Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hockney's success was so rapid that he became independent very soon after leaving the Royal College and did not, like the vast majority of his contemporaries, have to rely on teaching in order to make a living. In 1963 he travelled to Egypt at the invitation of the London Sunday Times, then at the end of the year went to Los Angeles, a city he had always fantasized about:
Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I'd passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas and won some money, got myself a studio, started painting, all within a week. And I thought, it's just how I imagined it would be."
The Los Angeles lifestyle and landscape became important features of Hockney's work. There were other important changes in his work as well: he started using acrylics rather than oil paint and he made increasing use of photography for purposes of documentation. He immediately loved the city and made Santa Monica his home. Spending much of his day at Santa Monica pier, Hockney would just people-watch and admire the beautiful boys that seemed to be at the beach every day of the year. This new environment greatly inspired him.
Domestic Scene, Los Angeles 1963
Man Taking Shower in Beverly Hills, 1964
In his California paintings, such as Man in Shower in Beverly Hills (1964), Hockney featured mainly wet, sculpted men and typically colorful southern California architecture. Overall, he was enamoured of the more laid-back, sunny lifestyle that the city of Los Angeles provided. It was around this time that Hockney developed the naturalistic, realistic style he is most known for today.
Portrait of Nick Wilder, 1966
Beverly Hills Housewife, 1966
His life was professionally successful - he had no fewer than five one-man exhibitions in Europe in 1966 - and personally happy.
The Room, Manchester Street, 1967
A Lawn Being Sprinkled, 1967

A Bigger Splash, 1967

In 1966 he met Peter Schlesinger, a young a nineteen-year-old Californian art student who became his lover and favourite model. Schlesinger was just about everything Hockney ever wanted in a man. He was attractive, smart, young, innocent, and in great need of Hockney's guidance. Schlesinger became a favorite subject of Hockney's, and the many drawings of him show the informal intimacy of the two. A year later, Schlesinger transferred to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz and moved into an apartment with Hockney. During the day, Hockney would paint, but at night the two would often lie in bed drinking wine and reading. Hockney was very happy. In June of 1967, Hockney took his new beau to Europe, and the two toured the continent. At this time, Hockney's interest in photography grew. He would take endless shots of Schlesinger, mostly for fun, but also for study.
Peter getting Out of Nick's Pool, 1966

Hockney's New York trip

In the summer of 1961, Hockney traveled to New York for the first time. His friend Mark Berger showed him around all the city's galleries and museums, while his other friend Ferrill Amacker showed him the hot gay spots. To pay for the trip, Hockney sold several of his paintings. He was also able to work on other paintings and sketches. He was struck by the freedom of American society - it was at this stage that he bleached his hair and began to present a new image, fuelled not only by the United States but also by his discovery of the poetry of Whitman and Cavafy.

It was from his New York sketchbooks that Hockney came up with the idea for an updated version of William Hogarth's "Rake's Progress" which reflected his American experiences.

William Hogarth's suite of the same title is a moral tale of a squandered life told in eight copper-plate engravings published in 1735. Hockney's intention had been to make eight etchings for his own series following Hogarth's original titles, but it was finally extended to 16 which he was to work on over the next two years. Now transposed to New York, Hockney's semi-autobiographical 'rake' is seen discovering the good life found in a more liberated society.

At first all goes well for the young man: he sells prints, is accepted by the 'good people', bleaches his hair for the first time, frequents bars and marries.










Misfortune is to befall him as he runs out of money and is shunned by the 'good people' His ultimate fate depicted in the final two plates is not descent into madness as in Hogarth's tale, but into joining the mindless masses, the 'other people'.





In "Bedlam" the only way of distinguishing the 'rake' from the other robotic figures is by a small arrow above his head, he has finally been subsumed into the uniform crowd where personal identity has disappeared.
Hockney was offered five thousand pounds for the above plates and thus was able to live in America for a year at the end of 1963. In the mean time, he finished his studies at the Royal College and received considerable attention from critics, professors, and peers at several student shows. At this time early on in Hockney's career, his artwork was poetic and tended to tell stories. He even wrote poetic ramblings on many of his paintings as well. For a short time, Hockney was in danger of not receiving his diploma because he had failed his Art History courses. Nonetheless, he was awarded the gold medal for outstanding distinction at the convocation and ended his college career on a tremendously good note.

Who is David Hockney?

David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England. A "natural born artist"- by the time he won a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School in 1948 (one of the best schools in the country) at the age of eleven, he had already decided that he wanted to be an artist.

Self Portrait, 1955

. Portrait of Father, 1955

He drew for the school magazine and produced posters for the school debating society as a substitute for homework. At sixteen he managed to persuade his parents to let him go to the local art school, and this was followed by two years of working in hospitals as an alternative to National Service, as he had registered as a conscientious objector. After this he went to the Royal College of Art in London to continue his studies, arriving there in 1959.
Eccleshill, Near Bradford, 1957
Dewsbury Road, 1957-58
Hockney immediately felt at home at the Royal College. There were no steadfast rules or regulations. Not only did he find much success and pride in his work, but he also thrived in the many friendships he made there. Hockney was a serious student and dedicated much effort to painting. During his first term, he experimented with more abstract styles, but he felt unsatisfied with that work, and he still sought his own style. He was quite a self-motivated sort of person and began to feel a need for meaningful subject matter, and so Hockney began painting works about vegetarianism and poetry he liked reading. He was at this moment in a phase of rapid self-discovery on both artistic and personal levels, coming to terms with his own sexuality, and at the same time searching for a style.

Hockney's ebullient personality soon made him well known, even outside the Royal College, and he made his first major impact as a painter with the Young Contemporaries Exhibition of January 1961. This show marked the public emergence of a new Pop movement in Britain, with Hockney as one of its leaders.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pop Art

Pop art was a term I always associated with Andy Warhole and of course his Campbell's Soup Cans. That was until I encountered an article about David Hockney, that inspired me enough to get to know something more about that amazing artist.
First of all few words about Pop Art in general (from Wikipedia)
Pop art was a visual artistic movement that emerged in the early 1950s in Britain and in parallel in the late 1950's in the United States. Pop art is one of the major art movements of the Twentieth Century. Characterized by themes and techniques drawn from popular mass culture, such as advertising and comic books. Pop art, like pop music, aimed to employ images of popular as opposed to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitshy elements of any given culture. Pop art at times targeted a broad audience, and often claimed to do so. However, much of pop art is considered very academic, as the unconventional organizational practices used often make it difficult for some to comprehend.

The Conclusion

Self Portrait: Between Clock and Bed (1940-42)
Munch was a fascinating artist. A brave one-setting new directions, making a breaktrough. The more I'm getting to know about him and his art, the closer he becomes. His art was his life, his pictures were his true emotions. He wrote once:
"They will not get it into their heads that these paintings were created in all seriousness and in suffering, that they are the products of sleepless nights, that they have cost me blood and weakened my nerves."

And though his pictures may seem sometimes exaggerated to an average person, they convey what everyone of us felt, feels or will have to deal with someday. In the "Frieze of Life" Munch perfectly summed up people's nature- love, anxiety and death- the truths that can never change and are so perfectly fitted into human's fate. He also saw that people are full of emotions- that they make us, what we are and create our existance. And that we only see the part of the truth. The multitude of human emotions is an endless inspiration. As Munch said:

"At different moments you see with different eyes. You see differently in the morning than you do in the evening. In addition, how you see is also dependent on your emotional state. Because of this, a motif can be seen in many different ways, and this is what makes art interesting."
After childhood trauma and tormented adult life, in his last years Munch felt a strange peace. " all the old phantoms have crept down in their mouseholes for this one enormous phantom," he is said to have said to Pola Gauguin, the artist's daughter. In the winter of 1943/44 Munch contracted pneumonia and he died peacefully at Ekely on 23 January 1944.

“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Death will fall upon us

"We should no longer paint interiors with men reading and women knitting.

We should paint living people who breathe, feel, suffer and love."

E. Munch

Spring (1889)

This picture shows the whole absurdity and cruelty of life. There is so much light and breeze coming through the window, filtering through and swelling the curtains, filling the entire room. The light, the breeze and the flowers all symbolize life. The spring itself is one of the most important symbols of life. Against this background of light and strength, the girl seems frail, weak and helpless. She is not looking at the window, she seems already resigned to her fate. The girl is dying although everything outside is coming to life. We will all die like this one day in a world throbbing with life. We won't be able to scream anymore and the nature will follow its course as if we never existed.

Night in Saint Cloud, 1890

The work painted by Munch after his father's death. Lonliness, sadness, the time stands still, it's quite and gloomy, the part of inner world passed away with the love one.

Death in the sickroom (1893)

In this work Munch came closest to fulfilling his ambition to produce paintings which would make people feel 'the sanctity of this moment and take off their hats as if they were in church'. With no prior knowledge of the title the spectator would be aware that something terrifying and tragic had happened. But unlike The Sick Child in which attention is drawn to the fate of the invalid herself, in this painting attention is drawn to the effect of death on the living. We do not see the face of the dying girl who is seated in the chair; instead we look into the faces of those who will survive her. Even though it is a group image, it is a picture of alienation as each individual must deal with death on his or her own terms. The image is very silent, with death expressed as an emotional void--the presence of an absence. Each family member is depicted in isolation from the others; each reacts in an individual way to the tragedy taking place.

Death in the Sickroom, 1896 Litograph

By the Deathbed (1893, pastel on paper)

In "By the deathbed" Munch daringly presented the
scene as if from the point of view of the dying girl, so that
the wall, the shadow on it, and the frieze- like group of
mourning relatives waver as through in delirium. Illness is
used as a metaphor of visionary insight.

By the Deathbed (1895)

By the Deathbed, 1896 (litograph)

Death and the Maiden, 1893

In "Death and the Maiden" its not skeletal image of
death, which is aggressor, but the young woman who
actively embraces the feeble bones of death. She is seeking
the consummation of her desires, so that new life,
symbolised by sperm and embryos, can take form.

The Dead Mother
The Dead Mother and Child, 1897-9

Death of Marat I (1907)

The Drunken Boy, 1908

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Munch's Birthday

Today's Munch's birthday.
Even Google reminded about that fact by composing one of his paintings (The Scream) into Google logo.
That only gives Munch's art more recognition and praise.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Screaming of Anxiety and Despair

I was walking along the street with two friends
the sun was going down
I felt a touch of melancholy.
Suddenly the color of the sky changed to blood red.
I stopped walking and leaned against a fence feeling tired to death
I saw the flaming clouds like bloodstained swords
the blue-black fjord and the city
my friends went on walking
I stood there trembling with fear
and I felt how a long unending scream
was going through the whole of nature.
E. Munch
The Scream (1893)

"The Scream" is often described as the first expressionistic picture, and is the most extreme example of Munch's "soul paintings". The facial expression depends to a large degree on the painting's dynamics, the colours and lines. The scene - and particularly the foreground figure - are grotesquely distorted and rendered in colours that are not taken from external reality. The entire landscape is distorted by pain and despair. Munch doesn’t just paint what a person in pain might look like. He sees the world through the eyes of this agonized person. A ghostly figure clutches its skull-like head in agony. Blood-red lines vibrate around it like shrieks of terror. The percussiveness of the motif shows that it also speaks to our day and age.

Munch’s The Scream is possibly the most powerful visual symbol ever created for the anxieties of modem life. It has become recognised as the actual mental image of the existential angst of civilised man. During the final years of the last century, when the artist did this work, society was being completely transformed—politically, socially and technologically. New machines like the airplane, the automobile the telephone, and the radio were changing people’s lives. Modern cities were growing rapidly, and with them a sense of isolation and alienation. And advances in science and psychology were establishing the importance of emotions and the unconscious. Artists of the time like Munch, needed to express their feelings about these disturbing changes.

In 2003, astronomers claimed to have identified the time that the painting depicted. The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 caused unusually intense sunsets throughout Europe in the winter of 1883-4, which Munch captured in his picture.
The "Scream" motif was repeated by Munch twice .
Despair (1893-4)

Anxiety (1894)
The background landscape is the same that we find in The Scream. The pale, ghostly faces come toward us like a procession of ghosts, in a line which could almost be seen as a funeral cortège.
Eve on Karl Johan (1892)
I felt so alone.
I felt as if people were staring at me, all these strange faces,
pale in the evening light.
Munch described the feelings that inspired him to create this painting. He had just seen a woman he knew walking toward him in a crowd. But she walked right past him.
In this painting, Munch has been able to express new 20th-century feelings about modern city life. The subject of this Expressionist work is no longer a city street, but an emotion. With his leaning shapes, swiftly receding perspectives, menacing skull-like faces, and anonymous, shadowy figures, Munch has visualized the feeling of fear—the fear of a crowd of people in a big city as the sun goes down and night comes on.The single figure moving alone against the flow of the crowd may symbolize the artist’s idea of himself as an outsider.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Mystery of a Woman

"Woman in her many-sidedness is a mystery to man.
Woman at one and the same time is a saint, a whore, and an unhappy person abandoned" . Edvard Munch

The search of this "higher rhythm of nature" is a primary concern of Munch's art. Sexuality, fertility and death are linked together in a constellation through which female identity is constructed. Most of Munch’s depictions of women represent some aspects of female sexuality.

Puberty (1984)

In one of his most famous paintings “Puberty”a naked adolescent girl sits on the edge of the bed staring nervously and fixedly at the viewer. Her arms are crossed in front of her getinal area, as if to protect and block it from view, but in reality she is calling attention to the image’s central theme: emerging female sexuality. The bed and especially the large, insistently phallic shadow she casts on the wall to her left reinforce the painting’s primary message.

The Woman in Three Stages (1894)

The differing aspects of the female psyche are clearly expressed in his painting Woman in Three Stages (c. 1894), which can be seen as an important point of origin for The Dance of Life. The similarities between the two paintings are obvious. In Woman in Three Stages Munch also displays three women of different ages. A virgin figure with her "innocent phantasies of adolescent" gazes out to the sea. In the middle stands a physical mature woman, naked with her legs spread, who looks directly at the viewer. Her "seductive and provocative gaze is of such irresistible attraction that it guarantees the eternity of the human race". On the right side is a darkly dressed woman, hardly visible, with a pale face that bears witness to death.

Madonna (1894-5)

"Madonna" is one of my favourite paintings by Munch. He himself wrote:

"The pause during which the entire world stopes in its path. Moonlight glides over your face filled with all the earth’s beauty and pain. Your lips, as crimson as a ripe fruit, are half open as if to express pain. A corpse's smile. Here life and death shake hands. The chain that links thousands of past generations to the thousands to come has been meshed."

This painting was also called "Loving Woman" by Munch. This indicates that the painting carries both, religious and erotic content. The red "halo" emphasizes the connection with the Madonna. But the figure is also characterized by her abandonment to the sublime moment of love. "Madonna" depicts a woman seductively posed, or perhaps engaged in the sexual act: her arms urpised, her hips shift to one side, and her eyes closed in expressive reverie. Her frontal position forces the participation of the viewer, maybe as a sexual partner. The beautiful woman in the picture is a saint and a whore at the same time- sharing her body with the love one.

Madonna (Litograph, 1895-1902)

The Battle called Love

Comparing The Dance of Life to other paintings of the Frieze of Life, one comes to notice that this painting also deals with, as Munch put it,
"the battle between man and woman that is called love".

Indeed, The Dance of Life seems to summarize works like Eye in Eye (c. 1894), The Kiss (c. 1897), Separation (c. 1896) and Jealousy (c. 1895). In a story like way, these paintings display the process of love,
"that moves from initial flirtations, to the ecstasies of physical love consummation, then to the anxieties of jealousy and rejection".
Thus, the young and innocent girl in white (from The Dance of Life) becomes the symbol of the joyous and lighthearted beginning of a relationship between man and woman.
The center couple displays the immense power of love over two beings. At this point, the couple seems unable to notice anything around them.
At the end, however, we see the old, disillusioned woman as a symbol for the fleetingness of feelings and for inevitable separation.

Eye in Eye (1984)

The Kiss (1894)

Jealousy (1895)

Separation (1896)