Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Parisian Evening

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, 1876, oil on canvas

This image depicts a day in the life of a Parisian evening at the famous dance hall in 1876. Couples dancing, groups talking and drinks flowing, Ball at the Moulin de la Galette portrays one of Renoir’s most favorite subjects.

The bodies and faces of the subjects are muddled but this was part of Renoir’s technique, not a flaw. As an impressionist painter, he worked closely with Claude Monet and their influence upon each other is obvious. Renoir was interested in the patterns and shapes light makes as it catches his subjects dancing about and socializing.

Splotches of diluted color or extra saturated color make patterns on the faces and elegant outfits. The splotchy technique that Renoir loved to experiment with creates this mood of intimacy where the viewer simply sees figures instead of individual characters. It is just as a viewer from a block away would see this image in the present time of 1876.

The faces and individual people are less important than the impact of the entire group of young, fun Parisians. In Renoir’s use of his “rainbow palette” the painting still has dimension and life which, otherwise, would have had a good possibility of being obsolete because there is no interesting or clear central figure.

Shades of pink-reds, dusty blues and charcoal create an image full of life. In Renoir’s great artistic ability, he could turn an unclear depiction of social life into a piece full of buzz and conviction.

His friends, being some of the subjects in the painting, act as Renoir’s more decipherable figures in the painting. Also in focus are the city light poles.

Just as the light defines the technique and mood of the painting, so do his friends. A social scene rooting at the core of the painting, Renoir’s friends are also part of this root.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No beginning. No end.

Jackson Pollock, Number IA, 1948, oil on canvas

Pollock is a true innovator in the art world. Although violent in method, and also said to be violent in person, he gave an entirely new light to the already popularized method of Abstract Expressionism.

The piece says chaos and drama and evokes an unmatched feeling of pandemonium that you simply can not look away from.

This technique he created is called Action Painting and allows Pollock himself become a part of the painting by pouring and flinging paint onto an unstretched canvas with sticks or knives. The technique ultimately creates an entanglement of lines and blotches almost like a bundle of nerves in your brain all perfectly color coded.

The color palette, in itself, is dark and austere. The only color that really stands out from the giant cluster is the smears of rust on the bottom left.

A mere splash of color, the rust offers life into an otherwise monochromatic painting. Monochromatic should not be confused with dull however seeing that this painting is full of emotional expression and freedom.

Pollock was quoted as saying, “I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them…I can control the flow of paint: there is no accident, just as there is no beginning and no end.”

Pollock didn’t need to represent his dark emotions by drawing a figure drinking in a dark room alone. Instead, with abstract lines and curves he created a similar emotion in a much more subdued way.

Pollock’s seemingly troublesome life ended in 1956 in car crash. He had an immeasurable talent that has been mimicked for years now but never in quite the same honest, moving manner.

Some might argue that this isn’t art, just scribbles of paint. However, it’s the way the lines fuse together and colors scream of helplessness that the painting is so much more than a mess. It’s a mess that represents the artisit's life.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Emil Nolde, Red Poppies, 1920, watercolor on paper

This is a splotchy image of a perfect flower.

Nolde depicted the raw beauty of red poppies in a way that had been previously untouched. Before his expressive interpretation of the poppy, this image would have been rendered with more classical techniques.

Paintings were expected to be accurate and not necessarily artistic before his time, however Nolde did not see art in this way and was hence one of the first Expressionists.

The poppies ooze expression and emotion, just as the category Noble painted in suggests, with his watercolor technique. There is a quality of imperfection within its artistic value. Smeared watercolor paint blur sharp lines into beautifully bleeding lines, and yet still keeps its artistic integrity. At no point does the viewer think, “A first grader definitely must have painted this.”

If anything, the imperfection of the piece makes it relatable to a broader span of viewers. Just as our lives our sometimes messy, smeared or flawed, there is always someone that will see beauty in that whether it be a significant other, a friend or a god.

The shades of pinks and reds clash as they merge together in the composition and the green from the vines have smeared into the center of some of the flowers which is completely sloppy usually avoided at all costs. Artistically, this watercolor is everything we try to steer clear of.

It’s a prime example of our lives. We grow from the vines and smear paths with other friends, lovers and family, which all leave stains, but somehow we continue to grow and sway towards different paths to repeat the process again and again. We try to avoid it but the just as watercolors bleed irrepressibly, so do our lives.

Although it sounds tragic, it’s clear to see in the watercolor, Red Poppies, that this vicious life cycle of hurt, pain, memories and growth is absolutely beautiful and often essential.