Posts Tagged ‘Paul Gauguin’

pablo_picasso_les_femmes_d_alger_  Photo by ChristiesThis is Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O’), a 1955 painting from artist Pablo Picasso.  It created quite a stir yesterday when it became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it went for a cool $179.36 million at Christie’s.

And while that might seem like an unfathomable amount of money to pay for any piece of art- or a small town for that matter- it is only the tip of the iceberg for extravagance in the recent art market.  At the same auction, a life size sculpture, Pointing Man, from Alberto Giacometti became the most expensive sculpture sold at auction when it fetched $143.3 million.

Paul Gauguin- When Will You Marry?

Paul Gauguin- When Will You Marry?

And keep in mind that these records are for pieces sold in auction, not those sold privately by dealers or other collectors.  In February, When Will You Marry? from Paul Gauguin sold privately for a whopping $300 million to a Swiss collector.  There are rumors of many other similar private sales with fantastic sums of money attached.

It’s always interesting to see the prices that these pieces bring and how we, the public, respond to these over the top sales, almost like a cheering crowd at the big game rooting the bidders to go ever higher.  We do like a spectacle. The shame is that the focus becomes all about the money and less about the artwork.  But then again, these big sales really have little to do with the actual art.  These exhibits of extreme affluence have become performance art in themselves with the artwork a mere prop that acts as a catalyst in setting off a series of actions that result in prices that boggle the mind of the average person.  It’s the Picasso and Gauguin now.  In time they will be replaced by a new crop of props designed to set off the same reactive chain.

Do I believe these works deserve these incredible prices?  Well, I do believe they are great pieces of art, high in the pantheon of art history with stories behind them that deserve telling.  They would be great without those prices attached to them.  No, these prices aren’t the value of the work itself– they are the price someone is willing to pay to attach their own name and ego to the history of the piece.

It’s kind of a reverse provenance.  Normally, an artist’s work is validated and gains value when it becomes part of a prestigious collection.  In this scenario, it is the collector who is trying to gain prestige and validation through the attainment of the artwork.  And at the moment, the going price to get that kind of thing is well over a 100 mil.

I think both Picasso and Gauguin would be more than a little amused at these prices.  And probably a little pissed off that they missed out on this kind of loot in their own lifetimes. For myself, I don’t give a damn what someone else paid for the work.  I would prefer that someone with those kind of resources would try to use them in helping others rather than conspicuously consuming but that is not my decision, is it?

In the end, it is what it is, as they say…


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John LaFarge- Samoan Dancing a Standing Siva 1909I am a big fan of stained glass windows.  It has influenced my work in many ways, from trying to emulate the brilliance and glow of the colors to the way in which I see and compose my work.  I have been lucky enough to live in an area with access to the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany who is easily the best known and most stylish of stained glass makers.  The Corning Museum of Glass has a number of his pieces, which are remarkable,  as do several churches in the area.

But there is someone to rival, if not eclipse, the works of Tiffany, someone who actually paved the way for Tiffany’s work with his innovative work in stained glass.  This was John LaFarge.  I can’t remember the exact piece or location of the first time I saw his work except that it was somewhere in NYC.  But I do remember the stunning colors and the lead work which held the glass pieces together.  It  was so different than that of other stained glass windows I had seen which was normally clean and neat, fitting for the solemnity of a church.  But the LaFarge lead work I saw was rough and dark, dividing the opalescent glass but also becoming part of the composition in itself.  His lines were organic and integral to the composition.  It was remarkable.

I came across the image shown above recently,  Samoan Dancing a Standing Siva, in a book about LaFarge’s travels to Tahiti and other South Pacific islands in the early 1890’s and about how this expedition changed his work.  It’s interesting that the other artist whose work was transformed by Tahiti, Paul Gauguin, arrived on the island just days after LaFarge departed.

This piece of stained glass excites me very much in the use of line, especially in the naturalness and organic feel of them, as well as the contrast between the brilliance of the colors and the the darknesses that surround them.  To me,this is simply magnificent, possessing those things that I want to see in my own work.

There is a Pinterest page with many of LaFarge’s more famous stained glass pieces, most of which are a bit more formal than this piece above.  But it gives a nice overview of his work on one page.  To see it click here.

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Color which vibrates just like music, is able to attain what is most general and yet most elusive in nature.

– Paul Gauguin


I came across this line that Gauguin had written in a letter to the poet Andre Fontainas and it made me think about how I often compare painting to music, how I try to find that  rhythm, maybe the vibration to which Gauguin alludes, in my work that has the same effect on the viewer’s unconscious mind as does music.  That thing that would make my work, like music, communicable across all boundaries.  Something that would easily be absorbed as an emotional response without first having to dissect it intellectually, like music that you hearfor the first time and react to without thinking, often finding it still vibrating in your mind for days and weeks afterward.

It’s a grand aspiration and I am never sure if I ever reach that goal.  But I do keep hoping and trying.

I chose the painting above to illustrate this post because I like the simplicity and harmony of it.  Titled Ever, it’s a 15″ by 18 ” piece on paper that is as much an abstraction, with its spare forms and lines,  as it is a depiction of reality.  My hope is that the color and harmony of this piece creates a vibration or rhythm that overcomes the unnaturalness of it, allowing it to makean emotional  contact before the mind finds some intellectual objection.

Again, a grand aspiration.

Reading back over this, I have to say that I don’t sit before my easel or table and ponder these concerns before I start to work.  I often only think about these matters when I come across a line,  like the one above from  Gauguin, that makes me wonder about my own aspirations for my work, what they are and how they compare to the painters of the past whose work I admire.  I guess I am looking for a commonality in our views that connects us somehow, even though our work may not reflect this bond.

Another grand aspiration. 

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This painted, The Plumed Hat, from the artist Henri Matisse was attcked the other day at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.  There wasn’t any apparent damage to the painting itself after the attacker took it by the frame and slammed it a few times against the wall.

That in itself is not that interesting except when one note that the attacker was the same woman who had attempted to deface Two Tahitian Women from  Paul Gauguin at the same museum in April of this year.  After being tackled while trying to protect the Gauguin painting from its protective plexiglass case she was quoted as saying, “I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.”

It’s pretty rare when the same person makes such an attempt at the same museum.  With the Gauguin there seemed at least a hint of her motivation in trying to destroy the painting that she described as “evil” and “homosexual.”  To some, could the the idea of two bare-breasted women standing next to one another might be perceived as evil?  I guess.  And could the idea of one woman looking over at the other could be seen as homosexual to some folks?  I suppose, although I think she is actually casting a hungry eye at that watermelon.

But why attack this Matisse?  There is nothing overtly evil or gay in  it that would offend delicate sensibilities.  It’s hardly provocative in any way.  Or attractive.  It’s not a piece I would give much thought to in any way, other than thinking it is definitely not one of Matisse’s finest examples, at least in my eyes.  I don’t find much in it that excites me in one way or the other.  Certainly nothing that makes me want to freak out and try to destroy it.

So what is here that I’m not seeing that might excite the obviously troubled mind of the woman who attacked it?  Is it that same thing in it that another mind might perceive as beautiful?

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GC Myers 2009 Beginning PieceI started a new painting on Wednesday of this week, a 42″ high by 60″ wide canvas.  I first prepped the surface with layers of gesso and a layer of black paint.  I’m not sure if the texture of the surface will fully come through in this photo but it has an interesting surface with string-like bands running across it.

I’ve been working lately in my self-titled obsessionist style, work that is based on a dark ground with building color shapes on top.  It is the style I have used for much of my Red Roof work and is the type of work I have featured as of late in this blog.  I tend to work in surges, focusing on a certain style for an extended period, as though each piece, though self-contained and complete in itself,  is both rehearsal and an extension for the next piece.

By extension, I am referring to an extension of the thought process that forms my compositions.  For instance, I may take a concept that started in an earlier piece in the series and either expand upon it or take it in a different direction than the painting from which it stemmed, maybe in a direction that I recognized after the original had taken form.

GC Myers 2009 UnderpaintingAs I have been doing a lot of Red Roof-like work I wanted to take something that I gleaned from a few of my recent pieces and move it to a larger canvas.  I wanted a large mass of structures building upward.  So I began working in the lower corners, blocking in the forms in a red oxide paint.  As I said before I have used other colors as an underpainting before, I prefer red oxide for the way it shows through and creates a warmth and depth in the whole piece.  My eye responds to the red breaking through the overlaying colors as the piece proceeds.  It’s something that  reminds me of the  bits of a vermillion color you often see braking through other colors in Paul Gauguin’s work, something I always look for in his work.

As I start bringing the corners toward each other, I start making decisions on how it will build upward.  Everything, except for the fact that I know I want masses of structures, is up in the air at this point and my forward vision is constantly shifting.  At this point on this piece, I have a feeling that I want to insert a canal or river, elements that I have used often as of late, and a bridge connecting the two sides.  I decide to start with the bridge and let the waterway build off of that.

Covering such a large canvas with small forms is time-consuming, more so than some of my other work which consists of large color fields and requires a different form of concentration because, as I said above, the piece is always shifting as each new element is added.  It requires me to stay fully engaged which is really the basis for obsessionism as I see it.  As a result, I often am thinking about my next move on the work even when I am not at the easel or when my day is done in the studio.

So, it’s time to get back at it…

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