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Vittorio Zecchin- Les Mille  et Une Nuit

Vittorio Zecchin- Les Mille et Une Nuit

I often come across work online, some that just captures me immediately, and wonder how it is that I have never heard of the artist behind it.  Such is the case with Vittorio Zecchin, an Italian artist who lived from 1878 until 1947.  I came across the image above and it really rang my bell.  It had vibrant color and shapes throughout with a form and richness that brought the work of Gustav Klimt to mind.

Vittorio Zecchin -les mille et une nuits  1Looking for more info I found that background info on Zecchin was sketchy.  He was raised on Murano, one of the famed islands of Venice  known for its glass-making.  His father was a glass-maker and Zecchin grew up immersed in color and form.  He studied art but, feeling his voice would not be heard in the somewhat conservative artistic atmosphere of Venice at the time, put it aside in his early 20’s to pursue a job as civil servant.  However, he came back to painting around the age of 30, spurred on by a new movement in Venice of artists inspired by Klimt and other artists.

Vittorio Zecchin -les mille et une nuits 4All of this pieces shown here are from his grandest work, a mural completed in 1914 for the Hotel Terminus that consisted of 11 or 12 panels ( I have found conflicting reports) that measure around 300 feet in total length.  Called Les Milles et Une Nuit ( A Thousand and One Nights), it depicts the entourage of  kings, queens, princesses and princes as they bear gifts to encourage the Sultan to give his daughter’s hand to Aladdin.  You can see the influence of Klimt but more importantly you can see the influence of the glass and color of Venice.  Unfortunately, the panels are no longer together, having been dispersed throughout the art world over the years.

From this achievement, Zecchin moved on to incorporating his keen eye for design to other endeavors in the decorative arts.  He started a tapestry workshop on Murano in 1916 then became the director of the famed Cappellin-Venini glass works, as well as working with a number of other prestigious glass works until he retired at the age of 6o.  He said he was exhausted and  he was sucked dry.

I would love to have been able to see this painting complete and in its original setting.  Or even in some complete form online.  But I am simply pleased to have come across it at all.  There is something very encouraging in his work that pleases me.  And that is enough for now.

Vittorio Zecchin -les mille et une nuits  3

 

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Victor Brauner- "Signe" 1942- Mounted on his tomb in Montmartre

Victor Brauner- “Signe” 1942- Mounted on his tomb in Montmartre

Painting is life, the real life, my life.

Victor Brauner, epitaph on his grave in Paris

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The sculpted piece above is part, along with the quote above,  of the Montmartre tomb of Victor Brauner, a Romanian Jewish painter/sculptor who lived from 1903 to 1966, spending most of his life in France.  It depicts the heads he often portrayed in his Surrealistic paintings.

I can’t quite remember how I first came across the work of  Brauner.  I think it might have been in an article that had anti-Nazi art from the 1930’s.  He had painted a couple of paintings in 1934 and 1935 during Hitler’s rise, one depicting a fantasy portrait of Hitler with his head being pierced with all sorts of implements.  A knife in the eye , for example.  The other depicted a German military figure standing atop a swastika that is crushing the bodies under it. Both are powerful propaganda images and are shown below.

But I stumbled across his other work apart from these images and they caught my attention on their own.  They are surreal images that often have a Paul Klee-like mysticism in them that I am drawn to.  Maybe I also identify with something Brauner once wrote in his notebooks: Each painting that I make is projected from the deepest sources of my anxiety…

Whatever the case, I find them interesting, something more to delve into.  Take a look.

Victor Brauner- The Surrealist 1947

Victor Brauner- The Surrealist 1947

Victor Brauner- Hitler 1934

Victor Brauner- Hitler 1934

Victor Brauner- Untitled 1935

Victor Brauner- Untitled 1935

Victor Brauner- La Petrification de la Papesse

Victor Brauner- La Petrification de la Papesse

Victor Brauner- Prelude to a Civilization 1954

Victor Brauner- Prelude to a Civilization 1954

Victor Brauner- Consciousness of Shock 1951

Victor Brauner- Consciousness of Shock 1951

Victor Brauner- Antithesis 1937

Victor Brauner- Antithesis 1937

Victor Brauner- The Triumph of Doubt 1946

Victor Brauner- The Triumph of Doubt 1946

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Chaim Soutine Les Maisons 1921Chaim Soutine was yet another brilliant but tragically short lived painter, dying at the age of 50 in 1943.  He was a Russian Jew who studied art as a youth in his native Belarus then emigrated to Paris in 1913.  There, among the many diverse artistic influences, his distinct expressionistic style found its voice and over the next two decades he produced a powerful body of work.  However, he wasn’t hailed as the great painter he truly was until the days just before the start of World War II.

As a Jew in German occupied France, he was forced to be always on the move from safe haven to the next in order to avoid the Gestapo. He sometimes found himself sleeping outside in the forests.  In 1943, he suffered a perforated stomach ulcer and died during emergency surgery.

He is best known for his paintings of the carcasses of meat and his still lives, all painted in his wild, heavily impasto manner.  However, for me, it is his landscapes that are the real treasures.  They have a tremendous amount of movement through them that forms a rhythm that, along with the color and contrasts of the surface, make them sing for me.  I just see them as being very powerful pieces.

Take a look for yourself at some of my favorite Soutine landscapes.

Chaim Soutine Landscape with Red Donkey Chaim Soutine Landscape at Cagnes Chaim Soutine Houses of Cagne Chaim Soutine Landscape with Cypress Chaim Soutine The Old Mill

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Henri RousseauI just love the paintings of Henri Rousseau. It’s not something that I can quantify in any way. It’s not just the harmony of color and form or the subject matter or even the way it is painted. There’s just such a great sense of rightness in the work, a great sense that this is the artists’s reality.  It just reaches out and allows you to step easily into it while still maintaining a feeling of depth and emotion, a quality that many artists seek but few find.

I was surprised when I came across a video that animated some of Rousseau’s better known pieces.  Actually I was a little skeptical of the the whole thing.  But I watched it and found it very captivating in the way it is put together.  Soothing, actually, is a better word for it.

I don’t know if Rousseau would approve but it seems to be done with a great deal of affection for the work and maintains that sense of naivete, mystery and whimsy that runs through so much of Rousseau’s work.  Take a look for yourself.

 

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Georges Rouault -Christ in the Suburbs 1920-24I am a believer and a conformist. Anyone can revolt; it is much more difficult to obey our inner promptings.

Georges Rouault

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I’ve been a big fan of French painter/printmaker Georges Rouault  (1871-1958) from the moment many years ago when I stumbled across Miserere, a book of of his etchings.  It was raw and expressive work often dealing with religious themes and those inner promptings, as he calls them in the quote above. It was  a work that was very influential on my early Exiles series.

His paintings also possess the same rawness and expression of his etchings, maybe even more so, and I find myself immediately drawn to the dark line work and deep colors within them, not to mention the pure emotional feeling of them.

Now, if only I can obey my own inner promptings…

Georges Rouault Sunset 1937 georges-rouault-christ-and-the-fishermen-1939- Georges Rouault The Old King

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Van Gogh Still Life- Blue Enamel Coffeepot, Earthenware and Fruit 1888When I came into the studio this morning there was a question waiting for me in my inbox.  In response to yesterday’s post, a blogger, JM Nowak, asked : I wonder what van Gogh would have thought? What would he think now about the popularity and sales rate of his Art? Would it make him feel more confident and self-assured…I wonder?!

The question set my mind in motion.  Would have recognition in his time affected Van Gogh’s work?  Would it have changed the arc of his evolution as we know it?  Would his style have changed to meet the will of the market if he had started to sell his work at the time?

These are hard questions.  Part of me is selfishly glad that we will never know, happy in the fact that his work came about in just the way it did, relatively uninfluenced by the market or the words of critics.  Though I do have to confess that I wish he had found some sort of satisfaction or happiness in knowing that his work became so loved and revered.

But his work evolved in much the same way as outsider and folk artists who toil for the absolute necessity of self expression, without any outside affirmation.  There is a sort of pristine purity in this that presents an interesting dichotomy:  established artists crave this purity that they can no longer have and the artists with it often desire the acknowledgment that the established artists receive.

Can the line between the two be walked?

It makes me wonder how my own work would have evolved without the galleries or patrons who have supported me these many years now.  Would my own arc or direction be the same as it is now?  I think it would be different if only for the assurance that  that the knowledge that there are waiting eyes to see your work brings.  That in itself propels the work forward at times.

But it would undoubtedly be different.  But whether it would be better or worse is debatable.  It might be narrower in scope just because I might be more tempted to follow an even more personal and esoteric path.  But I’m not really sure about that because the real question would be how long would I be able to continue without some outer affirmation for the work.  Would I be able to maintain the passion or would I abandon the work or continue to follow Van Gogh down that  vortex of madness which he ultimately followed?

A lot to ponder at 6 in the morning…

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Lawren Harris- Isolation Peak -1931

Lawren Harris- Isolation Peak -1931

I received a copy of the new catalog for the Lawren Harris show that is currently showing at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles before moving to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the spring of 2016.  The show, curated by comedian/actor/ avid art collector Steve Martin , is the first major show in the US for the Canadian artist, who passed away in 1970 at the age of 85.  It’s a fabulous looking show if the catalog serves as any kind of indicator.

I’ve written a couple of times about his paintings and my consternation that they were somehow not known to us south of the Canadian border.  In his intro Martin writes very much the same thing.  We have embraced so many Canadians as our own in many other fields– Neil Young, Joni Mitchell,  Jim Carrey,  and so many others that it would difficult to list them all– yet for some reason we have either not embraced Canadian painters or Canada has not been willing to share them with us.

I guess I could understand the latter.  After giving us so many musicians, comedians and actors without so much as a thank you note from their neighbors to the south, they might want to keep something that they can call their very own.  Something that speaks of its Canadian identity, its roots and sensibility.

But that may be coming to an end.  You see, great painting, regardless of its origin and subject, transcends boundaries and speaks in a universal tongue.  And the Canadian painters I show here do that.  We may have been shielded from them for a hundred years or so but once they trickle through it will soon be a torrent.  And I’m only talking about a group of painters from the early 20th century.  Who knows what treasures are waiting to be discovered in that land to our north?

Maybe we will see them if we just show them a small bit of appreciation.  Let me be the first to say “Thank You” for sharing your richness with us.

Arthur Lismer-Bright Land -1938

Arthur Lismer-Bright Land -1938

Arthur_Lismer-Olympic with Returned Soldiers

Arthur_Lismer-Olympic with Returned Soldiers

Franklin Carmichael - Autumn in Orillia-1924

Franklin Carmichael – Autumn in Orillia-1924

Franklin Carmichael -Jackknife Village-1926

Franklin Carmichael -Jackknife Village-1926

Franklin Carmichael-Mirror-Lake-1929

Franklin Carmichael-Mirror-Lake-1929

Frederick Varley - Night Ferry Vancouver -1937

Frederick Varley – Night Ferry Vancouver -1937

Tom Thomson- The Jack Pine -1917

Tom Thomson- The Jack Pine -1917

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