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Monthly Archives: November 2016

7 stages of modern art

While theorist Francis Fukuyama was infamously projecting “Western liberal democracy” as a political supremacy to conquer all others leading into the 21st century, a less determinate declaration of a new dawn was occurring in the art world with the proclaimed end of modernism. This reach for a creative closure was an attempt to mark an end to a sense of eternal artistic progress to accompany the parallel advances within technology. In fact, it had begun a few decades prior to the Millennium and even given a date, place and time within the field of architecture as a resurfacing of old aesthetic habits and classical themes helped to render the dominant language of “the new” a thing of the past.

This heresy on the part of artists sought to unequivocally contradict the rules and beliefs of modernism that had developed over the previous century and explore the areas of inquiry that the avant-garde art establishment had attempted to consign to history. Appropriately, this signalled the return of history painting itself with artists like Anselm Kiefer restoring figuration in giant-scale landscapes that carried a clear narrative connection to his nation’s (Germany’s) actions in the Second World War, albeit through a prism of mythology and Jewish or Christian theology and with a range of unorthodox natural materials that complimented his earth-toned oil palette.

One of the common trends among the art that sought to move away from modernism was a commitment to ambiguities and the layering of meanings. The ‘new’ works – if they would accept such a title – certainly retained modernism’s faith in high theories. One of the British-based American painter RB Kitaj’s guiding aims was to “re-complicate” his work, while Philip Guston horrified the abstract expressionists in the New York School by reintroducing a range of cartoon symbols and other objects of metaphor to debunk the purity of abstraction in recording the hand and intentions of the artist. How to reconcile ideas of authenticity in an era ever-increasingly lived through information technology became a dominant area of inquiry for many artists. Sigmar Polke’s response was to draw on all the methods of collage – cutting, juxtaposition, repetition etc. – that had been explored throughout the century to create what appeared imitation works, but laced them with irony to undermine notions of purity within art.

The blurring of low and high culture which had fascinated so many of the pop artists continued to be explored but accompanied by new theories of reality to describe the world the icons were presented in. Photographs and mass-media images continued to inspire people like Gerhard Richter, who made calculated theoretical shifts from the social realism he had trained in. Others found ground in trying to understand how inherited cultural identities could exist in a new century that was most popularly seen as “globalised” by the spread of communication lines like mobile phones and the internet. More than 150 years after painters had attempted to break away from the tyranny of the establishment to explore the landscape and pre-empt “modern art”, those creating artworks or exploring artistic themes at the “dawn of a new Millennium” were trying to find a role or come to terms with a multi-layered and ever-changing terrain.

The story of modern painting

Chapter 1. Capturing the elements

Chapter 2. Alone in the city

Chapter 3. Age-old rebellions

Chapter 4. New ways of seeing

Chapter 5. Unsettling visions

Chapter 6. Traumatic responses

Chapter 7. Out with the new

Painting the Alps and the Himalayas en Plein Air

Inspiration and the Artistic Journey
From 2007 to 2009, while pursuing a painting series on ballet dancers at Florence Dance Center in Italy, I frequently flew to Florence at different times of the year. On clear-sky days, the aerial view of the Alps was mesmerizing. If the landscape was so beautiful from above it should be, I was certain, equally spectacular at ground level. I first traveled to the Swiss Alps in 2013 and, over the course of the next two years, I painted in different regions across Swiss, French, Italian, Austrian and German Alps at different times of the year.

I was equally fascinated with the world’s youngest mountain range: the Himalayas. The two mountain ranges have different flora, fauna and also diverse cultures. Just as I painted in the Alps, I then trekked across the Himalayas painting in different regions around Himalayan terrain; this journey of mine is still ongoing.

With vast areas devoid of human presence, serenity rules in both the Alps and the Himalaya. In both places, however, the impression of the landscape always seems to be fleeting. My aim was to try to capture the ephemeral moods of the Alps and Himalayas in my paintings. People who live in the mountains, I observed, love their environment and live in complete harmony with nature. That is the very essence of my paintings of the mountains–to admire, preserve and live in harmony with nature.

Pinpointing Places to Paint in the Alps and the Himalayas
I didn’t have any friends nor did I know anyone living in the Alpine regions or the Himalayas. Hence, in the beginning, I searched the Internet for places to visit. Often, on visiting these places I found they didn’t quite interest me; either the places were too commercialized or I simply didn’t find them inspiring to paint.

But the real start to my artistic journey was while traveling. By train, bus and boat, I came across stunning places from one Alpine destination to the next. These places fascinated me. They were often less traveled, at times completely remote. This led to paths where nature was at its best and spectacular. I noted these places on maps and came back to them to paint. Often I made day trips or if there happened to be lodging, I chose to stay near these stunning places. I could thus paint in these landscapes and be absorbed in their environments.

I traveled solo in all these different Alpine regions with the sole purpose to paint themes that challenged and inspired me to paint en plein air. Hence, I call it my artistic journey in the Alps and the Himalayas. My main intention was not to paint famous peaks or famous places frequented by tourists but rather to paint what caught my eye as an artist.

Landscape Painting Challenges of the Alps and Himalayas
The foremost challenge while painting on location was the rapidly changing atmosphere. Often the atmosphere would dramatically change halfway through the painting. My approach had to be very flexible and at times, direct.

When the atmosphere changed in midst of my painting session, I realized the change was equally beautiful to what I’d seen when I started my painting, so I made necessary adjustments to the work. Nature brings surprises that we often never imagine and I think that’s the most beautiful part of painting on location.

Let me cite an example of a painting titled Sun-break. It rained constantly the day I arrived in St. Moritz (Switzerland) and the following two days. Although I had already pinpointed subjects I wanted to paint I couldn’t begin due to the rain and almost zero visibility. The fourth day was highly overcast and since it at least wasn’t raining, I decided to paint outdoors. In the midst of the painting, occasional sun breaks created wonderful glowing light effects in the sky, on land and on water. It was so beautiful that I tried to add those light effects to my painting, attempting to retain the spontaneity and freedom through the application of paint. After this brief play of light, it again turned overcast and remained the same all through the day. As mentioned above, nature brings surprises; in this instance, fleeting movements of dramatic light effects in the sky, land and on water.

THE SEA IN PAINTING – 10 GREAT SEASCAPES

The sea and its pictorial representation have been one of the most developed art genres since many centuries ago. From the classical, serene seascapes by Fitz Hugh Lane to the contemporary visions of Richard Diebenkorn, the audacious Japanese Painting or -of course- the incomparable Joseph Turner, theArtWolf has proudly showcased 10 of the most beautiful, intrepid, important seascapes in the world.

This list, of course, is absolutely subjective, but some of the names in it are unquestionable.

10- FITZ HUGH LANE
“Becalmed off Halfway Rock”, 1869 (Washington, National Gallery)
Oil on canvas, 70.4- 120.5 cm .

Considered one of the greatest all-time marine painters, Lane is arguably more a “naval portraitist” than a traditional seascape painter. In this highly appealing canvas, the artist brilliantly portraits two large ships, accompanied by three support boats, surrounding a little rock that, although small in size, earns a fundamental importance in the composition.

9. IVAN AIVAZOVSKY
“The ninth wave”, 1850 (St. Petersburg, State Museum)
Oil on canvas, 221- 332 cm .

A seascape devoted painter, Aivazovsky reaches in this painting an absolute technical perfection, representing a group of unlucky castaways trying to survive to the merciless oceanic waves. Nevertheless, the centre of the composition is the powerful -almost mystical- and diffuse representation of the sun, which illuminates the scene with a strange, oneiric range of green and pink shades.

8. CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH
“The Monk by the sea”, 1809/10 (Berlin Nationalgalerie)
Oil on canvas, 110- 172 cm

Contrary to the glorious calm of the work by Lane or the dramatic exuberance of Aivazovsky’s masterwork, here we face a much more difficult work. The notorious horizontality of the picture and the evident contrast in the scale of the monk, almost insignificant when compared to the magnificence of the sea, fill the picture with a quite uncertain romantic message. Is the sea a neutral background behind the monk’s deliberations, or perhaps are we looking at a strange dialogue between the man and the neverending ocean, a mystical mirror of the monk’s thoughts?

7. FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH
“The icebergs”, 1861 (Dallas Museum of Art)
Oil on canvas, 163.2- 285.1 cm .

The icy death. Beautiful and exuberant at first glance, this masterwork by Frederic Edwin Church is nevertheless a sinister and terrible romantic document, showing the remains of a shipwreck, where it really does not matter if the sailors have survived or not: the merciless icebergs will soon kill them if the violence of the accident has not done it before. The brutal beauty of this canvas makes the Titanic story looks like a bad joke.

6. RICHARD DIEBENKORN
“Ocean Horizon”, 1959 (Private collection)
Oil on canvas, 177.8- 162.6 cm .

Diebenkorn’s urban seascapes present a unique and contemporary vision of the ocean: domesticated, friendly,desirable. Contrary to his abstract and more complex Ocean Parks, the Ocean Horizon presents a very simple composition with three evident levels for the land, the sea and the sky; all of them framed in a rectangular window. Following the crooked line marked by the electric lines, the ocean looks as accessible as the little cup of coffee we can see in the close-up.

5. CLAUDE MONET
“La terrace de Sainte Adresse”, 1867 (New York, Metropolitan Museum)
Oil on canvas, 98.1- 129.9 cm .

This glorious painting presents an evident parallelism with Diebenkorn’s canvas representing the sea (here the Atlantic Ocean) as friendly, accessible, even as a recreational area to the relaxed society. Again, the composition is divided in three levels -sky, sea and land- and it is vertically organized by the two large flags fluttered by the ocean breeze. The painting is so delightful that we are immediately tempted to sit on one of the empty chairs to enjoy this sunny Sunday afternoon. Apart from this kind seascape, Monet also depicted the sea full of fierceness and fury in paintings such as “La Manneporte”.

4. WINSLOW HOMER
“The Gulf Stream”, 1899 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Oil on canvas, 71.5- 124.8 cm.

All the kindness and charm that the sea presented in the two precedent canvases is crushed in this devastating painting by Homer. Really, the terrible expressivity -bordering on macabre- of the work makes unnecessary almost any commentary, while we assist, helpless, to the tragic end of the unlucky sailor, represented with an effective exaggeration, perhaps an evidence of Winslow Homer’s formation as a press reporter.

3. THEODORE GERICAULT
“The raft of the Medusa”, 1819 (Paris , Louvre)
Oil on canvas, 491- 716 cm.

This is one of the most famous paintings ever created. Gericault creates a painting that we can define as “politically incorrect”, as it depicts the miseries of a large group of castaways abandoned after the shipwreck of a French naval frigate. We can even say that the picture is not exactly a seascape, but a classic triangular composition in which the human emotions are graduated from the exacerbated hope of those who -situated on the top of the pyramid- have sighted a saviour ship, to the man who -holding the corpse of a young man, perhaps his son- has abandoned any hope and is resigned to wait for death. In Gericault’s work the sea has no charm, no beauty, no kindness: it is the villain, the killer, the predator that, lying in wait for new victims, is patiently waiting for its time to kill.

2. KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI
“The Wave”, c.1830
Woodblock print, 25.4- 38 cm .

Japanese painters and engravers have always offered us a different, almost mystical vision of the natural phenomena. The wave is here much more than a mere oceanic circumstance. It’s a monster, a giant leviathan threatening with its fangs the agile and audacious ships that cross, flexible, the Japanese seas. The terrible ocean’s claw is so powerful that it seems to threaten to devour even the sacred Mount Fuji, presented at the background as another victim of the evil wave

1. JOSEPH MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER
“The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up”, 1839 (London, National Gallery)
Oil on canvas, 91- 122 cm .

Turner is the greatest seascape painter from any age, and at least other two or three works by the British painter (Ulysses mocking Polyphemo, Peace – exequies on the sea…) could easily figure on this list if we had not take the decision of including only one work per artist. Audacious and technically perfect, Turner’s masterpiece is an unusual representation of a royal ship, normally depicted in its maximum splendour as Fitz Hugh Lane did in his seascapes (see number 10), but here Turner tributed the brave Temeraire depicting its last trip before being scrapped. This supreme work was elected as the best painting in England in a poll organized by the National Gallery of London in 2005.

20 Art Museum in The World

Which are the best museums of the Western World? While such list is entirely subjective, we have tried to be as objective as I can be, taking in consideration its collections and history. So here is a guide to the premier Museums of the Western World and a link to its websites.


1- The Louvre
in Paris is arguably the world’s most famous Museum. Take an online tour through its wonderful collection of antiquities and painting, including -of course- Leonardo’s Gioconda


2- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
in New York is arguably America’s greatest museum. Its spectacular collection is especially strong in American painting and Egyptian Antiquities.


3- The British Museum
is England’s greatest museum -and one of the best in the world- of Ancient Arts and antiquities, with an excellent collection of Art from Ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages.


4- The Vatican Museums
houses the inmense and outstanding Art collection of the Catholic Church, including the Sistine Chapel or Raphael’s The School of Athens


5- The Hermitage Museum
(or Ermitage) is the most important Museum in Russia and also the largest Art collection in the world, with more than 3,000,000 million of artworks


6- The Kunsthistorisches Museum
in Vienna is one of the premier museums in the world. It houses an important collection of antiquities and an outstanding collection of European painting.


7- The National Gallery of London
houses one of the world’s finest collection of paintings. It is arguably the most complete collection of European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries


8- The Museum of modern Art
(MOMA) houses the world’s best collection of modern and contemporary Art, featuring masterworks as Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon or van Gogh’s Starry night


9- El Museo del Prado
(Prado Museum) is Spain’s most important museum, featuring the best collection of Spanish painting in the world.


10- The Museé d’Orsay
in Paris is without doubt the best museum of impressionist and 19th century French painting in the world. Features masterworks from Monet, van Gogh, Renoir…


11- The Cairo Museum
is by far the most complete collection of Egyptian Art in the world. Its most famous artworks are the objects from the Tomb of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922


12- The Uffizi
in Florence is the most important collection of Italian Renaissance painting. In this excellent website you can works such as Botticelli’s Venus or Giotto’s Ognisanti Madonna.


13- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
is one of the oldest and most respected Art institutions of North America, with an outstanding collection of Western Art.


14- The Rijksmuseum
in Amsterdam is Netherlands National Museum. It houses the world’s most important collection of Dutch painting, including its star piece, Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch


15- The National Gallery of Washington
features an extremely complete collection of painting from the 13th to the 20th century. Its “star sections” are Italian Renaissance and American painting


16- The Guggenheim Museum in New York
was designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Guggenheim Fundation has also important galleries in Bilbao, Venice, Berlin and Las Vegas.


17- The Tate Modern
in London is arguably the most important collection of modern and contemporary Art in Europe. It houses pivotal works of artists such as Lichstentein, Pollock or Bacon


18- The Centre Georges Pompidou
in Paris is France’s national museum for modern and contemporary Art, housed in an important contemporary building by Rogers and Renzo Piano


19- The Art Institute of Chicago
houses one of the most outstanding Art collections of the United States, featuring masterpieces such as Seurat’s ‘Island of La Grande Jatte’


20- The Getty Center
in Malibu is arguably the world’s wealthiest Museum, with a great collection of antiquities, paintings, and manuscripts. Works exhibited includes van Gogh’s Irises.