Sunday, January 29, 2006

Impressionism - II ...

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I wanted to write on the Art Institute of Chicago; which has a GREAT selection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. But the collection is so huge; that it’s very difficult to cover them in one post. Moreover, I’ve learnt a bit on this art-form; and I would like to put it down ... so this post is on “Impressionism”!

“Impressionism” is a major movement in painting ... that developed chiefly in France in around 1860 to 1890 ... as a reaction against the then popular “Academic Art”. Academic Art is typified by large, formal paintings depicting grand biblical, mythological and historical event. Impressionist choose informal outdoor subjects, scaled down the size of the work and used loose noticeable brush strokes, that contrasted with the minute brush techniques favored by the traditionalists. It was developed by a group of artists who knew each other ... Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Gustave Caillebotte.
[*How the name ‘Impressionists” was coined; is mentioned in the previous post]

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# The most significant departure from the dictates of Academy was in “content”. Against the academic subject-matter of historic events, religious themes or portraits ... The Impressionists looked at the world around them for their subject matter – rural scenes, city-life, peasants, working-class men, nature ...

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# Short “broken” strokes of pure unmixed colors. The brushstrokes became a visible part of the composition, as opposed to the then prevalent academic technique of having almost smooth surface on canvas. Emphasis was on the overall effect rather than upon details.

# The centre of artistic creation was the eye that views the subject.

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# They began painting outside the studio. In the former era of Acadamic Art artists had sketched or done watercolor outside. However traditionalists could not paint canvases outdoors as the painting process was very time-consuming. However, the Impressionists painters began moving out of the studio into the nature. They worked “en plein air” [outdoors]

# Captured the momentary and transient aspects of sunlight.

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Factors contributing to the growth of the growth of this new "Impressionist" art-form:
- Photography was invented by about 1840’s. It is said that the rise of photography led to the rise of Impressionism. Early photography [though black-n-white] was record of what was “at the moment” the photo was taken. The Impressionists wanted to capture this fleeting moment of sight.
- Another critical technology advance was the invention of oil paints in metal tubes in 1840. Previously artists finished paintings in studios. For the first time, paintings could be completed quickly, often in a single session – on location; allowing artists to focus attention on their immediate experience.
- The growth of many cafes in Paris in around 1850-60’s; provided for a meeting place for the artists … and … most of these French “impressionist” artists knew each other.

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Though various "impressionists" artists had many common elements in their paintings; yet each one of them had their own distinctive style & subject-matter. For example:
CLAUDE MONET: began “series” painting one subject in varying lights and viewpoints. His series of paintings of haystacks [ snow effect, end of summer, at he sunset ...] are in Chicago Art institute [pix.5]... Monet was fond of painting nature: water lilies, gardens, ponds & bridges ...

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EDGAR DEGAS: specialized in painting ballerinas, horses & portraits.

AUGUSTE RENOIR: specialized in painting women, children & lush landscapes.

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All the paintings shown here are from the Art Museum, Chicago ... I've scanned most of them from picture post-cards ... few I've clicked!
[1] Pierre Auguste Renoir – Chrysanthemums [1882]
[2] Claude Monet – Water lilies [1906]
[3] Claude Monet - On the bank of the Seine, Bennecourt [1868]
[4] Edgar Degas - The Millinery Shop [1882]
[5] Pierre Auguste Renoir - Acrobats at Cirque Fernando [1879]
[6] Claude Monet - Haystacks [1890-91]
[7] Edgar Degas – Ballet at Paris Opera [1877]
[8] Gustavo Callibotte – Paris Street; Rainy Day [1877]

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Basket of Apples: Paul Cezanne [1895]
Interacting is a learning process ...
from the comments of "Sanity Starved" I realized that I'd clicked a painting by Cezanne [probably 2 years back in the Art Museum] but little did I know that it was one of the highly studied paintings ... showing evidence of "multiple viewpoints" whih led to the growth of Cubism. It's one of the series of paintings [on apples] by Cezanne and has interesting characteristics that marks the early phases of cubism:
- the bowl of apples on left is tilted; in fact Cezanne has used book or wooden-block to raise the tilted object
- "the table seems to be fractured, the right side is on a different level than left" ...

The Basket of Apples

Impressionism - I

How the term "IMPRESSIONISM" was coined ....

“Impressionism" developed as a reaction against the established mode of “Academic” painting; which dominated the French Art in the early 19th century. The “Academic des Beaux Arts” used to set standards for artists. It held an annual exhibition “Salon de Paris”; where selected arts were exhibited. It was more than a badge of honor; it was required for anyone who wanted to pursue a career in art.

"In 1863, the jury rejected ... "Luncheon on the Grass" (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) by Edouard Manet, 1862 ... primarily because it depicted a nude woman with two clothed men on a picnic. According to the jury nudes were acceptable in historical and allegorical paintings, but to show them in common settings was forbidden. Manet felt humiliated by the sharply worded rejection of the jury, which set off a firestorm among many French artists."

Manet and a group of artists; used to meet regularly at the cafes that had sprung up in Paris in the 1850’s and 60’s ... They developed a style different from the traditional academic style ... and decided to hold their own exhibition. In 1974; a historic exhibition was organized which included one of Claude Monet’s paintings ... "Impression: Sunrise" (Impression, soleil levant) 1872. Art-critic Louis Leroy, published a satiric review in the newspaper “le Charivari” titled ... "The Exhibition of the Impressionists". He used the word “Impressionists” to make fun of the artists; whose work he said looked incomplete and at best just impressions. But the artists adopted the word to describe themselves. Hence the name ... “IMPRESSIONISTS" ...

In a way; “Impressionists” can be compared to the Indie filmmakers today, struggling against studio system.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chicago - III ... Sculptures ...

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The SEAL of Chicago marks the date on which the city was incorporated; March 4, 1937.
It also states its motto “Urbs in Horto” which is Latin for “City in a Garden” ...
and this guiding principle has so shaped the growth of the city; that now the downtown Chicago looks like open-air art gallery, with magnificent gardens, fountains, statues, clocks, bells and lampshades aesthetically perched all around ...
This post is on a few outdoor marvels ...

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[1] THE PICASSO: By Pablo Picasso [Spanish]
This sculptor is one of the most recognizable landmarks of downtown Chicago. But since the time it was unveiled [in 1967]; there has been controversy surrounding it… as no one knows what the figure represents …a bird … a horse …a baboon … head of a woman … a totally abstract shape … or a joke? Picasso did not name it nor provide any guidelines. So now it’s simply called “The Picasso”. It’s 42 inch tall and weighs about 162 tons. Quite magnanimously Picasso refused to be paid $100,000 for it; donating the amount to the people of Chicago. The sculptor is made of Corrosive Tensile ("Cor-Ten") steel, the same material used to build the Daley Center. It’s got a darkish gray patina that nicely matches the one on the Daley Center building behind it.

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[2] CHICAGO : By Joan Miro [Spanish]
It stands across the street from “The Picasso”; but remains almost hidden in an alcove next to Burnswick Building. This forty-foot tall sculpture, and represents a woman with out-stretched arms. It’s made of steel wire mesh, concrete, bronze and ceramic tiles ...
... aka "The Sun, The Moon & One Star".

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[3] MONUMENT WITH STANDING BEAST: By Jean Dubuffet [French]
This black-n-white fiberglass “Beast” is said to be inspired by the art of insane. Its 29 feet high, weighs about 10 tons and stands in front of the Thompson Center [designed by Helmut Jahn]

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[4] THE FOUR SEASONS: By Marc Chagall [Russian]
Technically, it’s not a sculpture, but a mosaic of stone and glass fragments.…
[70 feet long by 10 feet wide by 14 feet high]
It’s in the plaza south of First National Bank Building.

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[5] THE FLAMINGO: By Alexander Calder [American]
This 53 foot high sculpture is painted in bright vermillion color! As such, it sharply contrasts with the two black steel-n-glass Mies van der Rohe buildings surrounding it.

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[6] BOWMAN - By Ivan Mestrovic [Croatian]
At the Congress Plaza entrance to Grant park, there are two mounted warriors: "The Spearman" and "The Bowman" [erected in 1928]. These statues are said to be cast at the artist's studio in Zagreb, then eventually moved to the US.

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[7] THE GREAT CLOCK: By Norman Rockwell [American]
At the corner of State and Washington streets , stands this “Great Clock”; which is a symbol of Marshall Fields. It’s said; “What Harrod’s is to London, Macy’s is to Manhattan; Marshall Fields is to Chicago” . However, in Dec 2006; Macy’s brought out Marshall Fields.

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This large bell is at the intersection of Monroe & Clark Streets. It changes color with the weather forcast:
Yellow – for colder temperatures
Red – for warmer temperatures
Green – for no change

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[9] THE CLOUD GATE: By Anish Kapoor [British]
It reflects the splendor of Chicago skyline. Kapoor calls his creation "Cloud Gate" because 80 percent of its surface reflects the sky. It’s nicknamed as “The Bean”. It’s said to be inspired by liquid mercury.

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[10] CROWN FOUNTAIN: Jaume Plensa [Spanish]
There are two 50-foot high glass block towers in the Millenium Park. It has changing video images; inspired by the people of Chicago!

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[11] THE LIONS: By Edward L. Kemeys [American]
The Art Institute's famous western entrance on Michigan Avenue is guarded by two
bronze lions created by Edward L. Kemeys. The lions have been here ever since 1893 when the institute's main building was constructed for the Columbian Exposition.

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[12] SUNDIAL: By Henry Moore [British]

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[13] FREE FORM : Richard Hunt [American]
Perched on the top [between 7th & 8th floors] of Michael A. Bilandic Building; which was the "State of Illinois Building"; before the Thompson Centre was made.

Monday, January 23, 2006

2006: Year of the Dog ...

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Thursday; Jan. 19, 2006: It was a normal day. I was in downtown for some work; then clicked some photographs [Of statues & sculptures which I will post next] and at the end of the day; was strolling back to the Union Station to catch my 6pm train. Behold ... A somewhat handsome man walked past me with an exceptionally tall, dark & handsome ummm ... noir-black DOG! Wait – there's something "very different" about this duo, I thought ... and ... I stopped to take note ... YES ......

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This man with extremely confident long strides was actually blind and his loyal companion was in fact a guide dog – probably a Rottweiler! I stopped and wowed at the classic buddies; “a man and his best friend”! Trust me; I chased this duo for 3 blocks to take a few snaps. How I wish I knew more about them ... but then I thought it was not very appropriate to stalk further, and so I resumed my forward-march to the railway station.

For me, it was an extraordinary event on a very ordinary day. It compelled me to dwell upon what makes humans love this 4-legged creature so much as to treat these furry-beasts as "family-members". Dogs were domesticated more than 10,000 years ago; when humans were still cave-dwellers. Back then wild canines with their supersensitive-nose would be drawn near human-habitats by the smell of food. Cave-men found that they were good alarm system and would alert them of any transgressing-plundering enemies. So they often left scraps of food outside the entrance and thus began the historic friendship between a man and his dog; which has withstood the test of time.

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AS human civilization progressed the status of these canines changed from that of outcast pariahs to pampered companions and gradually we learnt to employ these pedestrian pets in our everyday lives ...
- for herding and guarding of flocks [Collies, Shetland sheepdog]
- for sledging in rugged snowy terrains [Chinook, Samoyed ]
- for assisting in hunting –finding, tracking & retrieving [Hounds, Terriers, Golden Retriever]
- for search & rescue & as police dogs [German Shepherd, Doberman, St Bernard]
- for therapy & as show dogs - to cheer & entertain [Poodles, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, ChowChow]
At this point, I’ll make a special mention that some of my favorite dog breeds are interestingly German –
German Shepherd, Doberman, Dachshund, Rottweiler, Pointer, Boxer & Great Danes ...

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Today, dogs are everywhere: movies, comics, novels, reality shows and even songs:
Who let the dogs out ... woof, woof, woof, woof
Who let the dogs out ... woof, woof, woof, woof

Forsaken, desolate love-lorns may find a spark of hope if-only they fulfill one precondition: “Must Love Dogs” ... and that might pave way for some dog-day afternoons! Movies like Lassie, Benji, 101 Dalmatians are hugely popular ... and so are some clichés: every dog has its day, underdog, dog-sense, dog-fight, dogged, doggerel ... [& ... hmmm no I’m not going there]. Anyone who follows “American Idol” knows how Randy Jackson calls everyone ... dog ... & no-one complaints!

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Interestingly the Chinese calendar declares 2006 as “Year of the Dog” ... But I fail to understand what it implies ....
- Humans would shower more affection to their long-standing furry friends?
- OR; Children born under this sign will have dog like characteristics – compassion, alertness and a deep sense of loyalty?
- OR; there will be more dog fights, cat & dog fights ???
Though I fail to understand what a dog-year means ... but I can safely proclaim, the year has finally come when ... DOGS RULE!!!

Dog Day Out !!! [click on photo for enlarged view ]

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