Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Fundamental Transference: Great Artists' Expressions of the Abstract Didn't Come Straight Away

Take a look at the nearby painting.

Who do you think created it?

Don't worry if you have no clue. I imagine there are art history professors who might not know.

I certainly wouldn't if I hadn't found it on WikiArt.org.

And I wouldn't have found it if I didn't look for it.

I love killing time on WikiArt, on which you can find rather comprehensive career-spanning galleries of works by almost any artist you can name.

And many that you can't.

But for art lovers, the painter of the above work is far from unknown. He is just much more famous for paintings in the much more abstract style that he would subsequently develop and employ for the bulk of his career.

As a fairly fervent visitor to art museums and exhibitions around the world, one of the things that has long fascinated me--especially in viewing single-artist retrospectives--is seeing the early works by painters well-known for distinctive abstract or more minimalist styles.

Almost invariably, my eyes are opened to how deft these artists initially were in more traditional, classical and/or realist realms.

In other words, they knew how to paint before they would break down conventions as Fauvism, Abstract Expressionism and other popular (and perhaps deceptively simplistic seeming) "Modern Art" schools arose--in some cases, around them.

I admittedly lack the acuity and expertise to turn this into an astute dissertation about artistic evolution & development, or to acutely focus--as I have previously--on the relative mediocrity of what passes for museum-quality contemporary art (and even what I perceive as a dearth of latter-day greatness across many creative realms).

Thus it would be brazenly moronic of me to question the current curricula within art schools, especially as I have never attended any.

And though I am only being candid in saying that I have rarely cared for contemporary art I have seen in museums, I do not mean to be derisive of any specific artist's effort or integrity, and I have virtually no clue about typical or individual education, training, development, influences or inspirations--which obviously can vary greatly, regardless of any end work I may have seen.

The few fine artists I do know all do seem to have had classical training, so it would be easy for anyone to legitimately quarrel with my thesis--if I really had one.

But as flighty and flawed as it may be, my supposition is this, and it has been supported by people who have studied or taught art and/or are avid observers of the art scene:

The proliferation of artistic learning on computers, whether partially, predominantly or entirely, has reduced the quantity and quality of fine artists, particularly in the realm of painting.

Combined with a heightened pressure for artists to be seen as unique, this seems to create a situation in which contemporary artists--even, or perhaps especially, the most celebrated--more so start with a "gimmick" rather than get there over time and distillation, as in the case of some of the famed abstractionists, expressionists, minimalists, etc. whose early work I've included here.

Any greater significance or consequence will be left up to your own interpretation and imagination. I will simply post several more traditional early works from painters you may not suspect, allowing anyone so inclined to try to guess the artist of each.

Underneath the selection of early works, I'll reveal the painter of each piece--referencing the key letters under each work--accompanied by a more emblematic example of his oeuvre.










The painters of the above works and examples of their more famous styles

A) Joan Miro

B) Piet Mondrian

C) Mark Rothko

D) Wassily Kandinsky

E) Pablo Picasso

F) Jackson Pollack

G) Willem De Kooning

H) Henri Matisse

I) Edgar Degas

J) Jean Dubuffet

K) Arshile Gorky

L) Marc Chagall

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