Bauhaus was closed in 1933. Kandinsky’s works were removed from German museums and confiscated. The artist’s next destination was Neuiily near Paris where he remained until his death in 1944. At the time of his emigration to France, he was a well-established artist in the United States. Salomon Guggenheim became one of his collectors. Wassily Kandinsky continuously developed his style over the years but never made any abrupt changes as for instance Pablo Picasso did. His early paintings were expressive, colorful compositions but figural. The style reminds of Henri Matisse. From around 1910 the transition to abstract painting can be recognized. The figural elements were more and more reduced and finally they disappeared completely. Like a musician, he titled his art works impressions, compositions or improvisations. From around 1920 on, his style became rather geometrical.


Kandinsky’s youth and life in Moscow brought inspiration from a variety of sources. As a child he would later recall being fascinated and unusually stimulated with color. This is probably due to his synaesthesia which allowed him to quite literally hear as well as see color. The fascination with color continued as he grew up in Moscow, although he seems to have made no attempt to study art. In 1889 he was part of an ethnographic group that traveled to the Vologda region north of Moscow. His study of the folk art in the region, in particular the use of bright colors on a dark background was reflected in his early work. Kandinsky would write a few years later that ‘Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with the strings’.

Along with Piet Mondriaan and Kazimir Malevich, Kandinsky is considered a pioneer in abstract art, undoubtedly the most famous. He was a synaesthete who could, quite literally, hear colors. This effect of color was a major influence on his art, and he even named some of his paintings “improvisations” and “compositions” as if they were works of music and not painting. Works by Kandinsky have been recently sold for as much as US$25 million. Probably the largest collection of his paintings may be seen in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Art Review; Ad Reinhardt; Robert Motherwell

Taken from The New York Times, By Ken Johnson

For Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967), Puritanism ultimately prevailed over hedonism. With calculated hyperbole, he declared that the history of painting ended with his black paintings, in which obdurate monochromism subdued color to near invisibility. But during the 1950’s, Reinhardt gave himself over to the pleasures of color and produced some of the decade’s most optically luxuriant paintings. This overcrowded exhibition presents 59 works leading up to that period, easel-size pictures from 1941 to 1952.


You see Reinhardt, who never wavered in his commitment to abstraction, sorting out three tendencies: a bouncy, Stuart Davis-like Cubism; busy, calligraphic drawing, and Mondrianesque grids of pure color. There are appealing works mixing wiry, allover linearism and juicy color, but the best pictures consist only of square or rectangular patches flickering on flat, candy-colored fields — what Reinhardt, who liked to make fun of art historians by labeling his own work, called ”archaic color-brick-brushwork-Impressionism.”


The most compelling are almost ridiculously pretty, like an ice-cream-colored vertical from 1952 in which mint-green, sky-blue and ochre-brick shapes float across a deep raspberry pink.


To move from these to the works on the other end of the gallery, a selection of Robert Motherwell’s empty but unfailingly elegant black-and-white gestural drawings done from 1951 to 1986, is to experience sensory deprivation.