Showing posts with label matisse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label matisse. Show all posts

Friday, December 16, 2016


Here's some more Christmas gift ideas! How 'bout one of Hattie Stewart's posters (above)?

No? Well, how 'bout a poster of Dora Maar, one of Picasso's favorite models? I'm guessing this photo (above) was taken by Man Ray.

Ceramic tiles? You can get all kinds on the net.

A lamp?

A framed picture of Dimwit?

For a martial arts fan, a photo of a female athlete?

A poodle poster?

How about Dick Tracy? I love this picture!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I've blogged before about the mysterious and aggressive quality of color, especially when it's relatively unrestrained as it is in the Nolde picture above. Lots of people wouldn't agree with that. For them color is sentimental and comforting. I envy them. My own innocence about color has been shattered by the discoveries of a painter named Emil Nolde (1867 - 1956) who's the subject of this post.

Nolde couldn't draw people. Maybe that's a good thing because his difficulties with line may have been what led him to concentrate entirely on color.

Nolde's early paintings (above) were influenced by Van Gogh. 

Later he shows the influence of Gauguin and the Nabis.

He was even influenced by Matisse. Here (above) he takes what I call the the bold, aggressive quality of color and successfully harnesses it to decoration as Matisse did. The public liked what he was doing and he might have profitably painted this way for years to come, but around this time he seems to have become interested in color for its own sake. He became obsessed with the idea that color had a life of its own which was suffocated by line.

 Nolde wasn't the only artist to dream of liberating color. Fauves like Vlaminck and Derain (that's a Derain, above) attempted it but they confined color with line and that had the effect of taming it down.

Kandinsky (above) did the same. Even in his abstract pictures he was usually afraid to remove the lines.

Bonnard got rid of the lines but still didn't liberate the color. He just confined it a different way, in this case by muting it with white. It's as if all the painters I've mentioned wanted to open the cage door to give color its freedom, but once it was on the outside they insisted on walking it on a tight leash.

Not so Nolde. He opened the door and let the tiger escape. He allowed his color, indescribably brutal and mindful of nothing but its own will to live, to leap out and grab the viewer by the jugular.

Look at this landscape (above). The liberated red comes off as a predatory beast roaming the landscape and looking for victims. I don't know about you, but I hear the strident parts of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" when I look at it.

 Nolde painted almost exclusively in watercolor during the WWII years, and therein lies a story.

According to Wikipedia, Nolde became a passionate Nazi while he was still living in Denmark in the 20s. His work became very well known and even caught the attention of Goebbels who was a fan of Expressionism and who arranged for Nolde to work on an infamous anti-semitic film. It must have seemed to Nolde that he had it made, but fate had something else in store for him.

It turns out that Hitler loathed Expressionism and he gave Nolde pride of place in his Degenerate Art show. Goebbels, being the toady that he was, not only dropped Nolde like a hot potato but claimed to have discovered that the artist had a Jewish ancestor. Nolde was given a rifle and shipped off to the army where he painted watercolors in secret. He was forbidden to work in oils.

So Nolde was not what you'd call a nice guy, and his pictures have a very disturbing, neurotic quality to them. Even so, you have to credit the man with liberating color in a way that nobody else had. It's impossible to imagine DeKooning or Hoffman or many of the Abstract Expressionists or even Mary Blair without reference to Nolde. What can I say? Nature distributes its gifts in ways not understandable by man.

Monday, July 22, 2013


As the title suggests, this is about Picasso and Matisse and how their competition with each other helped to spur them both to greatness. I'm not an expert on this subject so if a reader catches a mistake I hope he'll let me know about it so I can change it. 

Anyway, a good place to start is this painting (above) from late in Picasso's Cubist period. He must have gotten bored with Cubism by this time because he seems to be flirting with representational painting again and with brighter color.

I think what jolted him out of Cubism was this picture (above) by Matisse. It was shockingly flat and colorful, and suggested a whole new way of depicting figures.

Picasso responded (above) by going even farther down the road Matisse had taken. Picasso flattened out his characters even more than Matisse had, and intensified and abstracted his color fields. I think he was also influenced by newspaper comics.

Actually this picture is probably from his slightly later "Heroic" period, but it still makes my point.   

Matisse (above) responded to Picasso by introducing colorful patterns into his work. The whole canvas was now vibrant with pattern.

Picasso followed Matisse's background-as-pattern idea (above) and upped the ante by abstracting the background more than his rival. It didn't exactly work. Matisse's backgrounds were warm and inviting, Picasso's were clever but cold. 

Maybe sensing that Matisse was beating him, Picasso devoted himself to making his  shapes and color more rounded and pleasing (above). Finally he hit on the marvelous color and line patterns that we call his "Heroic Period." In my opinion this was when Picasso did his best work.

Finally Matisse died. Without the Frenchman's ideas to spur him on Picasso lapsed into abstraction (above) for its own sake.

These new canvases (above) were cold and lifeless. You see Matisse's influence but Picasso can't find a way to make it work for him.

Interesting, eh?

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I don't expect readers to like these pictures. They're not really the best work of these artists. Even so, they're useful for illustrating one of the most intense rivalries in the history of art and for showing how competition stimulates artistic growth.

Usually the back and forth started with Matisse. He'd paint something and Picasso would try to top it. Matisse had a reputation for being drastic and cutting edge and and that's the way Picasso wanted to be regarded. What better way than to take whatever the most drastic artist did and do something similar that's even more drastic?

Here (above) Picasso takes the Matisse picture of the woman surrounded by pattern (topmost) and does his own, even more stylized version of the same subject. It's not one of Picasso's best, in fact, it's kitsch in my opinion. The picture has no conviction. It's drastic for the sake of being drastic.

I imagine that Matisse must have been mad when he saw it. How irritating to have someone following you up, repainting your pictures in their own shallow "look-at-me" style.

Or maybe Matisse wasn't mad. He's on record as having exchanged pictures with Picasso and he was always enquiring about his health. Maybe Matisse valued the stimulus of the competition.

Eventually Picasso's knock-offs became more and more confidant, so much so that Matisse would sometimes copy Picasso. Compare the Matisse (black and white above) with Picasso (immediately above). Somehow Picasso made the knock-offs into a coherent style. Well, whatever works.

In an effort to out-do his imitator Matisse sometimes went to far. In the picture above Matisse tries to be mathematical and cold like Picasso and succeeds too well in a sense. This picture has none of the warmth we normally associate with Matisse.

Picasso (the picture above), on the other hand, for once succeeds in being more warm and appealing than Matisse. Amazing!

The reason I put these pictures up was to suggest that we can learn something from their painters' rivalry. Maybe it's a good idea to pick an illustrious target and try to beat him at his own game. The idea isn't to steal another person's ideas but to use them as a springboard to create your own ideas. Sometimes new ideas have to form around the nucleus of an old idea.

I hope I don't create monster copiests by talking like this. I used the word "copy" to describe what Picasso did but as you can see from the examples, Picasso did a lot more than copy. The man was heavily influenced but he didn't steal.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Most of the cartoonists who visit here hate the Fauves. Me, I love them. Here's (above) a 1906 Derain showing the Thames near Charing Cross bridge in London. His color seems to have poured down into the water, caught fire, then was guided toward the indigo bridge by seething bits of green energy. What's not to like?

It would be a mistake to think of this as some kind of drug-induced LSD vision. Derain uses false colors in order to make us realize that the colors we see every day are just as bizzare. We should see color the way a formerly blind man would see them on his first few minutes of sight. For such a man shadows wouldn't be subordinated to local color, they'd be independent forms. Lines would just be lines, they wouldn't define a shape and colors would battle for dominance. This is the violent, alien world Derain paints for us!

Here (above) is Vlaminck, also 1906. Red leaves on the red trees are no longer content to be decoration. They radiate and burn themselves into the blue sky behind them. Leaves seperate from the trees and gyrate in mid-air. The red and pink path carries this crazy energy to other trees. It's an alien force being unleashed, a force that was there all the time but we never noticed it.

Of course I'm only guessing that this is what Vlaminck had in mind. Artists need to have fantasies about the pictures they paint so they can see their subjects in new and exciting ways, and the same goes for viewers.

Here (above) is Matisse's famous green stripe painting, also 1906 I think. The face is both flat and three-dimensional. The colors in the backdrop refuse to be background and come forward to compete with the foreground. The face plane is stressed and appears to be in danger of splitting.

The green strip painting influenced a lot of painters in Matisse's time and continues to exert an influence today. Here (above) is a Matisse-influenced face by illustrator Phillip Burke. The surface tension is much reduced from the Matisse original but the color is still exciting.