Painting of the Day

24 Mar

picasso vollardcezanne vollardrenoir vollard

All three paintings are portraits of Ambroise Vollard.

From Left to Right:

by Pablo Picasso (1881-1971). Oil on canvas, 1909-1910. Belongs to the collection of the Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

by Paul Cezanne (1875-1906). Oil on canvas, 1899. Belongs to the collection of the Petit Palais, Paris.

by Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Oil on canvas, 1910. Belongs to the collection of the Courtauld Institute, London.

Notes on Cubism from

Cubism was one of the first truly modern movements to emerge in art.  It evolved during a period of heroic and rapid innovation between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The movement has been described as having two stages: ‘Analytic’ Cubism, in which forms seem to be ‘analyzed’ and fragmented; and ‘Synthetic’ Cubism, in which newspaper and other foreign materials such as chair caning and wood veneer, are collaged to the surface of the canvas as ‘synthetic’ signs for depicted objects.  The style was significantly developed by Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, but it attracted a host of adherents, both in Paris and abroad, and it would go on to influence the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Willem de Kooning.

Analytic Cubism staged modern art’s most radical break with traditional models of representation. It abandoned perspective,  which artists had used to order space since the Renaissance. And it turned away from the realistic modeling of figures and towards  a system of representing bodies in space that employed small, tilted planes, set in a shallow space. Over time, Picasso and Braque  also moved towards open form – they pierced the bodies of their figures, let the space flow through them, and blended background  into foreground. Some historians have argued that its innovations represent a response to the changing experience of space,  movement, and time in the modern world.
Additional notes on Cezanne from
Paul Cézanne was the preeminent French artist of the Post-Impressionist era, widely appreciated toward the end of his life for insisting that painting stay in touch with its material, if not virtually sculptural origins. Also known as the “Master of Aix” after his ancestral home in the South of France, Cézanne is credited with paving the way for the emergence of modern art, both visually and conceptually. In retrospect, his work constitutes the most powerful and essential link between the ephemeral aspects of Impressionism and the more materialist, early twentieth century artistic movements of Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, and even complete abstraction.
Cézanne ultimately came to regard color, line, and “form” as constituting one and the same thing, or inseparable aspects for describing how the human eye actually experiences Nature.
  Unsatisfied with the Impressionist dictum that painting is primarily a reflection of visual perception, Cézanne sought to make of his artistic practice a new kind of analytical discipline. In his hands, the canvas itself takes on the role of a screen where an artist’s visual sensations are registered as he gazes intensely, and often repeatedly, at a given subject.
  Cézanne applied his pigments to the canvas in a series of discrete, methodical brushstrokes, indeed as though he were “constructing” a picture rather than “painting” it, thus remaining true to an underlying architectural ideal: every portion of the canvas should contribute to its overall structural integrity.
  In Cézanne’s mature pictures, even a simple apple might display a distinctly sculptural dimension. It is as if each item of still life, landscape, or portrait had been examined not from one but several or more angles, its material properties then recombined by the artist as no mere copy, but as what Cézanne called “a harmony parallel to nature.”  It was this aspect of Cézanne’s analytical, time-based practice that led the future Cubists to regard him their true mentor.
Additional notes on Renoir from

Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated colour, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of colour, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.

His initial paintings show the influence of the colourism of Eugène Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot. He also admired the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs in his use of black as a color. As well, Renoir admired Edgar Degas’ sense of movement. Another painter Renoir greatly admired was the 18th-century master François Boucher.

A fine example of Renoir’s early work, and evidence of the influence of Courbet’s realism, is Diana, 1867. Ostensibly a mythological subject, the painting is a naturalistic studio work, the figure carefully observed, solidly modeled, and superimposed upon a contrived landscape. If the work is still a ‘student’ piece, already Renoir’s heightened personal response to female sensuality is present. The model was Lise Tréhot, then the artist’s mistress and inspiration for a number of paintings.

In the late 1860s, through the practice of painting light and water en plein air (outdoors), he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the colour of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects surrounding them, an effect today known as diffuse reflection. Several pairs of paintings exist in which Renoir and Monet, working side-by-side, depicted the same scenes (La Grenouillère, 1869).

One of the best known Impressionist works is Renoir’s 1876 Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette). The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people, at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre, close to where he lived.

The works of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women, such as The Bathers, which was created during 1884–87. It was a trip to Italy in 1881, when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance masters, that convinced him that he was on the wrong path, and for the next several years he painted in a more severe style, in an attempt to return to classicism.This is sometimes called his “Ingres period”, as he concentrated on his drawing and emphasized the outlines of figures.

After 1890, however, he changed direction again, returning to thinly brushed colour to dissolve outlines as in his earlier work. From this period onward he concentrated especially on monumental nudes and domestic scenes, fine examples of which are Girls at the Piano, 1892, and Grandes Baigneuses, 1887. The latter painting is the most typical and successful of Renoir’s late, abundantly fleshed nudes.

My comments:

So these are three artists that lived somewhat near each other in time but belonged to three quite different movements within Modernism. Renoir belonged to the first completely Modernist movement, Impressionism. Cezanne was a Postimpressionist, and Picasso went through many artistic stages in his long career, but the painting of his above comes from his Cubist period, and is specifically an example of his Analytic Cubist works. Although these artists were very concerned with exploring the formal elements of these paintings, their effects give a unique character to the sitter in the process. In Renoir’s version, Vollard, who was a dealer for all of these three painters, seems more warm and congenial than in the other two artists’ versions. In Cezanne’s, he seems more introverted and introspective. In Picasso’s version, we lose a sense of Vollard’s identity, and he appears as if he is slowly fading away. I don’t know which version is closer to how Vollard was in real life, but it’s interesting to see how each artist’s style not only changes the aesthetics of their painting, but the perceived personality of the sitter as well.

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