Double Jump

Thomas Eakins, Double Jump, 1885

With the development of photography came increased experimentation. Thomas Eakins, a widely acknowledged realist painter, sculptor, photographer and educator, used photography to exhibit a representation of rapid movement and to prove the notion that machine can see more accurately than the human eye. As a painter he focused on painting his portraits realistically, which led him to an interest in photography. He is still acknowledged today as an innovator in the photographic field.

The nude in motion inspired Eakins, and he created many different 
photo-graphical pieces with this as the subject. He chose to photograph them in full sunlight in order to convey deep space and perspective. He photographed the nude jumping, running, pole vaulting, horse-back riding and any other forms of movement. Eakins painted nudes fully exposed and coming out to the audience, such as in William Rush and His Model. He depicts the nude woman walking towards the viewer, establishing that a nude does not need to be hidden but rather comfortable in their image. His intrigue in the human form eventually got him fired from the Pennsylvania Academy due to acts of impropriety in the classroom.

He used multiple photographs in one to convey a motion, like in Double Jump. He brought this experimentation and use of multiple subjects into his paintings as well. He used photographs and painted parts of many of them onto a singular canvas in order to give the allusion of different moments in time and show the complexity of time and space. He also carried over the movement he saw in his photographs to his paintings, like the boxing scenes of the late 1890s.
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Ancestors of Tehamana

Ancestors of Tehamana, Paul Gauguin, 1893

Paul Gauguin played an essential role in the Symbolism movement of the early 1900s. Much of his work focuses on rich vibrant colors and accentuated body proportions. Towards the end of his career he spent much time in French-Polynesia, specifically Tahiti. He was originally excited to study the culture of the country, although soon discovered the major western influence brought upon the island by settlers. In response Gauguin took it upon himself to understand the culture the best he could, the evidence of his adoration for the culture is present in the numerous paintings that incorporate Tahitian influence or depict locals, although all retaining a sense of Gauguin’s signature style.

While living in Tahiti he began an affair with a local thirteen-year-old girl. She sat for many of his paintings including Ancestors of Tehamana. The young girl is propped in a commonly-seen European portrait pose while holding a fan. The fan, stylistically resembling Tahitian culture, points towards the hieroglyphics and a depiction of the goddess Hina. The goddess is associated with many Pacific Island cultures, although is represented differently in the various societies. In Tahiti she is specifically credited for bringing coconut trees to the island. The angle of the fan helps to express the girls pride in culture and how she resembles the goddess. The fan also expresses Gauguin’s intense interest in the culture.

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Sounds Assembling

Bertram Brooker, Sounds Assembling, 1928
“All the excitement in their representations came from the particular modes of painting they developed while staring at their simple subjects. We return again to the cultivation of meaninglessness.” Richard Bretell

Art without iconography consists of “uninteresting” subjects. But, the picture itself is the artwork, leaving the viewer to decipher the painting by themselves. Abstract paintings allow the artist to paint what they really see when they look at an ordinary object. The viewers may have the same perspective as the artist, but most of the time, abstract painting leaves room for interpretation.

Bertram Brooker was not only a artist, but he also worked as a journalist, a playwright, a poet, a fiction writer, a musician, an advertising strategist, and a manager of a movie theater. Brooker was the first artist in Canada to exhibit abstract paintings, such as Sounds Assembling. In this painting, Brooker painted each brush stroke with the goal to create a “visual analogue to music, capturing the dynamism of sound through ricocheting poles of color and light”. For the creation of this painting, Brooker listened to music and he transferred his journey through sound to a canvas for an audience to experience. This painting does not have an area that the artist wants the viewers to focus on. Instead, Brooker wants the audience to view each part of the painting with the same depth of analysis.

Sounds Assembling is also the name of a book of poetry Brooker published. Readers thought his poems were abstract paintings in ink on paper. These two words represent his skills of painting and writing.
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Fêtes and Folly: Wine is a Mocker

Jan Steen, Wine is a Mocker, 1663

Wine is a Mocker, painted by Jan Steen in 1663, depicts a woman passed out on the floor from a night of a little too much wine, as some townspeople attempt to help her. This woman gives us a warning about what could happen when one does not adequately match up the water to wine ratio. She shows the aftermath of a fête that went a little too hard, and the folly that resulted. I imagine she started out the night in her elaborate gown and her vibrant red stockings hoping for a fun yet casual night with only a couple drinks. She probably finished two glasses of wine and wanted to be done until her friends kept giving her more, and in her drunken state, the more she drank the less judgment she had. Before she knew it, she ended up passed out on the dirt road outside a house, as she was loaded into a wheelbarrow. You really can’t get any more humiliating than that. Can’t a girl just have one night out without ending up in a wheelbarrow?!

To make this situation even worse, the townspeople laugh in her face. This is probably their entertainment for the night, and I don’t blame them for laughing. Without the stupidity of reality TV in the 17th century, what’s a guy to do for some vulgar entertainment on those boring Tuesday nights? They don’t want to laugh, but they can’t help it. Even the children giggle from afar, though they (hopefully) don’t understand the situation. The townspeople surrounding the drunkard wear dull colors and clothes that paint them as of a lower class, while the drunkard wears bright colors and a beautiful dress. Not only do they laugh at her foolishness, but also they laugh because, for them, the downfall of the wealthy is so much more satisfying. This mirrors present-day society, where tabloids would rather write about “Miley Cyrus’s Crazy Night Out” rather than “Miley Cyrus Saves a Puppy.” Above the door, reads the inscription “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). Even the writing on the door seems to mock her disheveled appearance as the dirt floor represents what she has been reduced to. Jan Steen’s Wine is a Mocker is a visual presentation of what none of us want to be, because the last play anyone wants to wake up during a hangover in is a wheelbarrow surrounded by people laughing at your downfall.
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The Balcony

Edouard Manet, The Balcony,  1868


Art is more than just the concept of representation, but how the artist sees the world through what they are painting. Visuality defines the meaning of what is inspired through the eye of the beholder. When there is a greater understanding of what the artist is trying to convey through object, light, and structure, people can have a greater appreciation for what they are observing. Richard Brettell accurately describes how the human eye is based on psychological and emotional state of mind.

Edouard Manet, a French artist, clearly displays through his art how “representing is to have ultimate control of the seen world” (Brettell 84). In Manet’s, The Balcony, visual representation through eye contact of each individual person reflects on the “Art of Seeing.”When looking at the painting, we see three figures with one dark figure in the background. There are three different focal points when looking head on at the painting. The woman sitting is gazing at the world-in-the-streets, the women in the flower hat is looking at the viewer, and the man is admiring the woman in the flower hat. The interesting thing about it: when it was hung in the Salon in 1868, it appeared as if it was an actual balcony hanging from the wall and the people viewing it appeared to be the people in the street. The different focal points helps tell a story through eye contact. Bretell defines this as “contemporary urban visual culture” (86). Brettell shows how “the viewer is just as important as the viewed, that seeing or perception is now the subject of the art” (87).
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Psychological Abstract Portrait of Ted Shawn

Katherine Dreier, Psychological Abstract Portrait of Ted Shawn, 1929

1. Wealth is defined as the sum of any and all resources owned by a community or by an individual which exceed those required to reasonably ensure survival.

2. Wealth is a means of control. Those in its possession gain power, via necessity, over those less fortunate. Furthermore, wealth is conducive to the sense of self-sublimation that accompanies a perceived increase in control over one's physical state. Once basic needs are met, a society or class shifts toward the pursuit of security in a deeper sense; e.g. intellectual "immortality," which includes the development of social systems whose values are meant to outlast its members.

3. Wealth is always used as a means for control, though this may not be apparent in every case. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

4. The performance of wealth has two mechanisms, both of which suggest a "mind over body" ideal. -

--Note: Wealth is not necessary for the pursuit of conceptual security, but it makes this endeavor feasible on a social scale.

--The first mechanism is alteration. This includes modification and restriction of the human body, its appearance, and its environment. Fashion is a form of alteration; so are sexual permissions or limitations (e.g. chastity) which are socially sanctioned. In general, the performance of wealth via alteration targets those physical states which are most difficult to attain in a particular time and place. For example, thinness is glorified in Western culture because foods with low nutritional value are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Alteration of the human body at the class level reinforces a system's values as well as the wealth-- and, therefore, security-- of the individual.

--In addition to direct manipulation of the body, alteration includes the modification of its surroundings. Any anthropogenic change in the environment that facilitates human activity counts as alteration-- housing, transport, et cetera. This form of alteration is required at the sub-wealth level to ensure survival but becomes amplified when wealth is achieved. It contributes to the pursuit of ideological security because physical control is part of what keeps a society-- and its values-- alive.

--The second mechanism of wealth performance in relation to the human body is abstraction. Instead of, or in addition to, changing the body and its environment, the growth of wealth in a social stratum may entail the institutionalization of "abstract" thought and an emphasis on intellectual progress. Advances in the arts and sciences likely come to mind. However, the definition of progress changes in accordance with social values; the concept of leisure, which we have discussed at length in class, is an equally fitting example because the luxuries of play, rest, and socialization manifest as the "sublimated" ideal of wealth in leisure-driven societies. Leisure illustrates the convergence of alteration and abstraction, or physical control and mental elevation.

--In staying faithful to this model we may postulate that the institutions of education and religion are also abstract performances of wealth; God or no God, our desire for intellectual and spiritual permanence that exceed the human lifespan form the basis of how we use wealth.

5. Art is a form of alteration, abstraction, or both.

--Art is a performance of wealth. 

6. There are two kinds of art: Reflective and reflexive. Reflective art drives conscious social change.  What distinguishes reflective art from other forms of innovation is its ability (or, rather, the artist's ability) to critique the relationship between wealth and control despite the fact that artistry is, in and of itself, a performance of wealth. Reflexive art, on the other hand, makes no intentional statement about the relationship between wealth and control-- which, by default, reinforces the values and practices of the social system from whence it comes.

--Note: I will not try to define "art" here-- but I believe that reflective creation is always art, while reflexive creation is sometimes art, depending on whom you ask.


--Note: You thought it would never happen.

--In Chapter 6 of Modern Art, Brettell discusses the peculiar and seemingly paradoxical role of the portrait in modern societies. He explores how "portraiture represent(s) the comfort and anxieties of the urban-based class" (Brettell 165), and adds that "many of the most famous modern portraits seem critical both of their class and of the social structures of class representation" (167). This last bit is especially interesting, given that portraiture, almost always done on commission, was the epitome of wealth performance. It combined alteration and abstraction by creating a favorable representation of the subject's physical likeness, thus separating their "psychological essence" from their body while simultaneously acknowledging the subject's ability to manipulate his or her own physicality in accordance with the rules of their class (165).

Katherine Dreier's Psychological Abstract Portrait of Ted Shawn is even more unusual. It is a holistic conceptualization of someone who devoted his entire career to the transformation of the human body and its movement. Shawn was a pioneer of modern American dance, and this abstract portrait complements his choice of career, as wealth is performed (and art created) through abstraction and alteration. 
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Aristarkh Lentulov, Moscow, 1913

The rapid industrialization of humanity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries generated major cities and promoted new ways of life. Along with this urbanization art also took new forms. Painters began representing this sudden change in society in works, such as the one shown above. Moscow. by Aristarkh Lentulov, provides a Cubist representation of prospering urban cities. Firstly, Lentulov, a Russian native, produced numerous colorful and abstract works depicting buildings and structures. He seemed to have focused on famous architectural marvels such as Saint Basil's Cathedral. He added a modern, Cubist twist to his seemingly urban subject matter.

In Moscow, Lentulov crowded the canvas with various structures, inhabitants and colors to intentionally overwhelm the viewer. This symbolizes the urban sprawl of industrial cities. Immigrants and citizens flocked to these thriving industrial centers in search of wages and work. Along with that, cities expanded and grew. Lentulov demonstrates this in Moscow with a hodgepodge of buildings and people scattered to the very edge marked by the grim purple and red sky. Writer Richard Brettell argues art like this came into being due to the mass modernization of cities. Artists, similar to Lentulov, captured this change with distinct paintings. Some artists criticized this industrialization, while others praised it through glorifying works. Moscow's vibrant, radiating colors might hint towards a optimistic view about modernization, however the depiction of crowded, overfilled cities could serve as criticism.

What do you think? As my classmate Melisa puts it, is it a "hater or motivator?" I personally think it provides a glorification of Moscow in times of societal change. Lentulov uses piercing reds, blues, and yellows to add vibrancy and life to the work. That might parallel an enjoyable aspect to the clustered, modernized city. He could also be critiquing the crowdedness of the city in the way the overwhelming buildings swallow the minuscule inhabitants below. Image a freshman walking down the senior hallway in the morning - busy and intimidating, Moscow offers an abstract example of urban cities growing and changing in the wake of the 20th century similar to art as Brettell proclaims. 
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The Talisman

Paul Sérusier, The Talisman, 1888

"Nature merely supplies us with inert materials. A human mind alone can arrange them in such a way that, through them, it can express its feelings and its thoughts and by means of correspondences. That is how we arrive at style, the ultimate aim of all art." - GalleryIntel

A soft breeze tickles your cheeks and you feel the sun shining down on your skin from the massive open sky, infusing everything it touches with a comforting, warm energy. The pond is calm today, but the trees seem to glow green and vibrant in the perfect summer air. You admire the reflection of nature on the water, like a perfect mirror image, rippling slightly. A feeling of expansive joy bubbles up from your core. You're at peace with world around you, in nature, as it. Sérusier has left you here, feeling pleasant and enthusiastic, drawn in by the energetic colors and abstract beauty of the isolation in nature. That's the power of the playful landscape: the inspiration of feeling and the experimentation with medium in a meaningful way.

Sérusier, a dedicated apprentice under Gauguin and Bernard, often employs intense color to convey feeling. He painted this during his time in the Pont-Aven School, an artists' commune in Brittany, France. This particular work is painted in a Post-Impressionistic style called cloisonnism, characterized by its two dimensional appearance with big blocks of vibrant color. Talisman was painted under the close tutelage of Gauguin one afternoon in 1888. He said to Sérusier that day, "How do you see these trees? They are yellow. Well, then, put down yellow. And that shadow is rather blue. So render it with pure ultramarine. Those red leaves. Use vermilion."  This landscape does not just represent the visual aspect of this intimate place, but uses color and brush strokes to evoke the feeling of being there as well. The specific location expressed in this painting means far less than the style, technique, color, and feeling of the work. 

In Brettell's Modern Art, this painting falls under a chapter labeled Anti-Iconography. Brettell uses this work as an argument that some artists painted intentionally banal subjects of no particular meaning with no commentary and no reason in order to focus on the physical painting of the work and the feeling it evokes in the reader. While this is partially true, the more I discover about this particular landscape, the more Brettell seems false in his analysis of this painting. This small oil on wood was a revelation for a man like Sérusier, and in fact he brought it back to Paris and it became the central piece that spurred the Nabi movement. For a painting with allegedly no social stance and no meaning in its subject, it sure did make a massive cultural statement. 

Although the exact location that makes up the subject of this work might be normal or unimportant, the work itself cannot be considered anything other than revolutionary. Whether or not this painting speaks to you, it is undeniably powerful in its revolutionary style and in the strength with which it conveys its feeling. To call any part of this meaningless would be a ridiculous assertion. The Talisman's beauty is in its freedom of interpretation and in its ability to mean something different to everyone that sees it. Some take a glance and walk on by while others see it and take it as inspiration for a collection of art prophets. It's all just proof that, in the incredibly complex world of art, a landscape is never just a landscape: it is the million things it represents and its nature to influence all that see it.
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Paris Street, Rainy Day

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877

Alas, here comes the rise and reformation of cities everywhere. As urban capitalism spreads, Paris becomes the ultimate paradigm for change. Baron Haussmann’s renovations erupted in 1853 with new parks and avenues thanks to Napoléon III’s vast public works program. The sharp new boulevards and rows of impeccable buildings changed the cityscape and created the Paris we know today. Industrialization was greeted with praise; however, various critiques leaked. 

Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Rainy Day encapsulates the gloomy side of urban capitalism. Dark umbrellas shelter top-hatted men and women with long skirts. These monotonous figures show how modernization affects the people of Paris. The broad boulevards and uniform buildings promote a feeling of complete loneliness. Paris Street, Rainy Day shares how modern life refuses to create close relations between human beings. Caillebotte’s take on urban capitalism proves to be rather somber than praise.
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The Bathers at Asnieres

Georges Seurat, The Bathers at Asnieres, 1884

Georges Seurat was most well-known for his use of pointillism. One of his most famous works of art is Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte was painted in 1886. This painting created conversation, not because of the style but because of the imagery. Some people hated the painting while others loved it. The painting features wealthy looking individuals in France dressed in elaborate gowns or suits, relaxing by the river. The counterpart of the painting is what makes it interesting.

The Bathers at Asnieres, painted in 1884, opposes Sunday Afternoon and brings into question the idea of class. A boat race can be seen in the river in both paintings. This seems to link the two together and suggest that they occur at the same time. Another weird aspect of the paintings that is most likely not a coincidence, is that both works of art are exactly the same dimensions. The two works of art look remarkably similar in style and ratio, but they provoke drastically different themes. While his later painting depicts wealthy individuals relaxing in a life of leisure, the earlier painting brings the themes of poverty and unemployment to the foreground. In The Bathers at Asnieres, the three men at the front of the painting relax in the grass while two more boys wade in the river. Crumpled clothes lay underneath one of the boys, which suggest that these clothes do not require extensive caretaking. Their clothes are ill fitting and simple as opposed to the elaborate outfits of the later painting. In the background, there is a bridge and factory chimneys that blow steam, suggesting industrial technology. The men in the painting are clearly from a lower class and embody poverty.

Much like day vs. night, Seurat’s paintings oppose each other. He invites the viewer to make a connection and compare the lifestyles. While the later painting attracted much attention and conversation, its themes are dependent on The Bathers at Asnieres. The earlier painting may not have as much fame, but it is necessary in comparing the two. Seurat invokes themes of class in his two pointillism paintings of the mid-1880s.
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Weeping Willow

Claude Monet, Weeping Willow, 1919

You walk by Weeping Willow and stop. You see the layers upon layers of paint and wonder “How did Monet create this?” You feel his process, the hum drum of painting that led to the piece in front of you. Not a snapshot of a moment in time, but a story. The modern era instilled a new anxiety in the painter, a fear of the photograph. The camera caused an entire movement by painters to reveal their mistakes, a missed brushstroke here or the previous ideas that led to the final piece. 

Day by day Monet built upon his painting, adding and exploring the image itself and his own mind. All to be seen. Admired. Loved. Hated. Critiqued. Monet labors and we see it. The modern era marks an obsession with the eye, the art of viewing, as Richard Brettell calls it in his Modern Art: 1851-1929. No longer did the salon or artist dictate the meaning behind a work, but the viewer took control. Altering the goal of the artist to not simply please, but to strive for a genuine connection. 

You might think that this idea caused artists to paint with the audience in mind, but by limiting themselves to a specific group or person the artist destroyed the impact of the painting. A true modernist painting acts as beacon of understanding to all. 

In Weeping Willow, Monet paints with WWI in mind recounting the war’s effect on his own life and the world. By signing the painting on Armistice Day, Monet marks this painting as his contribution to the peace effort. 

Monet captures the ravaged family sphere left in the aftermath of the war with his single standing tree. To the viewer in 1919 Monet understood an immeasurable event. However, the true worth of Weeping Willow lies in its ability to comfort those of today. Brettell argues that true greatness in art comes from an artist’s ability to create a work that not only can withstand the viewer, but time. 

Weeping Willow is felt in a your heart, the lone tree, reminding you of the isolation you once felt with the twisted and gnarled branches that represented your mind and emotions. In the corner beams a light reminding you that things will be all right. 

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