Saturday, December 5, 2009


Banksy is a graffiti artist from Bristol, England (maybe) born in 1974 (maybe). His identity is a closely guarded secret so biographical details are sparse and possibly just internet rumors. I did find an article claiming to reveal his identity in the Daily Mail, but I personally doubt the veracity of the claim, if only to keep the mystery alive. He started doing graffiti around the age of 13 or 14 and moved to stencils because they take less time to paint, and thus make for less time to get caught. He supposedly came upon the idea to switch to stenciling while running from the police and finding a stenciled serial number on the train he was hiding under. A common theme in his graffiti is rats, which according to an alleged interview he liked because they could actually be on the street and are meant to symbolize the triumph of the little people and unloved. A lot of his work isn't just spray paint on walls, like for one sculpture left on a sidewalk of a bleeding telephone booth with an axe in it. A lot of his work isn't just on the streets. He has held exhibitions, and some of his paintings have made their way into world-renowned art museums, though not with their permission. Rather than go through all the hassle of submitting a work and getting having it reviewed and possibly chosen, he simply hung his own painting in the museums, some of which went unnoticed for a few days. He managed to hang his own version of the Mona Lisa with a smiley face instead in the Louvre, and also hit the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Brooklyn Museum and the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a few others in Britain. He also made a nine paintings on the Palestinian side of the West Bank Barrier, depicting, for example a hole in the wall with a pristine beach on the other side and a girl holding balloons floating over the wall.

The Flower Chucker

"Prankster infiltrates NY museums" BBC News. 2005. British Broadcasting Corporation.
"Art prankster sprays Israeli wall " BBC News. 2005. British Broadcasting Corporation.
"Banksy" Wikipedia. 2009.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yves Tanguy

Yves Tanguy was a French surrealist painter who rose to prominence in the late 1930s - and was purportedly the only one of the great surrealist painters to be completely self-taught. Tanguy's moment of catalyst, as is most widely purported, was his 1923 discovery of a Giorgio de chirico painting in a gallery window. Apparently this encounter with Chirico's work prompted Tanguy to start producing his own pieces, albeit nascent and undeveloped at first but still full of promise: "This was done in a fairly naive Expressionist style but in which flashes of fantasy could also be glimpsed" (MoMA).
In December 1925, Tanguy he joined the Surrealist movement to whose fundamental tenet he devoted himself - Automatism - a movement which he became a leading figure. (Automatism - the automatic writing/drawing practiced by surrealists that can be compared to the improvisation of free jazz). In fact, an interesting thing to note about Tanguy is that he almost never made preliminary "planning" sketches for his works because he felt that doing so would leave little room for exploration, adventure and pleasure if the painter's task was "limited to colouring in outlines already drawn on canvas".

Yve Tanguy's first exhibition was held in 1927 at the Galerie Surréaliste in Paris. His earlier pieces show that he was " struggling to combine, with an attractive awkwardness, strange, graceful and witty figurative references with the smoke, fogs and clouds so characteristic of the period" struggling to combine, with an attractive awkwardness, strange, graceful and witty figurative references with the smoke, fogs and clouds so characteristic of the period."

In some of his early work, however, like: Mama, Papa is Wounded! (1927), concrete indications of personal style were beginning to emerge:

A critic's certain reading of of Yves Tanguy's Mama, Papa is Wounded (1927), in which the "biomorphic forms of this landscape are seen as "reminiscent of the dolmen-shaped war memorials ... that now populated the Breton countryside." Supposedly, it rendered to the viewer a "wounded body of France," - albeit rendered in such a "cryptic way as to suggest that those memories of war are unwanted and repressed". Personally, I derive a sense of somberness from the piece.
Tanguy also worked on a series sometimes termed "beach" pictures - pieces that convey a sense of metaphysicality and the banality of immediate experience:

Tanguy began to concentrate his attention not on the space but on the figures emerging from it and on the links between them - as shown by The Ribbon of Excess (1932; ex-Roland Penrose priv. col., London, see 1982 exh. cat., p. 107) show above...
Tanguy married fellow Surreal artist Kay Sage in 1940 - and became a naturalized citizen of the United States a time during which his work went through further changes. In the 1950's, "the atmosphere of Tanguy’s pictures became steeped in a sense of anguish even more penetrating than before, with cathedrals and obelisk-like shapes in desolate expanses beneath storm-threatened skies." Consider one of Tanguy's final works the "Multiplication of Arches" in which an "inexorable sea of stones" invade the canvas, connoting said ambience of threat and anguish:


Grove Art Online© 2009 Oxford University Press

John Russell, Matisse, Father & Son, p.210, published by Harry N. Abrams, NYC. Copyright John Russell 1999, ISBN 0 81094378 6

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali is a Spanish painter, who was born on the 11th of May, 1904 in Figueres, Catalonia in Spain. He attended the Academy of Arts to study painting in Madrid and later on went to Paris, France to pursue a career as an artist. He is most famous for his surrealist paintings such as “The Persistence of Memory”, “Crucifixion” and “The Sacrament of the Last Supper”. His surrealist paintings can be said as a small representation of his personality. Throughout his lifetime he has exhibited excessive eccentric behavior and exhibitionism. He believes it to be his source of creative energy. A famous example of such an act of appearing in a diving suit at the opening of the London Surrealist exhibition in 1936, which drew more attention to himself than his artwork. This sort of behavior of self-publicity led him to become the main representation of the Surrealist movement, which he joined in 1929. He attributed behavior of “his love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes to a self-styled "Arab lineage," as he claimed his ancestors descended from the Moors.

He claimed his surrealist paintings to be photographic images of his dreams. In fact, he extended his idea of ‘dreams’ into his life as well. He took over the Surrealist theory of automatism into a more positive one called ‘critical paranoia’, in which “one should cultivate genuine delusion as in clinical paranoia while remaining residually aware at the back of one's mind that the control of the reason and will has been deliberately suspended”. He took this method into his artistic life, but also used this method in his daily life.

I chose Salvador Dali for my post-1900 artist blog post because his paintings are very surreal, which fits with what we did for our final drawing. Furthermore, I am a fan of his painting “The Persistence of Memory.” I think it is fascinating how one’s lifestyle can have such a big impact on one’s artistic style. Or on the other hand, it is amazing how parallel an artist’s lifestyle and the artist’s work can be. Furthermore, his paintings cover a various range of styles from sharp detail to realistic, yet all the while his drawings are all very dreamy.

Salvador Dali was a wealthy artist while he was alive yet in his last years he suffered from a debilitating condition of palsy and finally passed away on the 23rd of January, 1989 due to heart problems.

"The Persistence of Memory"

"Three Sphinxes of Bikini"


"The Sacrament of the Last Supper"

"The Dream"

"Flight of a Bumblebee"


Fanés, Fèlix. “Salvador Dalí: the construction of the image, 1925-1930.” New Haven: Yale University Press, c2007.

WebMuseum. “Salvador Dali Biography.” 1997. 4 Dec 2009.

Wikipedia. “Salvador Dali.” 4 Dec 2009. “Salvador Dali Biography.” 4 Dec 2009.

Amedeo Modigliani

"His art was an art of personal feeling. He worked furiously, dashing off drawing after drawing without stopping to correct or ponder. He worked, it seemed, entirely by instinct--which, however, was extremely fine and sensitive, perhaps owing much to his Italian inheritance and his love of the painting of the early Renaissance masters."--Jacques Lipshitz,

Modigliani was born into a Jewish family in Livorno, Italy on July 12, 1884. His father was a money-changer, but his business failed and the family lived in poverty. Amedeo's birth saved the family from ruin, because according to an ancient law, creditors could not seize the bed of a pregnant woman or a mother with a newborn child. The money collecters entered the family's home just as Eugenia went into labour and the family protected their most valuable assets by piling them on top of her.

Modigliani worked in Gugliemo Micheli's Art School from 1898 to 1900. Here his earliest formal artistic instruction took place in an atmosphere deeply steeped in a study of the styles and themes of nineteenth-century Italian art. Modigliani showed great promise while with Micheli, but was forced to stop his studies by the onset of tuberculosis.

He was exposed to philosophical literature as a young boy by his grandfather and read and was influenced by the writings of Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Carducci, Comte de Lautréamont, and others, and developed the belief that the only route to true creativity was through defiance and disorder.

In 1906 Modigliani moved to Paris.
He settled in Le Bateau-Lavoir, a commune for penniless artists in Montmartre, renting himself a studio in Rue Caulaincourt. He soon made efforts to assume the guise of the bohemian artist, hiding his bourgeoisie past. Within a year of arriving in Paris, his demeanor and reputation had changed dramatically. He transformed himself from a respectable academic into a sort of prince of vagabonds. Modigliani soon became known in Paris for his debauchery: ">he carried on frequent affairs, drank heavily, and used absinthe and hashish. While drunk, he would sometimes strip himself naked at social gatherings.

In addition to his appearance, he removed all signs of his bourgeois heritage from his studio, and he also set about destroying practically all of his own early work. He explained this extraordinary course of actions to his neighhors:
“Childish baubles, done when I was a dirty bourgeois.”

In 1909, Modigliani returned home to Livorno, sickly and tired from his wild lifestyle. Soon he was back in Paris, this time renting a studio in Montparnasse. He originally saw himself as a sculptor rather than a painter, and was encouraged to continue after Paul Guillaume, an ambitious young art dealer, took an interest in his work and introduced him to sculptor Constantin Brancusi.
Although a series of Modigliani's sculptures were exhibited in the Salon d'Automne of 1912, by 1914 he abandoned sculpting and focused solely on his painting. On December 3, 1917, Modigliani's first solo exhibition >opened at the Berthe Weill Gallery. The chief of the Paris police was scandalized by Modigliani's nudes and forced him to close the exhibitio she became pregnant and on November 29, 1918 gave birth to a daughter whom they named Jeanne.

Although he continued to paint, Modigliani's health was deteriorating rapidly.. In 1920, after not hearing from him for several days, his downstairs neighbor checked on the family and found Modigliani in bed delirious and holding onto Hébuterne who was nearly nine months pregnant. They summoned a doctor, but little could be done-- Modigliani was dying of the then-incurable disease tubercular meningitis. Modigliani died on January 24, 1920. There was an enormous funeral, attended by many from the artistic communities in Montmartre and Montparnasse. Hébuterne was taken to her parents' home, where, inconsolable, she threw herself out of a fifth-floor window two days after Modigliani's death, killing herself and her unborn child. Hébuterne was buried at the Cimitiere de Bagnieux, his at the Pere Lachaise and it was not until 1930 that her embittered family allowed her body to be moved to rest beside Modigliani. A single tombstone honors them both. His epitaph reads: "Struck down by Death at the moment of glory." Hers reads: "Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice."

During his early years in Paris, Modigliani worked at a furious pace. He was constantly sketching, making as many as a hundred drawings a day. However, many of his works were lost—destroyed by him as inferior, left behind in his frequent changes of address, or given to girlfriends who did not keep them.
He was first influenced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, but around 1907 he became fascinated with the work of Paul Cézanne. Eventually he developed his own unique style,
He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, in 1910, when he was 26. After a year, however, Anna returned to her husband.
In Modigliani's art, there is evidence of the influence of art from Africa and Cambodia which he may have seen in the Musée de l'Homme, but there is no recorded information from Modigliani himself, as there is with Picasso and others, to confirm the contention that he was influenced by either ethnic or any other kind of sculpture). A possible interest in African tribal masks seems to be evident in his portraits. In both his painting and sculpture, the sitters' faces resemble ancient Egyptian painting in their flat and mask-like appearance, with distinctive almond eyes, pursed mouths, twisted noses, and elongated necks. However these same characteristics are shared by Medieval European sculpture and painting.
Modigliani painted a series of portraits of contemporary artists and friends in Montparnasse: Chaim Soutine, Moise Kisling, Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Marie "Marevna" Vorobyev-Stebeslka, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Blaise Cendrars, and Jean Cocteau, all sat for stylized renditions.

"Although Modigliani died so young, he accomplished what he had wanted. He said to me time and time again that he wanted a short but intense life-- une vie breve mais intense"- Jacques Lipshitz

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud was born on December 8, 1922 in Berlin, Germany. His parents were Ernst and Lucie Freud, and Lucian was named after his mother. His grandfather was the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud (Bernard 8). In 1933 he and his family moved to England after Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor. In England he attended boarding school at Dartington Hall. After two years, Freud began studying at Bryanston. At that time he began completing his first oil paintings and carvings, and soon enrolled in art school at the Central School of Art in Holborn. He later studied art at the East Anglican School of Art in Dedham (Bernard 9). In 1944 a number of his paintings were displayed in the respected Alex Reid and Lefevre Gallery. His works’ subject matter was often portraits, still lives (frequently featuring dead birds), and plants (Bernard 11).

Over time Freud’s work began to focus increasingly on the portrait (Bernard 11). Friends and family were frequently used as the subjects of his paintings, including his mother and his wife (Bernard 13-15). Freud is famously quoted as saying, “My work is purely autobiographical. It is about myself and my surroundings” (qtd. in Feaver 35). Freud’s work has also extensively explored both the male and female nude (Bernard 17-18). In addition to paintings, Freud has also produced countless etchings and drawings (Bernard 21).

Art critic Robert Hughes famously named Lucian Freud as “the greatest living realist painter” (qtd. in Conrad). Much of Freud’s work depicts the human body in a powerfully realistic manner, for his objective is “biological truth-telling” (qtd. in Conrad). As Bruce Bernard describes, “Freud has examined the male genitalia, as he has done the female, with greater concentration, and painted them in greater detail than anyone before him” (Bernard 17-18).

This drawing is one of many pieces that focus on Freud’s mother. Entitled “The Painter’s Mother,” it was drawn with charcoal and pastel in 1983. Bruce Bernard describes Freud’s pieces on his mother: “No painter has ever conveyed a more sustained expression of intimate concern for an elderly person than Freud has done in this unprecedented series” (Bernard 15).

This drawing, entitled “Boy on a Bed,” was drawn using pen and ink in 1943. It exemplifies the “anatomical frankness” with which Freud depicts both male and female genitalia (Bernard 17).

This drawing, entitled “Francis Bacon,” was drawn using pencil in 1952. Bacon and Freud were friends who used each other as subjects in their artwork (Feaver 26).

One matter to note is the titles of Freud’s work. As these drawings indicate, they are rather simple titles for Freud believes, “The only point of titles on the whole is to distinguish one picture from another” (qtd. in Feaver 25).

I chose to write about the artist Lucian Freud because I had heard that Sigmund Freud’s grandson was a brilliant artist but had been unfamiliar with his work. As I researched Lucian Freud for this assignment, I found his artwork to be quite impressive. I thought it was interesting how he depicts the human body in such a realistic manner.

Works Cited

Bernard, Bruce. “Introduction.” Lucian Freud. Eds. Bruce Bernard and Derek Birdsall. New York: Random House, 1996.

Conrad, Peter. “The naked and the living.” The Observer. 9 Jun. 2002. 4 Dec. 2009.

Feaver, William. Lucian Freud. London: Tate Publishing, 2002.

Note: All drawings were scanned from the book edited by Bruce Bernard and Derek Birdsall.

Chuck Close

Born on July 5, 1940 with undiagnosed dyslexia, Chuck Close had great difficulty staying on task in classes, specifically history and geography. He could not remember what he read, so Close was forced to develop creative, artistic ways of thinking to compensate for his lack of retention. As a result of his disability, Close became single-minded. All he wanted to do was art. Close claims that his “learning problems not only led him to pursue a career in art, but also were crucial in defining his distinctive artistic style". He would use art to show his teachers that he was not indolent. “If I couldn’t pass a test on Lewis and Clark, I’d do a 20-foot mural of the Lewis and Clark trail, every stop on the trail fully illustrated to show the teacher that I was interested and that I cared”. Throughout his school years, Close became accustomed to pursuing all sorts of extra-credit projects in order to keep up with his fellow classmates. Art continued to “save” him all the way through college, attending Everett Junior College in Washington and then Yale University.
At Yale, his artistic style began to flourish. Close had created a distinct technique for his artwork; he would take a photograph and then paint the photo on an enormous scale. Over the years, Close’s “heads” have progressively become larger and larger, and sometimes more “real yet more unreal”. Originally, he was noted for his uncanny ability to reflect detail. His 9-foot recreations of headshots looked like an exact magnification of the original photo. However, many of his later paintings appear as pixilated representations of a portrait. From far away, the portrait appears to be a head, though, the closer you move, the more abstract the painting becomes. From an up-close view, the head may as well be “a formalist landscape of colors and patterns” . Close describes that as a result of his dyslexia; he could not tell what a face looked like unless it had been flattened. “That’s why the photograph works for me. In real life, if I saw you again tomorrow, I would have no idea I had seen you before” . Close’s portraits, which are inspired by headshots he himself had taken, have become as widely recognizable as Andy Warhol’s vivid colors.
On December 7, 1988, Close was struck with yet another disability. He was attending a ceremony in New York to honor local artists when he had a sudden sharp pain in his back. As the pain continued to intensify, Close staggered off the podium and walked across the street to the Beth Israel Medical Center. There, he suffered a 20 minute seizure. The doctors concluded that he suffered from a collapsed spinal artery. He woke from his seizure to find that he was paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Not surprisingly, painting was a major part of Close’s physical rehabilitation program, “art therapy” they called it. Close’s assistant, Michael Volonakis, would prepare the paints and set up the canvas. Towards the beginning of rehab, he resorted to painting with the paint brush between his teeth. As a result of intense physical therapy, Close gained enough strength in his arm to control his custom designed splint, which was velcro-strapped to his right arm and had a holder for the brush located at the top. Volonakis began by first supporting his arm from below and soon became the object of Close’s frustration. With each new guided stroke, Close would yell “more green, more yellow, less white!” Volonakis would calmly listen and do his best to satisfy the distraught Close. Although Close has little recollection of any depression following the accident, Volonakis describes Close as sometimes weeping while working on a painting
“There’s no big difference in the work really,” said Close, “except maybe emotionally. I’d say it’s a little more emotional now, a little more celebratory.” Close continued to gather strength and was soon able to independently continue his passion for art. Now in a wheelchair, he still paints with a brush attached to his splint, as he cannot move his fingers. He has invested in a 9 feet squared frame for which he uses motorized foot pedals to bring different areas into his sight.
I picked Chuck Close because his art has a certain depth to it that is captivating. His style is unique ad attention drawing. Although the image may look “connected”, the portraits continue to become “more real yet unreal”. Going beyond the pixilated appearance, Close’s portraits have become even more abstract, yet defined. Each section which originally looked like a single pixel, has now become an abstract design in itself, mostly a design of concurrent circles. Although each pixel appears to be a design, the colors which he uses within each pixel, create the image of a face when viewed from far away. He creates a sort of mosaic effect with different colored paint rather than glass. The most obvious transition of Close’s style is viewed in his series of self-portraits. His self portraits prior to the accident were exact replications of his face, his self portraits now are a conundrum of colors. Over the years, Close's works have evolved from harsh black-and-white, realistic, images to colorful and brightly patterned canvases of abstract style.Self-Portrait (1967)
Acrylic on Canvas

Leslie (1986)
Acrylic on Canvas

Bill Clinton (2007)
Acrylic on Canvas


Friedman, Martin. Close Reading: Chuck Close and the Artist Portrait. New York, NY:

Abrams Inc., 2005.

Close, Chuck.

Chuck Close: Process and Collaboration.

Barbara Kruger

Untitled (I shop therefore I am), 1987
Photographic silkscreen/vinyl 111" by 113"

Untitled (You Construct Intricate Rituals Which Allow You to Touch the Skin of Other Men), 1983

Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Questions), 1991
Photographic silkscreen/vinyl
66 x 93 in. (167.6 x 236.2 cm.)

Barbara Kruger was born in New Jersey on January 26, 1945. She attended Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design. Kruger worked as the head designer of Mademoiselle magazine and did graphic design for many different medias. Kruger is renowned today for her graphic artwork in which she layers photos and images with "aggressive" and controversial text. Her trademark white or black block-letter font over a loud red background stuns the viewer and captivates them, forcing them to think a little big longer about her pieces. Some of her more popular "slogans" displayed in her pieces are, "I shop therefore I am" or "You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men". These simple phrases electrified by black and white images of American Pop-culture and consumerism make controversial and bold statements. Her texts force the American public to question the ideals of feminism, culture, consumerism, innocence, violence, the media, desire, and mainstream Americanism itself: the American Dream. Her work stands as a commentary on these ideals in the world and society.

"I think I developed language skills to deal with threat. It's the girl thing to do-you know, instead of pulling out a gun." - Barbara Kruger

Perhaps this "threat" is the threat of the society in which these ideals are being exploited inappropriately. Kruger's language skills function to bring society back to reality from where we have come in our overzealous desire and consumerism to question our actions and ultimately, ourselves.

Her art has been displayed in many famous museums, on billboards and is very well-known in popular culture today. She has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, the California Institute of Art, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

I chose Barbara Kruger because I think her work is stunning, interesting, and important. Her techniques and style are so simple but electrifying to the viewer and the viewer's conscience while keeping the viewer's dignity intact. She does not shame us but rather opens our eyes in ways that we cannot do on our own. She reminds us of reality in pieces that read, "You are not yourself", "Don't be a jerk". And it is like the one that reads, "Seeing through you". Barbara Kruger sees through to the core of the American Public in a bold and invigorating way.


EGON SCHIELE (1890 - 1918)

Although Egon Schiele had a very brief artistic career, cut short by his premature death at 28, he is a highly regarded and influential artist in today’s art world. While this is due to several different reasons, his ability to develop a unique, distinctive style and his unmatched skill as a draughtsman have played a major role in establishing his position as a world renowned artist and a leader of the Austrian Expressionist movement.


Schiele was born in 1890 in Tulln, Austria. Even as a child he showed great interest in drawing and, consequently, enrolled in the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule, a progressive Viennese art school, in 1906. However, because of his great proficiency and talent, the professors at the kunstgewerbeschule soon encouraged him to attend the more traditional Akademie der Bildenden Künste, where he studied with the painter Christian Griepenkerl. Frustrated with the extremely conservative methods of the school, Schiele and a number of young, avant-garde artists, including Anton Peschka, left the school in 1909 to exhibit together as the Neukunstgruppe.

By 1909, Schiele had also established a close relationship with the famous Austrian Painter Gustav Klimt and was working under Klimt’s guidance.

In the summer of 1911, Schiele moved to Neulengbach on the outskirts of Vienna with his girlfriend, Wally Neuzil. However, the townspeople there were scandalized by Schiele’s art and unconventional lifestyle. As a result, they arrested him for supposedly seducing a young girl and imprisoned him for 24 days on the charge that he displayed his “immoral” drawings in the presence of children.

Schiele and Wally returned to Vienna in the fall of 1912, and Schiele’s artwork began to garner public recognition. His work was exhibited in a number of international exhibitions, and he received many commissions.

By the end of 1915, several dramatic changes had taken place in Schiele’s life. First, he left Wally and married Edith Harms. After separating from Wally, Schiele’s work began to exhibit more positive undertones and feelings. But soon after his marriage, Schiele was called for military service in World War I; he served as a guard for Prussian prisoners of war.

Schiele returned to Vienna in 1917, where he began once again to devote all his time to his artwork and continued to gain more recognition. However, on October 31, 1918, Schiele died of Spanish Influenza.


Though his first works clearly evidence the influences of his mentors, in particular Gustav Klimt, Schiele was able to develop a distinctive and personal style remarkably early in his artistic career. While his drawing style grew more realistic over time, it remained highly expressionistic and energetic. Through his drawing technique, most notably his manipulation of perspective, composition, and line. Schiele honestly portrays the emotions and humanity of his subjects. This consequently allows him to explore deep, psychological themes in his art, including sexuality, immortality, and death.

A major characteristic of Schiele’s drawing style is his revolutionary use of perspective, evident in his drawing Lovers. Schiele often drew from an elevated perspective and chose reclining poses for his models. This technique creates extreme foreshortening, making his figures seem distorted even when they are correctly proportioned. Foreshortening and distortion also work to make Schiele’s figures appear gaunt, twisted, and awkward; these impressions are essential in illustrating themes such as the frailty and brevity of human life, as well as in giving Schiele’s art a voyeuristic quality.

Lovers (Self-Portrait with Model). 1913.

Pencil on paper.

Schiele’s unique compositions, which use both traditional and untraditional techniques, are also essential to his works and the messages they convey. His compositions are traditional in that they form verticals, horizontals, diagonal, crosses, triangles, and other patterns that draw the viewer’s eye into the piece, move the viewer’s eye throughout it, and often times force the viewer to focus on particular details. However, Schiele’s compositions are also unconventional because of the way he crops his figures. He purposely leaves extremities, such as hands and feet, that should be visible, unfinished. In addition, he sometimes places his figures so that their limbs are cropped in unusual places by the edges of the plane. These techniques give the drawings a sense of awkwardness and spontaneity, which, in turn, create a sense of liveliness and energy. Schiele also leaves the majority of his backgrounds as empty, negative spaces that highlight his subjects’ solitude and isolation. Schiele’s Self-Portrait from 1911 is an excellent example of all these compositional techniques.

Self-Portrait. 1911.

Gouache, watercolor, and pencil with white heightening on paper.

One skill that Schiele is most commended for is his mastery of line. Line variation is essential to the appearances of his drawings, such as Seated Semi-nude, as well as to the many feelings that they evoke. Schiele uses thicker lines to describe large areas and thinner lines to describe smaller details. His lines curve where he describes the softness or roundness of a particular figure or object. But at times they are stiff and angular, creating feelings such as tension and anxiety. Schiele also restates lines to highlight certain areas of his drawings and give them a sense of movement or energy. While his lines vary greatly in width, darkness, and straightness, they are always bold, spontaneous, and energetic. Additionally, the appearance of the lines greatly contributes to the mood of the piece, making his drawing highly expressive.

Seated Semi-nude. 1918.

Black crayon on paper.

While Schiele was certainly talented, that is not the only reason why he was such a skillful artist. He continuously practiced drawing from observation; in less than a decade, he produced thousands of figure drawings. Furthermore, Schiele was confident and fearless in his drawing. He was willing to use challenging perspectives, never erased, and constantly experimented without worrying about making mistakes. This approach to drawing was essential in helping Schiele become a great draughtsman, and it sets a good example for us as we learn to draw; Schiele teaches us that if we want to improve our drawing skills, we must constantly practice and take risks.


I decided to write by blog post about egon Schiele because he is one of my absolute favorite artists. I really admire how his paintings and drawings capture so much energy and feeling, particularly through his use of line. Because his drawings are highly figurative but at the same time highly expressive, I think Schiele is a wonderful artist to look, study, and use as inspiration.


Kallir, Jane. Egon Schiele” Drawings and Watercolors. Ed. Ican Vartanian. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. Print.

Lachnit, Edwin. “Egon Schiele.” Grove Art Online. 26 Jul. 2004. Oxford Art Online. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.

Keith Haring (1958-1998)

Keith Harding (1958-1998) was an artist and social activist that contributed art to New York City street culture during the 1980’s. At the age of 19 Harding moved to New York City took classes at the School of Visual Arts and became fascinated with graffiti art. He started expressing his street art within subway stations and drew with chalk so authorities would not reprimand him. People became very familiar with his artistic style and he gained a large audience by displaying his work across Ney York subways. Keith developed great relationships with artists in the New York Area such as Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. His relationship with such influential artists inspired him to produce art on printed canvas.
Painting above top left: (Growing) 1988
(Without Title) 1983

In 1985 the museum of modern art in Bordeaux displayed his canvas paintings and became a part of the Paris Bicentennial. Harding’s fame continued to rise and he eventually became an important piece to pop culture, as he was featured on MTV and commissioned to design Madonna’s concert costumes. He painted Grace Jones’s body for her music video “I’m not Perfect” and designed a lot of concert flyers for popular artists. In 1986 Harding opened a shop that sold merchandise that exhibited his art. Most of the items sold in the store carried socio-political messages that discussed topics concerning AIDS awareness, the apartheid movement, and the crack-cocaine epidemic.

(Wall Mural) 1985

Bold lines and bright colors were integral to Keith's designs. His art work infiltrated pop culture during the eighties and was influential to social activist movements. Keith Haring was openly gay and contributed a lot to the gay right movement. He was responsible for funding many other social awarness campaigns and inspired many people to support those in need across the nation. Keith haring passed away in 1998 from AIDS, however the Keith Haring foundation is still active today and works to make the world a better place each day.

Louis Lozowick

Louis Lozowick was born on December 10, 1892 in Ludvinovka, Ukraine, in the Russian Empire. He attended the Kiev Art School before coming to the United States in 1906. Here he continued his studies at the National Academy of Design in New York and at Ohio State University. From 1919 to 1924, Louis travelled throughout Europe, spending long periods of time in Paris, Berlin and Moscow, after which he started making his first lithographs. He eventually died in New Jersey in 1973.

Louis was known as an Art Deco and Precisionist artist, and mainly produced very streamlined lithographs of urban scenery. Through his travels in Europe, he became rather well versed in artistic developments there at that time which included Constructivism and de Stijl, also known as neoplasticism. This represented an art form that advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour - simplification of objects and use of only primary colours and black and white. His work started to embody the hard-edged and linear styles evident in his work such as New York (Brooklyn Bridge). He was also rather interested in the development of Russian avant-garde that had some influence in his work. In the United States, he was a muralist for the Public Works art Project and did illustrations for New Masses, a journal. He also toured the country extensively and did many lithographs from his travels or skyscrapers, constructions and machinery. In 1943, Louis moved to New Jersey where he continued his work, with themes of the human condition and nature appearing more frequently in his later works.

I had never heard of Louis Lozowick before but was instantly drawn to his work in the book: City of Ambition - Artists and New York. Here, his work of urban landscapes within New York drew an especial connection with me, having grown up in a strong city environment. I love his use of strong and bold lines and focus on very real and streamlined objects. He also seems to like incorporating other elements into his work that you wouldn't necessarily associate with urban scenery such as the horses with the huge water tank. Yet despite the very real-ness of his work, they still have this almost dreamy, whimsical feel to them, that move it past the traditional classic real-life work.

My favourite one is actually Bridge Repair which to me represents an almost surreal view of the New York Sky Line.

Bridge Repair, 1938, Lithograph

Tanks, 1929, Lithograph

New York (Brooklyn Bridge), 1923, Lithograph

White Spider, 1952, Lithograph Brooklyn Bridge, 1930, Lithograph


1. Sussman, Elisabeth and John G. Hanhardt, City of Ambition: Artists and New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1996
2. Flint, J.A. (1982). The prints of Louis Lozowick : a catalogue raisonné. New York: Hudson Hills Press.
4. Marquardt, V.H. (Ed.) (1997). Survivor from a dead age : the memoirs of Louis Lozowick. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kurt Wenner

While most artists traditionally seek to preserve their works for as long as possible, some modern artists have been moving in the direction of art that is transient. Among these artists is Kurt Wenner, a street artist that paints with a chalk/pastel mixture on pavement. His unique 3D approach to traditional street art has helped ignite a renaissance in this classic Italian art form. The original practice is believed to have started in the 16th century in Italy, and was practiced by traveling folk artists across Europe.

Triumph of Poets

Wenner has a solid background in graphic design and fine arts, having attended both Rhode Island School of Design and Art Center College of Design, two of the nation's preeminent art institutions. From school, Wenner worked with NASA designing futuristic scenes as an advanced scientific space illustrator. Eventually he took a leap of faith, quit his job, and went to study art further in Rome. There he picked up a style typical of the Renaissance, a style that resonates through his street art. With his unique blend of classic training in Rome with a scientific background, as well as the highly technical education he received in the US, Wenner managed to create an exciting new artform named illusionistic, or anamorphic, street painting.


From a set viewpoint, his pieces look as if they are literally popping out of the ground. This requires a fascinating blend of technical skill and modern theories on perspective that I think is really innovative. According to, Wenner sold his first piece at 16 and was earning a living as a graphic artist at a measly 17. In a business where established, experienced artists struggle financially from producing art alone, accomplishing this feat before finishing high school is impressive indeed. Wenner even creates his own medium. He mixes his chalk/pastel himself to create an optimum mix of low-cost chalk with high-quality pastel. His artists statement details a bit of his process: "Wenner adjusted this geometry to create compositions that seemed to rise from and fall into the ground. In anamorphic perspective, painted forms appear as three-dimensional when viewed from one point in space. Wenner created a special pictorial geometry that corrected the specific distortion caused by viewing his large images at an oblique angle."


Another aspect of this art that is really interesting is how temporary it is. The integrity of the piece starts deteriorating right when Wenner finishes, and is always subject to environmental factors and traffic. In his Q&A section, Wenner posits an interesting philosophy on the transience of his work: "I'm not disappointed when it washes away because street painting is performance art; it's very much like attending a symphony. When the music ends everyone leaves with a memory of the music. My work is the same except one is left with a visual impression." While bittersweet when the piece fades (especially with the amount of work each piece requires), the temporary nature of the chalk-paintings make them all the more exciting when they are in their full glory.


(1) (see the Artist statement, galleries, and Q&A)
(2) (Apparently some people did not believe the pictures were real. Snopes was called in to verify.)

Otto Dix

Artists of the 20th century were unfortunate enough to live through perhaps the most destructive and violent century mankind has ever known with the advent of global war, trench warfare, and mind-blowingly destructive weapons. Otto Dix was born in 1891 in Unternhaus, Germany and produced art through the two world wars. As a young man, Dix volunteered for the German army during World War I. From there, his eagerness quickly turned to cynicism as he observed and documented the horrors of war and the destruction upon the human psyche. A fascinating quotation from him details his commitment to realism and experiencing as much as he can: “I had to see all that for myself. I'm such a realist, you know, that I have to see everything with my own eyes in order to confirm that it's like that. I have to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths for life for myself; it's for that reason that I went to war, and for that reason I volunteered,” (1). By the end of the war, he had risen up through the ranks to earn an Iron Cross, but his political ideas and views toward war had turned increasingly leftist and pacifist. His early famous works all capture scenes from the battlefield, including The Trench (1924) and a book of etchings titled The War.

Shock Troops Advance under Gas from The War, 1924 (3)

Dix made it clear to critics and the public alike that war was a grotesque business, one that he as a veteran could not support after his first-hand experience. These anti-war sentiments became increasingly controversial as Hitler gained in popularity, and Dix was eventually fired from his job as an art teacher at the Dresden Academy and labeled a “degenerate artist” by the new regime. To be an artist in Nazi Germany, one had to have membership in a tightly controlled union and restrict output to innocuous images such as landscapes. Dix continued to paint, although he occasionally snuck in covert criticisms of the Nazis and war, such as in Flanders. A good deal of Dix’s work deals with war, understandably, as this period in his life produced profound psychological for him: “All art is exorcism ... I painted many things, war too, nightmares too, horrible things ... Painting is the effort to produce order; order in yourself. There is much chaos in me,” (2). I thought this quotation is pretty incredible, as it points to the therapeutic nature of art and the role it can play in life, even in cases less extreme than Dix's.

Trench Warfare, 1932 (1)

Apart from pioneering art as a form of anti-war therapy and awareness, Dix also created innovative techniques in painting. He used the same thin-glaze technique of old masters, however he mixed tempura and oil to create subtle shades and ensure his paintings had lasting durability. This layering technique, although tedious, also ensured that his expressive paintings had that much more gruesome power.

At the Mirror, 1921(3)

This portrait of a journalist especially showcases Dix's glazing and layering technique, which mirrors that of older styles, but is powerful still when dealing with current and "expressionist" subject matter. The subtlety of shades and tints gives the journalist more of a shadowy, mysterious, almost sickly appearance. The artist passed away in 1969.

Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden, 1926 (4)



(2) Fox, Paul. Confronting postwar shame in Weimar Germany: Trauma, heroism and the war art of Otto Dix. Oxford Art Journal 2006 29(2):247-267