PART ONE / PROJECTS 1, 2, 3 & 4: EXPLORING THE FIELD

Assignment 1

EXPERIMENTAL PIECES FROM PRE-MODERN AND MODERN ART STUDY

 

NOTES ON IMAGES ABOVE

1. This piece, I did for fun, vaguely tree like forms, based on the interest I found looking at pre-historic cave painting. The medium is oil paint, oil and chalk pastel on canvas glued to a board.

2. Glaze experiment – glaze applied to red patch, (top left), 2.5 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part aliz. crimson, 1 part turps, & blue patch, (bottom right), 2.parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part phthalo blue, 2 parts turps. Painted on cheap shop canvas, original – dull uninteresting surface. I like these glaze finishes but better still I like the combination of the two, using part glazed, & part matt finish.

3. Manipulated image detail from Poussin painting. Worked with gouache on paper.
Not so happy with this, needs more work and time exploiting further, using other media.

4. Portrait, oil on canvas. Subjective use of colour, loose, bold brush work, informed by study of Fauvists. Caught the model on an ‘off’ day!

5. Still life sketch working predominantly with just two complimentary colours on a red acrylic ground. I tried painting with lines and strokes to define forms which was an unfamiliar way of working for me. It took me out of my comfort zone. Informed by study of Fauvists.

6. One of a series of experimental sketches based originally from a Degas painting exploring simplicity of colour and shape – from Matisse, Avery research. Oil on canvas.

CONTEXTUAL RESEARCH

For full contextual research for Assignment 1 click on the following links
Project 1 Project 2 Projects 3 & 4

SAMPLE PAGES FROM SKETCH BOOK

Collage and initial research on Giotto and Poussin images for experiments – Pre-Modern art.

REFLECTION

One thing that was helpful with the experiments, stating the obvious, was to just to turn up and start. I initially had a block and didn’t know how to proceed, but starting to work rather than thinking too much about what to do led to further ideas. The textural research was like a well to draw from and noting how contemporary artists use and interpret traditional works and bring into a current context was also informative. Artists like Leon Kossoff who explored the work of Poussin and Ken Kewley who does likewise with Braque are interesting examples that I may draw on in my own practise.

With the pre-modern art based experiments the glaze exercises were not so successful, probably because of the time constraint to get the project finished and the time allowed for each glaze layer to fully dry before proceeding to work on subsequent layers. I realise now that I spent far too long thinking about composition and colour, not leaving myself enough time to explore different media. It could have been more beneficial to find ways of recreating the translucency of the paint, as in the Giotto image. An Artists Handbook by Margaret Krug is a very helpful resource considering materials and techniques.

With projects 3 & 4 there has been more of a flow between the two aspects of textural research and practical work. In keeping with the aim of experimenting more with colour and working in ways I am less familiar with, I think the the practical work has been relatively successful. I have other scraps, images and sketches that I haven’t had time to process that could possibly feed into other projects. I often use photoshop ,which I am familiar with, and it’s useful for exploiting images in different ways but it can also result in work which is too predictable.

I don’t think I’m going to end up as a wild colourist but this period of experimentation with colour, technique and style is helping me move on from more familiar and clichéd ways of working. Researching particular artists has led to discovering other artists whose work I find an affinity with. If I hadn’t been looking at Matisse’s late work I may not have noted what Avery was doing. From my visit to the Tel Aviv exhibition I became familiar with David Park, and looking up Park on Youtube led to discovering the work of Jacob Lawrence and Stuart Davis – jazz and cubist influenced – urban, pre pop art. All these artists are interesting colourists and they all pay homage to the influence that Matisse had on them during certain phases of their career.

There is an interesting series on Youtube called American Visions narrated by Robert Hughes He talks about, and interviews various artists about the social context and influences that shaped their work. I haven’t had time yet to view most of these videos but from what I’ve seen so far, quite thought provoking in thinking about my own work.

PART ONE / PROJECT 2: EXPLORING THE FIELD

Practical Research
into Pre-Modern Art

BRAIN STORMING PAGES FROM SKETCHBOOK

BRAIN STORMING PAGES FROM SKETCHBOOK

I was going to explore techniques of fresco but realised it’s highly unlikely I will use such methods of working in my own practise so started to consider the use of glazes with working with oils. I have a number of old, incomplete paintings lying around my room and used some of these as grounds for making a few experiments. I looked back at the textural study and wanted to work from a few images of interest from Poussin and Giotto, informed somewhat in the way that contemporary artists interpret traditional works.

 

2This first piece, I did for fun, (nothing to do with glazing techniques). It’s not a copy of anything, but based on the interest I found looking at pre historic cave painting. The medium is oil paint, oil and chalk pastel on canvas glued to a board.

 

GLAZE STUDIES

These are a few glaze test experiments on old oil painting grounds.

2 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part mix Cadmium orange & permanent yellow medium, painted over whole surface. Certainly unifies the image, more work needed to bring out facial details. Original (left), gesso’d canvas glued to board.

2 parts Robertson mat glaze medium, 1 part mix Cadmium orange & permanent yellow medium, painted just over the face, 1 part turps. Good to get rid of white on the face, colour not right, need to find the highlights & contrasts. Original (left), gesso’d canvas glued to board.

2 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part aliz. crimson, 1 part turps, painted just on the bottle. The original (left), dried to a rather dull finish, maybe because painted on cheap card. This mix makes interesting difference but also highlights the texture of the brush mark which in this case is not helpful.

9Glaze applied to red patch, (top left), 2.5 parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part aliz. crimson, 1 part turps, & blue patch, (bottom right), 2.parts Grumbacher ZEC medium, 1 part phthalo blue, 2 parts turps. Painted on cheap shop canvas, original – dull uninteresting surface. I like these glaze finishes but better still I like the combination of the two, using part glazed, & part matt finish.

 

Above image painted with oils on red acrylic ground. On the left, 2 parts Semelier Medium Van Eyck, 1 part cadmium orange, 1 part turps. On right side, 2 parts Winsor & Newton Liquin Original, 1 part cadmium orange, 1 part turps. The centre section is the original. This reproduction is not so great, so difficult to see the differences. Both glazes enhances the colours, the one on the right has more matt finish which I prefer.

EXPERIMENTS FROM ORIGINAL WORKS

Having spent time on these exercises which I didn’t think were so successful, I continued to work in a way that was more intuitive for me. I continued to focus on working from sections of two paintings, Poussin’s Destruction and Sack of the Temple in Jerusalem and Giotto’s Lamentation fresco.

I intended to work in first in oils but because of the time factor, in the work drying, I started painting with gouache on paper. The interpretation or method of working evolved as I took prints from the originals, photographed them and further manipulated them to simplify the composition and find interesting colour. The design of the paintings are so well thought out that it’s not difficult finding an interesting composition from almost any section or crop. I intended to explore the images in a variety of media.

From my painting of the Giotto detail, I took another print, cut it up, collaged it somewhat, and further manipulated it into a more abstract lively image. Not sure where I am going with this but it is sustaining my interest.

 

REFLECTION

One thing that was helpful with the experiments, stating the obvious, was to just start experimenting. I initially had a block and didn’t know what to do. It was when I started – rather than just thinking about it – that more ideas came. The textural research was like a well to draw from. The work of a few contemporary artists also informed my approach in exploring the Giotto and Poussin images, I enjoy the work of Ken Kewley, Cecily Brown and Janice Nowinski. I found, An Artists Handbook by Margaret Krug to be a very helpful resource.

As mentioned the glaze exercises were not so successful, probably because of the time constraint to get the project finished and the time allowed for each glaze layer to fully dry before proceeding to work on subsequent layers.

I realise now that I spent far too long thinking about composition and colour, not leaving myself enough time to explore different media. It could have been more beneficial to find ways of recreating the translucency of the paint, as in the Giotto image.
 

PART ONE / PROJECTS 3 & 4: EXPLORING THE FIELD

Textural & Practical
Research into Modernism

BRAIN STORMING PAGES FROM SKETCHBOOK

BRAIN STORMING PAGES FROM SKETCHBOOK

The period that fostered what we call Modernism was an era characterised by industrialisation, social change, advances in science and social science. There was a rejection of styles of the past and greater experimentation and innovation with forms, materials and techniques in the arts in order to create works that better reflected modern society.

In my own experiments I wanted to explore a greater freedom in the use of colour. In working from observation in the past, colour in my work has often been somewhat dull and uninteresting. This relates, to a degree, with technical issues of handling the paint media. So as I skimmed through some of the art movements and looked at the work of some artists I first paused when looking at the Fauvist movement.

FAUVISM

Fauvism – a French art movement – gained popularity around the turn of the twentieth century. Matisse, Derain, and Duffy were influenced by Post Impressionists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin in their symbolic and descriptive use of colour and experimented more with exaggerated colours and bold brushstrokes in contrast with the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. The works show a more spontaneous and subjective response to their subjects, initially perceived to be very crude and wild, hence the name for the group. Matisse said he didn’t choose colours based on scientific theory but on feeling and observation and the nature of each experience.

The above images are details of paintings by Matisse (1), Vlaminck (2) and Derain (3) I saw at the Tel Aviv Museum recently. I was looking for characteristics of style and colour that I might apply to my own experiments. What is typical in these works is a simplification in the drawing, the juxtaposition of primary and complementary colour together and the looseness in the mark making.

The Fauvist Movement was fairly short lived and many in the group moved on to explore cubism and other styles. It brought the issue of colour to the forefront and was an influence on the Expressionists and the Abstract Expressionists to follow but, generally speaking, I don’t think the paintings of this period were more interesting than the Post Impressionist artists and of artists such as Gauguin.

MATISSE

Matisse, like Picasso, had the ability to reinvent himself again and again. His last body of work, his cutouts, are some of the more iconic images of the twentieth century. I wanted to highlight a few works from different phases of Matisse’s career that were inspirational for me.

Woman with a Hat (4) — Typical of the flamboyant use of colour and casual brushmarks of daubs and dashes of Fauvism. Some of the colour looks as if it has been applied directly from the tube. The face, is conveyed in a very convincing way despite the unnatural use of colour defining the features. This painting outraged a number of critics and the public when first exhibited but still remains today as a very engaging image.

Red Atelier (5) — This shouldn’t really work, with it’s illusion of 3-D space. The red ground is pretty much one tone and the back, side walls and foreground is defined by the careful placing, size and the angles of the objects which inhabit the space. Matisse separates line and colour, he doesn’t create an object with line that he fills in with colour.

Blue nude and dancer cut-outs (7) — These images seem to be a complete antithesis of Matisse’s earlier painting but he emphasised the continuity between his cut-outs and the rest of his work. He is quoted as saying “From the Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life) painting, 1905/6 … to these cut-outs, … I have remained the same … because all this time I have been searching for the same things, which I have perhaps realised by different means.” I think these works and other large abstract works have more relevance when placed in a wider public context than the gallery, where the works can enhance and/or transform public spaces that many more can appreciate.

EXPERIMENTAL WORK

Responding to what I have been viewing and the aim of working more boldly with colour I decided to work on a few portrait studies also a still life study.

The portraits were painted in oils from short poses so had to work quickly. One painted on gesso’d card and two on canvas. The geometry is off the wall here but the emphasis was on responding subjectively to the subject using a fairly limited colour palette. This led to working on a still life sketch working predominantly with just two complimentary colours on a red acrylic ground. I tried painting with lines and strokes to define forms which was an unfamiliar way of working for me. It took me out of my comfort zone. While this is unfinished I am fairly pleased with this loose lyrical composition. and don›t want to over work it.

TEL AVIV MUSEUM

I went to see a small exhibition of Modernist works at the Tel Aviv Museum after seeing the image above by Milton Avery advertising the show in the press. I thought at first this was a work by Matisse so it caught my attention. These three paintings stood out for me as they resonate with my visual interests right now.

I had heard of Avery before but wasn’t familiar with his work. This painting, Summer Reader, 1950 I like, because even with such economy of a few simplified shapes and colours and tonal relationships he creates an interesting illusion of space and the image feeds the imagination. The brightest element, the book, is unpainted canvas. The girl, painted in light turquoise, stands out from the muted background of a few spots of colour. The paint is applied with little texture and the image evokes a feeling of rest or calm. She could be in a landscape or an interior. Avery said of paintings in this phase of his life – “I like to seize the one sharp instant in nature, to imprison it by means of ordered shapes and space relationships. To this end I eliminate and simplify, leaving nothing but colour and pattern. I am not seeking pure abstraction; rather the purity and essence of the idea”. Avery was obviously influenced by Matisse, in his use of everyday scenes and use of colour.

I also found the two portraits/figures by Chaim Soutaine and David Park interesting, although the style and handling of the paint are very different. Soutaine was inspired by classic painting in the European tradition. He developed an individual style more concerned with shape, colour and texture over representation but maintained a connection to recognizable subject matter. Park came through Abstract Expressionism to a loose form of figuration and was a pioneer of the Bay Area Figurative School, San Fransisco in the 1950’s. While the artists came from different cultural backgrounds both worked in styles shaped by the world war. Soutaine was physically displaced from his home country and probably both were mentally displaced by the post war mood of anxiety and trauma.

Not sure if Park’s woman was painted from a model or imagined. The face is almost mask like. While the motif of the figure is there, the background and foreground almost given equal attention by the quality of the marks and gestures, the thickness of paint and brilliant colour that make up the composition. In Soutaine’s Young Man, the figure is quite stylised, the brush marks very gestural. The painting is about the young man, and I could meditate on this for quite a while. Who is he, what makes up his life?

EXPERIMENTS WORKING FROM A PAINTING BY DEGAS

Again, in relation to what I have been researching I decided to work from one image to experiment with abstraction and different methods of working.

The original painting is an early work of Degas, ‘A Cotton Office in New Orleans’ 1873. It’s not a painting I particularly like but interesting enough to work from as a starting point. I first did a quick line drawing in charcoal, describing the rhythm of the composition and continued with a rough oil sketch working only with lines and strokes.

I had seen some of the late work by abstract artist Joan Mitchell who worked in a similar vein. Surprisingly there is an interesting sense of space achieved by this method of working. I wanted to simplify the image using shape and colour so took a print of the original into Photoshop and had some fun playing around till I came up with some images that had the potential for further development.

Some of these images are evocative of Expressionist works and while this method of working in the computer can become somewhat clichéd it can also help one think more laterally and stir the imagination.

The image, (right), in oils was developed from the digital images and observation from the original painting.

The image above, based again, from a digital print was completely overworked and looking dull so I wiped the surface with a turps filled rag to open up the image and with a few lines carved into the canvas it has the potential to go somewhere else but I have left it for now.

This sketch takes the middle ground, is looking more at the original again, the loosely painted ground and use of line trying to define the space with the abstract figures. The crop on the right is probably a more interesting composition.

This final image is worked up more but not a finished painting. There is a suggestion of the original narrative but the figures are painted much more abstractly, the space is more shallow and colour more expressive.

SAMPLE PAGES FROM SKETCH BOOK – COLLAGE

I was thinking about ways of simplifying compositions. If working from a landscape, for example, there can be a thousand pieces of information you are looking at and the aim would be to find that which seems essential in the experience of the view or moment. Milton Avery’s quote above comes to mind. So I began playing around with collage working from a still life arrangement as one way of exploring this. I unfortunately forgot to photo the original still life before it disappeared but the work and notes in the sketch book should be self explanatory.

Although some of the above images are quite interesting, most still seem too busy. So I became more ruthless with my cropping and simplifying and ended up with the images below. I think some of these images have the potential for further development but there is a danger of them becoming just decorative. I would like to work on a small series of paintings based on these experiments but bring in more motifs from the original or another still life and maybe other ‘found’ elements.

REFLECTION

There has been more of a flow between the two aspects of textural research and practical work than in the projects on pre- modern art. In keeping with the aim of experimenting more with colour and working in ways I am less familiar with, I think the practical work has been relatively successful. I have other scraps, images and sketches that I haven’t had time to process that could possibly feed into other projects. I often use Photoshop ,which I am familiar with, and it’s useful for exploiting images in different ways but it can also result in work which is too predictable. I don’t think I’m going to end up as a wild colourist but this period of experimentation with colour, technique and style is helping me move on from more familiar and clichéd ways of working.

Researching particular artists has led to discovering other artists whose work I find an affinity with. If I hadn’t been looking at Matisse’s late work I may not have noted what Avery was doing. From my visit to the Tel Aviv exhibition I became familiar with David Park, and looking up Park on YouTube led to discovering the work of Jacob Lawrence and Stuart Davis – jazz and cubist influenced – urban, pre pop art. All these painter’s are interesting colourists and they all pay homage to the influence that Matisse had on them during certain phases of their career.

There is an interesting series on YouTube called American Visions narrated by Robert Hughes He talks about, and interviews various artists about the social context and influences that shaped their work. I haven’t had time yet to view most of these videos but from what I’ve seen so far, quite thought-provoking in thinking about my own work.

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Notes and Research

Berggruen O, Hollein M (20060), Henri Matisse, Munich, Prestel Publishing Ltd.

VIDEO

Introduction to Modernism – Understanding Contemporary Art, narrated by John David Ebert
www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YotPhheuHw

Fauvism Overview Goodbye art Academy
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp0Y8Cgbg1o

Milton Avery
www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1YjlyEpdPw

Stuart Davis “In Full Swing” at THE WHITNEY MUSEUM
www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsTzqeaS5to

Off The Wall: The Mellow Pad by Stuart Davis
www.youtube.com/watch?v=snTurVPWI1c

Jacob Lawrence
www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR4MwompiQw

John Seed on The Legacy of Bay Area Figuration
www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeRC6zCuIGI

American Visions
www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTeDUqlasCw

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Image 1. Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, Two Women on a Balcony, 1921, (detail), oil on canvas, Simon and Marie Jaglom Collection, on loan Tel Aviv Museum.

Image 2. Maurice de Vlaminck, 1876-1958, View of Bougival, 1909, (detail), oil on canvas, Bequest of Harry and Leah Mecklembourg, on loan Tel Aviv Museum.

Image 3. Andre Derain, 1880-1954, Portrait of the Father of the Art, 1901, oil on canvas, Simon and Marie Jaglom Collection, on loan Tel Aviv Museum.

Image 4. Henri Matisse, Woman with hat, 1905.
https://www.google.co.il/imgres?imgurl=https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fb/Matisse-Woman-with-a-Hat.jpg&imgrefurl=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_with_a_Hat&h=1653&w=1214&tbnid=6FPvIBM9kFWFGM:&tbnh=160&tbnw=117&docid=Tx5nXAyC5RDA0M&itg=1&client=safari&usg=__SvCjxn7bQqYwnsclLea0fTltlyk=

Image 5. Henri Matisse, L’Atelier Rouge, 1911.
https://prefigurations.com/programme-2014-2015-histoire-de-lart-par-la-couleur/henri-matisse-latelier-rouge/

Image 6. Henri Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre, 1905/6.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_bonheur_de_vivre

Image 7. Henri Matisse, The Cutouts, 1952.
http://www.pilotguides.com/articles/henri-matisse-the-cut-outs/

Image 8. Milton Avery, Summer Reader, 1950.
https://theartstack.com/artist/milton-avery/summer-reader

Image 9. Chaime Soutine, Portrait of Young Man Wearing a Black Tie, 1927/8.
http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=56702

Image 10. David Park, Nude with a Towel, 1959.
Gift of Susan and Anton Roland-Rosenberg, Los Angeles, 1996.
On loan to the Tel Aviv Museum.

PART ONE / PROJECT 1: EXPLORING THE FIELD

Textural Research
into Pre Modern Art

My research for this first project based on the Pre Modern Timeline has lead me from initial scanning through art books, to watching art history videos, visits to my local museum, The Israel Museum here in Jerusalem and back to YouTube.

My main source of information to gain an overview of the history and the art work has been Otis Art History Videos, produced and narrated by Dr Jeanne S. M. Willette from Otis College, California. While the videos are, as such, a secondary source of information, I felt they were sufficiently unbiased in giving a good outline and back drop of the various periods and movements in the art history of the epoch and enough for me to create copious pages of notes in my sketch book.

I intend to cover, briefly, what I learnt/discovered about some of the periods in the timeline and then focus in more detail on some work that resonates more with me.

ANCIENT ART

Prehistoric cave painting fascinating, the forms, colours, pigments used. The suggestion of movement and weight in the drawing of animals and figures was quite sophisticated. Probably created by artisans employed in a variety of disciplines within nomadic communities.

Beginning of writing-hieroglyphics. In Egypt much art like hieroglyphics. Culture of death and after life. In painting and sculpture, figures show no emotion. There is no concept as the individual artist.

 

CLASSICAL ART

With the Greeks there was a shift from the archaic, the Egypt symbolic. Human centered society dominated the arts – a close observation of nature. A desire to create beauty with the human form. Man — the measure of all things but the Greeks equated humans as gods. When the Romans conquered the Greeks they removed Greek art from its original social and Religious context. Greek and Roman cultures had different needs — the Greeks favoured idealism, the Romans, realism and function.

 

BYZANTINE ART

It took hundreds of years for the art to move from the catacombs to official recognition in society. Although Christian religious expression was new, the culture it emerged from still used Roman forms. Existing and new decorative art forms used in service of religion.

 

GOTHIC ART

Concepts of the Medieval culture seemed to be exhausted and new approach to painting and sculpture began to emerge. There was a revival of Classicism. Artists and patrons saw no distinction between art and craft.

 

RENAISSANCE ART

Throughout this period there was a renewed interest in realism and classicism. There was the concept of Renaissance Man, the person of many skills and achievements. Brunelleschi was a significant figure. He made small scale sculptures as well as being a major architect. He developed the concept of perspective which was considered a science. Artists continued to work in the service of Church and State but increasingly finding more autonomy with their work projects.

 

MANNERIST ART

There was a gradual rejection of the prevalent Renaissance style. While High Renaissance art emphasised proportion, balance and ideal beauty, Mannerist artists such as El Greco distorted and elongated elements in their work. Often the use of colour was bolder and compositions more asymmetrical.

 

BAROQUE ART

Defined in terms of a general style it contrasts with Classicism. Light sources are specific and focussed while other areas are obscured and vague as in the work of Caravaggio. With Rubins, we see dynamic compositions and vivid colours. The Baroque style was eventually adopted in Northern Europe, the shift of influence moving to France and Holland. In France King Louise 14th would begin to change the way art was practised when he established the French Royal Academy resulting with the separation of the fine arts from the crafts.

 

ROCOCO ART

The style can be seen as an extension and elaboration of Baroque with its curvilinear forms, decoration, soft pastel colours and soft brushstrokes. It was dismissed by many for wallowing in the erotic but popular with the idle aristocracy.

 

NEO-CLASSICAL ART

There was a renewed interest in a pure and reduced form of Classicism fueled by the discovery of Pompeii and the Elgen Marbles from the Parthenon. The head of the newly established Royal Academy of Art in London, Joshua Reynolds, also adhered to the same. The French Revolution and the philosophy of art-for-arts-sake converged at about the same time. The French Royal Academy, in particular, would become a battle ground for artistic quarrels — the artist had to choose between the rules of the Academy and new ideas of artistic freedom.

 

VISIT TO LOCAL ART MUSEUM

I paid a visit to my local Museum, The Israel Museum, to see what I could find of interest relating to the Timeline. The images below grabbed my attention for potential exploration for the next project. The historical paintings are from the Baroque period. I find the sense of movement, colour, dark/light contrast, interesting motifs in communicating the narrative of the paintings. The painting ‘St. Peter in Prison’ is the only Rembrandt in the Museum collection. The landscape by Corot I liked a lot. He uses a narrow tonal range to create the required atmosphere. I have done some charcoal landscape sketches in the past in a similar vein, though not quite up to this quality!

 

GIOTTO AND THE ‘LAMENTATION’ FRESCO

I want to give a little more attention to the artist Giotto (1267 – 1370) and the Lamentation fresco, one of many commissioned by the Scrovegni family for the Arena Chapel attached to a Palace in Padua, Italy, c1305. The frescos depict the life of Christ from birth to resurrection and I may use some of this research for further practical work in the next project.

Giotto was born into a profoundly changing world and he eventually became a very influential figure for many artists in the new emerging Renaissance period.

He was apprenticed to the well known artist Chimabue at the age of twelve in Florence. His apprenticeship could have lasted up to ten years, his early work probably involved grinding pigments for paint and making frames for altar pieces. Later, Giotto would have been taught to paint stories or narratives according to a strict set of rules, copying from pattern books.

Much later on, Giotto joined Chimabue and his workshop in Assisi where St. Frances lived, working on frescos at a church attached to a monastery there. Many lessons and ideas that emerged from this cycle of work are those developed by Giotto for the rest of his career.

Giotto returned to Florence and set up his own workshop, receiving many new commissions while continuing to experiment with paint techniques and pigments.

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LAMENTATION FRESCO

The series of frescos at the Arena Chapel are some of Giotto’s most famous and well known work. Giotto is a great story teller. The role of the artist/artisan was still very much that of educating/informing. In this Lamentation painting Giotto combines all his compositional, technical skill and knowledge to tell the “story” of the crucified Christ figure, removed from the Cross, being lamented by his mother and followers. Everything in the composition directs the eye to the faces of Jesus and Mary and the pathos of the moment. From the diagonal line of the boulder, the gaze of all the characters in the scene including the angels and even the unseen gaze of the two figures, (bottom left). The two main characters are not placed in the centre but near bottom left and the background is simplified. There is a correlation with another image in the fresco cycle, The Nativity, where, again,there is a similar intimacy between mother and son, with Mary holding Jesus on her lap.

There is a solitary tree, while looking dead, would grow it’s leaves and fruit again, an analogy to the new life of the Resurrection. And there is the figure of Mary Magdalene at Jesus feet, she, who at an earlier point in the biblical narrative had anointed Jesus feet with oil.

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This fresco is typical of a shift away from the conventions of the day, the medieval styles that now seemed somewhat exhausted. With the depiction of the angels, there is a sense of foreshortening and with the two figures at bottom left, focused on Jesus, there is an illusion of space, of looking into the scene. The figure, (bottom right) shown on solid ground again reveals the shift away from the flat, floating images of the conventional painting of the day.

 

STYLE AND TECHNIQUE

Giotto’s earlier work and probably this fresco was painted on still wet plaster. The colours are somewhat muted but also semi translucent. He experimented with tighter than normal brush strokes to create more realistic looking figures. In his middle years, Giotto painted in a solid more classical way. The subjects in his compositions are placed in such a way the viewer appears to have a place in the painting. In his latter years Giotto’s works showed more masterful use of perspective and greater use of the technique of chiaroscuro.

 

REFLECTIONS FROM STUDY

This research has been interesting and illuminating as there were large gaps in my knowledge within this epoch, for example, the Minoan art of Crete and the Ravenna Mosaics. It’s also been frustrating as the epoch is a vast period and I spent too much time in the history rather than concentrating as much on areas of style and technique that could have been explored more for the next project. I intended to
explore in more detail the work of Rembrandt, Poussin and possibly Piero della Francesca but I ran out of time with my deadline.

I discovered areas of interest, such as the simplicity, also accuracy of observation in prehistoric and cave art, the merging of hieroglyphics and images in Egyptian wall painting and the dramatic compositions and use of chiaroscuro in Carravagio’s work.

I also discovered how certain historic artists resonate in the work of more contemporary artists, not necessarily in style but in the emotion conveyed, such as Rembrandt with artists such as Ken Payne (1) and, from the last century, Kathe Kollwitz. (2) Again, a number of artists, Leon Kossoff (3) and Cecily Brown (4) come to mind, have engaged with historical artworks as a source of inspiration in their own work.

Now — time to get the paints out again!

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Notes and Research

Barry Sir G. (ed), Bronowski Dr. J. (ed), Fisher J. (ed), Huxley Sir J. (ed), (1964)
Man The Artist, His Creative Imagination, London, Macdonald & Co.

Lynton N. (1981), Looking At Art, London, Kingfisher Books Ltd.

Lowis K, Pickeral T, (2009), 50 Paintings You Should Know, Munich, Prestel Publishing Ltd.

Steinburg S. (2009), The Allure of the Sphinx, Ancient Egypt in European Art,
Jerusalem, Israel Museum Publication.

Zalmona Y. (2009), Nicolas Pousin, A Rediscovered Masterpiece, Jerusalem,
Israel Museum Publication.

DVD

Rembrandt, (2005), Capital Interactive.

VIDEO

Otis Art History Videos, Otis College of Art & Design, Produced and Narrated by Dr Jeanne
S. M. Willette.
http://www.learnoutloud.com/Results/Publisher/Otis-College-of-Art-and-Design/667

Giotto, Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel, Lamentation, Smart History, Khan Academy, Art History
Videos and Essays.
http://www.khanacademy.org

Great Artists – Giotto, Art Doc Video, narrated by Jim Marbus.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywtzOM5H910

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Image 1 Prehistoric painting, Lascaux Caves, Dordogne.
http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/prehistoricart

Image 2 Tomb of Horemheb & Horus, Egypt.
http://www.animhut.com/articles/design-history-egyptian-art-episode-4

Image 3 Marble Statue of the Diadoumenos, Attributed to Polykleitos Period.
http://www.nikitas3.com/2177/arts-metropolitan-museums-greek-art-display

Image 4 Etruscan Couple, 70-79 AD, Wall Painting, Roman.
http://www.quizlet.com/29751270/roman/republican-and-wall-painting-definitions

Image 5 Christ Healing the Bleeding Woman.
Photo from Catacombs of Rome, Public Domain.

Image 6 Ravenna Mosaic, S.Apollinare Nuro.
http://www.timetravelturtle.com/2012/06/mosaics-ravenna-art-unesco/

Image 7 Ravenna Mosaic, Emlia Romagna.
http://www.timetravelturtle.com/2012/06/mosaics-ravenna-art-unesco/

Image 8 The Pastrana Tapestries – Portuguese Expedition to North Africa, (detail).
www.salem.org/blog/legendary-set-of-gothic-tapestries-on-view-pem

Image 9 Parmagianino, Madonna of the Long Neck, 1534 – 1540.
en .wikipedia.org/wiki/madonna_with_the_long_neck

Image 10 El Greco, (1541-1614), The Repentant Peter, c1600, Phillips collection,
Washington.
www.artbible.info/art/large/955.html

Image 11 Nicolas Poussin, Dance to the Music of Time, c1638, Wallace Collection,
London.
www.artble.com/artists/nicolas_poussin/paintings/dance_to_the_
music_of_time

Image 12 Carravagio, The Conversion of St. Paul, 1601, p.67
Lambert G. (2004), Carravagio, Koln, Tachen.

Image 13 Boucher, (1703-1770), Rinaldo and Armida, 1734, Louvre Museum
Collection.
commons-wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boucher_renaud_et_
armide_louvre

Image 14 Ingres, The Apotheosis of Homer, 1827, Louvre Museum Collection.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_ Apotheosis_Homer_(Ingres)

Image 15 Gainsborough, Figures with Cattle in Landscape.
http://www.Pinterest.com/pin/556687203919589582

Image 16 Paolo de Matteis, (1662-1728), The Song of Miriam,
Copy of original by Luca Giordarm, Israel Museum Collection.

Image 17 Detail of the above painting.

Image 18 Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), The Town of Avray, by the River,
Israel Museum Collection.

Image 19 Rembrandt, St. Peter in Prison, 1631, Israel Museum Collection.

Image 20 Nicolas Poussin, Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem, 1625-26,
Israel Museum Collection.

Image 21 Detail of the above painting.

Image 22 Jusepe de Ribera, The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, 1618,
Israel Museum Collection.

Image 23 Giotto, Lamentation, c1303-1306, Fresco, Lowis K, Pickeral T, (2009), 50
Paintings You Should Know, p. 25, Munich, Prestel Publishing Ltd.

Image 24 Details from above Fresco.

ARTIST REFERENCE

1. Ken Payne, represented by Linda Blackstone Gallery, biography at,
www.lindablackstone.com

2. Kathe Kollwitz
https://www.artsy.net/artist/kathe-kollwitz

3. Between 1995 and 1999 Leon Kossoff immersed himself in the work of
Nicolas Poussin, more info from,
Drawn to Painting: Leon Kossoff Drawings and Prints After Nicolas Poussin
http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/reviews/drohojowska-philp/drohojowskaphilp3-24-00.asp

4. Cecily Brown
https://www.artsy.net/artist/cecily-brown