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Terms in this set (54)

- Paul Gauguin
- 1894
- Oil (possibly mixed with max) on canvas
- A product of the artist's belief that art should be an abstraction derived by dreaming before nature
- Gauguin's paintings were inspired by sources as varied as medieval stained glass, folk art, and Japanese prints; he sought to paint in a "primitive" way, employing the so-called decorative qualities of folk art, such as brilliantly colored flat shapes, antinaturalist color, and bold black outlines (Gauguin called his style "synthetism," because he believed it synthesized observation and the artist's feelings in an abstracted application of line, shape, space, and color)
- In late-nineteenth-century Paris, the Realist and Impressionist artists who had transformed artistic practice and subject matter during the 1860s and 1870s ceded the spotlight to a younger generation of avant-garde artists who pushed visual experimentation to better express subjects drawn not from modern life or nature, but from their own imaginations
- Three zones: Gauguin divided his composition into three horizontal zones, increasingly abstract from top to bottom. The three bands are also differentiated in the type of lighting and the use of color
- Beach landscape: the upper zone, painted in the most lifelike manner, focuses on a centrally placed monumental statue, which is set on a hill in the foreground of a populated beach landscape (the scene seems to take place at either the beginning or the end of the day, when lighting is insufficient to distinguish the faces of the figures or the exact nature of the statue. In fact, there is more light in the background than in the foreground, and in a particularly well-illuminated patch of beach stands a horse whose diminutive size indicates that the landscape extends deep into the distance. Colors, though saturated, are lifelike, in accordance with the nature of the light at sunrise or sunset)
- Three figures on the pink beach: the middle zone contains three figures arranged symmetrically on an unnaturalistically pink beach (the green arched shape behind the central woman links her visually to the statue immediately above through forms that rhyme visually. The pink of the beach is not shaded gradually from light to dark. Instead, the relative lightness and darkness remain essentially constant within outlined areas separated in part by the placement of the figures, giving the sense of silhouetted shapes rather than modeled forms)
- Abstract pool of water: filling the bottom third of the painting is a striking pool of water, abstracted into a dazzling array of bright colors and arranged in a puzzle-like pattern of flat, curvilinear shapes. (the left half of the pool seems rooted in natural description, evoking spatial recession. But on the right it becomes flatter and more stylized)
- Increasing abstract subject: reflecting the three-part formal division of the composition into superimposed bands, the subject matter in these zones becomes less clear and more abstract as we explore the painting from top to bottom
- Tahiti: the beach landscape and the clothing and complexion of the human figures in the foreground identify this as a scene from Tahiti, a common setting for Gauguin's paintings
- Sculpted idol: as was his practice in many of his Tahitian paintings, Gauguin did not base this sculpted idol on a statue he had seen in Tahiti, but rather on pictures he owned of the Southeast Asian Buddhist temple complex at Borobudur
- Bather: the central female bather dips her feet in the water and looks coyly out at the viewer (on either side of her, two androgynous figures recline in fetus-like postures. Their poses perhaps symbolize—from left to right—birth, life, and death)
- Magic pool: by reflecting a strange and unexpected reality exactly where we expect to see a mirror image of the familiar world, this magic pool seems the perfect symbol of Gauguin's desire to evoke "the mysterious centers of thought." (it underlines his desire to create symbolic rather than descriptive works of art)
- Paul Cézanne
- 1887
- Oil on canvas
- He adopted a bright palette and broken brushwork and began painting landscapes
- Dedicated himself to the study of what he called the "sensations" of nature
- Unlike the Impressionists, however, he did not seek to capture transitory effects of light and atmosphere; instead, he created highly structured paintings through a methodical application of color that merged drawing and modeling into a single process
- His professed aim was to "make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of the museums"
- Dotted with buildings and trees and crossed at the far right by a railroad viaduct
- Framing the scene to the left is an evergreen tree, which echoes the contours of the mountains, creating visual harmony between the two principal elements of the compositions
- The even light, stable atmosphere, and absence of human activity create the sensation of timeless stillness
- His brushstrokes, which vary from short, parallel hatchings to light lines to broader swaths of flat color, weave together the elements of the painting into a unified but flattened visual space
- The surface design vies with the pictorial effect of receding space, generating tension between the illusion of three dimensions within the picture and the physical reality of its two-dimensional surface
- Recession into depth is suggested by the tree in the foreground - a repoussoir (French for "something that pushes back") that helps draw the eye into the valley - and by the transition from the saturated hues in the foreground to the lighter values in the background, creating an effect of atmospheric perspective
- But recession into depth is challenged by other more intense colors in both the foreground and background and by the tree branches in the sky, which follow the contours of the mountain, avoiding overlapping and subtly suggesting that the two are on the same plane
- Photographs of this scene show that the artists created a composition in accordance with a harmony that he felt the scene demanded, rather than reproducing in detail the appearance of the landscape
- Pablo Picasso
- 1907
- Oil on canvas
- Rose period
- Objective (neo-classical paintings such as the Turkish Bath) to subjective
- Answer to The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse (Picasso wanted to outdo this painting)
- This groundbreaking modern painting challenged the conventions for depicting three-dimensional pictorial space and for representing the female nude subject
- The fragmented, nonperspectival space and unwelcoming depiction of female sexuality in the painting greatly influenced the development of the Cubist painting style
- Picasso's incorporation of African and Iberian sources can also be contextualized within a larger movement among European artists to use objects from non-Western cultures to comment on or question modernity
- This large-scale painting overturned conventions not only for depicting the female nude but also for representing three-dimensional space on a canvas
- Canvas size: the massive oil on canvas imitates the size of large-scale academic history painting
- Prostitution: the painting has often been interpreted as commenting on the anxiety surrounding venereal (性病的) disease, a life-threatening sexual affliction that widely affected prostitutes in Paris. In depicting the women in a harsh, abstracted manner, Picasso may have been highlighting the dangers that accompanied participation in this industry
- Primitivism: the African masks in this painting were probably based on objects in Picasso's own collection (he, like many of his contemporaries, was inspired by a popular exhibition of African objects held in Paris). Primitivism is the tendency among Modern artists to scour the art of cultures from outside the Western tradition
- Cubism: the fragmentation of forms into abstract geometric shapes shocked many of Picasso's contemporaries (however, one artist, Georges Braque, was deeply inspired. Together, Braque and Picasso began to develop these formal innovations into a radical new style, which became known as Cubism)
- Treatment of space: in his treatment of space, Picasso rejects mathematical perspective, the formula used since the Renaissance for depicting three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface (instead, the space in the scene painted on the canvas appears fractured and incoherent, with little sense of depth)
- The figures and their surroundings are abstracted into fragmented, angular forms
- The title's meaning: the title of this painting has been interpreted in different ways: Avignon was the seat of a papal court in the fourteenth century, so it may indicate that these figures are young ladies of the court. (however, the more common interpretation derives from the fact that the French term demoiselle was also a euphemism for "prostitute," and that Avignon was the name of a red-light district in Barcelona)
- Venus figures: The relaxed, seductive positions of the 2nd and 3rd (from the left) refer to traditional depictions of the goddess Venus rising from the sea (however, these figures' angular bodies and blank facial features counteract their passive poses)
- Kourous figure: The rigid posture and striding stance of the figure on the very left recall those of an ancient Greek kouros. (like Venus, the kouros represents a canonical representation of the nude figure. By using these references to the past, Picasso is deliberately connecting his painting to recognizable art historical precedents)
- The seated position and over-the-shoulder gaze of the figure on the bottom right may refer to the female nude in Édouard Manet's painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (unlike Manet's subject, this figure appears less relaxed and her body is more hunched over. Her gaze addresses the viewer more directly, as if in confrontation)
- Iberian sculpture: Picasso was greatly inspired by a recent exhibition of Iberian sculptures. This influence is evident in the wide, almond-shaped eyes and stylized features of the women's faces
- African masks: the abstracted faces of the women were painted to resemble African masks. (Picasso, like many artists working in France at this time, was an avid collector of African art. The covered faces add to the aggression present in the relationship between the prostitutes and the viewer)
- Still life: Ripe fruit in artworks frequently symbolizes female sexuality.
As depicted here, however, it appears inedible, perhaps indicating hostility toward male patrons
- "Late recognition is the stuff of which legends are made, but what is so particular in this case is that the painting's deferred reception is not just linked to but also commanded by its subject matter and formal structure: Les Demoiselles is above all a work about beholding, about the trauma endangered by a visual summons"
- "...in the finished painting 'this rule of traditional narrative art yields to an anti-narrative counter-principle: neighboring figures share neither a common space nor a common action, do not communicate or interact, but relate singly, directly, to the spectator...The event, the epiphany, the sudden entrance, is still the theme - but rotated through 90 degrees towards a viewer conceived as the picture's opposite pole.' In other words, it is the work's lack of stylistic and scenic unity that binds the painting to the spectator: the core of the picture is the frightful gaze of the demoiselles"

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