Apologies, Apologies

Dear Friends (and Family),

Apologies for the lack of post today. It was my final day of finals and the much-discussed thesis was due. In between not sleeping for 48 hours, taking two other finals, and my family arriving, this sadly was low on my list.

I promise to return full force next week.

Buon fine settimana!!


Art in Quotations

I just wanted to find out where the boundaries were. I've found out there aren't any. I wanted to be stopped but no one will stop me.
- Damien Hirst


Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Painting (Eight Red Rectangles), ( 1915)

Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Painting (Eight Red Rectangles), (1915). Oil on canvas, 57 x 48 cm., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Kazimir Malevich (1878 - 1935) was the leader of the Russian avant-garde movement of Cubo-Futurism that began around 1912 and consisted of melding elements of the Italian Futurists and the Cubists. Though Malevich was not the only artist working in this new style, his works come down to us as the greatest examples of the movement. Malevich is also, maybe more famously, known as the founder of Suprematism, an art movement based on fundatmental geometeric forms such as the square, circle, rectangle or triangle.

Influenced by the burgeoning trend of showing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russian collectors began to exhibit their collections of Modern art. The ability to view the avant-garde of European art, Russian artists began to find ways to create a distinct identity within the movements. Malevich exhibited with the Cubo-Futurists many times, and is still sometimes characterized, even after he created his own art form.

Malevich's work, Suprematist Painting (Eight Red Rectangles) of 1915 is a standout example of how where Malevich was able to take his art after, in his own words, he had "in the year 1913, in my desperate attempt to free art from the burden of the object, I took refuge in the square form and exhibited a picture which consisted of nothing more than black square on a white field." The work shown above was called Suprematism to explain "the supremacy of pure feeling in create art." In eliminating the idea of objects from art and working with only formal characteristics, Malevich sought to liberate the inherent beauty in art and allow the viewers interpretation to create its own meaning.

Malevich is one of the greatest Russian artists of all time, and it is through his work in Suprematism, and that of the other Cubo-Futurists, that European art was combined in a way to create a distinct movement imbued with Russian feeling and sentiment that is showcased in the stark and austere planes.


Suggested Reading: Rembrandt's Jews by Steven Nadler

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Feast of Belshazzar (c. 1635)

Suggested Reading: Rembrandt's Jews by Steven Nadler (2003)

Hey Everyone! So I know that single works have art have been thin on the ground for the blog recently but I am in the last week of working on my honors thesis that I keep blabbing on about so I am not exactly rolling in free time. I promise next week, AFTER GRADUATION and the ensuing festivities I will be back to writing about one work of art a day and explaining all the works that have been requested recently and I haven't gotten to. I want to thank you for your patience. Today, however, I am going to present a book I just found that pertains to my thesis about Jewish Patronage because I think it is an important book and the author is a professor at my school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This book discusses the relationship between the great Dutch master, Rembrandt van Rijn, and the Jewish luminaries that made up a large part of his close circles. Though Rembrandt's relationship with Jews has been discussed before, this work, though done from a philosophical point of view, deals directly with how those influences come through Rembrandt's art and some of his masterpieces.

Steven Nadler is a professor f philosophy and director of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author, most recently of Spinoza: A Life (winner of the 2000 Koret Book Award for Biography) and Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind. Rembrandt's Jews was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Rembrandt's Jews by Steven Nadler (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003)

"With so many of Rembrandt's works devoted to stories from the Hebrew Bible, and with his apparent penchant for Jewish themes and his sympathetic portrayals of Jewish faces, it is no wonder that the myth of Rembrandt's special affinity for Judaism has endured for centuries. Rembrandt's Jews puts this myth to the test as it examines both the legend and the reality of Rembrandt's relationship to Jews and Judaism. In his engrossing tour of Jewish Amsterdam Steven Nadler tells us the stories of Rembrandt's portraits of Jewish sitters, of his mundane and often contentious dealings with his neighbors in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, and the tolerant setting Amsterdam provided for the city's Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. Nadler takes the reader through Jewish Amsterdam, both past and present - a trip that, under ever-threatening Dutch skies, is full of colorful and eccentric personalities, fiery debates and magnificent art." - book jacket


Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine (1916)

Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine (1916) Oil on canvas, 50.4 in × 55.0 in. National Gallery of Canada,Ottawa.

A good (Canadian!) friend of mine suggested that I look into a wonderful group of artists from Canada called the Group of Seven for the blog. I had heard of the movement before but mostly as an offshoot of European landscape and not something that was widely taught in art history classes. Once I began looking into the group I found that, though some of the art does not speak to me personally (we've seen I'm more into blood and gore than landscapes) there was something distinct about the art that made me think of my few trips into Canada and how nature is so much a part of the scenery in a way that even the rolling farmlands in the US can't compare to. The figure of Tom Thomson is especially interesting. Though not officially part of the group, he is, by far, the most mysterious and singular. I hope you enjoy!

Tom Thomson was a Canadian painter in the early part of the 20th century. Known for his affiliation with the famous Group of Seven, Thomson was not an official member. His early, and suspicious death, cut short a life and talent that would have brought even more renown to this Canadian movement. His close friends, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, A. J. Casson, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley made up the founders and official members of the Group of Seven, though, like Thomson, the artist Emily Carr is also closely affiliated with the group.

The Group of Seven were Canadian landscape painters that set out to create an art form that would showcase the natural beauty of Canada while also creating an independent artistic identity from Europe. Though heavily influence by French Impressionism and the Post-Impressionist movements, the Group of Seven also took elements of the art nouveau and attempted to create art that would show Canada as the emotive and savage landscape that it was. The Jack Pine (1916) by Tom Thomson is a beautiful rendering of a real site in Algonquin Park. The combination of the tree's delicacy and the sharp lines that delineate its outline come together to form the lyrical bend of the branch that evokes a light breeze on a cold lake. His broad brushstrokes are able to give the scene the ruggedness and harsh feeling that the colder climates showcase during early fall and long winters. The Jack Pine is a solitary tree, as the branches curl down, the tree seems to be slowly letting go, ready to let go of its leaves and move into winter. The transitional feeling of the painting gives the viewer an opportunity to watch the as the seasons change and the days grow short.

Thomson was a self-taught artist who, until the last years of his life, worked day jobs to support himself. Though his previous profession of graphic designer might be thought to have helped him, his work has very little to do line and more to do with stroke. Though, as is obvious in the Jack Pine line became more important in his later work, it is really only in his sketches that his previous experience become very evident. The Jack Pine was painted in 1916, a year before Thomson's mysterious disappearance and subsequent death. Found a lake in Algonquin Park on July 8 in 1917, Thomson had disappeared a few days earlier. Originally there for a fishing trip, it is unknown how he ended up in the lake. His death was officially called a drowning but many know that no actual autopsy was completed. In the vein of struggling artists before him, his legend has become larger than his problems actually were. Numerous theories have sprung up about depression and possible suicide but there is on concrete evidence for either the drowning or self-harm stories. His death will remain a mystery and its suspicious circumstances only solidified his status as one of the great stars of Canadian painting. His works do hold a melancholic tone but one must decide for themselves whether this is indicative of his own emotions or those best expressed by the Canadian landscape.

The Jack Pine
is one of Thomson's most famous works. The others include The West Wind and Northern River. I have included images of them below to give more examples of this lesser known artist. His largest collection of works hang in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.

Northern River, 1914-15

The West Wind, 1917