Friday, January 16, 2009

Goodbye, Andrew Wyeth, at 91 years old

I think it's worth noting that an American great, Andrew Wyeth, has died.
This painting to the left isn't my favorite, by far, but it's his most well known.
His work will always be part of the American art scene and a part of our culture.


Z said...

Here's another great thing about the blogosphere; Someone from CASABLANCA is reading THIS piece.
I find that fascinating...ten minutes after I posted it, Casablanca's on my sitemeter.

If there's a Casablanca, Indiana, don't tell me, okay?!! (I'm too lazy to go into the sitemeter in any depth and I was too amazed to care to check to make sure it was THAT Casablanca!)

Anonymous said...

I love this man's artwork.
Americana , plain and simple.WVDOTTR

Ducky's here said...

I'm not sure it was "Americana".

He hit something in the "Helga paintings". There's a very deep yearning and sensuality that merges with the great fear of death that is throughout his work.

Sexuality merging with death. That's what was going on when he was at his best.

Z said...

Americana: related to America.

Ducky, I'd say Wyeth's art has become 'related to America', wouldn't you? If you showed any of his work in Europe, the first thing they'd say is "American", no's well known as an example of American art of that period and that genre.

Thanks for your interpretation.

WV...he did good work, didn't he.

Ducky's here said...

Well z, let's take the one I'm most familiar with since it's in the Boston museum, "In the Forest".

It's a simple composition, a young man leaning against a very large tree which nearly fills the canvas.

The man is mortal and you do get the impression the tree isn't. He was always exploring mortality and it was in nearly all his paintings. That's hardly a strictly American subject.

Z said...

Death or sex aren't "strictly American subjects", Ducky?

Or maybe MEN and TREES?

Ducky's here said...

The work in question. z

Z said...

It's very beautiful, Ducky.

Looks like Prince Valiant sitting against a tree...!

So, you tell us what you see there.....have you ever read about Wyeth and his symbolism?

christian soldier said...

Thank for the heads up re:-Andrew Wyeth-

Ducky's here said...

Another example mortality is very palpable in his work.

CJ said...

I never liked Wyeth's paintings myself, although I used to be fascinated with his details and precision in his painting, and I can appreciate his stature and impact. I understand why he was dismissed as an "illustrator" although in a way I think that's unfair. When the art is clearly ABOUT something other than its sheer visual impact, or its formal visual values you could say, when its MEANING is the most important thing about it, then it is often dismissed as mere "illustration." It's being discussed here in terms of what it is ABOUT, and that is right with Wyeth because the formal visual values were not his main concern, the meaning was his concern, whether that was the loneliness or alienation or mortality or death and sensuality or whatever, that people find in his work. I'm one of those people who almost doesn't care what a painting is about -- not totally of course -- I like to be blown away by the mere arrangement of the colors and shapes and Wyeth doesn't do that for me. Some of what I like would make others go "huh?" but that's because we're all individuals, right?

But again, I appreciate his contribution. He was an American great.

Z said...

CJ, I'm more impacted by color, shapes, arrangement,'s why I was a contemporary art fan for years..... I still am for those reasons, but I see it more as nihilism now....not great talent, not great art.

Still, I get edgy when people choose to analyze a painter or a writer's motivations or inspirations. Sometimes, I think a poet just wants to write about two roads or an artist is struck by a man walking up a hill of wheat.

Mostly, I'd rather hear from the artist what he meant by his's fun and fascinating to hypothesize what an artist meant but we can't say for sure. It's not up to us to say anything with certainty.

Anonymous said...

Wyeth was a great American artist, and depicted Americana from his perspective.

The thing about art is, it's subjective and the individual sees what he wants to see.

A work may be one thing to one person and something else for another.

When an artist titles his work we may have an insight as to what he wants to portray. Other than that, we tend to do our own interpretation.

In any case, we can all enjoy a great artist's work, and Wyeth was surely one of our greatest American artists.


CJ said...

I love to try to analyze art, it doesn't make me edgy at all.

You can always ask just what was it about that man walking that interested the artist -- was it a human identification you felt with the man, or was it something in the play of light and shadow that evoked a particular emotion about the time and place, or was it something in the purely visual impact of the scene or what?

In my own impulses to draw pictures over the years I've had a variety of such motivations. I think you can be inspired to make art based on many sorts of motivations, and I think we can ask such questions about a particular piece or a particular artist.

I'm not sure what comes under the heading "contemporary art" these days but I don't think I've ever liked anything with that heading as I've understood it.

Tony C said...

Z! You cultured art connoisseur!

I always loved 'Geraniums' because it reminded me of my great grandmother's place.

His art will live on...

CJ said...

Also, the ability to speak artistically and the ability to speak verbally aren't always well developed in the same person, so asking the artist may or may not be illuminating.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the epic (NC Wyeth) to the lyric (Andrew). If you're ever in Southern PA/Delaware take some time out and visit the Brandywine River Museum. They have a wonderfull collection from both Wyeth's works.

Ducky's here said...

Well CJ, I think a critical point about Wyeth is that he never painted a group scene or even a couple. It was always a solitary figure.

Over time you have to take that as a theme.

CJ said...

OK, Ducky, but then that says something about what his art is ABOUT, as I was saying, no? He has a theme, so he's interested in the meaning of the picture, then, no? As opposed to the purely formal visual impact of the colors and shapes etc. (It's pretty rare for any picture to be exclusively one or the other, if that's even possible, but I think you can say when one is predominantly ABOUT something apart from its visual value, as opposed to existing predominantly FOR its visual value.)

CJ said...

An example of art being predominantly FOR its visual value would be most pictures by Matisse, in the middle years anyway. You can always tell what they're about, but that aspect of them is obviously minimal compared to what he's doing with the shapes and colors. He creates a visual feast of color and form. Wyeth is deeply and predominantly interested in what the picture is about on the other hand. Do you disagree?

CJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CJ said...

I've lost track but I think this one is Matisse's Dessert

and this is one of his goldfish

the little statuette with figured wallpaper.

dmarks said...

Z: Of all the blogs in the world, that Casablanca visitor had to come into yours. Here's lookin' at you, Z.

Ducky's here said...

Wyeth is deeply and predominantly interested in what the picture is about on the other hand. Do you disagree?


I would certainly say that Wyeth gave his paintings narrative meaning.

Technical choices like his severely reduced palette also contributed to that narrative.

CJ said...

Then I think we agree about Wyeth, Ducky.

Z said...

Ducky, that's an interesting point about the subdued color palette..sure is.

Well, I think a lot of both of your points are valid and fascinating. Ducky's right...I don't believe I have ever seen 2 people in any Wyeth image. There has to be something to that..

FJ, I believe his son is more esteemed in the world of art...I need to check that out. Will this afternoon..I've gotta dash! Another belated birthday lunch for meee! (smile!)


Anonymous said...

Wyeth has been famous for so long I had no idea he was still alive.

I remember seeing Christina's World --- the painting you shared with us., Z, --- in the Museum of Modern Art in New York when I was still at a tender age.

When most people first look at it, they assume Christina is a young girl daydreaming in the field. You may already know this, but in truth she was gaunt, middle-aged and badly crippled. From what I remember she had to crawl up that hill to get to the ramshackle house seen in the distance. Poignant is the word I've used to describe it ever since I began to understand what it was about.

Christina's World is an extraordinarily brilliant piece of work, whether you find it appealing or not. Only a great genius could have painted that "sea of grass" the way Wyeth did. Seeing the original canvas up close is enough to take your breath away.

The whole Wyeth family was gifted with the same incredible talent for fine draftsmanship, but Andrew seems to have been more productive and more original in his use of composition than the others.

His life was lived splendidly. He's one of very few twentieth-century figures in Art I genuinely respect.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the colors, the detail, the emotion. There does seem to be a melancholy in his work.
(maybe that's just my theme. :-)

Hope you enjoyed your belated birthday lunch, Z!

Anonymous said...


I can see you have a genuine appreciation for this body of work, but my own impression is that most of it is more about the beauty and serenity that may be found in SOLITUDE than any fear of mortality. He celebrated AUSTERITY and made it beautiful in a way I have to describe as uncanny.

There is a kind of joy that comes with focusing intently on fine detail in ordinary, everyday objects. Most people never NOTICE things. Andrew Wyeth not only noticed the enormous subtlety inherent in such homely things as white curtains fluttering in the breeze at an open window he CAPTURED them and PRESERVED the life he perceived.

I remember when the Helga paintings came out. It was late in his career long after his reputation was secured. Much was made at the time of this rather homely, ungainly, sturdy-looking woman being his mistress.

How dreary of humanity always to focus on anything to do with SEX while they miss so much of the richness and beauty in other aspects of life!

I have to admit I wasn't particularly impressed with Helga the way I was with some of his earlier work. I'm sure I need to review it all again. It's been many years since I last saw a Wyeth.

I have never heard Andrew Wyeth referred to before as an ILLUSTRATOR. That was the title Norman Rockwell, who was in my opinion a first-class artist in his own right, famously gave himself.

It has ALWAYS been patently obvious to anyone with a discerning eye that Andrew Wyeth's work was of the highest order. Virtually all of it has a haunting quality and subtle brilliance that remains unforgettable once you've seen it.

I am, as most must know by now, a great, lifelong fan of poet Emily Dickinson. Wyeth captures in imagery much the same sort of thing Miss Dickinson captured in words. On critic said she painted thee landscape of the soul. I think Wyeth did too. There is an aura of mystery about both of them that haunts and fascinates eternally.

~ FreeThinke

CJ said...

I think you may be mistaking craftsmanly skill for an artistic realization to some extent, FT. Rockwell had amazing skill, as does Wyeth. In both it is the subject that matters most, that's what leads to classing them as illustrators. Wyeth has a deeply philosophical bent whereas Rockwell's subjects are sentimental and homely, but still both seem clearly interested in the meaning of the image more than the purely visual impression. They both know how to arrange their pictures well, of course, Wyeth better than Rockwell I suppose, but when you say that Wyeth so vividly captured a curtain in the breeze --and he did, that was one I've loved to look at for its wonderful detail --it's about the curtain, isn't it, and the feeling one might get being in that sort of room with that sort of curtain. It's not about the colors and forms as such, which most purists require of Fine Art. (I'm not taking sides here, I'm just aiming for accuracy).

Z said...

Pinky, lunch was super, thanks!

CJ, I'm not sure we can aim for or attain accuracy with something so subjective as art. Rockwell was a bit more obvious in theme, certainly. Not a lot of conjecture when one sees a soldier (from Troy, NY!) walking up the back wooden steps and his mother's run out the door with her happy arms open! We know what the piece is saying.
If Wyeth's saying anything but "I can draw an incredible curtain flapping gently in the breeze" I'm not sure we know!??

CJ said...

I didn't say Wyeth had that intention, Z. I just think it's clear that he's concerned with whatever his painting is about as opposed to the formal values of it. It may not be fair to compare Rockwell's subjects with Wyeth's. Rockwell's aren't exactly subtle while Wyeth's take some thought, but the comparison I was making was only about the fact that they are both about the subject, whatever it is, more than the form, color etc. I'm sure

About the curtain, I would guess that it's about the feeling of the curtain in that place, a beauty he finds in it or a mood it creates, not anything like "I can paint a curtain."

I've been thinking about art a lot lately. I think I'll move these thoughts to a new blog I decided to start for kicking this stuff around. Thanks for bringing it up here, it's been a fun experience.

CJ said...

Don't know what that "I'm sure" is doing there. Just left over from something I didn't finish thinking I guess.

Z said...

Hi, CJ..
I personally don't think it's just "hey, I can draw a curtain" but my point is sometimes it IS only that with some painters and it's silly TO ME to second guess them. That's why it might help to know their personalities or about their lives, etc...or see a train of thought in more of their work....a thread of commonality that tells us something about what he's thinking? Is that clearer!?

I hope you do start a blog like that! Let me know. I think Ducky would be an ASSet there, too. He's just an ASS here, come to think of it. (JUST KIDDING, I couldn't resist the play on words and it wasn't kind...forgive me, Ducky!)

But, seriously, folks...No, I don't think it's really fair to compare Wyeth with Rockwell. Let's face it, Rockwell's work IS illustration, as good as it is (and it IS good)...he was told themes and illustrated those themes for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post...wasn't that the magazine? Something like that.

CJ said...

I thought you were saying you thought that's what I was saying -- that Wyeth painted the curtain to show he could do it, and that's very far from anything I thought. I've tried to avoid saying anything about WHAT I think Wyeth is saying because I haven't really thought a lot about it. To me his art conveys mostly a mood, but I'm not saying that is what HE had in mind. I just know that when people talk about Wyeth they talk about the loneliness or images of mortality and the like in it. In other words, its subject matter, which his style underscores, rather than the formal values themselves -- it's hard to get this said clearly of course.

I'm ONLY talking about painting that seems to be clearly focused on the subject matter, even abstract subject matter, even philosophical subject matter, as Wyeth's appears to be, and I don't think it's any kind of leap or disservice to say that about him. As Ducky said, his palette appears to be designed to support the "narrative" -- or the subject matter as I'm calling it.

Maybe it would help if I said I really got into reading about "art for art's sake" as some call it, a couple decades ago, and got carried into a near orgy of love of form and color I'd never fully seen in art before because it had never been clearly written about in most art criticism. It was like a veil had been removed, or like a lot of underbrush had been cleared away and the real point of painting was exposed. I stopped caring what the picture was about (not totally of course) and only cared for its beauty of form and color (the horse and his groom at the far edge of a della Francesca is stupendously beautiful), and most art just isn't beautiful that way. Wyeth's isn't. He's interested in the idea, the subject, and his browns and grays and ochres fit his idea.

But it often seems to me in looking at some pictures by other artists that the beauty of form and color is what a particular painter may be yearning to express but that he hasn't found a way to do it or even to fully recognize that's what he/she's trying to do and so settles for a half-realized image that includes a bunch of incidental stuff he doesn't really care about -- just in case the beauty might be in that stuff -- and this must leave a restlessness to try again. But all this I should leave for later musing.

Sue said...

z - I totally agree with you. Christina's World is not one of my
favorite's. There are many others
I like better.

Comparing Rockwell to Wyeth makes me cringe. (no offense)

Z said...

You know, CJ...this is fascinating. As you discuss Ducky's comment about color, I think about it and realize his subject matters were naturally beiges, browns....hay, dry hills, poor rooms, old woods.......see what I mean?
I love this discussion.

Sue...NO. One can't was kind of interesting there for a while but I think we've all come to the conclusion it's not a valid comparison. One really MIGHT call Wyeth a painter and Rockwell an illustrator...there's just too much evidence there to support that. Wyeth wasn't paid to paint something and paid for the image. Rockwell was for the most part.

Do you like both for their own niches or do you prefer one? I'd guess you prefer Wyeth.
I guess I love Rockwell too because his subject matters ARE Americana....true Americana. Wyeth is more universal.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion. It's so good to take a break from polemics involving politics, religion and morality for a while.

It is, I think, foolish to compare Rockwell and Wyeth. Both are superb in their own way. Both, however, are UNIQUE, which is one of the hallmarks of a true artist.

It's foolish too to compare Mediaeval Ecclesiastical Art to Renaissance painting. Or Botticelli to Michelangelo --- or Rembrandt and Franz Hals to Brueghel, even.

... Or Holbein to Gilbert Stuart or John Singer Sargent for that matter, though all were great portraitists.

The idea of "modernism" seems to be that representational art was passé, old hat, irrelevant, "We've been there and done that already, bet hip and let's move on," etc.

Well, Andrew Wyeth defied that new convention just as the Impressionists had defied The Academy before him. Andrew Wyeth could be said to have redefined realism and made it his own.

James Whistler might stand to be compared with Andrew Wyeth. Who else?

Other American artists I respect and thoroughly enjoy are Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.

I adore Matisse, CJ. He's all about reducing movement and color to their essence. His work is child-LIKE but hardly child-ISH. It's highly individual and sophisticated, but never affectedly quirky, kinky or depraved --- like Picasso could be and the German and Scandinavian Expressionists whose work was calculated to evoke the ghastlier, more decadent aspects of modern life. Matisse is MERRY, and I love him for that.

I love most of the impressionists, particularly Monet, and Renoir. Also Mary Cassat and the American Childe Hassam despite their being so very LIKE Renoir. Their work is full of light and love of life. I feel the same about Berthe Morrisot.

I love Cezanne. I am less infatuated with Van Gogh, although he is never boring. I categorize him as a true innovative genius, but there's something disturbing --- a sort of violence --- in many of his works I just can't warm to. Oddly though, I had three posters of his famous Sunflowers in my dormitory room all through college. Couldn't stand them today, even though I still respect their originality.

One of my favorites of all Van Gogh is the painting he did of his room where the rusty-red single bed is so prominent in exaggerated perspective.

Not crazy about Manet, Degas, Gaugin or Pisarro for some reason. Of the four I prefer Degas, but despite his fascination with ballet, which I enjoy, there's something fundamentally depressing about his work.

When it comes to tight, virtuosic brushstrokes, can anyone surpass the extravagant, totally irrational fantasies of the surrealists Salvador Dali, and Pavel Techelichew --- or even the overripe plumminess and saccharine --- almost mawkish --- quality of the Pre-Raphaelites?

What might it be that sets those two bodies of work apart from someone of Wyeth's stature?

I admire too the Pointillism of Georges Seurat. I believe he must have taken his inspiration from ancient mosaics, for what else could Pointillism be but a reinterpretation of that ancient art in tiny brushstrokes? Seurat fascinates me, but I feel unmoved by him, because of the static, stone-like character of his work. Yet it is original and instantly recognizable as set apart from all the others.

Very frankly I think it's ignorant and foolish to say So-and-So is great, because I like him, or So-and-So isn't worth much, because his stuff doesn't do anything for me.

If you feel that way about Beethoven, it could very well be that there is something vital lacking in YOU not the composer.

Trying to compare art from various periods and genres is as futile as trying to compare Palestrina to Mozart and Richard Strauss or Monteverdi to Puccini, or Wagner or Bach to Debussy and Ravel, or Mahler to Bartok or Hugo Wolfe to Richard Rogers.

Comparisons are not only odious --- they just DON'T WORK. :-)

All these things are great in their own particular way. Some are greater than others. ALL have meaning, except the stuff churned out by the Da-Da-ists and out-and-out creeps like Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack who deliberately SET OUT to obliterate "meaning" and "rationality." Their message was Life HAS no meaning.


And then there was the Communist Diego Rivera whose tendentious propagandistic work to me was as ugly and demented as the political ideology he adored.

Z is absolutely right in thinking a lot of these guys were Nihilists.

It's a HUGE field, and all we can say is "I like it," or "I don't like it," but we aren't fit to disqualify ANY of these people, except possibly the Irrationalists, as I call, them.

Skilled draftsmanship alone is not Art anymore than a display of virtuosity at the piano in the music such composers as Taussig, Henselt, Alkan and Kalkbrenner would be Art.

Czerny taught Beethoven, but Czerny's own compositions, though competently written, had NONE of passion, variety and implicit meaning and significance of Beethoven. The same was true of Mozart's father, Leopol, who was his son's only instructor. I've heard some of Leopold's work, and frankly it was just plain LOUSY.

Whatever it is that sets certain artists, composers, poets, novelists, playwrights apart from the multitude of also-rans is entirely spiritual in nature --- the unseen, too-often unacknowledged Hand of God at work, which expresses itself through various Divinely-endowed and Divinely-inspired individuals in an infinite variety of styles through countless millennia.

To me there is nothing more beautiful or encouraging than the cave paintings. From where could THAT have emanated?

I believe those beautiful-but-essentially-useless things are clear and convincing evidence that God has been and continues to reveal himself to us. Wherever their is beauty, order, harmony, wonder, mystery, awe and delight there also is God.

Wherever there is darkness, ugliness, violence, cacaphony, discord and a growing sense of anxiety and desperation --- CHAOS --- you can be sure the Devil is lurking in the background chuckling and grinning to himself.

~ FreeThinke

Z said...

FT..I adore Winslow Homer, he's highly under rated:

I wrote this poem years ago and would like to share it here...perfect time for it, I guess, since you mentioned him?

I like to think I write
like Winslow Homer painted,
that my ocean sprays against rocks with the froth that his does
and that the sea clean air smells as salty,
That my people wear their surroundings like well fitting clothes,
That nothing is lacking
in a quickly drawn sketch,
and my storms show as much effect...
I want to use light in his exquisite way,
daub orange on a bright blue sky
use less strokes, less fuss,
know when to stop
I hope I'll put his beauty in bleakness,
make heroic everyday life,
and that my shadows, too, will be just enough.

Interesting you mention the devil at the end there because I've come to think that nihilism is art with a lack of 'there' there....empty.
But ART? Elevates the soul? In a colorful way, yes..I admit to enjoying Frankenthaler, as a matter of fact, and some others...Frank Stella, etc., but real artistic talent? I'm not sure.

CJ said...

It's not a matter of "making comparisons." At least that's not what I was doing. To me it's a matter of identifying what art is, that doesn't detract in the slightest from the fact that every artist is unique. There is still a common denominator, whether we know quite what to call it or not, and some have come close, I think.

Of course people are always afraid that by talking too much about art you'll destroy it, but on the contrary I discovered that by reading a few GOOD critics ABOUT art I was led to experience and appreciate art in a new and even revelatory way, after years of trudging through art books that couldn't seem to see anything in art but what it's "about." You get tired of reading descriptions of what you can see with your own two eyes it's "about."

Anyway, leading the reader to a new level of appreciation should be the purpose of an art critic I believe and pious pronouncements about the sascrosanct and inviolable uniqueness of artists gets us nowhere, simply leaves us to our own raw reactions.

By the way, I believe FT was calling some of the artists he listed "nihilists" but I don't think those are the ones Z had in mind.

Very nice poem by the way, Z.

CJ said...

I very much like Diego Rivera's art by the way. Too bad about the Communism.

Z said...

FT..CZERNY the EXERCISE MUSIC ? Taught BEETHOVEN? That Czerny? My scales books Czerny? REALLY??!!! WOW!

CJ..I think Pollack is nihilistic, but none of the others. I do find Degas very depressing, like FT does. Some lovely stuff (I love ballet) but depressing nonetheless.

I'm so pleased you liked the poem, CJ. I always kind of did, but that and a nickle won't even get me a haircut!!

Anonymous said...

Z, I think that poem may be your best --- certainly the best of those you've shown me thus far. You've captured something vivid and vital there, I think. I wish you'd write more poetry. You're a person of many talents. Isn't it too bad we don't have seven or eight-hundred years in which to learn and develop all the wonderful attributes God gives to us?

CJ, you never cease to astonish me with some of your revelations. We certainly are very different people, but isn't that what makes life interesting? Someday, you must tell me what it is you like about Diego Rivera. I'm not being sarcastic. I'd really like to know.

Funny thing about tastes and preferences. I recognize, for instance, that Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring is a great work, but even after having listened to it and seen the ballet performed at least fifty times, I still can't honestly say I LIKE it. Does that make me a Philistine?

Maybe, but I don't think so. Anyone who says he likes EVERYTHING doesn't REALLY appreciate ANYTHING, I suspect.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...


It's AMAZING that none of us mentioned Sister Wendy in all of this.

If you MISSED Sister Wendy, PLEASE look her up on the net and try to get tapes of her wonderful series explicating her views on the works off many different artists.

~ FT

Sue said...

z - I like, appreciate and respect Rockwell.

But Wyeth, he's a painter and I love his paintings. All of them.

CJ said...

For some reason, some initial impression I no longer recall, I've avoided Sister Wendy like the plague. I may be wrong but the feeling I have retained about her is that she is completely indiscriminate, likes everything for no good reason, and is interested only in what paintings are about, not their visual value. If I'm wrong I suppose I should take a look at her again.

I don't like all of Rivera, I just think he did some pretty work, some of the lily paintings for instance.

I don't like Stravinsky either, though I don't know his work as you do. I also don't like most of Picasso. Or Degas.

I don't think Whistler has anything in common with Wyeth artistically.

I've always liked Hopper very much but he's another one like Wyeth who was interested more in what the painting was about -- light particularly in his case -- than the values of color and form themselves. I had his "Chop Suey" on my desktop for a while and eventually disliked the way the orange coat hanging on the wall butted up against the woman's head so much that I had to change it. I've had his "Room in New York" up for about a week. It's holding up better so far.

I do like Matisse a lot but sometimes the very extravagance of his color wears me out and I want something less demanding. Also like Cezanne a lot.

I like that Van Gogh bedroom too and an earlier one he did of a black coffee pot and cups.

I finally got tired of the Impressionists. Seurat is still interesting, and Renoir. Monet got tiresome for me.

Never liked Manet, liked some Gauguin for a while.

LOVE Breughel, actually some of all the Breughels. Don't really like Rembrandt, all that brooding dark stuff. Love Vermeer.

Oh, and I always liked the Douanier Rousseau, his simple forms and arrangements and colors. Some primitives are very appealing I think. I like many paintings from the early Renaissance and the earlier Gothic period. Love those quirky paintings of medieval gardens and castles where the perspective is wacky and rocks don't look like any rocks you've ever seen. The colors are great. Love many Persian and Indian miniatures.

Don't much like anything that followed the "post impressionists" I'm afraid.

Z said...

I absolutely ADORE Hopper.

And, CJ, my friend's mother has about an 8 x 8 oil by Diego Rivera of him and his sister. I'll email you the story, I don't want to mention names here.

The painting's pretty straightforward..the two children, in about 1944? Side by side. nice.

CJ said...

Rivera could do very nice simple paintings, simple strong forms, clean colors, no propaganda, or minimal anyway. I bet I'd like the one your friend's mother has.

Ducky's here said...

In regards to Sister Wendy, she had a lot of positive things to say about Serrano. Be careful.

Ducky's here said...

Pollack is nihilistic?

What's nihilistic about trying to express the emotional feelings of the painting process?

He was filmed painting. It was a great moment. The photographer had enough film and Jackson just kept going. The photographer says "You can stop now, Jackson." He just kept going.

Magnificent control of the paint. Nothing nihilistic about it.

Ducky's here said...

No fans of the Renessaince?

Me, sometimes I want art that makes me get on my knees.

Interesting that the Dutch also seem to be omitted.

Ducky's here said...

Well, Andrew Wyeth defied that new convention just as the Impressionists had defied The Academy before him. Andrew Wyeth could be said to have redefined realism and made it his own.

James Whistler might stand to be compared with Andrew Wyeth. Who else?

John Singer Sargent

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add:

Thanks so much, Ducky and CJ for linking us to illustrations of Andrew Wyeth’s and Matisse’s work. The man sitting by the trunk of that gigantic, preternatural tree trunk does. indeed, have a brooding, mythic, almost menacing aura about it. The man in black striding across the field –– is it, perhaps, part of the same field made famous in Christina’s World? –– towards the woods in the background doesn’t affect me that way, but I can see how it might others.

CJ, it’s so funny, because I’ve had a SHOPPING BAG I’ve kept on a door handle in two different houses for nearly thirty years that reproduces Matisse’s Goldfish quite stunningly. It never fails to cheer me whenever I pass by. I loved “Dessert” by the way. That red room with the compotes of fruit, et al. is energizing. I have to say, however, that the brown and blue color scheme in “Statuette with Figured Wallpaper” is less appealing to me, although he wonderfully captures the feeling of many nineteenth-century Bourgeois interiors, which I’ve always found oppressive anyway.

Just a matter of taste, I suppose –– or is it? Maybe Matisse didn’t like that sort of atmosphere either?

Although you seem always to enjoy being at odds with me, CJ, you can take my word for it that you would LOVE Sister Wendy –– unless you prefer the arid, condescending, tight-lipped, self-absorbed approach of professional scholars whose main ambition is to impress you with how wonderfully brilliant and perceptive THEY are.

~ FreeeThinke

Anonymous said...


Hey, Ducky! I did mention Franz Hals and Rembrandt, as I touched upon the futility of comparing Mediaeval Ecclesiastical art to work produced in the Renaissance.

I also mentioned Sargent in the context of portraitists from Holbein though Stuart and Copely (sp?) Probably should have mentioned Gainsborough and Goya too.

I don't see much similarity in Andrew Wyeth and Sargent. The latter's painting technique was much looser than Wyeth's. If anything I think Sargent may be closer to the Impressionists, but I'd have to study him a lot more to be sure.

FYI: I enjoy Rubens, Titian, Vermeer, Van Eyck and Van der Weyden. I think The Mona Lisa is vastly over-rated. I think it’s downright ugly. Michelangelo’s celebrated CEILING is over-rated in my never-humble opinion too, and I hate what the “restorationists” did to it. So there! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh shucks! We left out GIOTTO. Shame on us!

Who else should we have mentioned?

HUNDREDS, I'm sure.

This has been great fun. Too bad it took an OBITUARY to bring it all out.

Thanks again, Z, for providing an opportunity to share.


~ FT

Anonymous said...

Here's a New Maxim for all to ponder:


~ FT

Anonymous said...

Z, I'm sorry, but I am not familiar with Frankenthaler and Stella. Could you or maybe Ducky or CJ tell us a little more about them, please?

~ FT

Anonymous said...

BTW, does anyone have an opinion on MAX ERNST?

~ FT

CJ said...

Bonnard -- spectacular color
Durer --drawings mostly, wonderful sensitive detail
Braque -- some cubism I like
Thomas Hart Benton -- although that wavy style wears on one
Giotto, yes
And I'm sure there are many more.

Don't much like religious paintings, especially Madonna and Child paintings.

Do like many paintings of kings and queens with their elaborate clothing, just for the sheer beauty of the painted pearls and satins and so on.

FT, you came on this time attacking me as I recall, as you pronounced anyone who doesn't appreciate Wyeth as an idiot -- in some other words I don't recall -- though I had said I don't like him. And I don't. And I'll say more. Everyone has a right to their own taste and I'll give Wyeth that he's a great draftsman and I love to look at the detail in his work such as the blowing curtain and the weather-worn wood, but he IS an "illustrator" in the sense that is normally meant by his critics.

"Christina's World" for isntance is ARTISTICALLY null, meaningless. The ONLY way to appreciate it is to think about the person herself in the position he's put her on that ugly expanse of dead grass. That is not, properly speaking, what pictorial art is about. That's what's meant by "illustration."

HOWEVER, I also don't like the term "illustration" for this particular phenomenon because there is no reason why genuine illustration, done for the purpose of illustrating a story for instance, couldn't in fact be very great art. It could be. And through history much has been, just for one tiny instance Giotto's illustrations of gospel events. It all depends on how the forms and colors are arranged whether we are to love the art as art or simply "get" the story. In fact, looking at A. Wyeth's father's work I have to conclude that some of it is more genuinely art than his son's, because of his obvious concern with the attractiveness of the design of the forms he creates, although he was officially an illustrator. Maybe I'm talking about beauty? I'm trying to avoid the term but it figures in here somewhere.

I'll look up Sister Wendy but you haven't said anything yet to make me really want to.


Elmers Brother said...

I think his art stinks.

CJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CJ said...

EB finally said what I was tippytoeing around trying not to say among people who seem to think Wyeth is a great artist. He's not. He's a hack. His painting stinks.

Anonymous said...

Ah but of COURSE! that's IT. That's what we were ALL supposed to say at the outset, right?

So many wasted pearls!

Isn't it a pity? Or as the French would say, QUEL DOMAGE!

~ FT

Z said...

Ducky..Pollack!? OH, please. "Magnificent control of the paint!"? He throws it, Ducky. he's an art baseball player.
Look, I don't hate his stuff but it's Godless, it's nihilistic. It's POLLACK being POLLACK. WHO CARES?
Give me something with soul. Give me a Frankenthaler that at least takes some perspective and design elements.

Sorry we haven't mentioned ALL PAINTERS AND ERAS AND could we?

I don't see many similarities between Sargent and Wyeth at all.
I have to admit I think Wyeth pales in comparison.
Sargent is an absolute GIANT.'d hate Frankenthaler and Stella. Google them. I hate to speak for you, but I'm thinking you won't be amused. And I don't like all their things but do admire some of it. Stella, less and less. I was surprised to Google and be reminded of their work these years since I've really paid attention and to find my taste has changed as much as it doesn't do it for me anymore, most of it.

I have tons of poetry.....some of it's good, some of it not so good. It's all a matter of taste, isn't it. I have always liked this one, though...and if I LIKE it, as hard as I am on poetry, I figured others might, so I posted it. My favorite is the Memorial Day weekend one I posted here once.

EB's being a bomb thrower. No way he hates Wyeth.

CJ said...

EB sucked me in on a phony note then if he doesn't really hate Wyeth, because I do, and he liberated me finally to say so. I was doing my best all along to acknowledge what is good in his stuff nevertheless. It's been a pleasant discussion, it would be too bad if it turned sour at this point. FT, if you like Wyeth, you like him. Let's leave it at that.

Elmers Brother said...

bomb thrower?

maybe a little teeny tiny bit

CJ said...

Oh dear, perhaps this thread is over now. It crossed my mind that maybe there are others out there who haven't participated because they too don't like Wyeth, and might join in since Elbro threw his bomb. But if it was only a bomb and he didn't really mean it I guess there isn't more to say anyway. FT, you are way too sensitive. But since you commented that I seem to enjoy opposing you I had to point out that you had come on relegating my own previously stated opinion about Wyeth to the trash bin of the undiscerning. Here's the remark, I just found it:

It has ALWAYS been patently obvious to anyone with a discerning eye that Andrew Wyeth's work was of the highest order. Virtually all of it has a haunting quality and subtle brilliance that remains unforgettable once you've seen it.

Art is one of those areas where we can step on one another's toes easily, but I thought we did a good job overall.

I don't know if I'll have the energy to carry any of this to another blog but I hope I will because I am very opinionated and still have a head full of thoughts about it all.

I checked on Sister Wendy, by the way, and all I've found is what I expected to find. She really does not discuss the art itself much at all, she goes on and on about the circumstances surrounding the art. If she succeeds in turning people on to art it must be through her own enthusiasm, because I don't see that she actually SAYS anything to cause them to appreciate the art itself.

CJ said...

Drat, FT! I've now heard almost all of Bill Moyers' interview of Sister Wendy at You Tube and, I really don't want to be insulting, I really don't, and maybe you can defend her better or show me something else she said that would change my mind, but man, she's the worst case of pseudoexistentialist psychobabbling nonsense I've ever heard! She says absolutely NOTHING about the art itself. She talks ONLY about making yourself receptive to it, surrendering to it -- whatever IT is. Being "authentic" you know. She also thinks you need to have a boat load of information about the artist and so on in order to have trustworthy responses to art. No no no no no. Moyers, whose political views of course I can't stand, is asking very intelligent questions and getting back nothing but this empty pseudo-zen type 60s-and-70s-encounter group type *%^$@#%! HELP!

CJ said...

I'll say one good thing for that interview now that I've finished it. She reminded me of Poussin by speaking of him as a highly spiritual painter, a painter I'd forgotten about, but now his Landscape with Calm is on my desktop instead of Hopper's Room in New York. It's lovely.

She also made Serrano's blasphemous work make sense as a criticism of how we all treat Christ. I'd wondered if that was his real intent but I don't really care. It's a stupid way to make such an observation even if that was his intent, and it isn't going to correct anyone's attitudes if so.

Well, I guess nobody is coming back to defend Wyeth against the bomb.


Z said...

I have to be honest and say I can't see how any of Wyeth's work is so offensive or badly drafted or sloppily painted that we'd HATE it, but okay!

Ya, Elbro....bomb thrower!!!

Sister Wendy sounds ridiculous....when Moyers is better than his interviewee, you KNOW the interviewee's not worth listening to.

CJ said...

I'll defend Sister Wendy only to the point of saying that it's clear she has a genuine love of art and probably a discerning love, but she hasn't a clue how to talk about it to make others see it. At least by leading people to it she may be accomplishing something.

I suppose I wouldn't exactly hate Wyeth if it weren't for all the adulatory reactions to him that seem so undeserved. Kind of polarizes the situation. Otherwise I think he has a basic appeal in his skill and details and creation of atmosphere, but that it isn't even as good as art as his father's. It "stinks" because it doesn't deserve the accolades.

Ducky's here said...

Ducky..Pollack!? OH, please. "Magnificent control of the paint!"? He throws it, Ducky. he's an art baseball player.


No he doesn't, z. The paint is not thrown.

Study up before you criticize.

Again, the paint is not thrown. Just for the record.

Z said...

Ducky....I've seen him apply paint. I've seen him toss and dribble and lay in it.

"he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas"

FINE, Ducky. The paint is not 'thrown', it's 'dribbled' and 'applied' and 'dripped' as Wikepedia describes. And he used to get down into it, too.

CJ said...

Ducky, can you explain what it is you find in a Pollack painting to appreciate? I don't see a thing in all those paint splotches to appreciate, but that doesn't mean I couldn't be shown something there. (I seriously doubt it, but it's happened before).

Z said...

CJ, Pollack stopped calling his names 'things' and numbered them people could see what THEY wanted to see in them instead of a preconceived image derived from his title.

I still see paint splattered, tossed, dribbled, or rubbed on a canvas.

I am NOT saying there's no redeeming quality....the colors are fine, there's something interesting in the drips......but, to compare him with, for instance, Sargent, and find him on a par? Ridiculous, in my opinion.

CJ said...

I can see that they are "composed" nicely in a way -- that is, the paint is pretty evenly dispersed on the surface in a pleasant enough pattern at times. But that makes them no better than something like a design for, oh, linoleum.

Is there ANY way to justify calling it art, and all the money that is spent for such stuff? Isn't it just a horrendous hoax?

Z said...'s that even distribution that puzzles me, too. It's what keeps it from even attempting to evoke a response in me. Good call.

CJ said...

I can see "pictures" in linoleum or wood grain or the veining in a slab of marble and that sort of thing, and don't have to pay millions for the experience.

Do you think Pollock is a hoax, Z?

Z said...

Cj...No, I think he was an artist in earnest. I think he bought into the elitist raves of his work...who wouldn't? But, could he have really felt he was contributing, deep deep down, anything of beauty to the world? I don't know.
Here's what Gene Veith has to say and it sums up my feelings pretty well:
"...According to Veith, the art patrons who refuse to be shocked by Mapplethorpe "think, How interesting. They experience the exquisite pleasure of feeling sophisticated, of belonging to an elite group who "gets it," while looking down on those who do not. The outrage or bewilderment of those outside the art world only increase their smugness at being on the cutting edge."
That probably stands for lovers of POllack, too.

Pollack, I'm sure, believed in what he was doing, that dribbling paint was fascinating...and I honestly don't mind artists who push the envelope and 'allow' other artists to go further into their 'thing'...but for anyone to think his work is wonderful art...that's a stretch.

Is he a hoax? I don't think so. Emperor's New Clothes? ...closer to the truth. He believed in himself and others clung to that. Or maybe the elitist others talked him into believing he really had something? (sort of like obama's fame, come to think of it?)

And he died an alcoholic, in a one-car crash killing his lover and himself. At 44 yrs of age..very tragic. His wife spent the rest of her life protecting his brand and, I like to believe she did it because she believed in him.

CJ said...

That makes sense, thanks, very insightful I think. "Emperor's New Clothes" is more likely than "hoax."

Like Obama! Good comparison. He starts out a raving narcissist and his elitist snobbish troops confirm him in it.

I usually love Gene Veith. Also Tom Wolfe who wrote about the art world in a similar vein though I've forgotten what he had to say it's been so long. Something similar, how it was the art critics rather than the artists themselves that created the pretensions of Modern Art.

You still have to ask WHAT ARE THEY SEEING IN IT THAT THEY CAN EVEN REMOTELY JUSTIFY AS ART???? I suppose I might have to read a few of those critics if I really want to get into their mindset.

A hoax on themselves I fear, in the end, which is what the Emperor's Clothes were.

Anonymous said...

"I'll defend Sister Wendy only to the point of saying that it's clear she has a genuine love of art and probably a discerning love, but she hasn't a clue how to talk about it to make others see it."

Well, CJ, again I have to disagree with you, but please don't take that as an attack or an insult. I just happen to feel exactly the opposite way.

I have enjoyed most of Sister Wendy's presentations on PBS hugely. I find her personally charming. She seems lighted from within when she talks. "Incandescent" I think the word is.

I love her voice. Her enthusiasm is infectious to me, and many thousands of others I'm sure. What she has done has certainly increased my own love for and appreciation of painting.

I don't think we can doubt her sincerity, although I did balk at her display of enthusiasm for some of the irrational modernism we've been decrying. I felt her sponsors had probably insisted that all periods of painting be "fairly" represented, and so she played the good sport and did her duty --- something like that. Of course I could be absolutely wrong.

I had no idea Sister Wendy was ever interviewed by Bill Moyers. I have always found Moyers downright repugnant. It's one of those irrational "hate-at-first-sight" things.

I remember when he was Johnson's press secretary, and I knew northing about politics and cared less, but I instinctively disliked Moyers.

He gives off an aura of smarmy self-righteousness, I think. As you probably know, I'm big on "accents," and while Sister Wendy's mode of speech enchants me, Moyers's very much annoys me. It's the kind of thing one ought to take elocution lessons to eradicate --- particularly if one is going to be prominent in public life.

How terrible that Sister Wendy's image had to be tainted by such an interview!

I'm not saying that she is the be-all end-all art critic and scholar of all time, but in engaging peoples sympathies with the unique way of she presents her thoughts and feelings she certainly stimulates interest in seeing Art as something more to love and enjoy than to analyze. I have found her most encouraging.

Very frankly I don't like critics even though I have functioned as one, myself, any number of times.

Albert Schweitzer once said, "Critics are those who have failed in Music and Art." I tend to agree, and would add "Literature" to that as well, although the term "Art" pretty well covers all of it.

I'm not sufficiently interested in Pollack or Pollock [Which IS correct?] to expend any energy on the subject. You can HAVE him, as far as I'm concerned. ;-)

What interests me always is WHY so many dubious things catch on in a big way and others fall by the wayside?

WHY does humanity so easily fall prey to TRENDS set by manipulators who control the media?

WHY are so MANY people so darned EAGER to be LED?

ALSO, it might be interesting to examine why SOME people are so vehemently determined NOT to follow accepted mainstream opinion, and feel repelled by the accolades given to others?

And think on this, if you will: HOW do we know what is Art, what is Kitsch, and what is just pretentious nonsense?

~ FreeThinke

CJ said...

I'm not insulted by your appreciation of Sister Wendy, though I've had a different impression from my own admittedly scant exposure to her. Except for a very brief remark she made at the end of that interview. about spirituality in Poussin and Cezanne, which was pretty vague if you think about it, she said ABSOLUTELY nothing specific about ART ITSELF in anything I read or heard! Just a lot of irritating generalizations that focus on the mind of the perceiver rather than the art itself. Quite amazing for someone who is reputed to be such a champion of art.

But it may interest you to know that I went and ordered a book of art by her that I found discounted at Amazon, because it appears to contain hundreds of great reproductions as well as detail closeups, and I'll be interested to read what she says when her commentary HAS to be about a specific piece of art. It can't be any worse than what is said in the majority of my collection of art books and perhaps it will be better.

After I've read it, then I'll have a more precise assessment to make of her I'm sure.

Most critics of art are bad and should be tarred and feathered, but when a critic is good I think he or she does open our minds to an appreciation most of us average joes and josies would have no ability to stumble onto ourselves. I haven't found that in Sister W yet, but as I said, it may be that she has stimulated greater appreciation in some simply by her own enthusiasm and by SHOWING art to people. I think that can go a long way. Again, I'll know more after I've seen this book, which I've been notified has already been dispatched. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm not sufficiently interested in Pollack or Pollock [Which IS correct?] to expend any energy on the subject. You can HAVE him, as far as I'm concerned. ;-)

Me too, which is why I know so little about him. But the little Z said has been helpful. The reason I now want to know more is that this thread got me thinking about how art is judged, and the fact that I really DO hate most (all?) of contemporary art. Whose judgment should I trust, myself or the contemporary art lovers? It's worth thinking about.

I refuse to think of art or anything else as a matter of what individuals like. Don't get me wrong, I cetainly think that personal taste matters in the end, when it comes to what you want on your own walls, but that classifying art as good, bad, great, abominable or indifferent isn't a matter of taste but of something objective, even if it's elusive and it would be impossible to establish a consensus.

What interests me always is WHY so many dubious things catch on in a big way and others fall by the wayside?

Well, yes, that's what I'm becoming interested in too. In reading around about Pollock I found some of Tom Wolfe's comments, and he's of the opinion that it was three major art critics who put Modern Art on the map and in the public consciousness. I suspect they were all working from warped standards myself, but perhaps I should read more.

WHY does humanity so easily fall prey to TRENDS set by manipulators who control the media?

Well, in the case of art isn't it because it's one of those things that you have to experience, that has no clearcut objective standards. A misguided or even malicious critic can easily influence us in an area where it's easy to be unsure of our own perceptions -- or MADE unsure of them. And as I got more interested in art and read more about it I became aware that very few of us are brought up in an atmosphere that is conducive to art appreciation at all. We are not taught ANYTHING about art, in America at least, unless we seriously seek to be taught it. So we're all a bunch of sitting ducks for charlatans and aggressive philistines.

WHY are so MANY people so darned EAGER to be LED?

Well, in art it does take time to even get a glimmer of what's good and bad -- we know we have to trust others to guide us, unless we are natural geniuses, or grow up surrounded by decent art. Our first reactions are pretty primitive. I loved Norman Rockwell when I was a kid because that's about the only art I saw, and what I loved about him was the way he painted certain things, the light through a window on a glass of water, varnished dark wood and so on.

ALSO, it might be interesting to examine why SOME people are so vehemently determined NOT to follow accepted mainstream opinion, and feel repelled by the accolades given to others?

Well if that's a remark aimed at me for something I said earlier, let me explain further. I do think that when praise is heaped on something one feels does not deserve it, that's an extremely alienating experience and makes the object of the praise even less attractive. It's like being told that the Koran is equal to the Bible, or that a steak house is a fair comparison to a fine French restaurant. Sorry, that kind of comparison makes my stomach just about fall out. It's unutterably depressing that some people feel that way. In someone with little experience of art you could dismiss the reaction as uneducated philistinism, and that the critic should learn more about what she's criticizing, but I was attracted to much in Wyeth when I was young and I feel I outgrew that level of artistic appreciation. It's not that the same things aren't still there to be appreciated, but when people carry on as if he is to be ranked with Cezanne or Giotto or Matisse I just can't stomach it. They may even somewhere in their gut know that the comparison is ridiculous but because Wyeth is so lionized by a certain segment of the critical world they are unable to discern and articulate those feelings, let alone say what it is IN Wyeth that doesn't deserve the accolades. We CAN grow in understanding and appreciation of art, any of us, I have a lot of learning left to do, but in this case I think the learning to be done is on the side of those who are stuck with what little in Wyeth there is to be liked.

And think on this, if you will: HOW do we know what is Art, what is Kitsch, and what is just pretentious nonsense?

That takes years and years of experience and well-guided experience. That's where critics are quite necessary. GOOD critics.

Or are you denying that it is possible even to make such judgments?

Z said...

"...that a steak house is a fair comparison to a fine French restaurant. "

CJ CJ CJ!! I love fine French food (LOVE LOVE LOVE It!! it's NOT all creams and sauces as Americans think)... but a fine steak restaurant? Be still my silly heart!
They're just plain DIFFERENT>

I can't compare the Bible to the Koran because the Bible doesn't preach hatred and murdering of those who don't believe. (yes, the O.T. has things the secularists and others find reprehensible, it's even suggested all Christians HATE GAYS!!) So, yes, the Koran is violent and vicious and threatening.......

But Steak and French food? Well, I'm getting silly arguing this point, but YOU KNOW ME AND FOOD!

When given the choice of fois gras and baguette with Sauterne....followed by some great meat or fish and then unbelievably good cheeses with red wine........and a green salad with blue cheese dressing followed by a big Ribeye steak and baked potato with sour cream and chives and creamed spinach and cheesecake for dessert?

I don't know WHAT I'd do!! CAN I HAVE IT ALL!? (smile!)

CJ said...

P.S., just so you know I noticed the grammatical lapses -- but I'm not going to take time to correct them.

Also thought it might be better to compare Wyeth to other American artists such as Mary Cassatt or Childe Hassam or Thomas Hart Benton. They are all really artists in a way Wyeth isn't.

In my humble opinion.

CJ said...

Maybe I should have said Taco Bell instead of a steak house????

But come on, you KNOW there is a RANKING involved there, Z. That's the point.

Only of course you don't give up the steak or the Mexican food for the French food so perhaps the comparison was just not apt.

Sure, if you really like some Wyeths, have them AND the better paintings. No problem there.

But we're talking about art criticism and they aren't equal.

Z said...

Well, CJ, you know me..I like Taco Bell, too, though I haven't gone since the dropped the ENCHERITO about 15 yrs ago and my cholesterol went up, too!! just a little humor...

Thomas Hart Benton; Don't get me started. I inherited a children's book with his illustrations and don't have it anymore...OH, am I upset! SUCH lovely plates, too.

Now, wouldn't you consider him and Rockwell more illustrators than Wyeth is?

CJ.. I'd like to know what you don't appreciate in Wyeth and what you do. I am LOVING this conversation!

CJ said...

The Koran is a ridiculous piece of literature, period. It's full of lies and ugly images and just general lowmindedness. It's as bad as the Book of Mormon. It's really amazing that this is not recognized.

Here comes the guy with the scimitar.

CJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CJ said...

Sorry, I got a whole sentence out of place in that last attempt and had to delete it. Here it is again, corrected I hope:

I'm glad you are loving this, Z. I'm really into it lately.

As I said somewhere above, there is no reason why illustration, real illustration, can't be good art or even great art. It isn't the purpose or the subject of the picture that makes it art or not art or good art or bad art.

It's the quality of the picture itself.

The term illustration does get confusing, however, because when Wyeth's art is dismissed as illustration it's meant as a judgment of the quality of the picture and not its purpose, so that has to be kept in mind.

But to get into the quality question, I'd say that Benton's work is generally good art even if it's illustrating a children's book (and so much book illustration is bad art I'd LOVE to have that one you lost).

So now I have the hard job of trying to say why I guess.

OK, here's something I just thought of as a place to start. Benton is looking at the overall design of his pictures and making all the parts work together aesthetically, his colors, his lights and darks, his shapes etc. They make up a sort of symphony in the best art and Benton does a good job of it in my opinion. Matisse is known for having given this as a definition of what he himself was aiming for -- the WHOLE picture is expressive, he said, every part of it, and it is all intended to work together aesthetically toward a unified expression. What it's ABOUT is not negligible, but should be all of a piece with the way it is put together aesthetically.

Now, keeping in mind that I'm not up on all Wyeth's work so I could be wrong about some of it, my impression is that Wyeth doesn't have a clue about creating an aesthetic whole or even an aesthetic anything. His stuff looks to be completely involved with the subjects he is painting, in verisimilitude and maybe some sort of mood preoccupation that accounts for the somber color (unless he was color blind???).

That is, he doesn't appear to care how they come across AESTHETICALLY. If he puts in a shadow it's because that's where in reality a shadow would be, not because the shadow is necessary to his aesthetic plan (which I don't think he has). Or if he puts in grass it's because he likes the feeling of that brown expanse or because it nicely fills up space for the purpose of isolating his main subject or something like that, or it may mean something emotionally to him, but in any case it isn't there because it does anything aesthetically in combination with the other elements in the painting. It's just background.

To continue, there is nothing aesthetically interesting about Helga or Christina or any of his subjects that I can see.

There may (or may not) be erotic interest in Helga, but not aesthetic interest. She's just a lump of skilfully executed female flesh, in one picture fragmented and destroyed by shadows from a window, an effect that in my opinion renders the general lack of aesthetic unity even less coherent, and could even be taken as a sort of emotional violence against Helga herself (or perhaps his own preoccupation with her as if he has to deface her image?)

The image of Christina hasn't the slightest aesthetic meaning in the picture (nor does any other part of it really). The only way to relate to Christina is to a person, perhaps by trying to put yourself in her place as a human being. That is what is meant by "narrative" or "story" or "illustration" in art -- what it's ABOUT as opposed to its pure appearance as form and color. Christina has no aesthetic existence in that picture. Nor does the grass or anything else. And in fact I can't think of one thing in any of Wyeth's pictures that I'm aware of that has a truly aesthetic intention. Emotional sometimes, but never aesthetic.

Wyeth always seems to be preoccupied with his subject above all, whether if it's a room or a person or a window or a house on a hill, and all the rest of the picture simply exists to surround it with nothing particularly interesting in itself, that brown grass out to the edges, for instance, that is only interesting to look at as long as it takes you to appreciate the sheer dogged patience it must have taken to paint it all.

I don't know why Rockwell never rose above illustration but it's clear that he didn't. He painted some very pretty passages in some of his pictures, but as a whole they are destroyed by his preoccupation with his subjects and especially the way he cutified and cartoonized them.

Of the three, Benton is the only true artist.


Z said...

Cj..I just don't know. Benton is okay but he really doesn't ring any of my bells too hard.

Rockwell does because he's a wonderful draftsman and captures Americana and that touches my heart.

Wyeth does because he evokes such emotion just looking at his work.

Believe it or not, Pollack was a student of Benton's! WHO KNEW?

You know, it's interesting that we differ so greatly because I'd say Wyeth is THE painter in the group.

As I'd said somewhere earlier, Wyeth's pallette is simple mostly/only because it IS the pallette of his inspiration; hay, a wooden chair, an old curtain..etc. Benton's colors are very jewel like and rich....Rockwell is pure realism, isn't he.

I'm fascinated to read your criticism of these peoples' work and learn from it even if I disagree with some of it.

Check this out:

I think this article agrees more with you than me. But,i gladly post it in spite of that!!!

Wyeth was inspired by Rockwell!!

CJ said...

Well, I don't think "ringing one's bells" is part of the definition of art. All kinds of things can ring one's bells. Many things evoke feelings, but aren't for that reason art. Or, to put it another way, there are many different ways one's bells can be rung, or many different kinds of bells that can be rung and maybe one of them is the art bell but many of them aren't.

I don't mean to claim that Benton is GREAT art, but I don't see ANY art in Wyeth at all, and little in Rockwell. I like Rockwell nevertheless.

Well, I guess I'm what they now call a "formalist" although I hate that title and think it misunderstands the idea. That is, what I think defines art is the aesthetic element and everything else is subordinate to that or it isn't art, or at least isn't good art. If that isn't there, it isn't art/good art, even if a million other interesting things are there.

It may be "illustration" or "narrative" or cartoon or whatnot and one may like it a lot and like it better than art for that matter, same as Taco Bell might be one's choice over the supergourmet restaurant.

But I'm trying to define what Art is and isn't. Art may be made out of narrative or cartoon images or illustration or whatever, but it's only really art if it aims for aesthetic expression as I'm trying to get at it here.

By these definitions Benton is art and neither Wyeth nor Rockwell is art. Benton may not be GREAT art but it's art and the others aren't.

Or if you want to split art up into different Kinds of art and clearly label them according to their main characteristic, that would be fine with me, but it shouldn't all be called simply "art" because that leads to confusion (and I believe also to the psychological crippling of some talented people who might create great art if they hadn't been mired in so much confusion about what it is.)

So, according to the thinking I'm pursuing,

Emotion isn't art and pictures that provoke emotion aren't art. It may be part of art but if that's all there is, and there is no clear aesthetic element, it isn't art. I think people may respond to Wyeth emotionally. That doesn't make it art. I cry almost every time I read the news. The news isn't art. I laugh at my grandson's babyishly serious determination as he explores the world. But he isn't a comedy that could be called art. Many emotions may be aroused by a picture but the picture isn't art unless the overarching aim is aesthetic.

Good draftsmanship may be part of art and perhaps arguably should be, and may really grab you and dazzle you, but it isn't art in itself and without an aesthetic intention there is no art there at all. I can drool over good architectural drawings myself but they aren't art as I'm trying to define it.

Americana may be a good subject for art but without an aesthetic vision holding it all together, it isn't art.

The article looks interesting. I'll comment on that next.

CJ said...

Hm, I don't really see what in that article you think supports my view of Wyeth.

The whole thing talks about what his art is ABOUT, which is what I've been arguing is completely -- hyperbole perhaps, so say "mostly" instead -- irrelevant to whether his art is of value or not as art.

I think the world has lost thousands or maybe tens of thousands of potential artists and possibly great art because of this completely irrelevant fixation on what it's ABOUT. I also think many existing artists are crippled by this irrelevant fixation, struggling for (or simply having given up on) an aesthetic vision that was originally the reason for their desire to be artists in the first place but deteriorated under the tutelage of current art teaching and art criticism, in this atmosphere of confusion that makes them focus on subject matter and other irrelevancies instead. Including the postmodern total destruction of aesthetic in such abominations as "conceptual art." There are art classes online that no doubt teach some good techniques but are woefully out of touch with the aesthetic vision.

End of rant.


Wyeth is derided for his patronising attitudes to the rural disadvantaged he so often painted, the banality of his imagination and his anachronisticattitudes, his overwhelming popularity another stick with which to beat the art. Critics complain of his apparent nostalgia for a rural world of puritan, hard-working values that in reality never was.

All totally irrelevant it seems to me. It could be about all these things and be either good art or bad art. It could even be great art and be about any of those things or the other subjects the article complains that he favors.

Interesting to me they say he was influenced by Thomas Eakins and Peter Hurd. I did a quick google of their art and have the impression that both of them have an aesthetic vision despite also being slaves to irrelevancies in their work. But I really do not see ANYTHING aesthetic in Wyeth. Where is it? What is it? If you say he makes "haunting images," that may be his appeal but does that constitute art?

So, again, Wyeth may have strong appeal of various sorts, emotions of all kinds, feelings of all kinds, but I don't think he has one brushstroke in any of it that's motivated by an aesthetic feeling.

Maybe you could show me some. I'd be happy to discover them if so.

Z said...

Cj, my point was that so many critics DO NOT like his you.

Thomas Eakins? You'd kind of wish they'd heeded their heroes more, huh?

Well, I do admire Wyeth's work and do consider him one of America's premier artists, so we'll have to agree to disagree, but it sure has been good talking with you!

Anonymous said...

If there a way to analyze the structure and composition of art so as to make it clearly definable --- and thus easily imitated --- it would cease to be great art, because greatness can never be reduced to any kind of formula. Once that happens we have hack work not art.

I, for instance, know quite a lot about the rules for writing fugues, sonatas, rondos, songs and arias. I am competent and some of my stuff sounds very well put together and credible to anyone with average-to-good musical perception. HOWEVER, as closely and accurately as I follow the rules of form, counterpoint and harmony, I have never been able to attain the heights achieved by J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert, or even Jerome Kern, et al.

All the elements are in place. I dot the i's and cross the t's, use good musical grammar, and interesting harmonies and a variety of textures --- just as the great composers do, but my music is just NOT "great." It's merely good, which is not good enough.

You see , all this art and music we enjoy, study, agonize over and sometimes worship was NOT derived from a set of rules. What few people realize is that rules were derived from the MUSIC ---- not the other way 'round.

I'm sure it's the same in painting. There has to be UNITY and FOCUS in any good painting, but what those elements might be is open to a very wide range of possibilities.

How should we classify the extremely capable portrait painters who have recently done pictures of presidents in our lifetime? I saw some of them on C-Span the other day, and there is a great deal of subtle expression in these photographic likenesses that help define or in one or two instances betray the character of their subjects.

There's nothing "new" or "revolutionary" or "unique" about any of these pieces, but they are so finely wrought as to be high above the category of "illustration."

Perhaps in future they will be regarded as the equal of Holbein, Sargent or any of thee other great portraitists in history, who knows?

I was fortunate to have been raised in and around New York City, so i was saturated with constant trips to all the museums and concert halls and the Metropolitan Opera. The Broadway and Off-Broadway stage were part of my life too.

We went to enjoy the experience of hearing music and seeing art. We didn't go analyze or criticize it, we went to FAMILIARIZE ourselves with it, and of course learned just from repeated observation to recognize art from all the different periods.

Learning "art" came naturally to me just the way I learned English. Once you're familiar with the territory THEN the words of some of the critics -=-- Jacques Barzun was good one way back as was Ada Louise Huxtable who wrote wonderfully on architecture for the New York Times before it became the American version of Pravda.

And on and on it goes!

I've written at least 150 sonnets. Shakespeare wrote fewer. Does that put me above Shakespeare in the sonnet league? I doubt it very much, but I assure you everyone of mine are as tightly written and consistent to the form as any of his.


True genius is like pornography. you know it when you see it, but it's impossible to find a satisfactory legal definition for it that will hold water.

~ FT

Elmers Brother said...

My guess is that Wyeth's and Pollack's mother put their pictures on the refrigerators when they were young kids and overpraised their work.

Anonymous said...

And someone made a paste of salt sugar flour, water, ketchup, coffee grounds and raw eggs on Mommy's nice clean kitchen floor, and expects her to be ever so proud of his great artistic achievement!

He won't achieve greatness, however, till he wee wee's all over it.

~ FT

Anonymous said...

Oh and I forgot to add it has to dry thoroughly before the full effect could be felt.

Random patterns of purple grape juice trickled over newly laid white carpeting can redefine the decor of a living room in just seconds. The results could literally be breathtaking,

There's no limit to what may be achieved once we let our inner child free to do his darndest.

~ FT

CJ said...

Why is it that as soon as someone tries to distinguish good art from bad art someone has to come along and make owlish pronouncements about how it can't be done, without the slightest grasp of what has actually been said.

Oh well. This has been a very good exercise for me. I hope I have the stamina left to continue it elsewhere because the subject has barely been touched.

Thanks, Z, for the opportunity.

CJ said...

It appears that perhaps Elbro doesn't like Wyeth after all, any more than any of us like Pollock?

Anonymous said...

And then there's The School of Brown Art in which myriad shades of brown are juxtaposed in many and varied random patters --- sometimes thrown, sometimes smeared, sometimes oozed onto thee canvas.

This somber, deeply thoughtful and expressive form of art was initiated and developed by the now-famous Chinese-American artist Hoo Flung Dung.

Surely you've heard of him?


Anonymous said...

CJ, what are you doing up so early? I hope you're getting proper rest.

I'm off to get shot. I have a weekly duel with my doctor's nurse.

FYI I m copying and pasting this thread into Word, because so much of it has been exciting and absorbing. I have enjoyed what you and Z and Ducky have had to say. It's a pleasure that anyone even HAS a reaction to this kind of quality stuff, since most of the country seems not to have advanced much beyond jewel-brite pictures of ELVIS on black velvet.

~ FT

Elmers Brother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elmers Brother said...

I admit to trying to be provocative but I never meant to rain on anyone's attempt to lead me out of my cultural ignorance

I also admit to having a sense of humor and FT seems to have understood that.

and I did say a teeny tiny bit

Forgive me.

CJ said...

You haven't rained on any parade that I can see, Elbro, though I may have misunderstood what you are doing. From both your posts I thought you disliked Wyeth and I was glad to hear someone say that on this thread. But maybe I was wrong.

I'm up early because I'm supposed to be working, FT. Back to work.

Elmers Brother said...

I don't find his work particularly compelling. My comments were meant to be to the point.

BUT it's all a matter of opinion, no?

CJ said...

Well, "not compelling" is sort of in the ballpark.

I've been trying to argue that some opinions have more validity than others. It's not a very popular argument. Nobody here likes it anyway.

I think everything that has been said this morning has gone over my head. Maybe I got up too early and need to wait until the brain fog clears before anything will make sense.

Elmers Brother said...

I thought your comments were thought provoking. Especially:

I refuse to think of art or anything else as a matter of what individuals like. Don't get me wrong, I cetainly think that personal taste matters in the end, when it comes to what you want on your own walls, but that classifying art as good, bad, great, abominable or indifferent isn't a matter of taste but of something objective, even if it's elusive and it would be impossible to establish a consensus.

Also my attempt at humor and provocation is a poke in the eye of the 'erudite' class who use way too many words when they could have just said

"I think his art stinks"

CJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elmers Brother said...


Sorry if it sounded like it was aimed at wasn't.

it's just a general light hearted statement.

CJ said...

I believe you. You're making a general point.

CJ said...

I found a Wyeth painting I actually like. I'll have to 1) give some thought to what I like in it, and 2) see how long my liking it holds up.

The one called Ericksons.

Z said...

OH, is that nice, CJ.
Same color pallette...subdued beiges, etc........

ONE figure again. Pensive. but there's something through that door, isn't there..without saying so... a life lived outside the kitchen......interesting..

I like it, too.

Elmers Brother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Erickson's another of Wyeth's many great paintings, but since it is so typical --- so easily identified AS a Wyeth --- I don't understand why anyone would like IT and not the others.

That is not a slam at you, CJ, it's just seems curious in my never-humble opinion.

This "Love me, love my taste" business is not helpful in making amiable social connections. I know --- and LOVE --- so many people who haven't a CLUE as to what I think important in Music and Art and what I roundly despise.

it's the same with religion.

We don't all HAVE to love and respect the SAME things in order to love one another --- as long as we are firmly united against murder, rape, theft, vandalism, blackmail and vendettas implemented by persistent harassment.

The Golden Rule is the ONLY rule. the rest is argumentative, divisive and potentially cruel.

~ FreeThinke

PS: Anyone who didn't recognize that my parody-fantasies were about Jackson Pollock and the other determined "Irrationalists," could not hve been fully awake. ;-)

Anonymous said...

And, CJ, you are a brilliant person, but since we have completely opposite views of Wyeth, how could it be that you are right and I am wrong?

All you can really say is "It doesn't appeal to me."

That's okay, but when you say it's not "real or true art," that reads like a put-down to anyone who doesn't agree with you.

Of course I say that about Bach and Beethoven, et al. because I KNOW POSITIVELY that they really ARE the BEST. It doesn't MATTER what OTHER people think in cases like that.

HOWEVER, I would never say that those who are insensitive to this particular form of greatness are unworthy people. I just feel sorry that they are, apparently shut out of the wonder I've been very privileged to behold.

~ FT

CJ said...

Might never have seen your post, FT, but even after so long I did happen to check back today.

I think "Christina's World" is bad art, but Ericksons has something going for it artistically -- (though I've been finding myself annoyed at how he did the light patches along the hall floor). Why can't the same artist have both good and bad stuff?

Yes, as I said, and am going to continue to argue, there is such a thing as good art versus bad art, while at the same time I don't claim the expertise to make those decisions myself, at least in any consistent way. It's just that personal taste doesn't work for a standard. There can be great art I personally don't like by the way (Picasso?), and I think Hopper is inferior as art but I'd rather have his pictures around than Picasso's.

Funny you're lecturing me about daring to take such a position when you came on gangbusters at first with your flat pronouncement that anyone who doesn't see that Wyeth is high art doesn't know anything -- again I forget your exact words despite having quoted them at some point.

CJ said...

Update on Sister Wendy. I got her book and as I expected the pictures are great. Of course it's just a survey so it's all the best known pictures and I'd really like to see more variety. But I should have known that's what this would be and it's OK, mainly because the reproductions are so good and especially the zoomed-in detail pictures, over a hundred of them at least. So close you can make out the brush strokes in the smoothest of paintings and see the indication of white-on-white stitches-on-cloth in the headdress of a woman you simply cannot make out at a distance. GREAT!

Sister Wendy's comments are occasionally informative but as I expected she focuses on the extraneous stuff to the exclusion of more discussion about what makes a picture successful as a work in paint. She's heavy on psychobabble as usual, often inserting her own idea of what the subject is thinking or doing for instance as if she could read the painter's mind -- but surely we can decide that for ourselves, and what about how it was rendered in paint? She also tells us that this or that painter or painting is great without telling us what she thinks makes it great, or greater than some other. So my opinion of her hasn't changed. I get more out of other commentaries.

CJ said...

By the way she includes a Hopper but not a Wyeth. So would I, but what I like about Hopper is the feeling of the place and time he captures, while she just tediously irrelevantly tells us what the Hopper is about emotionally as she sees it.

Z said...

I like Hopper VERY much, too.

Was in NYC some years back and couldn't wait to get to the Whitney for the HOPPER EXHIBIT. It was closed and I never saw it..
I was SO mad!

hello gorgeous said...

"Snow Hill" has more than one person.