Tag: fine art posters

Renoir Art: Two Sisters on the Terrace, 1881

Share this artwork:

Renoir Art: Two Sisters an the Terrace, 1881

Two Sisters or On the Terrace is an 1881 oil-on-canvas painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The dimensions of the painting are 100.5 cm × 81 cm. The title Two Sisters (French: Les Deux Sœurs) was given to the painting by Renoir, and the title On the Terrace (French: Sur la terrasse) by its first owner Paul Durand-Ruel.

Renoir worked on the painting on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, the western suburb of Paris. The painting depicts a young woman and her younger sister seated outdoors with a small basket containing balls of wool. Over the railings of the terrace one can see shrubbery and foliage with the River Seine behind it.

In 1880 to 1881, shortly before working on Two Sisters, Renoir worked in this particular location on another well-known painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Jeanne Darlot (1863—1914), a future actress who was 18 years old at the time, was posing as “the elder sister.” It is unknown who posed as the “younger sister,” but it is stated that the models were not actually related.

Renoir began work on the painting in April 1881 and on July 7, 1881, it was bought by the art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, for 1,500 francs. The painting was presented for the first time to the public at the 7th Impressionist exhibition in the spring of 1882. In 1883 it was known to be in the collection of Charles Ephrussi, an art collector and a publisher, but in 1892 the painting was returned again to the collection of the Durand-Ruel family.

In 1925, the painting was sold to Annie S. Coburn from Chicago for $100,000. After her death in 1932 the painting was bequeathed to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained since 1933.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Argenteuil and Impressionism

Share this artwork:

Argenteuil and Impressionism

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War ( July 18, 1870) found Claude Monet at Le Havre, where he remained as that fateful summer wore on. On September 2 came the German breakthrough at Sedan; Napoleon III capitulated and on September 4 the Third Republic was proclaimed. Leaving Camille and little Jean in Normandy, Monet sailed for England in September. Bazille volunteered for the Zouaves and joined a line regiment in August (he was killed in action at Beaune-la-Rolande on November 28).

Manet, as a confirmed republican, waited for the Empire to collapse and then enlisted (as did Degas) in an artillery unit of the National Guard. Pissarro, living at Louveciennes, found himself in the path of the advancing Germans and fled to England, leaving behind hundreds of his pictures together with many that Monet had stored with him. Torn from their frames and used as floor-mats and aprons by the Prussian soldiery, who turned his house into the regimental butchershop, all were destroyed — an irreparable loss, depriving us of by far the greater part of Pissarro’s pre-1870 output and a substantial part of Monet’s. To these losses, in the case of Monet, must be added the many canvases which he himself ripped to shreds in fits of despair or to prevent their being seized by his creditors.

Things went no better for him in London than in France. The English public showed complete indifference to his work. He submitted some pictures to an exhibition at the Royal Academy, but they were rejected. He had the good luck, however, to run into Daubigny, who introduced him to his own dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, also a refugee in London, who had opened a gallery at 158 Bond Street. This meeting was providential not only for Monet but also for Pissarro, who met Durand-Ruel at the same time. “Without him we’d have starved to death in London,” he wrote later. But in spite of his enthusiasm for their work and his persistence in bringing it to public notice, Durand-Ruel failed to sell a single one of their pictures in England. He nevertheless went on buying canvases from Monet and Pissarro, and thus enabled them to keep afloat.

Monet made several views of the Thames in addition to some studies in Hyde Park in which the figures are very roughly silhouetted against a simplified landscape composed of broad, flat planes of color. Pissarro tells of their visits to the museums and how much they were impressed by the English landscape painters, by Constable and Turner in particular. Monet later denied that he had been influenced by Turner at that time, and indeed it is only in the much later series of fog effects on the Thames ( 1904) that Turner’s influence becomes apparent.

In the summer of 1871 Monet left England for Holland, where he painted some landscapes in which the mighty forms of windmills, outlined against the immensity of the sky above the canals in the foreground, are treated in a free, sparkling style very much like that of his Trouville seascapes of 1870.

Life had gone back to normal in Paris now and artists were returning to their old haunts. The group that had formed around Manet in the late sixties now formed again, but this time it centered on Monet. Even before his military service, as early as 1859, Monet had met Pissarro at the Académie Suisse; after his discharge from the army, at Gleyre’s studio in 1862, he had met Renoir, Bazille and Sisley. Monet thus formed the link between the group at Gleyre’s and the group at the Académie Suisse, where Pissarro had been joined by Cézanne and Guillaumin.

In December 1871 Monet settled at Argenteuil, on the western outskirts of Paris. After a visit to Le Havre in the spring of 1872, he left for Holland, eager to rework a vein that had proved so fruitful in the previous year. It is difficult to distinguish between the pictures made during these two stays in Holland, few of them being dated. Assignable to 1872, however, are those which foreshadow the fully developed technique of his Argenteuil period, those, in other words, in which we find a breaking-up of color into a patchwork of small brushstrokes and a new emphasis on atmospheric vibration.

In the autumn of 1872 Monet returned to Argenteuil where he lived for the next six years, with occasional expeditions to Paris, as is proved by two views of the Boulevard des Capucines in winter. He saw much of Renoir and they often worked together on the Seine banks. Monet’s first river scenes, in 1872-1873, were still built up in separate, unblended strokes and patches of color. A good example is Pleasure Boats which, enclosed in a triple frame with a Sisley and a Pissarro, forms a triptych bequeathed to the Louvre by Monsieur May.

Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Impressionism: Reading Woman circa 1900

Share this artwork:

Impressionism: Reading Woman circa 1900

Always the Same Draperies and the Same Virgins!

After such a profession of faith as this, how is it possible to contend that Renoir was heedless or disdainful of all elevated thought? With Cézanne and Van Gogh he knew full well what our modern world lacks, — a sense of the Divine.

To this matter he returns in the preface to Cennino Cennini’s Livre de l’Art, where he explains that the general value of ancient art resides in «that something which has disappeared — religious feeling, the most fruitful source of their inspiration (i. e., — Cennini’s contemporaries). It is that which gives all their works that character of nobility and candour, at one and the same time, and in which we find so much charm…

To sum up everything,» he continues, «there then existed between men and the environment in which they moved a harmony born of a common belief… After this one can understand the cause of the general progress in art and of its unity wherever a lofty religious conception holds sway… So much so that one may almost say that, when these fundamental principles are lacking, Art cannot exist».

Do not these words justify us in saying that the crisis through which Renoir passed was not merely a technical one, but spiritual, philosophical, anti-rationalist, — a crisis of the soul? His desire was «to be touched by grace», so that his mind might receive the god which would animate it. But Renoir did not lose himself on those heights. Raphael’s Venus, — she «who comes to supplicate Jupiter», made the same impression upon him as «a good fat gossip on her way back to the kitchen», and he was quite of Stendhal’s opinion, that Raphael’s women are commonplace and heavy.

However, when in Florence, La Vierge à la Chaise caused him deep emotion. «I went to see this picture intending to have a good laugh,» he related to M. Vollard. «But behold! I found myself in front of the most free, most solid, most marvellously simple and living piece of painting it is possible to imagine, — a picture with arms and legs of real flesh, and how touching an expression of maternal tenderness! »

Renoir became somewhat rapidly tired with the painting of the Renaissance. « Always the same draperies and the same Virgins! » And he proceeded to Naples for a rest. The art of Pompeii and that of the Egyptians delighted him. He found there Corot’s « simplicity of work » and even his silver-grey colour. Face to face with that art he came to understand form and volume; there was no atmosphere, no subtle play of light, no expression of matter; form was wholly created by the relationship between the tones, whilst volume was suggested by modelling and passing touches.

He also took a lesson in pictorial technique which a chance discovery soon developed. For a time it was the technique of fresco-painting which above all occupied his thoughts, and he would no longer work save with red and yellow ochre, green and black terra. On returning to France he painted, after that fashion, at the house of M. Bérard, at Wargemont, two decorations inspired by hunting scenes. Then, one day, in 1883, he chanced to discover in a book-box on the quays a copy of the Traité de la Peinture de Cennino Cennini, mis en lumière pour la première fois avec des notes par le Chev. J. Tamboni. Traduit par V. M., Paris et Lille, 1858. The translator was one of Ingres’ pupils — Victor Mottez.

Thirty years later, at the request of this painter’s son, Renoir consented to write a preface to a new edition of the book. When in Rome, Renoir had become greatly interested in the technique of fresco-painting in oils. Now, Cennino Cennini’s book revealed to him the methods of the painters of the XVth century, — methods which Mottez had put into practice at Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, and Saint-Séverin. So we see Renoir launched in the direction of pictorial science, and, a passionate beginner in the painting of frescoes, he disdained oils, ignoring, as he himself related later, « the elementary truth that oil-painting must be done with oil».

Like Delacroix and Cézanne, he became anxious as regards the preservation of his materials and sought to prevent their turning black. Doubtless he foresaw that future deficiency in the case of impressionism. The hatred which suddenly took possession of him against impressionism was largely due to its ephemeral character. « The palette of the painters of to-day, » he said, « has remained the same as that of the painters of Pompeii, via Poussin, Corot, and Cézanne, — I mean to say that it has not become enriched… Happy ancients! » he exclaimed on another occasion, — « since they knew the use of only ochres and browns. »

Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Impressionism: Deux Soeurs Art Print by Renoir

Share this artwork:

Impressionism: Deux Soeurs Art Print by Renoir

French painter; born in Limoges; died at Cagnes in the south of France. Renoir’s beginnings differed very little from those of the many who followed conventional art courses, except that he showed great facility and also some inclination to use color more freely than his teachers liked. None of his early drawings have been preserved; he may have destroyed them, just as he destroyed certain canvases as soon as he had liberated himself from the academic yoke.

He had no sooner left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts than he turned toward Courbet, whose forceful execution and strong contrasts, whose heavy volumes and simplified drawing, offered entirely new aspects. It was only after having worked for some time as a follower of Courbet, after having tested various modes of expression, that he discovered the subtle qualities of Delacroix. By then he had experience enough to realize that these qualities truly corresponded to his own sensibility. Delacroix thus became his master by preference, chosen not by chance but from the conviction of deep affinities.

What attracted Renoir in Delacroix’s art was above all his color, his technique and -inseparable from them — the fierce vibrations of his drawing. Nothing could have better prepared him for the new approach to nature upon which he engaged, together with his friend Monet, and which was to lead eventually to impressionism. The farther he advanced toward an instantaneous retention of sensations, the more he abandoned whatever influence the principles of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts might have had upon him, the less he was preoccupied with linear expression.

For the first time in the history of art, perhaps, Monet and his group insisted on a pursuit of impressions in so direct a way that preliminary sketches became unnecessary, in fact, would have appeared a negation of their efforts. More than Delacroix had ever done, the impressionists considered drawing dependent upon color and represented their perceptions in a dense tissue of color touches never divided by incisive strokes. There was no need for linear demarcation, since form could be suggested in its fullness through color modulation alone. Nature observed on the spot offered a minimum of lines, and even these appeared unstable, broken by reverberations of their surroundings, pulverized by ever changing plays of light.

Baudelaire had already stated that nature did not offer immutable contours. “A good drawing,” he had written, “is not a hard, cruel, despotic, motionless line enclosing a form like a straitjacket. Drawing should be like nature, living and restless. Simplification in drawing is a monstrosity; nature shows us an endless series of curved, fleeting, broken lines, according to an unerring law of generation, in which parallels are always undefined and meandering, and concaves and convexes correspond to and pursue each other.”

The impressionists went further: they denied that lines existed in nature. They refused to see a contour where an object presented its profile; they were preoccupied with the appearance of its form under specific conditions. They declined to isolate it from its surroundings; they professed no interest in it, except as part of a whole, as a receptacle of iridescence. They perceived colored masses and studied their interactions; they ignored the limits of forms and planes, since light ignores them and weaves them together.

No wonder, then, that Monet and Sisley, for instance, hardly ever made drawings. Renoir, the impressionist, seems also to have drawn very little. He seldom used his pencil but occasionally worked with pastel crayons which permitted him to obtain results similar to his paintings. From time to time he drew in pen and ink, endeavoring to achieve a texture of vibrant hatchings. What preoccupied him was not the arabesque of a contour but the creation of mellow forms through the delicate interplay of light and shadows.

Tags : , , , , , , ,

Italian Art: Mars, Venus and Amor by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Share this artwork:

Italian Art: Mars, Venus and Amor by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian)

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (in Veneto), in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth.

Recognized by his contemporaries as “The Sun Amidst Small Stars” (recalling the famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.

During the course of his long life Titian’s artistic manner changed drastically[4] but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art.

Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Mythology Art: The Torture of Prometheus

Share this artwork:

Mythology Art: The Torture of Prometheus

Prometheus in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of human-kind known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. His myth has been treated by a number of ancient sources, in which Prometheus is credited with – or blamed for – playing a pivotal role in the early history of humankind.

Tags : , , , ,

The Lesson by Pablo Picasso

Share this artwork:


The Lesson by Pablo Picasso

Figurative Art, fine art posters, Pablo Picasso, pablo picasso posters, picasso posters, Spanish Art, the lesson art print

Tags : , , , , , ,

Pablo Picasso: The Formative Years

Share this artwork:

Woman with a Blue Hat by Pablo Picasso

Max Jacob said that Picasso and his friends were determined to make ‘beaucoup de pastiches volontaires pour être sûr de n’en pas faire d’involontaires’. Yet pastiche is hardly the word for the imaginative transformations which are illustrated. Whereas the young Degas, Manet or Van Gogh often copied literally works which they admired, Picasso after his early youth more frequently used other pictures as starting points for the creation of something very different.

There was an element of personal daring and perhaps of Andalusian panache in this independence of the model. An old friend of Picasso, remembers him coming into ‘Els Quatre Gats’ in 1901 and setting down on one side a copy he had just made in Madrid from part of ‘ Las Meninas’ and on the other his own ‘Dancer’, saying, ‘ Velasquez did that, Picasso did that’. Even earlier he was resolved not to be the slave of any one master, and wrote to a friend from Madrid in 1897, ‘I am against following a determined school as it brings out nothing but the mannerism of those who follow this way’.

Picasso’s constant traffic with other artists’ styles was partly the normal method of a young painter teaching himself his trade, carried to abnormal lengths by his tremendous power of imitation — he was able to use, transform or mock the idiom of others with a skill that reminds one of James Joyce (and since he could imitate everybody it was tempting to do so). But he was also interested in the different languages of art for their own sake, just as many early twentieth century writers had the habit of juggling with a variety of older styles.

Obvious examples of this tendency in literature were Picasso’s friend Max Jacob, whose poetry was full of parodies and reminiscences, or du Plessys, a follower of Moréas, who could write at will in the style of the Song of Roland, Villon, Jehan de Meung and others. A little earlier, Laforgue Complainte de Lord Pierrot begins with an ironic parody of Au clair de la lune, and later Joyce, Pound and Eliot were to make similar parodies.

All this seems very far from the nineteenth century and from Cézanne’s ‘We must give the image of what we see, forgetting everything that has appeared before our time’, for Picasso was a highly conceptual painter, more often excited by ideas or by the works of other artists than by that direct, prolonged and intense contact with the object that inspired Cézanne. His friends Mir and Raynal both confirm this, and the latter wrote, ‘ Picasso looked for the essence of things in other works of art, and he realised that in order to distil this essence himself, the most advanced starting point was not reality and nature but the work of other artists.

This is one reason for studying his early friendships and milieu in some detail. Other reasons are the great historical importance of ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, the strange, disquieting and experimental picture to which the work of all these years leads up, and the fact that Picasso, who was popular and had his choice of companions, chose to live in Paris amongst poets who were nearly all men distinguished or interesting in their own right. The ‘Modernists’ of Barcelona as well as Max Jacob, André Salmon and Guillaume Apollinaire were all lively and original characters who had a considerable impact upon Picasso’s development.

But to turn for inspiration from nature to the work of other artists was only in part a matter of temperament. The fact that it rarely occurred to Picasso in these years to paint realistically in the nineteenth-century sense of the word, although his earliest works had shown that he was capable of doing so, is of course connected with the literary, philosophical and artistic reaction against the Naturalists, who well before the turn of the century were considered stodgy and vieux jeu both in Paris and among the ‘Modernists’ of Barcelona. Courbet’s conviction that ‘Le beau donné par la nature est supérieur à toutes les conventions de l’artiste’ was rejected, in part because it was based on the discredited doctrine of Positivism; and Schopenhauer’s works, well-known in Barcelona, helped to popularise the idea that nature is only an appearance.

Maurice Denis, who was influential in the club of San Luc in Barcelona, and probably had some effect on the simplified rhythm and the sentiment of Picasso’s ‘Maternités’, wrote that ‘l’art, au lieu d’être la copie, devient la déformation subjective de la nature’. Denis was also highly indignant against the master who criticised his idealised nude study by saying ‘Vous ne coucheriez pas avec cette femme-là’. Some of the mediaevalists in Barcelona felt so strongly against satirical naturalism that they tore up the French comic paper Gil Blas.

Picasso’s choice of books showed a similar anti-realist taste. Raynal, writing probably of about 1905, said that Picasso owned the works of Rimbaud, Verlaine and Mallarmé, but no naturalist or psychological novels, which he detested. Mallarmé and Rimbaud both frequently declared that the true subject of art was the idea, the general, and not life’s particularity. This incidentally fitted in, or was made to fit in, with Gauguin’s synthesism and his linear simplifications.

Completely alien both to these writers and to Picasso was that affection for the unique, fleeting and particularised aspects of nature which made Constable date his cloud studies, adding the exact time of day and the direction of wind, or Duranty’s belief that in rendering a man’s back view one should show his age, temperament and social status. Picasso’s preference for more timeless and generalised subjects may be partly responsible for the choice of such ritual figures as mother and child, harlequin or clown. We know also that Picasso liked the works of the Catalan poet Juan Maragall which were published in 1906 just before the artist went to Gosol when he translated one into French. Like many Catalans of the time Maragall was more interested in German literature than in naturalism and he translated Novalis The Blue Flower into Catalan.

In turning away from the naturalism of his predecessors Picasso was also reacting against the practice of his own father. Apparently he told Sabartés that the latter painted ‘dining-room pictures’. ‘Fur and feathers, pigeons and lilac, together with an occasional landscape completed his repertoire. He was happiest when he could make his feathered models symbolic of moral or sentimental drama, as in his painting of a happy couple perched on the threshold of their pigeon-house, while a third party, ruffled with jealousy, spies on them from below.’ Naturally, the father could not at first reconcile himself to his son’s novelties. The painter Bernareggi declares that when he and Picasso were studying together in Madrid in 1897, they would send home their copies to Picasso’s father. If these were of Velasquez, Goya or the Venetians all was well, but when they sent copies of El Greco he replied severely, ‘You are following the bad way’.

Anti-realism was only one of many characteristics that fin-de-sièle, ‘decadent’ or symbolist movements had in common, but the atmosphere differed from country to country. Barcelona with its particular brand of modernism was important to Picasso’s development long after he first visited Paris at the end of 1900; for it must be remembered that Picasso crossed the Pyrenees seven times before he settled in Paris in April 1904.

In Paris he lived at first almost entirely amongst Spaniards from Barcelona and could not speak French. Even in the Rue Ravignan from 1904 onwards his old friends constantly visited him. Gertrude Stein and others have rightly perceived the Spanish basis of the Blue Period, even though this began in Paris shortly before his departure for Barcelona in December 1901 and owed something to Gauguin, Maurice Denis, Carrière and Van Gogh. His friend Nonell’s drawings are probably the forerunners of many of the crouching, outcast figures painted in the years 1902-4.

The Nietzschean writer and dramatist Jaime Brossa compared the artistic climate of Barcelona to hearing, in a fin-de-siècle café, a Ballade of Chopin and the ‘Marseillaise’ being played at the same time. This exciting ferment of literary and political insurgence must have had some effect on the parallel if unconnected extravagances of Gaudi and Picasso. ( Picasso, it may be said in parentheses, admired Gaudi as a curiosity but never met him; the architect was thirty years senior, a bigoted Catholic and member of the rival club of San Luc, disapproving strongly of the atheist, anarchist and Bohemian ‘Els Quatre Gats’.)

Tags : , , , , , ,

Pablo Picasso: Catalan Modernismo

Share this artwork:

Blue Nude, c.1902 .by Pablo Picasso

The version of the international fin-de-sièle movement flourishing in Barcelona emphasised ‘Sturm und Drang’, a Nietzschean energy and defiance of the bourgeois rather than the lilies and langours of Swinburne and Burne-Jones or the pessimistic irony of Laforgue. There was more vitality and toughness in Barcelona than in England (or France), partly because of the strenuous political movements and the fiery anarchism and separatism of Catalonia, which incidentally increased the popularity of the Middle Ages as the time of her grandeur and autonomy before the centralising policy of Ferdinand and Isabella.

When Picasso was first living in Barcelona hardly a year passed without a bomb outrage, and there was considerable feeling in favour of the prisoners detained in the fortress of Montjuich after one of these incidents. The hardships of the soldiers returning from the Cuban war also aroused popular sympathy and were probably the subject of one of the drawings of Picasso’s friend Nonell. We shall see from Picasso’s own works, such as the drawing of an anarchist meeting, that he was affected by this social unrest as well as by the poverty of his own family.

Perhaps the most obvious feature of the Catalan ‘Modernismo’ was an obsession with everything northern. Rusiñol even described ‘Els Quatre Gats’, which was modelled on a Montmartre café, as ‘a Gothic tavern for those in love with the North’. In the reviews to which Picasso contributed, such as Pel i Ploma, Joventut and Catalunya Artistica, there were frequently translations from German literature and articles on Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. From 1900 onwards an Asociación. Wagneriana, modelled on one in Munich, used to meet in ‘Els Quatre Gats’, and there were frequent performances of the operas, notably Siegfried and Tristan and Isolde. The new avant-garde theatres produced plays by Ibsen and Maeterlinck, most often Ghosts and The Intruder, which had an obsessive attraction for Picasso’s generation.

There was a natural link between the plays of Ibsen, Hauptmann, Strindberg and Björnson, exalting heroic individual action and the ‘vitalismo’ of Nietzsche. Nietzsche, probably the greatest intellectual influence of the time, came as an antidote to the numbing determinism of the Materialists, the cult of pity in Tolstoy and of death and pessimism in Wagner and Schopenhauer. A friend of Picasso has said that before he was seventeen he had read most of the works of Nietzsche and that this was characteristic of his companions in ‘Els Quatre Gats’. According to him Picasso took most of his knowledge of Nietzsche from Maragall. and from the rather banal poet Joan Oliva Bridgman, two of whose works Picasso was commissioned to illustrate.

Nietzsche was first introduced into Barcelona by Pompeyo Gener.Gener, born in 1848, took a medical degree in Paris and produced poetry, plays and translations. In spite of his age he was on the staff of Joventut and published numerous translations, extracts and articles on Nietzsche, including a long article, ‘Arte Dionisiaco’, on his death in 1900. Gener emphasised the need for men to be heroic and to reflect the rhythm of the universe, becoming fiery, revolutionary and progressive. Another disciple, Jaime Brossa, who had at one time been forced to flee to London because of his anti-militarism, extracted from Nietzsche’s works creeds which he called ‘the great Excelsior of the twentieth century’ and the ‘cult of the me’, adopting Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-bourgeois, anti-Philistine teaching.

Nietzsche’s doctrine probably reinforced Picasso’s temperamental unwillingness to be a good apprentice, like Matisse, with steady artistic aims. His inclination towards constant changes of style would have fitted in with Nietzsche’s belief that art proceeds by violent explosions. The Nietzschean cult of unhindered self-expression and contempt for Philistine and bourgeois values may have helped Picasso to disregard criticism and with ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ even to invite it. Leo Stein describes Picasso as late as about 1905 in a Nietzschean mood, perhaps in jest, raging at a bus queue on the grounds that the strong should go ahead and take what they want. Nietzsche also condemned hedonism and sensuous art, and this became the creed of Picasso’s friends in opposition to that of the Nabis and Fauves.

The optimistic view about the future of art current in Barcelona — that it was eternally evolving towards perfection and that everyone was waiting on the threshold of the twentieth century for the appearance of a great new style of art — probably also owed something to Germany. The spread of Hegelianism, German historicism and contemporary ideas of progress perhaps encouraged such critics as Picasso’s friend Junyent to declare that it was impossible to resurrect any past style and that ‘the nineteenth century has died with the consolation of seeing on the horizon of the infinite the splendour of a great art, an elevated art, strong, complicated, earthy and spiritual’. This kind of belief created a favourable climate for producing experimental art; it was apparently not spoilt for Picasso and his friends by the fact that Junyent proceeded to declare that Turner, Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Millais had reached the highest point ever achieved by painting.

Two of Picasso’s early illustrations, ‘La Boija’ and ‘El Clam de las Verges’, seem akin to the world of another northerner, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), particularly to his work inspired by the morality dispute of 1885, which centred on questions of sexual ethics, raised by the controversial novel From Christiana’s Bohemia, written by Munch’s friend Hans Jagers. On a visit to Paris in 1889-90, where he was influenced by Gauguin, Munch had written, ‘No longer paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. There must be living beings who breathe and feel and love and suffer… People would understand the sacredness of them and take off their hats as if they were in church.’ The works produced in this spirit which are most akin to Picasso’s early illustrations were executed in Germany round about 1895.

Examples are the pictures of women brooding alone in rooms, like the characters depicted in the plays of Ibsen and Munch’s friend Strindberg, such as ‘The Morning After’, ‘Puberty’ (1894) or the ‘Frieze of Life’ although Picasso did not apparently know them at this period. The long faces drawn by Picasso in the Barcelona period such as ‘The Mad Woman’ or ‘The Old Man and Young Woman’ do resemble Munch, but they could have had other sources, such as El Greco or Dario de Regoyos who collaborated with Verhaeren in a book called España Negra which Picasso planned to imitate. In any case Catalan artists such as Casas, Rusiñol and Picasso’s friend Nonell, who went to France, may easily have brought back German editions of Munch’s graphic art.

Moreover Stuck’s silhouettes in Jugend and Paul Riethes’ diseuses are somewhat like those of Picasso in the Barcelona Museum and like the works of his friends Pichot and Opisso. The links between Munich and Barcelona at this time were strong, as can be seen from Picasso’s letter of 1897 when he writes, ‘If I had a son who wanted to be a painter I would not keep him in Spain a moment, and do not imagine I would send him to Paris but to Munik… as it is a city where painting is studied seriously without regard to fixed ideas of any sort such as pointillism and all the rest’.

Tags : , , , , ,

Picasso Art: Sympathy with the Poor Isidro Nonell

Share this artwork:

Tete d’une Femme Lisant by Pablo Picasso

In Barcelona there were already signs of the fierce and humanitarian Picasso, who was later roused to paint ‘Guernica’ and ‘War and Peace’ and to declare: ‘Painting is not done to decorate houses. It is an instrument of war for attack and defence against the enemy.’ His old Catalan friends say that he was an anarchist at this time, and his rather primitive drawing of an anarchist meeting was probably sketched from direct observation. The members of the group who met in ‘Els Quatre Gats’ had the same sympathies and wore trousers narrowing at the ankles, copied from those of anarchist agitators.

From 1895 onwards an anarchist journal, Ciencia Social, published, amongst other things, cartoons of Daumier and works by Millet and Courbet, and Joventut too, nearly always began with a long article on political and regional grievances. The works of Bakunin were well-known and Joventut carried advertisements for those of Kropotkin. The achievements of the Modernists took place against a background not only of bombs but of suppression. All the works of Maeterlinck and d’Annunzio were condemned by the Church, and Hauptmann Die Weber was banned from the stage because the workmen in it broke up a factory. Picasso and his friends may well have known the printed version of the play, with illustrations by Käthe Kollwitz.

Picasso had studios in the same building, and more than once Picasso drew Nonell’s portrait. Their influence on each other may have been mutual. There are works of Nonell from 1902 onwards which seem to derive from Picasso, but in earlier years Nonell was probably the originator. His ‘Grupo de Pobres’, dated 1899, with its miserable figures huddled in profile along the corner of a building, looks back to Goya and Daumier and forward to Picasso’s hunched, seated figures of 1902.

His solitary figure of 1901-2 (published in Pel i Ploma in January 1902) resemble those of Picasso’s Blue Period in motive, composition and the use of heavy, limp folds of drapery and are roughly contemporary with them, for though Picasso’s Blue Period began in Paris in late 1901, the most characteristic and the most Nonellian works of this phase were painted later, and this is especially true of his paintings of beggars sitting on the ground. The works done in Paris in late 1901 are mostly of people with their elbows on a café table, like ‘Le Bock’, or portraits, or the ‘Maternités’ which owe so much to Maurice Denis and Carrière.

Such works as ‘La Femme assise au Capuchon!, painted after Picasso’s return to Barcelona, seem to derive in part at least from Nonell’s early work. That this fact has not been more usually recognised may be due to a coolness which, according to some writers, later sprang up between Picasso and Nonell, but their relation must have been close, since Nonell at one time chose to live in the bateau-lavoir where Picasso was already settled.

In the motives both for Nonell’s crucial visit to Bohí and in many of the contributions to Arte Joven, the cult of the primitive was mixed with sympathy for peasants and the poor. Primitivism was an international taste, rooted in English romanticism, in the writings of Rousseau, and in the doctrines of David’s pupils, who called themselves les Primitifs. It was a revulsion against civilisation, stimulated in the second half of the nineteenth century by a growing dislike of industrialism and a feeling that men had not always so recklessly squandered their lives in pursuit of the means of life. It was the motive behind the mediaevalism of William Morris and Gauguin’s move to Tahiti; it finds a voice in Van Gogh’s letters; and earlier it had led Courbet’s friend Champfleury to collect popular songs and broadsheets and to write, ‘The idol cut on a tree-trunk by savages is nearer to Michelangelo’s “Moses” than most of the statues in the annual Salons’.

In Barcelona it particularly took the form of reviving old and popular Catalan music, which culminated in the foundation of the Orfeó Català and in the works of Morera. A common saying of the time was, ‘The songs of the people are the songs of God’. The old tales of the countryside also attracted attention and affected such works as Senties’s story of the Mad Woman illustrated by Picasso. The puppet shows held in ‘Els Quatre Gats’, though ostensibly designed to attract children, seem to have been taken very seriously by the regular customers, and the puppet was praised in Rousseau-like terms as ‘man denuded of all conventions, with all the good instincts of a new-born animal’.

Picasso Arte Joven shared this love of the child-like and primitive. One of the sonnets by Miguel de Unamuno selected for the first number begins: ‘I return to thee my childhood, as Antaeus returned to earth to regain his strength’. In an item called ‘Our Aesthetic’ the quotation chosen from Goethe is: ‘The true poet receives his knowledge of the world from nature, and to depict it he does not need great experience or great technique’.

Already a writer on architecture had declared in Barcelona that learning and experience are less vital than spontaneity and instinct, and this feeling, no doubt, played a part in the current revival of Catalan Romanesque and Gothic art. All this is certainly important for opening the way to Negro sculpture in Picasso’s mind, and it may also have some bearing on the fact that there are at least sixteen works of 1901 by Picasso in which children figure, including the well-known ‘L’Enfant au. Pigeon’, ‘Le Gourmand’ and the somewhat primitive ‘La Soupe’.

Picasso’s social ideas can best be illustrated from Arte Joven, the short-lived magazine of which he was joint-editor in Madrid in early 1901, since he probably had more influence on its contents than he had had on any publication in Barcelona. It is significant that the only paper over which he had control should be one with social and political leanings. The editors of Arte Joven adopted a tone of defiance. ‘We know that the gilded youth of Madrid and the illustrious ladies of the aristocracy do not like Arte Joven! That pleases us immensely.’

The first number showed a group of peasants, marching heavily under the weight of their misery. There was also a somewhat ‘extreme’ article which asserted that men should abstain from voting since it only fortifies the injustice of the state. The great necessity is ‘to kill the law’, a concept which must already have been familiar to Picasso in the moral field from such poems as Bridgman Cry of the Virgins which he had already illustrated. Arte Joven also published a poem by Alberto Lozano condemning the rich and idle, the sense of which was, ‘If you do not work and fulfil God’s command to Adam you are not my brother or God’s son’. There were also the inevitable articles on Nietzsche. It was characteristic of Picasso’s feeling for social outlaws that, soon after his visit to Madrid, he did a Munch-like drawing of a man resembling himself handcuffed between two gendarmes.

Probably the first Spanish painter of the time to show the poor with realism and compassion, rather than as the stock, picturesque beggars of traditional genre, was Isidro Nonell (1873-1911). Some time just before 1900 he lent his studio to Picasso, who was eight years younger, and it is almost certain that his works influenced the paintings of the Blue Period in both style and content. Nonell, the son of a man who made pasta for soup, began as a plein-air painter, but soon reacted both from Impressionism and from what was called ‘la sweetness inglés’ (presumably the Pre-Raphaelite sentimentality of Brull and de Riquer).

In 1896 he went to Bohí, in the Pyrenees, and made studies of the Crétins living there, which he worked up into paintings later shown in the Salon of La Vanguardia in Paris and in ‘Els Quatre Gats’. Nonell made use here of expressive deformations and the simplified closed silhouette which is so often employed by Picasso in his Blue Period. His contour lines are heavy and dramatic; there are strong reminiscences of Japanese prints and of Daumier, whose work he could have seen in the pages of Gil Blas. The woman huddled over her baby is a kind of caricature without malice. It was, of course, not till much later that Picasso turned to this kind of theme. At this time, when he was only fifteen, he confined himself almost entirely to depicting his family or street and café scenes, and was about to go to Madrid where he made copies in the Prado.

In 1897 Nonell went to Paris, held an exhibition at the Le Barc de Bouteville Gallery, and was compared by enthusiastic critics to Edgar Allan Poe. Judging by his later works he must also have studied the art of Van Gogh and Daumier. On his return to Barcelona he made some impressive drawings of the miserable people repatriated after the Cuban War, one of which, a dragging line of figures, is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s ‘Prison Yard’. About this time Nonell and Picasso had studios in the same building, and more than once Picasso drew Nonell’s portrait. Their influence on each other may have been mutual.

There are works of Nonell from 1902 onwards which seem to derive from Picasso, but in earlier years Nonell was probably the originator. His ‘Grupo de Pobres’, dated 1899, with its miserable figures huddled in profile along the corner of a building, looks back to Goya and Daumier and forward to Picasso’s hunched, seated figures of 1902. His solitary figure of 1901-2, published in Pel i Ploma in January 1902) resemble those of Picasso’s Blue Period in motive, composition and the use of heavy, limp folds of drapery and are roughly contemporary with them, for though Picasso’s Blue Period began in Paris in late 1901, the most characteristic and the most Nonellian works of this phase were painted later, and this is especially true of his paintings of beggars sitting on the ground.

The works done in Paris in late 1901 are mostly of people with their elbows on a café table, like ‘Le Bock’, or portraits, or the ‘Maternités’ which owe so much to Maurice Denis and Carrière. Such works as ‘La Femme assise au Capuchon!, painted after Picasso’s return to Barcelona, seem to derive in part at least from Nonell’s early work. That this fact has not been more usually recognised may be due to a coolness which, according to some writers, later sprang up between Picasso and Nonell, but their relation must have been close, since Nonell at one time chose to live in the bateau-lavoir where Picasso was already settled.

In the motives both for Nonell’s crucial visit to Bohí and in many of the contributions to Arte Joven, the cult of the primitive was mixed with sympathy for peasants and the poor. Primitivism was an international taste, rooted in English romanticism, in the writings of Rousseau, and in the doctrines of David’s pupils, who called themselves les Primitifs. It was a revulsion against civilisation, stimulated in the second half of the nineteenth century by a growing dislike of industrialism and a feeling that men had not always so recklessly squandered their lives in pursuit of the means of life.

It was the motive behind the mediaevalism of William Morris and Gauguin’s move to Tahiti; it finds a voice in Van Gogh’s letters; and earlier it had led Courbet’s friend Champfleury to collect popular songs and broadsheets and to write, ‘The idol cut on a tree-trunk by savages is nearer to Michelangelo’s “Moses” than most of the statues in the annual Salons’. In Barcelona it particularly took the form of reviving old and popular Catalan music, which culminated in the foundation of the Orfeó Català and in the works of Morera.

A common saying of the time was, ‘The songs of the people are the songs of God’. The old tales of the countryside also attracted attention and affected such works as Senties’s story of the Mad Woman illustrated by Picasso. The puppet shows held in ‘Els Quatre Gats’, though ostensibly designed to attract children, seem to have been taken very seriously by the regular customers, and the puppet was praised in Rousseau-like terms as ‘man denuded of all conventions, with all the good instincts of a new-born animal’.

Picasso Arte Joven shared this love of the child-like and primitive. One of the sonnets by Miguel de Unamuno selected for the first number begins: ‘I return to thee my childhood, as Antaeus returned to earth to regain his strength’. In an item called ‘Our Aesthetic’ the quotation chosen from Goethe is: ‘The true poet receives his knowledge of the world from nature, and to depict it he does not need great experience or great technique’.

Already a writer on architecture had declared in Barcelona that learning and experience are less vital than spontaneity and instinct, and this feeling, no doubt, played a part in the current revival of Catalan Romanesque and Gothic art. All this is certainly important for opening the way to Negro sculpture in Picasso’s mind, and it may also have some bearing on the fact that there are at least sixteen works of 1901 by Picasso in which children figure, including the well-known ‘L’Enfant au. Pigeon’, ‘Le Gourmand’ and the somewhat primitive ‘La Soupe’.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,