Monday, February 29, 2016

Giorgio Morandi – Jake Schapiro

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) was a 20th century painter and etcher known for his simplistic subject and subtle tones. Morandi was born in Bologna in 1890 and spent the entirety of his life there. At the age of 17, Morandi enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna where he became acquainted with the work of 14th-century painters. Despite being a great student, Morandi veered from traditional styles during his later years at the academy much to the dismay of his professors. Through the 1910's and early 1920's, Morandi experimented with varying styles and became exposed to futurist and metaphysical styles before settling on the familiar style of his later work. Morandi died in 1964 in Bologna and is buried in his family tomb there.

The majority of Morandi’s work focuses on familiar forms including bottles, bowls, and landscapes. As an artist studying in Bologna at the turn of the 20th century, Morandi’s work was heavily influenced by that of Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Rousseau among many other influential and renowned artists. Morandi focused on the natural world, as is clear through his color and form, and used value and surface in a minimalist approach that had not previously been widely adapted. As such, Morandi became a leader for the Minimalism style of visual arts that has become prominent in post-World War II Western Art. As an early adopter of Minimalism, Morandi’s work is both innovative and celebrated worldwide including the Giorgio Morandi Museum and works in the White House collection.

Landscape, 1962.
Oil on canvas,
30x35 cm.

The work on the right exhibits Morandi's emphasis on Minimalism and natural tone. The use of basic shapes to bring the natural world into easily recognizable structures is reminiscent of Morandi's style that has achieved great success and has influenced the style of contemporary art. The landscape uses line form and color tone to signify the natural world while veering from a traditional approach in which the figures would be realistic and accurate depictions of the landscape and bring the viewer to the space. 

Landscape, 1944.
Oil on canvas,
31x53 cm.

Meanwhile, on the left we see a landscape slightly more recognizable to the naked eye involving depth and the use of perspective to show the hills. Morandi utilized negative space to contrast the light and dark areas of the landscape and provide layered foreground and background. This painting is a nice example of the earlier techniques used by Morandi to explore the relationship between figure and ground based on the light values associated with area.

The White Road, 1933.
Etching on copper
20.8x30.3 cm. 

In one of his earlier works as an etcher, Morandi uses empirical perspective to create a beautiful and realistic country landscape. These etches, while significantly different from Morandi's later work in Minimalism, rely extensively on shading to create value and depict the space. These etches act as great examples for Morandi's understanding of layered shading to provide additional depth beyond that of the empirical perspective.

Still Life, 1960-64.
13.5x25.8 cm.

This use of shading to depict space and depth is still present in his later still-life work with bottle and vase forms. Morandi relies on shading to capture the light reflecting on the surface of his forms and creates a minimalist yet recognizable form. 

I chose to focus on Giorgio Morandi for this assignment because, much like our coursework up to this point, Morandi’s work was nearly exclusively still lives with a few landscapes and an intense focus on few plain figures in unique arrangements. His still-life compositions drew upon hard use of line and the integration of objects in space. Furthermore, Morandi achieved visual interest in his work through the use of contrasting light and dark areas as an application of the concept of negative space. One thing I found particularly noteworthy about his work is the depiction of the same bottles and vases throughout his works with simple techniques and earthy tones to draw upon the familiar and invite the viewer to a scene they could easily call upon.

Still Life, 1960.
25x34 cm.
Still Life, 1959.
Oil on canvas,
30x35 cm.
This example to the left of Morandi's later work is a prime example of his use of negative space to create objects previously used in his work in a new and innovative form. Meanwhile, the example to the right  from the previous year shows the artist's growing interest in negative space while still relying primarily on line and line weight to create images of more obvious bottle forms. The work below shows some of Morandi's more recognizable bottle forms before his in-depth exploration of new techniques for depicting a minimalist and abstract form of these bottles. I've included this work because while it is easily recognizable unlike the images above, it shows an exploration of a dark negative space contrasting with a light figure. Although shading is still the primary technique used here, this work is formative in Morandi's later exploration.
Still Life, 1952.
Oil on canvas,
35.5x45.5 cm.


(2012). Giorgio Morandi. Cinisello Balsamo, Milano, Silvana Editoriale.

Morandi, G. (2013). Giorgio Morandi : a retrospective. Milan, Silvana editoriale : Brussels : Bozar.

Wilkin, K. (1997). Giorgio Morandi. New York, Rizzoli.

Victor Vasarely - by Jessica Yan

Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) is known as the father of Op-Art, or optical art, which was developed at the same time as pop art in the 1960s. His works famously uses bold lines and bright colors, and geometric shapes to create optical illusions and affect the viewer's perception of his art, such as the appearance of 3D shapes.

Vasarely was born in Hungary in 1906, and originally intended to make a career in medicine. He was incredibly gifted and fascinated with scientific theories, and put aside his studies at the University of Budapest's School of Medicine in order to explore the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics on his own. Along the way, he determined that art could provide a way to visualize scientific models. In 1929, he enrolled in the Muhely Academy in Budapest to study fine and applied arts, and began his exploration in the intersection of art and science. He learned about geometric abstraction, and developed a wealth of technical and scientific experience before moving to Paris in 1930  to pursue work in graphic art.

In his early works, from 1932-1945, Vasarely drew and painted figures from nature and observations, though many of these early pieces already included the bold lines and structures that would become his trademark in op-art.
Etude Lineare, 1935

From 1949-1952, Vasarely created his first abstract works, inspired by tile cracks from the Denfert-Rochreau metro station in Paris, and breaking glass. Here he seemed to develop further his style of structured, distinct shapes and sharp color contrast. His series Zebras combines his figure drawing with abstract concepts in black and white. 

Ezinor, 1949

Zebras, 1950

In the 1950-60s, Vasarely's work developed into optical art, where he relied on visual perception to affect viewers through his art. He first created black and white prints and paintings, and experimented with film and other materials to create his kinetic and optical effects.
Lux Novae, 1962 

Then he began adding color into his works, and two of his most famous series were created: Folklore Planetaire and Alphabet Plastique. Alphabet Plastique introduced a "programming language" which defined a basis and algorithms for creating structures, and some view this as Vasarely's greatest contribution to 20th century art history. The Alphabet Plastique was a systemic approach to painting, where there are 15 root forms derived from basic shapes such as the circle and square, with 40 variations of the root forms, 6 color scales, and 20 hues. He called the sketches for these works "programs", and they were essentially blueprints that expressed his ideas in the terms of the Alphabet Plastique. His art from the 60s to 70s had a huge impact on architecture, computer science, and fashion, and he designed the spiral logo of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.  
Deuton-A, 1966

Programmation 1 

Vega Multi, 1976

I was immediately interested in Vasarely after seeing one of his works in an art collection book, where the bright colors and the perception of 3D differentiated it from the works of other artists in the collection. I loved learning about and viewing his sketches, where his mathematical mind clearly influenced the way he thought about art. As an engineering major, I really appreciate details, structure, and methodical approaches, and I was fascinated by his Alphabet Plastique concept as an art programming language. I thought it was very cool with how his art ties into technology and how it grew from academic interests in science, and how his artistic algorithms paralleled the development of the computer and became a precursor for digital imagery.


The Art Book. Phaidon Press. 2012. Designed by Alan Fletcher. Print.

Vasarely. Morgan, Robert C. Naples Museum of Art; New York: George Braziller. 2004. Print.

Vasarely. Diehl, Gaston. Crown Publishers, New York 1972. Print.

Joan Mitchell, by Annie Tang

A Brief Biography:

February 12, 1925.  Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois. From a very young age, she began taking art classes. She was very much influenced by her mother's work as a coeditor of Poetry magazine and the authors who would come to visit. 

1942–44. So, Mitchell first considered a career in writing, and she studied English literature at Smith College. 

1944–47, 1950Soon after, Mitchell decided to become a professional painter instead and received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Afterwards, Mitchell moved to New York to begin exhibiting her work. She received considerable acclaim for her work in abstract expressionism, and in fact was one of the few women and most important members of the second generation of American Abstract Expressionists. 

1948 Sketchbook 

This sketch is from a sketchbook that Mitchell kept in 1948, while she lived in Brooklyn with her future (and brief) husband Barney Rosset. The sketchbook measures 10 1/8 x 7 7/8 inches, and it primarily consists of drawings in graphite, although it includes text and small gouache paintings. This sketchbook represents Mitchell's early experimentation with cubist abstraction. Sketches of Rosset and their cat, Gluton, also show the love Mitchell had for her subjects. Drawings of the Brooklyn Bridge and other urban landscapes reflected her deliberate study of how to transform and abstract the visible world. Finally, this sketchbook contains French vocabulary words in Mitchell's handwriting, most likely in preparation for her trip to France (on a traveling fellowship) later that year. 

Joan Mitchell and Barney Rosset by the East River, ca. 1948. Photographer unknown.

1959. Mitchell moved to Paris, which is where most of her career took place, despite her success as a member of the New York School. Mitchell began painting in a studio on the rue Fremicourt, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. 

1960-64. Mitchell went through a sombre stylistic period during this time, using dark hues and central masses of color in primordial expressions. Mitchell herself referred to the work she created in this period as "very violent and angry", and she wanted her paintings to "convey the feeling of the dying sunflower". By 1964 Mitchell was moving on from her violent phase. 

Untitled, c. 1964-1965, charcoal and pastel on paper, 24 x 18 in.

Joan Mitchell said that by 1964, she was "trying to get out of a violent phase and into something else." This "something else" was a series of somber paintings she created in 1964,works that she called "my black paintings- although there's no black in any of them." These works are a break from the intensely colored, energetic, allover style of her earlier production, marking the end to the self-styled "violent" phase of her work. These small, bold works were made on sketchbook sheets using charcoal covered with watercolor or oil. Some of the larger charcoal drawings have bits of sepia pastel, as this image shows. 

1967. Following her angry period, Mitchell bought a property in Vétheuil, France. This move greatly impacted her work- for the first time in her career, Mitchell had a large studio separate from her home. Vétheuil was a small town, an hour northwest of Paris, and her home was surrounded by gardens and trees, and overlooked the Seine. 

Salut Tom, 1979. Oil on canvas (four panels), 110 7/16 x 316 inches

This monumentally sized, four panel painting is reflective of the space Mitchell had to paint in her home in Vétheuil. Mitchell took a physically and mentally rigorous approach to painting. Here, you can see the arc of her brushstrokes , especially at the top where she had to extend her reach. Although her paintings were built slowly and carefully, Mitchell would stand back and look at a black canvas for long periods of time, decide where each mark should go, then approach to paint quickly and confidently. In paneled works like this, the panels repeat and mirror the structure of the others. You can also see here how Mitchell synthesized contrasting concepts such as light and dark, and space and density. 

1983-84. During this period, Mitchell created a monumental suite of twenty-one paintings, collectively titled La Grande Vallée. The name was inspired by a story told to Mitchell by her close friend Gisele Barreau, who grew up in Brittany, France. The collection represents a group of related images that closely resemble one another in content and palette. They aim to convey an idyllic vision of the joy and innocence of youth, perhaps suggesting childhood's fleeting intimations of eternal paradise. From the early 80's on, Mitchell's health began to fail. She felt constantly surrounded by death (her sister, Gisele), so that painting became a necessity for her, and it fed her hunger to live. "Painting is the opposite of death, it permits one to survive, it also permits one to live." 

La Grande Vallee 0, 1983. Oil on canvas, 102 x 78 3/4 in.

Many of the Grande Vallee canvases, like this one, appear to represent vast field of flowers. Mitchell almost completely abandoned the figure ground relationship, and she filled the entire surface of the picture with short, lambent brush strokes. In this canvas specifically, this produced the effect of yellow, orange, and pink petals that flutter and sway. Sun seems to light up the field and saturate the color of the grass. This painting also represents Mitchell's most sustained exploration of the "allover" approach, in which, unlike her previous works, the entire canvas is covered with color from edge to edge. 

La Grande Vallée was a turning point in Mitchell's career. It separated her earlier work (mostly singular paintings with centralized motifs on sparer canvases) from her later work, which were more intensely worked groups of canvases. This collection represented Mitchell at her technical best. Even after completing La Grande Vallée, Mitchell continued to develop her calligraphic and energetic brushwork. But, as many have noted, none of her other works were able to match the "richly inventive chromatic sensation, the life-embracing passion, and the poetic lyricism of La Grande Vallée. 

Later Years and Death (1992). As previously mentioned, Mitchell's health began to decay in the early 80's. First in 1984, she was diagnosed with advanced oral cancer. Therapy was successful, but left her with a dead jawbone, anxiety, and depression. She had to quit smoking on doctor's orders, but she remained a heavy drinker. During this time, Mitchell's work changed significantly. Her post-cancer paintings reflect the psychological changes she experienced, and in her final years she refocused on the subject of dying sunflowers. Mitchell then developed osteoarthritis from hip dysplasia and went under surgery with little success. Because of her post-operative complications, she began watercolor painting because she was required to work in a smaller format, and on an easel. In October of 1992, Mitchell flew to New York for a Matisse exhibition, who she had admired greatly for years. Upon arrival, she was taken to a doctor and diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Mitchell flew back to Paris on October 22, and entered a hospital in Paris. Eight days later, on the morning of October 30, 1992, Joan Mitchell died at the American Hospital of Paris. 

I chose to write about Joan Mitchell, because she was a wonderfully inspiring and empowering artist. Mitchell was one of her era's few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim, and in 2014, one of her painting auctions even broke the record at the time. I liked that Joan Mitchell had a life full of travel and adventure, and her move to Paris gave her a sort of romantic and mysterious expatriate appeal. As for her work itself, I personally have never understood abstract art, so I thought I could learn something of value from her abstract expressionism. Also, the fact that Mitchell did not use pure abstraction, but highly stylized representations of landscapes, was intriguing and different. 

Livingston, Jane. The Paintings of Joan Mitchell. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Print.

Heller, Sterling, et. al. Women Artists: Works from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2000. Print.

Paul Cezanne, by Anirudh Jonnavithula

Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839. Cézanne studied law for a year before he left for Paris in 1860 to study to become an artist. His early works were dark and moody. The colors he used were dark and heavy and stayed this way until about 1870. He met his mistress and future wife, Hortense Fiquet. His color palette become significantly lighter and he started painting more landscapes. After the birth of his son, Cézanne settled down in the outskirts of Paris. In 1880, he and his family moved back to Provence; he remained there until his death in 1906. During this latter stage, Cézanne developed his characteristic brushstroke and moved away from the Impressionist movement based in Paris. He produced over 400 watercolors during this period.

Family in a Garden, and Studies
1870 - 73
I like how the forms in the sketches are not very well defined. Cézanne was well-known for repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes and it looks like he followed a similar style when he drew this sketch. The messiness and indefinite quality of the forms has a great impact on the viewer's experience of the scene. As a viewer, I feel movement; I don't feel like this is a stationary moment in time. I sense the leaves blowing in the wind and the people going through the motions of their daily lives.

Forest Path
c. 1892
I chose this piece because of the sense of calm I felt upon looking at it. By using watercolor, Cézanne was able to blend together all of the components of the scene. An interesting fact about Forest Path is that it's actually unfinished. The lighter splotches, for example in the leaves towards the top of the piece are evidence that Cézanne abandoned this work. It's also exemplary of his focus on landscapes.

The Sailor (The Gardener Vallier)
1902 - 1906Cézanne painted this piece over the last four years of his life. In his older age, he became a recluse, interacting with a limited number of individuals. One of these was his gardener, who we see here. The use of dark colors and the lack of light in the scene reflects the mental and emotional state of Cézanne. The subject matter is also very telling of his state. The solitary figure represents the solitude and loneliness of Cézanne as he neared the end of his life. I chose this piece because I appreciate how emotive and powerful color can be. This piece is also representative of his focus on figures. References 1. Encyclopedia of Visual Artists. "Paul Cézanne (1839 - 1906)". Web. 29 Feb. 2016. 2. Paul Cézanne, Feilchenfeldt, Klaus Albrecht Schroder, Felix Baumann, Evelyn Benesch. Paul Cézanne: Finished - Unfinished. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2000. 3. Paul Cézanne, Lawrence Gowring. Paul Cézanne: The Basel Sketchbooks. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1998.

Frederic Edwin Church, by Amy Cheng


Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was fortunately born into a prosperous family in Hartford, Connecticut, reputable for its genealogical distinction, business and social leadership, and religious piety (Howat, 3).  His father, Joseph Church, was a jewelry manufacturer whose lineage traces back to Richard Church, a Puritan pioneer from England who accompanied the Revered Thomas Hooker to augment a new English settlement at Hartford in 1636. Frederic’s mother, Eliza Janes Church, is also a descendent of a distinguished family—daughter of Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony and William Janes, a founder of the New Haven Colony. Frederic grew up in an environment well positioned in his community, accompanied by wealth and loving attention. Throughout this boyhood, he was exposed to the aesthetic ideas about design, drawing, and color from his oil painter uncle Adrian Janes, who sold wallpaper and brushes.

At the age of 18, Frederic Church entered his most important period of artistic and conceptual training he was ever to experience (Howat, 9) when he departed for Caskill, New York, where he became the only important pupil of the famous Thomas Cole (Myers, 23) through an introduction made by a family neighbor. Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School, mentored Church with constant contact and infused the attitudes toward nature and art that later interacted with Church’s passion for hiking and traveling.

The Spirituality, Romanticism, and the Second Generation Hudson River School

The Hudson River School was the first well-acknowledged American artistic movement that popularized American landscape paintings initially concentrated in the Hudson Valley. The products of this movement are heavily influenced by Romanticism that originated in Europe as a counter-movement to the Enlightenment ideals of rationality and reason. Rather than depicting orderliness, Romantic era artists often convey the wildness and grandeur of nature that appeal to senses of awe and the sublime by depicting natural landscapes in an idealized way, emphasizing nature’s richness and beauty.

Both Cole and Church are devout Protestants, and Church’s religious and spiritual beliefs played a particular role in his early oil paintings. As a work in the historical context of the Civil War period, Our Banner in the Sky (1861) is a highly expressive and symbolic work that seems to affirm ”his support for the Northern cause and…his sense of its ultimate sanction by God and by Nature” (Wilton, 19). The reddish bars of sunset colors and sprinkling of stars illuminate the night sky, combined visually to echo the Union Flag being embodied in Nature herself. Linking patriotism with the American landscape, Church seems to express the message of spiritual ordinance for a united nation through moral symbols of unity.

In the Rainy Season in the Tropics (1866) oil on canvas, we see these romantic ideals reflected: harmony—whether between man and nature or among all the natural elements of the scenery—flow throughout the painting as a general theme. This harmony is self-sufficient, and there is a “flux of momentary interrelationships rather than separate passages of generalized light and local color” (Huntington, 32); light shines throughout various angles of the painting, and the overall color palette is yellow, warm and consistent. The blending of the sky, the land, and the water shows how these natural creations “exist visually with reference to one another [and that] harmony is derived, not from man’s will, but from nature’s life” (Huntington, 32).  The extremely small size of human relative to the surrounding scale of nature is also a most noticeable hallmark of romantic art.

What truly advanced and distinguished Church in his time was his “transition from Cole’s style to his own” (Huntington, 33). After Cole’s premature death in 1848, the second generation of Hudson River School artists, Church being one of the leading figures, rose to prominence whose work is characterized by the style of Luminism. This style exploits effects of light in landscape through aerial perspective and concealing visible brushstrokes. We can see from his famous oil on canvas piece Niagara Falls, from the American Side (1867) the extraordinary detail in the brushstrokes that render them nearly almost invisible. As typical of Luminist landscapes, this painting, despite depicting a massive, grandiose waterfall, actually delivers a sense of tranquility as depicted by a soft, hazy sky with calm and reflective water in the foreground and parts of the background.

Reason for Research 

My favorite artistic period is the Romantic era because of the sense of grandness and awe it invokes in me. I love nature and share much of the transcendentalist philosophy in my worldview, and one of my favorite artists is J.M.W. Turner. However, the only Romantic artists that I have been familiar with in the past are usually of European origins, and I hope to learn more about the movement in America—notably the artists of the Hudson River School. I first came across Thomas Cole, the founder of the movement, and later read more about his successful pupil, Frederic Church. I instantly fell in love with Church’s work and was particularly attracted to his use of lighting—which I found out to be a style called Luminism.


Howat, John K. Frederic Church. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

Huntington, David C. The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church: Vision of An American Era. New York: George Braziller, 1966. Print.

[Photos 2 & 3] Kelly, Franklin, et. al. Frederic Edwin Church. Washington: National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. Print.

Myers, Kenneth John. Introduction. Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church’s Views from Olana. Hudson: The Olana Partnership, 2009. Print.

[Photo 1] Wilton, Andrew. Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch. London: National Gallery Company, 2013. Print.