“There is no must in art because art is free.”
Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VIII, 1923, Oil on canvas
55.1 × 79.1″ (140.0 × 201.0 cm)
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
“There is no must in art because art is free.”
Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VIII, 1923, Oil on canvas
55.1 × 79.1″ (140.0 × 201.0 cm)
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Your Weekly Mixx! DAF’s Weekly Mixx is a selection of nine contemporary artworks and/or art related videos chosen from artist and gallery submissions and from our own search for new and interesting works. This week, we feature the work of Anne Lemanski, Cameron Mathieson, Elizaveta Porodina, Linus Lundin (aka YASH), Andrea Myers, JR, Meryl McMaster, Aida Muluneh and the short film “Balance” by photographer/director Tobias Hutzler, inspired by Rigolo Swiss Nouveau Cirque artist Maedir Eugster.
1. The De Stijl Art Movement was a Dutch movement founded in 1917 in Amsterdam. Originally a publication, De Stijl (meaning “style” in Dutch), was created by two pioneers of abstract art, Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. The magazine De Stijl became a vehicle for Mondrian’s ideas on art, and in a series of articles in the first year’s issues he defined his aims and used, perhaps for the first time, the term neo-plasticism. This became the name for the type of abstract art that he and the De Stijl circle practiced. Proponents of De Stijl advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour. They simplified visual compositions to vertical and horizontal, using only black, white and primary colours. The movement had a profound influence on the development both of abstract art and modern architecture and design.
Other members of the group included Bart van der Leck, Vantongerloo and Vordemberge-Gildewart, as well as the architects Gerrit Rietveld and JJP Oud. Mondrian withdrew from De Stijl in 1923 following Van Doesburg’s adoption of diagonal elements in his work. Van Doesburg continued the publication until 1931. (Tate)
2. Wabi-Sabi is a term used to describe a type of Japanese aesthetics and has been associated with Zen Buddhism as it exemplifies many of Zen’s core spiritual and philosophical tenets. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Emerging in the 15th century in Japan as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. An example of this can be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking. Hagi ware pottery for example have shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colours or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. Other examples of wabi-sabi include Honkyoku (traditional shakuhachi music of wandering Zen monks), Ikebana (the art of flower arrangement), Japanese gardens, Zen and bonsai (tray) gardens and Japanese poetry. (Wikipedia, Utne Reader)
3. Women and the Arts: In 1976, at the peak of her career, Georgia O’Keeffe refused to lend her work to a pivotal exhibition in Los Angeles, Women Artists: 1550 to 1950. It was one of a wave of all-female shows that decade — some 150 — to spotlight artists largely ignored by major museums and galleries. But O’Keeffe, the most famous female artist of her day, saw herself in a different category — “one of the best painters,” period.
The feminist art historian Linda Nochlin borrowed an O’Keeffe painting elsewhere and put her in the show anyway. Yet despite these exhibitions, neither O’Keeffe nor any other woman would break into Janson’s History of Art, the leading textbook, until 1987, and equality remained elusive. (New York Times)
4. The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh was painted in June 1889, one year before his death. It depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where he voluntarily admitted himself after the self-mutilation of his ear. The painting is a combination of van Gogh’s direct observations as well as his imagination, memories, and emotions. The steeple of the church, for example, resembles those common in his native Holland, rather than those in France. The whirling forms in the sky, on the other hand, match published astronomical observations of clouds of dust and gas known as nebulae. (Moma, Wikipedia)
5. Fluxus – Founded in 1960 by Lithuanian/American artist George Maciunas, Fluxus was a small international network of artists and composers who challenged accepted ideas about what art is. Rooted in experimental music, it was named after a magazine which featured the work of musicians and artists centred around avant-garde composer John Cage.
Almost every avant-garde artist of the time took part in Fluxus, including Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins, Alice Hutchins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Ben Vautier, Robert Watts, Benjamin Patterson and Emmett Williams.
Fluxus had no single unifying style. Its artists used a range of media and processes adopting a ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude to creative activity, often staging random performances and using whatever materials were at hand to make art. Seeing themselves as an alternative to academic art and music, Fluxus was a democratic form of creativity open to anyone. Collaborations were encouraged between artists and across art forms, and also with the audience or spectator. It valued simplicity and anti-commercialism, with chance and humour playing a big part in the creation of works. The fluxus network still continues today. (Tate)
Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was a painter, printmaker, and filmmaker and a pivotal figure in the formation of the Pop Art movement.
Warhol was the son of working-class Slovakian immigrants. His frequent illnesses in childhood often kept him bedridden and at home. During this time, he formed a strong bond with his mother. It was what he described as an important period in the formation of his personality and skill set.
Warhol studied at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), majoring in pictorial design. In 1949, he moved to New York City where he quickly became successful in magazine illustration and advertising, producing work for publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and the The New Yorker.
Much of Warhol’s work in the 1950s was commissioned by fashion houses and he became known for his whimsical ink drawings of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings were exhibited by the Hugo Gallery in New York and he exhibited at several other venues in the 1950s including a 1956 group show at the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol received several awards during this decade from the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Warhol was enthralled with Hollywood celebrity, fashion, and style and by the early 1960s these interests were reflected in his artwork. Borrowing images from popular culture, Warhol’s “Pop Art” paintings were characterized by repetition of everyday objects such as soup cans, Coca Cola bottles, and 100 dollar bills. He also began painting celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Most of Warhol’s paintings were produced in his studio, he called “The Factory”, with the help of assistants. Photographic images were screen-printed on to painted backgrounds and mechanically repeated – a process that mimicked the manufacturing industry and parodied mass consumption. During the Factory years, Warhol associated with and “groomed” a variety of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, writer John Giorno, and filmmaker Jack Smith.
Warhol worked prolifically in a range of media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, and film. Between 1963 and 1968 he produced more than 60 films and about 500 short “screen test” portraits of his studio visitors. His most popular and successful film was Chelsea Girls, made in 1966.
On June 3, 1968, Warhol and art critic/curator Mario Amaya, were shot by Valerie Solanas after she was turned away from the Factory studio. Warhol’s wound was almost fatal and would affect him physically and mentally for the rest of his life. (Amaya was released after treatment for bullet grazes across his back.)
The 1970s was a quieter decade for Warhol who concentrated more on portrait commissions for celebrities such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and others. He founded Interview Magazine and in 1975 published “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” which expressed the idea that “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” During the 1970s Warhol was also involved in a number collaborations with young artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring.
In general, Andy Warhol was consistently ambiguous on the meaning of his work and appeared indifferent and ambivalent. He denied that his artwork carried any social or political commentary.
Warhol died in New York City on February 22, 1987 of a cardiac arrhythmia while recovering from routine gallbladder surgery. In his will, almost his entire estate was dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded in that same year and it remains one of the largest grant-giving organizations for the visual arts in the United States today.
Thomas John (Tom) Thomson, arguably Canada’s most intriguing, and perhaps its most iconic artist, was born on August 5, 1877 in Claremont, Ontario, the sixth child of ten to John and Elizabeth Thomson.
The Thomson Family
The Thomson clan who moved to a farm in Leith shortly after Tom’s birth, were a musical family and at an early age, Tom played both the violin and the mandolin, as well a number of other instruments. His childhood days were spent with his eight brothers and sisters (the ninth sibling had passed away at just 9 months old) fishing, sailing, swimming, reading, dancing and playing mandolin and coronet in the village band. A favourite pastime was drawing caricatures for the amusement of his friends.
A fun-loving and pleasant child by all accounts, Tom was, as are many children of large rural families, independent and adventurous. He was apt to find his own way rather than following the constructs of the Scottish family traditions he was born into. The family farm was located beside Georgian Bay and Tom was drawn to the vast, beckoning water and rugged landscape. Though he had health issues as a child, in adulthood, the wilderness seemed to bring out his strength and stamina.
Tom’s Early Career and Fellow Painters
Tom had a restless start to his adulthood. Unsuccessful at enlisting for the Boer War in 1899 due to health reasons, Tom apprenticed as a machinist at Wm. Kennedy and Son’s Foundry in Owen Sound, but lasted only 8 months before he quit. Still undecided on a career, he briefly attended business school in Chatham. In 1901, he moved to Seattle, Washington to join his brother George at his business college.
George Thomson had arrived in Seattle in 1899, had studied law and then operated The Acme Business College. His brother Henry had joined George shortly after, followed by brothers Tom and Ralph in 1901. Tom studied at Acme and enrolled in penmanship, but left after six months to begin his career as a commercial artist, responsible for designing, drawing and lettering advertisements. George also attended the college, but later returned east to study at The Art Student’s League in New York. He like Tom, eventually devoted himself to painting, and exhibited his entire life.
In the gold rush town of Seattle, Tom also met and was smitten with the beautiful young Alice Eleanor Lambert, who by some accounts only giggled when the ardent young Tom proposed causing him to abruptly return home to Canada in 1905.
His first job on returning home was to work as a senior artist at Legg Brothers, a photo-engraving firm in Toronto. He acquired the strong design skills evident in his art (Northern River, 1914-1915), in the Toronto commercial art world. Thomson joined Grip Limited, Engravers, in 1909, a prominent Toronto photo-engraving house. This position proved to be a turning point in his life. Grip’s senior artist was J.E.H. MacDonald (1873–1932), who encouraged his staff to foster their talents by painting outdoors in their spare time—in the city’s ravines and the nearby countryside. Over the next three years Albert Robson, Grip’s Art Director also hired Arthur Lismer (1885–1969) and Fred Varley (1881–1969), both fresh from England, and Franklin Carmichael (1890–1945). Through MacDonald, Thomson also met Lawren Harris (1885–1970) at the Arts and Letters Club, a meeting place for men interested in literature, theatre, architecture, and art. Thomson was encouraged to paint by his colleagues, who saw an unusual and burgeoning talent in their colleague. When Robson moved to Grip’s main competitor, Rous and Mann Limited, in the fall of 1912, most of his loyal staff, including Thomson, followed him.
Tom’s love of the wilderness had taken him on his first visit to Algonquin Park in the spring of 1912 with a sketch kit in hand. He returned again that fall for two months. Thomson encouraged his Rous and Mann colleagues to join him, where they painted together and became known informally as the Algonquin School. Unfortunately, the progress of this informal group of artists would be interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. They would not formally come together again until after Tom’s death to form Canada’s first national school of painting, the Group of Seven.
In May of 1913, Thomson went to Algonquin Park on his own and spent the spring and summer there. On his way back to Toronto, Thomson stopped in Huntsville and may have visited Winifred Trainor, whose family had a cottage on Canoe Lake, and who he may have spent time with in Algonquin Park. Later, she was rumoured to be engaged to Thomson for a marriage in the fall of 1917, but the records are not conclusive.
In 1913 Thomson also exhibited his first major canvas, A Northern Lake, at the Ontario’s Society of Artists exhibition. The Government of Ontario purchased the canvas for $250 a considerable sum at that time, considering Thomson’s commercial artist’s weekly salary was $35. That same year, Dr. James MacCallum, a prominent Toronto Ophthamologist and collector saw the “truthfulness” of Thomson’s early sketches and guaranteed Thomson’s expenses for a year (2014), enabling him to devote all his time to painting. MacCallum also introduced Thomson to A.Y. Jackson (1882–1974)—an artist who had recently returned from his third visit to France. Thomson would soon be sharing studios with A.Y. Jackson and then Franklin Carmichael at the Studio Building which Lawren Harris along with MacCallum were financial partners in the construction of to support a new movement in Canadian art – a new way of representing the ruggedness and wilderness of a relatively young country.
By 1914, Thomson had become enchanted with the north, preferring to spend his time fishing, painting and canoeing, sporadically acting as guide, firefighter or a park ranger (in subsequent years), in Algonquin Park, until the onset of winter would force his return to the city. He wintered in a fixed-up modest shack behind the Studio Building in the Rosedale area of Toronto. Working his sketches up into larger canvasses, he waited for early spring and the chance to return to Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park where he found a landscape which inspired him and offered the solitude he loved to paint in.
Thomson’s Work Gains Recognition
1914 was also a turning point for Thomson as an artist. The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, under new director Eric Brown (and advised by board member Lawren Harris), began to acquire Thomson’s work, first Moonlight, 1913–14, from the Ontario Society of Artists exhibition for $150; then Northern River, 1915, the following year for $500; and a year later Spring Ice, 1915–16, for $300. Such recognition was remarkable for an emerging, unknown artist, though the money he received was not sufficient to live on. Thomson, however, never paid much attention to managing his career. He didn’t even give titles to most of his paintings or date them.
Thomson’s work reflected his exposure to Arts and Crafts design, the work of his artist friends, and contemporary Scandinavian art, as seen by Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald in a Buffalo exhibition in January of 1913. His canoe trips resulted in many sketches of the light and seasons of Canada’s north. By late 1915, Thomson’s approach to landscape painting became more imagination-based. He often sought some natural feature corresponding to his pre-existing ideas, or painted landscapes in his Toronto studio from memory. Thomson’s design experience permeates his late canvases, which feature stylized tree branches and flat areas of strong colour (The Jack Pine, 1916-1917).
A Tragic End; An Incredible Legacy
On July 8, 1917, Thomson paddled across Canoe Lake and disappeared. His body was found 8 days later. Though ruled an accidental drowning, the cause of his death is surrounded by skepticism to this day.
When Thomson died, his iconic painting The West Wind, with its single tree bent against the strong prevailing winds, was found on his easel in his studio in Toronto. Some feel the painting is unresolved, unfinished, as was Thomson’s life. Others see it as representation of a determined, solitary spirit finding his place in the northern ruggedness of Canada.
In September of 1917, J.E.H. MacDonald, Dr. MacCallum and J.W. Beatty (another painter and friend) built a stone memorial cairn on Hayhurst Point, overlooking Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. The cairn’s inscription was composed by Thomson’s friend, painter J. E. H. MacDonald, and reads:
TO THE MEMORY OF TOM THOMSON ARTIST, WOODSMAN AND GUIDE WHO WAS DROWNED IN CANOE LAKE JULY 8TH, 1917
HE LIVED HUMBLY BUT PASSIONATELY WITH THE WILD
IT MADE HIM BROTHER TO ALL UNTAMED THINGS OF NATURE
IT DREW HIM APART AND REVEALED ITSELF WONDERFULLY TO HIM
IT SENT HIM OUT FROM THE WOODS ONLY TO SHOW THESE REVELATIONS THROUGH HIS ART AND IT TOOK HIM TO ITSELF AT LAST.
Thomson’s death was a tragedy for his fellow artists – they lost an inspiring colleague, a great friend and their guide to the north woods. This untimely loss prompted a clarification of their vision for Canadian art; it strengthened their resolve and gave rise to the formation of The Group of Seven in 1920. Though, Tom Thomson did not live to see the birth of the Group, his name became synonymous with the radical group of painters who would create and reflect a unique Canadian identity through painting.
Sources: TomThomson.org, TomThomsonArt.ca, McMichael Canadian Art Collection , Art Canada Institute, National Gallery of Canada, Tom Thomson, The Silence and The Storm, Published by McClelland and Stewart Limited, McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Your Weekly Mixx! DAF’s Weekly Mixx is a selection of nine contemporary artworks and/or art related videos chosen from artist and gallery submissions and from our own search for new and interesting works. This week, we feature the work of David Breuer-Weil, Floyd Elzinga, Gilles Bensimon, Gil Maia, Igor Melnikov, JR, Marchal Mithouard (aka Shaka), Mohau Modisakeng and Zeng Fanzh.
Your Weekly Mixx! DAF’s Weekly Mixx is a selection of nine contemporary artworks and/or art related videos chosen from artist and gallery submissions and from our own search for new and interesting works. This week, we feature the work of DALeast, Janko de Beer, Norman Stiff, Steve Driscoll, Andy Goldsworthy, Alessandra Maria, Katharine Morlin, Kim Leuenberger and a video with body painter Alexa Meade.
Hopper studied illustration with the Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York City in 1899 and then at the New York School of Art between 1900 and 1906. He studied painting a year later with William Merrit Chase and then Kenneth Hayes Miller and Robert Henri.
In 1906 Hopper traveled to Paris, London, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels to study works by European artists. Returning to New York in 1907, he painted and worked part-time as an illustrator for fiction and trade magazines.
Hopper’s first exhibition was a group show, held at the Harmonie Club building in New York in March 1908.
From 1910, Hopper spent his summers painting in rural New England, in Gloucester and Cape Anne, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1913 he moved to Washington Square, in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, which remained his permanent base. Hopper’s subject matter was derived from two main sources: first, everyday American life such as restaurants, gas stations, theaters, railroads, and street scenes; and second, seascapes and rural landscapes.
Initially, Hopper was more successful as an illustrator and with his etchings, in both sales and exhibitions. In January 1920, he held his first solo exhibition of 16 paintings at the Whitney Studio Club, but was discouraged by the failure to achieve either sales or critical attention. In 1923, with the encouragement of artist Josephine Verstille Nivison (whom he married in 1924), Hopper began painting in watercolour. In 1924, he had his second solo exhibition at the Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery, which was a critical and commercial success.
From 1930, Edward and Josephine (Jo) began to spend their summers painting in Truro on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they built a home in 1934. Hopper was an intensely private person and led a somewhat reclusive life, two characteristics that are reflected in his paintings. Images of loneliness and detachment pervade Hopper’s works where he often depicted solitary figures (mostly women) who are often occupied with their own thoughts.
Hopper was very productive through the 1930s and early 1940s, producing many of his most important works. In the late 1940’s however, his health was poor and he underwent several prostate surgeries. Hopper was active again in the 1950s and early 1960s, producing several more major works.
Both the art world and pop culture have been influenced by Hopper’s work. Many artists have cited him as influential, including Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, and Mark Rothko. His cinematic compositions and use of light and dark made him popular with filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), and Sam Mendes (New York Movie) to name a few.
Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967 in his studio in New York City. Jo, who died 10 months later, left their collection of over three thousand works to the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Your Weekly Mixx! DAF’s Weekly Mixx is a selection of contemporary artworks and/or art related videos chosen from artist and gallery submissions and from our own search for new and interesting works. This week, we feature the work of Spencer Tunick, Amose, Alessandro Gallo, Alex Martinez (aka SHINE), Randy Olson, Chiharu Shiota, Moki Mioke, Nick Lamia and the video Kids Explain Art to Experts from Google Arts and Culture.
Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas was born on July 19, 1834, to a wealthy banking family in Paris, France. Educated in Latin, Greek, and ancient history at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, Degas initially intended to study law, briefly attending the Sorbonne’s Faculté de Droit in 1853.
In 1855, he studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts with Louis Lamothe, learning the traditional Academic style with its emphasis on line and the importance of draftsmanship. Degas was also influenced by the paintings and frescoes he saw during several trips to Italy in the late 1850s.
Degas exhibited his history painting “The Misfortunes of the City of Orléans “ at the Salon in 1865, but following that he began focusing on painting scenes of modern life. He favoured themes of ballet dancers, laundresses, milliners, horse racing and other every day scenes. His interest in ballet dancers increased in the 1870s and he produced over 600 works on the subject. In his later years, Degas created works of women bathing, entirely without self-consciousness and un-posed.
From the late 1860s onward, Degas also produced many small sculptures in wax. He concentrated on the subjects seen in his paintings–horses, dancers and women washing. His interest in this medium increased in the mid-1880s in part as a result of his failing eyesight.
Before 1880, he generally used oils for his completed works, which were based on preliminary studies and sketches made in pencil or pastel. After 1875, he began using pastels more frequently, even in finished works, and by 1885, most of his more important works were done in pastel. In the mid-1870s Degas returned to the medium of etching and began experimenting with printmaking media such as lithographs and monotypes.
Degas saw his work as “Realist” or “Independent” and did not like being labeled an “Impressionist” even though he was considered to be one of the group’s founders, an organizer of its exhibitions, and one of its core members. Like the Impressionists, his aim was to capture moments of modern life, yet he had little interest in painting plein air landscapes and his use of clear, hard outlines, set his works apart from the other Impressionists. An observer of everyday scenes, Degas captured in his works, natural positions and movement of the human body.
Degas continued working until about 1912, when he was forced to leave his long-time studio in Montmartre. He never married and any emotional relationships he may have had, remain uncertain. Edgar Degas died on September 27, 1917, at the age of 83.