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Posts tagged Cubism

Femme-fleur and the biographical

Even if you don’t care greatly about Picasso, I recommend the Charlie Rose interview with Françoise Gilot, who lived ten years with the man. A talented artist herself, and very independent-minded, Gilot frequently discussed art with Picasso. Much of what he said about how he worked has come to us through her. For example, regarding the rather complex, high cubist paintings, he said than in the “early stages” there were almost no “references to natural forms…I painted them in afterwards.” Braque had a similar working procedure. Rather than abstract from an initial representation of a scene, these cubists–at least for a time as their approach evolved–roughly laid out their abstract, faceted spaces and forms, then filled in enough clues to suggest the subject. Those clues could appear in rather disconnected spots. I believe it was the dealer Kahnweiler who said they had developed a way to free objects, showing that they existed without showing where they were located.
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Cubism creation myths

My hazy recollection is that I  first heard cubism explained as a style that showed multiple points of view in a single painting. That may be fairly typical of the popular conception of what cubism is. But since one often has difficulty even telling what the subject is, it’s pretty clear that maximizing information conveyed was not the main motivation for Picasso, Braque, and company. I’ve long felt that I didn’t really have much grasp of what cubism really was, of what the artists cared about and thought about. Following are some snippets I’ve encountered, in no particular order.

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Fighting through the Past

It’s interesting to see Sunil lamenting the lack of contemporary portrait artists as I consider my own dilemma — too many landscape artists. Or maybe just too many that follow me into drugstores and gift shops.
How do you respond to the old masters, those artists whose work stuns you and also follows you, ubiquitous, featured on postcards, tea pots, and backsides everywhere you go? This is a question I’ve been pondering.

Recently on the blog I adminster, the Ragged Cloth Cafe, one of the regulars posted a blog on Ansel Adams. My response to her comments was a bit jaded, or maybe even irritated. Another of the regular posters on the blog called me on it: “June, you do sound a bit cranky and a bit unfair to modern landscape photographers. Or is it like seeing drip painting and only being able to think of Pollack?”

As I reread what I had written I realized that indeed I was sounding more than bit cranky (and even a bit incoherent). After a few further comments I sorted out what my head was thumping around with, dissing Adams. Here’s something of what I wrote:

You may have hit on why I am currently in a state of irk-dom about Adams — it’s because I’m trying to find my own way with landscape and his images loom altogether too large in my mind. I have to wrangle and fight with him a bit (Jacob and the angel?) to make my way to my own vision.

I often find this is the case for me — at various times in doing my art, I find myself fighting my way through to my own style, arguing (if only with myself) about the too-much-with-us-giants who block my view.

I think this is yet another version of Karl’s posts here and here) “Why is making art so hard?” I had the same difficulty with the Cubists (see the two homemade oils that flank this post) with whom I spent the last 10 days harrassing and wrestling. Oddly enough, though, I don’t have the same issues with Cezanne. It may be that he is just far enough out of the old masters/coffee-cup loop to give me fresh insights rather than making me strain and struggle to see afresh.

It’s not that I blame the artists for being so outstandingly good (even I admit that that’s a bit over the top); it’s that to see afresh is such a struggle that I want to fling a paint-loaded brush onto my memory book of Adams’ photos and smear them thoroughly so I’m not seeing them while I’m working. It’s a kind of internal thrashing about, trying to break through to the other side.

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Biscuits and Braque


In a small art group that Jer and I belong to, we were given a challenge: for the next meeting, we were each to create some form of art based on “biscuits.” That meeting will be next week. I have to make some art. Using “biscuits” I came up with an anagram: “is Cubist.” I will make a Cubist-style painting, containing biscuits.


I thought the exercise would be simple. I would look at some Cubist works, get a couple books from the library and raid my bookshelves to see what others had to say, decide on motifs beyond the biscuits, and do a few sketches. Then, I would be ready to paint. more… »