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ART 4 2-DAY 28 January
DEATH: 1839 BEECHEY
Born on 28 January 1761: Marguerite
Gérard, French Romantic
portrait and genre-scene painter who died on 18 May 1837.
— After the death of her mother in 1775 she left Grasse to join her elder sister Marie-Anne and her sister’s husband Jean-Honoré Fragonard in their quarters in the Louvre in Paris. Marguerite became Fragonard’s protégé and lived for the next 30 years in the Louvre, where she was exposed to the greatest art and artists of the past and present. By 1785 she had already established a reputation as a gifted genre painter, the first French woman to do so, and by the late 1780s came to be considered one of the leading women artists in France, the equal of Adelaide Labille-Guiard, Anne Vallayer-Coster and Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun.
_ Marguerite Gérard was the sister-in-law of Jean-Honoré Fragonard as well as his student and protégée. Gérard, one of the few women artists of her time, developed a sentimental style of domestic genre scenes that greatly appealed to her contemporaries.
— Daughter of a Grassois perfumer, Claude Gérard, Marguerite, barely sixteen, goes to Paris where she lives with her sister Marie-Anne, Jean-Honoré Fragonard's wife. Though she can barely read or write; the young girl nonetheless shows great artistic disposition and learns to draw, paint, and even engrave. Initially her brother-in-law's student she will quickly become his collaborator and more, according to several unfounded rumors. This collaboration ends with the close of the 18th century. Marguerite Gérard continues painting calm, intimate, and happy family scenes which she regularly exhibits in the Salons, up until 1824. Tired of the criticism of her repetitive style she then retires from artistic life and ends her days comfortably in Paris.
— Although she also produced oil portraits, portrait miniatures, and etchings, Marguerite Gérard is best known for her intimate domestic genre scenes. In the hierarchy of subject types in 18th-century France, such paintings ranked higher than portraits or still lifes but considerably lower than history paintings. Yet Gérard, who was something of a rebel (she never married and apparently never demonstrated any interest in joining the Academy), was tremendously successful in her career, which lasted more than 40 years. Gérard won three medals for her work, which she exhibited regularly once the Salons were opened to women in the 1790s; her pictures were acquired by such luminaries as Napoleon and King Louis XVII; she also acquired considerable wealth and real estate.
Gérard was born in the Provençal town of Grasse. Her interest in art was shaped by her brother-in-law, the popular rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, beginning in 1775, when she moved to Paris to live with her sister's family. As part of the Fragonard household, Gérard had considerable financial freedom, along with the opportunity to further her artistic training as her brother-in-law's unofficial apprentice. By her mid-twenties Gérard had developed her signature style, which featured painstakingly accurate details rendered with subtly blended brush strokes, both traits borrowed from 17th-century Dutch genre specialists, notably Gabriel Metsu. Gérard's work is not only technically impressive but also practical: these relatively small-scale, portable canvases were designed to appeal to wealthy collectors who preferred to display in their homes meticulously painted still lifes and genre scenes rather than large history paintings. The numerous engraved versions of Gérard's paintings made them accessible to less affluent art lovers and helped increase her reputation.
Bad News (1804, 63cmx50cm) [>>>] _ The subject, rather than the technique, is a perfect illustration of the artist's pre-Romanticism. Women fainting was a recurrent theme in literature of the period: "this morning's conversation had deeply upset me... my head and my heart ached... I felt myself growing faint... would Heaven take pity on me? ... I could no longer stand up..." (Letter XII from Julie d'Étange in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse).
L’Enfant Chéri (1790) _ This painting presents an idealized vision of the world and an idyllic interpretation of elegantly dressed women fulfilling their roles as mothers and protectors that is typical of Gérard’s manner. From a technical standpoint, the painting displays Gérard’s virtuoso skills in reproducing subtle tonalities and various textures of fabrics.
— First Steps (1788) _ A subject which Gérard had painted before (1785), and would paint again for the 1804 Salon.
— Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician (before 1803)
Died on 28 January 1839: Sir
William Beechey, British artist born on 12 December 1753.
— He was trained as a lawyer before entering the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 1772. He is thought to have studied under Johan Zoffany, and his earliest surviving portraits are small-scale full-lengths and conversation pieces in Zoffanys manner (e.g. The Custance Conversation Piece, 1786). Beechey first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1776. In 1782 he moved to Norwich, where he gained several commissions, but he was back in London by 1787. In 1789 he exhibited a portrait of John Douglas, Bishop of Carlisle that is remarkable for its facility of handling. Beechey would occasionally paint similarly inspired works, but his career is marked by a succession of unflamboyant but competent portraits in the tradition of Joshua Reynolds.
Born in Burford, Oxfordshire, Beechey was trained for the law, moving from his first employer in Gloucestershire in the late 1760s to London. After meeting some students at the Royal Academy, he entered that school in 1774, exhibiting there from 1776 to 1839, one of the longest careers in the history of the academy. After some instruction from Johann Zoffany, well known for his conversation pieces, Beechey moved to Norwich in 1782 and set up a successful practice with the financial assistance of his patron, Dr. Strachey, a clergyman. Here he began to paint life-size portraits. He returned to London in 1787, entering into a professional rivalry with John Hoppner and Sir Thomas Lawrence. In 1793 Beechey was named painter to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, who became a personal friend of the Beechey family and acted as godmother to one of their children. The artist was elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1798, the same year he was knighted. Beechey's ability to achieve a conscientious but aristocratic likeness, probing subtly into the characters of his sitters, made him a favorite portraitist in Georgian society.
— Frederick Yeates Hurlstone was a student of Beechey.
Master James Hatch as Marshall's Attendant at the Montern Eton (1796, 185x133cm)
Ichabod Wright (1810) Harriet Maria Day
The Oddie Children (1789, 183x182cm _ This painting depicts Henry, Jane, Sara, and Catherine, the children of Henry Hoyle Oddie, a London lawyer who commissioned the portrait in 1789. At this time, Beechey was the foremost portraitist in Britain; four years later, he was appointed official painter to Queen Charlotte. Beautifully painted, The Oddie Children is also noteworthy for its composition. Beechey masterfully links the four children through their poses, yet accords each of them individual prominence by silhouetting the fair-haired children against dark backgrounds and the dark-haired daughter against the pale sky. Above all, one imagines that it was Beechey's ability to capture the innocence and charm of childhood that must have especially delighted his patron. [What would you call a pimple one of these children might develop? Oddie zit?]
Born on 29 January 1912: Jackson
Pollock, US Abstract
Expressionist painter who died on 11 August 1956.
Pollock was the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He began to study painting in 1929 at the Art Students’ League, New York, under the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. During the 1930s he worked in the manner of the Regionalists, being influenced also by the Mexican muralist painters (Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros) and by certain aspects of Surrealism.
From 1938 to 1942 he worked for the Federal Art Project. By the mid 1940s he was painting in a completely abstract manner, and the ‘drip and splash’ style for which he is best known emerged with some abruptness in 1947. Instead of using the traditional easel he affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with ‘sticks, trowels or knives’ (to use his own words), sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of ‘sand, broken glass or other foreign matter'. This manner of Action painting (“tachisme” in French) had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists and critics alike to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods of the artist.
Pollock's name is also associated with the introduction of the All-over style of painting which avoids any points of emphasis or identifiable parts within the whole canvas and therefore abandons the traditional idea of composition in terms of relations among parts. The design of his painting had no relation to the shape or size of the canvas — indeed in the finished work the canvas was sometimes docked or trimmed to suit the image. All these characteristics were important for the new US painting which matured in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
During the 1950s Pollock continued to produce figurative or quasi-figurative black and white works and delicately modulated paintings in rich impasto as well as the paintings in the new all-over style. He was strongly supported by advanced critics, but was also subject to much abuse and sarcasm as the leader of a still little comprehended style; in 1956 Time magazine called him Jack the Dripper. By the 1960s, however, he was generally recognized as the most important figure in the most important movement of this century in American painting, but a movement from which artists were already in reaction (Post-Painterly Abstraction). His unhappy personal life (he was an alcoholic) and his premature death in a car crash contributed to his legendary status. In 1944 Pollock married Lee Krasner (1911-84), who was an Abstract Expressionist painter of some distinction, although it was only after her husband's death that she received serious critical recognition.
Breaking the ice
It was Jackson Pollock who blazed an astonishing trail for other Abstract Expressionist painters to follow. De Kooning said, He broke the ice, an enigmatic phrase suggesting that Pollock showed what art could become with his 1947 drip paintings. It has been suggested that Pollock was influenced by Native American sand paintings, made by trickling thin lines of colored sand onto a horizontal surface. It was not until 1947 that Pollock began his action paintings, influenced by Surrealist ideas of psychic automatism (direct expression of the unconscious). Pollock would fix his canvas to the floor and drip paint from a can using a variety of objects to manipulate the paint. The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (1943; 110x104cm) is an early Pollock, but it shows the passionate intensity with which he pursued his personal vision. This painting is based on a North American Indian myth. It connects the moon with the feminine and shows the creative, slashing power of the female psyche. It is not easy to say what we are actually looking at: a face rises before us, vibrant with power, though perhaps the image does not benefit from labored explanations. If we can respond to this art at a fairly primitive level, then we can also respond to a great abstract work such as Lavender Mist. If we cannot, at least we can appreciate the fusion of colors and the Expressionist feeling of urgency that is communicated. Moon-Woman may be a feathered harridan or a great abstract pattern; the point is that it works on both levels.
In 1947, influential art critic Clement Greenberg wrote the following in the English magazine Horizon: "The most powerful painter in contemporary America and the only one who promises to be a major one is a Gothic, morbid, and extreme disciple of Picasso's Cubism and Miró's post-Cubism, tinctured also with Kandinsky and surrealist inspiration. His name is Jackson Pollock." Raised in the American West, Pollock became the most important of the New York School Abstract Expressionists and is credited with completely transforming modern art. Prone to heavy drinking and possessing a volatile personality, the artist developed a reputation (especially among European artists) as a "cowboy," the kind of rugged individualist found only in the American West.
Jackson Pollock was born on a farm in Cody, Wyoming, and grew up in Wyoming, Arizona, and California. Pollock's first exposure to modern art came in the form of a journal entitled Dial, copies of which he obtained from his brother Charles, who had begun painting a few years earlier. Pollock's first paintings were created emulating those of his brother's. While studying painting at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, Pollock read the writings of Krishnamurti and Rudolf Steiner and was introduced to theosophy. He also saw the work of Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquieros, both of whom came to have a profound and lasting influence on Pollock's work. When Pollock was 17, he dropped out of high school and moved to New York City. From 1929 to 1931 he received instruction at the Art Students League, where he was mentored by Thomas Hart Benton, who introduced the young painter to both Renaissance art and "American scene" realism. It was around this time that Pollock first became familiar with the work of Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco. Pollock also spent a few years traveling the country by train and car, sketching the American landscape. Of his time with Benton, Pollock later told the New Yorker that his teacher "drove his kind of realism at me so hard I bounced right into non-objective painting." From 1938 to 1942 Pollock existed on the money he received from painting murals for the WPA Federal Arts Project, and his work began to be included in exhibitions in New York as well as the middle and far west. Pollock also entered Jungian analysis for treatment of his alcoholism and in 1938 was briefly institutionalized at Bloomingdale Asylum in White Plains, New York. Pollock's early work borrowed imagery from Picasso, the muralists, and Jungian symbolism.
Pollock's first one-man show took place in 1943 at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of this Century gallery, which subsequently hosted three additional exhibitions. Guggenheim provided Pollock with a monthly advance on the future sale of his paintings, an arrangement that allowed him to paint full-time. Pollock would be the subject of 10 solo exhibitions over the course of the next 11 years. From 1943 to 1947, in pieces such as She Wolf, Guardians of the Secret, and There Were Seven in Eight, Pollock's painting focused on totems and symbols in human animal form that were directly inspired by Jungian analysis. In 1945 Pollock moved into a house at the Springs in East Hampton, Long Island; he and painter Lee Krasner were married on 25 October. Krasner's work was also categorized as Abstract Expressionist, but for many years her career was overshadowed by her husband's. A devoted wife and passionate promoter and defender of her husband's work, Krasner introduced Pollock to several important artists, such as Hans Hofmann (Pollock and Hofmann were among those who congregated at the Cedar Bar in New York).
Pollock worked in an upstairs bedroom of the house at the Springs for one year before relocating to the barn, which he moved and transformed into a studio. Between 1947 and 1950 Pollock developed the working method that characterized the style he would be most remembered for: placing unstretched canvas on the floor, he placed a stick or trowel into a can of enamel paint and dripped the paint onto the surface from above. Through the development of extraordinary control in his hands and wrists, Pollock was able to manipulate seemingly endless and intricate webs of curls and splatters. The artist often began with recognizable shapes and figures that he slowly obscured through the application of many layers of abstract patterns. From 1948 to 1950 Pollock was represented by the Betty Parsons gallery, which presented his work on four separate occasions. On 08 August 1949, Life magazine published the sarcastically titled "Jackson Pollock: Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" The article brought the artist to the attention of the mainstream US.
With curator Peter Blake, Pollock designed a museum in which all of the walls would consist of drip paintings. The museum never found a patron, but Pollock did receive a commission to create a wall-size painting for Marcel Breuer's new home. Although Parsons raised the price of Pollock's paintings, it would be several years before they began to sell with any regularity. His only consistent patron was Alfonso Ossorio, who bought two of Pollock's paintings and shared his Manhattan townhouse with Pollock and Krasner.
In the early 1950s Pollock began painting much larger pieces and rejected titles in favor of numbers to mark individual works. One of seven painters representing the U.S. at the 25th Venice Biennale International Exhibition in June 1950, Pollock also had several exhibits in locations such as Milan and Paris. That year Hans Namuth began work on the photographs and films that later became a primary source for Pollock scholars, providing a rare firsthand account of the painter's creative process. In order to take advantage of the better lighting conditions, filming took place outside on weekends. Pollock painted Number 29, 1950 on a plane of glass; Namuth placed his camera beneath the glass for a most unusual view of the artist's process. The experience drove Pollock over the edge, and when filming had completed, he ended two years of sobriety. On the eve of the most important exhibition of his life, Pollock flew into a drunken rage and turned over the dinner table. The pressure Namuth's film had placed on the artist sent Pollock into a rapid descent that eventually led to his death. Additionally, the staged nature of the film coupled with Pollock's scripted narration may have led the artist to believe that he had rendered himself inauthentic.
Disappointed by what he saw as the poor representation he was receiving from Betty Parsons, Pollock took his work across the street to the Sidney Janis gallery. In November 1952, the latter gallery hosted an exhibit that featured Number 10, Number 11, and Number 12, examples of Pollock's larger-scale work. In 1951 and 1952, respectively, Pollock's work was featured in two shows hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York: "Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America" and "Fifteen Americans." The works exhibited at the Janis gallery in 1954 included Sleeping Effort, The Deep, and Portrait of a Dream, paintings created in 1953 that represented a further advancement in Pollock's style: the integration of brush strokes and recognizable shapes. Between 1953 and 1956 Pollock finished fewer than 10 paintings, afflicted by jealousy and finding it harder to paint as his wife came into her own as an artist.
Abstract art was often met with hostility, as Michigan Congressman George Dondero declared modern art to be Communist and an affront to American values. Nonetheless, Pollock's reputation benefited equally from derision as well as from praise. Earlier in his career, Pollock claimed not to know where his work came from. However, as he developed the drip painting process some referred to as "action painting," he found himself defending his skill against attacks from critics who claimed that the paintings appeared to be randomly constructed. Pollock always claimed that he was drawing on his unconscious for inspiration, but this admission did not presuppose that he lacked control over the application of the paint. It was nearly impossible for critics to ignore the physicality of Pollock's methods, but the artist saw these techniques as nothing more than the means through which he arrived at a particular aesthetic statement.
Pollock struggled with alcoholism throughout his life. He considered himself to be the greatest painter in the world, but even this knowledge did nothing to allay the deep melancholy that had haunted him since childhood. Pollock often became violent when drunk and sometimes sped his car down Long Island's country back roads. His decision to agree to allow photographer Hans Namuth to film him apparently drove the artist over the edge, and in November 1950 he ended two years of sobriety in a drunken rage. After walking away from car crashes in 1951 and 1954, perhaps it was inevitable that his drunk driving would lead to his demise. As his relationship with Krasner worsened, Pollock engaged in an affair with aspiring artist Ruth Kligman. In July 1956 Krasner left for Europe. On the evening of August 11, 1956, Pollock and Edith Metzger (a friend of Kligman's) were killed while driving an Oldsmobile he'd acquired by trading in two paintings. Kligman survived the accident.
Pollock was a force of nature who changed the face of modern art. The artist's legacy is forever determined by the documents left behind by Hans Namuth, which provided the public with a sense of the intense physicality of Pollock's approach to painting. These documents later inspired the performance art of Yves Klein and Herman Nitsch, and the work of sculptors including Richard Serra, Eva Hesse, and Bruce Nauman. Pollock's work was also highly influential on the hand-painted films of filmmaker Stan Brakhage. The non-representational painting of Pollock and others of his generation such as Willem de Kooning led to a change in perception regarding US art, and in the latter half of the twentieth century the United States replaced Europe as the international center of modern art.
Untitled (1944, 30x25cm; 4/5 size)
Number 1a (1948) Black Yellow Cathedral (1947) Flame
Male and Female (1942, 186x124cm) Moon Woman (1942, 69x43 in)
Night Mist Pasiphae Sleeping 3 War 2
Number 13A: Arabesque (1948, 94x297cm) Harbor and Lighthouse (1936)
— Shooting Star (1947, 600x364pix _ ZOOM to 1400x849pix)
— Guardians of the Secret (1943, 124x190cm; 613x993pix, 240kb)
Lavender Mist: Number 1, 1950 (221x300cm; 384x521pix, 179kb) _ Action painting: Pollock was the first all-over painter, pouring paint rather than using brushes and a palette, and abandoning all conventions of a central motif. He danced in semi-ecstasy over canvases spread across the floor, lost in his patternings, dripping and dribbling with total control. He said: The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. He painted no image, just action, though action painting seems an inadequate term for the finished result of his creative process. Lavender Mist is 3 m long, a vast expanse on a heroic scale. It is alive with colored scribble, spattered lines moving this way and that, now thickening, now trailing off to a slender skein. The eye is kept continually eager, not allowed to rest on any particular area. Pollock has put his hands into paint and placed them at the top right-- an instinctive gesture eerily reminiscent of cave painters who did the same. The overall tone is a pale lavender, maide airy and active. At the time Pollock was hailed as the greatest American painter, but there are already those who feel his work is not holding up in every respect. Lee Krasner (1908-84), who married Pollock in 1944, was not celebrated at all during his lifetime (cut short in 1956 by a fatal car crash), but it was actually she who first started covering the canvas with a passionate flurry of marks. The originality of her vision, its stiff integrity and its great sense of internal cohesion, is now beginning to be recognized. Cobalt Night (1962; 237x401 cm) is even larger than Lavender Mist and has the same kind of heroic ambition.
_ In 1947 Jackson Pollock introduced a radically innovative method of painting in which he poured paint directly onto unprimed canvas that he tacked to the studio floor. Deploying sticks or hardened brushes, Pollock circled around the canvas, flinging, dripping, and splashing skeins of paint onto its surface, layer upon layer, until a dense web of color was formed. Although his process, which was filmed in 1950 by the photographer Hans Namuth, was spontaneous and intuitive, Pollock exercised remarkable control over it and insisted, "there is no accident." Number 1 (Lavender Mist), one of Pollock's most important "drip" paintings, attests to the artist's pure virtuosity of paint handling. One can trace his rhythmic movements in the long arcs, staccato dribbles, or coagulated pools of color that accrue into a rich, shimmering interlace. With only a few hues he achieved a soft tonal effect, not by the actual use of lavender but with aluminum and salmon-colored paint. The weave of long black and white strokes implies an inherent linear structure, but the "allover" composition exhibits an even density throughout, with no discernible focal points. Pollock, who spoke of being "in" his paintings, left very literal traces of his presence in the multiple handprints at the upper edges of the canvas.