Sunday, 15 May 2011

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)

Jean Gustave Courbet, French painter, a key figure of the Realist Movement in 19th century.

Gustave Courbet, Self-portrait (The Desperate Man)

Every time I looked at his works, I just couldn't help laughing. It is seen that 'bad boy' still has such influences imposing on his readers over the time and space after his death. Apart from his artistic excellence, he is also an image of rebellence and self-indulgence. He had never missed out any opportunities to praise himself with his slick brushes as he was so capable to do so. Even his wealthy patron paid him to paint a work, he would position himself at the center of the painting with a gesture of proud (see The Meeting, 1854). Of course, the patron Mr. Alfred Buryas was very disappointed with the work and felt betrayed. And the work was seen as Courbet's self-glorification, he was critisized as an narcissism at the time. However, Courbet was enjoyed such criticisms. Over the centuries, the artists served as servants for their patrons. Courbet's challenge to this hierarchy once again remarked his role as a socialist painter or a fighter which has added more credits on his legenary life.

Self-portrait (1848-49)

Wounded Man, Self-portrait (1845-54)

The Meeting, 1854

He said, "Show me an angel and I will paint one."  But sometimes his works were quite controversial.
Sorry, can't show the full painting as it is a little 'disturbing'...( I know, my fault...)

The Origin of the World (1866)

The Grain Sifters (1854-55)

Courbet had achieved great recognition in his life time, although he had been through heavy criticisms, a hard time in jail and exiled because of the crisis of bankruptcy.

He once said, "I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me: 'He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty."

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Lee Krasner's Gothic Landscape (1961)


Lee Krasner's Gothic Landscape (1961), collected by Tate Modern.

At first glance I was immediately caught by the thick brush strokes and sensed of such strong intuitive striking emotions of the painter. The work seems directly reflects Krasner's mind. The upright lines present the powers of firmness, growth and direction. The tangled curves have no intention to call out any confusions, but harmoniously play with the erect strokes to create a sense of movement. Some round circles and arch shapes reflect the windows and roofs of the Gothic Cathedral which intentionally visualize the subject. The red in somewhere in the painting is no doubt representing blood, a stream of life supply flowing all over the spiritual building - the building of Krasner and her husband Polleck' love for each other, their unity, the temple of their twist ivy souls. The red strokes imply the undercurrent of blood which seem invisible in a way in comparsion with the black strokes, but they are very essential elements in the painting.

The work is quite poetic and ideal. If it was true that the painting expressed Krasner's grief for the loss of her husband which I read from the artwork label, it must have more extent contents to be explored than its visual presentation.

It is not a purely abstract artwork though. It has a little 'salt' of cubism; it can only be read in one direction, and has obvious contexts with Gothic architecture which provide more readability. Also, this work had taken some years to get finished, it suggests a more contemplative thoughts involved in the creative process other than an improvisation. So the painting seems not fully 'comply with' Pollock's theory of " artist is a birth helper of the artwork " in terms of spontaneousness and unplanned subject matter. But I somehow believe that it indeed reveals something alive independently from the painter and her identity which shows an extraordinary quality of humanity. Just like Pollock described that 'painting has a life of its own'.

Pollock died in an alcohol-related car accident, with his mistress in the car who survived. No one knows that if Pollock had shared the same feelings as Krasner's understanding for their love. Perhaps he did, in his own term.

Lee Krasner, Seeded (1960)

Not hard to find out the similarity between Gothic landscape and Seeded. This one's size is much larger than Gothic Landscape, and it looks more erotic to me.

Pollock's works are far more influencial than Krasner's. Art is not about fame anyway.

Lee Krasner, Happy Lady (1963)

Krasner squeezed the paint out of the tubes directly on the canvas. She is something indeed.