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.
Looking 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.
All 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.
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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
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- Hitler 1934
Victor Brauner- Untitled 1935
Victor Brauner- La Petrification de la Papesse
Victor Brauner- Prelude to a Civilization 1954
Victor Brauner- Consciousness of Shock 1951
Victor Brauner- Antithesis 1937
Victor Brauner- The Triumph of Doubt 1946
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Chaim 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.
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I 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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I am a believer and a conformist. Anyone can revolt; it is much more difficult to obey our inner promptings.
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…
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