Some years ago the inventive German photographer Matthias Schaller who specializes in what he calls the “indirect portrait” was in the studio of Cy Twombly and happened to glance at the painter’s palette, smeared with pigments of various hues, but mainly a shade of red fairly close to the color of blood. It occurred to Schaller that the palette is arguably as identifiable to an artist as the artist’s work itself, even if created purely by accident. As he puts it, “The palette is an abstract landscape of the painter’s artistic production.”
Schaller has created a series of marvelous photographs of the palettes of famous artists, each of which measures at roughly 190 x 150 cm. The collection, called “Das Meisterstück” (The Masterpiece), has appeared as an exhibition and is available in book form as well—for more information write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are all utterly fascinating to gaze at; my favorites are those of Bacon and Kokoschka. They’re all pretty wonderful.
See the palettes of Matisse, Manet, Kandinsky, Kahlo, Bacon and many more after the jump…
According to Amy Weiss-Meyer at The New Republic, Mailer would frequently take his two daughters to what he called “the Church of MOMA,” where they often would find themselves admiring this or that Picasso masterpiece. He also loved to draw, and he commonly sent friends cute little doodles, many of them of the human face. According to Mailer’s daughter Danielle, drawing was a respite from writing, which was a laborious and taxing undertaking. Drawing, on the other hand, was simply fun for him, an escape into pure delight. A new online platform called POBA is hosting a good many of Mailer’s doodles, many of which are reproduced below.
This passage from J. Michael Lennon’s Norman Mailer: A Double Life mentions the doodles: “Most of his correspondents got Xerox copies of one of his drawings, doodles, and cartoons, and faces made of numbers, an idea he says he got from Picasso, who as a boy thought the number seven was an upside-down nose.”
As you can see, there’s a numerological facial portrait in the set, but Mailer opted to use a 1 for the nose, rather than a 7.
New campaign for MASP Art School with the tagline “MASP Art School. Open enrollment.” features recognizable dead artists pinned-down like dissected frogs. Their inner-workings reflect the artists’ signature styles and brush strokes.
DDB, Brazil is the advertising agency responsible for this, er (effective?) campaign.
In the final moments of a documentary on Francis Bacon, made by a French TV channel, the great artist turned to camera and jovially announced, in his best Franglais, that he had lost all his teeth to his lovers. That is what he was like –dramatically revealing intimate scenes from his life at the most unexpected of moments. His paintings did the same, as they were images, which unnervingly presented the “brutality of fact,” within the most intimate and commonplace of locations – a bedroom, a living room, a toilet.
I once played Francis Bacon on his deathbed, tended by nuns. It was for a drama-documentary, which examined the Bacon’s work through his asthma. The idea was to find out how much this medical condition shaped the artist’s life. For as Bacon once said to critic John Russell:
“If I hadn’t been an asthmatic, I might never have gone on painting at all.”
If this was true, then arguably, it was his asthma that made him a painter, and his asthma, which induced the heart attack that killed him.
Of course, there have been other suggestions as to why Bacon became an artist: the childhood trauma of being locked in a cupboard by the family nanny, or more luridly, as writer John Richardson has claimed, it was Bacon’s masochism that inspired his work. Yet, neither of these fully explain his drive or resilience, or the influence of his strange relationship with his father had on his work.
Bacon was 82-years-old when he died in Madrid, on the 28th April 1992. In many respects, it is a surprise he lived so long. Bacon was a prodigious drinker, had a damaged and diseased heart, lost a kidney to cancer, and once, nearly lost an eye, after being “pissed as a fart” and falling down the stairs of his favored drinking den. But Bacon had resilience, rather than seek immediate medical attention he merely pushed the offending orb back into its socket, and continued with his afternoon debauch.
Bacon was a gambler. He saw himself as open to the opportunities of chance in both life and art. He made and lost small fortunes on the spin of the roulette wheel. He was an atheist who saw no hope of an afterlife, and gave credence to “the individual’s perceived reality.” He claimed he had been “made aware of what is called the possibility of danger at a very young age,” which led him to treat life as if it were always within the shadow of death:
“If you really love life, you’re walking in the shadow of death all the time…Death is the shadow of life, and the more one is obsessed with life the more one is obsessed with death. I’m greedy for life and I’m greedy as an artist.”
In the late 1940s, Bacon was told by his doctor he had an enlarged heart. One of his friends, Lady Caroline Blackwood, then wife to artist Lucian Freud, later recounted a tale of a dinner when Francis had joined her and Lucian, at Wheeler’s Restaurant :
“His (Francis) doctor had told him that his heart was in such a bad state that not a ventricle was functioning; he had rarely seen such a diseased organ, and he warned Francis that if he had one more drink or even became excited it could kill him.
“Having told us the bad news he waved to the waiter and ordered a bottle of champagne, and once it was finished ordered several more. He was ebullient throughout the evening but, Lucian and I went home feeling very depressed. He seemed doomed. We were convinced he was going to die, aged forty.”
More on Francis Bacon and part two of his interview with David Sylvester, after the jump…
John Cale performing a scorching version of ‘Pablo Picasso” at The Melbourne Festival Of The Arts in October of last year.
The Melbourne Festival Of The Arts asked some of the world’s finest singers to reflect on our theme of spirituality and mortality with the question: ‘Which seven songs would you leave behind?’
The festival criteria was that the musicians had to include “the first song they wrote, one that switched them on to music, one they covet, one to share, two of their own, and one from the songbook of legendary Leonard Cohen.”
Cale’s list included “Pablo Picasso,” which he wrote with Jonathan Richman, “Letter From Abroad,” “Dirty Ass Rock and Roll,” “Magritte,” “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
This is so fucking hot it turned Cale’s hair pink!
“Letter From Abroad” and “Heartbreak Hotel” after the jump…
Happy Birthday Pablo Picasso, born today in 1881, the artist whose talent and vision revolutionized art in the 20th century, and who once famously said, “Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.” Throughout his long and prolific life he did this and more. Out of all his incredible and brilliant work, perhaps his most famous picture, along with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, is his giant black and white painting Guernica.
Picasso painted Guernica in response to the German Luftwaffe’s and the Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria’s aerial bombing of the Basque town, Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War in April 1937. Between 200 and 400 innocent civillians were slaughtered in the attack, which led the Fascists, under Genral Franco, to defeat the Republicans, and seize control of Spain.
Originally commissioned by the Spanish Republican government for the ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques la Vie Moderne‘ in Paris, Guernica became a symbol of the harrowing tragedies and suffering the Civil War inflicted on the innocent. As he worked on the mural, Picasso said:
“The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall callGuernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.”
After the ‘Exposition’, Picasso refused to allow the painting to return to Spain, until the country was a Republic once again. Between 1939 and the late 1950s Guernica toured the world as a symbol against war. At Picasso’s request the painting was then exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, where it remained until Franco’s death in 1975, and negotiations began to have Guernica returned to its rightful home, which eventually happened in 1981.
There is a story that while Picasso was in Nazi-occupied Paris, during World War II, he was asked by a member of the Gestapo, upon seeing a postcard of Guernica in the artist’s studio, ‘”Did you do that?” To which Picasso responded, “No, you did.”
As a statement against war, Guernica continues to resonate. In 2003, the painting was covered up with a blue curtain, when the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the press over the American case for war in Iraq - the horrific irony of this would not have been lost on the great artist.
This 3-D animation by Lena Gieseke examines the details of Pablo Picasso’s powerful painting.
The Mystery of Picasso is one of the most mind-blowing art documentaries I’ve ever seen. You actually get to witness Picasso paint twenty pieces before your eyes. It’s really astonishing:
Like a matador confronting a bull, the artist approaches his easel, his eyes blazing. As he wields his brush, we see through the canvas as the artwork unfolds, erupts, dances into being before our eyes. Pablo Picasso, the most influential artist of the twentieth century, is making a painting, and Henri-Georges Clouzot, the famous French director (Wages of Fear, Diabolique), is making a movie. In 1955, Clouzot joined forces with his friend Picasso to make an entirely new kind of art film “a film that could capture the moment and the mystery of creativity. Together, they devised an innovative technique” the filmmaker placed his camera behind a semi-transparent surface on which the artist drew with special inks that bled through.
Clouzot thus captured a perfect reverse image of Picasso’s brushstrokes and the motion picture screen itself becomes the artist’s canvas. Here, the master creates, and sometimes obliterates, 20 works (most of them, in fact, destroyed after the shoot), ranging from playful black-and-white sketches to Cinemascope color murals “artworks which evolve in minutes through the magic of stop-motion animation. Unavailable for more than a decade, The Mystery of Picasso is exhilarating, mesmerizing, enchanting and unforgettable. It is simply one of the greatest documentaries on art ever made. The French government agreed, in 1984 it declared the film a national treasure.
“When we are all dead, you and me and everyone,” said Clouzot to Picasso, “the film will still continue to be projected.”
This is probably my favorite section from the film. I especially like watching the painting of the nude reading come to life. When I first saw it I kept thinking he was finished and then he’d make it even better: