Thursday 14th June 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 14, 2018 by bishshat

Abdulla Bulbul Ameer

Percy French

Oh, the sons of the Prophet are hardy and grim
And quite unaccustomed to fear
But none were so reckless of life or of limb
As Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.
When they wanted a man to encourage the van
Or to harass the foe in the rear
Or to take a redoubt they would always send out
For Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.

There are heroes in plenty, and well known to fame
In the ranks that were lead by the Czar,
But the bravest of all was a man by the name
Of Ivan Potschjinksi Skidar.
He could imitate Toole, play Euchre and Pool
And perform on the Spanish guitar.
In fact quite the cream of the Muscovite team
Was Ivan Potschjinski Skidar.

One morning the Russian had shouldered his gun
And assumed his most truculent sneer
And was walking down town when he happened to run
Into Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.
“Young man,” says Bulbul, “can your life be so dull
That you’re anxious to end your career?—
For, infidel, know—you have trod on the toe
Of Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.”

“Take your ultimate look upon sunshine and brook,
Make your latest remarks on the war;
Which I mean to imply you’re going to die,
Mr. Count Cask-o-whisky Cigar.”
Said the Russian, “My friend, my remarks in the end
Would avail you but little, I fear,
For you’ll never survive to repeat them alive,
Mr. Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.”

Then the bold Mameluke drew his trusty chiboque
And shouted “Il Allah Akbar”
And being intent upon slaughter, he went
For Ivan Potschjinski Skidar.
But just as his knife had abstracted his life
(In fact he was shouting “Huzza!”)
He felt himself struck by that subtle Calmuck,
Count Ivan Potschjinski Skidar.

The Consul drove up in his red-crested fly
To give the survivor a cheer,
He arrived just in time to exchange a goodbye
With Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.
And Skobeleff, Gourko and Gorsechekoff too
Drove up on the Emperor’s car
But all they could do was cry “och-whilliloo!”
With Ivan Potschjinski Skidar.

There’s a grave where the waves of the Blue Danube roll,
And on it in characters clear
Is: “Stranger, remember to pray for the soul
Of Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.”
A Muscovite maiden her vigil doth keep
By the light of the true lover’s star
And the name that she murmurs so sadly in sleep
Is Ivan Potschjinski Skidar.

Abdul Abulbul Amir is the most common name for a music-hall song written in 1877 (during the Russo-Turkish War) under the title “Abdulla Bulbul Ameer” by Percy French, and subsequently altered and popularized by a variety of other writers and performers. It tells the story of two valiant heroes—the titular Abdulla, fighting for the Turks, and his foe (originally named Ivan Potschjinsky Skidar in French’s version), a Russian warrior—who encounter one another, engage in verbal boasting, and are drawn into a duel in which both perish.

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Visions Of Paradise

The Moody Blues

The sounds in my mind just come to me
Come see, come see
And the call of her eyes makes waterfalls
Of me, of me

In the garden of her love I’ll stay awhile
To be, to be
What the seeds of her thoughts once mean to me
Come see, come see

Visions of paradise, cloudless skies I see
Rainbows on the hill, blue onyx on the sea
Come see, ah, ah, ah

And the sounds in my mind just come to me
Come see, come see
And the call of her eyes, makes waterfalls
Of me, of me

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Monday June 11th 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 11, 2018 by bishshat

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I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

E.E. Cummings

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Sunday 10th June 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 10, 2018 by bishshat

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Saturday 9th June 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 9, 2018 by bishshat

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Friday 8th June 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 8, 2018 by bishshat

America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper

Paintings of skyscrapers to grain silos, the jazz age to the Depression, John and I went to visit the Ashmolean to see these American masterpieces, many in the UK for the first time. A disappointingly small exhibition but none the less we found it a pleasure to see them.

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Revered in America and unknown here: that is the strange fate of several artists in this powerfully atmospheric anthology of what is loosely known as precisionist painting from the 1920s and 30s. Ralston Crawford’s steel silos standing like rockets against flat cobalt skies; O Louis Guglielmi’s General Motors building soaring into the Manhattan night, its scarlet sign hanging in mid-air above like some ironic message from God; William Charles McNulty’s vertiginous vision of New York skyscrapers seen from the 40th floor in 1931. These artists are nowhere represented in British collections, any more than the stars of this show. Tate Modern itself has nothing by Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler or Charles Demuth.

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Hopper’s marvellous Night Shadows from 1921, a bird’s-eye etching of a lone figure trailing his tired shadow through the empty street below, as the immense shadow of a streetlight falls like a forbidding black barrier before him; and his railroad scene from the following year, where a figure steps so abruptly out of the crepuscular sidings you might run into him, like an oncoming train.

The sweeping spans of Brooklyn Bridge look medieval yet modern; the sunlight rakes the brownstones in Hopper’s Manhattan now just as it did then. Georgia O’Keeffe’s panorama of the East River with snowcapped buildings, painted with tremendously soft yet precise brushstrokes in her 30th floor apartment looking down, looks exactly as it does today. The art does not date, any more than the cityscape.

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The industrial sublime turns anxious. There is scarcely a painted person in this show; and it is no different in the countryside either. Factories are replaced by barns that look like shining sci-fi institutions; skyscrapers by solitary grain silos. One revelation of this show is Ralston Crawford, whose silver silos against burning Buffalo skies have something of De Chirico’s dreamy unease while looking straight towards hard-edged abstraction. This is not an enormous show, and slightly too reliant on prints, but it is full of such discoveries. The bizarre proto-futurist paintings of the poet EE Cummings; the canvases of Edward Steichen before he quit painting for photography; Martin Lewis’s 1932 scene of a car at a crossroads in dangerous snow, no idea which way to turn.

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Every great show alters or inflects one’s sense of art, and so it is with this one. And not just because it gives us precisionism in all its dour beauty; or because it presents several new Hoppers to a British audience.

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Ralston Crawford

Spent his childhood in Buffalo, New York. He studied art beginning in 1927 in California at the Otis Art Institute. After working at the Walt Disney Studio, he returned to the eastern U.S. for further study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and at the Barnes Foundation, where he was exposed to the art of Picasso and Matisse. In 1934, he had his first one-man showing at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He was also one of the Independents.

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Crawford was best known for his abstract representations of urban life and industry. His early work placed him with Precisionist artists like Niles Spencer and Charles Sheeler. Here, the focus was on realistic, sharp portrayals of factories, bridges, and shipyards. Later work was geometrically abstract. In Spain, he observed bullfighting, and the religious procession during Holy Week in Seville. In New Orleans, he painted and photographed cemeteries and jazz musicians (requiring a permit to visit bars normally restricted to blacks). Fortune Magazine sent Crawford to the Bikini Atoll in 1946 to record a nuclear weapons test.

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Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was an American artist. She was best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O’Keeffe has been recognized as the “Mother of American modernism”.

In 1905, O’Keeffe began her serious formal art training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Art Students League of New York, but she felt constrained by her lessons that focused on recreating or copying what was in nature. In 1908, unable to fund further education, she worked for two years as a commercial illustrator, and then spent seven years between 1911 and 1918 teaching in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. During that time, she studied art during the summers between 1912 and 1914 and was introduced to the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow, who espoused created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects, rather than trying to copy or represent them. This caused a major change in the way she felt about and approached art, as seen in the beginning stages of her watercolors from her studies at the University of Virginia and more dramatically in the charcoal drawings that she produced in 1915 that led to total abstraction. Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, held an exhibit of her works in 1917.
Over the next couple of years, she taught and continued her studies at the Teachers College, Columbia University in 1914 and 1915.

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She moved to New York in 1918 at Stieglitz’s request and began working seriously as an artist. They developed a professional relationship—he promoted and exhibited her works—and a personal relationship that led to their marriage in 1924. O’Keeffe created many forms of abstract art, including close-ups of flowers, such as the Red Canna paintings, that many found to represent women’s genitalia, although O’Keeffe consistently denied that intention. The reputation of the portrayal of women’s sexuality was also fueled by explicit and sensuous photographs that Stieglitz had taken and exhibited of O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived together in New York until 1929, when O’Keeffe began spending part of the year in the Southwest, which served as inspiration for her paintings of New Mexico landscapes and images of animal skulls, such as Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue and Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. After Stieglitz’s death, she lived permanently in New Mexico at Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiú, until the last years of her life when she lived in Santa Fe.

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George  Ault

George Copeland Ault an American painter. He was loosely grouped with the Precisionist movement and, though influenced by Cubism and Surrealism, his most lasting work is of a realist nature.

Ault was born in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, into a wealthy family and spent his youth in London, England, where he studied at the Slade School of Art and St John’s Wood School of Art. Returning to the United States in 1911, he spent the rest of his life in New York and New Jersey. His personal life henceforth was troubled. He became alcoholic during the 1920s, after the death of his mother in a mental institution.
Each of his three brothers committed suicide, two after the loss of the family fortune in the 1929 stock market crash.

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Although he had exhibited his works with some success, by the early 1930s his neurotic behavior and reclusiveness had alienated him from the gallery world.
In 1937, Ault moved to Woodstock, New York with Louise Jonas, who would become his second wife, and tried to put his difficulties in the past. In Woodstock the couple lived a penurious existence in a small rented cottage that had no electricity or indoor plumbing. Depending on Louise for income, Ault created some of his finest paintings during this time, but had difficulty selling them. In 1948, Ault was discovered dead five days after drowning in the Sawkill Brook on December 30, when he had taken a solitary walk in stormy and dark weather. The death was deemed a suicide by the coroner. In his lifetime, his works were displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Addison Gallery of American Art (in Andover, Massachusetts), among others.

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Charles Demuth

If any painting can be called charismatic, not just cool, it is Demuth’s I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. This startling masterpiece, made in 1928, forms the centrepiece of this show. Hurtling towards you is the number five, once, twice, three times – and in shining gold – against a vortex of signs and vectoring searchlights. Out of something as simple as the typography and graphics of the US street, Demuth conjures the frantic present, a moment coming at the world over and again, and a homage to William Carlos William’s celebrated poem The Great Figure: “I saw the figure 5/ in gold/ on a red/ firetruck… ”

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Demuth’s painting is not large, yet it feels monumental. This is true of so many works in this show, where the perspective is from on high or way down below an arching bridge or skyscraping colossus. Painting and photography feed into each other, the camera going where the easel cannot.

“Deem,” as some of his friends called him, was born in a Lancaster house on North Lime Street. At age 6, he and his family moved to the King Street home where he spent most of his lifetime. Demuth’s health was frail; from an early age he suffered from lameness and as an adult from severe diabetes. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall Academy and studied at Drexel Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. As a young man he traveled to Paris where he was part of the avant garde scene. Though plagued by illness all his life, he produced over a thousand works of art, including the well known “My Egypt” which was inspired by grain elevators in Lancaster. During his lifetime he sold many of his works, enjoyed favorable reviews from art critics and was part of Alfred Stieglitz’s American Place Gallery in New York. Although he studied and painted in Philadelphia, New York, Provincetown, Paris and Bermuda, Demuth created most of his finished artworks in his Lancaster home where he worked in a small second floor studio overlooking the garden. The garden was tended by his mother Augusta and was the source of inspiration for many of Demuth’s paintings. The Demuth home, built in the latter part of the 18th century, is one of the oldest in Lancaster and once served as a Colonial era tavern. Located next door is the Demuth Tobacco Shop. Founded in 1770 it is the oldest tobacco shop in America.

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The crowning instance is Manhattan, America’s first avant-garde art film, shot in 1921 by Charles Sheeler and the photographer Paul Strand.

A day in the city’s life is condensed into 10 glittering minutes. The camera rises up to the clouds above Hudson Bay and down to take in the Church Street El below, the train no more than a toy. People are like particles in the boulevards. The New York skyline, in negative, glows silver against black skies heavy with pollution.

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Charles Sheeler 

Charles Rettew Sheeler Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art from 1900 to 1903, and then the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. He found early success as a painter and exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908. Most of his education was in drawing and other applied arts.

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He went to Italy with other students, where he was intrigued by the Italian painters of the Middle Ages, such as Giotto and Piero della Francesca. Later, he was inspired by works of Cubist artists like Picasso and Braque after a trip to Paris in 1909, when the popularity of the style was skyrocketing.

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Returning to the United States, he realized that he would not be able to make a living with Modernist painting. Instead, he took up commercial photography, focusing particularly on architectural subjects. He was a self-taught photographer, learning his trade on a five dollar Brownie. Early in his career, he was dramatically impacted by the death of his close friend Morton Livingston Schamberg in the influenza epidemic of 1918. Schamberg’s painting had focused heavily on machinery and technology, a theme which would come to feature prominently in Sheeler’s own work.

Sheeler owned a farmhouse in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, about 39 miles outside Philadelphia, which he shared with Schamberg until the latter’s death. He was so fond of the home’s 19th century stove that he called it his “companion” and made it a subject of his photographs. The farmhouse itself serves a prominent role in many of his photographs, which include shots of the bedroom, kitchen, and stairway. At one point he was quoted as calling it his “cloister.”

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Sheeler painted using a technique that complemented his photography. He was a self-proclaimed Precisionist, a term that emphasized the linear precision he employed in his depictions. As in his photographic works, his subjects were generally material things such as machinery and structures. He was hired by the Ford Motor Co. to photograph and make paintings of their factories.

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Paul Strand

Strand was born in New York City to Bohemian parents. In his late teens, he was a student of renowned documentary photographer Lewis Hine at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. It was while on a fieldtrip in this class that Strand first visited the 291 art gallery – operated by Stieglitz and Edward Steichen – where exhibitions of work by forward-thinking modernist photographers and painters would move Strand to take his photographic hobby more seriously. Stieglitz would later promote Strand’s work in the 291 gallery itself, in his photography publication Camera Work, and in his artwork in the Hieninglatzing studio. Some of this early work, like the well-known Wall Street, experimented with formal abstractions (influencing, among others, Edward Hopper and his idiosyncratic urban vision).

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Other of Strand’s works reflect his interest in using the camera as a tool for social reform. He was one of the founders of the Photo League, an association of photographers who advocated using their art to promote social and political causes.

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Louis Lozowick

He was born in the Russian Empire (Ludvinovka, Ukraine), came to the United States in 1906, and died in New Jersey in 1973. He is recognized as an Art Deco and Precisionist artist, and mainly produced streamline, urban-inspired monochromatic lithographs in a career that spanned 50 years.

Lozowick attended art school in Kiev for two years. In 1906 he moved to New York with his family, and in 1912 he entered the school of the National Academy of Design where he studied with Leon Kroll and Emil Carlsen. He subsequently graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Ohio State University and joined the army in 1918.

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In Berlin in 1920 he became friends with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitsky, and the avant-garde Russian artists affiliated with the November-gruppe. On his return to New York in 1924 he joined the executive board of the New Masses and exhibited his machine drawings in the 1926 exhibition of Katherine Dreier’s Société Anonyme. A member of the American Artists Congress, Lozowick treated socially relevant themes during the 1930s, although he is particularly known for his geometrically formulated lithographs of urban cityscapes. In his later work a romantic impulse occasionally surfaces.

Lozowick attended Kiev Art School from 1904-1906 before he immigrated to the USA, where he continued his studies at the National Academy of Design (New York) and Ohio State University. From 1919 to 1924 Lozowick lived and traveled throughout Europe, spending most of his time in Paris, Berlin and Moscow. In the mid-1920s he started making his first lithographs.

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By 1926, when he joined the editorial board of the left-wing journal, New Masses, he was well-versed in current artistic developments in Europe, such as Constructivism and de Stijl. These hard-edged, linear styles, evident in a lithograph called “New York (Brooklyn Bridge),” suggest the possibility of an efficient reframing of the world, as did the political theories espoused in New Masses. A version of this lithograph was planned as a cover for New Masses that was never published.

Lozowick was highly interested in the development of the Russian avant-garde and even published a monograph on Russian Constructivism entitled Modern Russian Art.

In 1943 Lozowick moved to New Jersey where he continued to paint and make prints. The human condition remained a constant theme of his art, and an ongoing interest in nature appears more frequently in his later works.

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Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper was born in 1882, in NY, into a middle class family. From 1900 to 1906 he studied at the NY School of Art, and while in school, shifted from illustration to works of fine art. Upon completing his schooling, he worked as an illustrator for a short period of time; once this career path ended, he made three international trips, which had a great influence on the future of his work, and the type of art he would engage in during the course of his career. He made three trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910. In retrospect, Europe meant France, and more specifically, Paris, for Edward Hopper. This city , its architecture, light, and art tradition, decisively affected his development.

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When he arrived in 1906, Paris was the artistic center of the Western world; no other city was as important for the development of modern art. The move toward abstract painting was already underway; Cubism had begun. There, in 1907, Picasso painted his legendary Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Hopper, however, later maintained that when he was in Paris he never heard of Picasso, who was to become so important for the development of modern literature. For Hopper, the encounter with Impressionism was decisive. The light in these paintings and the thematic treatment of architecture and nature particularly attracted him and were to influence all of his work. His reaction to the Impressionists is directly reflected in his own art. He forgot the dark, Old Master-like interiors of his New York student days, when he was influenced mainly by the great European artists – Francisco Goya, Caravaggio, El Greco, and Diego Velazquez. The influence of Impressionists, such as Monet, Cezanne, and Vincent van Gogh is directly reflected in his own art. His palette lit up and he began to paint with light and quick strokes. Even in 1962, he could say, “I think I’m still an Impressionist.”
In 1910 Hopper returned to the United States, never to leave North America again. During the 1910s, Edward Hopper struggled quite a bit to gain any recognition for the works he had created. During this period a number of his works were distributed through various shows and exhibits in New York, but very little, if any attention, was given to his pieces. Oil painting was a focal point of the work he had done, but a majority of the sales he made during this period, was for works he had created doing etching work and murals.

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At the age of 37, Edward Hopper received his first open invitation to do a one person exhibit, featuring some of this finest pieces of art. 16 pieces of his work were shown at the Whitney Club, and although none of the pieces were sold at this exhibit, it did point his career in a new direction, it got his art work out to the general public, and he became a more notable name in the type of work and the art forms which he most wanted to focus his career on, for the future works he would create.

A few years later, Edward Hopper found his career had taken a turn for the better, and he was doing well in sales, and financially with the works he had created. He was invited to do a second one person exhibit, to feature new works, and to create a buzz about the work he had created in recent years. The Frank KM Rehn Gallery in NYC, was where this second exhibit took place, and it received far more attention and a much larger crowd, due to the location where the exhibit was taking place, and also because of the fact that more people were now aware of the works Edward Hopper had created.

House by the Railroad, was a famous painting created by the artist, which was the first work to be acquired for the Museum of Modern Art, which had only recently been opened for general viewing. Strongly defined lighting, clearly defined lines, and cropped viewpoints, were some of the features which this art work captured; and, this embodied the style in which Edward Hopper would use later on in his career, and with the future works that he would produce during the course of his career as an artist.

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In 1923, Edward Hopper married a fellow student who attended the NY Academy where he got his education, Josephine Nivision. Not only did she pose for nearly half of the female figure pieces which he created during his career, she also encouraged and pushed him to engage in different art forms during his career as well. She pushed him to work with water colors, and she kept records of all the pieces he designed, the exhibits he was to be a part of, and all of the sales of the pieces which were made, during these exhibits in which his work was presented.

In 1933, Edward Hopper received further praises for the works he had done, and for a piece that was on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. His highly identifiable style, and mature painting styles, were some things he had become known for during this period. The gorgeous landscapes, the quiet rooms and empty rooms he designed, and the transitory effect which many of his works posed, created a sense of contemporary life and a new style, which many in the art world recognized, and many praised him for this distinct style he had created in his art forms.

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In Edward Hopper’s most famous piece, Nighthawks, there are four customers and a waiter, who are in a brightly lit diner at night. It was a piece created during a wartime; and many believe that their disconnect with the waiter, and with the external world, represent the feelings of many Americans during this period, because of the war. The piece was set up in 1942, in the Art Institute of Chicago, and was seen by many people while it was on exhibit for a show.

Between the 1930s and 1950s, Edward Hopper and his wife spent quite a bit of time, and most of their summers, visiting Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In many of the works that Hopper created during this period, many of the scenes, the common locations, and nearby attractions which they visited, were often seen in the art forms that he created during his career. He also started to travel further out, and visited regions from Vermont out to Charleston, in order to add more new points of interest to his collection, and to broaden the works and the locations which he would include in many of the images that he created over the course of his career.

--Dawn in Pennsylvania (c) Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

Later in his career, many of his works were displayed in various exhibits, namely at the Whitney Museum, which was located in New York City. Later in his career, during the 1940s, was a period in which he found the most commercial success. But, soon after, and even during this time period, he began losing critical favors. This was namely due to the new forms of art, and the fact that abstract pieces were beginning to enter the art world, which took over the work he did, as well as the work of many famous artists prior to him.

The themes of the tensions between individuals and the conflict between tradition and progress in both rural and urban settings, are motif that Edward Hopper always returns to, as artists have always returned to their beloved themes – Van Gogh his Sun Flowers, and Monet his Water Lilies. His choices of subject matter – particularly the places he painted – seem to have been somewhat unpredictable, since they were part of his constant battle with the chronic boredom that often stifled his urge to paint. This is what kept Hopper on the move – his search for inspiration, least painfully found in the stimulation of new surroundings.

Great art is the outward expression of an inner life of the artist, and this innerlife will result in his personal vision of the world.” – Edward Hopper

In the 1940s and 1950s, Hopper found himself losing critical favor in the wake of Abstract Expressionism. Among the new vanguard art movement emerged in the early 1940s, artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko advanced audacious formal inventions in a search for significant content. By breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, those artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches, and attempted to tap into universal inner sources. But Hopper continues on to paint the feeling familiar to most humans – the triste embedded in existence, in our intimate knowledge of the solitude of the self. Although the 20th century was the heyday of Sigmund Freud and Freudian Psychoanalysis, if ever Hopper felt his psyche was distorted, he did not want it corrected, for art came from who the artist was in every way. He did not wish to tamper with his subconscious nor his personal vision of the world. Hopper never lacked popular appeal, however, and by the time of his death in 1967, Hopper had been reclaimed as a major influence by a new generation of American realist artists.

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Wednesday 6th June 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 6, 2018 by bishshat

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Tuesday 5th June 2018

Posted in Life the Universe and Other Things on June 5, 2018 by bishshat

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