Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

In this essay I am going to talk about a very important figure in the Bauhaus Institution’s history, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. The essay is organized as it follows: in section 2 I am going to talk about his life and history; in section 3, 4 and 5, I will talk about how he influenced the photography history and what inspired him. In section 6, I will include some last conclusions and final remarks.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was a Hungarian- born American painter, sculptor, photographer, designer, theorist and art teacher born on July 20, 1895. Laszlo started painting after he graduated from Law School and “developed his own abstract style influenced by Malewitsch and El Lissitky, it was inevitable that he would become one of the most important artists of Constructivism” (www.moholy-nagy.eu, no date). In 1921, Moholy-Nagy moved to Berlin where he taught at Bauhaus until 1929. He moved to Chicago in 1937 to “organize the New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology), the first American school based on the Bauhaus program” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010). In 1946, he died because of a severe illness.

Moholy-Nagy played a very important role in the history of photography especially when he “proposed that a photogram in which two dimensional surface of the photosensitive paper was exposed using only light from a flashlight to produce images that exhibit three dimensionality. The illusion of depth was created in the two dimensional space” (Les Rudnick, 2011). He also tried experimenting with objects that had different grades of transparency and thickness. “He also experimented with the concept of motion in the photogram image by actually moving objects during exposure” (Les Rudnick, 2011). I find his techniques very interesting and I think that Moholy-Nagy has succeeded in planting the first seeds of Interactive Media concepts into his public’s minds by using motion in his photography and by using all the light effects that he discovered and developed, “Moholy-Nagy broke the chains of conceptual limitations and expanded photographic possibilities” (Les Rudnick, 2011).

He was fascinated by everything that was surrounding him, “he was fascinated by the city, by the skyscrapers and factories, the fast-developing industrial landscapes of the early 20th century” (Fiona Mac Carthy, 2006) and this inspired him in his creations. The Russian Constructivism influence, I think it’s obvious, especially in images 2 and 3. I like the way he uses geometrical figures, especially in image 2 and also, I like the way he integrates the black shapes into a colourful design. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy had a very unique way of naming his paintings (some don’t even have a title at all), for example, “he titled the Telephone Paintings not with words but with letters and numbers like a factory production code” (Fiona Mac Carthy, 2006; image 4). Moholy-Nagy had a great influence on the way the art world evolved and had a very important role in how the art world is seen today.

Moholy-Nagy’s “vision of a nonrepresentational art consisting of pure visual fundamentals- colour, texture, light and equilibrium of forms- was immensely influential in both fine and applied arts” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010). We can clearly observe that the use of space and the colour palette are characteristics of the Constructivism movement and it is obvious that this was one of the biggest influences of his artwork.

All in all, “as professor of the metal workshop and responsible for teaching the preliminary design course at the Bauhaus, Weimar, Moholy-Nagy is a key figure in the history of modernist design” (Peder Anker, 2011). I think that his work is very interesting and that, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy is an icon for art in many of its forms.

Referencing list:

Encyclopaedia Britannica  (2010), available at http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/387685/Laszlo-Moholy-Nagy (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Rudnick, Les (2011), available at http://www.photograms.org/chapter03.html (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Anker, Peder; From Bauhaus to Eco-house: A history of Ecological Design (2011), LSU Press

MacCarthy, Fiona; The Fiery Stimulator (2006); available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2006/mar/18/art.modernism (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Art Directory; Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; available at: http://www.moholy-nagy.eu/ (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 1: Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo; Portrait; image source: http://www.moholy-nagy.eu/images/artist/108.jpg (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 2: Moohly-Nagy, Laszlo; image source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_oqsycE_uO8k/S7ytDU3bEUI/AAAAAAAAAEQ/GgB0bHmVtKs/s1600/032.jpg (Accessed  31.03.2011)

image 3: Moohly-Nagy, Laszlo; image source: http://profspevack.com/designcolor/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/L%C3%A1szl%C3%B3-Moholy-Nagy_10310751474.jpg (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 4: Moohly-Nagy, Laszlo; image source: http://www.askart.com/AskART/photos/SOL20070619_4426/32.jpg (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 5: Moohly-Nagy, Laszlo; image source: http://www.bluetravelguide.com/photosBTG/00/00/08/89/ME0000088917_3.JPG (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy Research

  1. Hungarian
  2. Painter
  3. Bauhaus
  4. Sculptor
  5. Photographer
  6. Designer
  7. Did photograms
  8. Constructivism
  9. Progress of mechanization
  10. Abstract

 

What makes Moholy-Nagy one of the most representative artists for the Constructivism movement?

His style.

László Moholy-Nagy,  (born July 20, 1895, Bácsborsód, Hungary—died November 24, 1946, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), Hungarian-born American painter, sculptor, photographer, designer, theorist, and art teacher, whose vision of a nonrepresentational art consisting of pure visual fundamentals—colour, texture, light, and equilibrium of forms—was immensely influential in both the fine and applied arts in the mid-20th century. He is also known for his original approach to art education.After he left the Bauhaus in 1929, Moholy-Nagy became involved in stage design and filmmaking. Fleeing from Nazi Germany in 1934, he went to Amsterdam and London, and in 1937 he moved to Chicago to organize the New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology), the first American school based on the Bauhaus program.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/387685/Laszlo-Moholy-Nagy

Moholy-Nagy proposed that a photogram was like a light painting and in the early 1920’s produced several photograms in which the two dimensional surface of the photosensitive paper was exposed using only light from a flashlight to produce images that exhibited three dimensionality. The illusion of depth was created in the two-dimensional space. These experiments were also expanded to include objects chosen because of their degree of transparency and their physical thickness. these features of the object resulted in unique projections on the two-dimensional photosensitive surface. He also experimented with the concept of motion in the photogram image by actually moving objects during exposure. These ideas at the time were contrary with all of the teaching on the photographic process – lack of vibration or movement during the taking or printing of photographic images. Moholy-Nagy broke the chains of conceptual limitations and expanded photographic possibilities.Moholy-Nagy is considered a major influence on the history of photography.  He trained photographers in the use of light.  Whether or not he discovered or rediscovered the photogram process he certainly created via manipulation of light and object, memorable images based on the synergy of this combination. His use of non-rigid and non-structured materials as light modulators allowed him to make photograms which were dematerialized in the conventional photographic sense and more about transforming the qualities of light into imagery. He employed the facets of crystal and cut glass and veils as non-rigid materials and liquids as non-structured materials for production of his photograms.

Source: http://www.photograms.org/chapter03.html

In 1937 the famous designer László Moholy-Nagy moved from London to Chicago. His work may serve as an introduction to the kind of relationships between ecological architecture and science that I investigate here. Late in life Moholy-Nagy complained that the original meaning of Louis Sullivan’s celebrated motto “Form follows function” had been “blurred” to a “cheap commercial slogan,” so that its original meaning was lost. According to Moholy-Nagy, the motto should be understood in view of “phenomena occurring in nature,” where every form emerges from its proper function.  As professor of the metal workshop and responsible for teaching the preliminary design course at the Bauhaus, Weimar, Moholy-Nagy is a key figure in the history of modernist design.

Source: From Bauhaus to Eco-house: A history of Ecological Design, 2011

At the same time, he was fascinated by the city, by the skyscrapers and factories, the fast-developing industrial landscape of the early 20th century. Moholy-Nagy thrived on ideas of dynamic progress, of mechanisation, the inherent possibilities of new materials. As he wrote in MA (Today), the avant-garde magazine then being published in Vienna: “Everyone is equal before the machine. I can use it; so can you. It can crush me; the same can happen to you.” His grasp of new technologies was prophetic.Moholy-Nagy was entranced by the mechanised production of artworks, ridiculing the artist’s traditional stance as individual creator. In 1922, his Telephone Paintings were exhibited at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin. The series of three enamel panels had been ordered from a factory specialising in commercial signs. The geometric motif of vertical bar and two crucifix forms was identical on all three panels; only the panel sizes differed. Moholy-Nagy later claimed that he had ordered them by telephone, giving his instructions to the sign painter by means of graph paper and a standard industrial colour chart. This may not be entirely true: Moholy-Nagy could be a joker. Still, he titled the Telephone Paintings not with words but with letters and numbers like a factory production code.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2006/mar/18/art.modernism

The expectations of the age of technology and his new media led Moholy-Nagy to a functional use of Abstraction, which he managed to show in all areas of design and which guided him through different phases of experimenting. His varied oeuvre ranges from painting, photography, film, design and stage design to experiments with photograms which considerably influenced the development of light art and kinetic art. László Moholy-Nagy left the “Bauhaus” in 1928 together with Gropius and worked in Berlin as a stage designer, exhibition organiser, typographer and film producer. He emigrated to the USA in 1937 and ran the “New Bauhaus” in Chicago. Moholy-Nagy opened his own art institute, the “School of Design”, in Chicago in 1938 and enlarged it in the following years by adding the faculties economics, psychology and information theory.László Moholy-Nagy became severely ill and died one year later, in 1946.

Source: http://www.moholy-nagy.eu

 


 

 

Saul Bass

In the following essay I am going to talk about one of the most famous and amazing graphic designers in the world, Saul Bass. The second part is going to be about his life; in the third and fourth sections I am going to talk about his works and the innovations that he brought into the graphic design area and also in cinematography. In the fifth part I will include some final remarks and a conclusion.

Saul Bass was a graphic designer and art director born in New York in 1920. He studied art at Brooklyn College and then, in 1946, he moved to Los Angeles and founded Saul Bass and Associates creating logos for different companies. After moving into the cinematographic area, he started creating trailers and titles for films, at first for Cameron Jones and later on, for Alfred Hitchcock (North by Northwest, Psycho [image 2], Anatomy of a Murder [image 3],Goodfellas, Vertigo [image 4]). The artwork he created for these movies is, in my opinion the reason why Saul Bass is so famous today. He died on April 25th 1996 in Los Angeles of “non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his family said” (New York Times, 1996).

Saul Bass brought important innovations in the ways the cinematographic posters were done “for the first fifty years of American cinema, posters were comprised of either paintings of photos of favourite stars to lure audiences into darkened auditoriums. And that’s the way it would most likely to be today if it weren’t for one man: Saul Bass”- this is how Paul Zimmerman describes the new ideas that Bass introduced into the cinematographic field. He introduced the simple design into film posters’ artwork. His designs are now an important part of the graphic design’s history. Also, Bass is famous as “the man who invented the opening credit sequence as a free-standing-movie-before-a-movie and elevated it into an art” (New York Times, 1996).  I think that Saul Bass managed to capture the essence of design and what it should do, and mastered it: “beneath theory and rhetoric, and well beyond technique and jargon, the reason for design is to speak to people in a language that is familiar, but also new, to entice people to understand an old thing into a new way” (David R. Brown, 1982). The most famous artwork that Bass did is the shower scene in the movie Psycho but, in my opinion, the most impressive and influencing of his work is the poster for the film The Man With The Golden Arm” (image 5) that is a huge step forward, in my opinion, for movie poster designs “with his striking credit sequences and animations, Bass exerted tremendous influence over film title work” (Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, 2005).

It’s easy to see that Bass was influenced a lot by the Bauhaus style and the Russian Constructivism: “Kepes introduced Bass to Moholy’s Bauhaus style and to Russian Constructivism” (Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, 2005). But, in my opinion, Bass had successfully combined his unique style with these two, the amazing result remaining an icon for the art world and not only: “Saul Bass’s work touches people. Not just designers, or students, or observers of design, or those who know and can explain what a designer is and does, but simply people- many, many people. It’s a cliché, but Saul Bass really has done it all. Film. Packaging. Products. Architecture. Corporate Identification. Graphics. His work surrounds us” (David R. Brown, 1982).

I think that Saul Bass’ innovation had a great influence on how we see the movie titles and the posters today and in my opinion, he succeeded in achieving both graphic design and film design absolute success “Bass is the first to disavow the widely held idea that graphic design and film design are closely related disciplines. In medium, time, concept, technique and technical aspects, they are not (…).Yet, Saul Bass has not only mastered both, he is confortable in both” (David R. Brown, 1982).

All in all, Saul Bass was always one of the artists who’s style inspires me and which I appreciate.

Referencing list:

Zimmerman, Paul (no date), Available at: http://saulbass.tv/ (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Woodman, Jonathan (2005); Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, Oxford University Press

Saul Bass (no date); Available at:  http://designmuseum.org/design/saul-bass (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Brown, David R. (1982); Saul Bass; Available at: http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-saulbass (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Thomas, Robert (1996); Saul Bass, 75, Designer, Dies; Made Art out of Movie Titles; New York Times Obituary; Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/27/movies/saul-bass-75-designer-dies-made-art-out-of-movie-titles.html?src=pm (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 1: Zimmerman, John; Saul Bass- Portrait (no date); image source: http://www.redcmarketing.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/1_saul_bass_portrait.jpg , (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 2: Bass, Saul; Psycho (1960); image resource: http://blogs.sitepoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Psycho_1960_thumb.jpg (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 3: Bass, Saul; Anatomy of a murder (1959); image resource: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/2/2f/AnatomyMurder2.jpg/220px-AnatomyMurder2.jpg (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 4: Bass, Saul; Vertigo (1958); image resource: http://www.impawards.com/1958/posters/vertigo.jpg (Accessed: 31.03.2011)

image 5: Bass, Saul; The Man With The Golden Arm (1955); image resource: http://library.rit.edu/gda/sites/library.rit.edu.gda/files/bass10_0.jpg (Accessed: 31.03.2011)

Saul Bass Research

  1. American
  2. Graphic designer
  3. Russian constructivism
  4. Art director
  5. Made the artwork for Hitchcock’s movies
  6. Made designs for airline companies’ logos
  7. Film designer
  8. Illustrious designs
  9. Animator
  10. Tremendous influence over film title work

What was so great about Saul Bass’s designs?

The designs were simple but yet, captured the public’s attention with their simplicity

“The broken sword of Saint Joan, the outstretched hands to freedom in EXODUS, the simple lines that recall the fire escape in WEST SIDE STORY. One movie reduced to a single image. These images are the distilled genius of BASS”- Joe Kocker American DesignFor the first fifty years of American cinema, posters were comprised of either paintings of photos of favourite stars to lure audiences into darkened auditoriums. And that’s the way it would most likely to be today if it weren’t for one man: Saul Bass who died on April 25th 1996 at the age of 75.Eschewing the “big head” theory of advertising in the mid-50, designer Bass broke tradition with his savage, jagged print objects and use of designs. His bold, confident lines and simple images recall the best Soviet commercial design of the 20s, while adding a decidedly American twist to the final product.Best known for his work with directors Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Stanley Kubrik, Bass broke things wide open in 1955 with the foreboding poster and titles to The Man with the Golden Arm. Setting aside images of lead mug Frank Sinatra, Bass instead grabbed audiences with a simple silhouette of a twisted arm.His swirling, op-arted designs for Vertigo and Psycho tipped viewers off through posters and title sequences that were about to have their equilibrium disrupted.Symbolize and summarize were the words Bass lived by, and his careful choice of single images quickly set the tone for such films as Preminger’s Exodus and Anatomy of a Murder.So valued was Bass’s visual opinion, he served not only as title designer but as visual consultant on Spartacus, West Side Story and Grand Prix. Yet his most famous collaboration must be his storyboards for the infamous shower scene in Psycho.Over the years, a great debate has grown over what’s been called the most famous and studied scene in the cinematic history: Bass claims he actually directed the scene, co-stars and historians disagree.After a golden period that lasted well into the mid sixties, Bass’s innovations fell out of fashion. Turning to corporate design with his firm, Saul Bass and Associates, he subsequently put his stamps on the corporate world with logos for the likes of United Airlines, AT & T and Quaker. In between, he crafted several short features, and in ’74 directed Phase 4, to mixed results.Bass was called back to duty by a generation of directors who’d grow up loving his work. First came an offer to do the titles for Jim Brook’s Broadcast News which was quickly followed by work on Penny Marshall’s Big and Danny de Vito’s War of the Rose. The creative juices really started flowing again when rapid film fan Martin Scorsese stoked the master. For Cape Fear, Good Fellas, The Age of Innocence and Casino, Bass and wife Elaine set out to make mini movies that would set the tone for what was to follow. Having evolved from the stark symmetry of North by Northwest’s opening, Bass’s modern age titles are now more subtle: for Age of Innocence the slo-mo blossoming of  laced rose perfectly sums up the film’s themes of formality and sexual urges and repression: for Casino, Bass sent a car-bombed de Niro spiralling through a non inferno predicting his subsequent decent into hell.Recently, Bass was paid tribute to in more ways than one. While the east coast prepared to celebrate the grand master with an exhibit at the Visual Art Museum in New York, across the country Spike Lee’s art staff chose to lift Bass’s Anatomy of a Murder graphic line to line and use it to promote the film Clockers, Bass threatened legal actions, the press had a field day and subsequent display adds in newspapers were quickly altered.

Source: http://www.saulbass.tv

Born in New York, graphic designer and art director Saul Bass trained as an animator under Howard Trafton at the Art Student League in New York (1936-9) and the European-influenced designer Gyorgy Kepes at Brooklyn College (1944-5). After moving to Los Angeles in 1946 and introducing sophisticated East Coast graphic solutions to the highly commercial ethos of the West Coast, he founded Saul Bass Associates. He was responsible for a number of logos, including AT&T and Warner Communications, and corporate identity schemes for airlines, including Continental. He first attracted more widespread attention after moving into film, designing the artwork, trailer, and titles for his father-in-law Oscar Preminger’s Carmen Jones in 1954. This was followed by work for Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Gun (1956), Billy Wilder’s Seven Year Itch, and a series of striking collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock. These involved the title shots for North by Northwest (1959) and Psycho, for which he was also employed as Pictorial Consultant for the famous shower scene. With his striking credit sequences and animations Bass exerted tremendous influence over film title work, including Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1996) and many others. He also made the US contribution to the 1968 Milan Triennale and was later recognized for his striking poster for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, Saul Bass

Even before he made his cinematic debut, Bass was a celebrated graphic designer. Born in the Bronx district of New York in 1920 to an emigré furrier and his wife, he was a creative child who drew constantly. Bass studied at the Art Students League in New York and Brooklyn College under Gyorgy Kepes, an Hungarian graphic designer who had worked with László Moholy-Nagy in 1930s Berlin and fled with him to the US. Kepes introduced Bass to Moholy’s Bauhaus style and to Russian Constructivism.After apprenticeships with Manhattan design firms, Bass worked as a freelance graphic designer or “commercial artist” as they were called. Chafing at the creative constraints imposed on him in New York, he moved to Los Angeles in 1946. After freelancing, he opened his own studio in 1950 working mostly in advertising until Preminger invited him to design the poster for his 1954 movie, Carmen Jones. Impressed by the result, Preminger asked Bass to create the film’s title sequence too.Now over-shadowed by Bass’ later work, Carmen Jones elicited commissions for titles for two 1955 movies: Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife, and Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch. But it was his next Preminger project, The Man with the Golden Arm, which established Bass as the doyen of film title design.

Source: http://www.designmuseum.org/design/saul-bass

Beneath theory and rhetoric, and well beyond technique and jargon, the reason for design is to speak to people in a language this is familiar, but also new, to entice people to understand an old thing in a new way, or grasp a new thing in an old way.Saul Bass’s work touches people. Not just designers, or students, or observers of design, or those who know and can explain what a designer is and does, but simply people—many, many people.It’s a cliché, but Saul Bass really has done it all. Films. Packaging. Products. Architecture. Corporate identification. Graphics. His work surrounds us. Pick up the telephone and you’re hard-pressed not to recall Bass’s ubiquitous Bell System symbol and look. Take a plane—United, Continental, Frontier: Saul Bass. Go to a film—Psycho, Anatomy of a Murder, Exodus, Spartacus, The Man With the Golden Arm, Advise & Consent, Such Good Friends: Saul Bass. In the supermarket or in the kitchen—Wesson, Quaker, Alcoa, Lawry’s, Dixie: Saul Bass. Relax with a magazine, read a book, watch TV, take some pictures—Saturday Evening Post, Warner, Minolta: Saul Bass. Give to charity—The United Way, Girl Scouts: Saul Bass. Strike an Ohio Blue Tip match.Bass is the first to disavow the widely held idea that graphic design and film design are closely related disciplines. In medium, time, concept, technique and technical aspects, they are not. Graphic design is a solitary or small group exercise in creating. Film directing and producing are management efforts of large groups of people, equipment, variables and idea. Yet Saul Bass has not only mastered both, he is comfortable in both. And the Bass competence extends along another axis of accomplishment.

Source: http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-saulbass

By training and profession, Mr. Bass was a graphic designer who filled the American landscape with such designs as Exxon service stations and the jars for Lawry’s seasonings. But it was in the movies that he made his most lasting impact, as the man who invented the opening credit sequence as a free-standing movie-before-a-movie and elevated it into an art. Movies had always had opening credits, but until “The Man With the Golden Arm,” in 1955, they were little more than perfunctory afterthoughts rarely more creative than having the names of the movie’s stars and production staff revealed by the turning pages of the book

Source: New York Times Obituary

Alexander Fisher

In the following essay I am going to talk about Alexander Fisher. The essay is organized as it follows: in section 2  I am going to talk about Fisher’s life and how he started doing enamellings; in section 3 I am going to talk about his style and his works; in section 4 I’m going to approach the subject on the influences Fisher had and how he inspired JRR Tolkien; section 5 contains some final conclusions.

Alexander Fisher 1864-1936  was a British silversmith that specialized in enamelling. He taught at LCC Central Schools of Art and at other British schools. Although Fisher started at the beginning as a painter, he became interested in enamelling and moved to Paris to study this art. After returning to England, he started making jewellery and published some books on enamelling. Alexander Fisher is known as “the key figure in the revival of enamelling in Britain, in the late 19th century” (National Museum of Scotland, 2008) and is “responsible for the revival of the Limoges technique” (Linda Perry, 1993). He was also a very influential teacher and was a lecturer at many British Arts and Crafts Schools.

Fisher is one of the most representative artists for the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain. The Arts and Crafts movement was born from the European and American artists’ need to “brake away from the academic bias that extrolled the classical heritage of Greece and Rome. They found new inspiration in the art of craft.” (Marilyn Stockstad, 2008, p. 893). Fisher was part of this movement, giving up on painting to study enamelling, he “made specimen pieces demonstrating his mastery in various techniques. These included a large silver and plique- a jour tazza with pierced out openwork, a series of profile portraits following the traditional Limonges style, and a few large scale enamel paintings as fire- screens” (Erika Speel). Some of these examples are The Travelling Icon (image 1), Tristan and Isolde Buckle (image 2). I personally don’t really like this kind of art, but anyone can notice and appreciate the talent that Fisher put in all of his work, and we can also notice the warm, harmonic colours that he uses in his enamels, for example in  Triptych: Life of St Patrick (image 3)”extremely graceful and romantic in choice of colours with blue, green and purple predominating, and with soft pink or white opalescent enamels representing the faces and the flesh areas.” (Erika Speel).

Alexander Fisher’s style was “inspired by paintings of the Garden of Hesperides by Edward Burne Jones and Lord Leighton” (National Museum of Scotland, 2008), but we can’t talk about only one influence when it comes to Fisher; he also made “jewellery and objects decorated with figures in a late Pre-Raphelite style” (Linda Perry, 1993). His art was also a source of inspiration for many artists in different domains, one of them is JRR Tolkien who was mostly influenced by The Volsunga Saga/ Sigurd the Volsung (image 4) in creating The Lord of the Rings: “The Volsunga Saga deeply influenced JRR Tolkien’s writing.  In particular the sword that was reforged, rings of power, the dragon on the hoard, and the creature Gollum.” (http://www.vandenbosch.co.uk/Artists&Designers/AlexanderFisher.htm)

In the end, Alexander Fisher is and will always be an important figure in the British Arts and Crafts Movement and his artwork will remain a point of reference in the enamelling history and will continue to inspire artists from various domains.

Referencing List:

Stokstad, Marilyn (2008) Art History. 3rd edn. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Speel, Erika (no date) Dictionary of Enamelling, History and Techniques, Ashgate Publishing, available at: http://mywebtiscali.co.uk/speel/otherart/fisher2.htm (Accessed: 30.03.2011)

Van den Bosch Artists & Designers (no date), available at:  http://www.vandenbosch.co.uk/Artists&Designers/AlexanderFisher.htm (Accessed: 30.03.2011)

Parry, Linda (1993), The Victoria & Albert Museum’s Textile Collection, British Textiles from 1850 to 1900; London

National Museum of Scotland (2008), Overmantel: The Garden of the Hesperides; available at: http://www.artfund.org/artwork/10323/overmantel%3A-the-garden-of-the-hesperides (Accessed: 30.03.2011)

image 1: Fisher, Alexander; The Travelling Icon (1897), image source: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/speel/pico/fisher2.jpg

image 2: Fisher, Alexander; Tristan and Isolde Buckle (cca. 1900), image source: http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/uploadedImages/VMFA/Collections/Art_Deco_+_Art_Nouveau/2002_35_v1_KW_200902_M.jpg

image 3: Fisher, Alexander; Triptych, Life of Saint Partrick (1906), image source: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/speel/pico/fisher5.jpg

image 4: Fisher, Alexander; Volsunga Saga (1900), image source: http://www.graysantiques.com/resources/19398.jpg

image 5: Fisher, Alexander; Design for a Yachting Cup in Silver and Enamel (aprox. 1909), image source: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/speel/pico/fisher4.jpg

Alexander Fisher Research

  1. Silversmith
  2. British
  3. Arts and Crafts Movement
  4. Enamel paintings
  5. Influenced JRR Tolikien
  6. Inspired by paintings of The Garden of Hesperides by Edward Burne-Jones and Lord Leighton
  7. Warm color palette
  8. Taught at LCC Central School of Arts and Crafts
  9. Leading innovator in art enameling
  10. Studied at Paris

 

What makes Fisher such a great enamel?

The fact that all his artwork was made as fine art pieces.

 

Alexander Fisher, silversmith, was a leading artist working with enamels. He taught at the LCC Central School of Arts and Crafts from 1896-1898 and later at other London Schools. He also had several private pupils. In the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he advocated that every artwork should express a particular idea and should be designed and worked through all its stages by one person.

Fisher made specimen pieces demonstrating his mastery of various techniques. These included a large silver and plique-a-jour tazza with pierced-out openwork, a series of profile portraits following the traditional Limoges style, and a few large scale enamel paintings as fire-screens. The colourful composition entitled The Wagner Girdle (1896) with steel links and painted plaques showing scenes from the opera Tristan and Isolde, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum Jewellery Gallery, demonstrated his skill in making small scale figural pieces. His plaques generally measured up to 18 cm x 10 cm (7 in x 4 in) and were of silver, or copper covered partly with silver or gold foil. His figural compositions are extremely graceful and romantic in choice of colours, with blue, green and purple predominating, and with soft pink or white opalescent enamels representing the faces and flesh areas. His works in this genre were designed as pieces of fine art. He considered the considerable output of the many trade enamellers working at this period as being frivolous and lacking in individuality.

Source: Dictionary of Enamelling, History and Techniques

The Volsunga Saga deeply influenced J. R. R. TOLKIEN’S writing. In particular, the sword that was reforged, rings of power, the dragon on the hoard, and the creature Gollum

When the young J. R. R. TOLKIEN won the Skeat Prize for English in the Spring of 1914, he used the proceeds to purchase editions of William Morris’s books including his translation of the Volsunga Saga.

Source: http://www.vanderbosh.co.uk/Artists&Designers/AlexanderFisher.htm

Fisher trained as a painter but became interested in enamelling and went to study its technique in Paris. Returning to England in 1887 he set up a studio making jewellery and objects decorated with figures in a late Pre-Raphaelite style. He published and lectured or enamelling and was responsible for the revival of the ‘Limoges’ technique. He taught for a while at the Central School of Arts & Crafts but in 1904, set up his own school in Kensington. His work was often published in the Studio Magazine and the Art Journal and shown at many international exhibitions, at the Royai Academy and the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. His embroidery designs were executed by his wife and by The Royal School of Art Needlework.

Source: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/design/textiles/50.html

Alexander Fisher was the key figure in the revival of enamelling in Britain in the late nineteenth century. This work stands out as his most ambitious and important work due to the size, shape and brilliant colour of the enamels. Fisher appears to have been inspired by paintings of the Garden of Hesperides by Edward Burne-Jones and Lord Leighton. The overmantel was commissioned or bought by Arthur James Balfour, who became Prime Minister in 1902, and was installed in the dining room of his great mansion at Whittingehame in East Lothian. The overmantel enriches the collection of Edinburgh-made and locally-related enamels in the National Museums of Scotland as well as linking to other works from the Arts and Crafts movement.

Source: http://www.artfund.org/artwork/10323/overmantel%3A-the-garden-of-the-hesperides

The indigenous peoples of the Americas did not produce objects as works of art. In their eyes all pieces were utilitarian objects, adorned in ways necessary for their indeed purpose. A work was valued for their intended purposes. A work was valued for its effectiveness and for the role it played in society. And as with art in all cultures, many pieces have had great spiritual or magical power. Such works of art cannot be fully comprehended or appreciated when they are seen only on pedestals or encased in glass boxes in museums or galleries. They must be imagined, or better yet seen as acting in their societies.

At the beginning of the 20th century, European and American artists broke away from the academic bias that extolled the classical heritage of Greece and Rome. They found new inspiration in the art of craft. Artists explored a new freedom to use absolutely any material or technique that effectively challenged outmoded assumptions and opened the way for a free and unfettered delight.

The line between “art” and “craft” seems more artificial and less relevant than ever before.

Source: Art History, 3rd edition

Alphonse Mucha

In this post I am going to talk about one of the most representative painter and designer for the Slavic people, Alphonse Mucha. The essay is organized as it follows: in section 2 I am going to talk about Alphonse Mucha’s life and history; in sections 3 and 4 I will be approaching the subject of his style and what made him a representative figure for the Art Nouveau movement and about how his work has influenced the history of the Slavic people and section 5 contains a conclusion and some final remarks.

Alphonse Maria Mucha (born July 24, 1860- died July 14, 1939) was a Czech artist and “one of the leading figures in Art Nouveau” (Hutchinson Dictionary of the Arts, no date). Mucha studied art in Prague, Munich and Paris where he also worked as a graphic designer, creating posters for the actress Sarah Berndhardt, his first, and most famous being Gismonda (image 1), he also started designing textiles, furniture, ceramic plaques and jewellery. His most famous work though, remains The Epic Slav (image 2), a set of 20 paintings illustrating the history of the Slav people, set that took almost twenty years to finish. He donated his Slav Epic paintings to the city of Prague before he died, in 1939.

Mucha was a very gifted artist that “tried so hard to bring art into the lives of people- his greatest passion- by designing first class posters, advertisements, labels for soap, toothpaste and butter, mosaic panels for municipal swimming pools, crockery, textiles, jewellery (…) and every conceivable kind of illustrative work” (Paul Johnson, 2003), this is one of the most obvious arguments to include him in the Art Nouveau movement which, by definition sais that “an artist should work on everything from architecture to furniture design so that art would become a part of everyday life. By making beauty and harmony a part of everyday life, artists make  people’s lives better” (Art Nouveaum, no date) . this is what Mucha wanted to do with the help of his wonderful designs and with the help of the colours he uses, that give the viewer a warm feeling of summer, Mucha manages to give his artwork an unique, harmonic feeling “his fascination with the sensual aspects of female beauty- luxuriantly flowing strands of hair, heavy- lidded eyes, and full-lipped mouths- as well as his presentation of the female image as ornamental reveal the influence of the English Pre-Raphelite aesthetic on Mucha” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010) and, his work can be also compared with Lautrec’s, both having a passion for representing women in their illustrations. But, unlike Lautrec who simplifies the human body form, reducing it to simple shapes, Mucha’s artwork presents “idealized images of young women with long flowing hair, with a patterned flower border” (Hutchinson Dictionary of the Arts, 2008).

What separates Mucha from the rest of the Art Nouveau artists, in my opinion, is his passion for the Slavic culture and the hard work he put into creating the most representative paintings for the Slavic culture, The Epic Slavic which “has twenty paintings, ten on Czech subject, ten on broader Slavic Themes” (Derek Sayer, 1998). Although, the masterpiece had some bad reactions coming from the political side “the public of Mucha’s homeland received the Epic with mixed emotions, one can even say with disfavour from the most part” (Jiri Mucha, 1967), we can’t remain speechless in front of such a beautiful and expressive manifestation of art and nationalism, and, in my opinion, Mucha managed, with his talent and vision to give another meaning to the word “nationalism”. The irony that surrounds these amazing paintings is that is such a nationalist country as the Czech Republic, there was a big lack of interest in exhibiting his paintings, a great gift for the city of Prague.

All in all, I think Mucha’s work is very interesting and he will remain an important figure in the Art Nouveau movement and managed to express, with the help of his work, his feelings and visions and his unique style will always be a source of inspiration for artists.

Referencing list:

Johnson, Paul (2003), Art, A New History, First edition, HarperCollins

Encyclopaedia Britannica  (2010), available at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/395800/Alphonse-Mucha

Huthinson Dictionary of the Arts (2008), Second edition, Helicon Publishing

Art Nouveaum (no date), available at: http://www.huntfor.com/arthistory/c19th/artnouveau.htm

Sayer, Derek (1998), The Coast of Bohemia: A Czech History, Princeton University Press

Mucha, Jiri (1967), Alphonse Mucha, his Life and Art, New York, McGraw Hill

image 1: Mucha, Alphonse; Gismonda, image source: http://darnsexysecondhand.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/mucha-gismonda.jpg

image 2: Mucha, Alphonse; The Slav Epic (one of the 20), image source: http://kalafudra.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/muchaslavepic.jpg

image 3: Mucha, Alphonse; The Slav Epic- Apothesis of the Slaves, image source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_PB-O1yT5EYg/SgofubMlEpI/AAAAAAAAj2s/xj_apsJnsuQ/s400/21_mucha_slaveepic_apothesisofslaves_1926.jpg

image 4: Mucha, Alphonse; Monaco Monte Carlo, image source: http://www.enjoyart.com/library/art_genres/art_nouveau/large/–Monaco—Monte-Carlo—-By-Alphonse-Mucha-Fine-Art-Giclee-Print.jpg

image 5: Mucha, Alphonse; Hamlet, image source: http://www.britannica.com/bps/media-view/8864/1/0/0

 

Alphonse Mucha Research

  1. Czech
  2. Painter and designer
  3. Art Nouveau
  4. Posters for theatrical productions
  5. Mostly female figures painted
  6. Painted “The Slav Epic”
  7. Postage stamp designer (banknotes)
  8. 3D works
  9. Jewelry designer
  10. Loved Byzantine icons

Why is Mucha part of the Art Nouveau movement although he claims he’s not?

The characteristics of his work.

[The Slav Epic] has twenty paintings, ten on Czech subjects, ten on broader Slavic themes.  The first depicts “The Slavs in Their Original Homeland . . .” and carries the subtitle “Between the Knout of the Turks and the Sword of the Goths.”  The last is “The Apotheosis of the History of the Slavs.”  In between this somber beginning and translucent ending, Mucha paints an odyssey that runs from paganism through “The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy (Praise God in Thy Native Tongue)” . . . to “The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, 1861. . . .”  He depicts the Bulgarian czar Simeon (888-927), the coronation of the Serbian czar StephenDushan (1346), and the defense of Sziget against the Turks by the Croatian hero Nicholas Zrinsky (1566).  But it is his choice of Czech subjects which is most interesting.  Six of the canvases are on broadly Hussite themes (“Jan Milic of Kromeriz 1372,” “Master Jan Hus Treaching in the Bethlehem Chapel 1412,” “The Meeting at Krizky 1419,” “After the Battle of Vitkov 1420,” “Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany 1433,” and “The Hussite King Jiri z Podebrad 1462”).  Two more (“The Printing of the Kralicka Bible at Ivancice 1578” and “Jan Amos Komensky–Last Days in Naarden 1670”) invoke the legacy of the Union of Brethren and the tragedy of Czech Protestant exiles after [the Battle of White Mountain].  Premysl Otakar II, perhaps the most famous the Premyslidkings, is also included for “Unity of the Slav Dynasties 1261.”

Source: The Coast of Bohemia: A Czech History

The public of Mucha’s homeland received the Epic with mixed emotions, one can even say with disfavour for the most part. They looked at it as a work whose ideas and intentions were out of tune with the time of its origin.  But they were aware of the sincerity and the honest effort that went into the creation of the whole series.  It came to be viewed as one of those controversial artistic errors which make us feel both respect and pity for the amount of work expended on it..

Source: Alphonse Mucha, his Life and Art

An artist should work on everything from architecture to furniture design so that art would become a part of everyday life. By making beauty and harmony a part of everyday life, artists make people’s lives better. This approach has been represented in painting, architecture, furniture, glassware, graphic design, jewelry, pottery, metalwork, and textiles and sculpture.

Source:  www.huntfor.com/arthistory/c19th/artnouveau.htm

One warms to Mucha because he tried so hard to bring art into the lives of the people – his greatest passion – by designing first class posters, advertisements, labels for soap, toothpaste and butter, mosaic panels for municipal swimming pools, crockery, textiles, jewellery (the snake bracelet and ring he designed for Sarah Bernhardt, executed by Fouquet, is perhaps the finest piece of costume jewellery ever created), postage stamps, calendars, letterheads and every conceivable kind of illustrative work. He loved Byzantine icons, collected them and copied them. He despised Art Nouveau, or said he did; not unfairly because his was really a style of its own. Anyone interested in design should study how ingeniously Mucha weaves into a single pattern frame and content, figures and decoration, lettering and picture.

Source: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/mucha.html

After early education in Brno, Moravia, and work for a theatre scene-painting firm in Vienna, Mucha studied art in Prague, Munich, and Paris in the 1880s. He first became prominent as the principal advertiser of the actress Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. He designed the posters for several theatrical productions featuring Bernhardt, beginning with Gismonda (1894), and he designed sets and costumes for her as well. Mucha designed many other posters and magazine illustrations, becoming one of the foremost designers in the Art Nouveau style. His supple, fluent draftsmanship is used to great effect in his posters featuring women. His fascination with the sensuous aspects of female beauty—luxuriantly flowing strands of hair, heavy-lidded eyes, and full-lipped mouths—as well as his presentation of the female image as ornamental, reveal the influence of the English Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic on Mucha, particularly the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The sensuous bravura of the draftsmanship, particularly the use of twining, whiplash lines, imparts a strange refinement to his female figures.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/396800/Alphonse-Mucha

Czech painter and designer, one of the leading figures in Art Nouveau. His posters and decorative panels brought him international fame, presenting idealized images of young women with long, flowing hair, with a patterned flower border. His early theatre posters were done for the actress Sarah Bernardt, notably the lithograph “Gismondo” (1894).

Trained in Munich, Mucha went to Paris in 1888 where he worked intermittently as a graphic artist. The Art Nouveau theatre posters for Bernhardt, for whom he also designed textiles, furniture, ceramic plaques and exhibition displays, and in 1900-01 a jewelry boutique for Georges Fouquet in Paris (now demolished).

Source: Hutchinson Dictionary of the Arts, 2nd edition

 

 

Henry de Toulouse Lautrec

In this post I am going to approach the subject matter on how Lautrec influenced the world of art and the innovations and means that he used to achieve this and also how his life influenced his style and the themes he chooses. The essay is organized as it follows: in section 2 I am going to talk about the historical and artistic influences; in section 3 I will discuss about his style and how he used it to capture, in a simplistic way, the French nightlife, section 4 deals with what life changing experiences influenced Lautrec and section 5 contains some final remarks and a conclusion.

Henry-Marie-Raymonde de Toulouse-Lautrec-Manfa was born in France on November 24, 1864 in a wealthy family. Despite the environment he was raise in , he spent most of his life studying and analizing the French nightlife and capturing in a simplistic manner the essence of humans, His interest in art started after a series of accidents which lead to him being incapacitated. His first art teacher was Rene Princeteau, famous for his depiction of military subjects. After discovering Montmarte, he dedicated himself to studying the social life of the Parisians cafes. He died at Chateau de Malrome on September 9, 1901. Degas influenced his work since the very beginning this being suggested by the bold foreshortening of the stage and the proeminent placement of the bass in the foreground” (Stokstao, 2008, 1056). Another of the influences is the Japanese woodblock prints which is deducted from “the simplification of form, suppression of modeling, flattening of space and integration of the black paper into the composition” (Stokstao, 2008, 1057). A third influence that is obvious is the one of Art Nouveau characterized by ” the emphasis on curving lines and the harmonization of the lettering with the rest on the Design” (Stokstao, 2008, 1057).

Most of Lautrec’s works are represented by posters which illustrate different “faces” of the French cafe’s nightlife. We can clearly notice the simple but yet complex style of his work. The posters illustrate dynamic scenes of cabaret dance floors. The curved lines, that he emphasizes, make me think about the audio waves that the cabaret music has and the dynamic that is represented by the characters being painted in a state of movement. Lautrec simplified the human anatomy, reducing it to simple shapes. This is also suggested by the dancing women placed usually in the middle. Lautrec managed perfectly to reproduce “in a few brush strokes, the essential nature of a subject” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010) and we can clearly see this in almost all of his work but especially in Jane Avril Dancing (image 1) or in Jane Avril (image 2) where we can see that the human anatomy is simplified in some parts, while in the same time, in some other parts he uses a lot of detail. Also, in La Goule (image 3) we can clearly see the simplified and “economical mean ” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010) used for the anatomy which is practically reduced to simple rounded shapes. The color pallette is also resembling in all of the three illustrations (image 1,2,3), using mainly different shades of yellow, brown and black and manages to do the “integration of blank paper into the composition (Stokstao, 2008, p.1057). Also, in some other works, such as Moulin Rouge-La Goule (image 4) or At the Moulin Rouge(image 5) we can surely see how he managed “to capture the essence of an individual with economical means” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010). The colors in these two works of art are different from the ones in image 1,2 and 3. We can see here the use of dark red, light pink, dark brown, dark green, etc.

The accidents that led to Lautrec’s physical disorders influenced his work a lot, and as Leroi says in his extract from Mutants : “Lautrec was only 150 centimeters tall. Critics have also argued that Lautrec’s disorder had a more subtle effect on his art : a tendency after 1893 to truncate the limbs of his models so that only that head and the torsos remain in the frame, a device for excluding that part of his own anatomy that he would much rather forget : his legs.” (Leroi, 2004). From another point of view, his art suggests that Lautrec might have been very much influenced by his mother, the result being a series of paintings, illustrating women in different erotic positions. This can be interpreted as him being traumatized by his mother in the childhood who “was a religious nut who saw him as a punishment for marrying a first cousin. She doted on him in a guilty, suffocating way” (Januszczak, 2006) and it led to the “slow agony of the feminine wait he would evoke so superbly in his borthel pictures, or those spectacularly sad paintings of fallen women staring into their absinthe” (Januszczak, 2006).

All in all, Lautrec was a brilliant artist and his works are still a source of inspiration for graphic designers and art lovers and all the physical defects he had led to him creating all the masterpieces that today are worth a fortune. “His career was marked by boldness and a hatred for hypocrisy in people’s relationships with eachother and themselves. With frequently autobiographycal subject matter and scenes, his works have greatly influenced even the modern-day perception of turn-of-the-century Paris” (Frey, 1994).

Referencing list:

Stokstad, Marilyn (2008) Art History. 3rd edn. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Birnholz, Alan Curtis (2010) Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at:http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/600695/Henri-de-Toulouse-Lautrec (Accessed: February 24 2011).

Leroi, Armand Marie  (2004) Noble Figure. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/nov/20/featuresreviews.guardianreview33 (Accessed: February 24 2011)

Janszczak, Waldemar (2006) Why Lautrec Was a Giant. Available at: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article662158.ece (Accessed: February 24 2011)

Frey, Julia (1994) Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Available at: http://blogs.princeton.edu/writingart14/archives/2004/12/toulouselautrec_2.html (Accessed: February 24 2011)

image 1 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1892) Jane Avril Dancing, image source: http://www.artilim.com/painting/t/toulouse-lautrec-henri-de/jane-avril-dancing.jpg

image 2 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1893) Jane Avril, image source: http://rlv.zcache.com/lautrec_jane_avril_dancing_the_can_can_postcard-p239681994608176565trdg_400.jpg

image 3 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1891) La Goulue, image source: http://www.globalgallery.com/prod_images/600/bm-l282.jpg

image 4 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1890) Moulin Rouge La Goulue, image source:http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_XnsBmpz0kTI/S6m1QGxMA7I/AAAAAAAAER0/5hGKhpWlaJg/s1600/toulouse-lautrec-moulin-rouge.JPG

image 5 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1893) At the Moulin Rouge, image source:http://curezone.com/upload/Art/Toulouse_Lautrec/Toulouse-Lautrec_Au_Moulin_Rouge.jpg

Henry de Toulouse Lautrec Research

  1. Poster painter
  2. Was a midget
  3. French
  4. Incapacitated by the accident
  5. Influenced by Edgar Degas
  6. Simple lines and rounded shapes
  7. Influenced by his mother
  8. Studied the social life of Parisians Cafes
  9. Influenced by Art Nouveau
  10. Reduced palette of colours

How did the accidents that he had influenced Lautrec’s work?

If he didn’t have the accidents he would probably not have started painting.

We see the influence of the Art Nouveau style on the century’s best known poster designer. Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901). Born into an aristocratic family in the south of France, Lautrec suffered from a genetic disorder and childhood accidents that left him physically handicapped and short in height. Extremely gifted artistically, he moved to Paris in 1882 and had private academic training before discovering the work of Degas, which greatly influenced his own development. (…) the composition juxtaposes the dynamic figure of Avril dancing onstage at the upper left with the cropped image of a bass viol player and the scroll of his instrument at the lower right. The bold foreshortening of the stage and the prominent placement of the bass in the foreground background both suggest the influence of Degas who employed similar devices. Lautrec departs radically from Degas’s naturalism, however particularly in his imaginative extension of each end of the bass viol’s head into a curving frame that encapsulates Avril and connects her visually with her musical accomplishment.

Source: Art History, 3rd edition

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, in full Henri-Marie-Raymonde de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa  (born Nov. 24, 1864, Albi, France—died Sept. 9, 1901, Malromé), French artist who observed and documented with great psychological insight the personalities and facets of Parisian nightlife and the French world of entertainment in the 1890s. His use of free-flowing, expressive line, often becoming pure arabesque, resulted in highly rhythmical compositions (e.g., In the Circus Fernando: The Ringmaster, 1888). The extreme simplification in outline and movement and the use of large colour areas make his posters some of his most powerful works.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s family was wealthy and had a lineage that extended without interruption back to the time of Charlemagne. He grew up amid his family’s typically aristocratic love of sport and art. Most of the boy’s time was spent at the Château du Bosc, one of the family estates located near Albi. Henri’s grandfather, father, and uncle were all talented draftsmen, and thus it was hardly surprising that Henri began sketching at the age of 10. His interest in art grew as a result of his being incapacitated in 1878 by an accident in which he broke his left thighbone. His right thighbone was fractured a little more than a year later in a second mishap. These accidents, requiring extensive periods of convalescence and often painful treatments, left his legs atrophied and made walking most difficult. As a result, Toulouse-Lautrec devoted ever greater periods to art in order to pass away the frequently lonely hours.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s first visit to Paris occurred in 1872, when he enrolled in the Lycée Fontanes (now Lycée Condorcet). He gradually moved on to private tutors, and it was only after he had passed the baccalaureate examinations, in 1881, that he resolved to become an artist.

The originality of Toulouse-Lautrec also emerged in his posters. Rejecting the notion of high art, done in the traditional medium of oil on canvas, Toulouse-Lautrec in 1891 did his first poster, Moulin Rouge—La Goulue. This poster won Toulouse-Lautrec increasing fame. “My poster is pasted today on the walls of Paris,” the artist proudly declared. It was one of more than 30 he would create in the 10 years before his death. Posters afforded Toulouse-Lautrec the possibility of a widespread impact for his art, no longer restricted by the limitations of easel painting. They also enhanced the success he had enjoyed in the preceding year when his works were shown in Brussels at the Exposition des XX (the Twenty), an avant-garde association, and in Paris at the Salon des Indépendants.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/600695/Henri-de-Toulouse-Lautrec

Lautrec’s legs caused him much grief. He seems to have had a fairly healthy childhood, but by the time he was seven his mother had taken him to Lourdes, where she hoped to find a cure for some vaguely described limb problem. He was stiff and clumsy and prone to falls, and only went to school for one year, leaving when he proved too delicate for schoolyard roughhousing. By the age of 10 he was complaining of constant severe pains in his legs and thighs, and 13 minor falls caused fractures in both femurs which, to judge from the length of time during which he supported himself with canes, took about six months to heal. He would use a cane nearly all his adult life; indeed, friends believed that he walked any distance only with reluctance and difficulty.

As he grew, Lautrec also underwent some unusual facial changes. A pretty infant, and a handsome boy, he later developed a pendulous lower lip, a tendency to drool, and a speech impediment rather like a growling lisp, and his teeth rotted while he was still in his teens – traits which his parents, who were notably good-looking, did not share. He was self-conscious about his looks, wore a beard all his adult life, and never smiled for a camera.

Many critics have argued that it was a sort of physical self-loathing that caused him to seek and portray all that was most vicious and harsh in his milieu. But then, fin-de-siècle Paris could be a vicious and harsh place. One night at Maxim’s, when Lautrec had sketched some lightning caricatures of his neighbours, one of them called to him as he hobbled away. “Monsieur”, he said, gesturing to a pencil stub left on the table, “you have forgotten your cane.” On another occasion, looking at one of the many portraits he had done of her, Yvette Guilbert remarked, “Really, Lautrec, you are a genius of deformity.” He replied, “Why, of course I am.”

Source:http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/nov/20/featuresreviews.guardianreview33

People always remember his posters, which are remarkable. But the more I looked into him, the clearer it became that his paintings are better at telling the truth. The posters were work, advertising. They were brilliant, sure, but they weren’t honest. For example, it was Lautrec who put the Moulin Rouge on the map with an astonishing poster that popped up overnight in Paris, in December 1893, of the wicked cancan dancer La Goulue — wicked because she sometimes “ forgot” to put on her underwear, and you know how much high-kicking there is in the cancan. The poster shows the crowd leaning in for a good look. Is she or isn’t she? It’s certainly a pioneering example of the use of sex to bring in the crowds. But what’s more interesting is how different Lautrec’s posters of the Moulin Rouge are from his paintings. There’s no sex or the promise of sex in the paintings. They’re entirely glum.

They show people leaving the cabaret at the end of the night, drunk, hollow-eyed. Dancers trudging home in the rain. Girls picking the pockets of their johns.

Where had he picked up his instinct for getting inside women’s heads? One of his favourite tricks was not showing a woman’s face. He’d paint her turned away, or with her hair over her forehead, so you couldn’t see her eyes. But instead of blocking you off from the women, the back views and the hair seemed to pull you towards them. You really want to know what they’re thinking.

It started to make sense back at the Château du Bosc. His mother, Adèle, was a religious nut who saw him as her punishment for marrying a first cousin. She doted on him in a guilty, suffocating way. The Château du Bosc was a woman’s world. While the men were out all day, huntin’, shootin’ and ridin’, the women stayed behind, sewing, thinking and waiting. The clock in the hall that they listened to is still there, and its doomy tick and tock could trigger domestic depression in a Tupperware container. Later, he would go in search of these anxious moods and sapping silences in the brothels of Montmartre. The slow agony of the feminine wait he would evoke so superbly in his brothel pictures, or those spectacularly sad paintings of fallen women staring into their absinthe, would have been noticed first at home.

Source: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article662158.ece

His career officially started when, at the age of 19, he moved into his own studio and received his first commission – to illustrate for Victor Hugo’s latest novel. After five years of academic training, he had become very good at doing what was expected. His own works, however, already showed a disregard for the rules. Although he never joined a formal school of artistic theory, he was clearly influenced by Edgar Degas, Honore Daumier, Jean-Louis Forain, and Japonisme. Perhaps his greatest influence came from the neighborhood his first studio was in: the infamous Montmartre district, bohemia-central for Paris. The combination of several scandalous nightclubs, low rents, and a reputation as a haven for the poor and marginalized attracted the young avant-garde sector of Parisian society, leading to further wildness and bohemian behavior. Toulouse-Lautrec and his artist-friends became particularly well-known for their exploits in the night clubs and galleries. Very quickly, Toulouse-Lautrec spiralled into hopeless alcoholism, leading to outrageous drunk behavior where his physical appearance and ever-present sketchbook made him very recognizable. As could be expected, his unrestrained lifestyle caused much conflict within his aristocratic family, generating many arguments over money and the use of the family name on Toulouse-Lautrec’s often-scandalous works.

Source: http://blogs.princeton.edu/writingart14/archives/2004/12/toulouselautrec_2.html

 

 


 

 

 

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