Friday, April 26, 2013

ECSTASY UPDATED

Skeptics have long questioned whether Bernini's great sculpture, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, is about a purely religious experience:

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) wrote of her dream that an angel thrust his fiery golden spear into her "to pierce my very entrails." When he finally withdrew after much thrusting, her heart was attached. The experience, she reported, was "not bodily, but spiritual."

Bernini's sculpture was commissioned by the Catholic church for the Cornaro Chapel in Rome.  Regardless of Bernini's motives, it certainly attracted the crowds.  For centuries, devout housewives  sat in the church thinking, "I'll have what she's having."


350 years after Bernini, Popes and kings no longer buy art.  They have been replaced by a new commercial class of patrons, fueled by the birth of capitalism and the ascendancy of the modern corporation.  But some things never change.  Whether church or refrigerator manufacturer, they still commission artists to sell their products with promises of ecstasy.

The great illustrator John Gannam had a gift for portraying women ecstatic over a gift of new blankets or sheets


Gannam's series of watercolors for Pacific Sheets was legendary.

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Albert Dorne's illustrations lacked Gannam's poetry, but Dorne too tried to illustrate women experiencing the highest form of satisfaction from a product: 



And of course, hundred of anonymous illustrators have depicted women over the years in a state of delirium over new refrigerators, cars, jewelry or laundry detergent.  The formula is the same as Bernini's-- head tilted back, lips parted, toes curled, eyes rolling -- it's just in the service of a different sponsor.


These latter day corybants seem to be in paroxysms before the unholy shrine of Wurlitzer:


As Paul was awestruck by a flash of heavenly light on the road to Damascus, so this gentlemen seems awestruck-- his mouth agape and his eyes bulging-- at the glow from the juke box:


A lot of things have changed in the field of illustration over the centuries, but some things remain immutable.  No matter who the client or what the product, an illustrator who can harness ecstasy in the service of a client will always find work.

86 Comments:

Anonymous MORAN said...

That Teresa is hot.

4/26/2013 6:31 PM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

I agree with your main thesis concerning the constancy of human concerns despite the circumstances that supply the forum for its expression.

But you seem to believe it is the face that is the engine behind the expression of ecstasy in the work itself. I’m sensing this by virtue of your latter examples and emphasis on particular close-up details of the head.

In the Bernini sculpture, as in the Gannam illustrations, it is the whole image that is expressing this ‘concept’ (using the meaning in terms of Kev’s understanding in the previous blog discussion), not just the face. Those rippling, buckling, quivering, collapsing and shuddering forms of the drapery are redolent of the subjective physical experience of our bodies when in such a state, be it the feeling on opening a letter containing good news, or making it past the winning post after four year’s training.

The folds of the Bernini and the tumbling sheets and exploding arms of the Gannam, in plastic terms, realise the sensation of abandonment and temporary liberation from restraints - a component of feeling ecstatic. The face on the women gives us the clue to how we are to unconsciously digest those graphic forms (regardless of what they represent at this point) and metabolise them into our own empathic, aesthetic experience of what is being expressed.

This however, is not what is generally happening in the latter examples you have given. They, to varying degrees, only ‘illustrate’ the concept rather than express it. This is exactly the difference between those two coats discussed in the last blog.

4/27/2013 5:30 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- Yup, that seems to be the consensus of the ages.

Chris Bennett-- I don't disagree with your analysis at all. I think the Bernini is by far the most successful work of art, followed by the Gannam. The others employ a kind of shorthand slapstick version of ecstasy.

I do think, however, that you might be selling short the body language in the later images. Most of them don't show the full body, so the artist could only show clasped, reverential hands or facial expressions with mouths agape. (Even so, perhaps they are closer to a chaste "religious" awe than Bernini's?)

4/27/2013 7:34 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

"(...)after much thrusting(...)"

Indeed :)

4/27/2013 11:21 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

"In God we thrust"?

Ok, I'll stop. :)

I do love Bernini.

4/27/2013 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Mr. Apatoff,
The opening quote is a cynical interpretation of Bernini's intentions mentioned on the WIKI page. The sword was thrust into her heart, not where some Freudian would rather imagine.The Interior Castle was a mystical work of the human heart and Bernini would have understood the importance of her contributions, unlike moderns who have science-tized the human heart and have no concept that it may actually have depth and meaning beyond sensation.
You also speak in commercial terms as if Bernini were not a devout believer himself as the Wiki page also mentions.
Within the four spirals of the Bernini's Baldachin are are held the bones of thirty thousand martyrs of the Roman Coliseum. I think he understood the gravity of his undertakings and wasn't simply landing some cash from the big client.
Gannon was a terrific watercolorist and I appreciate your efforts to deepen our appreciation
of illustration, but as good as Gannon was, a good night's sleep doesn't compare with the reality of life and death.
Gannon's name really has no business in the same sentence as Bernini.

4/29/2013 11:49 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Sean Farrell-- Much as I would like to claim credit for having a particularly lustful imagination, I'm afraid I can't keep up with the suspicious minds of the clergy and theologians who preceded me.

Long before Wikipedia or Bernini, people were seeing profane (or even prurient) intentions in sacerdotal art. Those suspicions seem to arise as often from the religious side of the fence as from the cynics and non-believers. The history is too long and rich to cover here, but let's just note that after his religious conversion, a deeply devout Tolstoy was irked by paintings of the Temptation of St. Anthony where he believed the artist was just using the Biblical story as an excuse to paint a naked woman. (Delilah and Salome were popular subjects for the same reason). During the Counter-reformation (of which St. Teresa was a part), Vatican censors saw prurience everywhere. It was they, not lewd secular cynics, who pasted and painted fig leaves on art that dared to show human genitals. And of course, Michelangelo's battle to put nude, muscle bound young men in his Biblical illustrations is legendary.

In the case of Bernini's St. Teresa, I am hardly the first person to notice that Teresa appears to be in an orgasmic swoon. Bernini did not need to portray Teresa with the face of a Hollywood starlet (when she was in reality a nun in her mid 40's), or surround her with those sensuous, swirling folds, or have her head tilted back with those moist lips parted (gracious!). It probably would have been more historically accurate to depict her weather-lined face wincing in pain, but Bernini chose not to. Why? I don't know. I keep an open mind. But if Bernini did not recognize that a large percentage of the public would perceive his work in this light, I would say his lack of self-awareness was a serious artistic flaw.

We should also note that Teresa and her contemporaries were not unaware of the possible interpretation of her ecstasy. As Wikipedia also notes: "friends suggested that her newfound knowledge was diabolical, not divine. She began to inflict various tortures and mortifications of the flesh upon herself." So I don't think we would be doing anyone a service, 450 years later, to channel our minds into believing that there is only one, purely chaste, possible interpretation of this work.

Your suggestion that Gannam can't be compared to Bernini is similar to commenters in the last post claiming it was inappropriate to compare Menzel with Dine. Maybe you're right; my view on all such comparisons is that if people see no commonalities, they will fall of their own weight. But I would not exempt Bernini for his piety any more than I would exempt Dine for his "conceptual" pretensions. Good art is self-legitimizing.

4/30/2013 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Thank you for the lesson on The Ecstasy of St.Theresa, her trials, critics and the Counter Reformation, but the sculpture itself is a piece of counter reformation art.

In one short post, you managed to disrespect a masterpiece of western art, a classic of Spanish mysticism, the Old Testament, (as the ecstasy is similar to the sword and flame cauterizing an Old Testament prophet), showed the superficiality of the Gannan illustrations by comparing them with the Bernini and confused a company selling a satisfying product with the kind of transnational corporatism of today where a bank demands a railroad as a down payment for an austerity loan. Yes, you got the false gods of materialism correctly, but how does that elevate illustration which existed and exists largely to serve the same false gods? Isn't elevating illustration the primary purpose of your blog?

No, the Church wasn't selling flippant ecstasy but much of its art was of rather grim subjects such as life and death and some rather difficult ideas such as self denial, reparation for sins and other forgotten concepts which are inconceivable to selfists. How you managed to liken such to the charming toothy grins of American illustration is bewildering.

There are giants within the ranks of illustration, but illustration is not giant within the ranks of art history, which had devised almost all the compositional forms, perspective, tonal, color and painting methods and understandings before illustration began its rise to popular glory. That's not to say some illustration isn't fine art, but it isn't art that changed the way people actually saw things with the kind of impact of say Cezanne. A strong case may be made for the influence of illustration on popular culture, but was it responsible for the visual (even ideological) changes, or was it overwhelmingly reliant on previous Fine Art innovations while catering to corporate pop subject matter?

As per Bernini's choice of beauty, it captures the nature of the spirit as Michelangelo's choice of a young woman did for The Pieta. Yes, these choices were not without their controversy, but it is not by piety and subject matter that the Bernini is vastly superior to the Gannan, but by all you are unable to see in the structure and beauty of the sculpture. The Gannans aren't even a notable historical shadow of the Bernini sculpture. It's bizarre that such a comparison is made.

I'm sorry, but this was truly a confused post on an otherwise well written and interesting blog which usually stays true to its purpose.

4/30/2013 1:58 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Sean Ferrell-- it is quite possible that this is a confused post, but it is also possible that you are reading value judgments into my words that I did not intend.

I think Bernini illustrated the story of St. Teresa and Michelangelo illustrated the story of Genesis just as surely as Gannam illustrated the story of that housewife receiving a new blanket. For me, they are all examples of the same art form.

Clearly, there are some differences between them. For example, Bernini was a far better sculptor than Gannam, but I'll bet Gannam was a better water colorist than Bernini.

Another key difference is that in Bernini's day, illustrations were commissioned by Popes and Cardinals and Medicis, who were interested in promoting religious principles. In Gannam's day, illustrations were commissioned by corporations interested in promoting merchandise. (I'm sure if Gannam were born 400 years earlier, he would have happily worked for Popes and Cardinals.)

The obvious conclusion from comparing the two images is that a wool blanket seems a superficial, materialistic subject matter compared to religious ecstasy or the origin of the world. Let's all agree it would be easy to write a "woe is us" blog post about how artists today work for crass, materialistic clients.

But wait a minute, who says one picture is artistically superior to another, just because its subject matter is more religious? I have seen some pretty crummy religious art and some really great advertising art. So my reaction is, let's dig a little deeper, not to be disrespectful but to dis-enthrall ourselves. I hear from people worshipping art in modern art museums that look like cathedrals, and people worshipping art in cathedrals that look like cathedrals. They are all eager to impute the grandeur surounding the art to the quality of the art itself. They complain, "you're not allowed to compare commercial illustration with what I do."

Well, maybe I am and maybe I'm not.

When we think about what these two examples-- Bernini and Gannam-- have in common, I found it interesting that after all these years, illustrators are still rendering their subjects in paroxysms of ecstasy. Bernini and Gannam have both learned to portray body language that their audiences readily recognize. There is an argument to be made that is it is silly to show that housewife in ecstasy over a dopey blanket (which was my first reaction). But as long as we're deconstructing images, I don't see why the Bernini piece (which I also love) is above scrutiny. If Bernini was insulted by the comparison, I would tell him he shouldn't get insulted so easily.

4/30/2013 5:14 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

There seems to be no tension in Thersa's face, no raising in the muscles of her checks, no smile of self satisfaction, a quivering yes, but not personal satisfaction. Her eyes roll down  perpendicular to the axis of her face and then fall with gravity.  Her face  feels like it is in collapse, the jaw slackening, opening her mouth reflexively as all resistance has left the body. Gravity seems to control her  (especially in contrast to the angel).  Which to me conveys in form, surrender, and what is being surrendered, the idea of the personal self,  which is at the heart of most spiritual traditions.  As Christ said not my will but thy will.

The body language of the Gannam's is active, the arms are outstretched, shoulders held up in the ego driven activity of getting what I want.  The faces smile with cheeks held high reflecting the personal pleasure of their own comfort and psychological satisfaction.   And I guess he wants you to believe the proper bedding is going to bring you some sort of peace and contentment.  Contrast that to the energy of Saint Theresa's  which seems to have dissolve lacking  any strong internal or external direction.

People understand the meanings of art and they understand when art is being used to sell them a bill of goods, no matter how talented the artist is.

4/30/2013 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Mr. Apatoff, I really enjoy your blog and enjoy your comments and I also enjoy the pleasure which you clearly bring to your work on the posts. So I'm not trying to beat you up, not at all, rather I struggle trying to explain myself and it is you who take all the risk. Yes, your comparison was clear enough. There are ways of looking at the two areas of art together
for particular points as many of your posts do.

The challenge here is for me to explain why it would be unfair to compare an illustration of a favored name with a master like a Michelangelo or Bernini and to do so without repeating myself too much.

The medieval and renaissance artists did the heavy lifting, developing and discovering all those things the illustrators simply inherited as mentioned. It would be ahistorical to place them together and view them through 21st century eyes; that would be, through our own predilections, but also removing them from their own cultural and artistic context. Historically speaking, the question then is, not who did the same things well, but what did illustrators bring to the game which wasn't already there. Would that serve illustration well or does illustration as a highly skilled and demanding livelihood deserve its own type of appreciation?

Oddly, museums are being redesigned to place works from different eras and genres together in exactly a manner which reduces one to the level of another and to the detriment of both. For example, here in Columbus there is a small room of Impressionist paintings which now has a pop art piece installed of day-glo colors of green and orange if I remember rightly. You can imagine what the day-glo colors do to the subtle colors of the Impressionist paintings. There is also a room of
a large photo and some illustrations with minor pieces from graphic and fine art, none of which seems to work very well and the title of the room is called Love and War. Why no one knows or much cares but this is the current state of things.

So it's not a matter of the Bernini being above scrutiny, but is it an esoteric subject which requires being greatly flattened to achieve a certain comparison. The underpinnings of pictorial structures in pictures and sculptures up to and through the Renaissance were surprisingly complex and multilayered. In the 17th century even more complexity was added. Not only did circulation interweave with an underlying structure, but it also moved and spoke intimately with the subject matter on levels that are remarkable to contemplate even today.

Rather than continuing to explain images without images, I will leave you with a piece of music (below) which has a religious title but it has no bearing on my point. The music takes about five minutes to complete and develops slowly, requiring a patience and openness which is ever in short supply. In other words, it is out of context with our ordinary world and so we can't see, hear, nor feel such within our own being in the normal environment.
Thus we have art and for this one I like to keep my eyes closed as it plays through. When it's done, you may have a better idea of what I'm driving at and why certain subjects inspire and require a certain delicacy on the part of the audience and that not all comparisons are beneficial or work without radically altering their intended meaning to make them fit a desired outcome.

The day-glo colors next to the Impressionist colors are like pouring sugar and spoilt milk on top of cottage cheese over a hamburger and yet it was done by a museum curator.

This is a conversation which could go in many directions and cover a lot of interesting things, but for this moment I will just say thank you for your good blog and sharing your interesting thoughts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etpBf77314c

5/01/2013 1:18 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sean,

I share your love of the art of the renaissance era, and this sculpture by Bernini in particular. But you are incorrect to assert that all illustration's heavy lifting was done then. For one thing, those eras were lifting from the heavy lifting done by the Greeks. Weren't they? Wasn't one of the driving point of the renaissance to recover the civilization that had been lost in the dark ages?

And you seem to think that there was no aesthetic development after the renaissance. Well that's just plain not true. And I wonder if you've even investigated the matter. Aesthetic development continued and continued with great intellectual churning long after the renaissance. Up to and through the Golden Age of Illustration, as far as I can tell. From the end of the medieval era, it was one long period of aesthetic tumult and development that only petered out with the rise of pretension and hype, which was not exclusive to the commercial world.

Sure some artistic values were lost over time, but some values were gained too. Some knowledge became outdated. Some knowledge took a very long time to develop. I don't see how anybody can not look of the sheer invention of the best of Golden Age illustration and not be bowled over. I don't see how one can look at the work of Brangwyn and Sorolla and Fechin and think it could have been made in 1650.

Now, I agree that the Tide box picture doesn't fit the bill in terms of artistry. But those first two Gannam's are quite deep in their compositional craft indeed, even if the pieces are being used to peddle blankets. If you are an artist yourself, I'd be interested if you actually understood what he was doing. Because it isn't classicism.

And it is probably so that not all ecstasies are equal. And maybe, especially if you are devout in your religion or ideology, not all proselytizing is merely adverting hype either. David, no doubt, had a little mischief in mind here. All in good fun, as far as I'm concerned.

5/01/2013 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Hello Kev,
Actually, pictorial composition and the development of perspective was developed in the Medieval period. Some structure lines developed from the grid, some from the letter forms and some from understandings that grew as the picture plane was better understood and this latter part became a specialty of Degas. I never actually said it only developed in the Medieval period and Renaissance.

Much credit goes to the Orators or commentators who were seeing parallels between linguistics and visual art as they were trying to revive the old Roman Latin which had devolved into monk's latin and this story is told by Michael Baxandall in Giotto and the Orators, Oxford Warburg Studies.

There were other influences born of the same era and yes, it was an exciting intellectual era as the ancient works were influencing the time. Such certainly added to the climate.

Yes, Austin Briggs, Noel Sickles and many others brought something unique in their personal approach to drawing, but....is that enough to hang next to a Cezanne or Degas? Should a Gordon Grant hang next to the same? Do the Gannam pieces have enough to hang next to Degas and Cezanne? Yes his composition was sound though the space for copy is wanting without it in the second one. He had a master's facility with watercolor, but is that enough? David says yes and the museums say no. I say no because none of these artists brought enough that wasn't there before and they already chose their purpose and intention ahead of time. The work will be loved as will America's happy sound for some time. It is not profound stuff but excellent, sound and inventive in its own right. I'm content that people are taking an interest in the illustration for its own sake.

This is so obvious to me that I really don't understand the persistence otherwise.

If you have an interest in structure lines and how they were used in composition I can share my blog with you at: http://www.aboveboards-art.blogspot.com/

5/01/2013 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Hi Kev,
Just a bit about proficiency as merit. The 19th century had a different kind of problem. It produced a ton of excellent academic drawings and paintings, many of which are still affordable because there are still so many around. No one would consider them worthy of hanging in museums for the same reasons the curators don't recognize illustration.

5/01/2013 3:50 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

You clearly haven't really looked at Golden Age Illustration.

Proficiency-as-merit is your own straw man red herring. Don’t know what you are arguing against there. Or what you kind of blanket assertion you are implying about 19th century art.

I started investigating “structure lines” in art when I was a kid. Sorry if I don’t find your straight line overlays all that revealing.

When I guessed earlier that you hadn't really investigated post-renaissance aesthetics, I didn’t expect to be able to prove it so readily. This is from your blog:

At the following link is a post called The Origins of Empathy in Art, in which the writer credits a little known German concept (Einfuhlung) from the late 19th century for what so many experience standing before a Morandi. I really didn't know what to make of this, but then thought about the almost flesh like earth tones and little groupings mentioned and wondered, could there be something to it?

If you haven't investigated Einfuhlung then you really haven’t begun to think about composition. That you think Einfuhlung (which goes by many other names) is a “little known” concept just beats the nail into the wood.

Now consider the tone of presumptive authority you’ve taken so far in this discussion.

5/02/2013 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Kev,
Morandi denied any intention regarding the human like qualities of his bottles, which is why the sentence was placed in the inquisitive. I'm glad the concept was familiar to you but I never came across it before and obviously it was noteworthy to the writer of The Origins in Empathy page. If it never occurred to Morandi, did it occur to Giotto?

Illustration didn't make its move away from literalism for almost 50 years into the 20th century. Do you have a problem with this sentence?

The liberated color, expressionism, cubism and the fragmentation of imagery, were all broken through half a century and before names like Briggs, Potter, Peak, David Stone Martin and others incorporated some of the same exploration to the field of illustration. In my words, the fine artists did the heavy lifting.

I think Tom on this page showed an objective exploration of the Bernini and he did so while also putting the artwork in its historical context.

After reading the comments on the previous post as David suggested I was dumbfounded at the hostility toward a commentator who was making a valid point regarding the academic nature of the Menzel. Referring to the Nazi regime and its literalism might have seemed offensive, but it was historically true.

If you already know everything, then my pages aren't for you, but don't accuse me of being presumptuous when my purpose was to defend the Bernini against an ahistorical comparison to a handful giddy commercial illustrations and an insinuation that the single Bernini and therefore pre 20th century artists were but hired hands selling ecstasy like a new washing machine. Who was being glib?

If not proficiency, then upon just what criteria is illustration being equated with the greats of fine art? What I said was the 19th century was filled with proficient artists and so I will add for clarification, whose work never saw any great fame or fortune. So it will be for so many of the 20th century fine artists, whose experiments added up to little.

I love the illustrators and what they did upon the groundwork of the fine artists under the constraints of commercialism. I own some illustrations by some of the biggest names. But in the face of a Degas, illustration is child's play. Would there have been interesting Weaver compositions without the influence of Degas? That doesn't mean Weavers' work isn't loved. Yes, we can go backwards and compare illustrators with lesser fine artists, but what's the point, there's no serious illustrator would have believed they were a Bernini, Michelangelo, Cezanne or Degas and if they did, they would have been very unhappy and frustrated people.

5/02/2013 9:53 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Yeah, Sean, I read what you wrote. You don't understand Einfuhlung. That's point one.

Point two is that the concept was named by an academic who didn't have the capacity to actually investigate the matter. And just because he was the one who gave it that name, doesn't mean he's the first guy to give it a thought. In fact, questions of sympathetic and empathetic responses to art constitute an enormous body of investigation by artists and philosophers that lasted about 500 years. Ultimately it has to be investigated in the studio and in actual practice. But if you want to start somewhere, begin with Hegel's aesthetics.

Your emphasis on literalism and proficiency derives from the above limitation in your knowledge base. And what is revealed by the following:

The liberated color, expressionism, cubism and the fragmentation of imagery, were all broken through half a century and before names like Briggs, Potter, Peak, David Stone Martin and others incorporated some of the same exploration to the field of illustration. In my words, the fine artists did the heavy lifting.

Clearly, you don't yet have the capacity to see expression in composition unless it is made so obvious to you that it sits on the surface like a piece of text.

Nor can I expose you to the vast array of works of Illustration that you seem unaware of which happened prior to the era of ANDY WARHOL.

A non sequitor, possibly: If I'm not mistaken, one's computer's IP address will be visible to the webmaster of this blog site, no matter which name one posts under.

5/02/2013 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Hello Kev,
If we were talking over a beer, I'm sure I would enjoy listening to you and your company.
Clearly this and clearly that aside, I never have met an artist in person whom I found unenjoyable and that's because most work really hard and are humbled by all there is to know and they how they can never know it all.

I visit this blog because I like seeing things I don't know, often obscure minor works which are none the less enjoyable. David does a nice job finding these and his comments are also enjoyable. Sometimes he hits a gem and that's what makes it worth really worth it. This time it was confused, offensive and undermining of his cause as I saw it and so I stated my case and he graciously defended himself.

Now here I am listening to you school me on what is it you're actually saying? That clearly I'm not up to understanding why unspecified illustration works are equivalent to Bernini and Degas?

Are you saying the concept pertains to the Morandi or not? Yes, I get the idea, but wasn't familiar with the specific application to Morandi's little bottles.

The purpose of my blog is to explore and explain movement and directional devises as they were used and to offer some insights regarding such which aren't rehashed from other sources. If you don't like it, then you don't like it, fair enough.
If you have something to else to say then do a blog, I would love to read it, especially the part of why Bernini, Degas and Cezanne owe something to American illustration.

5/02/2013 2:37 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

One of the real frustrations of this blog for me is that sometimes my other responsibilities prevent me from weighing in for days at a time, and during that period many interesting and thought provoking comments may have come and gone.

On the other hand, one of my greatest sources of pride in connection with this blog is the thoughtful, erudite discussions which take place between people who feel passionately about their views, but who are also comitted to a civil dialogue. I learn a great deal from my betters in these exchanges, and I thank you.

Perhaps the truest remark in the last few exchanges is Sean's point, "This is a conversation which could go in many directions and cover a lot of interesting things." Coming in late, after the moving finger has already writ and moved on, all I can do is flag a few of those interesting points, each of which could have turned into long, robust conversations.

Sean says that medieval and Renaissance artists did the heavy lifting, Kev says that the Greeks were doing heavy lifting long before that, and David says that when Picasso went to see the prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux (18,000 years old) he stumbled out awestruck and said "We have invented nothing."

I understand Sean's point that we miss some potentially important qualities when we take an "ahistorical" approach, and I certainly concur that we all have an obligation to educate ourselves so that we are able to recognize those important qualities so we don't throw them out. But I also believe that "flattening" objects to achieve a comparison can be important and illuminating. Sure, an historical approach may tell us who did the first heavy lifting, and originality is a fine and important thing to map, but after a while historical analyses and genealogy charts can put far more emphasis on novelty than the underlying aesthetics warrant. And yes, cultural context is also important, but I believe there is an important timelessness in great works of art, whether they are painted on the walls of caves or on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and for me art least that often takes priority over cultural context. I love ancient Egyptian sculpture even though I can't read hieroglyphs, and I love the drawings on ancient Greek urns even though I may not appreciate the full story being illustrated.

The museum room that Sean describes, with the impressionist pieces juxtaposed against pop art day glo colors, sounds awful at first blush, unless the curator was trying to say something along the lines of, "the impressionists started a trend by detaching color from its traditional role, and after a century of exploration look at where that process has taken us (for better or worse)." One can evision curatorial agendas of which you might even approve (for example, demonstrating how the subtler nuances of an earlier time clash with the awful din of today's day-glo). Or, it might just be a tasteless choice by some clown.

Kev wrote, "I don't see how anybody can not look of the sheer invention of the best of Golden Age illustration and not be bowled over." I'm certainly with you there. I think some truly remarkable and innovative things have been done under the heading of "illustration," even if we arbitrarily rule out the fine art illustration of Michelangelo or Rembrandt. I agree with Sean that most of the time I would prefer a Degas to the work of most illustrators, but Degas made some clinkers too, and so did Michelangelo. I hope I would have the character and integrity to prefer a superb Austin Briggs to a bad Degas. I hope I could "flatten" the two pictures enough to recognize which would give me the most long term pleasure and enrichment without regard to social status, economic value and intellectual pretensions.

(more later)

5/02/2013 2:59 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Illustration didn't make its move away from literalism for almost 50 years into the 20th century. Do you have a problem with this sentence?

Yes, literalism is a red herring.. There is no such thing except in photography. Everything is degrees of abstraction. The better the artist the more the audience is fooled by the abstractions into thinking what is on view is literalism. Start with Leyendecker here.

Yes, I get the idea, but wasn't familiar with the specific application to Morandi's little bottles.

Its not an idea you just "get" on an intellectual level. The more you pull on the string, the bigger the ball of yarn gets and the tighter the knot. The insights into the nature of communication, language, cognition, symbolism, and perception go on for miles.

If you had read Hegel you would be able to answer the Morandi question. Hint: It doesn't matter what Morandi said.

I would love to read it, especially the part of why Bernini, Degas and Cezanne owe something to American illustration.

Please point out to me where I said that.

I think it would help if you did an analysis of the first two Gannam's. I don't know whether you can draw and paint the figure or not, but I'd be interested to see if you know enough about composition to get a similar effect in an original work.

To that point; One of my favorite thinkers, Richard Feynman died with a great saying left on his chalkboard, which I've adopted as my basic criticism for most of the internet art analysis I've seen, and most of the art analysis I, myself, have done:

"What I cannot create, I do not understand".

5/02/2013 3:11 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

(cont.)

Thank you, Sean, for that lovely version of "Let all mortal flesh keep silent." Believe it or not, I am a fan of music that offers a slow and gentle unfolding (the second movement of the Emperor Concerto, the second movement of Beethoven's 7th, Faure's Requiem Mass, etc.) but I don't think of the Bernini sculpture that way; I think of the Bernini, despite its delicate facial features, as a more theatrical piece, with all those folds demonstrating a pretty flashy (dare I say it?) technical vituosity. Where is the restraint and simplicity?

Kev writes: "David, no doubt, had a little mischief in mind here." Guilty.

Sean, perhaps I have been fighting battles too long on this blog against people who tell me that I am not allowed to apply normal standards to some cherished artist because of extenuating circumstances. I'm told that Jeff Koons' crappy paintings aren't really as bad as they look because he is culturally significant. I am apparently not allowed to judge Chris Ware's bad drawing because his tragic concepts transcend their visual implementation. I have to overlook Art Spiegelman's mediocre drawing because after all he won a Pulitzer. I can't criticize Tracey Emin's moronic platitudes because she is the future of art. It is in the best interests of these people to believe the skills they lack are irrelevant.

These commenters accuse me of losing important qualities in the "flattening" process. When they do, I like to think I can be opened minded to evaluating just how important those other qualities are (and whether they mean the artist's real strength might be as a writer, or a sociologist, or a psychiatrist instead of an artist). But much of the time, I find the extenuating qualities they propose unpersuasive.

For example, the philosophical "concepts" behind much of today's "conceptual art," seem better suited for fortune cookies.

All of which goes to say that if someone writes that I can't flatten an analysis of a Bernini sculpture because it would blasphemous or irreligious or ahistorical to do so, my natural reaction is to dig in my heels. I think a better reaction might be to distinguish between extenuating circumstances that are designed to evade critical thinking (as in the comments listed above) and extenuating circumstances that are designed to promote critical thinking.

5/02/2013 3:33 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

but....is that enough to hang next to a Cezanne...?

After a faux pas of this magnitude, I'm desperate enough to give anybody a shot.

5/02/2013 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

David,
I appreciate your notes here very much and their thoughtfulness reads beautifully and is most healing. I really am most happy you took the time to write them. Your post on Tracy Emin was fantastic, one of my all time favorites.

It is also true that a certain aspect of eroticism is part of western mysticism, though erotic in the sense of being carried away. As when one is in love or thinks they are, they get carried away and of course Theresa is being carried away. It implies a transport, but is not erotica as in salacious or sexually motivated.

The lifted folds imply weightlessness and Tom caught the involuntary nature of Theresa in the divine experience and of course her heart being taken out of her may imply that she is no longer her own, but belongs united to the divine. This is part of the exquisite sculpture.

I have no qualm with Kev. My point is simply that pictorial composition owes itself to European artists and can't be reversed. It's history and nothing can really be disconnected from it, but also, that the sophistication of Degas' compositions leaves many scratching their heads no matter how well schooled they are. His thinking is remarkable and evidence that there really is something called genius.

As per the page I shared: What I was doing was offering the well known descriptions of Morandi's work and explaining my belief that the composition was integral to the contemplative, intimate and empathetic (?) reality people experience before them. Then I offered the second opinion explaining the experience and left it in a manner where it may have been one or the other or both though that wasn't explained, but implied by the inquisitive tone of the sentence.

I suspect the jumbling that was going on in the Columbus Museum of Art was a kind of Post Modernist political game dethroning and equivocating all things. It may have been something meant to liven things up, but if it was, it made little visual sense to me.

I am going to copy and paste the entire page of these comments and save them as evidence that peace can be experienced on a comments board! But also as reference for the many things offered in my direction from both yourself and Kev.

In answer to Kev, I do draw everyday and for a living. Though I'm not a painter I love drawing more today than I did thirty five or forty years ago.
It is possible to use the devises once one knows that they exist. Yes I have analyzed images from across the illustration eras.

David, I certainly sympathize with your frustration over the post modern era of fine art and you are not alone. The era really hasn't produced a single important artist and that's not healthy.

Life is hard, but being human is really hard.
David and Kev, thank you.

5/02/2013 9:31 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Well, Sean, you seem like a good person, and you're ok in my book.

Pictorial composition had a lot of developments in the United States, resulting in unique pictorial solutions. We have stood on the shoulders of giants, but we reached quite high too, once perched.

Aside from great illustrators one can't quite classify who have original styles which alone make unique contributions to the history of pictorial composition (Leyendecker, Gruger, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, Rockwell, Fuchs, Heindel, Phil Hale, etc) one can cite Tonalism (Inness, Dewing, Whistler, Thayer, Arthur Frank Mathews, Thomas Sgouros, etc), Gari Melchers , The American Imagists (Homer, DeForest Brush, Remington, Tenney Johnson, Pyle, and the Pyle Imagist legacy which includes Harvey Dunn, Walter Everett, The Wyeths, Dean Cornwell, Parrish, Mead Schaeffer, Von Schmidt, Bernie Meltzoff, Frazetta, Jeff Jones and others), The Red Rose Girls, The American Impressionists/New Hope (Sargent, Childe Hassam, Daniel Garber, Cassat, Paxton, Chase), Frank V. DuMond's color palette, Pennsylvania Impressionists, Hudson River, The Cape Cod School (Hawthorne/Hensche), Taos Society (Blumenschein, Dunton, Berninghaus) Ashcan School plus Edward Hopper, John F. Carlson, Edgar Payne, Frederick Waugh, and the American Western Landscape artists.. etc.

I mean, I can go on and on with this list. The ball was pushed forward in a lot of different directions in a very short period of time in the good ol' U.S. The Imagist, Tonalist, and Cape Cod schools alone legitimize American Art, in my estimation.

5/02/2013 11:17 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc-- Cezanne originally wanted to use nude models for that bather series but chickened out-- a combination of fear of scandal from the neighbors and his own personal inhibitions. His timidity and the resulting lack of direct observation is one explanation why his figures are so asexual and generalized. I guess we don't need to worry about the sexual undertones in his painting.

Sean Farrell writes: "a certain aspect of eroticism is part of western mysticism, though erotic in the sense of being carried away.... It implies a transport, but is not erotica as in salacious or sexually motivated."

I'm impressed by the way you believe sex stays within its corral. In my experience, nothing jumps fences from one category to the next like sex (whether we're talking about the the intentions of the artist or the perceptions of the audience). Without impugning the motives of Bernini or his church going audience, I didn't expect my reference to the potential sexual implications of the sculpture to be the least bit controversial. I assumed it was a commonly recognized phenomenon in art. For example, last year on Don Pittenger's excellent blog ( http://artcontrarian.blogspot.com/2012/02/sex-and-sanctity-temptation-of-st.html ) He posted over a dozen examples of paintings of The Temptation of St. Anthony, writing: "This subject proved to be catnip for many artists because they had the theme of extreme piety with which to wrap images of lovely, usually naked women." Whether this is conscious or subconscious, I didn't view it as being shameful for the artists involved.


5/03/2013 3:48 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara and Sean Farrell-- it seems to me that people who compare illustration to "high" art and find it lacking-- less profound, more commercial, more derivative, etc.-- are generally comparing it to high art from a century or more ago. They want to "hang it next to a Degas," but that is not today's fine art. If the alternative to illustration is not Degas, but Hirst or Currin, does that change the calculus? For those of you who eschew ahistorical art criticism, or believe in comparing apples to apples in proper cultural context, shouldn't we be comparing the "commercialism" of illustration with the commercialism of Jeff Koons? Shouldn't we be comparing the "profundity" of illustration with the profundity of Tracey Emin or Jenny Holzer?

We can talk about how illustration compares to Degas or Michelangelo, but for purposes of this one comment I would like to posit that, at least in our era, illustration is no more commercial and no less profound than what museums call "fine art."

Tom-- I agree with your description of Teresa's physical appearance, but not necessarily with the conclusion you draw from that appearance. You write that Teresa's appearance, "to me conveys in form, surrender, and what is being surrendered, the idea of the personal self, which is at the heart of most spiritual traditions." Well yes, but surrender is also at the heart of most sexual traditions, and the physical characteristics you've described seem virtually identical. I would not feel I am in a position to exclude one of two plausible interpretations of the same characteristics, although I might have my own favorite interpretations. More importantly, the ambiguity would not bother me. I think ambiguity is central to a lot of great art. But apparently the ambiguity bothers you, and you want to rule it out. Or am I wrong?

5/03/2013 4:43 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Sean Farrell and Kev Ferrara-- One last point on the high art / low art distinction (forgive me, I'm making up for lost time).

Many people write in appalled that illustrators use reference photographs, which they view as proof of the insincerity and crass commercialism of illustration. I assume we all recognize that Degas and Cezanne also worked from photographs (as did Lautrec, Bonnard, etc. etc.)?

5/03/2013 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

The world is experiencing a crisis of meaning.
Meaning being a type of authority which brings
order to the endless volumes of disassociated
fragments of knowledge. An absence of meaning in
the face of so much knowledge accounts for
the debasing of many things, including art.

The piece of music did attest to a different world,
as something in the heart rings true lifting one to a thoughtfulness which is recognizably beautiful. It's what I think some art once strove. The music carries us away despite a limited association with the concept of ecstasy. The subject of knowledge and love, or knowledge and meaning remains a mystery
and yet we recognize it.

We really don't know the relationship of meaning to
kindness to knowledge. In a real way, we are lost
and so have also lost our art. Billions of opinions within meaningless parameters have only made the matter worse.

No longer able to experience the sublime,
we seek what we think is the best possible alternative by a democratizing process where in all is filtered by our more pedestrian sensibilities. In a failure to achieve even a compromise with chaos, we begin to unwittingly debase things and sometimes intentionally debase things just to cope.

So it is not knowledge, but how it integrates into
life, or which or what has authority? The same
applies to art. Which is serving what? We are living in
an internet Tower of Babel where millions of people
need an exit ramp to get in and out of their
driveways. Yet, it's not the volume of people, nor the
volume of knowledge, but that all is rambling
without the benign protection of a larger context.

In this crisis of meaning, it doesn't matter how great
an artist or a piece of artwork is, because we can't
or won't recognize its authority, beauty or greatness.
We don't have the tools, that is, the humility to do so. We have democratized all that away into a sea of meaninglessness. Good illustration verses bad fine art may may not solve anything in the long run. Even a single piece of art could bring order back to this if it became a benchmark.

We've also lost some simple things like writing letters as a means to extend an existing relationship, but which was never meant to establish them.

Since we don't know each other, there's a whole
process we skip in such an exchange and there
is a natural protective aggression in that process. I
appreciate the graciousness to let this go rather than wrestle each word to the ground trying to figure it all out.

We forget that thousands of overnight sensations have been washed away in the last century. In time the good art will find its place as meaning recovers from its dissolution. That is the real menace in all of this. The art will sort itself out later.

Laugh as we may, the story of the little tree and
protective love has a funny resonance to it today.

Thanks Kev for your note and David too.

5/03/2013 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

To etc. etc.- The composition wasn't lost on Norman Rockwell. A couple of his most famous paintings used it.

5/03/2013 1:00 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean,

don't stop there... which ones ?

5/03/2013 3:44 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

We really don't know the relationship of meaning to kindness to knowledge. In a real way, we are lost and so have also lost our art. Billions of opinions within meaningless parameters have only made the matter worse.

Lot of "we's" in your last post.

I think many of us are in agreement that the current seemingly infinite proliferation of information has brought us all no closer to wisdom or happiness. And many of us, certainly myself, decry the loss of "meaning."

How we define meaning, and what we each believe the cause of its loss is, is a different question. With lots more than one answer.

A couple of his most famous paintings used it.

That's quite an extraordinary claim. Do you have any proof? Frankly, only a few Cezanne picture hold any interest to me aesthetically. And that particular one certainly wasn't one of them. In fact, it's so bad, it looks like good Matisse.

5/03/2013 3:49 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Yes, which Rockwells? I'd love to see them.

5/03/2013 4:06 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean,

sorry for coming in a bit late, this should have been picked up earlier. your quotes:

"is that enough to hang next to a Cezanne or Degas?"

"I say no because none of these artists brought enough that wasn't there before and they already chose their purpose and intention ahead of time".

Degas i dig.
Cezanne ? personally, given the choice, i'll take a Rockwell (a mere illustrator !) original painting over a Cezanne any day.

by coincidence i picked up a book on Rockwell today in a shop in London. the reproductions of 'Jury Room' and 'Teacher's Birthday' were so good (compared to the one's in the book i have) that it was almost like seeing them for the first time. the surface quality of each like velvet. if the background of 'Jury Room' was dropped back to near black then it would basically be Caravaggio circa 1959. i'd love to know what Cezanne image you think is comparable.

5/03/2013 4:22 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Well, you know what Anne says! (Twit that she is.)

5/03/2013 5:27 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I like Cezanne says Anne, it is  how you say,so French! Up and down, so light, so gay(happy).  

The Cezanne that etc, etc posted of the bathers is almost the exact compositional arrangement of Rockwell's turkey painting from the freedom of want series.  The figures arranged within a triangle on the center of the canvas.  The apex of Cezanne's triangle being completed by the trees Rockwell's by the grandparents, the figures balancing on the left and right hand side of the vertical axis of the triangle.  Cezanne runs his figures left and right acknowledging the vertical picture plane of the canvas, Rockwell's running back in space along the horizontal plane of the table.

Many of Rockwell paintings where he divides people into two groups  along a central axis  in profile view, like in the painting Moving day are very similar to Cezanne's card players paintings.

If you can compare Bernini to Gannam what's the big deal comparing Rockwell to Cezanne?

5/03/2013 6:18 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

No, no, no, Rockwell's triangular figural groups were all influenced by The Pyramids at Giza.

5/03/2013 6:51 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

The Cezanne that etc, etc posted of the bathers is almost the exact compositional arrangement of Rockwell's turkey painting from the freedom of want series.

The triangle as a composition device is at least as old as the tympana of Greek temples. Unless there is some historical documentation, to entertain the notion that Rockwell must have lifted the idea from Cezanne is thoroughly absurd.

5/03/2013 6:52 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Yes the triangle  has been around a long long time, even the Egyptians used it!  Thank you  very much.  So who could lift the idea of a triangle?

I think Sean wrote  the "composition wasn't lost on Rockwell".  The composition is the arrangement of the picture. Now your just going to argue over ownership of the triangle or whether there is evidence we can find that proves a connection between Rockwell and Cezanne. Heck ( just having fun here) even the the nude with her backside in the lower right hand corner of the Cezanne has almost the  same directional thrust as Rockwell's gravy bowel in the lower right hand corner of his painting.   Don't the two figures on the distance shore in the Cezanne look a lot like the salt and pepper shakers on Rockwell's table?  Aren't the curtains in the Rockwell the  perfect mimic of Cezanne's trees?  Doesn't the chair rail in The Rockwell function in much the same manner as the ground line in the Cezanne?   Are you saying their is no similarity in the compositions,  or artists can not use the same means while rendering the facts of reality in very different ways?  Whether and influence can be directly proved or not doesn't seem to matter.

Or wait, maybe "Hegel" can help us out here, didn't he say something like the triangle is coming to know itself as itself through the universl will that spirit manifests in all artists.

5/03/2013 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Hi Kev,
The list of American artists you mentioned are at little risk of losing their audiences anytime soon and thanks for the list. Yes, a lot of "we's", sorry about that. I know it's not news, but it is a major part of the art dilemma.

Yes, what kind of meaning and how we arrive at it is
the issue, but starting with something like, life is good, should be something people could agree on, but unfortunately "we" can't. So this thing is going to play out for a long while.

Do I have proof about the Cezanne? No, I don't have proof, then again whose on trial? But consider that Cezanne was only the major influence on Cubism which was the rage during Rockwell's young life.

What did Degas think of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin? From those three we got the major movements of Cubism, Expressionism and the decorative artists. Could we blame Degas for the 20th century since it all followed those three? Vuillard, I wonder if he influenced any illustrators?

Was anyone comparing Rockwell to Cezanne? I just think he made use of what was yes, a very old "A" composition, but one which happened to get an infusion of interest with Cezanne and his square, circle, triangle idea. Was that all there was to Cezanne? If seeing Cezanne in Rockwell seems absurd, then seeing Degas in Rockwell must also be absurd. That's why Rockwell is fun to study, he learned from others and it's fairly transparent, but without proof, I better not see that turkey sitting on a crossbar.

It's so bad it looks like Matisse. Yes, that Degas had a lot of nerve didn't he, promoting those primitives and leading to folks like Matisse. If anyone hasn't seen this TV show on The Impressionists it might be fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuknSLbOxDc

5/04/2013 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Sorry, it was cubes, cones and spheres. I was thinking of how they appeared in the work of others as circles, squares (rectangles), triangles and sometimes "A" forms.

There are many links describing the enormity of Cezanne's influence, but this is a fair place to begin.

http://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/paul-cezanne-still-life-with-apples-1895-98

5/04/2013 8:28 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Give us a break Sean.

You ask who is on trial here.

Well, you are the one making bold claims in order to promote your view of things.

That it turns out your claims are based on nothing more than "no I don't have proof, but it could have been within the realm of possibility" means you are wasting our time.

You asserted something as so, that is not remotely probable. Given Rockwell was born into an era when great teachers and great art was all around him, incredible examples of figural groupings and compositional mastery, the idea that he would be influenced by some childish piece of trash is pretty much zero.

Your linking of Degas into the matter is just tendentious to the point of madness. This is not logic: If Rockwell appreciates Degas, and Degas appreciates Cezanne, then Rockwell appreciates Cezanne. Do you accept that your reasoning is fallacious?

The list of American artists you mentioned are at little risk of losing their audiences anytime soon.

Passive aggressive much?

Or wait, maybe "Hegel" can help us out here, didn't he say something like the triangle is coming to know itself as itself through the universl will that spirit manifests in all artists.

Punching in the dark, you are unlikely to hit anything. You're too smart for that, Tom.

5/04/2013 8:41 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Heck ( just having fun here) even the the nude with her backside in the lower right hand corner of the Cezanne has almost the same directional thrust as Rockwell's gravy bowel


Have fun all you want, but you can't see the forest for the trees. Cezanne's triangle forms an aperture view into the distance with two figural groups at the corners of the base, the groups placed well inside the picture boundaries. Those are the fundamental, elemental features of the composition and, beyond forming a triangle, they differ very much from the Rockwell.

5/04/2013 10:09 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

I'm not saying Rockwell didn't have that Cezanne in mind, but anyone willing to draw such a connection ought to be a little more open minded about the possibility that there are sexual undertones to Bernini's Teresa.

5/04/2013 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

There's a distinction between ignorance and an absence of familiarity with something. In a sense we are always in some state of ignorance or we wouldn't seek knowledge and truths which is a virtue in itself. But ignorance often infers a harshness. For example when one virtue is twisted to wage war on other virtues and so other people.

It's evidence of the failure of art schools that many students left school unfamiliar with the importance of Cezanne upon the 20th century, (and Degas' support). Art history has Degas and Cezanne right.

The "A" appeared in another of Rockwell's more famous paintings, but skewed, though in a graphic sense it appeared in early vignettes and so too, distinct squares and circles which looked very much like the way some applied Cezanne's observations to
graphic art. But this is an observation I offer not in contest, but simply as an observation of what is in the work. True, the Cezanne isn't exactly the same composition as the Rockwell, but a distinct part of it I'm referring to is the crossbar which he used with intention.

I read Theresa of Avila more than two decades ago, but remember her writing as unpretentious, warm, thoughtful, sober, insightful, intimate like a friend though over 400 years old and sometimes funny and even sarcastic. Despite writing something readers could only partially comprehend, the woman seemed to have cultivated some virtues. I wonder how many other people having offered an opinion on the sculpture, possibly had no familiarity with her at all?

In the 1970s there was a revival of direct painting. John Button, Neil Welliver, Janet Fish, Rakshaw Downes and the work of Fairfield Porter were all enjoying much acclaim. They are largely forgotten, but illustration has enjoyed a huge revival of interest with the 100 Years of Illustration books and sites like this one.

5/05/2013 11:00 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sean,

You really aren't aware of what that era of illustration was like, who the illustrators looked up to, what they studied. their aesthetics. Your assertion that Rockwell was influenced by Cezanne has little possibility of being true.

It would be nice if you admitted it was pure guesswork on your part,

I do draw everyday and for a living. Though I'm not a painter I love drawing more today than I did thirty five or forty years ago.

Would you mind pointing us toward some of your work. A lot of what you are writing sounds a lot like trolling. And if we can see your work, maybe we can be sure you are being serious. And maybe we can understand more where you are coming from.

5/05/2013 2:29 PM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

Cezanne’s great, insightful contribution to the history of art was his invention of a visual grammar that is highly focused around its modular syntax for his artistic meaning to be read. This meaning transposes up into his composition in general.

The ability to ‘read’ this syntax seems to require a particular, probably innate, type of sensibility which has led to him being widely misunderstood (particularly by his followers) and his pictorial grammar something that we are still not ‘used to’, even a hundred years after its inception.

Norman Rockwell’s geometrical devises are as old as the hills, as were Cezanne’s. Any commonality between them is inconsequential – it is the same as saying Vermeer is indebted to Poussin, or Morandi is indebted to Piero Della Francesca.

The formal syntax of those quivering, fluttering folds of the Bernini have absolutely everything to do with Cezanne’s great Mont St Victoire at the Pennsylvania Museum - a mountain and sky seen in terms of energy marshalled by its own attraction into refracted matter. The fact that both the Bernini and the Cezanne are sorts of triangle, utterly misses the point.

5/05/2013 3:41 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Kev, The Hegel quote was my best Hegel imitation, it was a joke.

David said
" But apparently the ambiguity bothers you, and you want to rule it out. Or am I wrong?"

No I don't want to rule anything out, I just looked at the pictures and tried to give you my response.  Maybe the sculpture is about the ecstasy of light which can be quite mind clearing.

Sexual ecstasy seems more active then what is portrayed. And don't you need a partner?  Do you feel the Gannam girls are in sexual ecstasy, I don't. Yes I can understand your comparison.  But  I don't think it is about finding satisfaction or completeness in the things of the world like sex.  It seems more in line with Stephen Dedalus  walking the sandy mount strand in Ulysses

"Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount strand? Crush, crack, crick, crick...See now.There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end."

Or a bird in flight
 It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, soaring high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of etheral bosom, high, of the vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessness...

The Bernini seems to address a different part of our being, then the Gannam's.



Etc etc
 What does it matter how close or how far we are from the triangle, it's aperture as you say. You are only viewing  the same thing from different distance.  One artist zooms in another steps back.  All there is is space, what does it matter if the space traveled is the distance of a dining room table or the plane of the landscape? If I am understanding your comment right.

5/05/2013 3:48 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Chris said
Norman Rockwell’s geometrical devises are as old as the hills, as were Cezanne’s. Any commonality between them is inconsequential – it is the same as saying Vermeer is indebted to Poussin, or Morandi is indebted to Piero Della Francesca. 


I don't know about that,  commonality could point to something quite profound.  Don't you find  it interesting that so many paintings that appear so different  can share the same compositional traits, or have so much in common?

5/05/2013 4:21 PM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

Tom:

Certainly the commonality of baton itself, passed from generation to generation, is profound. But the act of handing it over, and who hands it to whom, is not.

Compositionally, Cezanne carried the same baton that Poussin did, and that had been through many hands aeons before he picked it up. But Cezanne had found a new method of running with it. It flickered and flashed in his hand in a way that had never been seen before. Yet it was the same that had passed from the ancients, to the old masters, and into to the modern era.

5/05/2013 5:11 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

What does it matter how close or how far we are from the triangle

If you believe it does not matter, then it does not matter. However, that does not mean that a careful inductive study would corroborate your belief. That's about all I can muster when discussions like this wax poetic and panegyrical.

5/05/2013 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

I dropped the Rockwell comment to put a ball on the ground to kick around. Of course the crossbar is a single devise, bit it was used intentionally.
It's also true Cezanne's division of volume was influential on graphic arts even if unintended, or by misunderstanding.

http://books.google.com/books?id=ALQRcpeHiZgC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=cezanne+cube+cone+sphere&source=bl&ots=7MWObnXPdw&sig=opVZ1TimbAi20b2cTjH4W_ESYNE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VfWEUZY9hMLRAe7OgJAI&ved=0CFoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=cezanne%20cube%20cone%20sphere&f=false

Rockwell's early works were vignettes which employed the devises generously.

It was said that Rockwell played around with Dynamic Symmetry too, so he wasn't immune to the currents of his time and a misuse of the sphere, cone and cube was part of that current.

Part of Cezanne's influence was the turning of form
so we felt it more, and lifting planes in a manner that created a broken observation as if an edge were drawn at two different moments of observation, slightly different in point of view. This is what the Moma page was saying and along with numerous influences of modern life, opened a new world of fractured and moving pieces of the same image.
The idea went straight through the twentieth century and was influential upon almost everything.

It's not coincidental that Michael Levey's classic handbook is title From Giotto to Cezanne, because after Cezanne, everything changed.

To say its all the same baton is to miss a huge visual event that was Cezanne.

5/05/2013 7:23 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Cezanne Spam!

So, Sean, do tell us what the theory of vignettes was among illustrators. There are notes from the era that explain it. I'm sure you're up to speed on the matter.Fill us in.

a misuse of the sphere, cone and cube

Your imagination is running away with you because your knowledge of composition and illustration teaching is spotty. I really think it would be beneficial for us to see your artwork. If you do indeed make your living drawing with a pencil, by now your true knowledge, not your talking knowledge, must surely be well in evidence in your works.

Yes, Rockwell briefly tried then abandoned Dynamic Symmetry. What does that have to do with Cezanne? Or Maratta's color scales? Or Orphism? Or anything else that popped up in the arts in that era that Rockwell may have heard of or seen but which he didn't take up as an influence?

Ah, the Loran book rears its ugly head. Well, do you realize that Erle Loran got his understanding of Cezanne mostly from Hans Hoffman? Do you know that Hans Hoffman has admitted that he got his ideas for Push-Pull and the rest of it from Picasso. And Picasso has said that he received those ideas from his classical training.

This is not the only route by which one may explain that what Cezanne did was use what was already known in a new way. Exactly as Chris Bennett has already stated.

Even the form-turning that Cezanne employed was mostly developed by the Impressionists, (as well as those who had come immediately before them, their innovations more subtly utilized, so remaining unheralded.)

If it were up to me, Manet would be the one we would be talking about as the great innovator, rather than Cezanne. I would point you to Manet's Grand Canal at Venice of 1875.


5/05/2013 9:54 PM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

Cezanne always admitted a huge debt to Manet. His early works are laughably crude attempts to assimilate him. Cezanne’s great insight was to use his own ham-fisted shortcomings and turn them into a virtue by way of his ‘method’. This was not the same as a technical veneer with which to disguise his work, but a reduction of the language of painting to its elemental syntax such that he could say what was in him without the debilitating stuttering of his earlier efforts.

I share Kev’s, view of Manet. I remember when I first came across his ‘Le déjeuner sur l'herbe’ and ‘Olympia’ for the first time in Paris. I was there to see a big Impressionist show, but my visit to the Jeu de Paume to see these Manets in the original knocked me sideways. I remained gazing at these dark, magnificent dreams for hours and had to whip around the Impressionist show with the short time I had left. Very few paintings have hit me as hard as those two large canvases hanging side by side.

Image making since that time resembles a Manet far more than a Cezanne, regardless of how much one talks of the atomisation of the modern era. Cubism was merely an extrapolation of Cezanne’s syntax up into larger pictorial statements of his gesture. This has been backwards-argued by academics to assign it an influence on our current representational techniques which is almost entirely co-incidental. We must look to the understanding of our world through the relativistic lens of modern physics by way of the cinema (and latterly the browser culture) for the answer to that.

5/06/2013 6:52 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tom wrote: "Don't you find it interesting that so many paintings that appear so different can share the same compositional traits, or have so much in common?"

Well played! Anyone who claims (as I have) the right to compare the commonalities in Bernini and Gannam, or the commonalities in Menzel and Dine, had better get accustomed to people who see commonalities in Cezanne and Rockwell. What is sauce for the goose is certainly sauce for the gander.

In each of these cases, there is no way (absent a written confession from the artist, and maybe not even then) that either side can definitely prove the theory. The sole justification for one of these positions lies in its usefulness, its persuasiveness, and the insights it produces.

The only moderating principle I have found helpful is that truth is not likely to be found permanently at either extreme, with scylla or charybdis. It's possible to stretch and say that Rockwell was influenced by everyone or no one, but the purification process of critical thought (such as some of the comments here) is likely to leave us someplace in the middle.

Thanks, too, for your clarification that you were not ruling out the possibility of ambiguity in the Bernini. It is fine with me that you conclude the sculpture depicts exclusively religious ecstasy, and not the ecstasy of light or sexual ecstasy. (I would agree that religious ecstasy is the largest percentage of what we are seeing, but to me the ambiguity in the statue reflects the ambiguity inherent in ecstasy itself, and the overlapping ways in which our senses can be overwhelmed). I mistakenly thought you were subscribing to the notion floating around at the beginning of these comments that it was "disrespectful" to see something sexual in Bernini's sculpture. I have great respect for it, enough to place it in the broader context of humanity.

5/06/2013 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

All is fair in so many opinions. My point is that Cezanne is seismic (for the fracturing of the image) compared to the credit he received from this comment board. Yes, of course Manet was also hugely influential.

The second thing I was suggesting was that Rockwell was quite open minded, more so than given credit. The device I referred to, the crossbar, was more specific than general as is the pyramid. The skewed "A" of the Playbill is another example of the crossbar. The black dog in Soda Shop for example and again the cat in The Barber Shop are specific devises of homage. There's the hanging letters in Most Beloved American Writer which also come from a specific place and the same is used in his self portrait without the glasses. A specific device or concept of Rubens also appears in Most Beloved American Writer. The down and up hammer and anvil, is a direct and intentional usage from a specific artist too. Such adds to the pleasures of looking at his work.

Part of the fun of art is having an open and curious mind. Of course there are many other things in Rockwell which are specific to, or pay homage to a particular artist. None of his homage to others detracts from him as a fantastic painter, especially of light and flesh.

On the one hand, an accusation of not being of the process and on the other it seems permission is required from specific previous source before anyone should speak of an observation.

So I apologize to David for what I think was a mixed up post and I encourage you to keep saying whatever you want. It's true, I wasn't pleased with what you said, but I would rather endure one that is offensive every now and then, than to live in a prison. I will paraphrase a quote from Saint Theresa of Avila who said, There's nothing sadder than an unhappy saint. I think the same holds true for artists.



5/06/2013 9:03 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Its amazing how similar your mind works to some other posters who have recently posted on this blog under other names. You pretend to this holier-than-thou viewpoint, then dance away from your errors and unsubstantiated claims without so much as acknowledging them. This seems pathological, given how easy it is to just say "I was fishing and I overstepped my expertise and asserted something that probably wasn't true."

Here's what prominent illustrator Joseph Pennell wrote in the New York Times of December 5, 1915... just when Rockwell would have been receiving his first major illustration jobs...

"A painter whom Miss Meyer cites as one of the prophets of the new movement is Cezanne, one of the most serious duffers who ever lived, who was tolerated by the Impressionists, his contemporaries, only because he, with his father's money, hired a house for them outside Paris, where they could, undisturbed by the public and police, paint nudes in the open air. Cezanne, too, was not invented publicly and financially until the first Autumn Salon years after in Paris, and then at the instigation of an amateur dealer"

Yes, we know Rockwell referenced other artist who he admired in his tradition... Rosie the Riveter being the most prominent example. This obviously in no way gives credence to your idée fixe that Rockwell was influenced by Cezanne, who is outside his tradition.

The assertion that we deny the influence because we feel it would detract from Rockwell is another absurd accusation. It is simply a question of probability.

It hasn't even been pointed out yet that the "A" composition is as old as the hills, used a million times in different ways by hundreds of thousands of artists.Cezanne doesn't get the credit for it.

Sean, if that is your real name, you should have an open mind about the possibility that your book learning has its limits.

5/06/2013 12:17 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

What I would like to comment on is, David, your brilliant comparison of Teresa's ecstasy with Meg Ryan's simulated orgasm in the movie clip. I hadn't seen the movie, and so I was unprepared for the matron who witnesses it and says, "I'll have what she's having."
It was so sweet to hear that comment (I was expecting something more along the lines of, "Well I never!") and was something of a revelation, as I am one of those devout ladies who sits in the pews and wonders how to receive from God that kind of runaway grandeur that was experienced by some saints--like Teresa--into my own spiritual experience. I think that God does offer us ecstasy, but mostly we (I should talk in the first person, but I do think this pertains to many of us) prefer Control. Ecstasy, as at least one person has pointed out, requires utter abandonment, and that is frightening.

Ecstasy because of new sheets is, of course, improbable, and a pressure cooker definitely doesn't make the grade, but of course, the artists know that, and are only doing what advertisers DO. They suggest possible results from the use of their products that are impossible to measure, but that give potential consumers a certain indefinable FEEL that makes their product attractive.

I don't think it's too farfetched to put the desire for ecstasy from new sheets in the same category with desire for spiritual ecstasy, because in our consumer society, the siren voices of buying and selling are calling over the voice of the prophets. Consider that in old European towns, the largest and most prominent structure would be the church, and towns vied with one another to build the grandest one. Now, in most any town, the most imposing structure--surrounded as it is with acres of parking--is likely to be the shopping mall.

5/06/2013 12:47 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- I cherish the dream that one day I will be able to follow the thought process that leads you to videos such as "Says Anne," but I confess I am no closer today than I was the first time you sent in a link. By my careful calculation, you would have to be 743 years old to have seen all the offbeat videos and listened to all the weird music you proffer, so I assume you must have found some demented search tool that nobody else has discovered yet.

Chris Bennett and Kev Ferrara-- Manet certainly seems to be enjoying a renaissance, after many years when Cezanne scooped up all the credit for being the prime mover of modern art. Much of Cezanne mystifies me, although I think some of his still lives are absolutely brilliant (in Sean Farrell's word, "seismic"). Time for a separate post on Manet / Cezanne to do this issue justice.

Sean Farrell-- I appreciate that, and I hope you understand that I was not trying to disrespect the Old testament
or a masterpiece of western art, I was trying to respect them with the kind of candor that is, in my world, a tribute. I love those Gannams, but the young woman's reaction to her new blanket was so silly, it would have been be too easy contrasting her with St. Teresa unless I noted the similarities as well. Nobody who writes in here has to apologize to me for anything. My feelings aren't hurt and I enjoy reading what people have to say.

5/06/2013 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev, go and have a lie down mate.Why you feel you have the right to question everyone's motives and why you feel that every alternate point of view is a nail through your heart I don't know.
You can never wait to make any diagreement personal.You seem so engaged to your own point of view you constantly have to go on the attack and question other's motives when they differ from yours.What are you I.A's resdent troll?

5/06/2013 2:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Anonymous, I'm back from my lie down.

Seems you were unaware that it was Sean that was first questioning our motives. Please reread the thread with that in mind before you start hurling ad homs.

The first and only motivation I specifically assigned to Sean was the following, which is already 3/4 way down the thread:

"you are the one making bold claims in order to promote your view of things."

Do you disagree that Sean was clinging to bold, erroneous claims in order to bolster his side of an argument?

After a bit I then brought to mind the possibility that Sean was actually trolling, given how he was pursuing a line and style of argument that seemed designed to irritate, while avoiding admitting any lapses in his own information or logic. That this line and style of argument and inability to acknowledge one's errors is similar to that of others who have posted anonymously on this site made me wonder aloud if there is a possibility that some of the anons that post here are the same person. It wouldn't be the first time that happened.

I don't think you'll be able to point out other examples of me "questioning everybody's motives." I usually try to argue the point directly, and only get my back up when someone argues in bad faith, regardless of how genial or learned they seem.

Best wishes, mate,
kev

5/06/2013 3:44 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Anonymous, why not have the courage to post under your own name?

Are you the same anonymous who posted on the last thread?

Sean made a number of statements which I considered to be false or half truths. We put forth our mutual positions. Matters of fact and opinion were debated. Motivations were questioned or assigned to and by both sides (please reread the thread for evidence). Neither of us are angry.

5/06/2013 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Kev I am the same anon.

And you are a wee bit obsessed with this 'reveal your true identity' business as if it will somehow make a difference to the point we're debating.You could say "Show me a picture of your face, so I can visualize you saying the words you are currently typing".
So I have no interest in anything other than putting my point of view.
But the truth is as a critic you are pathetic because you couldn't even spot the different tone of voice in Sean Farrell's writng and mine!!!!
The whole tone and structure of his writing is so massively different and then you said this:

"A non sequitor, possibly: If I'm not mistaken, one's computer's IP address will be visible to the webmaster of this blog site, no matter which name one posts under."

Well,I invite David right now to check Sean and mine's IP address, and let's see.

So your paranoia and deeply unpleasant inability to put your own prejudices to one side like a proper grown-up person- without resorting to slights and snide remarks- will stand revealed.
A very small man with a too loud voice. Not angry? You're so full of anger its leaking out of your fingertips.

David, over to you...

5/06/2013 6:06 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Anon, you need to learn to chill out. Jeez. You were a nutter on the last thread, and now you're just dropping in here to stir up trouble?

Clearly you can't tolerate when someone disagrees with you. But that's really too bad. That's the internet. You don't get your way. And there is no final say.

Best wishes,
kev

5/06/2013 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

David, I haven't had a chance before to see your writing and clear thinking in quite this way because on your posts, you let the work do most of the talking. So it was insightful to come here and comment and hear your voice.

Degas left hints for his viewers, especially in his sketches. Of course I can't prove it, but often wondered if Rockwell in his references wasn't also talking to his fellow artists as did Degas.

Kev, it's true I'm not angry with you, but my holier than thou as you called it is the result of having awakened one day to find myself all alone and then figuring out why. Today I care more for my family and my behavior that ambitions, but I can assure you, I struggle with many all too human qualities that proved detrimental to my happiness.

I don't owe you an identity check, but I studied at SVA with fine art and illustration teachers, many of whom are now gone. Also hands on daily mentorship with a minimalist sculptor in the late 70s, also gone and met some important people in the fine art world of that time through him, also gone. Later I began working as a storyboard artist and admire many in that field and some of them are now gone. Life is short Kev and Anonymous means no harm to you.

As I was checking the Theresa of Avila quote to see if I remembered it right, I came across another and here it is and why I have a soft spot for her mastery. "It is love alone that gives worth to all things". To put it mildly, she was not a long weekend. My commercial storyboard drawings can be seen at Aboveboards.com and no, I am not the same person posting as Anonymous.

5/06/2013 9:12 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sean,

Thank you for doing me the honor of filling in details about your work life. I think it does indeed give me a better sense of who you are and where you are coming from. And I respect that you are professional in the field, of course.

Sorry if you feel it was pushy to ask more of you in this regard. But there is something almost dishonorable about having conversations where the participants lack any skin in the game. The skin being one's name, the convictions in one's work, and some connection to a life behind the name.

As I am still a work in progress myself, I can't help but raise a glass to the sensible sentiments you express about love and how fallible we all are.

Best wishes,
kev

5/06/2013 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Very good Kev and thanks,
Sean

5/06/2013 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a shame you couldn't have given Sean that respect at the outset.
Instead of getting into a paranoid witchunt about who he was, questioning his motives and not respecting his well-argued viepoint.
And one final thing, people exchange ideas here, the notion that there are 'half-truths' or 'false' statements sounds like the Spanish Inguisition and you are the self-appointed chief interrogator.
I hate bullies and value people's rights to speak up without being maligned by others.
Respect that and you and I have no problem.

5/07/2013 3:03 AM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

David Aparoff wrote:- Manet certainly seems to be enjoying a renaissance, after many years when Cezanne scooped up all the credit for being the prime mover of modern art. Time for a separate post on Manet / Cezanne to do this issue justice.


I'm looking forward to that David - I'll certainly weigh in heavily on that one!

5/07/2013 5:17 AM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

Just testing this 'bold' HTML tag thing that Kev's got going on... If it doesn't work, could someone fill me in on it so that I don't spam this excellent discussion with further test combos...

5/07/2013 5:29 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Anon, I really don't see any conversational benefit to obeying your wishes or trying to please you. Your view of things, (art, conversation, bullying, this thread, Andy Warhol, art history, etc.) seems blinkered to me. Accept what you cannot change and move on.

Chris, your last post was all bolded. The previous one was not.

5/07/2013 7:03 AM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

Chris, your last post was all bolded. The previous one was not.

Thanks Kev.

5/07/2013 1:06 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Cezanne …Rubens devotee‽

Square, Circle, Triangle

Push-Pull

see Lot 24 FOLLOWER OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS SECOND HALF OF THE 17TH CENTURY

5/07/2013 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That,from the man that seeks to shut down debate.
Your lack of self-knowledge is worrying.
As is your ability to detect the differences of a writer's tone, hardly suggests a perceptive critical faculty does it?
Now just keep quiet.

5/08/2013 5:08 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hey David
You posted a B Fuchs picture of a golf scene a little while back. Do you know what medium he used to make the painting? Thanks

5/08/2013 1:34 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I'd seen Bernini's sculpture many times without considering that it represented sexual ecstasy; it was only after I read the suggestion a couple of years ago that I actually began seeing and thinking of it in those terms. Has my opinion been enlightened or merely tainted? That is the fascinating question for me, along with its hermeneutical plasticity that is a hallmark of great art.

5/11/2013 9:27 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc,

Plasticity is the essence of a communication, and essence is not up for interpretation. It is only with the subtantiations of essences that symbolic estrangements occur between surface and depth which require hermeneutics. For instance, if the bernini sculpture was purely plastic, an abstract work from top to bottom, this question of whether the ecstasy of Teresa was sexual or theological would not arise. Because there would be no Teresa. Yet the sculpture' plasticity may still convey ecstasy.

5/11/2013 10:25 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,

By "hermeneutical plasticity" I meant plasticity in the sense of potentiality, that is, being malleable in its interpretation. In other words, some people see The Ecstasy of St. Teresa as spiritual ecstasy, and some see it as sexual ecstasy. It probably wasn't a great idea to use "plasticity" in a non-sculptural sense in this case.

5/11/2013 12:38 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Right, "plasticity" tends to be used in reference to form, thus my confusion. If your argument is that all great works of art have mystery, then I agree.

I put less value on interpretation of content because it leads to art being merely a springboard for conversation, rather than an unique object worthy of aesthetic contemplation and personal reflection on its own merits.

5/11/2013 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

David, I do have several images by Fuchs and one by Heindel from a 1985 sports calendar from a university which I imagine aren't all too well known. I finally scanned them when I discovered they got damaged in a drawer and didn't want them to get further damaged. If you would like to see them you can contact me and I'll send them to you. One of them is a personal favorite by Fuchs.

I appreciated the many good points made on the string by all. I pulled down the Gannam watercolors to look more closely at the rhythmic lines of continuity and they were indeed beautifully done. I will look it over more closely when I get time.

Someone, now gone told a story where he witnessed the great illustrator, Saul Tepper who went into an advertising agency at the end of his career and spent a day trying his best to do storyboards. At the end of the day he stood up and said, I can't do it. Special areas of art are their own world requiring their own sets of skills and it is often tempting to equivocate them, but being of different worlds they have different criteria. It's a difficult subject. I would be the first to agree that comparing storyboard work to such great illustrators is a very bad idea. Though there was one who did teach at The Famous Artists School who was still working in the late 80s.

So yes, it is nothing more than my observation to connect the Rockwell with the Cezanne, but it isn't outside his milieu because Rockwell's favorite artist was Rembrandt and so he was to some extent a student of Fine Artists. On the other hand, it seems Rockwell learned at least one of the devices I had in mind from Charles Hawthorne and that was the point Kev and Chris were both making and I would never have known such specifically but for Kev and I appreciate that and no I didn't read it, but observed it.

In the process of reflecting upon the many comments I was looking around and discovered what seems to be a group of academics trying to reinvent the wheel. One page spoke of a single drawing of a plaster cast of a face receiving 40 hours of work. As a friend and excellent draughtsman put it, it is a reaction of the mediocre to the shock art of the last decades.

What I was initially referring to regarding the 19th century was that it was a time when all good young boys and girls of money learned to draw as one did learn to play the piano and as a result, there was a mountain of academic drawings and paintings which added up to little, given that even the best of them all looked the same. I'm certain today's many academies are hoping for much more and I wish them all the best.

Thanks to all



5/13/2013 2:22 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

""it seems Rockwell learned at least one of the devices I had in mind from Charles Hawthorne""

Coincidently both Hawthorne and Rockwell had studied at the Art Students League as students of Frank Vincent Dumond.

Dumond (1866-1951) had been teaching at the League on 57th Street for nearly four decades when Riley signed up for a figure painting class. Paris-trained at the Académie Julian with academics Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888) and Benjamin-Constant (1824-1902)**, DuMond was best known for meditative religious subjects, figural murals combining myth and history, and plein air landscapes done throughout New England. Not content with superficial appearances, DuMond stressed understanding the artistic significance of the landscape or human form and insisted that his students eliminate details. He often spoke of the figure as a unit engaged in an all-inclusive gesture which flowed from the tips of the fingers into the arms, shoulders, back of the neck and down the arm. He also emphasized the unity of color achieved through an analytical process of "half-tone".
"The blinding light of the sun and the dark of the deepest cave are out of reach of your palette," DuMond wrote. "The only place we can directly relate to nature is through half-tone, which mysteriously weaves in and out of everything, tying it all together. When one looks backward there seems to be some sort of half-tone that covers the whole affair and makes it acceptable."
DuMond's half-tone rested at the center of a series of greys that represent five planes of light: highlight, light, half-tone, shadow and accent. "DuMond's system was very deliberate and mathematically precise," recalls Riley. "You'd have five shades of grey, from white on one end to black at the other. This was set in line with your colors--the highest keyed, like yellow, at one end, down through the ochres to the blues and purples at the deep end of the scale."
Exercises in putting this palette of values to work consisted of model set up in dramatic lighting conditions. The goal, DuMond stressed, was to see the action of light as revealing form and to aim for the elusive essence. Riley recalls one modeling situation in which a black man wearing an Oriental costume was illuminated by candlelight. "The candle would be the supreme highlight of the painting with everything else receding into darkness, except that there might be sequins on the costume picking up light. The challenge was to handle the extremes of a small range in the upper scale, but a broad range in the muted low-key colors. It took real discipline."
Dumond's idol, according to Riley, was Frenchman (Pierre) Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898)***, a follower of Ingres. Puvis, who is categorized with the Symbolist painters, was a reductivist. He arranged his nostalgic, idealized figures to create a mood of order, serenity and formal harmony characterized by decorative two-dimensionality, clear silhouettes, compressed space and subdued colors. The simplification of formal elements fundamental to Puvis' style appealed to DuMond's sense of logic. Many years later, in paintings such as Shadow [102], it would appear to have appealed to Ken Riley's logic as well. ~ West of Camelot : The Historical Paintings of Kenneth Riley , pp. 48,50

An example of the Dumond Landscape Palette found on the web. The indoor figure/portrait palette would have strings of flesh colours instead of the blues & greens.

**One of F.X. & J.C. Leyendecker's masters
***Who, like Manet, was a student of Thomas Couture

5/13/2013 3:28 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sean,

Assuming that anecdote is true, Saul Tepper may have been in his 80s when that anecdote takes place. And he, reportedly, was not in the best of shape mentally after his 60s. Had the anecdote taken place in his 30s, with Tepper in peak form, I doubt it would bolster your case.

Not even sure what your case is. Is your case that because Saul Tepper, being a great Golden Age Illustrator, as an old man with diminished powers, couldn't do storyboard work as reported in a single anecdote, that storyboard work is proved to be a sufficiently difficult endeavor that even a golden age illustrator, with his particular specialities.... wait... what exactly is your argument? Why are you defending storyboard work anyway? Who was putting it down?

And in what sense are you using the term equivocate? Do you mean equate?I'm very confused.

So yes, it is nothing more than my observation to connect the Rockwell with the Cezanne, but it isn't outside his milieu because Rockwell's favorite artist was Rembrandt and so he was to some extent a student of Fine Artists

Only problem is that Cezanne wasn't considered a fine artist in Rockwell's artistic milieu, he was considered a duffer. Cezanne wouldn't have been mentioned in the same breath as Rembrandt.

Rockwell learned at least one of the devices I had in mind from Charles Hawthorne and that was the point Kev and Chris were both making

An appreciation of epistemology will help prevent you from writing sentences like the above.

I ... discovered what seems to be a group of academics trying to reinvent the wheel. One page spoke of a single drawing of a plaster cast of a face receiving 40 hours of work. As a friend and excellent draughtsman put it, it is a reaction of the mediocre to the shock art of the last decades.

Those 40 hour cast drawings are used to sensitize the student to minute changes in value and subtleties of drawing, among other things. The greatest artists we know assuredly have a number of such studies in their background. Assuming such studies are of no use is, again, evidence of your artistic myopia and epistemological arrogance.

Not to belabor the obvious, Sean, but your errors-per-sentence ratio is alarmingly high.

What I was initially referring to regarding the 19th century was that it was a time when all good young boys and girls of money learned to draw

As Rob Howard used to point out on this blog, the good young boys of money tended to be the radicals/duffers. It was the poverty stricken talents, rather, who worked their tails off to become expert draughtsmen, so they could make beautiful things and make something of themselves in the world.

As a friend and excellent draughtsman put it, it is a reaction of the mediocre to the shock art of the last decades.

Are you saying that your work is better than these artists? That you are more talented?That none of these mediocrities may develop into artists of merit in your eyes?

5/14/2013 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

अर्जुन , thank you for taking the time explain Rockwell's
teachers, their influences and the explanation of Dumont's thinking on half tones and also the influence of Chavannes.

5/14/2013 9:39 AM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Sean,

Just realized that the palette jpeg went with a text file of notes from a lecture given by Arthur F. Maynard another student of Frank Vincent DuMond. As per the discussion the following lines should be of interest:

LANGUAGE - Call the different values by the name of the pure colors.

1.   Cadmium yellow light is exceptional top plane.
2.   Cadmium yellow medium is usual top plane.
3.   Cadmium yellow deep is middle position of sunlight.
4.   Cadmium yellow deep deep is upright sunlight plane.
5.   The Orange value is the middle of the palette or half tone.
6.   Cadmium red light is flat plane of shadow.
7.   Cadmium red medium is usual upright plane on a clear day.
8.   Cadmium red deep is an under plane.
9.   Cadmium red deep deep is an accent.

Cadmium Yellow Light to Yellow Medium to Yellow Deep, to Yellow Deep Deep, to Orange - that delicate place that is the half tone - halfway between light and shadow - and continues to Red Light (now in shadow) to Red Medium, to Red Deep, to Red Deep Deep, all the way to darkness.

~ Sounds like …Cezanne‽ …Hawthorne‽ …Hensche‽

5/14/2013 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Hi Kev,
The points are simple. Each area is its own discipline. A ballplayer isn't compared with a doctor.
But a doctor still enjoys watching baseball and a ballplayer needs a doctor. A storyboard artist isn't compared with a great illustrator. Each discipline has its own dynamics and parameters and people who think they can dance from one to the next are often surprised to find out differently.

Every time there is a slowdown in illustration some of these artists try their hand at storyboards and often find it doesn't work out. That's because the dynamics are different and it at least takes some adjustment time. Each area is different. That's what I'm saying. Each category is its own and they don't all compare well.

The story was conveyed to me by an older guy about
25 years ago. It probably took place in the late fifties or early sixties.

There were artists who worked religiously in halftones as taught at Brooklyn College during the late seventies and early eighties. They showed at major NY galleries, but when people are following provided formulas, it shows. It always shows. It's not like the recent revival of the academic tradition hasn't tried to produce lots of terrific artists, but if they break through, it's because they brought something to it that gave it a kick, a sense of movement, life or some quality that isn't supplied by the formula itself.

Duffs or not, there were endless good academic drawings done in the late 19th and early 20th century by well to do kids. It was like learning to play piano and during that era, young people learned to draw.

It's something like listening to a thousand unknown flash guitarists on You Tube. They have fantastic chops but the more I listen to them, the better Duane Allman sounds.



5/15/2013 10:11 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Vicki wrote: "in old European towns, the largest and most prominent structure would be the church, and towns vied with one another to build the grandest one. Now, in most any town, the most imposing structure--surrounded as it is with acres of parking--is likely to be the shopping mall."

An interesting point, and thanks for bringing the fresh perspective of the "devout ladies" to this discussion. I enjoyed your contribution.

Tom-- It was oil paint, largely washes.

Etc, etc wrote: "Has my opinion been enlightened or merely tainted?"

That's the $64,000 question, isn't it? We are schooled to believe that more information and additional perspectives are always a good thing. I suspect that remains true in the sciences, and it is a good starting point in the arts, but as a bunch of folks discussed recently on this blog (http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2012/12/against-scholarship-in-arts.html) we probably need to exercise a little more control over what is worthwhile input in the arts, because it is possible to be tainted by information which is hard to unlearn. (Obviously I don't view the potentially sexual aspects of Teresa's ecstasy to fall into this category, but I can understand how others might).

5/15/2013 10:13 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Sean Farrell and Kev Ferrara-- I agree that storyboarding and illustration are different disciplines, just as pen and ink drawing is a different discipline from oil painting. The story about Tepper doesn't surprise me at all, as I've heard about the friction between the traditional Tepper and his lightning fast apprentice Al Dorne, who had no patience for oil paint to dry and no use for Tepper's ponderous techniques.

But there are some core competencies between storyboarding and illustration that overlap, and some noteworthy exceptions. In particular, I would point you to the very excellent Tom Fluharty, who splits his time between storyboarding and painting marvelous oil paintings using the techniques of the Flemish masters.

5/15/2013 11:21 AM  

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