Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stylistic Evolution

Early and late work by artists who went through a Modernist style shift.

Gustav Klimt, Sitzendes junges Mädchen 1894
Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1908-1909
Piet Mondrian, Fen Near Saasveld 1907
Piet Mondrian, Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930

František Kupka, Papal Ceremony, 1904.
František Kupka, Katedrála, 1912-1913
Alfred Maurer
Alfred Maurer (1868-1932) (Thanks, Kevin Ferrara)
Alfred Maurer (1868-1932) (Thanks, Kevin Ferrara)
Walt Disney Studios, Snow White, 1937
Walt Disney Studios, Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom, 1953
Gustaf Tenggren, Juan and Juanita, 1926
Gustaf Tenggren Arabian Nights
de Kooning
Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning

Gerhard Richter (thanks, Ricky Mujica)

Gerhard Richter (thanks, Ricky Mujica)


Erik Bongers said...

It's a luxury to nowadays have this wide variety of styles to choose from, isn't it?
Yet that variety brings with it the difficulty of developing your own style while standing out in the crowd.
In those days, things were more polarized and the direction of progress was one way. From classic to modern. Period.

James Gurney said...

Yes, well said, Erik. We can walk through the whole supermarket and put whatever we want in our basket, and perhaps come up with something new that fits what we want to express.

Eugene Arenhaus said...

Kupka went through several such shifts over his career. Besides the realistic works, there are Daumier-style caricatures, Symbolist works, some paintings approaching fauvism and only then he shifted to abstract compositions. Even those he painted more in one style - some colorful, some geometric a la Malevich.

Gavin said...

I often feel like there's too much emphasis placed on having a definitive and unique style, simply for the sake of standing out.

What I admire about such artists, as Picasso or Klimt, is they learnt all the traditional skills first before coming to a point where they found the academic approach didn't tally with their ideas for expression, yet they could take that training and bring all their skills to bear in a complete sylistic change.

Jessica Kirby said...

Agree 100% with Gavin. I also feel that a lot of newer artists today skip the learning process and just go for a style in order to standout/sell work.

Tobias Allen Wolf said...

I agree with the sentiments expressed here that emphasize the importance of academic training for artists before stylistic deviations from nature. The reason why I think its important is that it teaches you patient and diligent observational skills which don't come naturally for most of us.

Deep and truthful observation is at the heart of modern progress, whether it's in the sciences or the arts. It all begins with learning how to honestly just see what is right in front of us. Which sounds like such a simple thing, but for anyone new to traditional drawing & painting can attest to; it's not always an inherit human gift.

We bring a lot of prejudice, oversimplification, distortion, and wonkiness to the table. Which is itself an observation based on an honest appraisal of our tendencies, and it's these traits which are oftentimes best expressed in deviations from nature as in a lot of modernist movements. They get at emotional truths rather than literal ones.

Rich said...

Probably the arrival of photography contributed to this development.

There is also Geroges Rouault, a student of Gustave Moreau.
I very much like his early works. He then switched to some easier style and kind of mass production.

poggy said...

T Wolf, this reminds of something I heard an Indian film director saying in "The Story of Film". He said something along the lines that innovation is like a stone tied to a rope, which symbolizes tradition. The more you swing the rope around, the farther away from the center the stone is going to pull. But if you cut the rope, the rock will fall to the ground. A simple metaphor, but very insightful in my opinion.

On a random note - Kupka is seriously underrated.

James Gurney said...

These are all interesting reflections, and they make me wonder about a question of aesthetics. Is realism just another style, or is the pursuit of truth to nature something altogether different? Styles come and go; they're exciting and new today, and then dated tomorrow. But a work that comes close to our shared experience of reality never looks out of fashion. Whether it's a student exercise or a life pursuit, the study of nature represents the effort to see beyond convention, tradition and style.

Whether an artist ends up painting in a manner that deviates from natural appearances, the experience of pursuing truth to nature not only ensures the development of genuine skills, but it also guarantees that the artist will in their mature work go beyond copying the outward appearance of other people's art.

Vinod Rams said...

Don't forget about Edmund Dulac, he had a very academic, naturalistic style that got more "orientalist" and flat much like Indian miniature paintings.

elgin said...

I personally do not agree with Sister Wendy in so far as her statement applies to abstract art, but generally I do when she said art only changes,; it doesn't get better."

Robert J. Simone said...

Question is did the "modernist shift" make any of these artists' work more beautiful?

Tom Hart said...

For me, knowing that an artist has demonstrated a fairly high degree of skill in recording "reality" gives him/her credibility. I can then believe that stylization, exageration, or distortion that might appear in his/her later work is a matter of choice, not accident or inability. (The example that always come to my mind is Picasso, but the examples James sites here are equally relevant.) I can think of one major contemporary artist whose work I view with suspicion (for want of a better term) because despite all his work that I'm familiar with, I have never seen an example of high level draftsmanship or coloring skill.

Chris James said...

I'm with Erik

I'm thankful we live in a time where rigid dogma doesn't determine how we must work or the artistic merit of such work. Academicism and Modernism were two sides of the same coin as far as I'm concerned. The art establishment simply threw the baby out with the bathwater. Tools of expression should not be limited by politics, cultural agenda, or fashion, in my humble opinion. One must derive power from wherever they can.

And no matter what, craft still counts, it can enhance. I saw an H.R. Giger piece that looked like a take on Pollock, but it was done in a way that made its surface as hard and beautiful as the work of Van Eyck, elevating the style in my eyes. But even at that, I support an artist's choice to ignore fineness of surface

Philip said...

Just want to say thanks to James and commenters.. - has to be my favourite blog to date

Rich said...

As to Georges Rouault:
I came across a story, that his early works, accomplished after studying with Gustave Moreau, just wouldn't sell. Georges couldn't pay his rent anymore, neither did he have any money left for colors or canvases.
Something akin to Van Gogh, perhaps.

Well, a friend of his knew a galery owner, and sent him to the rescue. The chap looked at Rouault's paintings in askance; at last finding some scrap board in a corner, where young Rouault would just dump his day's leftover oil paint.

Look at this!" the galery man exclaimed: "What a variety of forms, what a richness of tones, what a feat of superb imagination! Try to be modern, my friend. You just are behind the times!"

The poor painter replied: "...but these are my "raclure de peinture"...the palette scraping leftovers....
"Shut off!", the galerist said.

So the poor painter consented, and went off; producing more of them "raclures"...and obviously they sold...and since then was able to pay his rent, his canvases, the colors, and so much more....

That's how the story goes...believe it or not.

mk said...
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