Giacometti – Self Portrait – 1921 – 32 x 28 in – oil on canvas
Giacometti’s command of composition is absolutely marvellous in this superb painting.
I will focus on his wonderful integration of the figure with the other elements in the composition. Let’s begin with how your eye is taken across the painting from the seat of the chair, along the bottom of his jacket, to the bottom of his right leg, then you are guided up to the verticals behind. Another beautiful integration is how the curve at the bottom of his pant leg rhythmically connects to the curved element to the left, which in turn, guides you up to his hand. I love it! Also take note how the bottom of his trousers connects to the lower edge of his other leg and how the bottom of his pant leg then integrates with the chair leg. I was and still am taken with how he integrated the other chair leg (between his legs) with his pant leg. Can you feel how the angle in the chair runs into his pants creating a small blue triangle? (see detail)
This very impressive small dark blue triangle provides a sense of overlapping. The top edge of this gorgeous little triangle also parallels a dark line above which in turn integrates with the edge of his palette. Can you feel the movement and shapes? There is also another sense of an angle at the bottom of the dark line (creating another plane) which parallels the angle in the chair leg. There is more. That dark line also connects to a subtle purple line which carries downward into his leg, creating another wonderfully subtle triangle.
Note the line just to the left of his pocket and how this guides you up to the front of his neck and how his chin and his collar connect to the horizontals behind. Just one more, it’s how he leads you upwards through his arm from the opening in his jacket.
There is more for you to engage with, and I hope you enjoy this wonderful early composition by this twentieth century master. I am impressed with how Giacometti permitted to show Cézanne’s influence.
Max Beckmann - Quappi with White Fur - 1937 - 109 x 64 cm - oil on canvas
Max Beckman’s paintings are very strong in many ways and in this painting we will look at his superbly considered compositional structure.
I am first drawn to the two wonderful half ovals. The table, which has been raised to the picture plane, and the other behind the figure at the left of the painting. I love how they support the figure and am very impressed with his integration of the black line entering the composition at the bottom left, with the table and how we are guided to the little Pekingese, which in turn integrates with the bottom edge of the larger half oval.
Now to his wonderful integration of the figure, her bouquet and the flowers above her left shoulder. Can you feel your eye moving up from her right leg to her bouquet and then to the the left edge of the flowers and how this unites the figure and the background? There is another sophisticated one leading from the dog to the bottom of the bouquet to a line taking you to the flowers above her shoulder. It really is superb and it also supports her embrace of the dog.
There are other connections to find and enjoy especially how he supported her head with the two vertical lines above. Note how they curl towards her, supprting the curve of her cheek. They are a very important compositional consideration because she is now beautifully connected to the top of the painting!
Pierre Bonnard - Landscape Near Vernon - 1915 - 38 x 56 cm - oil
This landscape by Bonnard is a superb example of how a master, whether instinctively or intentionally, provides structure when developing a composition. I say this because a good artists will not permit their formulas to overrule their intuition.
There is a wonderful horizontal rectangle formed by a small white vertical at it’s left and a small bright green tree providing the right vertical, the top is formed by a roadway running behind the tree. When you see it and feel it’s impact on the composition, I hope you will appreciate the sophistication. And remember the viewer does not have to see it, a master is very aware of the power of suggestion and knows we connect to shapes subconsiously.
The tree shapes are magnificent. Try to feel the movement provided by the parallels of their shapes, particularly that wonderful squarish shape at the right edge and how it supports the other two trees.
I must also mention the harmonious movement in the sky. There is a square like indentation in the tree at the right edge, which provides the sense of a parallel movement with the other trees and the placement of the cloud above creates the same movement in the blue sky. I hope you can feel it as well as the wonderful integration of the other clouds with the trees.
There is another beautifully assessed rhythm leading us into the composition from the left. The harmonious relationship of the three white verticals and the white vertical which forms the left edge of that marvelous rectangle.
Bonnard was a great master painter.
Marc Chagall - The Poet - 1911 - 196 x 145 cm - 77 x 57 in - oil on canvas
What an impressive painting!
Only Chagall could convey the delightfully frustrating tussle of the creative process and take spatial considerations to a higher level.
There is much to enjoy this painting. I think I should limit myself to a vertical integration and some wonderfully placed spatial planes.
The vertical integration begins at the top with a short blue line. Your eye then connects to another line above the shoulder. You then continue through the figure. You also can connect the verticals above the shoulder to a vertical at the bottom. Chagall offers you choices.
Now to the planes, and I will focus on the area near the hand with the glass. Do you see a small rectangle just to the left of the glass. Can you feel it being in front?
The other plane is just below his hand, actually it overlaps the hand. I hope you can sense different levels. Note also how the cup integrates or connects with the plane.
There is a lot going on in a Chagall painting, and I will continue in the next posting.