Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seeing is Believing

In the last post, “The Comb in the Museum,” I described the differences among works of art, art, andeveryday experiences.  I suspect I do not have to convince you, the dedicated readers of these posts, that your own perceptive analysis of a work of art will produce aesthetic understanding of the color statement embedded in its subject.

That said, I also suspect you may still have questions about how to assess creativity or determine originality.

I have not directly tackled these concepts yet, although I have hinted at them.

I wrote this post because I recently read a piece in the New York Times that said Cy Twombly (who died this past Tuesday, July 5) was influenced by Nicolas Poussin. It said that the two artists had the following in common:

1.     Each artist was around 30 when he moved to Rome: Poussin in 1624 and Twombly in 1957.

2.     Each spent a majority of his life in Italy and became a famous painter of his era.

3.     When each was 64, he created canvases of the four seasons.

4.     Poussin is one of Twombly’s heroes.

5.     Twombly’s painting, Arcadia, made in 1958, features the word Arcadia scrawled across the canvas.

6.     Poussin’s painting, Arcadian Shepherds, from about 1628, depicts shepherds coming across a sarcophagus and deciphering the inscription etched on it, “Et in Arcadia Ego” (even in Arcadia, I exist). 

7.     Nicholas Cullinan, curator of international modern art at Tate Modern, who curated the Twombly retrospective there in 2008, said both artists “are dealing with death’s omnipresence in life.”

The idea for the current exhibit of work of Poussin and Twombly at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London originated with Cullinan who said Twombly spoke of Poussin repeatedly.  Twombly is quoted as saying, “I would have liked to have been Poussin, if I’d had a choice, in another time.”

Perhaps Woody Allen will write a sequel to “Midnight in Paris” and portray Twombly slipping back into the seventeenth century so he can meet his idol.

I ask you to examine the following two paintings.  Write an objective analysis comparing and contrasting them.  Send me your response via e-mail (click here for address).  I will select one response, post it here (with your permission), and mail the writer a copy of my book Edward L. Loper, Sr.: The Prophet of Color.

The deadline for your entry is July 21.

Since both images are digital reproductions, take into consideration the impossibility of seeing the nuances of tiny detail—scratches, penciled fragments, etc.—in Twombly’s picture.  I am asking you to consider objectively the reasons given for the comparison of these two artist’s work.  If you think they are good reasons, say why.  If you think they are not, say why not.

Here are the pictures:

Nicolas Poussin, Arcadian Shepherds (Et in Arcadia Ego)
1630, Oil on canvas, Chadsworth (Derbyshire)
Collection of the Duke of Devonshire
Cy Twombly, Arcadia, 1958, Oil-based house paint, wax crayon,
                                                    coloured pencil, lead pencil on canvas, Daros Collection,
Once I post the response, and you have a chance to review it, I will begin a series of posts describing the role the traditions of art play in the development of an artist’s form.  I will use Edward L. Loper, Sr.’s paintings as the objects of study.

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