Art for Thought: My Eye It Is A-Changin’

26 Feb 2014

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when my interest in art history stopped at Post-Impressionism. When I read art books and visited museums, I was instinctually drawn to artwork from the Italian Renaissance through Impressionism and curious to learn about the culture of those eras. When it came to contemporary art, I spent many years just trying to objectively observe and understand everything that was happening in our representational art world and anytime I would glance at the modern art scene there was little that peaked or held my interest. 

Jeanne Hébuterne by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918, oil, 36 x 28. Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Jeanne Hébuterne by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918, oil painting, 36 x 28.
Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.

Within the last three years or so, however, I've noticed that my eye is changing. A certain restlessness with the familiar is giving way to a search for something new, sparked by a few key individuals whose ways of painting and thinking have pushed my perspective in a new direction. I find myself increasingly interested in work that is skillfully done and respects tradition but that is emotive, expressive, and has contemporary subject matter and style. I am also looking at various forms of abstract and modern art and enjoying the harmony and playfulness of colors, lines, and shapes that seem to coalesce with effortless ease.

I think I started to fully realize this transition within the past year. Last September, while visiting the Lucian Freud show at The Met, I found myself in the modern wing for the second time in my life. I loved the enigmatic subject matter and energetic colors that surrounded me, and found myself intrigued by the works of Modigliani, Soutine, Boccioni, and others. The following month, while in the Pitti Palace, in Florence, I was shocked at how much time I spent in the modern gallery marveling at paintings by such artists as Bernardini (1891-1974) and especially Costetti (ca. 1875-1949) when there were Raphaels and Titians just steps away.

I am pleasantly surprised at this new appreciation and want it to be an extension of the movements I already know and love. I will always have my Old Master favorites, but the art-historical work that is speaking to me at the moment is from artists who built bridges from the old to the new (such as Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso), and in today's art those who combine the skill and tradition of the past with the contemporary content and critical thinking of the present.

My hope is that we are entering a time when each side of the artistic divide can appreciate the other. I am learning that dismissing anything that has happened or is happening in art is dangerous. There is a reason why certain artistic styles and statements appear when they do: they are a reflection of the current cultural and societal climate and a foreshadowing of what's to come. If you watch with open eyes and mind, it helps you understand more about who you are (or are not) as a painter and where you want to go.

How about you? Have you found that your eye and aesthetic has changed over time as you've evolved as an artist, or do the styles and concepts that initially drew you to painting continue to be your inspiration? Leave a comment and let us know.

--Allison

 

 

 

 

 


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Vivulture wrote
on 17 Mar 2012 11:50 AM

Yes Allison, I have, I'm not quite to the Modigliani phase yet, I'm a watercolorist and am trying to advance with oils, the oils do give me a chance to explore brushwork (which is a much understated value), and difficult to achieve in watercolor, I am exploring gouache, which does lend itself more to brushwork, but I'm still struggling with the switch from reality to expressionism, part of the problem is explaining the switch to family, who love the reality, and don't totally understand the reason to switch.  I'm sure I'll get beyond that, as I'm steadily moving forward, although slowly.  I did do a small sketch in watercolor, in the Modigliani mode, of my friend Carol, which I gave to her, and it does look like her (in an abstract way), but I'm still working on it, thanks for your much appreciated comments regarding the changing aspects of art, change is good.

on 17 Mar 2012 9:04 PM

I am thinking more and more that we artists need to help our culture see the beauty in today's world. Nostalgic old barns and deer standing in a sparkling stream never existed as we picture them. The "good old days" only seem simple and picturesque, covered by time's snow. That beautiful old barn had stalls that needed to be mucked out.

Today, the sky is as blue, and the wild plumb trees, Bradford pears, flowering cherries and magnolias are blooming just as brightly, but in front of buildings, windows, fences--grids like Diebencorn, Mondrian,...

If we could find today's beauty and translate it into the "common" language for others to see, maybe people would want more beautiful things and/or protect what we have.

on 17 Mar 2012 9:04 PM

I am thinking more and more that we artists need to help our culture see the beauty in today's world. Nostalgic old barns and deer standing in a sparkling stream never existed as we picture them. The "good old days" only seem simple and picturesque, covered by time's snow. That beautiful old barn had stalls that needed to be mucked out.

Today, the sky is as blue, and the wild plumb trees, Bradford pears, flowering cherries and magnolias are blooming just as brightly, but in front of buildings, windows, fences--grids like Diebencorn, Mondrian,...

If we could find today's beauty and translate it into the "common" language for others to see, maybe people would want more beautiful things and/or protect what we have.

YvesArt wrote
on 24 Mar 2012 1:20 AM

I agree, I have tried to stay very original in my art , never copy what was every done and come up with new following my inspiration and subcontinent voice. keeping the old way of detailing and showing the beauty but making a transition between the old and the new which I think is missing in the history of art.

Yves Lanthier

Author of "The Art of Trompe L'Oeil murals"

www.yvesart.com

on 27 Mar 2012 4:38 PM

I have stayed true to myself in the many years I have painted.  As a small child I pulled out the encyclopedia and poured over the old masters work, which was a tremendous influence on me.  The aptness of painters of reality or impressionism, unbelievable skill so patiently developed with respect for the values of traditional works.  I also do have respect for the purity or cleanliness of color so I can passionately fall in love with abstract work based on pure colors.  After all realism is based on abstract patterns.  I have such a love of and the need for seeing the beauty I find in life, I am revived by seeing it and again by sharing by painting it.  I love tradition.  It's warm and reassuring.  It is an order to life like the sun coming up every morning or being able to drive a car to a destination.  It's quiet, it's a given, it's something you can count on day in and day out.  I have a definition of fine art and I have another definition of art.  And I love the title of the book, "Yes But Is It Art?"  Tradition doesn't seem to be valued any more and I find that very scarey.

ArtMule wrote
on 20 Apr 2012 11:09 AM

Great article.

I made a transformation when I was rather young. I was staunchly traditionalist, suspicious of modern and contemporary art, when I had a "double whammy" moment. I was dragged to a Francis Bacon show at the MoMA, and to an Eva Hesse exhibit at Yale. I began questioning what I believed to be "good" art, and suddenly found a whole universe of possibilities open to me, that I had closed myself to previously.

Now, I am a drawing and sculpture instructor at a few art schools, finding myself caught between two philosophies: One school is steeped in traditional figurative work, looking down on anything "modern" or new. The other is an art school that is very connected to today, mostly ignorant or disdainful to the work of the past (ie) traditional. So.... It seems as though I have positioned myself as that professor who is going against the grain at each school, (much to the chagrin of the resident faculty... :P oh well). My goal is to bring the awakening experience I had long ago, to my students. Narrow-mindedness can only suppress the imagination and the possibility of innovation. I will be using this article to help expand the thinking of both my students and my colleagues. Thanks for posting! So well written.

@ElayneKuehler: Tradition is still valued in some places. I have found that it is a  balance that is missing, I think.

on 20 Apr 2012 1:48 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I see that staying true to yourselves as artists and keeping an open mind is a common thread throughout all of your comments. I agree that that is the path to follow, regardless of what others make think of your work as you experiment and keep pushing to find your own language.

ArtMule, I think it’s great that you’re in the middle, bringing a different perspective to each side of the argument. That’s likely a tough position to be in, but you're right that this is how balance will be achieved.

Thanks for sharing this with your students, we appreciate that.

Best wishes,

Allison

on 1 Mar 2014 2:37 PM

Having been a classically trained artist, realism was something that I appreciated and aspired to be good at.  I started with water color and Andrew Wyeth was one of my favorites.  I stayed in that genre for many years.  Then, I went back to school and found myself exposed to the abstract expressionists and fell in love anew.  For the past 10 years my work has been exploring that way of expressing myself and I have found myself with an understanding of modern and abstract art that I did not have before.  All painting is about relating to the world and reflecting it back, however abstract seems to be painting from the inside out and from the standpoint of my work is very satisfying.  I can only relate it to music….the jazz improvisational musician versus the classically trained…you either like it…or you don't.  Once I understood the background and the impetus, I became addicted.  Still appreciate and love the realistic, but now my focus has expanded to the abstract and it's unique qualities of expression as noted in the post, saying combining " the skill and tradition of the past with the contemporary content and critical thinking of the present"  Very well said!

on 2 Mar 2014 1:38 PM

I have always loved Modigliani and Giacometti but I know what you mean about apprectiating different kinds of artwork at different times. I didn't appreciate Van Gogh until the past 10 years but didn't like him while I was a student.

Although neither is in my style of painting or subject matter, I appreciate the sense of place and really observing from life a real person.