Henri Matisse - First Orange Still Life - 1899 - 56 x 73 cm - oil on canvas
Permitting the work of notable artists to show in your development has a great tradition, and can lead to a commitment or direction. The key is being aware of the difference between influence and copying.
The above development level painting by Matisse is a good example of having too many considerations . We have difficulty moving gracefully through the painting because he is more focused on information (what he sees), rather than adjusting for the sake of composition.
Henri Matisse - Still Life with Oranges II - 1899 - 47 x 55 cm - oil on canvas
In this painting, done in the same year, Matisse is permitting Cezanne’s considerations of reduced modelling by allowing shapes and colour to come forth. He has become aware of the power of shapes and colour and how to use them to create harmony in composition. We see this in the fruit, the cup and the pitcher as well as the large shapes in the background. How he chose where not to use shadows is impressive because he is freeing himself from depiction. He reduced the fruit on the table to coloured circles because through studying Cezanne, he realized that modelling would only disrupt the rhythm of the circles and unnecessarily clutter the painting, as we see in “First Orange Still Life” above.
He did not copy, as he flattened the fruit more than Cezanne had done. We see the influence as well as the next step towards what we see as a Matisse.
Showing influence and acknowledging it is a great way to develop.
Piet Mondrian - Still Life with Ginger Jar II - 1912 - 91 x 125 cm - oil on canvas
Mondrian’s dedication to refining the consideration of spatial planes as presented by Cezanne is most impressive and it the beginning of his journey towards abstraction. It is important to note that most abstract art has a figurative base, and I think it is fair to say Mondrian was one of the few who managed to venture beyond the figurative, which will take a few years for him to achieve.
In this painting we see the early steps of his journey by reducing and raising the subject matter towards the picture plane. He also breaks the space into planes as well which unifies the subject matter and the space it occupies
This wonderful refinement of cubism is truly a great step in art which is still difficult for many to accept, and I think it is much closer to our reality than traditional depiction or perspective. We don’t live in a world with perspective because we and every thing else are constantly moving through time, and in painting, spatial planes provide the viewer the ability to move around, (in their minds), in the paintings.
Mondrian, Picasso, Braque and other notable artists of the time, understood this, and journeyed through the door Cezanne presented to them, leading the way to the wonderful world of twentieth century painting.
Piet Mondrian - Still Life with Jinger Jar I - 1912 - 65 x 75 cm - oil on canvas
This painting by Mondrian is an excellent example of master painters permitting influences to show in their work. Mondrian is acknowledging the importance of the great considerations of Cezanne, and his refinements are wonderful.
In this painting he provides a balance between traditional representation and the new approach to creating the sense of space. We see this at the bottom right where he provided a couple of angles and a horizontal line. These create planes in space which are meant to be felt more than seen. Can you feel the space in front of the table?
When we focus on the drapery we sense volume and space through the feeling of overlapping triangles which also are raised towards the picture plane. What impresses me is that diagonal which seems to come forth and how it also parallels beautifully with a second angle, the one connecting to the top of the blue ginger jar. Again try to feel the space between the parallels.
When these spatial considerations were coming to the forefront in painting something interesting also took hold. It was the idea of suggesting rather than explaining, and Mondrian displays this idea in how he treats the subject matter in the upper right of the picture.This is just one of the seeds that will eventually lead Mondrian towards abstraction.
Paul Cezanne - The Great Pine (Mont Sainte-Victoire) - 1886 - 60 x 73 - oil on canvas
Cezanne did a number of paintings of Mont Sainte – Victoire which is fortunate for us as we can see the consistencies in his compositions. These paintings show us that repeating and refining is a strength in art.
We see the same considerations in this composition as the last post. It takes time and a great deal of effort to develop a masterful composition and good artists will continue to refine the endless possibilities. I think the first composition in a series, whether figurative or abstract, is an opening to infinite refinements We see this in the work of most masters, no matter what their discipline.
I don’t know which of these paintings was first, no matter, what is important is we see the same rhythms and integrations. What matters is each painting required its own refinements which are assessed differently to suit each composition. In other words has it’s own voice. One key difference are the angles we see in the branches, paralleling the road and other lines in the fields. Wonderful integration providing oblique movement leading into the composition from the bottom right and great structure. I also love the sophistication of how that black rectangle provides the focus. Also, note the green line coming up from the tree towards the black rectangle is fantastic! Do you see the triangle it creates reinforcing the importance of the rectangle?
There is also a harmonious rhythmic line running across the bottom, supporting the rhythm of the branches. I must also point out the parallel lines in the mountain directing us towards the black rectangle.
What a painter!
Paul Cezanne - Mountain Sainte-Victoire - 1886 - 67 x 92 cm - oil on canvas
We can see the care given to rhythm in this painting by Cezanne with the beautiful relationship of the mountain and the branches above. The sweep of the lower branch at the right matching the curve of the mountain is superb. I love the one at the top right and how it’s curve connects to the left side of the mountain. Do you sense the movement running across the painting in the branches? What a painter!
There is a very sophisticated integration beginning with parallel lines which bring you into the painting from the bottom right and connecting your eye movement to the lower branch at the left. I hope you can feel it, as it is very impressive. Can you also feel how this movement is in harmony with the mountain and the branches above? His thoroughness is outstanding. What a painter!
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.
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
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.
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?
Joan Miro - Landscape - 1917 - oil on canvas
I’m sure Miro was thinking of Cezanne in this rhythmic landscape. I love Miro’s wonderful rhythms and how sensitively he balanced movement with sophisticated structural support.
The rhythm of arches is primary, beginning with the large one, we then find them continuing up through the composition. There are several, and I would like to focus on a few which integrate the sky with the foreground.
My favourite is the movement provided by the arch in the sky and the arch of the hill below. Another two beauties are just below the yellow building with the black windows and the one at the right which connects to a wonderfully sensitive vertical which continues down through a wall.
Staying with the detail, l would Iike to mention the integration of the roofs at the right with the hill above, which brings us to another rhythm, those wonderful black dots just above the hills. They are in harmony with the little black windows in the yellow house, which is the focus of the composition.
Let us return to the full composition and the sensitive structural support for the rythmic movement of the arches, the two zig-zags at the bottom. Miro uses them to vertically take us towards the focus. The strong right angle next to the yellow zig-zag is the most important structural element, beautifully stabilizing the composition. And I hope you can feel how important the sensitive vertical I mentioned is to the composition.
Miro has invited us to partake in a visual poem!