Friday, March 30, 2012

Brooklyn in the Rough

Brooklyn scenes I like doing, but I don't like straight edges too much. Not that I can't do them, but I find straight edges boring. Somebody asked me recently if I like doing bridges. I have a nice bridge across the Delaware just down the street. I like bridges, but there are lot of straight edges, though I noticed that when the Impressionist did bridges, there aren't too many straight edges. This is an 8x12 pastel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brooklyn a la Matisse

This is how Matisse would paint a Brooklyn scene. Maybe, maybe not. It's a 17x17 1/2 inch oil, the companion of Park Scene below.

Pierre Schneider quotes Odilon Redon, in relation to Matisse, "...let us at least try to give to seen color the pure and supreme beauty of felt color; all of modern art is there..."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Garbage Bags in Brooklyn and Matisse's Emotion

This is the corner of St. Marks and Grand when the garbage bags were out, as well as the sunshine.

Matisse said, "I do not create a woman, I make a picture." Pierre Schneider, comparing Matisse and Manet in terms of painting and the subject, goes on to write, "Yet the picture should not be painted to the detriment of the subject...This complete contradiction ["between the painting and the subject"] has to be--can only be--resolved by an act of intuition. Though Manet never expressed his thoughts on the nature of such an act, he would probably have agreed with the definition propounded by Matisse on numerous occasions: the identification of the subjective and the objective in the work, which expresses not the thing seen but the sensation--Matisse calls it "the emotion"--it triggers in the artist. For this to take place, the painter must renounce his acquired knowledge and let the unlooked-for enter into his picture. Decisive for Matisse was the role of what Mallarme, speaking of Manet, calls his "instinct" (and which he himself sometimes called the "unconscious").

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Marks and Washington

An 11x14 drawing followed by an 11x14 oil.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cannes View, More Matisse

9x12 pastel.

According to Spurling after several operations in 1942, when he almost died, he spent the last twelve years of his life with a colostomy. However, during that period he created some of his most colorful and joyous artworks.

I have started reading the Pierre Schneider Matisse book. Many illustrations and excellent text.

Here are some Matisse quotes from the Schneider book:

"Retain only what cannot be seen."

"That which can be learned is not worth teaching."

"He who wants to dedicate himself to painting should start by cutting out his tongue."

"Like all artists who have taken the trouble to use their minds, I am acquainted with all the known theories, but, as far as I am concerned, I have no theory when I am working."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Walk'nDraw and the Words of Matisse

Honestly, I am working hard, but nothing to show but a walkn'draw of a river tree in front of the Nelson House at Washington's Crossing on the Delaware done this evening. I changed my pencil to a large, flat carpenter's pencil. Delightful to use.

I am only ten pages away from completing the Spurling second volume of Matisse's biography. Here are some Matisse quotes:

After visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1930, Matisse said, "All the old pictures are dubious or mediocre--the modern ones are extremely good." I suspect that has changed somewhat.

Describing himself and the artist Georges Roualt to his son Pierre Matisse: "A man who makes pictures like the one we were looking at is an unhappy creature, tormented day and night. He relieves himself of his passion in his pictures, but also in spite of himself on the people around him. That is what normal people never understand. They want to enjoy the artists' products--as one might enjoy cows' milk--but they can't put up with the inconvenience, the mud and the flies." He was trying to explain why he sometimes wasn't nice to his family, but I like the part about the mud and flies.

One last one: "Artist are like plants whose growth in the thickets of the jungle depends on the air they breathe, and the mud or stones among which they grow by chance and without choice." This quote appeals to me, not only because of another reference to mud, but because it recognizes that an artist is best at painting what he knows and where he is.

Did I tell you that my middle name is Henri?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Underhill and Bergen

This 9x12 drawing demonstrates to me at least that a 'plain' street corner has a lot going on, that we usually walk past and even over. This will make a challenging painting. I am trying to complete the life of Matisse. Who has time for painting?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Park Side

This is a Brooklyn view from a fourth floor window looking upon the edge of a park. It's a 17x17 1/2 oil.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swamp at Field Farm

A short break from Brooklyn. 8x10 pastel.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dean and Grand Again

This is a view of Dean and Grand looking in the opposite direction. Both 9x12. The oil is on a mdf panel.

Early in his career Matisse started wearing a suit and tie to confound his critics and public who expected to meet a wild man. He seems to have painted in a suit and tie as well. There's a famous 1918 self-portrait in which he is fully dressed for the office, except he is painting. He must have been a deliberate and careful painter, despite all the painting and re-painting he supposedly did. If I wore a suit and tie when painting, I would have paint on it within seconds.

According to Spurling, Matisse was also celebrated as the painter who best represented the philosophy of Henri Bergson in terms of dealing with reality and emotion. Matisse was suspicious of this claim because Bergson preferred dull, academic paintings. There's the thought and there's the reality that don't often coincide. Just like painting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dean and Grand

An 11x14 charcoal drawing and an 11x14 oil of the same Brooklyn corner. I could call this Brooklyn cubism.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tree with Sign

All I have is this morning's Walk-n-Draw. The sign on the tree does not say "Tree." It only says "No Parking."

John Jacobus in his Matisse book writes, "Very few twentieth-century painters have joined Matisse in perpetuation of the vision of a terrestrial paradise populated by gods in human guise, or humans in godlike attitudes. In projecting his imaginary studio and in working out the actual decorative canvases of Dance and Music for Shchukin, the artist had achieved a significant fusion of two elements in his work. He had found that the visions of a mythological harmony that he had expressed again and again in his large figure compositions of 1905-1910 could be expressively (and not just anecdotally) incorporated in his studio concept, a theme that reached back to his dark pictures dating from before 1900. Stretching a point, it might be contended that the whole of his subsequent work is predicated upon this illuminating insight."

This explains all those odalisques. The studio was the paradise where all his anxiety could find some resolution.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Washington Avenue

A 12 x 24 oil of a Brooklyn scene.

I read somewhere that Andrew Wyeth was outside once doing a watercolor. A couple people wandered over to peek. Wyeth overheard one tell the other that the painter was an amateur who didn't know anything about art. In the first volume of the Matisse biography, Spurling recounts that Matisse once met Madame Cezanne after her husband had died. She told Matisse that her husband had been an old fool who did not know anything about art.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Brooklyn Street Opening

This is an 11x14 pastel.

In case you are wondering why so much Brooklyn. My grandson, who was born almost a month ago, lives in Brooklyn. I expect to make many trips to Brooklyn, which is fortunate since I have wanted to do urban pictures for a while, and Brooklyn is an amazing place.

Matisse: Matisse invented modern painting. Here's an excerpt from the Matisse book by Lawrence Gowing, writing about the great period from 1910 to 1918 or so and the painting The Blue Window : "The supremacy that colour attained in these pictures was quite new and unparalleled. Colour was no longer put to any descriptive or expressive purpose. It was simply itself, the homogeneous primal substance. The development culminated in an inspired invention. Can anyone forget when he first became aware of La fenetre bleue? In a moment one knew one of the simplest and most radiant ideas in the whole of art, the idea that the shapes of things are immaterial except as fantastic vessels -- a dish, a vase, a pot like a chalice, a tree like a bunch of balloons--to contain the airy brightness of the world."

This comment stuck out at me because this very painting I did contemplate many a time years ago.

Here's another comment from John Elderfield from the 1992 retrospective catalog: "Throughout his work, that which separates and connects does not receive light but gives light. His paintings are not windows onto an external nature. They are not windows through which light passes, but mirrors that return light, and with a transformed nature. Matisse thought of his paintings as emitting a beneficent radiation."

We may take Matisse for granted these days, but in his day, when he was first creating the magnificent paintings of the 1910-18 period, he was much maligned. Spurling writes that for years he suffered from intense anxiety attacks and insomnia. We read about a lot of artists who didn't make it because of the physical/emotional/spiritual difficulties they encountered, and Spurling indicates that Matisse, no matter what one may think of some of his art, was a stubborn survivor.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brooklyn Corner

An 11x14 oil on another Brooklyn corner.

I'm reading John Elderfield's catalog for the 1992 MOMA Matisse restrospective. He has fascinating ideas about what Matisse was after. I need to digest them better. It seems that Matisse wanted to paint a mental reality, and saw copying nature as a straightjacket. I like most of Matisse's paintings, and want to take what is useful and avoid dogma.