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Felix Vallotton (1865-1925)

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Felix Valotton is without a doubt one of those less familiar names in Modern Art, but still he is very important for the development of modern Art as we know it, because when you look at his works more closely you can discover the fundaments of abstraction.

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In 1893, he became a member of Les Nabis, a semi-secret, semi-mystical group of young artists, mostly from the Academie Julian, which included Pierre Bonnard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, and Édouard Vuillard, with whom Vallotton was to form a lifelong friendship. While the Nabis shared certain common ideas and goals, their styles were quite different and personal. While he was a member of the Nabis, he kept his distance; his jocular title among the Nabis was “The Foreign Nabi”, [10] Vallotton’s paintings in this period reflected the style of his woodcuts, with flat areas of color, hard edges, and simplification of detail. His subjects included genre scenes, portraits and nudes. Examples of his Nabi style are the deliberately awkward Bathers on a Summer Evening (1892–93), now in the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the symbolist Moonlight(1895), in the Musée d’Orsay.

His paintings began to be noticed by the public and critics; Bathers on a Summer Evening, presented at the Salon des Indépendents, was met with harsh criticism and laughter.  But they also woodcuts also attracted considerable and growing attention and clients, and he became financially secure. Between 1893 and 1897, he received many commissions for illustrations from notable French newspapers and magazines, including La Revue Blanche, and from foreign art publications, including The Chap-Book of Chicago. He also made woodcuts for the covers of theater programs and book illustrations. One of his prominent patrons was Thadée Natanson, the publisher of the Revue Blanche, and his wife Misia, who commissioned many important decorative works from the Nabis. Through the Natansons Vallotton was introduced to the avant-garde elite of Paris, including Stéphane Mallarmé, Marcel Proust, Eric Satie, and Claude Debussy.

During the Nabi period, he also produced a remarkable series of woodcuts. His woodcut subjects included domestic scenes, bathing women, portrait heads, and several images of street crowds and demonstrations—notably, several scenes of police attacking anarchists. He usually depicted types rather than individuals, eschewed the expression of strong emotion, and “fuse[d] a graphic wit with an acerbic if not ironic humor”. Vallotton’s graphic art reached its highest development in Intimités (Intimacies), a series of ten interiors published in 1898 by the Revue Blanche, which deal with tension between men and women. Vallotton’s woodcuts were widely disseminated in periodicals and books in Europe as well as in the United States, and have been suggested as a significant influence on the graphic art of Edvard Munch, Aubrey Beardsley, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In 1898, he produced one of his most important series of woodcuts,

By 1900, the Nabis had drifted apart. One source of the division was the Dreyfus affair, the case of a Jewish army officer falsely accused of aiding the Germans. The Nabis were divided, with Vallotton passionately defending Dreyfus. He produced a series of satirical woodcuts on the affair, including The age of the Newspaper,which were published on the first page of Le Cri de Paris on January 23, 1898, at the height of the affair.

Another major event during this period was his marriage to Gabrielle Rodrigues-Hénriques, a upper middle class member of the Paris artistic and social elite. The union also brought to his household three children from her previous marriage. After a brief honeymoon in Switzerland, they moved to a large apartment on near the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. He also established a solid relationship with the Bernheim family and their gallery, which presented a special exhibition devoted the Nabis, including ten of his works. The marriage brought him financial security, and he gradually abandoned woodcuts as his main source of income. Thereafter he devoted his attention almost entirely to painting. www. ftn-books.com has some titles on vallotton available.

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Jan Commandeur (1954)

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Another painter from my generation is Jan Commandeur. Abstract lyrical work which is rooted in nature. Shadows and spots of light play with each other on his canvasses. Bright and dark places are depicted, but combined in an abstract way making the paintings related to nature, but purely abstract in its composition. A fascinating way of painting and because of their size very impressive.

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FTN books has a very nice designed catalogue on Commandeur available at www.ftn-books.com

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Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)

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Look at the portrait and you think Tanguy is a punk from the Seventies, but he is far from ….

He is rooted in the surreal mouvement of the mid Twenties from last century and met with artists like Dali, Miro and de Chirico and found himself in the middle of a surrealistic art mouvement. His paintings are typical for surrealism, but because of the landscape qualities  and the typical Tanguy surreal elements they more look like abstract forms in a landscape than other typical surreal paintings that always have a realistic element in them.

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For me Tanguy’s art goes beyond surrealism and is more an abstract kind of art than surreal. In the Netherlands there was a painter who had the same qualities. Pieter Ouborg started as a surreal painter but later he developed an art language of his own. Turning surreal elements into abstract elements. This is the same what i think Tanguy does. Turning forms in to abstract elements and composing them in the landscape of the painting.  www.ftn-books.com has Tanguy titles available

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Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)

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Two names spring to mind when you look at the works by Jean Paul Riopelle  ( Canada , 1923) and read about his life. He lived near Giverny ( the place where Monet had his studio and gardens) and he used a technique much the same as Jackson Pollock did. Dripping paint on a horizontal canvas. The result ….. colorful and abstract compositions which have the colors of a Monet painting and the abstract construction of a Pollock one.

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Riopelle’s style in the 1940s changed quickly from Surrealism to Lyrical Abstraction (related to abstract expressionism), in which he used myriad tumultuous cubes and triangles of multicolored elements, facetted with a palette knife, spatula, or trowel, on often large canvases to create powerful atmospheres.

The presence of long filaments of paint in his painting from 1948 through the early 1950s has often been seen as resulting from a dripping technique like that of Jackson Pollock. Rather, the creation of such effects came from the act of throwing, with a palette knife or brush, large quantities of paint onto the stretched canvas (positioned vertically).

For me Riopelle is a fascinating artist and because of the beautiful publications Maeght made with this artist it is not entirely out of reach financially. A very nice Riopelle publications can be obtained for less than euro 100,– at www.ftn-books.com

 

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Herman Bieling (1887-1964)

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Born in Germany, but living near Rotterdam for almost his entire life, Bieling has somehow not become the great and well known artist he was expected to become. His art is a very personal kind of art. With influences of cubists and realism he composes paintings that are only part abstract , but for the most part one can recognize the scene.

left Bieling and right Boers

I have always been fascinated by Bieling, not that i want to own a Bieling for my collection , but more in a way that i think that Bieling stands for typical Forties art in the Netherlands in the past century. He is a kind of link between the “old” realistic” way of painting and the emerging art of abstraction. In the same way i am fascinated by Willy Boers, who is a far better artist and of who i think he was important in developing abstract art in the Netherlands. www.ftn-books.com has on both mentioned artists books available.

 

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Nicolas de Stael (1914-1955)

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Another artists artist is Nicolas de Stael. You can find some of his works in french museum and possibly there are some works in the Netherlands in collections, but the main part of his paintings that are in public collections can be found in French museum, because in France de Stael is known.  Undeservedly de Stael has not become the great name in art he deserves to be. He should be known worldwide , because his abstract art is a highly personal voyage through the landscape of Modern Art. In his short life he experimented with lyrical geometric abstract forms , using less prominent colors than many of his contemporaries.

Every decade there is another large retrospective exhibition in which is tried to explain the importance of de Stael, but so far without success. Still it is neccessary that curators from all over the world present again and again this groundbreaking atist until the greater public becomes familiar with his kind of forms , shiftings and paintings and starts to appreciate this great artist. Preferably not in a way that in every household a reproduction is hung on the wall because it is fashionable to have a “DE STAEL’ on your wall, but in a way that a large public can grow accustomed  to and appreciate this great artist. to start….

www.ftn-books.com has some great titles available

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Piet Mondriaan / Mondrian’s studio

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The studio of Piet Mondrian were works of art of them selves. They acted like a true work “in situ” where every item had its proper place . Because of this, the studio itself became a work of art. This was recognized by many and one of the greatest photographers from last centur even made a series of photo from the Paris studio. The same with the NY studio which was photographed by Arnold Newman.

Kertesz and Newman , two great photographers who realized that Mondrian was a very special painter and made these photographs with one purpose….. so we could see the extraordinary qualities Mondrian had when he approached a painting or an object.

There is onegreat article on Artsy where the studio’s of Mondrian are described.

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-mondrian-turned-studios-giant-abstract-paintings

There are some excellent publications on Mondrian and his studios available at www.ftn-books.com including a paper model kit

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Gerrit Benner (1897-1981)

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One of my first blogs was devoted to the museum Belvedere where i encountered some wonderful paintings by Gerrit Benner. This blog is solely devoted to Benner because he deserves it. His paintings are among the first abstract paintings which still hold a link with realism in the Netherlands . These paintings are definitely inspired by nature. Skies, meadows and even an abstract cow can be determined in the compositions. Benner is a painter “pur sang” who’s works are rooted in the dutch tradition of abstract paintings. For instance Mondrian used these abstracted landscapes in his own painting from the early 20th century.

on the left a painting by Benner with Red cloud on the right Landscape with Red cloud by Piet Mondriaan

Benner is a great painter who deserves to be known outside the Netherlands and for those visiting the Netherlands. When you visit the Stedelijk, Gemeentemuseum, Belvedere and Museum Twente you surely will encounter a Benner painting in their permanent collections.

There are some very nice Benner publications available at www.ftn-books.com

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William Klein (1928) a master of abstract photography

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I found an excellent biography on Artnet on William Klein, but for me the importance of Klein is the fact that William Klein made a stunning catalogue together with Wim Crouwel for his 1967 exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. The catalogue has some very bold typography and the use of the bright yellow in contrast with the black and white photograph in the back makes it for me a classic. Here is the Artnet bio.

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William Klein is an American artist known for his unconventional style of abstract photography depicting city scenes. Although similar in subject matter to other street photographers such as Diane Arbus and Saul Leiter, as well as fashion photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, Klein’s images break from established modes. “I came from the outside, the rules of photography didn’t interest me. There were things you could do with a camera that you couldn’t do with any other medium—grain, contrast, blur, cock-eyed framing, eliminating or exaggerating grey tones and so on,” he reflected. “I thought it would be good to show what’s possible, to say that this is as valid of a way of using the camera as conventional approaches.” Born on April 19, 1928 in New York, NY, Klein studied painting and worked briefly as Fernand Léger’s assistant in Paris, but never received formal training in photography. His fashion work has been featured prominently in Vogue magazine, and has also been the subject of several iconic photo books, including Life is Good and Good for You In New York (1957) and Tokyo (1964). In the 1980s, he turned to film projects and has produced many memorable documentary and feature films, such as Muhammed Ali, The Greatest (1969). Klein currently lives and works in Paris, France. His works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

There are more titles on or with contributions by William Klein available at www.ftn-books.com

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Ernst van Leyden (1892-1962) … a forgotten painter

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Undeservedly forgotten by most and rarely presented nowadays in exhibitions and gallery presentations. The story of van Leyden is that he fortunately had a loyal group of admirers and collectors, but after trying to give him back his popularity with an exhibition around 2008, it is again complete silence.

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Van Leyden was an extremely productive and versatile artist, hugely inspired by his numerous travels: his use of warm colors, striking compositions, and strong rendition – whether figurative or abstract – of people, animals, objects and landscapes made him a thoroughly appreciated artist within a circle of peers and friends to which Picasso, Salvador Dali and Willem de Kooning belonged as well.

It just took a look at a recently acquired catalogue on van Leyden from 1964 and it oozes with quality.  Rotella, Villegle and others using the art of collage must have been inspired by van Leyden. Who dares …who presents this great artist again and gives him the stage in Modern Art he deserves to have?

www.ftn-books.com has the Stedelijk Museum and galerie Anderson -Meyer catalogues available for sale.