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  • Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    A fascinating and highly entertaining look at one of the most important families of the Renaissance era--the Medici.
  • Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)
    Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)

    “Sister Wendy Beckett has transformed public appreciation of art through her astonishing knowledge, insight and passion for painting and painters.” This set includes Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy's Odyssey, and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour. Simultaneously delightful and scholarly--this is a must have for anyone interested in art history.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    When British stencil artist Banksy traveled to Los Angeles to work, he came across obscure French filmmaker Thierry Guetta and his badly organized collection of videotapes involving the activities of graffiti artists. Inspired, Banksy assembled them with new footage to create this talked-about documentary, and the result is a mind-boggling and odd film (so strange as to be thought a hoax by some) about outsider artists and the definition of art itself.
  • The Impressionists
    The Impressionists
    A dramatization of the Impressionist movement as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Highly entertaining and informative.
  • The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Kurt Schwitters: Master of Collage

Kurt Schwitters - Merz 163, with Woman Sweating, 1920. Tempera, pencil, paper, and fabric collage mounted on paper, 6 1/8 x 4 7/8 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New YorkKurt Schwitters (1887-1948) is generally acknowledged as the twentieth century's greatest master of collage. Just as collage is essentially the medium of irony, so Schwitters' life is characterized by paradox and enigma. Born in Hanover, the only child of affluent parents, he was a loner in his youth, plagued by epileptic attacks, introverted and insecure. As a student at the Dresden Academy of Art he proved as apt as he was unimaginative. But his contact with Expressionist artists in Hannover in 1916 gave him more confidence to develop his own style, He found something of a following as part of the Dada movement.

Schwitters invented his own unique aesthetic style, which he dubbed Merz in 1919. Premised on the practice of assemblage—the union of sundry quotidian items with formal artistic elements—Merz exemplified Schwitters’s quest for “freedom from all fetters,” cultural, political, or social. The artist’s collages, of which he produced more than 2,000, and his large-scale reliefs known as Merzbilder are kaleidoscopic, sometimes whimsical accretions of humble found material—tram tickets, ration coupons, postage stamps, beer labels, candy wrappers, newspaper clippings, fabric swatches, rusty nails, and the like—that bespeak the flux of contemporary society. In his early collages, Schwitters subjected his bits of wreckage to an organizing principle resembling the vertical scaffolding of Analytic Cubism, thus transforming the diverse components into formal elements. Embedded in each collage, however, are hints of narrative.


Robert Motherwell: Stream of Consciousness—in Paint

Robert Motherwell - Ulysses - 1947 - Oil paint on cardboard, on wood - 38 x 32 inches - Tate Modern, London (click photo for larger image)American Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was among the first American artists to cultivate accidental elements in his work. His decision to become a serious artist came in 1941—and he embraced several different styles during the course of his career.

“Possessing perhaps the best and most extensive formal education of all the New York School painters, Robert Motherwell was well versed in literature, philosophy and the European modernist traditions. His paintings, prints and collages feature simple shapes, bold color contrasts and a dynamic balance between restrained and boldly gestural brushstrokes. They reflect not only a dialogue with art history, philosophy and contemporary art, but also a sincere and considered engagement with autobiographical content, contemporary events and the essential human conditions of life, death, oppression and revolution.”

Motherwell was also a successful and well-known teacher and writer. He taught art at Hunter College from 1951—58, and again from 1971-72. He directed the publication of the series “The Documents of Modern Art” (1944–52), and he wrote numerous essays on art and aesthetics. Motherwell was generally regarded as the most articulate spokesman for Abstract Expressionism.

The work featured here is named after James Joyce's famous modernist novel Ulysses (1922) which Motherwell first read while traveling though Europe in 1935. Joyce's style of writing, in particular his use of stream of consciousness, had a profound effect on Motherwell, who believed that art should be an expression of the innermost thoughts and feelings of the artist.


Quote of the Day

"What concerns me when I work, is not whether the picture is a landscape, or whether it's pastoral, or whether somebody will see a sunset in it. What concerns me is - did I make a beautiful picture?” - Helen Frankenthaler


Elaine de Kooning: Making It Happen

Elaine de Kooning - Juarez - 1958 - Oil on masonite - 35 3/4 x 47 7/8 inches (90.8 x 121.6 cm) - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY (click photo for larger image)American Abstract Expressionist Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989) was a prolific artist, art critic, portraitist, and teacher. Although her early career was overshadowed by that of Willem de Kooning, her husband, Elaine's artistic range, vast knowledge of media, and influence on fellow artists was profound. Her success as an art critic largely contributed to a broader recognition and understanding of Abstract Expressionism—and its value.

Many of de Kooning’s so-called “pure” abstract paintings were produced during the 1950s. However, much of her later art fused abstraction with mythology, primitive imagery, and realism. A world traveler, she was exposed to and inspired by a wide variety of art that helped make her one of the more diverse artists among her colleagues.

Elaine de Kooning's work continues to receive increasing critical attention as she was, without question, one of the most important figures of the postmodern era—and beyond. You can read more about Elaine de Kooning right here on What About Art?.


Lee Krasner: Color and Graceful, Rhythmic Form 

Lee Krasner - Imperative - 1976 - Oil, charcoal and paper on canvas - 50 x 50 in. (127 x 127 cm) - National Gallery of Art - Washington, DC (click photo for larger image)American artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984) explored and experimented with both painting and collage techniques, for over six decades. 

“An ambitious and important artist in New York City during Abstract Expressionism's heyday, Lee Krasner's own career often was compromised by her role as supportive wife to Jackson Pollock, arguably the most significant postwar American painter, as well as by the male-dominated art world.” And yet, it has often been observed many times that, “without Lee Krasner, there would have been no “Jackson Pollock”. Pollock’s vision was certainly his own. But it was Krasner’s thorough understanding of art theory and current trends that set Pollock on his path, and it was Krasner who propelled his career and ensured his legacy.

In terms of her own work, Krasner always explored the synthesis of abstract form and psychological content that was at the heart of Abstract Expressionism. She was remarkably versatile and possessed stellar skills, which, when coupled with her intensive training and knowledge, enabled her to revise her style and technique multiple times over the course of her career.

Six months after her death, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City held a retrospective exhibition of her work. A review of the exhibition in the New York Times noted that it "clearly defines Krasner's place in the New York School" and that she "is a major, independent artist of the pioneer Abstract Expressionist generation, whose stirring work ranks high among that produced here in the last half-century.” Krasner is now seen as a key transitional figure within abstraction, who connected early-20th-century art with the new ideas of postwar America.

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