Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Being Modern

The Blind Man No. 2, page 4. Editors: Henri-Pierre Roche, Beatrice Wood, and Marcel Duchamp. Published in New York, May 1917 Fountain by Marcel Duchamp. 1917. Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz.

Case Studies: Self-taught artists
• Henri Rousseau 1844-1910.
• Jean Dubuffet 1901-85.
• Francis Bacon 1909-92.

The Douanier Rousseau
• His art was said to break away from the false tradition of the masters : to show a vigorous alternative viewpoint on human experience.
• Picasso held a “Rousseau banquet” in his studio in November 1908 to celebrate the Douanier.
• DR: “You and I sir are the two greatest painters of our time. You in the Egyptian style, I in the modern.”

Jean Dubuffet 1901-85.
See Dubuffet Foundation
• May 1946 Gallerie Rene Drouin, Paris.
• In the wake of the war, the liberation, the gas chambers and the atom bomb the French art public expected an art that was redemptive, sublime, humane. It got Dubuffet’s “informel.” Art critics were quick to condemn the artist and likened his work to bodily excreta.
• Dubuffet had already prepared his answers.

“The Author answers some objections.”
• No special gifts or skills had gone into the making of the show.
• Provocation: “in the name of what – except perhaps the coefficient of rarity – does man adorn himself with necklaces of shells and not spider’s webs, with fox fur and not fox innards? In the name of what I don’t know/ Don’t dirt, trash and filth, which are man’s companions during his whole lifetime, deserve to be dearer to him and isn’t it serving him well to remind him of their beauty?”

“Art Brut preferred to Cultural Art”
• 1948: Compagnie de l’Art Brut.
• “We understand by this term works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part (contrary to the activities of intellectuals). These artists derive everything – subjects, choice of materials, means of transposition, rhythms, style of writing, etc. – from their own depths, and not from the conceptions of classical or fashionable art. We are witness here to a completely pure artistic operation, raw, brute and entirely re-invented in all of its phases solely by means of the artist’s own impulses.” (Dubuffet)

Egs Scottie Wilson 1891-1972; Alfred Wallis 1855-1942.

Francis Bacon 1909-92.
See The Official Site of the Estate of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon interviewed by David Sylvester.
"Where did you go to school? Or did you not?
I went for a short time to a place called Dean Close, in Cheltenham. It was a kind of minor public school and I didn't like it. I was continually running away, so in the end they took me away. I was there only about a year. So I had a very limited education. Then, when I was about 16, my mother made me an allowance of £3 a week, which in those days was enough to exist on. I came to London, and then I went to Berlin. …….And the nightlife of Berlin was very exciting for me, coming straight from Ireland. But I didn't stay in Berlin very long. I went to Paris then for a short time. There I saw at Rosenberg's an exhibition of Picasso, and at that moment I thought, well I will try and paint too.

How did your parents react when they heard about that idea?
They were horrified at the thought that I might want to be an artist. "

Aspects of the Modern
The following aspects of modern art reinforce the rejection of the academic and traditional: Avant garde; The Going Away; Manifesto Art; Alternative audiences, the Unconscious.

Avant garde
• French term derived from military vocabulary: the vanguard troops who explore the terrain in front of the regular infantry.
• Why did it come about? Nineteenth century capitalism reaching such a pitch that the art object became fully implicated in the commodity market. Seen as eroding the special nature of art.
• Paris had become a huge cultural centre with art training bottlenecking hundreds who hoped to be artists. Highly trained and motivated individuals seeking alternative outlets for their talents, interests and criticism.

Paradox 1: avant garde often acted in the name of everyone, the common person, the excluded. However the nature of the gesture, difficulty of the language or shocking tactics involved often alienated those in whose name the art was supposedly created.

Paradox 2: the difficult or unexplained art ideas often suggested that the art was elitist despite intentions to be otherwise.

Paradox 3: modern artists presented themselves as heroes fighting for our self-expression and creative freedom. However these male heroes did little to include the female half of the population. Women artists and viewers were often treated poorly in avant garde circles.
see Cottington D. (2005) Modern Art, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, OUP.

The Going Away
Paul Gauguin, Breton Shepherdess, 1886.
Paula Modhersohn-Becker, Self Portrait 1907

PMB went away to Worspede as a 22 year old in 1898, met her husband Otto Modehrsohn.
Visited Paris in 1900 were she saw work by Cezanne, Vollard, Van Gogh.
Her work engages directly with the experience of childbirth, motherhood, and fertility.
Whereas Gaugin eroticised his naked women, Becker was much more able to identify with the experience and make it complex albeit in very simply painted and realised images.

“to employ the closest observation in seeking the greatest simplicity is the source of greatness.” (1898)

“I should like to endow colour with intoxication, fulness, excitement; I should like to give it power” (1907)
slide: Reclining Mother and Child

Going Away: Die Brücke, Playing Cowboys and Indians. Artists include Fritz Bleyl (1880-1966), Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976).

Rejecting the traditional: manifesto art

Futurist Manifesto, Marinetti, 1909

“We declare that the splendour of the world has been increased by a new beauty ; the beauty of speed. A racing car, its body ornamented by great pipes that resemble snakes of explosive breath... a screaming automobile that seems to run on grapeshot, is more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace.”
“We want to glorify war - the world’s only hygiene - militarism, patriotism, the destructive act of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas for which one dies, and contempt for women. We want to destroy museums, libraries, and academies of all kinds, and to make war on moralism, feminism and on every opportunistic and utilitarian vileness...."
it ends

“We launch from Italy into the world this our manifesto of overwhelming and incendiary violence, with which today we found Futurism, because we want to liberate this land from the fetid cancer of professors, archaeologists, guides and antiquarians.”

In 1909, with Futurism only one year old, a Manifesto of Futurist Painters was published, written by Boccioni.

“Come, come! Let’s make and end once and for all to the Portraitists, the Genreists, the Lake Painters, the Mountain painters! - We have put up with them quite enough, with all those impotent painters of rustic weekends.”

“Everything moves, everything runs, everything turns rapidly. A figure is never stationary before us but appears and disappears incessantly. Through the persistence of images on the retina, things in movement multiply and are distorted, succeeding each other like vibrations in the space through which they pass. Thus a galloping horse has not got four legs: it has twenty and their motion is triangular....”
“Only becoming - moving forward - has value for us!”

Alternative audiences: Cabaret.
Paris, Zurich, Berlin. Dada. Artists include Duchamp, Ball, Grosz.

Alternative marks:

The unconscious, paint and the world of dream. Artists include Andre Masson, Dali, Bunuel.

• Cottington D. (2005) Modern Art, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, OUP.
• Brettell R (1999) Modern Art 1851-1929 Oxford History of Art
• Foster and others (2004) Art since 1900,, Thames and Hudson.

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