Gagik Manoukian

Gagik Manoukian was born on April 20, 1952 in Yerevan, Armenia. In 1976 he finished his studies at the Terlemezyan Art Institute. Since 1982, a member of the Association of Artists of Armenia.

The art of the painter Gagik Manoukian originates from the roots of Armenian art and culture, but his independent creative activities also reflects best traditions of Armenian avant-garde, especially Martiros Sarjan’s dramatic sense form and colors. Manoukian adopted with virtuosity the experience of

Abstract art   Modern art Theatre    Gagik Manoukian

Abstract art   Modern art Mystic woman    Gagik Manoukian

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Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)

Although not abstract, a very great painter worthy of a spot on my blog, and Happy Birthday to him.

Swiss painter, poet, critic, and teacher, a fervent admirer of Shakespeare, who spent most of his active career in England. Fuseli has often been regarded as a forerunner of the Romantic art movement and a precursor of Symbolism and Surrealism. His most famous painting is The Nightmare (1781), in which an ape-like goblin sits on a young woman, who is sleeping in a strained posture.

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The only man that ever I knew
Who did not make me almost spew
Was Fuseli: he was both Turk and Jew –
And so, dear Christian Friends, how do you do?
(William Blake’s tribute to Fuseli)

Henry Fuseli was born Johann Heinrich Füssli in Zürich into a family of artists and writers. His father was the portrait painter and art historian Johannes Kaspar Füssli. Although Fuseli’s brothers and sisters became artists, his father directed him towards priesthood. He studied theology at Caroline College in Zurich, where he was taught by Professor J.J. Bodmer, an early promoter of the Sturm und Drang movement in Switzerland. Later Fuseli portrayed him an a work entitled The Painter in Conversation with Johann Jakob Bodmer (1778-81).

Fuseli was ordained a Zwinglian clergyman in 1761. Next year, in consequence of a pamphlet, in which he attacked Felix Grebel, the corrupted administration of a magistrate, he had to leave Zurich. Fuseli’s fellow-polemicist, the theologian Johann Casper Lavater, later descibed his energetic friend: “His spirits are hurricane, his servants flames of fire. He goes on the wings of the wind. His laugh is the mockery of Hell, and his love a murderous lightning flash.” Fuseli traveled through Germany, and spent then much time in Berlin. There worked on a German translation of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Letters, which was published in 1763. Lavater and Fuseli remained friends. Fuseli’s translation of Lavater’s Aphorisms on Man appeared in 1788. He also illustrated the original German and French editions of Lavater’s Physiognomical Fragments.

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In 1764, Fuseli went to London to work as a translator of French, German, and Italian books. At the age of twenty-four, he translated into English Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks by the German Neo-Classical theorist J.J. Winkelmann. However, Fuseli did not become Winkelmann’s follower. He also admired another great intellectual figure of the time, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom he met, but eventually broke with his ideas. Fuseli’s book on the French philosopher, Remarks on the Writing and Conduct of J. J. Rousseau, was published anonymously in 1767.

Fuseli was an active writer until 1768 without much success. Because he could not support himself by his pen, he served as a traveling tutor to the young Lord Chewton, a work which he did not like and which was much against his temperement. Fuseli had “the wildness of the warrior”, as Lavater said, and a punch-up ended eventually his appointment. On the advice of the famous portrait painter Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), who encouraged Fuseli to devote himself to painting, he went in 1770 to Rome for eight years. There he abandoned Winkelmann’s refined aestheticism-“noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” just was not his program. Fuseli taught himself, mainly by copying Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and drawing from antique sculptures. Among Fuseli’s most haunting works dealing with antique is The Artist in Despair over the Magnitude of Antique Fragments (1778-80), in which only a hand, pointing upwards, and a foot, have remained from a colossal statue (of Constantine the Great). Although Fuseli’s technique was highly personal and experimental, his choice of themes influenced so much the other foreign artists in Rome, that he became virtually the leader of a school of painting. His circle included Alexander and John Runciman, the Swedish sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel, the English artist Thomas Banks, and the Danish painter Nicolas Abildgaard. “There is living in Rome a noble German from Zurich, Henry Fuseli,” wrote Johann Herder in 1774 in a letter to Johann Hamann, “a genius like a mountain torrent, a worshipper of Shakespeare, and now, Shakespeare’s painter.”

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On his return to Zurich Fuseli painted The Oath of the Ruttli (1779-81), which was destined for the Town Hall. After his romance with Lavater’s niece Anna Landolt failed, he left in 1779 for London. It is though that his best-known scene, The Nightmare, refers to this affair. A young woman is mounted by a demonic looking incubus; the monster literally is a burden on her heart. She lies in a sprawl, with her arm hanging down. A horse, the “night mare” gazes through the curtains with phosphorescent eyes, observing or leering. It has remained a puzzle, whose nightmare Fuseli portrays-it cannot be the woman’s because she is part of the scene herself. It has been said, that the picture is an revenge for an unfulfilled desire, ultimately perhaps a manifestation of a jealous passion, in which the strange lover of the woman is reduced into a monster. The work became so popular that Fuseli painted several other versions on request. One version of The Nightmare was published in Erasmus Darwin’s poem The Botanic Garden (1789-91). In France, The Nightmare inspired Charles Nodier’s fantasy story Smarra, ou Les Démons de la nuit (1821). Fuseli himself was careful not to be tempted by “fancy” and the unknown, but believed in the possible, the probable, and the known-“our ideas are the offspring of our senses,” he once said. A Sleeping Woman and the Furies (1821) took the sexual undertones even further. Now the woman is half-naked and her figure suggest that she has been violated. Another cruel fantasy was Wolfram Looking at his Wife, whom he has Imprisoned with the Corpse of her Lover (1812-20). From these and other works it has been concluded, that Fuseli was a misogynist and he feared and loathed dominant women.

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In 1788 Fuseli married Sophia Rawlins, whom he used as a model in a number of erotic and macabre paintings. In Mrs. Fuseli Seated by a Fireplace (1799) she was also referred in the figure of the feared Medusa; the sight of her head turned all living things into stone. The early feminist Mary Godwin (Wollstonecraft), whose portrait Fuseli painted, planned a trip with him to Paris, but after Sophia’s intervention the Fuselis door was closed to her forever. “I hate clever women,” Fuseli once said, “they are only troublesome.” Fuseli’s ‘Milton Gallery’, which was exhibited in 1799, was a financial failure. Fuseli also illustrated Dante, Spenser’s Faerie Queen, Nordic myths and legends, the Niebelungenlied, medieval poems, and fairy tales.

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However, at the beginning of his career, he was most attracted to the plays of William Shakespeare. For him Shakespeare was “the supreme master of passions and the ruler of our hearts”. As a teenager he had translated Macbeth into German. In the 1760s Fuseli had seen the famous actor David Garrick in the role of Macbeth and produced a watercolor portraying Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the murder of Duncan. Later he returned to this play in several paintings in which the figures are surrounded by mysterious darkness, among them Macbeth conculting the vision of the Armed Head, painted for the Shakespeare Gallery in Dublin. The faces of the three sisters in the work were modelled on the face of his old mentor, Johann Jakob Bodmer. His other favorite works included Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for which he produced numerous sequences. From 1786, Fuseli contributed actively to Boydell’s ‘Shakespeare Gallery’. Fuseli had read Shakespeare’s plays so thoroughly that he supposedly was able to recollect any passage that was quoted.

For the Analytical Review Fuseli started to write in 1788 essays and reviews. With Thomas Paine, William Godwin, Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and other men and women interested in art, literature and politics, Fuseli frequented the home of Joseph Johnson, a publisher and prominent figure in radical British political and intellectual life. When Louis XVI was executed in France in 1793, he condemned the revolution as despotic and anarchic, although he had first welcomed it as a sign of “an age pregnant with the most gigantic efforts of character.” In 1799 he was appointed professor of painting at the Royal Academy, and keeper of the Academy in 1804. Among his pupils were John Constable (1776-1837), the major English landscape painter of his time, Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), William Etty (1787-1849), and Edwin Landseer (1802-73), who first exhibited at the age of twelve. William Blake, who was sixteen years his junior, recognized a debt to him, and for a time many English artist copied his mannerisms.

Fuseli died on April 16, 1825, at the Countess of Guilford’s country residence at Putney Hill. He was buried at St Paul’s Cathedral, near to Sir Joshua Reynolds. After Fuseli’s death, Sophia burned many of the erotic drawings, which were not meant for the art audience. Fuseli’s work fell mostly into neglect. His reveries inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, but it was not until the 20th century when his surrealistic works were rediscovered. Among his admirers was H.P. Lovecraft, who confessed that “Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap ghost-story frontispiece merely makes us laugh.” The Nightmare probably inspired also Salvador Dali’s painting Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion (1930).

Fuseli’s works drew from Neoclassic harmony and narrative clarity, Romantic eroticism, and Mannerist distortions. The gestures and movement of his figures were exaggerated, as if they were actors on a stage. Male bodies have oversteressed muscles; they are men of action, not thinkers. Fuseli himself was an avid theatergoer, which perhaps explains also some of his most dramatic light effects.

There is a peculiar disparity between what Fuseli painted and what he wrote about his art. The great name of German Romanticism, Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840) fully accepted the split between the inner and outer vision. “Follow unconditionally the voice of your inner self,” was his doctrine, “because this is the divine in us, and it does not lead us astray.” Fuseli’s Lectures on Painting (1801-30), originally given at the Royal Academy in London, followed the traditional juxtaposition between the history of ancient and “modern” art, without giving a view into his inner thoughts. However, Fuseli’s studio was furnished in the style of his paintings. When his pupil Benjamin Robert Haydon visited it, he was amazed by its “Galvanized devils-malicious witches brewing their incantations-Satan bringing Chaos, and springing upward like a pyramid of fire-Lady Macbeth-Paolo and Francesca-Falstraff and Mrs Quickly-humour, pathos, terror, blood and murder met one at every look! I expected the floor to give way-I fancied Fuseli himself to be a giant.”

Fuseli’s ghostly and frightening subject-matter was a visual continuum of the Gothic novel, which developed an aesthetics of terror and horror, was occupied with dreams and the unconscious, and often looked back to the feudal world. Fuseli once said, that “one of the most unexplored regions of art are dreams and what may be called the personification of sentiments.” However, Fuseli himself showed little interest in dreams and inner workings of the psyche, with one exception-like the Romantic writers of the younger generation, Thomas De Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Fuseli used opium.

Alfredo Ramos Martinez

I just love the Mexican painters so much I thought it was about time I did another one.  I went to an exhibition in Budapest once, opened by the Mexican Ambassador and so this artists’ work and was overwhelmed by its beauty, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Alfredo Ramos Martinez was born on November 12, 1871, in Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo Leon, in Mexico. His father, Jacobo Ramos, a middle-class storekeeper, and his mother, Luisa Martinez de Ramos were strongly supportive of young Alfredo’s artistic endeavors and at the impressionable age of only nine years old, he sent a portrait he had painted of the governor of Nuevo Leon to a competition in San Antonio, Texas and was awarded first prize. Ramos Martinez spent eight years at the prestigious Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, an experience that left him resentful as he believed the system devalued any sense of individuality in an artist.

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Los Novios (The Sweethearts)

Fed up with the monotony of drawing from plaster casts, he often wandered away from the academy to paint scenes from ordinary life. His work caught the attention of American Phoebe Hearst, who arranged to financially support his studies abroad. In 1897, he arrived in Paris and continued his studies in the streets of the city embracing the style of the Post-Impressionists. It was here in Europe that Ramos Martinez began to paint on newsprint. As he explained later in an interview, while visiting Brittany in preparation for his Salon exhibition, he ran out of sketch paper. He asked his landlord if he had access to any good paper. When the landlord returned, he offered Ramos Martinez a stack of newspapers, which the artist reluctantly accepted.

El Dia del Mercado

Ramos Martinez returned to Mexico in 1910 and three years later he was appointed the Director of the National Academy. Although he protested at first, “no, not I, I am the enemy of all academies,” he later accepted the offer when he realized he had strong support from the students. He opened the first of his Escuelas de Pintura al Aire Libre (Open Air Schools of Painting) with an enrollment of ten boys, including a rebellious youth named David Alfaro Siqueiros, soon to become one of the most important Mexican muralists. Taking its cue from the Impressionist concept of painting in the outdoors, this revolutionary program initiated changes in both the theoretical and practical approaches to painting in Mexico bringing arts education within the reach of people of all walks of life. Modernist painter Rufino Tamayo, who studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes from 1917 through 1921, credited Ramos Martinez for directing him “toward Impressionism.” Ramos Martinez married Maria de Sodi Romero in 1928 and a year later their daughter, Maria, was born with a crippling bone disease. Greatly grieved by her suffering, Ramos Martinez and his family left Mexico in 1930 seeking medical attention for her in the United States. They settled in Los Angeles where her condition was successfully treated.

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Woman with Flowers

These circumstances would catapult Ramos Martinez’s art in a new direction. The works produced in California at this time are abruptly modern, yet they focus on prevailing themes of the Mexican renaissance. He turns to the subjects he adored: the humble yet monumental Indian, the dramatic landscapes of Mexico and religious themes that reveal the fervent spirituality shared by his people. He explores the parameters of volume and space in his enormous oil on canvas portraits and his lyrical language of line and color are revealed in his elegant gouaches. The tender embrace of a mother and child, a grouping of vendedoras masterfully balancing baskets of abundant, colorful fruit on their heads, or a depiction of a processional of indigenous women dressed in warm tones of yellows and golds paying homage to the pre-Colombian deity, Quetzalcoatl, are beautifully rendered and even further dramatized by the texture of his chosen medium of newsprint. Ramos Martinez was commissioned to paint numerous murals throughout the United States and Mexico including, the celebrity homes of Jo Swerling, Edith Head and Beulah Bondi, the Chapman Park Hotel, Scripps College in Claremont California and the Normal School for Teachers in Mexico City. His work was exhibited throughout California including the Los Angeles County Museum, the Assistance League Gallery in Hollywood, the Faulkner Gallery in Santa Barbara, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. In 1945, he had a one man show at the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries and the following year at Lillenfeld Gallery in New York City. After his death in 1946, his works were highlighted in several memorial retrospectives including Dalzell-Hatfield Galleries in 1951-1952, Los Angeles City College in 1953, at Scripps College in 1956 and in 1975 the Dalzell-Hatfield Galleries featured “Alfredo Ramos Martinez: A Treasure Trove Exhibition.” In 1992, Louis Stern Galleries presented a prominent retrospective exhibition of his work and continues to represent the estate. Although considered by many to be the founding father of Modern Mexican Art, Ramos Martinez’s astounding contributions to the development of Mexican and Southern Californian art has been dramatically overlooked. A prolific painter and an innovative teacher, Ramos Martinez has been a victim of circumstance; an inexplicable lapse in memory. At a time when Mexican art gained great momentum with the Mexican Muralist movement with such recognizable names as Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, Ramos Martinez’s substantial artistic vision had all been but erased. However, a truly great artist remains just that. “If Mexican modernism is the product of the 1910 Revolution, which projected not only a utopian vision of the future, but also a return to Mexico’s roots,” as Hans Haufe states, “Ramos Martinez stands among the painters that initiated that movement.” His legacy lives on and his work is now gaining the recognition it deservedly needs.