Jill's Blog

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Ellsworth Kelly: Painting as Objects

June 26, 2023

Minimalism strips objects down to their elemental, geometric form, and presents them in an impersonal manner. A reaction against the subjective elements of Abstract Expressionism, minimalist works can be abstract or wholly non-representational.

Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) has been an “influential force in the post-war art world. He first rose to critical acclaim in the 1950s with his bright, multi-paneled and largely monochromatic canvases. Maintaining a persistent focus on the dynamic relationships between shape, form and color, Kelly was one of the first artists to create irregularly shaped canvases.” (The Art Story). His works fall into the categories of Minimalism, Hard Edge Painting, Color Field, and Op Art.

The work featured here is one of his early experiments with multi-panel paintings. Kelly viewed paintings themselves as objects—with their content comprised of other objects.

Hieronymus Bosch: Creator of Devils

June 19, 2023

Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) was a brilliant and highly original Flemish painter of the late Middle Ages. His work is characterized by unusual, fantastic, iconography--and embodies a complex and wholly individual style.

Bosch was regarded as a highly imaginative “creator of devils” and a powerful inventor of seeming nonsense full of satirical meaning--which in and of itself is quite a feat. Closer scrutiny also reveals a demonstrated insight into the depths of the human mind and spirit. Bosch is most definitely one of my greatest mentors--and a powerful source of inspiration for me, as a painter.

During his lifetime, Bosch was much admired by students and followers and his work was collected throughout Europe. Although interest in him later waned for a time, his influence was strongly felt again during the Surrealist movement of the 20th century. Artists like Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí greatly admired him and used him as a resource. Dalí dubbed him “the first modern artist”.

Futurism: An Energetic Celebration

June 12, 2023

The Museum of Tel Aviv holds numerous works by important Italian artists. Gino Severini (1883-1966) is represented there by one of his famous Futurist paintings from c. 1915. Severini was an Italian painter, born in Cortona. In 1901 he moved to Rome, where he met painters Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla, who gave him lessons in Divisionism. (Divisionism refers to the separation of colors into individual dots or patches which interact optically.)

Severini moved to Paris in 1906, and forged friendships with such figures as Picasso, Apollinaire, and Max Jacob. While living in Paris, however, he remained in close contact with his Italian associates, and joined the Futurist movement in 1910 . Although much of his Futurist work remains influenced by Divisionism, from c. 1912 forward his work also shows a strong awareness of Cubism, a movement he highly recommended to his fellow Futurists.

Futurism developed primarily in Italy, in around 1910. Its objective was to express the energy and value of the machine age.

“The Peasant” - Portrait of Patience Escalier

June 5, 2023

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) conveyed his own emotional and spiritual state in each of his artworks. This tendency, along with his striking color, emphatic brushwork, and contoured forms, are as evident in his portraits as they are in his landscapes and still life works. Vincent had a gift for looking into the human soul—but he clearly looked into it with sad eyes.

Writing to his brother, Theo, about this work, Vincent said, “I should like to paint men and women with that certain something of the eternal, which the halo used to symbolize and which we seek to achieve by the actual radiance and vibration of our colorings.”

There is always a visible touch of Vincent in his portraits--regardless of the identity of the sitter. Rather than this being a critical observation, however, I see it as part of this wonderful artist's signature style.

“Foghorns” by the Fantastic Arthur Dove

May 29, 2023

Arthur Dove (1889-1946) was an American painter who was one of the earliest nonobjective artists. Dove’s art reflects his belief that color and form are instruments with which to express the essence beneath the physical exterior of things; his shapes are typically amorphous, his colors muted. In his wonderful "Foghorns" (1929), for example, he used size-graduated shapes and gradations of hue to visually express the sound of foghorns. Despite their nonobjective character, his paintings often suggest the undulating qualities of landscape and the forms of nature.

Dove had a profound influence on Georgia O'Keeffe. From the start of her career, O’Keeffe credited a reproduction of a Dove pastel as her introduction to modernism. Dove’s use of sensual, abstract forms to evoke the flowing rhythms and patterns of nature had already put him at the forefront of the American modernist movement by the time O’Keeffe entered the scene around 1916. Dove had been featured at the renowned photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery “291″ in 1912, and O’Keeffe’s work was first shown there in 1916.

O'Keeffe seriously considered giving up painting entirely early on in her career. Although she was an award winning art student--she wasn't particularly interested in painting those subjects for which she was lauded. She also didn't want to paint in the manner of one her most famous teachers--William Merritt Chase. At the same time, she didn't want to follow the paths of the European modernists. Seeing Dove's work helped O'Keeffe to find her own visual voice. When she was in her 70s, O'Keeffe recalled that, “It was Arthur Dove who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own.” By all means, explore the paintings of Arthur Dove. It will be well worth the journey.

Trompe-l’oeil - You’ve Been Tricked

May 22, 2023

One of the goals of this blog is to share with you some of the great works of art that I find fascinating—in the hope that you'll find interest in them, too.

The work featured here is a masterful example of trompe-l’œil (meaning “deceive the eye”) painting.

Trompe-l’œil is distinguished not just by its realism—after all, still life, perspective painting and photography can all claim to be realistic—but by its wit. In the best trompe-l’œil works, the artist deliberately sets out to trick you, and then lets you know you’ve been tricked!

Pere Borell del Caso (1835-1910) was a Spanish painter, illustrator and engraver, known for his trompe-l'œil paintings, especially “Escaping Criticism”. From 2002 to 2011, this 1874 painting went on an international tour, visiting exhibitions devoted to trompe-l'œil in Sweden, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States

“Drawing Hands”

May 15, 2023

M.C. Escher (1898-1972) was a Dutch graphic artist, noted for his distinctive prints depicting intricate interlocking patterns and optical illusions. He was especially accomplished in lithography and wood engraving. 

While Escher’s early work consists mainly of landscapes and townscapes, beginning in 1936 his work became increasingly more concerned with scenes of his own creation, especially with the repeating patterns and spatial illusions for which he is best known. 

The "Drawing Hands" is a beautiful presentation of the hands of an artist--our hands being one of our most important tools. “Most notably, it is an example of what author Douglas Hofstadter has called a ‘strange loop,’ a paradoxical system which continuously self-referentially repeats with no seeming beginning or end.” (BYU Museum)

Distinctions Among “Outsiders”

May 8th, 2023

The distinctions between naive art, folk art, and outsider art are often blurred--and the terms are frequently used interchangeably. The term “Naive Artists” generally refers to painters living in mainstream culture who pursue individualized subjects and themes, such as Henri Rousseau. They have no formal training and aren’t particularly interested in acquiring it. They are, however, wholly dedicated to their art. They are not “Sunday painter” or hobbyists. They work at their craft full-time.

“Folk Art” typically embodies subjects dealing with a particular culture and/or tells us something about the community or traditions of the artist. Naive painter Grandma Moses is considered a folk artist, because her work is focused on the activities of the region in which she lived. Not all folk artists are “naive”. In many cases, folk traditions are carefully taught and passed down from generation to generation.

“Outsider Art” refers to works created by individuals living outside of (or on the fringes) of mainstream society—such as homeless people, prisoners, mental patients and the like. Moreover, some fully trained artists choose to align themselves with outsider art, as a way of protesting and challenging what they see as the elitism of the contemporary art world.

At one time works of naive, folk and outsider art were referred to as “primitive" and sometimes are still so labeled. But art historians avoid that term these days. In many cases, these works of art are anything but…

The painting featured here was painted by Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), a naive New England painter--now regarded as one of the most important folk artists of his era.