I love history, and "Art History" is at the top. It is who we are as cultures, the signature of achievement, rising up from the goo. Spectacular cave paintings, handprints on the wall every bit as expressive as "Andy Warhol,"the great pyramids, cathedrals, imagery on the walls, expressions, impressions, in all its forms, gestures and materials. I want to write about it. This site is new. Come back please. Write me, I'll answer you.
Michael Andrew Harris

The Masters of Art

Aristide Maillol

I like this mans work. To me his sculpture is both fluid and sensitive and his paintings colorful with portraits seen in thought, pensive, holding themselves aloof. Another thing that draws me to him is that he did not even start doing sculpture until he was almost 40 years old, though his whole life was devoted to some kind of artistic medium.The RiverHe was born in 1861 on December 8 in Banyuls-sur-Mer, France. It is a fishing village on the coast by Spain, where his grandfather and aunt brought him up. The long road of being an artist starts young. His story is like many others who went to Paris poor, you live in the slums with a poor diet and cheap wine. Humanity is pushed in on you from all sides, with death and illness among your neighbors. The other side of it is the strong comradeships that are formed among your peers and in his case they are the most important impressionist and abstract artists Paris ever produced. Paris was the center of the art world. This is where he learned to draw, paint, be rejected and starve, but this is how you learn, it tempers you into what you want to be an “Artist.” He was rejected many times before being allowed to enter the Decorative Art School at “Ecole des Beaux-Arts as an auditor. It took him almost 3 years auditing classes before he was finally accepted. 223 applied and 80 were accepted, he was number 64. Mallol was 23 years old by the time of his formal acceptance and he spent the next 8 years copying paintings of the “Masters” and taking classes. One of the Artist-Professors he studied under was Alexandre Cabanol (painted “Birth of Venus” and many others) took an interest in him, but in those days a lot of the instruction was given by other students under the direction of a master professor. Paul Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh, were all painting at this time and they at least knew of each other, and we can assume they met in the cafes and discussed the trends what was important to them; a cauldron of art bubbling with the talent of the times.Madame MaillolMaillol started doing ceramics, tapestries, woodprints, plaster relief, searching for his medium throughout his 30s, though he never ceased to paint and he painted till his death. He did not take up sculpture until he was almost 40 years old. He loved Indian sculpture and the simple lines in Buddhist statues. Maillol did take sculpture in his second year at the Academy in Paris doing wood reliefs and some bronze statuettes, but sculpture was not his focus until around 1898. This is when he started doing female nudes in wood. “In carving, material and thought are linked by the hand alone; thus the raw material is imbued with a warmth of feeling directly drawn from the artist’s nature,” (Maillol). Between 1898 and 1902 he did a number of versions a “Standing Bather”, “Women Covering Her Breasts”, and “Leda.” In a show that Maillol had in 1902, Octave Mireau (famous writer) purchased “Leda” and show it to Rodan who in a letter to Maillol said, “ He picked up your Leda, just as I had done, and looked at it intently, examining it from every angle, turning it round in every direction. “It is most beautiful”; he said, “what an artist!” He looked at it again, and went on: “ Do you know why it is so beautiful and why one can spend hours looking at it? It is because it makes no attempt to arouse curiosity.” “I do not know, I swear I do not know of any modern piece of sculpture that is of such an absolute beauty, and absolute purity, so evidently a masterpiece.” I think it is incredible to hear Rodan through a letter saying these things. How can I say anything else other than I love the smooth texture and graceful beauty of “La Nuit,” (1902-1909) a seated Nude bronze of a woman whose emotion emanates from the piece though her face is hidden. “La Mediterranee,”(1905-?) a reclining nude where the stillness of her contemplation stirs in me an almost lust for her beauty. The “La Riviere,” a women lying in terror fighting off an unseen attacker is riveting in its power to portray fear. These works show me what I love about sculpture and what I want to shoot for in my own work. Aristide Maillol did not die he lives through his work.

Pablo Picasso's "Guernica"

“Guernica” is an oil on canvas painting by Pablo Picasso, which is 349.3 cm. by 776.6 cm. It hangs now at the Queen Sofia Center of Art in Madrid, Spain and was painted between May 1st and June 4th, 1937 in Paris, France. To put that in perspective for us in America, that is a painting 11.46 feet by 25.49 feet. To cover an area of canvas that large with a masterpiece of genius like “Guernica,” in little over a month, a person would have to be driven by maniacal urgency and purpose: Pablo Picasso symbolizing Franco’s massacre of Guernica, Spain, was such a person. Guernica In order to explain how Picasso was able to paint such a painting, a mixture of art and politics, one needs to explore the slow progression of trial and error that painters through the centuries have gone through. The chemistry of painting is a brother to alchemy and medicine, a magic that allows a 2 dimensional flat image to project ideas from the deepest part of the human mind. Somewhere between the 5th and 9th centuries oil painting as a medium was developed in Afghanistan as cave-wall paintings in the Bamiyan Valley. These paintings were done with walnut and poppy-seed oils. The paintings were Buddhist religious pictures and predate what was thought of as a purely western European invention of the 12th century. Although these oils, plus hempseed, olive, castor, and linseed from flax, were known to the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and other ancient peoples, it wasn’t until early monastic images were covered with oils for preservation, did it appear in Europe. Painting with the oil medium itself probably developed from the use of yellow pigments to look like gold leaf mixed with the oil. Later on as more colors were desired, natural elements in the form of minerals were ground with mortar and pestle, mixed with different oils, beeswax, honey and other binders for painting. In addition to this turpentine was used as a thinner and by the mid 15th century there were a number of closely guarded recipes that insured the masters of the Italian renaissance like Leonardo da Vinci and his beautiful Mona Lisa, supremacy in the painting arts. Artists use oils to modify the consistency of their paints, control the drying times, and textural markings by the brush and palette knife. This includes altering the way paint flows and no single medium can give all the effects that an artist desires. Every oil binder has its own particular attributes. For instance, linseed oil gives a shine and transparency to the chosen pigment, but has a yellowing or golden effect to the pigment over time. Poppy seed oil is used with light and white colored pigments because it doesn’t yellow, but takes a very longtime to dry. Safflower and sunflower are also used. In addition to the oil as a binder for the pigment, painters use stand oil, which is boiled linseed oil, solvents to thin paint, waxes and resins like Damar from the damar fir tree to either add a sheen or shine or give a matt surface look to the painting. A painting medium is a formula made up of solvents, oil, and varnishes that allow the painter to control the drying times as mentioned above and other objectives like texture. With these tools different techniques are possible with the paint. Some examples are: glazing which intensifies a color, blending gives gradations, impasto is painting in heavy thick layers and stippling is used with opaque pigments, making short movements as done in pointillism. A basic palette would have the painting medium that one would mix with the different colored paints, a solvent for thinning paint and solvent for cleaning brushes. A palette can be very simple or complex color wise, depending on the painting. Pablo Picasso’s palette for painting Guernica would have had a mars, ivory or chromatic black, an intense blue like a phthalo blue that could be mixed with a translucent zinc white, zinc white, and an umber or burnt sienna. Aside from the arrangement and choice of motifs within the painting, which are brilliant and connect on many levels, he used primarily changes in value to contrast the imagery. Picasso blended the pigments to give gradations of value throughout the entire painting. The motifs are flat and have a spatial quality in their surrealism. They are almost childlike but grotesque, drawn from religious and politically symbolic ideologies. A mother carrying her dead child, a stretched out soldier holding a broken sword, a screaming horse in agony, a burning home, a fleeing women and the eye of god achieve an incredible combined horror, all with the manipulation of value. A masterpiece of expression filled with nothing but victims. Oil is Picasso’s chosen medium, and this painting because of its attention to value gradations may seem to be able to be done, say in watercolor, but in my opinion, it would not give the same feel. My belief is that it could only have bend done in oil. There is a personality to oil that can exude in its manipulation, ultimate horror that water color pales in contrast to, in its textural manifestations. His use of line emphasizes dramatically the shapes and gives the feel that many of these lines were done with a black oil stick. This is an illusionary quality to his mastery of painting though, because his skill with a fine tip brush and the thin viscosity of the paint could of course be achieved like he had been drawing with an oil stick in hand. Also given the size of the canvass and the added length a brush would have given him, it would have been easier to stand back and draw with the tip of the brush. It is very interesting to think of the “hows” and “ways” a painter achieves a masterpiece like Picasso did with “Guernica,” but only a painter knows that the experience of understanding the transformations in a work of art are in its making. When it is done he must fall back in exhaustion and relish the experience like one lover unto another.
Bibliography Warcke, Carsten-Peter, and Ingo Walther. Picasso. Taschen, Bonn. 2007. Guernica



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