Posts Tagged ‘Paul Cézanne’

Art | Richard Serra Draws

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Richard Serra: Double Rifts
Gagosian Gallery
Beverly Hills, California, USA
17th April – 1st June 1, 2013

Richard Serra draws. Richard Sera sculpts. He sees each as an autonomous activity. He doesn’t make drawings of the sculptures he intends to create – he makes models. Neither does he make drawings of his finished sculptures.

Serra, born in 1938 and probably the world’s best-known contemporary sculptor, who has produced large-scale, site specific pieces for clients around the globe, and whose work has been celebrated in two retrospectives at The Museum of Modern Art, twenty years apart, whose major recent drawing exhibitions include Richard Serra Drawings: Work Comes Out of Work, Kunsthaus Bregenz (2008); Richard Serra Drawings: A Retrospective, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2010 – travelled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Menil Collection, Houston in 2012) was drawing long before he became a sculptor. In San Francisco where he grew up, his proud mother would introduce her young son, who sketched on pink butchers’ roll paper, as Richard ‘The Artist’.

Richard Serra doesn’t paint. As a student at Yale – where he was accepted on the strength of 12 drawings – he painted, but he paints no more. Paintings, in his opinion, are produced with the viewer in mind, while drawings are for the artist. Drawing every day, Serra insists that the practice is primary to artists and gives them grounding. He would always rather look at someone’s drawings – Van Gogh’s, Rembrandt’s – than at their paintings. Indeed drawing to him, reveals far more than painting about the way an artist thinks and sees.

In his search for an individual way forward in his drawing, Serra says that there came a point quite early on in his career when, faced with the entire history of anyone else who had ever made a mark on a piece of paper, he realised that he needed to adopt a radical approach. Abandoning representation and any anecdotal references to other things, he discovered that by defining the form he was creating in relation to the space around it, relating it to the architecture, to the floor, the walls and to the ceiling, he could draw with space, thus ‘making space palpable’.

It’s only to be expected that Serra, who pushes the concept of drawing to its limits and whose drawings are often almost as monumental as his sculptures, uses unconventional methods to create them. Unwilling to ‘make art out of the art store’, as he puts it, he uses paint-stick – a cheap material made from paraffin with a little oil mixed in – that he has melted, stamped on and even put through a meat grinder, as his medium. Often he draws with a big brick of paint-stick on handmade paper, but has also created series drawings with ink and rollers at the print shop he uses in LA.

In interviews on YouTube Serra talks about how spatial differences have always interested him, about the idea of people ‘entering into the space of a drawing’, and how – citing Cézanne’s paintings of fruit, as an example – he tries to imply gravity within the structure of his drawings. For his installation drawings his object has become to ‘create a space within the space that differs from the architectural container.’ Consequently, as an exhibitor he is extremely hands on – when drawings intended to work in one gallery are transferred to another, he may even alter them to function to his satisfaction within the new context.

The Richard Serra: Double Rifts show at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills is an exhibition of Richard Serra’s recent drawings.

Drawings from top
Double Rift #5, 2012, Richard Serra
Paintstick on handmade paper
289.6 x 537.2 cm (114 x 211 1/2 ins)

Double Rift #9, 2013, Richard Serra
Paintstick on handmade paper
214 x 611.5 cm (84 1/4 x 240 3/4 ins)
Images ©Richard Serra. Courtesy the artist & Gagosian Gallery

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Art | Raoul & Jean Dufy

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Impressionist & Modern Art, Including Russian Art, Sale
Sotheby’s New York, USA. 14th March, 2012

Amongst a very mixed bag of artworks in the catalogue for today’s sale at Sotheby’s in New York are several outstanding pieces by Raoul and a number by Jean Dufy, some of which are shown above. Each is unmistakably by one brother or the other, yet they share a visual language: a family characteristic, if you like, that on the one hand separates their images from the other lots, and on the other, irrevocably links them.

There were nine children in the Dufy family of Le Havre a port city in the Normandy area of north west France. It was a particularly musical family, and the father, in addition to his profession as an accountant, was a talented amateur musician, which probably to some extent explains the fixation for musical productions and composers of the era that are the subjects of many of the brothers’ later creations.

Raoul (1877-1953) was 11 years older than Jean (1888-1964) and is the more famous. In 1900 he obtained a scholarship to study in Paris, where he enrolled at the very academic École des Baux-Arts, however, he was far more interested in impressionist painting. An early exhibition, in 1903, was in the impressionist style he soon afterwards abandoned in favour of the vivid colours and sweeping brush strokes of the fauvists. Impressed with Cézanne’s work, Raoul experimented with a more muted palette. He worked for a time with Georges Braque but never really got into the spirit of Cubism. Discovering the possibilities of wood-engraving at an expressionist exhibition he saw on a trip to Munich in 1909, he illustrated a number of books for his literary friends, including the poet, Guillaume Apollonaire, with woodcuts. Raoul’s woodcuts came to the attention of Paul Poiret, the fashion designer with whom he produced textile designs and for whom he designed the interiors of the designer’s three boats. In the 1920s and 30s he travelled widely, producing paintings in the bold, confident style – optimistic, fashionably decorative and illustrative – that he became recognised for and that characterised the era in which the aftermath of war and social concerns were banished, however briefly. Lively, colorful yachting scenes at Cowes in England, chic parties, musical events and the dazzling life on the French Riviera became the stock in trade of his output.

It had been Raoul who encouraged Jean, who worked as a clerk for an overseas import business and was for a time secretary on the transatlantic liner La Savoie, which linked Le Havre to New York, to paint. But it wasn’t until Jean visited an exhibition in Le Havre showing paintings by André Derain and Picasso, where he saw Matisse’s Fenêtre ouverte à Collioure, with it’s dazzling light and bright colours, that he decided to be an artist. In 1913, moving to Paris, he became acquainted with his brothers’ circle, meeting Derain, Braque, Picasso and Apollonaire. His first watercolors, which were shown at the Berthe Weill Gallery in 1914, were in muted tones: sombre browns, blues, and reds mingled with the hatching technique he inherited from Cézanne via Raoul. Shortly afterwards he was drafted into the army but was able to produce many sketches of landscapes and flowers whilst convalescing from an injury. When the war ended, Jean began decorating porcelain for a company in Limoges – a commission which lasted for many years – before returning to Paris in 1920 where he settled in Montmatre. He began to be recognised for his painting technique based on a kind of patchwork of coloured squares and bold lighting effects. A succession of exhibitions now began that led to his work being shown widely, first in Paris and then in New York. Over the next few years his subject matter would change dramatically to mirror his excitement at the lively Parisian cultural scene. He loved the theatre and came into contact with many famous actors, musicians and composers. Their life and energy became the subjects of his creations. There followed paintings of circuses, boldly coloured and filled with horses, clowns and acrobats.

Surprisingly, Last year’s exhibition, Raoul and Jean Dufy: Complicity and Disruption, at Paris’s Musée Marmottan Monet, was the first exhibition in France exclusively dedicated to showing the two brothers’ work together. They had been close, if not living in one another’s pockets, until a big brotherly bust up over the gigantic mural – 61m long x 10m high, 200ft x 33 ft, La Fee Electricité (The Electricity Fairy). They had been commissioned to produce it together as a hymn to electricity for the Paris International Exposition of 1937 but Raoul ended up executing the final painting by himself. However, rather than for their differences, it’s for their gay and colourful scenes for which the brothers are most remembered and for the sheer joie de vivre their work conveys to the viewer.

Works from top
Jean Dufy Bois de Boulogne, 1930
Oil on canvas

Jean Dufy Boulevard avec caleches
Oil on canvas laid down on masonite
Property of a private collector, Palm Beach, USA

Jean Dufy Port de Honfleur
Watercolor and gouache on paper

Raoul Dufy Reception aux lumieres & Double étude de nu. A double-sided work
Watercolor and gouache on paper recto, pen and ink on paper verso
Property of a Boston gentleman, USA

Raoul Dufy Carrefour en forêt
Watercolor on paper

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Sale + Exhibition | Klimt: Impressionist & Modern?

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Exhibition: Sotheby’s, London, UK. 2nd – 8th February, 2012
Sale: Sotheby’s, London, UK. 8th & 9th February, 2012

It’s often argued that modernism began some time in the 1860s and ended in the 1970s, roughly spanning the period from the beginning of Monet’s painting career to Picasso’s death, and therefore including impressionism and cubism and a long and very diverse list of other ‘isms. Living and working within the prescribed time scale but not usually considered to fit comfortably into any particular ‘ism, it’s interesting that Sotheby’s should include a painting by Gustav Klimt in this sale of impressionist and modern works.

The first paintings recognised as impressionist were produced in the 1870s. Claude Monet was already 22 years old when Klimt (1862-1918) was born and, dying in 1926, outlived him. Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso gave birth to cubism in 1907, initiating the movement when they followed the advice of Paul Cézanne, who in 1904 had said artists should treat nature ‘in terms of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone.’ Picasso, born in 1881, 19 years Klimt’s junior, had an extraordinarily-long and prolific working life that finally ended in his ninety-second year, 1973.

Starting out as classically-trained artist with tremendous draughtsmanship skills, Klimt eschewed the formulaic work that was acceptable in Vienna and threw all he had into symbolism often with quite shocking results that rocked the establishment. But the landscape paintings he produced on his regular summer retreats in the latter part of his working life, harped back to earlier 19th century Viennese and Central European picturesque art that aimed to capture and glorify nature – then, only recently discovered by middle and upper class townspeople, jaded by their everyday, urban lives, seeking some form of escape – largely due to the invention and proliferation of the railways, and by the access to the countryside this new mode of transport afforded. In the latter decades of the century, however, the goal of Austrian painters like Emil Jakob Schindler and Eugen Jettel was to evoke the atmosphere of the rural world, often through paintings of otherwise banal countryside scenes, subject to adverse weather and light conditions. No-one could argue that Farmhouse with Birch Trees (Lakeshore with Birches) below, the painting coming up for auction at Sotheby’s is the most exciting of Klimt’s landscapes but it is a good example of his own obsession with nature and his absorption and blending of the many influences he gathered up and played around with.

For his portraits, Klimt drew heavily on his study of the same Japanese prints the impressionists had looked at before him; in his less familiar landscape work, he sketched and painted directly from nature and experimented with the brush techniques that the impressionists had invented, but very often finished the paintings in his studio. As in the portraits, the composition and framing of his landscape paintings was influenced by the typical cropping seen in early scenic photography. In many, the foreground is little more than a very prominent textured surface, as in Attersee 1, 1900, with landscape details and a thin sliver of sky squashed up at the top of the canvas; typical of the effect of looking at a scene through a wide-angle lens. There is evidence that Klimt used a telescope to flatten his townscapes, the buildings in which however, remained true rather than abstracted as in cubist treatments of similar subject matter. He looked closely at Van Gogh’s outlining and colouring; Klimt’s Avenue in Schloss Kammer Park, 1912, could easily be taken for a Van Gogh. He studied Seuerat’s pointilist system, adapting it to create depth in paintings that were essentially two-dimensional so that each remained one of what Renaissence polymath Leon Battista Alberti christened ‘Windows through which we look out into a section of the visible world.’

Ever curious, Klimt was an avid experimenter, but I think it’s safe to say that he was neither a cubist nor an impressionist.

Klimt certainly consorted with individuals who, evidently, had modern ideas; Otto Koloman Wagner (1841-1918) – Austrian architect and urban planner – among other contemporary mainland Europeans, is said to have become a proponent of Architectural Realism, and, mitigating the reliance on historical forms in the Jugenstil – an Austrian version of Art Nouveau – buildings he began to design in the 1890s, opened the door for what became modern architecture. And if I seem to be going off at a tangent: Wagner was one of the group of Austrian artists, sculptors and architects who resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists, the Künstlerhaus – similar to the Paris Salon – along with Klimt, Joseph Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and Joseph Maria Olbrich, nineteen in all, to form the Vienna Secession in 1897, asserting their right to be able to create what they wanted to create rather than having to adhere to strict, official guidelines. Gustav Klimt was the group’s first president. Interestingly, Moravian-born, Austrian architect Adolf Loos, who objected to the amount of surface decoration on Jugenstil buildings, didn’t join. Klimt’s poster for the First Exhibition of the Society of Pictorial Artists in Austria – the Secession, in 1898 in which he chose a classical Greek theme – Theseus about to liberate the youth of Athens from the tyranny of the Minotaur – is a tense stark, asymmetric, linear composition in black, red and gold on a yellow ground, strongly reminiscent of the painting style Mondrian was to adopt some 20 years later. In 1903 Hoffmann and Moser left to found the Wiener Werkstätte, a fine-arts society with the goal of reforming the applied arts that could be described as being a prelude to Germany’s seminal Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919.

But, was Klimt’s painting ‘modern’? His roots firmly in the 19th century, could he have ever felt at ease in the 20th. Had he lived longer and had more of his work survived – many paintings were confiscated from their Austrian Jewish owners and destroyed by the Nazis in 1938, while a great number of other works had been moved in 1943 to the ’safety’ of Schloß Immendorf in lower Austria, only to be destroyed when retreating SS troops set fire to the castle to prevent it falling into enemy hands – the problem of classification might have been somewhat simpler. I don’t know and it’s possible that Sotheby’s aren’t sure either.

Paintings from top:
Pablo Picasso, Buste d’homme, 1969
Private collection

Claude Monet, Berges de la Seine près de Vétheuil,
Private collection
Estimate £800,000-1,200,000

Gustav Klimt, Seeufer mit Birken (Lakeshore with birches), 1901
Private European collection
Estimate £6,000,000-8,000,000

Middle, top: Gustav Klimt, c.1909. Detail of original photograph by Pauline Hamilton.
Taken from Gustav Klimt, Landscapes. Edited by Stephen Koja. Published by Prestel, 2006

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