Influences – (Cezanne and Matisse on Diebenkorn)

Richard Diebenkorn - Nude on Blue Ground - 1966 - 206 x 150 cm - oil on canvas

This painting is a great example of a great painter permitting another to influence his work.   In the Matisse painting below (posted on Oct. 19, 2011), we see how he brought the background, or a spatial plane, in front of the figure’s right shoulder.

Diebenkorn used shadows to achieve the same result.  The shadow below her chin seems to be part of the background as well, and I feel the sharp right angle is the key.  You can also feel the sense of a spatial plane below her left breast and another beautifully considered right angle on her right arm which relates to the angle under her chin.  (Blurring your vision may help)

This sophisticated consideration provides the feeling the figures occupying space.

I must also point out Diebenkorn’s superb integration of the figure’s right arm with the line leading to the bottom of the painting and how this supports her.  I also love how her face comes forward, very impressive.

Being aware of these influences can be very beneficial for developing artist’s.  Joining with this great tradition is a great way to develop as long as you understand the difference between being influenced and copying.  You need to connect to the thought process and knowledge of the artists you choose.


Ben Nicholson – (Flattening, Integration and Movement in Space)

Ben Nicholson - Still Life with Jug, Mugs, Cup and Goblet - 1925 - 60 x 60 cm - oil and pencil on canvas

Ben Nicholson is a superb example of a painter who explored the great considerations of conveying depth and space by raising the subject matter to the picture plane.  His dedication to this major shift in art is very impressive.

This early still life shows us his awareness of the importance of limiting perspective, conveying space through placement, as well as shifting the viewers sense of place.  You can see this shift in the mug at the right.  We are simultaneously level with the mug and  above the others. This provides the feeling of space or movement!

Nicholson was also exploring another shift when he flattened the decoration on what we read as the curved surfaces of the mugs.  This subtle dynamic is very sophisticated and is not meant to be obvious.  Great artists are very aware of how we interpret subconsciously.

I should also point out some lovely integration.  The shape entering the painting at the bottom taking us to the white cup and then the left of the cup integrates with the edge of the mug above.  Also the top of the mug connects to the handle of the pitcher.  Can you feel the integrations?

Nicholson was a great twentieth century master.


Klimt (Shapes, Rhythm and Structure)

Gustav Klimt -Apple Tree II - 1916 - 80 x 80 cm - oil on canvas

Gustav Klimt was a master of shapes and structure and as we see in this late painting, he was a great master of the reductive process.

We see this is his late painting Apple Tree II, a wonderful example of the power of shapes.  We respond to the beautiful shape of the tree, then we take in the dance of the circles , particularly the wonderful pauses of the red circles, in fact, note how one red circle is actually the focus.  The rhythm of the trees on the horizon is wonderful and I hope you feel the dance.

Appreciating that information for the sake of information can disrupt a composition is very important. Shape and pattern within the shape, works much better, as we see in the tree and the triangle shape of the foreground.

There is very sophisticated structural consideration in this painting, which I feel is one of the finest I have ever had the pleasure of engaging with.

It’s the vertical at the bottom right, which not only provides a lovely visual support for the trunk, but also provides one of the best spatial planes I have ever seen!  Do you see the horizontal at the top of the vertical line, forming a right angle and how the feeling of a spatial plane comes forth?  Magnificent!



Matisse – (The Grid)

Henri Matisse - Woman with Veil - 1927 - 61 x 50 cm - oil on canvas

This is a wonderful example of refining cubism.  In fact in this sophisticated painting Matisse has combined what could be viewed as conflicting considerations, the combination of cubism and flattening.

Let’s begin with what I feel is cubism at it’s best, her forehead.  Can you feel it projecting towards you?  Fantastic!  The key is the  line connecting her eye brow with her hair which creates a sense of a plane coming forward.  This when combined with the wonderful angle which reads as her veil, which we automatically interpret as being in front, is a superb example of the power of reduction.

Now to the flattening, which I feel is as important as Cezanne’s spatial planes in art.  The grid.  This is not easily explained because it is something we feel and it may take time for you to permit yourself to accept it.

Why did Matisse superimpose the grid on the figure.  I think it was time for taking the next step in the evolution of spatial planes.  In other words the presence of the figure is stronger because of the planes the grid provides.  This is far superior to traditional modelling.  Why?  We subconsciously and interpret space with planes and Matisse understood this.

I should mention that Matisse didn’t abandon modelling as we see in the shading.  The flattening is not a rejection of modelling.  It provides another level of refinement for artists, which is challenging, and Matisse has shown us a great refinement in art which will become prominent in twentieth century painting.

Mondrian – (Spatial Planes)

Piet Mondrian - Apple Tree in Flower - 1912 - 78 x 106 cm - oil on canvas

In this third version of the tree, Mondrian has brought spatial planes to the forefront.  This is about painting space and occupying space, and he has accomplished the challenge impressively.

Reducing the tree to a rhythm of loops, conveying it’s presence and movement is fantastic.  Mondrian then used vertical and horizontal lines, which we read as planes in space.  I feel this is a great achievement.  He has shown us how to convey a very complex consideration with just a few markings, avoiding substance.  Brilliant!   I hope you can feel the energy and space.

A great deal of consideration went into this series of paintings from 1904 to 1912 and Mondrian has taken cubism to new heights and he will continue to lead the way towards abstraction along with a few other notable artists.

Inviting the masters to influence is important to all artists.  And we see this with Mondrian taking Cezanne’s spatial planes and Cubism to a new level.

Mondrian – (Spatial Planes and Rhythm)

Piet Mondrian - Tree - 1912 - 65 x 81 cm - oil on canvas

Eight years later Mondrian is refining the challenge of spatial planes.  And he has accomplished the feeling of the tree being in space magnificently.  The was quite an accomplishment in 1912, and shows us how cubist considerations will lead Mondrian towards abstraction.

The tree is now a wonderful rhythm of curved lines and shapes or what I like to term “loops”.  Can you feel the energy and movement, not only in the tree but the surrounding space as well?

This is truly elegant, especially when we see how successfully he combined the loops with a loose or open grid, conveying the sense of the space in front of, as well as within, and behind the tree.

The grid reads as planes and Mondrian has shown how sophisticated and important spacial planes are in painting.

I’m sure he was very grateful to Cezanne

Mondrian – (Creating Space with Colour)

Piet Mondrian - The Red Tree - 1908-10 - 70 x 99 cm - oil on canvas

In this traditional rendering of a tree, Mondrian has not only brought colour to the forefront, he has also used colour to create the sense of space.  We immediately respond to the relationship of the blue and orange.  Our eye reads the orange as coming forward  and then continue to the receding blue.  We then connect to the rhythms in the tree and come to a beautiful pause at the top right.

By restricting his palette Mondrian has emphasised colour and used colour as spatial planes.

Combining Fauvist and Cubist considerations provided Mondrian the opportunity for experimentation and growth and he refined these superbly.

Picasso – (Spatial Planes and Influences)

Pablo Picasso - Woman with a Fan - 1908 - 152 x 101 cm - oil on canvas

This is an excellent example of how Picasso permitted others to influence his development.  We not only see the pushing of Cezanne’s spacial planes, we also see his collaboration with Matisse on this intriguing challenge. (see my Oct.19th post) and we also see their mutual reaching for the powerful stirrings we sense in primitive art which I will discuss in future postings.

Picasso uses a spatial shift by having the figure’s shoulders on different levels.  By having the left shoulder lower and the front plane carry across her chest, provides the feeling of her right shoulder being on a different plane.  Try to feel the space more than the depth,(blurring your vision may help).  You may also feel the front of her dress come forward as well. The push and pull of the planes is superb.  We sense her dress coming forward and then her left arm coming forth. Can you feel the shift?

Picasso’s superb use of integration of the figure, the chair and the background is fantastic.  The entire composition avoids the static feel because spatial planes are closer to our reality than perspective.   I hope you can sense this.

I find it interesting that the wonderful consideration of spatial planes requires reduction to succeed.

My Work – Spatial Planes and Rhythm

Don Farrell - Pink - 2011 - 23 x 31 cm - mixed water soluble media

This painting has the wonderful consideration of raising the table to the picture plane.  And I focused on spatial planes as well, which is very challenging.  I want the viewer to feel the space the planes present.  And I am pleased with the receding plane of the table which also could be termed as a spatial shift.  The shift represents movement (the viewer’s movement), which is more sensed than seen and provides time.  Thank you Cezanne!

Permitting these to appear while painting is important, allowing intuition to come into play.   I began with a table and wall and then let the play begins.  Thinking of shapes, rhythm and movement, rather than objects.  And of course my favourite things usually find their way into the painting, which ensures continuity in my work.

The soaking pan anchors the composition and from there we move along the bottom edge connecting to the rhythm of the black weights, leading you to the oval on the wall.  I then provided marks on the wall to return you to the pan.  Do you feel the curved movement in the pan?

I permit myself time to assess and after much scratching and repainting found myself painting a small, very satisfying pink circle, which became the final note.

There are other lyrical markings, such as arrows and what I like to call loops which are in the pan and on the wall.  There is also a very fine rhythm within the oval on the wall, echoing the arrangement of the weights.  I strive for every mark to be in harmony.

I must also mention the angle attached to the soaking pan. Can you feel it’s importance?


Influences – (Matisse on Hofmann)

Hans Hofmann - Pink Table with Still Life and Palette - 1936 - 132 x 96 cm - oil on panel

As in my post of September 1st. on Cezanne influencing Matisse, we see the influence on Hofmann.  We should be aware of and participate in the continuity of art, which opens doors for new considerations for those who follow.

Hofmann has used the tilting up of the table top very interestingly by adding another bold  consideration, the rhythmic shape at the bottom left of the table top, which seems to be both on and in front of the table.  This is a wonderful spatial plane, and he integrated it beautifully with a vertical just below at the right of the shape, and upwards with the curve of the table top.  Another spatial plane on the table top, the pink rectangle at the bottom which seems to come forth, very impressive!  There are some planes in the red just below the table top at the right as well.  Can you feel their connection with the table?  The combination of his free gestural stokes with his structural considerations are very impressive and I love the transparency of the green vase at the right.

Hofmann was a very knowledgeable painter and a superb teacher, who was influential in the development of the Abstract Impressionist movement in New York, which was wonderfully convoluted in the 30’s.

I will be posting more on Hofmann’s development of spatial planes with colour.