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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

portland's wurst gallery

Portland has great art galleries and the wurst gallery looks like it could also be its most fun:

Check out their current exhibit : the wurstminster
artists were invited to reserve a dog breed on a first come, first served basis. the only requirement was that the artist attempt to capture the look and spirit of their chosen breed in their own unique way. a portion of the proceeds from this show will be donated to DoveLewis animal hospital in portland, oregon.
I just wish I liked the Wire Fox Terrier better. The Norwich and the Scottie are great however.

I like everything about Portland: great art, great music, great lit, and the best bookstore in the world. It just rains too damn much. I couldn't take it. I'm not a jolly enough person to live with such persistent gloom. Under those conditions you have to have a sunny disposition in order to prevent yourself from perishing of grief.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

saint-tropez and modern art

Saint-Tropez (Municipality, Var, France)
In 1892, the painter Paul Signac (1863-1935), one of the leaders of the Pointillist school, sailing on his yacht Olympia, discovered the small fishers' village of Saint-Tropez.

Paul Signac. The Red Buoy, Saint-Tropez, 1895 Musée d'Orsay

He bought a house that he named La Hune (lit., the top [of a ship]) and transformed into his studio, where he invited his friends, such as Cross, Matisse, Derain and Marquet. Saint-Tropez became a main center of painting avant-garde of the early XXth century.

Henri Matisse, Luxe, calme et volupté (1905), Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Museum of Annonciade
The Museum of Annonciade, housed since 1955 in a former chapel located on the port of Saint-Tropez and abandoned during the French Revolution, shows 56 paintings, dating from 1890-1950, bequeathed by the local collector Georges Grammont. The collection is fairly small but includes only masterpieces by painters from the Pointillist, Fauvist and Nabi schools. Among the painters exhibited there are André Derain, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Rouault, Georges Braque, Georges Seurat, Henri-Edmond Cross, Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy, Félix Vallotton, Albert Marquet, Aristide Maillol and Edouard Vuillard.

Paul Signac: Port St. Tropez, ( 1899)Musée de l'Annonciade, St. Tropez

Albert Marquet, Le port de Saint-Tropez (1905), Musée de l'Annonciade, Saint-Tropez

Pierre Bonnard , Le Port de Saint-Tropez, 1914, Saint-Tropez, musée de l'Annonciade

Paul Signac: French neo-impressionist painter 1863 - 1935
Artist's biography and a collection of his paintings
Recommended reading: Saint-Tropez: The Rise of an Artist Colony (an excellent illustrated online blog/article
Online Resources for Paul Signac:

Impressionism (n)/ Impressionist (adj)
A progressive art movement that originated in France in the late 19th century. Impressionist painters wanted to capture the rapidly changing modern world and the fleeting moods of nature. Impressionism relied on optical blending to depict the fluctuations of light and consisted largely of views of everyday middle-class life in the city and countryside of France.

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) Garden at Sainte-Adresse, (1867) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. "Monet’s Garden at Sainte-Adresse depicts the artist’s aunt, father, and cousin relaxing on a seaside terrace."

Postimpressionism (n)/ Postimpressionist (adj)
The French artistic style that followed Impressionism. Such artists as Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec pushed beyond the Impressionist emphasis on the appearance of nature, stressing instead qualities such as emotional expression and the formal structure of underlying objects. Postimpressionism led to a variety of bold new styles, including innovative uses of color and brushwork that sometimes bordered on abstraction. (Click here to go read Gauguin's Tahitian Interiors : my post from Monday February 19, 2007)

Pointillism (n)
A theory and technique of applying small strokes or dots of color to a surface so that from a distance, they blend together; also called Neoimpressionism or Divisionism

Georges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte / Un dimanche après-midi à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte (1884-86) Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago
Art Access Glossary

Monday, February 19, 2007

gauguin's tahitian interiors

Merahi metua no Tehamana
(Ancestors of Tehamana /Ancêtres de Tehamana)
1893 Art Institute of Chicago
Gauguin's Tahitian interiors are marked by elaborate patterns on walls and fabrics; often every surface is covered a complex mix of pattern and color as with the two paintings above (Ancestors of Tehamana) and below (Nevermore). In these two interiors we see richly symbolic spaces made up of layers of patterns, sculptures, and natural objects such as flowers, fruits and animals.

Nevermore, O Taiti / Plus jamais (1897)
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

Ordinary objects are shown to have with spiritual significance, such as the fan in Ancestors of Tehamana.

Gauguin's repeated use of certain objects such as mangos, which have such powerful symbolic associations with sex and fecundity makes us attentive to the mangos in the foreground of What's New? and Woman Brooding (below).

Tahitienne (Sur La Plage) / Tahitian Women (On the Beach
1891, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Interior and exterior spaces are not distinguished from each other by the use of naturalistic choices of color or light. It seems that Gauguin took his famous painting of his two women on the beach, Tahitienne and re-created it as an interior painting in What's New? There is very little to mark the change with the exception, perhaps, of some shading for floor boards and a hightened saturation that changes the coloring of the sand.

Parua Api? / What's New? / Quoi de neuf?
(1892) Gemaldegalerie Neue Meister, Dresden

In other interiors surfaces are covered--floor to ceiling with a single bright swath of color, as with the bright mango-colored floor below (Brooding Woman) and, conversely, the world of nature is a riot of colors, sometimes arranged in ritualistic patterns. The intensity of the spiritual world associated with nature often led Gauguin to create otherworldly images of the Tahitian landscape using bold, rich but unnatural colors, as seen in the painting The Day of the God below:

Mahana No Atua (Day of the Gods) 1894, Art Institute of Chicago

While the world of nature can be depicted in bright unnatural patterns and colors, inner spaces are sometimes bathed in more natural hues, as in Not Working (below). An almost identical space in Woman Brooding is bathed in the bright colors of blue and mango -- colors of the dress worn by the woman in Not Working.

Eiaha Ohipa Not Working Pas de travail (1896)
Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow

Te Faaturuma Woman Brooding (1891)
Worcester Art Museum
Note how the canvases mirror each other in the frame of the door, the dog sitting guard, and the figure in the distance. The figures appear to be (perhaps?) the abandoned wife in the white dress catching view of her husband with another women, and the unfaithful husband returning to his unhappy wife.

To varying degrees, like Gauguin's exterior imagery, his interior spaces are fantasies. These interiors are fantasies haunted by two things: the first is Gauguin himself. As brilliant as his work is, and it is brilliant, it is also awful. Some of it is unspeakably painful. He behaved in ways that were monstrous. That his work can give testimony to this behavior is not a redemption of him as a human being but it is of him as an artist. And everyone knows those are not always the same.

Manaò tupapau /L’esprit des morts veille (1892) Albright—Knox Art Gallery.
Contes barbares, (1902) Marquises Essen, Museum Folkwang.
From his earliest arrive in Tahiti to his final death in the Marquises his artistic motivations were always twisted into his personal demons and desires and as a result he left behind him a swath of destruction in the communities where he lived. While it may be true that our current ideas about decency (whatever they may be) may not be applicable to middled-aged French men and Polynesian girls a century ago, there is no greater testament to their misery than Gauguin's own paintings. Historical materials also provide evidence that there are certain ideas about human dignity and rights that are universal.

Finally, Gauguin's Tahitian paintings are in a sense all interior spaces haunted by the reality of Tahiti itself. Tahiti was not Gauguin's tropical escape from the world -- an unspoiled paradise -- but was becoming an increasingly modernized colonial state. Tahiti was the center of French Polynesia, an important trade center. In addition, most of the native peoples had been converted to Christianity by missionaries.

Ta Matete (We Shall Not Go to Market Today)
Jour de Marché
Kunstmuseum Basel

The world that Gauguin paints is no less powerful for being imagined. Indeed it is all the more significant for its being the dream vision of a created by mad Robinson Crusoe driven to find the last island with a Garden of Eden until only finding populations whose decline he can only hasten with his own debauchery ultimately ending in alcholism and syphilis. This is the European avant-garde artistic statement of the primitive par excellance. Not even Picasso could surpass Gauguin when it came to that.

the basics:

paul gauguin b. 1848, Paris; d. 1903, Marquesas Islands

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Terminology :
  • Primitivism : definition from the Tate Collection online glossary
  • Expressionism : definition from the Tate Collection online glossary
Additional museum collections :
Additional online resources :
Recommended reading :
Gauguin & Van Gogh (because it always comes back to Van Gogh):
Recommended reading (available online):
Just plain recommended:

Lust for Life : the classic 1937 novel written by Irving Stone and based on Van Gogh's life.
Lust for Life : the classic 1956 film based on Irving Stone's novel, starring Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn and directed by Vincente Minnelli.