Tag Archives: Abstract art

Robert Delaunay – Joie de Vivre

23 Feb

1912-13. Robert Delaunay - Le Premier DisqueRobert Delaunay, Le Premier Disque, 1912-13

If colours were emotions, this painting would be pure joy, euphoria, ecstatic rapture… Delaunay’s painting Le Premier Disque exudes playfulness, mainly because colours are in charge, and geometrical composition isn’t that dominant.

Delaunay’s colours are art therapy for me. This painting resembles a musical symphony, with colours instead of notes; deep red, cherry red, blue as the sky, the sea, then green, green like woods, yellow, van Gogh’s yellow, mystical shades of purple. Delaunay was a lyrical colourist, and after experimenting with Cubism, he returned to his greatest love – colour. He said himself: ‘This happened in 1912. Cubism was in full force. I made paintings that seemed like prisms compared to the Cubism my fellow artists were producing. I was the heretic of Cubism. I had great arguments with my comrades who banned color from their palette, depriving it of all elemental mobility. I was accused of returning to Impressionism, of making decorative paintings, etc.… I felt I had almost reached my goal.‘ It was necessary for him to experiment in order to find his own path, and he did, in 1912, when he finally succumbed to his passion for bright and dynamic colours. But his aim was different than those of Impressionists and Fauvists who still painted portraits and landscapes but with sometimes unnatural colours. Delaunay, like Kandinsky, wanted the paint to became valuable for itself.

Whenever I see this painting, it reminds me of Mayakovsky’s poem ‘But could you?’; in it Mayakovsky splashes a pot of colour on the trivialities of daily life, work-hours and boredom. Delaunay’s painting has the same effect on me; it stands as a spiritual border between school obligations and free time which I cherish immensely.

I blurred at once the chart of trite routine
by splashing paint with one swift motion.‘ (‘But could you? by Vladimir Mayakovsky)

For me, this painting is a true visual representation of ‘joie de vivre’, and therefore reminds me of Renoir’s paintings. While Renoir painted people dancing and laughing, Delaunay here uses nothing but colours, but provokes the same feeling from the viewer – joy of life. This is a painting which brings happiness, do you need more?


Paul Cezanne – Boy in a Red Waistcoat

15 Jun

Amedeo Modigliani greatly admired Paul Cezanne’s work. The story goes that Modigliani carried a reproduction of Cezanne’s painting ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat‘ ever since he saw a retrospective of Cezanne’s work in Paris in 1907. And whenever Cezanne’s name came up in a conversation, Modigliani would take out that reproduction and ecstatically kiss it.

1888-90. Boy in a Red Waistcoat - Paul Cezanne1888-90 Boy in a Red Waistcoat – Paul Cezanne

There is indeed a connection between works of these two masters. Both Cezanne and Modigliani were faithful to tradition, and sought inspiration in history, at the same time adorning their canvases with something brutally modern and infected with abstraction. There’s no doubt that Modigliani was influenced by Cezanne, for his early paintings are very unlike the nudes which later celebrated him. Sombre and grey, with solid brush strokes they evoke the spirit of Cezanne’s series of ‘boys in a red vest’. Even though Modigliani later found his own artistic direction, Cezanne’s spirit occasionally lurks even in the most unusual paintings.

I am not a big fan of Cezanne, but I must say that his painting ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat‘ (along with his numerous depictions of skulls), has striked me at first sight; what emotional depth, what drab mood, what a mystery? I instantly loved everything about it! Cezanne rarely bothered to date his paintings, or even name them, but it is assumed that these four paintings, ‘Boy in a Red Vest‘ series, were created between 1888 and 1890. Cezanne seemed to have a flair for painting the same scenes again and again, with a few changes, but each reflecting a different mood.

Just to be clear, I am going to be discussing my favourite out of these four paintings, which is the one above (they all bear the same name and I don’t want any misunderstanding.) The painting shows a boy dressed in a traditional Italian attire, standing in a classical pose; one hand on the hip, other hanging – a pose of resignation and passivity fitting for a drab yet powerful mood of the painting. Amidst all the bleak greys and boring browns, there’s a red vest that exudes aura of decadency and power. Blue tones occasionally peak like rays of sunshine. Sun can be blue if one sees it that way. The most exciting aspect of this painting are the brushstrokes; heavy and serious. Using only a few basic autumnal colours, Cezanne painted a magnificently intricate background, in some parts even blended with the boy’s trousers, in others cheekily standing out from the red waistcoat. Depth was achieved by adding visibly darker tones around the elbow and the shoulders. Despite the seeming roughness, a scene is perfectly balanced, sad and harmonious.

The boy was a professional model named Michelangelo di Rosa. His face reveals to us a troubled inner live, sadness, shyness, fear and doubt. His lips are shaped ‘like the wings of a distant bird‘. A figure at once melancholic and graceful, evokes the spirit of the 16th century Italian aristocratic portraits by mannerist masters. Clad in a romantic costume of Italian peasant, the boy seems so fragile and vulnerable, secretive and passive – retaining a position of eternal mystery. Cezanne’s portraits are, just like Modigliani’s, nothing but silent confirmations of life.

1888-90. The Boy in the Red Vest (also known as The Boy in the Red Waistcoat) by Paul Cézanne1888-90 The Boy in the Red Vest (also known as The Boy in the Red Waistcoat) by Paul Cézanne

1888-90. Boy in a Red Vest by Paul Cézanne1888-90 Boy in a Red Vest by Paul Cézanne

1888-90. Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cézanne1888-90 Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cézanne

Kandinsky – A Poet of Colours

24 Feb

‘Each colour lives by its mysterious life.’ – Kandinsky

1925. Swinging - Wassily Kandinsky 'The title conveys the painting’s sense of dynamic movement, suggestive of the rhythms of modernity. One of the pioneers of abstract painting, Kandinsky championed a mystical approach to art1925. Swinging – Wassily Kandinsky

In these grey days, in times between winter and spring when there’s no snow but no flowers either, my heart longs for colours and joy. I must say that I’ve found a tremendous joy in immersing myself in Kandinsky’s world of colours.

Wassily Kandinsky was deeply absorbed by colours; their meanings and mystical values. He argued for art that was purified from all references to the material world, and colour was essential for liberating the inner emotions of an artist, and transferring those emotions on canvas in a form of whimsical, dynamical and modernistic compositions.

My particular favourite these days is the painting ‘Swinging‘; the title itself suggesting dynamic movement, a certain rhythm and playfulness. The reason behind this sense of dynamic movement is Kandinsky’s deep study of colours and their connections. Even as a child he was drawn to colours, and the delight he felt on first seeing fresh paint come out of tube was indescribable. (…emotion that I experienced on first seeing the fresh paint come out of the tube… the impression of colours strewn over the palette: of colours – alive, waiting, as yet unseen and hidden in their little tubes…) Colours possessed a secret meanings for Kandinsky and they evoked different emotions for him. While blue colour symbolised spirituality and coolness to him, and yellow spiritual warmth, he seemed to really despise green colour, if it’s even possible to connect such intense emotion to colours, associating it with narrow minded and self-satisfied people, believing that it possesses nor joy, nor grief nor passion. Still, green is evident in his art, although not as frequently as blue.

Painting ‘Swinging‘, painted around 1925, during his ‘Bauhaus’ period, is overwhelmingly rich in dynamics, vividness, and it almost has a mystical dimension to it. First glance at this painting instantly brightness anyone’s day. How can something so strict in composition appear so playful, vivid and full of joy at the same time? I especially adore how despite all the strong and vibrant colours, transitions between shades are so soft. It’s that magical, mystic quality of Kandinsky’s paintings that really appeals me strongly, and there’s a certain vibe of innocence about them, like a childhood exploration.

1930s Several Circles, Vasily Kandinsky1930s Several Circles, Vasily Kandinsky

1913. Vassily Kandinsky - Color Study, Squares with Concentric Circles1913. Vassily Kandinsky – Color Study, Squares with Concentric Circles

1923. Circles in a Circle - Vassily Kandinsky1923. Circles in a Circle – Vassily Kandinsky

1910-11. 'Cossacks' was made during a transitional period, when Kandinsky retained some representational elements, such as the two Russian cavalrymen in tall orange hats in the foreground1910-11. ‘Cossacks’ was made during a transitional period, when Kandinsky retained some representational elements, such as the two Russian cavalrymen in tall orange hats in the foreground.

Nevertheless, Kandinsky’s exploration arrived from the inability to face the world that was becoming more and more obsessed with materialism, while the values of the ‘old world‘ were vanishing forever right before his eyes. Kandinsky escaped into a world of his own; a world of colours and abstraction, ecstatically enjoying the mystical qualities of colours.

The true work of art is born from the Artist: a mysterious, enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real existence of being.‘ (Kandinsky)

The Librarian – Triumph of Abstract Art in the 16th Century

3 Sep

If someone told me that this is an Expressionistic painting, I’d think it’s interesting, but not unusual. However, this painting was painted in 1566, at the peak of Renaissance, and knowing that, I think the painting The Librarian is extraordinary.

1570. Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Librarian

Giuseppe Arcimboldo is famous for creating numerous portraits made entirely of objects such as fruit, vegetables, roots, leafs, flowers, fish and most interestingly – books. Painting The Librarian is the one that caught my attention the most, out of all Arcimboldo’s paintings, because he created it by assembling books and with that succeeded in making an allegory.

Arcimboldo’s other works, such as his religious themed paintings, have now fallen into oblivion, due to the great interest that his other paintings caused. It was the individuality of these other paintings that made them popular so much. What Arcimboldo had painted in the sixteen century would be stunning and interesting even in the twentieth century. If you compare his work with the society, mentality and also other art at the time, it’s easy to see why his work, so daring and unconventional, remained popular throughout the centuries. The Librarian is described as a ‘triumph of Abstract art in the 16th century’. It is also described as both a celebration and satirical mocking of librarians and scholarship. This painting is an allegory too for it stands as a parody of materialistic book collectors who are more interested in acquiring books than reading them and valuing them for their content. In Renaissance the worth of an aristocrat man was valued by the amount of books he had read, or rather, had in his library, and Arcimboldo is mocking this conventional delusion of his time; the size of someone’s library mustn’t determine its value or knowledge, only possessing books is not enough, and real knowledge and wisdom can not be bought with money. This is exactly what is interesting about Arcimboldo’s paintings and what draws people towards his art, even Syd Barrett was inspired by his ‘vegetable man’ series of paintings, as I have written previously.

Books of Reader

Still, Art critics debate whether his paintings are whimsical and allegorical or a product of a deranged mind. I find his paintings highly individual, interesting, original, whimsical, allegorical, slightly bizarre and fascinating.