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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bravo, Claudio

oil on canvas
240 x 200 cm
location unknown
-Fair use-

Claudio Nelson Bravo Camus (1936-2011) was born in the town of Valparaiso, Chile, and grew up on his family’s farm in Melipilla, where his father was a rancher and businessman. While attending a Jesuit school in Valparaiso, he took art lessons, but he was largely self-taught. Since 1972, he lived and worked in Tangier, Morocco. His ability to depict complex objects and shapes is reminiscent of Velazquez.

In 1945 he joined the Colegio San Ignacio in Santiago, Chile and studied art in the studio of Miguel Venegas Cienfuentes in Santiago, then, in 1954, he had his first exhibition at "Salon 13" in Santiago at the age of 17. He also danced professionally with the Compania de Ballet de Chile and acted at the Teatro Ensayo at the Catholic University of Chile, but after moving to Concepcion he became a sought-after portrait painter.
In the 1960s, he established himself in Madrid as a society portraitist, gaining recognition for his astounding ability to create verisimilitude.
In 1968, he received an invitation from President Marcos of the Philippines to come and paint him and his wife, Imelda Marcos as well as members of the high society. It was during this period that he began painting packages in a heightened realist style. “The photorealists, like machines, copied directly from photographs,” he told Americas magazine in 2001. “Always I have relied on the actual subject matter because the eye sees so much more than the camera: half tones, shadows, minute changes in the color or light. I think I was working more in the tradition of the Color Field artists, like Mark Rothko, whom I still greatly admire. There was also a touch of the Spanish artist Antoni Tapies, because he, too, did paintings involving string across a canvas surface.”
After working in Madrid in the 1960s and establishing a reputation as a society portrait painter, in 1970, he had his first exhibition at the Staempfli Gallery in New York which received a rave headline review in the New York Times.

In 1972, he moved to Tangier, Morocco where he purchased a 19th century mansion. After moving to Tangier, he expanded his repertory to include landscapes, animal portraits, still lifes and human subjects, often in exotic Moroccan costume. He later executed a series of paintings that deployed lush, color-saturated fabrics that looked as if they had been snatched from old master paintings.

He painted many prominent figures in society including dictator Franco of Spain, President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos of the Philippines. In 1978 he painted a portrait of Malcolm Forbes, dressed in a motorcycle racer’s jumpsuit and surrounded by motorcycle helmets. He died at his home in Taroudant, Morocco at the age of 74. He owned four villas in Morocco and an apartment in Manhattan.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fini, Leonor

59.0 x 45.5 cm
other detail unknown
-Fair use-

"Marriage never appealed to me, I've never lived with one person. Since I was 18, I've always preferred to live in a sort of community - A big house with my atelier and cats and friends, one with a man who was rather a lover and another who was rather a friend. And it has always worked." (Leonor Fini)

Leonor Fini (1907-1996) was born in Buenos Aires, raised in Trieste, Italy, moved to Milan at the age of 17, and then to Paris, in either 1931 or 1932. There, she became acquainted with, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Georges Bataille, Picasso, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, and Alberto Moravia. She painted portraits of many celebrities such as Jean Genet.

It has been said about her that she is the only artist to paint women without apology.
Many of her paintings feature strong, beautiful women (many times resembling herself) in ceremonial or provocative situations. Men are often portrayed as lithe figures who are under the protection of her females.

She never considered herself a Surrealist at all, though she maintained close personal relationships with several members of the group and included work in several important Surrealist exhibitions in the 1930s. Although she shared the Surrealist interest in dream, reverie, psychic transformation, and a poetics of suggestion and allusion, her work remains firmly rooted in the traditions of Symbolism, Metaphysics and Italian and German Romanticism.

She illustrated many works by the great authors and poets, including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Shakespeare, as well as texts by new writers. She was very generous with her illustrations and donated many drawings to writers to help them get published. She is best known for her graphic illustrations for Histoire d'O.

She was equally adept at etching, drawing, watercolor and oil painting. she wrote three novels, Rogomelec, Moumour, Contes pour enfants velu and Oneiropompe.

She lived with many cats; up to a total of 23 at one time. The illness of one of her cats could send her into a deep depression. She later employed an assistant to join the household, which he described as "a little bit of prison and a lot of theatre". One of his jobs was to look after her beloved Persian cats. Over the years she acquired 17 of them; they shared her bed and, at mealtimes, were allowed to roam the dining-table selecting tasty morsels.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Benito Quinquela Martin

Barcos a pleno sol (Boats in the full sun)
oil on canvas
other detail unknown
-Fair use-

Benito Quinquela Martin (1890-1977) was an Argentine painter born in La Boca, Buenos Aires. He is considered the port painter-par-excellence and one of the most popular Argentine painters. His paintings of port scenes show the activity, vigor and roughness of the daily life in the port of La Boca.

His birthday could not be determined precisely as he was abandoned on March 20, 1890 at an orphanage with a note that stated "This kid has been baptized, and his name is Benito Juan Martin". From his physical appearance, the nuns who found him deduced that he should be around twenty days old; thus March 1 is regarded as his birthday. Adopted when he was seven years old, he assumed his stepfather's surname Quinquela.

At the age of 14 he attended a modest night school of drawing in La Boca while working during day on the family's coal-yard. When he became 17 years old he joined a local conservatory, where he stayed until 1912. By 1910 he had started appearing small art exhibitions, mainly in and around La Boca. In 1920, he obtained the second prize on the Salon Nacional. In the same year, he was sent as the Argentine representative to an exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil attended by local personalities including Brazilian president. By the 1920s,  Marcelo T. de Alvear, President of Argentina from 1922 to 1928, and his wife were very fond of Quinquela Martin's works, and this admiration led to a lasting friendship. In 1922, he was assigned as chancellor of the Argentine Madrid Consulate in Spain. In 1925 he set sail for France because - in his own words - "My trip to France is owed to President Alvear, who liked my works and wanted them to be judged by Paris". In 1927, he left for New York City for his exhibition. Before returning to Buenos Aires, he was invited to Havana to exhibit there. In 1929, on a trip to Italy, he made an exhibition in Rome. He made his last trip in 1930, to London for exhibition.. Back in his homeland, he became a philanthropist and donated several works to La Boca and the city of Buenos Aires. He bought the lands and donated the money to build a school and a museum for a cultural center.

He died in Buenos Aires, of heart complications and was buried in a coffin painted by him the previous year, stating that "Que quien vivio rodeado de color no puede ser enterrado en una caja lisa", meaning "He who lived surrounded by colors cannot be buried in a flat box." On the cover of the coffin was a painting of the port of La Boca.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Malharro, Martin

Las parvas (The stacks)
oil on canvas
67 x 88 cm
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Martin Malharro (1865-1911), born in the central Buenos Aires Province city of Azul, was an Argentine painter of the Post-impressionist school. He came from a well-to-do family, with lands in the Province of Buenos Aires. His artistic inclinations were apparent from early on and his childhood interest in painting led to domestic violence at home. At age fourteen, in 1879, given the unbending opposition of his father to his calling, he broke up both with his father and his past. He travelled to Buenos Aires where he worked to earn a living. To earn his daily bread, he designed cigarette labels, business cards, letterheads, etc.

He traveled to Santa Fe and Cordoba where he painted landscapes and his experience in the open air facing the massive Pampas laid the groundwork for his contact with Impressionism. His presentation at the National Atheneum in 1894, which consisted mainly of landscapes, was well received by critics. This relative success allowed him to travel to Paris in 1895 for study of art. Returning to Buenos Aires in 1901, he secured an exhibition in the following year. Conservative Argentine audiences, who still preferred Realist work, were won over by his art show, which popularized Impressionism in the then-remote South American nation.

His work took an increasingly Symbolist direction and away from earlier studies on wheat fields, a common subject among Impressionist artists in Argentina at the time. Malharro and other artists following the same trend became the first prominent Post-impressionists in Argentina, where they were known as the Nexus group. The sudden renown secured him a post in the prestigious University of La Plata as Dean of the School of Art, as well as in the National Fine Arts Academy.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Angel Della Valle

el juego del pato (the duck game)
year unknown
oil on canvas
95.4 x 146.4 cm   
National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Angel della Valle (1855-1903) was born in Buenos Aires as a son of a family of Italian immigrants. He was an Argentine painter of the Generation of '80, which marked the pictorial realism.

He traveled to Italy in 1875 to perfect himself in the art of oil painting, as there were no art schools in Buenos Aires. He settled in Florence to study art and stayed there for 8 years. In 1883 he returned to Argentina and set up his workshop in his parents' house. He joined the artists group that emerged in Buenos Aires and made the Generation of '80. He devoted himself to teaching painting, becoming a great teacher. He had a preference for traditional themes gaucho. And he also painted portraits. He died in Buenos Aires in 1903.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Americo, Pedro

Independence or Death! (Independencia ou Morte!)
oil on canvas
415 × 760 cm
Museu do Ipiranga (The Museu Paulista of the University of Sao Paulo), Brazil

Pedro Americo de Figueiredo e Melo (1843-1905) was one of the most important academic painters of Brazil.

He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1854, where he was granted a scholarship to study in the Academia Imperial de Belas Artes (Imperial Academy of Fine Arts). Later he furthered his studies in Europe, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, being a pupil of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. He won much praise for his paintings, and achieved the Doctorate in Sciences at the University of Brussels, in 1868.

Returning to Brazil, he produced one of the most well known works of art in Brazil: Independence or Death!, depicting the moment when Prince Peter declared the country independent from Portugal, a work that has illustrated History books for elementary schools in Brazil for decades.
Living mostly in Florence, Italy but traveling extensively back and forth from Rio de Janeiro, he managed to work also as a writer, lecturer, and an art historian.
Knighted by the German Crown he was also Great Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. With the proclamation of the Republic in Brazil in 1889, he was elected a deputy of the National Assembly.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Portinari, Candido

Discovery of the Land (A descoberta da terra)
Preparatory drawing of the mural, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA
other detail unknown

The mural depicts the discovery of the Americas but without specifically representing either the Portuguese under Cabral who came to Brazil or the Spaniards under Columbus.

Candido Portinari (1903-1962) was one of the most important Brazilian painters and also a prominent and influential practitioner of the neo-realism style in painting.

Born to Italian immigrants, in a coffee plantation in Sao Paulo, he studied at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (ENBA) in Rio de Janeiro. In 1928 he won a gold medal at the ENBA and a trip to Paris where he stayed until 1930, when he returned to Brazil. He joined the Brazilian Communist Party and stood for senator in 1947 but had to flee Brazil for Uruguay due to the persecution of Communists. He returned to Brazil in 1951 but suffered ill health during the last decade of his life and died in Rio de Janeiro of lead poisoning from his paints.

His works can be found in galleries and settings in Brazil and abroad, ranging from the family chapel in his childhood home to his panels Guerra e Paz (War and Peace) in the United Nations building in New York and four murals in the Hispanic Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The range and sweep of his output is quite remarkable. It includes images of childhood, paintings depicting rural and urban labor, refugees fleeing the hardships of Brazil's rural north-east, treatments of the key events in the history of Brazil since the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, portraits of members of his family and leading Brazilian intellectuals, illustrations for books, tiles decorating the Church of Sao Francisco at Pampulha, Belo Horizonte.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Malfatti, Anita

Chanson de Montmartre
oil on canvas
73.3 x 60.2 cm
private collection

Anita Catarina Malfatti (1889-1964), born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was a painter, draughtswoman, engraver. She is heralded as the first Brazilian artist to introduce European and American forms of Modernism to Brazil. She began her artistic apprenticeship with her mother. Due to a congenital atrophy in her arm and right hand, she used her left to paint.

She lived in Germany between 1910 and 1914, where she came into contact with museum art. During this period, she also devoted herself to the study of engraving. From 1915-16, she lived in New York, taking lessons at the Arts Students League of New York and at the Independent School of Art.
Her solo exhibition in Sao Paulo from 1917-1918, was quite controversial at the time, and her expressionist style and subject were revolutionary for the rather complacently old-fashioned art expectations of Brazilians who were searching for a national identity in art, but who were not prepared for the influences she would bring to the country. Her presence was also highly felt during the Week of Modern Art (Semana de Arte Moderna) in 1922, where she and the Group of Five (together with Tarsila do Amaral, Mario de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade and Menotti del Picchia) made huge revolutionary changes in the structure and response to modern art in Brazil.

In 1923, she won a scholarship, moving to Paris, where she remained for five years. During her stay, she avoided polemical avant-garde stances, painting interior scene, moving towards fauvism and the simplicity of primitive painting. She did not deny Modernism but avoided its ruptures. Returning to Brazil in 1928, she became interested in regionalist themes, turning towards traditional forms.

She identified herself with the quest for a spontaneous, well-made painting that was neither tied to hallowed models nor lost in its desire for innovation. From the 1940s onwards, she began to paint scenes from everyday life to an ever greater degree. During the 1950s, she not only took everyday subjects as her themes, but also began to incorporate them into her forms under the influence of popular art.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tarsila do Amaral

The Moon (A lua)
oil on canvas
other detail unknown
-Fair use-

"I feel myself ever more Brazilian. I want to be the painter of my country. How grateful I am for having spent all my childhood on the farm. The memories of these times have become precious for me. I want, in art, to be the little girl from Sao Bernardo, playing with straw dolls, like in the last picture I am working on…. Don’t think that this tendency is viewed negatively here. On the contrary. What they want here is that each one brings the contribution of his own country. This explains the success of the Russian ballet, Japanese graphics and black music. Paris had had enough of Parisian art." (Tarsila)

Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973), known simply as Tarsila, is considered to be one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, described as "the Brazilian painter who best achieved Brazilian aspirations for nationalistic expression in a modern style." She blended local Brazilian content with international avant-garde aesthetics.

She was a member of the "Grupo dos Cinco" (Group of Five), which was a group of five Brazilian artists who are considered the biggest influence in the modern art movement in Brazil. The other members of the "Grupo dos Cinco" are Anita Malfatti, Menotti Del Picchia, Mario de Andrade, and Oswald de Andrade.

She was born in a countryside of the state of Sao Paulo to a wealthy family of farmers and landowners who grew coffee. Despite coming from a well-to-do family, she had her family's support towards superior education: at that time, women were not encouraged to seek higher education (especially if they came from rich families and had everything they needed).

Beginning in 1916, she studied sculpture in Sao Paulo then drawing and painting. In 1920, she moved to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian and with Emile Renard. The Brazilian art world was conservative, and travel to Europe provided her with a broader education in the areas of art, culture, and society. In Paris, she was exposed to Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism while studying with Fernand Leger. European artists in general had developed a great interest in African and primitive cultures for inspiration. This led Tarsila to utilize her own country's indigenous forms while incorporating the modern styles she had studied. After returning to Brazil she visited Rio de Janeiro during Carnival and baroque mining towns during Holy Week. These trips inspired her to delve further into the characteristic aspects of Brazilian culture. She depicted Brazil’s landscapes and peoples in a way that reflected Leger’s organic approach to Cubism.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Orozco, Jose Clemente

oil on canvas
114.3 x 139.7 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

In the late 1920s and 1930s Mexico's most famous muralists, Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros - known as The Big Three - spent significant time living and working in the United States. Although their styles differed dramatically, the slain revolutionary peasant leader Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919) figures prominently in their work. Unlike Rivera, who always took a celebratory approach in representing Zapata and his supporters, in this painting Orozco depicts a somber moment in the Mexican Revolution (started in 1910, lasted until 1920s)  as Zapatistas - the slain revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata's peasant followers - march to their deaths. "I don't trust revolutions or glorify them, since I witnessed too much butchery," Orozco later remarked, referring to his experience in the Revolution.

"Painting assails the mind. It persuades the heart." (Orozco)

Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) was a Mexican social realist painter, who specialized in bold murals that established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others. He was the most complex of the Mexican muralists, fond of the theme of human suffering, but less realistic and more fascinated by machines than Rivera. Mostly influenced by Symbolism, he was also a genre painter and lithographer.

He painted like a camera took pictures, clear and detailed. He created impressive, realistic paintings. During an experiment in school, he lost his right hand and partial sight in one of his eyes. He joined the student strikes initiated by the painting students to over throw the strict Director. He was very active politically throughout the revolution and witnessed its horrors first hand. He promoted the political causes of peasants and workers.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Siqueiros, David Alfaro

Pastel on paper
100.0 x 187.0 cm
Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico
-Fair use-

David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) was a Mexican social realist painter and muralist whose work reflected his Marxist ideology. He was one of the three founders of the modern school of Mexican mural painting, along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. He was a Stalinist and member of the Mexican Communist Party who participated in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky in May 1940.

A political activist since his youth, Siqueiros, the son of a bourgeois family, studied at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, Mexico City, before leaving in 1913 to fight in the army of Venustiano Carranza, eventually attaining the rank of captain, during the Mexican Revolution. Later he continued his art studies in Europe.

In 1922, after returning to Mexico, Siqueiros painted frescoes on the walls of the National Preparatory School and began organizing and leading unions of artists and workingmen. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), he commanded several brigades for the Republicans. In 1959 the Mexican government sentenced Siqueiros to five years in jail for supporting a railroad workers' union. After he was released in 1964, he continued to show his fiery passion for left-wing causes. He strongly backed the new Cuban government and its leader, Fidel Castro, and came out swinging against the U.S. and its war in Vietnam. Over four decades, his labor-union work and his communist political activities led to numerous jailings and periods of exile.

Most of his large murals are in government buildings in Mexico. His murals are distinguished by great dynamism and compositional movement, monumental size and vigor, sculptural treatment of forms, and a limited color range that is subordinated to dramatic effects of light and shadow. He produced thousands of square feet of vivid wall paintings in which numerous social, political and industrial changes were portrayed from a left-wing perspective. For him, art and politics blended seamlessly together. He wasn't afraid to bring art to his political work.

He commonly used synthetic lacquer colors sprayed from paint guns in order to speed up the process of decorating large public buildings. He also did many easel paintings. In 1974 he died in Cuernavaca, his home for the last decade of his life.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kahlo, Frida

Portrait of Alicia Galant
oil on canvas
107 x 93 cm
Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City, Mexico

Alicia Galant is a friend of Frida Kahlo. When Frida first began painting, she painted portraits, mostly of close friends and members of her immediate family. Portrait of Alicia Galant is painted in the style of a 16th century Italian Renaissance portrait, similar to the style use by Bronzino and Botticelli, two artists that Frida greatly admired. The dark gloomy background in this painting shows signs of the Art Nouveau style that was popular at the time.

"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." (Frida) "She lived dying", said one of Frida's friend.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907-1954) 's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. The iconic Mexican painter's biography is riddled with sadness. At the age of six, she developed polio, leaving her right leg thinner than the left, which she disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. Following a traffic accident in her teenage years (a tram collided with the bus on which she was travelling home from school), she went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. The traffic accident was life changing. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder and other complications which affected her reproductive ability. During three months recovering in a full body cast, she studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother.

As a child, she lived through the Mexican Revolution, and from a young age she was interested in politics. She is believed to have joined the Young Communist League, and attended rallies and meetings. In 1928, when she was 21, Kahlo embarked on a relationship with Diego Rivera. Rivera, then aged 41, was Mexico’s most celebrated artist, famed for politically motivated murals that adorned the walls of numerous public buildings. Encouraged by Rivera, who used aspects of Mexican folk art in his mural schemes, Kahlo began to paint in a more vernacular style.

Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as Naive art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 Andre Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Frida's art as a "ribbon around a bomb".
Frida later stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter". She channeled her energy and emotion into her artworks and her many pets - Amazon parrots, spider monkeys, Aztecs dogs, hens, sparrows and a fawn - which lived at her home.

During the 1950s, her health deteriorated steadily. She went through a series of operations on her spine, all to no avail. Eventually, she was confined to a wheel chair, then permanently consigned to bed. She was forced to take painkillers almost constantly, and the technical execution of her work deteriorated visibly. In the summer of 1954, she contracted pneumonia and died soon after turning 47, in the Blue House, the place where she had been born. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary, "I hope the exit is joyful ... and I hope never to return ... Frida".

In accordance with Frida's wishes, her body was cremated. The urn was placed in the Blue House, which was converted into a gallery of her work. She produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends. "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." "My painting carries with it the message of pain."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rivera, Diego

mercado de flores (flower vendor)
oil on canvas
48 x 39 in.
other detail unknown

“An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.” (Diego Rivera)

Diego Maria de la Concepcion Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodriguez, known as Diego Rivera (1886-1957)  was a prominent Mexican painter and the husband of Frida Kahlo (famous painter).
He was still married when he met the art student Frida Kahlo. They married in 1929 when he was 42 and she was 22. Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper led to divorce in 1939, but they remarried in 1940 in San Francisco and lived together until Frida Kahlo's death in 1954.

His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, he painted murals among others in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. His political views were communist and his Marxist-Leninist social revolutionary philosophies prevailed in his art. He used art to create hope and provide a vision of a better world.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tamayo, Rufino

0il on canvas
76.5 x 101.6 cm
The Musem of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
-Fair use-

Painted on the eve of America's entry into World War II, while Tamayo was living in New York, this pair of snarling dogs captures, in the words of fellow Mexican painter Juan Soriano, "that horror before a world that was turning to stone before our eyes." Set against an eerily vacant yellow backdrop bathed in a red glow, the dogs, with their fangs bared, strike an anxious note, while the pale-blue bones near their paws suggest death or carnage. The subject matter was likely inspired not only by contemporary events but by pre-Columbian terracotta burial sculptures. In Aztec and Maya mythology, dogs were considered guides to the underworld, and statues of them were often buried with members of the ruling class. (MoMA)

"Art is a way of expression that has to be understood by everyone, everywhere."

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) is a Mexican painter of Zapotec descent. He was born in Oaxaca but following the death of his parents in 1911, he went to live with his aunt in Mexico City. He studied at the Escuela des Artes Plasticas, and in 1921 was appointed head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing at the Archaeological Museum, which introduced him to folk art.

His paintings and graphics have acquired a decisive importance in contemporary art in terms both of its high quality, maintained throughout a long, intense life, and its special significance. He was very clearly one of the greatest of American creators and, at the same time, one of the artists who managed to penetrate deepest into the reality of today's Man, going beyond his historical dimension.

His own paintings draw on Mexican folk art and ceramics for their themes and in their rich use of color and texture, but their sophisticated compositions are more closely indebted to Cubism. In the 1930s he painted tropical fruits, perhaps influenced by his experiences as a child working for his aunt's wholesale fruit business. Later his imagery became more grotesque, dominated by animals. From the mid 1940s onwards, he moved towards abstraction and placed greater emphasis on his use of strong colors.

His knowledge of the great pre-Columbian cultures allowed him to make an extraordinary synthesis which forms part of a universalist conception of art. He sought the essential, which he expressed through a deliberately limited range of colors in order to give the freest possible rein to tonal interplay. His subject matter tends to be simple - figures of men and women, animals -, almost sketchy, although charged with content. He was an outsider in post Revolutionary Mexico, politically neutral and opposing the muralists' commitment to a public, popular art.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wyeth, Andrew

tempera on panel
sizen and location unknown

Siri Erickson and her father George Erickson, of Finnish descent, modeled for Wyeth through the 1970’s from their home town of Cushing, Maine.

"its all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of design is motion." (Wyeth)

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) is one of the most famous US painters of the twentieth century and often named the "Painter of the People" as a result of his popularity with the American people. He was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter in the American tradition, capturing the people and landscapes of his country on canvas.

The youngest of five children, his artistic talent was highly influenced by his famous illustrator father. Wyeth was mostly home-schooled and did not attend any college or university. He also did not receive any formal artistic training, but his parents recognized and nurtured his talent. The Wyeth family was highly creative.

He was inspired by the people and landscapes that surrounded his childhood home in Pennsylvania and his summer home in Maine. His close friends and neighbors were usually the subjects of his paintings. His most famous model and subject of numerous works was Christina Olson. One of the most well-known images in twentieth century American art is his painting, Christina's World. Following her death, Wyeth painted Helga Testorf for over a decade. He created over 240 studies of this model known as the Helga Suite.

In Wyeth’s words, "Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work… If one could only catch that true color of nature ? the very thought of it drives me mad."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Eakins, Thomas

The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull)
oil on canvas
81.9 x 117.5 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Set on a river in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it celebrates the victory of Eakins's boyhood friend Max Schmitt in the October 5, 1870, single sculls competition. The bridges behind the rowers can be identified as the Girard Avenue Bridge and the Connecting Railroad Bridge, respectively.

Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (1844-1916) was an outstanding American realist painter of the 19th century, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important artists in American art history. Born in Philadelphia, he passed the major part of his life there with the exception of a period of training in Europe, 1866-70. He studied in Paris, but learnt most from the Spanish painters Velazquez and Ribera, absorbing a precise and uncompromising sense for actuality which he applied to portraiture and genre pictures of the life of his native city.

Eakins worked exactingly from life, choosing as his subject the people of his hometown of Philadelphia. He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, he produced a number of large paintings which brought the portrait out of the drawing room and into the offices, streets, parks, rivers, arenas, and surgical amphitheaters of his city. He also took a keen interest in the new technologies of motion photography, a field in which he is now seen as an innovator. He was a controversial figure whose work received little by way of official recognition during his lifetime. Since his death, he has been celebrated by American art historians as "the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American art".

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rauschenberg, Robert

oil and silkscreen ink on canvas
147.3 x 127 cm
The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles, CA, USA
-Fair use-

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American painter and graphic artist who was renowned as an enfant terrible, famous for his 1950s work in the period between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. He was born in Texas. His early works anticipated the pop art movement.

He imagined himself first as a minister and later as a pharmacist. It wasn’t until 1947, while in the U.S. Marines that he discovered his aptitude for drawing and his interest in the artistic representation of everyday objects and people. After leaving the Marines he studied art in Paris, but quickly became disenchanted with the European art scene and moved to North Carolina. Soon, country life in North Carolina began to seem small and he left for New York to make it as a painter. During this time in New York, he became very close friends with the painter Jasper Johns, who greatly influenced his work. There, amidst the chaos and excitement of city life he realized the full extent of what he could bring to painting.

His enthusiasm for popular culture and his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting. He found his signature mode by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist’s reach. He would cover a canvas with house paint, or ink the wheel of a car and run it over paper to create a drawing, while demonstrating rigor and concern for formal painting. By 1958, his work had moved from abstract painting to what he termed “combines.” The combines (meant to express both the finding and forming of combinations in three-dimensional collage) cemented his place in art history.

As Pop Art emerged in the ’60s, he turned away from three-dimensional combines and began to work in two dimensions, using magazine photographs of current events to create silk-screen prints. He transferred prints of familiar images, such as JFK or baseball games, to canvases and overlapped them with painted brushstrokes. They looked like abstractions from a distance, but up close the images related to each other, as if in conversation. These collages were a way of bringing together the inventiveness of his combines with his love for painting. Using this new method he found he could make a commentary on contemporary society using the very images that helped to create that society.

From the mid '60s through the '70s he continued the experimentation in prints by printing onto aluminum, moving plexiglass disks, clothes, and other surfaces. He challenged the view of the artist as auteur by assembling engineers to help in the production of pieces technologically designed to incorporate the viewer as an active participant in the work. He also created performance pieces centered around chance. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s he continued his experimentation, concentrating primarily on collage and new ways to transfer photographs.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Jones, Lois Mailou

Mere du Senegal
acrylic on canvas
25 x 26 in.
location unknown
-Fair use-

"Mine is a quiet exploration - a quest for new meanings in color, texture and design. Even though I sometimes portray scenes of poor and struggling people, it is a great joy to paint." (Lois Mailou Jones)

Jones was an artist who existed during the Harlem Renaissance. She was very passionate about African and her culture. She created many paintings showing what life was like in the 1900s in Africa. This painting is titled, “Mere du Senegal” and depicts the African culture because it is very colorful and shows an everyday scene.

Lois Mailou jones (1905-1998) was born in Boston. Her father was the first African American to graduate from Boston's Suffolk Law School. After graduating the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she began her career as a textile designer during a time when racial prejudices and gender discrimination encompassed American culture. Because textile designers remained anonymous, she decided to pursue a career in fine arts. She integrated the encounters and influences she had throughout her lifetime into her art. Producing figurative and narrative paintings, that explore both personal and social themes.

Her formal artistic career began in 1930 when she joined the faculty at Howard University in Washington, D.C.. The racial discrimination that she experienced in Boston and North Carolina, as well as the climate and aftermath of the Harlem Renaissance, motivated the depiction of African and African-American themes in her early paintings.

In 1937 she received a General Education Board Foreign Fellowship to study in France, and went to Paris where she studied painting at the Academie Julian, lived among the French, learned to speak French fluently, and painted views of Paris and surrounding areas. Since her first trip to France, she felt a spiritual affinity for the French people and their nation. She explains that France provided her with the first feeling of absolute freedom to live and eat wherever she chose.

In 1954, she first went to Haiti when the Haitian government invited her to visit and paint the country's landscape and its people. In that time, she developed a love for Haiti's warm climate, its beautiful scenery, and its colorful, deeply religious people. Her numerous oils and watercolors inspired by Haiti are probably her most widely known works. In them her affinity for bright colors, her understanding of Cubism's basic principles, and her search for a distinctly personal style reached an apogee.

Jones's return to African themes in her work of the past several decades coincided with the black expressionistic movement in the United States during the 1960s. Skillfully integrating aspects of African masks, figures, and textiles into her vibrant paintings, she continued to produce exciting new works at an astonishing rate of speed, even in her late eighties.

Her eclectic, academic work, in a career spanning nearly 70 years, ranged from impressionistic landscapes to political allegories, and from cubistic depictions of African sculptures to realistic portraits. In addition to being a prominent artist, she was also a noted educator of the arts, teaching painting and related subjects for 47 years at Howard University. Her work and passion for the arts inspired her students and several generations of African American artists.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Golub, Leon

Interrogation II
Acrylic on canvas
305 x 427 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA
-Fair use-

Leon Golub (1922-2004) was an American painter. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he studied, receiving his BA in Art History from the University of Chicago in 1942, his BFA and MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1949 and 1950, respectively. In Chicago he became involved with other painters, known as the Monster Roster group, who believed that an observable connection to the external world and to actual events was essential if a painting was to have any relevance to the viewer or society. This is a view that has informed Golub's work throughout his career.

From 1959 through 1964 he lived in Paris, a move occasioned in part by the belief that Europe would be more receptive to his figural style. During this period he switched from using lacquer to acrylics, turned leaving more of the surface unpainted, and began to grind the paint directly into the canvas.

When he returned to New York, the Vietnam War was escalating, and he responded with his two series: Napalm and Vietnam, which are represented in the exhibitions.

In the mid-seventies he was beset with self-doubt. He destroyed nearly every work he produced during this period and nearly abandoned painting. In the late seventies, however, he produced more than a hundred portraits of public figures, among them political leaders, dictators, and religious figures.

In the 1980s he turned his attention to terrorism in a variety of forms, from the subversive operations of governments to urban street violence. Killing fields, torture chambers, bars, and brothels became inspiration and subject for work that dealt with such themes as violent aggression, racial inequality, gender ambiguity, oppression, and exclusion.

From the nineties, his work has shifted toward the illusionistic, with forms semi-visible, and appropriating graphic styles from ancient carvings, medieval manuscripts, and contemporary graffiti. As an older person considering mortality, he moved towards themes of separation, loss, and death. Text appears in many of the paintings and is combined with a series of symbolic references, including dogs, lions, skulls, and skeletons.

He was a leading cultural and civil rights activist in the United States from the early 1960s until his death in 2004. He consistently created works that addressed humanitarian issues. His aggressive images are charged with immediacy and brutality. The evil-doers look out from the painting with shocking intimacy, making the observer privy to their dirty secrets. His work stresses political conscience and has an unswerving commitment to the expression of man's existential relationship to the world.

Friday, April 4, 2014

LeWitt, Sol

Wall Drawing #1113: On a wall, a triangle within a rectangle, each with broken bands of color
other detail unknown
-Fair use-

Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) was born in Connecticut, USA and majored in art at Syracuse University, New York State. After serving in the US army during the Korean War, he moved to New York City where he studied at the School of Visual Arts and worked at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), both in the bookshop and as a night receptionist.

LeWitt became known in the late 1960s for his wall drawings and his sculptures or "structures" as he called them, but he also created a large number of works in other media, such as drawing, painting, printing, and photography. At first his work was associated with Minimalism, but was later related so closely to Conceptual art that he is considered by many to be the father of this movement.

In 1967, LeWitt wrote "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art," in which he states that the idea, or concept, of a work is of greater importance that the physical form through which the artist conveys his idea. It is also believed that he was the first to mention the term Conceptual art when he wrote: "I will refer to the kind of art I create as conceptual art. "

His work was the subject of a great number of exhibitions, both during his lifetime and after his death. His works are in the permanent collections of many major museums all over the world and are also installed in public parks and buildings. When LeWitt died, the New York Times described him as "...a patron and friend of artists, both old and young... the opposite of the artist as celebrity".

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Basquiat, Jean-Michel

acrylic, crayon on canvas
183 x 312.5 cm
location unknown
-Fair use-

“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” (Jean-Michel Basquiat)

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was born in Brooklyn, New York, with a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. He was a precocious child, and by the age of four he could both read and write. By the time he was eleven, he was fluent in English, French, and Spanish. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and ran away from home. He slept on Madison Square park benches in New York in early 1970′s and began spray painting buildings in Lower Manhattan, using the pseudonym SAMO, supporting himself by selling T-shirts and homemade postcards, earning him notoriety and a certain amount of fame. He appeared on television in 1979 on the show “TV Party,” and that same year formed a rock band called “Gray,” which performed all throughout New York. During this time, he also appeared in the music video “Rapture” by Blondie.

By 1982, Basquiat was regularly showing his work, and had many high-profile friend ships, including a brief relationship with Madonna, a brief involvement with the musician David Bowie, and a long-time collaboration with the artist Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol does not only become his patron, but also a very close friend. He worked on his paintings in $1,000 dollar Armani suits, in which he would appear in public, spattered in paint. He also appeared on the cover of New York Times Magazine in 1986.

Basquiat's art focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing and painting, and married text and image, abstraction and figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique. He used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.

Although Basquiat became the greatest artist of his generation, he was addicted to heroin, and after the death of his friend Andy Warhol in 1987, his addiction became worse. Becoming increasingly isolated,  he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1988. Posthumously, many exhibitions of his works have been held, and biopics, books, collections of poems and feature films have all been inspired by his work and life. In his short life, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a pop icon, cultural figure, graffiti artist, musician, and neo-expressionist painter.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gorman, Rudolph Carl

Chinle Ruby Throated Hummingbird
other detail unknown
-Fair use-

Rudolph Carl Gorman (R.C. Gorman 1931-2005) is considered by many to be the premiere Native American Indian artists. The New York Times quoted him as being the Picasso of American Indian Art. His paintings are primarily of Native American women and characterized by fluid forms and vibrant colors, though he also worked in sculpture, ceramics, and stone lithography.

Gorman was born in Navajo Nation, Arizona. His father was a noted Navajo painter and teacher. He grew up in a traditional Navajo hogan and began drawing at age 3. His grandmother helped raise him, recounting Navajo legends and enumerating his genealogy of artist ancestors. She kindled his desire to become an artist. While tending sheep in Canyon de Chelly with his aunts, he used to draw on the rocks, sand, and mud, and made sculptures with the clay, with his earliest subjects including Mickey Mouse and Shirley Temple.

After he left high school, he served in the Navy, where he majored in literature and minored in art at Northern Arizona University. In 1958, he received the first scholarship from the Navajo Tribal Council to study outside of the United States, and enrolled in the Mexico City College's art program. There he became inspired by the Mexican artists: Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, and their colors and forms to change from abstraction to abstract realism. He used abstract forms and shapes to create his own unique, personal realistic style. While in Mexico, he also learned stone lithography. He used lithography throughout his life as a means of making original multiple images of his inspirations, often working by drawing directly on the stones from which the lithographs were printed. He later studied art at San Francisco State University. In 1968, he moved from California to New Mexico.
He was also an avid lover of cuisine, authoring four cookbooks, with accompanying drawings.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lichtenstein, Roy

The White Tree
oil and magna on canvas
267.5 × 534.5 cm
private collection
-Fair use-

"I'm not sure exactly why I do this, but I think that it's to establish the hardest kind of archetype that I can." (Roy Lichtenstein)

Roy Fox Lichtenstein (1923-1997) was an American pop artist, born in New York, where he died. He is renowned for his works based on comic strips and advertising imagery, colored with his signature hand-painted Benday dots. His work has been exhibited extensively worldwide.

During the 1960s, along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist among others, he became a leading figure in the new art movement. His work was heavily influenced by both popular advertising and the comic book style. He described pop art as "not 'American' painting but actually industrial painting".

Studying the work of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, and Paul Klee, he incorporated elements of contemporary art theory and popular print media into his painting. His work defined the basic premise of pop art through parody. Favoring the comic strip as his main inspiration, he produced hard-edged, precise compositions that documented while it parodied often in a tongue-in-cheek humorous manner. His rich and expansive practice is represented by a wide range of materials, including paintings on Rowlux and steel, as well sculptures in ceramic and brass and a selection of previously unseen drawings, collages and works on paper.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Benton, Thomas Hart

Poker Night (from A Streetcar Named Desire)
oil and tempera on canvas mounted on panel
35.5 x 47.25 in.
private collectio
-Fair use-

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was a notable American muralist in the Regionalist movement. He is perhaps the best known muralist associated with the American Scene Painting movement of the 1930s. He achieved fame in Paris and New York.

He was born into an influential family of politicians. His father was a lawyer and four times elected as U.S. congressman. He was named after his uncle Thomas Hart Benton, one of the first two United States Senators elected from Missouri. Given his father's political career, he spent his childhood shuttling between Washington D.C. and Missouri. His father sent him to Western Military Academy, hoping to shape him for a political career. Growing up in two different cultures, he rebelled against his father's plans.

Benton wanted to develop his interest in art, which his mother supported. As a teenager, he worked as a cartoonist for a local newspaper in Missouri. Then, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago in 1907. He eventually transferred to the Julian Academy in Paris, where he was influenced by the style of Diego Rivera, a prominent Mexican muralist. He joined the Navy in 1913 as a draftsman and in the 1920s, he returned to New York and began teaching at the Art Students League.

Benton's fluid, sculpted figures in his paintings showed everyday people in scenes of life in the United States. Though his work is strongly associated with the Midwest, he lived in New York City for more than 20 years and painted scores of works there; summered for 50 years on Martha's Vineyard off the New England coast; and also painted scenes of the American South and the American West.

He is best known for his association with the American Scene Painting movement, but he was also active in the Social Realism, American Modernism, and Synchromism movements.

After traveling the country extensively, he settled down in Kansas where he remained until his death in 1975. Two years after Benton passed away, his home and studio was designated as the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site; the site is now open for public tours.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tanner, Henry Ossawa

The Thankful Poor
oil on canvas
90.2 x 112.4 cm
Private collection

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was an African-American artist who was the son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was raised in an affluent, well educated family. Although reluctant at first, his parents eventually responded to their son's unflagging desire to pursue an artistic career and encouraged his ambitions.

In 1879, Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He moved to Atlanta in 1889 in an unsuccessful attempt to support himself as an artist and instructor among prosperous middle class African-Americans. In 1891, he move to Paris. Illness brought him back to the United States in 1893, and it was at this point in his career that he turned his attention to genre subjects of his own race.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, who sought to represent black subjects with dignity, wrote: "Many of the artists who have represented Negro life have seen only the comic, the ludicrous side of it, and have lacked sympathy with and appreciation for the warm big heart that dwells within such a rough exterior."

After the painting of The Thankful Poor, he abandoned subjects of his own race in favor of biblical themes. When he returned to Paris in 1895, he established a reputation as a salon artist and religious painter but never again painted genre subjects of African-Americans.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wood, Grant

American Gothic
oil on beaver board
74.3 cm × 62.4 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

"the kind of people I fancied should live in that house." (Wood)

The painting is one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art, and has been widely parodied in American popular culture. It shows a farmer standing beside his spinster daughter. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron evoking 19th-century Americana, and the couple are in the traditional roles of men and women, the man's pitchfork symbolizing hard labor, and the flowers over the woman's right shoulder suggesting domesticity.

Grant DeVolson Wood (1891-1942) was an American painter born in Iowa. He was one of the major exponents of Midwestern Regionalism, a movement that flourished in the United States during the 1930s. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest. He was trained as a craftsman and designer as well as a painter.

After spending a year at the Academie Julian in Paris, he returned to Iowa, where he was commissioned to do a stained-glass window. Knowing little about stained glass, he went to Germany to seek craftsmen to assist him. While there he was deeply influenced by the sharply detailed paintings of various German and Flemish masters of the 16th century. He subsequently abandoned his Impressionist style and began to paint in the sharply detailed, realistic manner by which he is now known.

In 1930 his American Gothic caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. The hard, cold realism of this painting and the honest, direct, earthy quality of its subject were unusual in American art. The work ostensibly portrays a farmer-preacher and his daughter in front of their estate farmhouse, but Wood actually used his sister, Nan, and his dentist, B.H. McKeeby, as models. As a telling portrait of the sober and hard-working rural dwellers of the Midwest, the painting has become one of the best-known icons of American art.

Wood was married to Sara Sherman Maxon from 1935-1938. He taught painting at the University of Iowa's School of Art from 1934 to 1941. During that time, he produced a variety of his own works, and became a key part of the University's cultural community. He died at the University of Iowa hospital of pancreatic cancer, one day before his 51st birthday. When he died, his estate went to his sister, Nan Wood Graham, the woman portrayed in American Gothic. When she died in 1990, her estate, along with Wood's personal effects and various works of art, became the property of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pollock, Jackson

Stenographic Figure
oil on canvas
101.6 x 142.2 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
-Fair use-

Stenographic Figure is presumably a restaurant scene. Pollock implies that he's taking dictation from his unconscious. Yet it is a figurative picture. It seems to have two figures in it, even though the title says only one. They are, in effect, stick figures, made up of coiling lines. They're very loosely constructed, but with heads and arms and bodies.

This painting was first shown in 1943, at the Spring Salon for Young Artists held by Peggy Guggenheim at her gallery Art of This Century. It garnered praise from, among others, artist Piet Mondrian, who described it as "I have the feeling that this may be the most exciting painting I have seen in a long, long time, here or in Europe."

"When I am in a painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc, because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well." (Pollock)

Paul Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), American painter, known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential and the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement along with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. Instead of using the traditional easel, Pollock 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, sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of sand, broken glass or other foreign matter. This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods.

Pollock was born in Wyoming and grew up in California and Arizona. He was expelled from two high schools during his formative years, the second one being Los Angeles Manual Arts School, where he was encouraged to pursue his interest in art.
In 1930, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New York to study art, and secured a job under the WPA Federal Art Project, a New Deal project, which allowed him to earn a living from his painting. This provided him the opportunity to develop his techniques. As he was gaining professional and social success, Pollock fought the addiction of alcoholism and recurring bouts of depression. He began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism in 1937, and he briefly suffered a nervous breakdown next year. He was subsequently under the care of psychoanalysts who used his own drawings in therapy sessions. Peggy Guggenheim contracted with Pollock to hold his first showing at her gallery in New York in 1937.

He married Lee Krasner in 1945, a painter, and moved to East Hampton on Long Island, where he would remain the rest of his life. In the barn behind the house, which he converted to his studio, Pollock developed a new and completely novel technique of painting using what he called his “drip” technique. Using hardened brushes, sticks, and turkey basters, and household enamel paints, Pollock squirted, splashed, and dripped his paint onto canvas rolled out over his studio floor. In 1956, Time magazine gave Pollock the name “Jack the Dripper,” referencing his unique style of action painting.

Pollock had become a symbol of the new artistic revolt, abstract expressionism, and he enjoyed considerable fame. He had a volatile personality, struggled with alcoholism for most of his life, and he died at the age of 44 in a single-car crash in his Oldsmobile convertible, killing himself and one of his passengers, while driving under the influence of alcohol, which occurred less than a mile from his home.

"On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting."  "The method of painting is the natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them." (Pollock describing his painting on the floor)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Krasner, Lee

oil on canvas
45.7 x 96.5 cm
The Jewish Museum, New York, USA
-Fair use-

"It's been said that without Lee Krasner, who for a time kept her volatile husband sober and productive, there wouldn't have been a Jackson Pollock. But without Jackson Pollock, there might have been a more self-confident, centered Lee Krasner." (Lee Rosenbaum of the Wall Street Journal)

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) was born, in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents from Bessarabia. She was an influential American abstract expressionist painter in the second half of the 20th century. She married artist Jackson Pollock.

Her early art training was at The Cooper Union, Art Students League, and the National Academy of Design in New York. After graduating from the academy, Krasner took college courses toward a teaching certificate and worked as a model and waitress. In spite of the onset of the Great Depression, she did not give up hope of becoming a full-time professional artist.

Krasner had met Jackson Pollock, with whom she had taken part in an exhibition in 1941 organized by John Graham to demonstrate that American art was now equal in stature to European art. She responded immediately to Pollock’s work, believing that he was ‘a living force’ with whom others would have to contend and introducing him to numerous artists and critics who could help him further his goals. Their involvement during the early 1940s in the Surrealist circle of Peggy Guggenheim was fruitful for both of them.

On October 25, 1945, she married artist Jackson Pollock. She was rigorously self-critical, and her critical eye is believed to have been important to Pollock's work. Their marriage and the move to the rural village of The Springs, near East Hampton, Long Island, turned out to be artistically rewarding. Krasner and Pollock gave each other reassurance and support. The daily give-and-take of Pollock and Krasner stimulated both artists. They fought a battle for legitimacy, impulsiveness and individual expression. They opposed an old-fashioned, conformist, and repressed culture unreceptive to these values, which was put off by the intricacy of Modernism in general.

The influence of Pollock was important in the development of Krasner’s mature style, in which her ability to give key modernist concepts a personal inflection finally emerges as the leitmotif of her work. Lee Krasner died in 1984, age 75, from natural causes. She had been suffering from arthritis. Her will established the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, set up in 1985 to aid artists in need.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Johnson, William Henry

Commodore Peary and Henson at the North Pole
oil on paperboard
70.1 x 90.3 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, USA
-Fair use-

This painting chronicles the men’s exploration of the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Commodore Peary's claim that his party is the first to reach the North Pole was widely credited for most of the 20th century, rather than the competing claim by Frederick Cook, who said he got there a year earlier. Modern historians generally think Cook did not reach the pole. Based on an evaluation of Peary's records by Wally Herbert, also a polar explorer, he concluded in a 1989 book that Peary did not reach the pole, although he may have been as close as 5 miles (8 km). His conclusions have been widely accepted.
Matthew Alexander Henson was the member of the 1909 expedition to the North Pole. Henson was the first African American voted into the Explorers Club in New York (1937). He received recognition by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before his death in 1955 at the age of 88.

William Henry Johnson (1901-1970) was one of the great American artists of the 20th century. Johnson, an African American from the rural South, born in Florence, South Carolina, overcame poverty, racial prejudice and a grade-school education to become one of the country's leading artists.

After deciding to pursue his dreams as an artist, he attended the National Academy of Design in New York and met his mentor, Charles Webster Hawthorne. After graduating, he moved to Paris, traveled throughout Europe and was exposed to new kinds of artistic creations and artists. Upon his return to the United States, Johnson used a primitive style of painting in conjunction with what was considered a "folk" style, using of bright colors and two-dimensional figures. He spent his final 23 years of life in a mental hospital in Central Islip, New York, where he died in 1970.

Through the force of his personality and with a steadfast belief in himself, Johnson created an art entirely his own, original and fresh. In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Johnson's honor, recognizing him as one of the nation’s foremost African-American artists and a major figure in 20th-century American art.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grandma Moses

Sugaring Off
oil on canvas
size unknown
Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, USA
-Fair use-
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses; 1860-1961) is a self-taught renowned American folk artist. She did not begin painting until her late 70s. Her paintings provide nostalgic glimpses of daily life in rural New York and Virginia. This one was painted when she was at the age of 85.

She was born on a farm in Greenwich, upstate New York, one of a family of 10 children. She left home at a young age to work as a hired girl at a neighboring farm. Marrying in 1887, she eventually gave birth to 10 children (5 of whom survived past infancy). In addition to her work as a farm wife and mother, she helped support her family by selling various homemade foods.

She disliked spending time knitting and sewing, but she began entertaining herself and her friends by making needlework pictures and quilts portraying colorful scenes of farm life. At 78, when arthritis rendered her unable to embroider, friends suggested she try painting these scenes instead. She worked with whatever materials were at hand, used house paint and leftover canvas or fireboard for her first paintings. As a self-taught artist, she had little concern for perspective or proportion. Although familiar with the hardships and sorrow of farm life, she illustrated happy childhood memories of fields and storms, barn dances, and holidays in rural New York and Virginia. She deliberately omitted telephone poles, tractors, and other elements of the effects of industrialization.

A New York collector chanced upon her work and helped her begin exhibiting professionally. She gained the nickname “Grandma Moses” from a reviewer at New York's Herald Tribune. Her paintings became immensely popular and were appreciated for their nostalgic charm. She exhibited her work internationally into her 90s and painted until a few months before her death. By the time she died at age 101, she had produced over 3,600 paintings.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pippin, Horace

Old Black Joe
oil on canvas
61.0 x 76.1 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, USA
-Fair use-

"The pictures ... come to me in my mind, and if to me it is a worthwhile picture I paint it ... I do over the picture several times in my mind and when I am ready to paint it I have all the details I need." (Pippin)

Horace Pippin (1888-1946) was a self-taught African-American painter who worked in a naive style. The injustice of slavery and American segregation figure prominently in many of his works.

Pippin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, moving to Goshen, New York as a small child. He developed a love for creating art, winning accolades and developing a reputation in his neighborhood for his craft even with limited illustrative tools. With his mother poor in health, he left school in his early teens to earn income, working for years at a hotel and subsequently holding other jobs. Upon joining the army, he was sent overseas to France to fight in World War I as part of the African-American Infantry. He was badly hurt and lost the use of his right arm after being shot, returning to the states in 1919. He eventually used a poker to hold up his right arm, which he had used to make art, and began to draw again as a therapeutic outlet.
After his work was featured in a home county show, he became part of a traveling group exhibit with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1938. He was also known for historical, politicized output with a series of paintings about abolitionist President Abraham Lincoln.
He was completely self-taught as an artist outside of a limited stint of classes at the Barnes Foundation and was featured in publications like Newsweek and Vogue.