Monday, December 28, 2009

Popular in the 60's!

Above Timothy Leary arrested by the DEA in 1972

I plan to do posts on trees and continue some of the art historical threads I have started, but as those are larger themes, I am going to continue with some smaller ideas for a few more days. This is a continuation of the thought that gave you Maurice Utrillo the last two nights. Art history is different for each era, the art history of today is not the same as our grandparents. I became aware of art history in the 60's and in a way it formed a baseline against which I have observed its continued evolution. For the better I think, incidentally.

I think it is interesting to notice, that which each era has mistaken for art. In the 60's art was often confused with psychology. Psychology was huge at that time. Dr. Leary, above was taken very seriously because he was a scientist! Others might have opinions, but psychologists brought data, their opinions outclassed those of lesser shamans. In the dark ages when you were supposed to shut up and listen, the bureaucrats cried "God says!" By the sixties they cried "Studies show!"

Psychology today was a major magazine, Freud was still in power and Jung had a best selling coffee table book at the end of that decade. When you went to the museum, people stood in front of the paintings and talked not about how the paintings looked, or what period they were from. They talked about their feelings, how the paintings made them feel and the psychology of that artist. People didn't know enough about art to talk about it, but they did know, or at least thought they knew how to talk about psychology. They mistook art for Psychology. In fact the idea was that if you knew pop psychology that was all that was necessary to unlock the mysteries of art. You still meet people who think that today.

The art that was most preferred in the 60's was that which lent itself to that treatment. A tortured artist was good for projecting psychological diagnosis's onto. Irving Stones popular biography of Van Gogh gave people something to talk about. He was perhaps the most valued artist of that time. He is still held in very high regard but I think he was more so in the 60's. He was played by Kirk Douglas in the movie.

Andrew Wyeth, a truly great painter was ideal for this era, and appealed to the love of the psychological. He is the most psychological of contemporary traditional painters. There were several painters though who appealed so strongly then whose reputation seems to have slipped like Utrillo's since then. Above is an El Greco. Their otherworldliness made them popular and prints of El Greco were common and he was an artist that people knew. Much ink was spent explaining his art from a contemporary psychological standpoint. Below is another.

The peculiar elongations of his figures were attributed to personal psychology, inspired and were compared to another artist popular during the era who had mental problems, Modigliani. Modigliani was afflicted with alcoholism , tuberculosis and drug addiction, and women absolutely loved him. He was only 5'5" tall and lived a life of total debauchery after he arrived from his native Italy in Montmartre. His lover, twenty one year old Jeanne, nine months pregnant, jumped to her death from a high window a day after his death.

Jeanne Modiglianis model and lover.

Now there's psychological anguish. The importance of his art seemed to peak during the 60's and while still a famous artist his reputation is not now, what it was then. Below is one of his nudes. Rather elegant I think.

I will return tomorrow with another artist who was hot in the 60's


Dot Courson said...

Yeah, Stape, and you need a psychology degree to fully B.S. - sorry!- I meant - communicate, with the "art appreciation" in the eyes of the public who have come to expect this kind of statement:

"A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world. How often it must be permanently impaired by the eyes of the vulgar and the cruelty of the impotent who would extend the affliction universally! ”
— Mark Rothko (source:Wikipedia)

Wow! I can't compete with THAT!

So I just dress a little more "out there" and hope I just LOOK artsy at my shows to give me "artistic credibility". Stape, maybe you can suggest other things that will help me better meet the public expectations of what a REAL artist is all about? Was hoping I could talk you into helping me think of some really good lines to use in my artist statement. I liked the words "extend the affliction universally" in the above statement and thought something like that would be really, really , really good. Thanks!

Tim Fitzgerald said...

I have to say Jeanne Modiglianis is stunning in her beauty. I forgot what the blog was all about after seeing her. I love great Art, but she is haunting. Clouding your mind with drugs and alcohol would seem to me rather dumb, I would want my mind clear to paint such a beautiful woman.
What a tragic story about both of their fates. Such a waste of tallent and beauty, in the world we live in today we need more beauty.
The paintings were good also.T.F.

Unknown said...

ah... it is nice to come up for air down here in Texas (holiday visit) with some good art and commentary. Just catching up. I rather like that nude of his.... it is hard to imagine creating that kind of beauty with such a tortured spirit.
Might make it over to the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art here in Fort Worth this week. Perhaps it is in my bones, but I still love Remington and Russell, and they have the largest collection anywhere.
Stape, we got snow HERE - almost a blizzard on Christmas eve.. unheard of in these parts. And they DONT know how to drive in it.

billspaintingmn said...

I can apreciate the depths in wich
you venture into..
I have no "scuba gear", and can hold my "breath" only so long.
I will have to watch from the side
lines instead of being in the game.
I paint for enjoyment. I would rather go to a concert than be on stage.
(sorry for analogies,Stape. I'm a
simple man.)
Psychology is confusing, sometimes I think that's its job.
The more I learn the less I know.

jeff said...

Psychological anguish is overrated.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You know I don't even think I haver an artists statement come to think of it. Oh yeah;;; I want to paint good pictures and get paid well to do it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You think she's cute, you should see my wife!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Remington is great I think Russell is weaker. His color can be acrid or strident and he paints the Indians heads to big. I know of the two he is more authentic, but artistically I find him wanting. Isn't there another good museum down the street?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I guess you lost me there?Scuba?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think it is easier to obtain than quality that's for sure. Its been done.

Unknown said...

Have you read "How to become a famous artist and still paint pictures"?

The author has a few things to say about art that is anything other than just a well painted picture, some of it is funny.

Anyway, it's a good book, the subject made me think of it.