...in its simplest form is also the most revealing. I mean the under-story: the secrets hidden behind the veil of time. You cannot know the way a person in the past felt or thought without a bit of digging. The gold nugget lies in catching a glimpse of the heart.
I am one of those artists who loves history, and especially if I have a touch-point, or some connection, with the past. The more distant the connection is to the past, the sweeter.
1865-1906: Henri Roché (father) takes over the "Maison"
It is exciting to deliver this link from La Maison du Pastel, in Paris. Nobody else has the rich history of the pastel company of M. Henri Roche. What is history, without character? These sticks have that, and I am finding it out for myself by trying out 15 of the sticks in my studio.
I am a very intuitive pastelist, or I try to be. I don't go forward very scientifically, or in an organized fashion. How do I find the new sticks? It is an emotional response. The range of textures and the purity of the hues in these pastels are not found in any other stick that I have tried. They are the secret weapon; the game changer in any picture. My respect for what will happen when I use them is estimable, because they offer the opportunity for very high intensity. If you haven't observed by now, let me tell you that intensity is the focus of my contemporary work.
There you have it. The circle has been completed: the past can speak to the present, if you will just listen quietly.
It would be too easy to spin tales about conversations, such as the one suggested by Henri Matisse's two women in The Conversation of 1938. Instead of that, let's listen to what Matisse has really said with his Modernist masterpiece.
It is fair of the SFMOMA to use Conversation in the context of a dialog in the exhibit on the second floor, where they have set up a “conversation” between the works of different artists in their permanent collection. Compare Marcel Duchamp to Picasso and Matisse. Does Matisse speak to Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, two rooms away, and if so, what does he say? Consider Jasper Johns or Andy Warhol: how do they interact with the history of Modern art? Then you have the obvious question: what are these artist's saying to the viewer?
The Trajectory of a Masterwork.
Henri Matisse named two paintings The Conversation, but the 1938 piece that I saw three weeks ago in San Francisco is more than just a depiction of parlor conviviality. The Conversation, 1938, is an effortless, masterful work that is a colorist piece and is rooted in the timeless elements of painting. It also unites the qualities of drawing and painting in thoughtful ways that only Matisse could accomplish.
“Matisse was an artist in the medieval sense of the word,” said the French historian Regine Pernoud. By referencing another era, Pernoud suggests the artist's aim was over the horizon, not just his own time. Art is the root word of both artifice and artillery. Could Henri Matisse (I am borrowing a page from his World War II era) have shot a creative shell across the ages?
By the 1930s, Matisse was leaving behind Odalesques and returning to his bold and active earlier style. The Dance, 1932-3, featured monumental figures whose energy moved outside of the confines of the mural. His illustrations for Ulysses, 1935, were 26 line images that reinvigorated Matisse's sensibilities for the drawn figure. He said, “I do not reason when I draw; I don't know where I'm going.” For Matisse, drawing was an expressionist act, and his paintings were to become infused with this element again.
Although the faces of the two women in The Conversation may have been done with a rigger brush and paint, they give one the impression of transparent paint over pencil lines. To further emphasize this effect, Matisse draws each woman's hair and face together as one area and uses the same flesh color for both elements. Matisse outlines the figures and room elements – a total departure from a painter's desire to lose edges. Instead, Matisse draws in all of the edges; sometimes with negative white lines, and at other times with pencil-thin gray lines.
The Figure, The Color and The Space.
The woman on your left recedes in a pure black dress, while her companion springs forward in a violet, yellow and red dress.
The room is an effervescent pattern of colors, with compliments of red and green, blue-green with red orange, and the triadic relationships of violet and green and then the yellow and green sofa.
Both women form a triangular mass, the wall is divided vertically and there is a diagonal line created by the sofa's edge, arm and a red triangular shape at the bottom. There is an X formed in the center of the picture by the edge of the black shirt sleeve and the elbow of the woman on your right, and the arm of the sofa.
Perspective is not achieved with lines and atmosphere, but by the relationships of colors and masses - Modern Art meets timeless divisions of the picture.
There is a heart shape to each face, and a heart shape can also be suggested by both faces together with the bottom being the elbow.
There is a a curvilinear pattern of lines and shapes around the interior of the space - they read gracefully.
One woman's eyes gaze to the left, and the other to the right, which adds to the expansiveness of the picture. Dreamy and pleasant, the two are caught in a moment of happiness.
Someone has said that a painting can no more be about color than a party can be about Tupperware. Look again at Matisse and reconsider this. He uses colors as the space, suggesting both a scene and a pattern simultaneously. The comparisons between the colors become movements, and the use of pure tones, without shading, arouse both excitement and harmony. The feeling is one of a brightly lit midday, illuminated by the southern sun.
“Do you find perfect correspondence between the nature of the drawing and the nature of the painting? In my opinion, they seem totally different from each other, absolutely contradictory. One, the drawing, depends on linear or sculptural plasticity, and the other, the painting, depends on colored plasticity.” Henri Matisse.
Art Is Long.
Physicists think about the properties of time; they wonder if it bends or slows down under special conditions. Can fine art add anything to the conversation about time? When I am standing in front of Matisse's The Conversation, time is folded for me. This artwork may have been painted seventy-three years ago, but I am experiencing it in the here and now. If I understand the artwork, even minimally, then the artist and I are having a conversation of sorts.
We feel old, and somehow wizened, when we enjoy a masterwork. Henri Matisse has made what is, for me, the greatest contribution to the gallery space at the SFMOMA with The Conversation. It appears graceful and effortless in comparison to Picasso, Braque and Morandi, whose works hang in the same space. Does Marcel Duchamp, whose urinal is presented in the next room, really diminish art by his funny and outrageous installations? His "readymade object" seems even more absurd directly after looking at Matisse's superb contribution to the canon of Modern Art. More on Duchamp in a later post.
With energy and singularity, and with clear, bright pictorial statements, Henri Matisse has given us more than words. He has brought grace to the conversation about the art of the twentieth century.
The beautiful photo of the SFMOMA by cbrady2 at Photobucket. This post is republished from April, 2011.
Authentic art is the sacring bell of the artist's experience. If you are able to say something new with your pastels, people will beat a path to your studio door.
Developing authority as a pastelist is achieved by creating authentic artwork that is singular and unique. Authority is as uncommon now as it ever was. I once lunched with the archaeologist, Donald J. Wiseman; the man who excavated ancient Babylon! There at table with me was a living footnote; a true authority in his field.
One forgotten meaning of the word authentic is: authoritative. That is where my focus lies. An artist who has the merit of authority creates unimpeachable work. Remember, you are the first-person authority on your own ideas.
Placing a new banner on your blog is the fastest way to brand your blog. Why do this? Because you want (I think) to make your blog instantly recognizable for the "click-through" audience that you are reaching. The banner should identify you, and set up the visual character of your blog and your art.
This post features my new e-mail banner, and at the top of The Colorist you will see my newest blog banner. I used Photoshop to create these, and I recommend that you get good with whatever design tool you have and learn how to work with layers. Once I cracked the code on layers, my design life improved dramatically, and I have fun making these things, whereas before it was like pulling teeth for me! The links at the bottom of this post shed light on using Photoshop: working with layers and making graphic products.
There are so many You Tube vids for this topic, that you ought to be able to find one that makes sense for you. My only advice is that you match the tutorial to your design software. Many videos show how to make a blog header with freeware, but find one for your tool. Also, if the tutorial shows how to upload the banner to Blogger, realize that the latest version of Blogger is dirt easy to use for headers. Just open Design, and use the widgets at the top of the template. You should do fine. I use the header widget, and then I add a banner photo below that.
The widgets for your header or banner offer three options:
Behind title and description
Instead of title and description
Have description placed after the image
For Pastel Workshop, my instruction blog, I chose the "Instead of..." option. I created it this way so that clicking on the banner brings the reader back to the home page. Here at The Colorist, I add the blog title and description above the header. This makes it clear that the reader is at my flagship blog, and clicking on the title and subtitle/description brings one back to home. The oversize header works as a logo for The Colorist, and lets the reader understand instantly what blog they have landed on.
Experiment with different settings for your header. Many bloggers choose a low profile header, which gets the content on the screen and above scroll. Have fun!
Note: I took an online workshop to learn how to make a business card with Photoshop. It was inexpensive and has served me in making all of my graphics. I think that instructor has moved on to other tutorials, but I recommend that type of thing for those of you who, like me, aren't completely computer savvy.