Posted on Leave a comment

What is a Flashmob? History and Meaning Behind the Movement

Historically speaking, the word “mob” has been associated with acts of violence, or at the very least, social upheaval.

You’ve probably heard of an “angry mob” before, in reference to a group of angry people toting pitchforks and torches, usually motivated to march based on some socio-political injustice or another, perceived or real.

angry-mob-1-1

A “flashmob” is essentially a reclamation of the term “mob” by putting a much more positive spin on it in the form of performance art.

Generally speaking, a “flashmob” is a gathering of a certain number of people that takes place in a public space that happens seemingly mysteriously and lasts for ten minutes or perhaps less, with the intention of surprising, delighting, and sometimes confusing onlookers.

These gatherings came to be popular as the age of social media and smart technology grew, allowing for people to more easily connect, and more easily organize such a spontaneous and exciting event as a flashmob by way of Facebook group, or a flurry of texts.

history of the flashmob

During flashmobs, people dance, sing or just freeze in place, not moving for a couple of minutes.  As such, flash mobs do have some connection to the idea of musical theatre, in their exuberance and choreography.

This gives the general impression to anyone watching that these flash-mobbers showed up out of nowhere, almost like magic, and then disappear without any trace.

Flash mobs can be for artistic sake, for fun, or they can be for the purpose of advertising some event or product.  They can even be political.

Generally, however, flashmobs capture the spirit of fun in any populated location and change the whole atmosphere of that place, which may otherwise be mundane, into something exciting and unifying.

Here is an example of a flashmob in action.

History

Officially, the first known flashmob happened in 2003, when a senior editor of Harper’s Magazine – Bill Wasik – anonymously organized one in Manhattan, New York.

Here is Bill speaking on his idea of what flashmobs are all about.

That first Manhattan flashmob turned out to be a well-executed event, that attracted participants to come before any action occurred to a few different bars, located near the place where the flashmob occurred, where they got more information about what to do just before the start of an event.

Around 130 people spread through the Macy’s store by looking for a “love rug” for their suburban commune.

According to Wasik, he just wanted to create a type of social experiment that lampooned the next “hot new thing”, in a very American way of always looking for the next big event or cultural change.

As a result, flashmobs became a rather powerful for people in the US because the tradition of public space in the country was seeming to be lost, and, if nothing else, flashmobs expressed a way to reclaim public space, if only for a short time.  In some ways, this could seen as a “fight the power”, “stick it to the man”, anti-corporate move.

Here is a popular flashmob production that has made the rounds on Youtube – maybe you’ve seen this.

While this flashmob happened outside, and has been inspiring people since it was performed and uploaded, many flashmobs occur indoors.

As you know if you are from an urban area, cities are known for their many shopping malls, where modern consumer people spend their leisure time.  To some, this is fine, and acceptable, while others take some issue with the concept of malls in one way or another, with one major reason being that a mall is a “public space” that is not actually public, and very limited in terms of how one might express themselves there.  It is typically not a place to be “free”.

For example if you were to try to express yourself in that public space, you would realize very quickly how non-public that space actually is. In fact, it is completely corporate and under strict control.

inside a shopping center

Yet, at the same time as a mall is a very controlled place, it in and of itself has the perfect characteristics to become a stage for performers to perform in.  The only problem is that malls typically do not allow for performances of dancing and music to just suddenly appear.  This is where flashmobs come into play.

Back in 2003, Bill Wasik was interested in what you can and can not do in regular public spaces in this day and age. He organized eight flashmobs that summer and what was astonished to find that by the end of that summer, the idea of flashmobs spread not only through the whole country, but abroad too!

Bill Wasik’s initiative evolved into something that he couldn’t control anymore – the cat was out of the bag, so to speak! – and so then transformed him into an observer of subsequent flashmobs.

Flashmobs in Advertising

After that fateful summer of 2003, the idea of flashmobs via the internet has spread throughout the whole world, becoming a true viral sensation.

What began partly as a bit of a prank and partly as a social experiment in New York City had now become part of popular culture, and the idea was being related via the internet and word of mouth, becoming a “thing”, as it were.

From school performances to political protests to advertising and promotional events – flashmobs as a creative way to express people’s ideas have become popular all around the globe.

flashmob advertising

One of the main reasons why flashmobs become popular around the world is that they are unexpected and catchy. It affects the viewer in a positive way – he becomes not only an observer but also a participant too.

Because of the flashmob’s tendency to be quite memorable due to their surprising nature, they are a great way to promote something in advertising.

T-Mobile, a german communications company supported a flashmob that took place in Liverpool Street Station in 2009.

Suddenly people from the crowd started to dance to popular music hits by involving more and more people. It brought joy for people and was a unique way to promote a company’s brand.

 

Train stations are also very suitable places for flashmobs because they are spacious and always have an audience. Another huge flashmob was created the same year, 2009, this time in Antwerp, Belgium central station when 200 people danced according to legendary musical “The Sound of Music” song “Do Re Mi”. This performance succeeded and became very popular on the internet.

In 2013 April in a shopping mall of Breda, Netherlands the famous painting of Rembrandt The Night Watch was recreated of a theatrical action of people dressed in 17th-century clothes. The main idea was to announce that Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national museum in Amsterdam is reopening after 10 years of renovation.

What started as a social experiment later become an important tool to express social, political, and cultural ideas, and gave an opportunity to everyone who is interested to participate in this vital global movement.

Flashmob as a political act

Since flash mobs had spread through different countries, various initiatives took the idea and used it for their purposes.

In 2013 Members of the European Parliament together with an activist Eve Ensler initiated a flash mob, which was dedicated to ending violence against women. This particular flashmob encouraged others to organize flash mobs not only in Brussels but in other places too.

Another famous flashmob also appeared in 2015 in Kyiv, when a crowd of Ukrainian people together at the same moment fall down and lay on the ground for one minute.

The idea was to show how many people suffer and died during the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Both countries are still participating in the military actions against each other, so peaceful reflection of those events could send a very powerful message to the world.

In 2019, during the protests in Hong Kong, demonstrators used a flashmob technique – they popped in different locations in small groups because that allowed them to disappear quickly when police came to act against the protesters. They also made flashmobs during which they sang symbolic resistance songs.

Thank you for reading this article about flashmobs.  If you have seen or been a part of any flashmobs and you’d like to share your experience, please mention it in the comments below.

MORE FROM THIS SITE

What is Yarn Bombing? About the Guerrilla Knitting Art Movement

What Is Street Art? Its History, Definition, Purpose, and Importance

What Is Installation Art? Description, History, and Prominent Artists

 

Posted on Leave a comment

What is Yarn Bombing? About the Guerrilla Knitting Art Movement

what is yarn bombing

What is Yarn Bombing?

Yarn bombing is part street art, part graffiti, and part activism, which combines the seemingly “cute” and comforting elements of knitting and crocheting, with the revolutionary and mild civil disobedience of graffiti / “tagging” of public objects, in order to make some sort of artistic statement.

Yarn bombing, aka “guerrilla knitting”, can be done to smaller, more innocuous objects like a water pipe or tree branch, highlighting them in some way and making you notice them (whereas you may not have before), or, on the other extreme, it can be done to big things like a bus or stairs, a statue, or even a tank!  Yarn bombing certainly draws attention!

The overall purpose of yarn bombing is to make a statement, by changing the way we look at things. But when did it start?  Let’s take a look!

yarn bombing tree

Magda Sayeg & the History of Yarn Bombing (Knitta Please)

Yarn bombing basically started in 2005 in Houston, USA, when a woman named Magda Sayeg created her first “yarn-bomb” artwork, inadvertently, when she put some knitting over her door knob.

Just a small gesture, but it got the ball (no pun intended) rolling, because people started to notice and give her positive feedback.

Magda would be the first to admit that she didn’t think that her one little knitted door handle would grow to become a movement, that would go on to change her life and be done throughout the world.

Magda Sayeg yarn bomb history

Visit Magda’s website here

Soon after, she started a group called Knitta Please which is a community of like-minded knitters who like the idea of beautifying public spaces.

But what made her do it in the first place?  The reason why Magda yarn-bombed her door handle was simple – she just wanted to put something warm and cozy-looking on a cold urban material that she sees every day.

When you think about it, this instinct is quite natural, but to some people, it’s a slightly weird idea. People can understand putting a cozy on a teapot, but a doorknob?  Why dress up your doorknob?  Well, why not!

Magda didn’t stop with her doorknob. She decided to go to the public space and wrap the stop sign near her house. No big deal, right?

Well, it caused a public reaction: people not only stopped by to look at it but also started to take pictures of this unique view that they saw.  Was this a joke?  Who would put yarn on a stop sign?

stop-sign

Peoples’ reactions to her new hobby influenced Magda to continue her work by placing her knitting over more and more things, and so the movement began.  Some people didn’t like this, but some did, and that was all it took to start the trend.

Little did the unsuspecting public know that there was a group forming, in the form of Knitta Please, where all the knitters have their own “handles”, based loosely on hip hop and graffiti culture. Names include: Knotorious N.I.T., SonOfaStitch, P-Knitty, PolyCotN, and AKrylik, to name a few.

yarnbomb-paris

The “bombs” began slowly.  A few poles, and then some trees, and a few other “normal” objects started to get this new “look”, providing them with a positive vibe that people maybe didn’t see before.

Knitta Please grew and grew, and together with Magda’s growing passion, her curiosity what else could be “bombed” grew as well.

They stuck to hip hop conventions, even putting knitted sneakers over telephone lines the way that gangs did it to express their dominance of a given territory, although the prevailing message in this case was a message of niceness, as opposed to aggression.

yarn bombing sneakers

The things these “guerrilla knitters” decided to “dress up” became bigger and bigger, with one big project being the wrapping of a whole bus in Mexico City.

This action gave way to another POV, a new perspective on yarn bombing, and changed her career further because she became known by her artwork to the other people.

Another interesting thing happened after the bus: according to Magda, yarn bombing had stopped belonging to only her, and it became a fully functional art movement across the world.

The more people saw wrapped up things in the public areas, the more started to repeat it by creating their own pieces in different places all around the world.

yarn bombing trees

Magda proved that there is no object in the public place, which cannot be yarn bombed. From a door handle at her home to statues, to tanks, to basically *anything*.

Her installations brought joy and gave life to the grey and cold urban environment and that showed that by using imagination, art can be created everywhere and from all kinds of materials.

The Movement Grows

Since the message of this new type of street art spread through the whole wide world, more and more artists tried to create new and exciting projects by using the yarn bombing technique.

Some of those artists became very well known, like London Kaye. (visit her website here: https://www.londonkaye.com/)

She started to knit when she was thirteen years old, but her perspective on knitting was pretty much traditional, till she saw one girl with a crocheted bag and thought “ohh, that’s cool!”  From there it became more or less an obsession.

London Kaye

After she put her knitted scarf on a tree for the first time, London got excited and realized that this could be the beginning of something new and important in her life.

She loves to watch people’s reactions to her work and these many positive feelings pushed her to keep creating even more.

The main tool she knits with is a needle printed by 3-D printer. According to Kaye, yarn is a great material for creating art because it is flexible, allowing for stretching and manipulation of shapes, which opens the door for lots of different possibilities.

Started with water pipes and trees, London had created many works for various companies.

She implemented an idea of a crocheted 25-foot-by-50-foot billboard for Miller Lite Beer in Times Square, New York.

Miller Lite Beer yarn bomb

Also, Kaye did some yarn bombing in one of the New York metro trains on Valentine’s day and people’s reaction was generally very friendly – they smiled, took pictures, and said compliments to the artist for her idea.

Kaye’s activities have in and of themselves, inspired many knitters to take up the needles and start knitting. She invited knitters from New York to bring various pieces of knittings, they could all create together.

As a result of this gesture, one big crochet was created and hung on one of the fences in the city. It showed that everyone can try to create something in unison and yarn bombing can help to bring the community together.

Yarn bombing as a political statement

Since the beginning of the yarn bombing, it has brought people together, but it is more than a happy-go-lucky movement.  There is a sense of activism around it.

One of the examples of “political” yarn-bombing is a tank in Dresden, Germany. This idea to do this controversial act was born for Kristina Kroemer, who is a political scientist and owns a fashion design store.

She was interested in Dresden’s history, the city was completely destroyed during WWII, so the war topic was always inseparable from the town. Her cause was, in a nutshell – good vs. evil.

So, she put her knitting on this tank, which was in front of the Military Museum. According to her, after this act, the tank looked rather innocent, almost harmless – creating an anti-military statement.

yarn bomb tank

Similar statements had been made about the war in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

With all kinds of crocheted objects bringing joy and inspiration to people, yarn bombing has spread through many countries and inspired many meaningful movements.

Have you seen any yarn bombs lately?  Leave a comment below!

What is a Flashmob? History and Meaning Behind the Movement

Recommended Yarn Bombing Videos

Posted on 1 Comment

The Iconic Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock has had a tremendous impact on the art world during his tumultuous 44 years of life. The youngest of five, Jackson grew up to be an influential pioneer in the abstract expressionism movement.

Jackson Pollock struggled in his life with addiction, and he had a volatile personality, coupled with a need for reclusion.

He married artist Lee Krasner in 1945, who ultimately became a massive influence on his career and his work.

jackson pollock lee krasner

Pollock died in 1956 at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related car accident. He was honored after his death with a memorial exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Tate in London.

Pollock was well known for his techniques used in his most famous works. Pouring and splashing paint onto a large surface, called action painting and the drip technique, allowed for his work to be viewed from any angle.

He used his whole body to create his work and incorporated a dancing style into his work. His work was met with divided responses from the critics, which was loved by some and hated by others.

One of his paintings, called Number 17A, was sold for $200 million USD in 2016 to a private seller.

Number 17A

“It doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” – Jackson Pollock

Influences

In 1929, he studied in New York at the Student’s League under Thomas Hart Brenton.

During his time there, he worked with the regionalist and surrealist styles. He was influenced by Mexican muralist work by painters like Digo Rivera. In 1939 during a Picasso exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, it inspired Pollock to change his style.

pollock the she wolf

Jackson Pollock had some notable influences in his work. Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and Thomas Hart Benton were among the most significant, but Ukrainian-American artist Janet Sobel was a direct influence on his technique development. He has admitted that her work made an impression on him.

His Work

Pollock used sticks, basting syringes, hardened brushes, and other random items as applicators for household paints. He suggested that his use of these paints were a natural part of his growth in a time of need, rather than using typical artist paints.

Jackson Pollock is thought to have coined the action painting style. His style allowed him to create immediate art, without regard for small details or time-consuming techniques. He broke boundaries by applying paint to the canvas from all directions.

Here is some old footage of Pollock doing painting in his “action” style.

“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.

I continue to get further away from the usual painter’s tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.

When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise, there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.” — Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1956

the accountant painting pollock

The technique he used to create his drip paintings helped steer the direction of American art in a new direction and was one of the most individual styles of the century.

His style was a large piece of the abstract expressionist pie; his creations evoked emotion, demonstrated mood, and expression while giving a sneak peek into the mind of the creator.

Another technique Pollock used was the All-over Method. There is no real emphasis in the piece, and the canvas is covered corner to corner.

When he reached a super-stardom level, he abandoned his signature style, and this era produced paintings darker in nature. They’re referred to as his black pourings, and they were not well received by the masses.

pollock dark paintings

Pollock was giving his work traditional names until eventually, he decided to number them because they were more neutral than conventional titles. He didn’t want to influence his viewer’s opinion of his work in any way.

His work has been both highly criticized and adored by many. Over the years, his paintings have been the subject of various debates trying to deem his paintings as iconic or meaningless.

His Legacy

Jackson Pollock quickly rose to fame, but he continued to question the relevance of his artwork, and the height of his career peaked in the early 1950s.

Jackson Pollock is still known as an innovator in the art community in the abstract expressionism movement. He has inspired countless artists to abandon boundaries and take risks.

jackson_pollock

Artists like Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Arshile Gorky, Pollock’s style, and fame helped draw attention to these artists at this time.

He single-handedly changed the trajectory of a whole genre of art during his lifetime, and his premature death cemented his legendary status. His paintings still sell for millions of dollars, and he is still tremendously influential to artists who are still finding their signature style.

The home that Pollock shared with his wife Lee is now a museum. People travel from all over the world to see Pollock’s studio, where the floor still looks like one of his many creations. This is a place that helped bring a new style of art into popularity.

“The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.” – Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock Videos

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Pollock

https://www.jackson-pollock.org

https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/jackson-pollock-quotes

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/a-23-2005-10-15-voa2-83123777/123976.html

Posted on Leave a comment

Piet Mondrian – from De Stijl to Broadway Boogie Woogie

piet mondrian

Pieter Cornelis Mondrian was a Dutch painter, became one of the first well known Abstract art painters and with his unique style influenced many modern art creators.

Background

Piet Mondrian was born on 7th March 1872 in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

He was a second child in a family, which was filled with artists, so art became a part of Piet‘s life naturally at an early age.

His father, together with his uncle, used to paint local landscapes and even was a qualified drawing teacher. According to historians, his uncle was the person who has taught him basics of drawing.

While growing up in the Amersfoort, Mondrian saw how the whole town was changing.

A new shopping street, tramway, and railway – becoming a modern city, Amersfoort showed that the world was changing and becoming a new, industrial place with new shapes and ideas.

piet mondrian young

According to Inge Vos, who leads a guided tour about Mondrian‘s life, all these changes could have had an impact on Mondrian‘s interest in technology and change that developed his style into minimalistic and abstract.

piet mondrian self portrait

Practicing to become an artist

In 1892 Mondrian enrolled the Academy of Fine Art in Amsterdam.

At that time, he was working as a drawing teacher, but also was working on his own style by painting traditional Dutch landscapes of fields with windmills and rivers.

He was experimenting with the primary colors by combining Post-impressionism and Fauvism painting styles.

A good example of his work could be “Evening Red Tree”, created between 1908 – 1910.

Piet_Mondrian,_1908-10,_Evening;_Red_Tree_(Avond;_De_rode_boom),_oil_on_canvas,_70_x_99_cm,_Gemeentemuseum_Den_Haag

This painting combines a realistic object, a tree, and an expressive palette of colors, which was inspired by another Dutch painter – Vincent Van Gogh.

After creating this drawing, Mondrian visited an exhibition of cubists’ works in 1911 in Amsterdam.

He was so inspired by what he saw, that shortly after, he decided to move to Paris and get to know more about Cubism and meet a leader of this movement – Pablo Picasso.

In the spring of 1912, Piet painted “The Flowering Apple Tree”, which shows how Mondrian was influenced by Cubism.

the flowering apple tree 1912

This work combines his ideas of traditional painting and strict shapes of Cubism.

Thus began the beginning of his way towards becoming a painter of a totally new area of minimalism and abstract art.

De Stijl

When World War I started in 1914, Mondrian was visiting the Netherlands and he decided to stay till the conflict will end.

At that time he was describing himself as a Cubist, but he was still looking for an inspiration to convey his ideas and improve as an artist.

This is why he joined “De Stijl” (The Style) – a movement of the artists and architects, dedicated to the neoplasticism ideas.

Together with the movement, the other Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg released a magazine with the same name “De Stijl”, which gave a voice to the artists to spread their ideas and theories about the art.

De_Stijl,_Vol._1,_no._1,_Delft,_October_1917_(detail)

This activity of Mondrian is considered as interesting and unique because most of the artists didn’t write about their ideas, they used to paint as the only form to express it. That said, manifestos were becoming all the rage.

On the other hand, Mondrian was becoming an abstract painter and to avoid wide interpretations of his art, it was better to talk about his ideas to the public.

France: Evolution of an artist

The end of World War I marks Mondrian’s journey to becoming one of the more unique and modern abstract art purveyors of his time.

In 1918, when Piet returned to Paris, he started to create grid-based abstract paintings, which combined clear black lines and vivid primary colors of yellow, blue and red.

Mondrian,_Composition_with_color_planes_and_gray_lines,_1918

Between 1920 and 1921, more and more space in his drawings was changed by involving a white color, leaving bright primary colors just as details in the whole space.

London and New York

Fear of the growing power of Fascism in Europe led Mondrian to run from Paris to London in 1938.

Piet_Mondrian_and_Pétro_van_Doesburg

It was mainly because his art didn’t fit in any rules of regime, which was uprising very fast in Europe.

For the safety of expressing his ideas along with he himself, the artist left Europe in 1940, shortly after World War II had started. New York was a breath of fresh air to Mondrian.

A modern city with inspiration at every corner, fulfilled with a new culture and jazz music, which Mondrian enjoyed a lot, and the most important – freedom to create whatever he wanted and dreamed of.

Piet Mondrian was not married, but according to historians, he uses to go out to the jazz concerts a lot, where he could dance and flirt with beautiful women.

Influence of American culture: Broadway Boogie Woogie

In 1943, Piet Mondrian finished his work called “Broadway Boogie Woogie”, which was different from his abstract works.

The style of this painting was similar to previous works: he painted small and larger squares by using primary colors by invading a simple white, but the main difference was, that this works was inspired and even wanted to repeat the things of the real-life such as busy daily life in Manhattan.

Little colored squares symbolize its buildings and the whole microflora of a city.

2eb74-mondrian-broadway-boogie-woogie

Next to that, it looks very dynamic too, like a boogie-woogie dance style and what is also interesting, from nowadays perspective it looks like a scene from the 90‘s computer game, which is fascinating.

Piet Mondrian was highly influenced by the American culture, he enjoyed nights out in the jazz clubs, which clearly inspired him to live the life he wanted and to shout to the world about a new modern era.

piet-mondrian-600x420


Videos about Piet Mondrian

Posted on 1 Comment

Vincent van Gogh and The Path from Dying Alone in an Asylum to Most Popular Painter Ever

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, one of the most important post-impressionists of Western art history.

Vincent was immensely talented, a talent which was always known to his loyal bother Theo.  Vincent wrote to Theo at the end of his life when Vincent was institutionalized.  Vincent was always down on his luck for his entire life.

Despite his mental health problems, from which he suffered for many years, Van Gogh left many inspiring works, which shaped modern art.

Not merely shaped modern art, but Vincent’s art is actually more synonymous with fine art.   His work has been celebrated across the world by those who appreciate his color choices, and his way of capturing the world.

irises

The sad irony is that Vincent, in his own time, was a “nobody”.  If only Vincent could have seen into the future.

Vincent is known for cutting his own ear off,  and as a poster boy for the tortured artist.

Vincent-Van-Gogh-Artist-Figure-5

Poster boy couldn’t be more literal in this case.  Vincent and his hacked off ear, have appeared now on countless posters.  Many of his other posters feature views he painted while his mental state was crumbling.   At that time, Vincent was institutionalized at the Saint-Paul Asylum, in St-Remy de Provence, near Arles, in Southern France.

Here’s a video tour…

In fact, part of the journey of this blog article is to trace the interesting path from a mentally unwell person, dying alone in an asylum, to being on posters in peoples’ homes and on sketchbooks around the world.

vincent van gogh larrge sketchbook

These days, everyone recognizes his brushstrokes and the way he depicts the light in the sky, pastoral scenes, and faces.  It is as distinct to many of us now, just like a signature.  The man behind these strokes only became known in this way after his death.

But let’s travel back to his beginning…

Background

Vincent van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. He grew up in a middle-class family and got interested in painting at an early age at his mother’s suggestion.

When Vincent was growing up, he was a serious and calm person and after he became an adult, he wasn‘t sure which path he should choose.

vincent van gogh young photogaph

In 1869 his uncle obtained a job position for him as an art dealer at Goupil & Cie in London, England.

Vincent kept a close relationship with his brother Theo, by frequently writing letters to each other.  Theo’s wife, being privy to all the correspondence between the two brothers, described Vincent’s years in London, working as an art dealer, as the best in his life.

letters to theo

He was good at his job and it brought him so much happiness. Unfortunately for Vincent, happiness was a fleeting state of mind as he suffered various mental health issues from an early age which always dragged him down.

Van Gogh‘s father was a minister of a Dutch Reformed Church, so religion had always played a special role in his life.   At one point, as a young student, Vincent tried to pass the exam for theological studies at the University of Amsterdam.   When he failed to pas the exam, Vincent was determined to seek out his path in life.

van gogh photo

Becoming a painter

 

Van Gogh birthplace Zundert via Van Gogh Museum

As he continued on his path of self discovery, never once did he stop sketching and painting those important images that surrounded him….still life and farm life.

While Vincent continually doubted himself as an artist, his brother Theo was the one, who encouraged Vincent to keep painting and become a professional artist.

vincent van gogh early work

When he moved from his parents home in Etten to the Hague, his cousin Anton Mauve gave him his first professional drawing lessons in which Van Gogh learned about perspective,  and how to apply paint in watercolor and oils.

With his basic knowledge of painting, Vincent came back to his parents’ home in December 1883, where he could practice by painting ‘peasant life’.

One of his known early works is called “Potato Eaters“, which consists of dark colors, and illustrates a  typical family of the 19th century, eating dinner.

van gogh potato eaters

In Vincent‘s letters to his brother Theo, he explained that the idea of showing peasant‘s hard work by painting their bony hands was more important than drawing everything according to art rules.

This thought of his shows that, Van Gogh from the beginning of his career decided not to be a traditional painter and create only according his own perspective and imagination.

The Path From Unknown to World Famous

Since Vincent‘s brother, Theo was living in Paris at the end of the 19th century, the painter used to spend some time there.

At that time, Paris was an important centre of art for painters in Europe.   Surrounded by modernists, Vincent honed his style one step at a time.  More color was introduced.

van gogh

In 1888, Van Gogh moved to the city of Arles, in the south of France, where his style became more and more free and expressive.

He painted local landscapes of yellow fields and beaches, when french painter Paul Gauguin joined him.  They started to live and create together.

They painted each other‘s portraits, talked about painting and art very passionately.

van-gogh-and-gauguin

From 1888 until Vincent’s death in 1890,  he created his best works of art.  It also marks an incident, which is well known and inseparable from his personality. During one of the discussions with Gauguin, Vincent injured himself and cut his ear.

After this incident with his brother, Theo knew clearly, that Vincent struggled with mental illness and for some time he needed to break with painting, and pay attention to his health.

His Last Year

Things went downhill quickly.  After the ear incident, Vincent was kept at the Psychiatric Hospital in Saint Rémy.

During this time, his brother Theo married Johanna Bonger in Amsterdam, who gave birth to a boy, who was named after his uncle Vincent.

van gogh's family

Vincent was happy for his brother and decided to give him a painting as a gift. Unfortunately, he didn‘t know then, that his painting “Almond Blossom” would become one of his most beautiful and well-known works.

It was interesting that Van Gogh was very ill at that time, but the painting was bright and peaceful, which reflects the relationship he had with his brother Theo.

almond blossoms

In early 1890, Theo was still working as an art seller in Paris when at the exhibition in Brussels, he brought six of Vincent‘s works, including “The Red Vineyard“, which was sold.

More importantly, that exhibition was official appreciation from people, including Paul Gauguin, who was impressed by Van Gogh‘s skills.

Regardless of this recognition and the public‘s positive reactions to his paintings, Vincent still struggled mentally, and couldn’t find peace within himself.

Vincent van Gogh shot himself on the 27th of July and died from injuries on 29th in 1890.

van gogh death suicide news

Morbidly ironic is that even today the gun that he used is famous…

the gun that killed van gogh

Vincent Van Gogh was looking for his path in life, and faced many challenges.  Instead of giving up, he never  stopped creating beautiful art.  Van Gogh’s style became well known all around the world and brought joy to the art lovers everywhere.

Vincent van Gogh’s tragic life still resonates today with many mentally ill people, regardless of how happy they seem, or how much people try to help them.

Vincent van Gogh was a passionate man and a very talented painter.  He was able to capture the world in a unique way, even though his life was tragically ending.

His brother Theo died only 6 months after Vincent from syphilis.

Graves_of_Vincent_and_Théodore_Van_Gogh

Recommended Videos about Vincent van Gogh



Posted on Leave a comment

Meet Mark Rothko

Rothko-New-portrait-photo-color

Mark Rothko was an academic. He skipped grades, spoke four languages, and received a scholarship to Yale. He was a self-taught, diligent creator, and his ability to learn drove him to become an artist.

His skills were intrinsic, as he had very little training in the discipline. Once he realized his art could be a tool of religious and emotional expression, he embraced it. 

mark rothko self portrait

He wanted to bring you to tears. He would even withhold selling you a painting if you didn’t respond in a genuine way, and you were only purchasing from him to be fashionable. 

Seeing an art student sketch a model while visiting a friend at the Art Students League of New York was what started it all for Rothko. Something inside him immediately responded and prompted him to find a way to express himself through art. 

He created 863 pieces over his career, and some of them reside in New York, Madrid, and Daugavpils. 

Tragically, he died by suicide in 1970 at 66 years old. 

mark rothko abstract painting

“I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on, and the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions….If you…are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point.”

Influences

The artists he worked with and looked up to most included Max Weber, Paul Klee, and Georges Rouault. 

Much of Rothko’s work came from intellectual influences. His interpretation of the work of Friedrich Nietzsche heavily influenced him.

What was happening in Nazi Germany at the time, and the aftermath took a toll on him as well. He was a dedicated socialist, so many of his works had political themes and social circumstances littered throughout. 

mrko11-Mark-Rothko-Untitled-Red-on-Red-1000x1000

He also drew inspiration from mythology, stating the “archaic artist … found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods, and demigods…without monsters and gods, art cannot enact a drama.”

early mark rothko

His Work

There were three main phases in Rothko’s style of art: Realist work, Abstract Expressionism, and Colour Field. 

early mark rothko

Realist Work

The Realist style he adapted was early on in his career before he was a full-time artist. Surrealism and artists like Joan Miro primarily influenced him.

The way that surrealism promoted psychologically compelling ideas inspired some of his best work. His style quickly moved in a more abstract direction.  

Abstract Expressionism

His work was entirely abstract by the 1940s, and he was part of the abstract expressionist movement, along with Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Willem de Kooning.

While there weren’t many similarities between these artists, their goals of creating pieces that expressed raw emotion and their free spirits. They preferred to avoid the label “abstract expressionism,” because they wanted their work to speak for itself. 

mark+rothko+untitlled

“I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational. It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing, and stretching one’s arms again, transcendental experiences became possible.” – Mark Rothko

Colour Field

Ultimately becoming his signature style, his colour field pieces are his most well-known. He didn’t use aggressive techniques to portray his concepts but was more deliberate and contemplative in his application of the colours in his work.

color field red and yellow 1968

Comprised of large blocks of colour, typically horizontal rectangles, he aimed to display the rawness of human emotion on the canvas. 

His peers and friends weren’t sold on the methods of his work, and they expected the general public and critics to reject them, but that couldn’t be further from what really happened.

The underlying concepts were well-received because his techniques were organic, emotional, and luminescent.

mark-rothko-untitled

His genius punctured the viewer right in their heart, and this would be the medium he would use to create his art until he passed. 

“I would like to say to those who think of my pictures as serene, whether in friendship or mere observation, that I have imprisoned the most utter violence in every inch of their surface.” ― Mark Rothko

His most famous works are the Scenes in the Subway series, The Seagram’s Murals, and The Rothko Chapel.

entance-to-subway.jpg!Large

His Influence and Legacy

Rothko’s final wishes were that his work would be left to his foundation. He wanted to have a school created as a place for new artists to learn and be inspired and encouraged.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of drama surrounding the provisions in his will, and greed came into play by his executors. Eventually, the rights were rightfully turned over to his son and daughter. 

The impression he left on the world of art is a profound one.

mark_rothko_3

He avidly worked against the “rules” of art and became a visionary. He continues to inspire up-and-coming artists from all over the world, and his impact is still lingering.

He was a risk-taker and was confident in his convictions, becoming a notable inspiration for generations to come. His work is still in museums across the globe today, and he is the face of modern art and walking your own path.  

“When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing. No galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet, it was a golden age, for we all had nothing to lose and a vision to gain.

rothko no. 73

He continues, “Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I shall not venture to discuss.

But I do know that many of those who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them.” ― Mark Rothko

Rothko is featured in our article, “Who Are The Best Abstract Expressionist Painters?

Recommended Videos about Mark Rothko

These are some of the best videos I could find about Mark Rothko which are worth a watch.

Sources: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Rothko

https://www.moma.org/artists/5047

http://www.markrothko.org

Posted on 1 Comment

Who Are The Best Abstract Expressionist Painters?

who are the best abstract expressionist painters

The abstract expressionism art form sprung onto the scene in the 1940s and 1950s by some influential artists. Still, this genre can be traced back to having been popular for over a century.

The art form is denoted by its colourful spontaneity, gestural strokes and marks, and the ability to evoke emotion. 

abstract expressionist painting

The types of abstract expressionism include action painting and colour field painting.

Spontaneous brush strokes and gestures characterize action painting, and colour field painting is characterized by artists working with a large area of a single colour. 

Here are some of the best artists of the abstract expressionism art genre.


convergence

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock is the poster child for the Abstract expressionist movement in the 1940s and 1950s. He was well known for his drip paintings, and they were popular because of the unmatched creativity at the time.

His process coined the action painting title, and he achieved a level of fame that was comparable to what Andy Warhol would achieve decades later.

jackson pollock photo

Pollock put his canvas on the floor, pouring paint, impulsively brushing and creating his masterpieces. Pollock was a leader in the genre, and he would go on to influence future artists in their work. 

“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through.”

Here is an interesting video documentary on Jackson Pollock.

Read our article, “The Iconic Jackson Pollock


sunflower-iii-1969.jpg!Large

Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell was part of the new wave of abstract expressionists who took the genre and softened it, giving it a lyrical and emotional direction.

Another action painter, she used her gestures to become a massive part of the American movement, even though she mostly worked and lived in France.

Joan-Mitchell

She was inspired by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. She is one of the genre and eras few female creators, and she received massive critical acclaim and public recognition. 

“My paintings are titled after they are finished. I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me – and remembered feelings of them, which, of course, become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would more like to paint what it leaves with me.”

Watch this documentary, “Lady Painter”, about Joan Mitchell.


clyfford still

Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still was lesser known than his New York School peers, but he was a pioneer in the genre, creating a style of work that had little to no clear concept or subject matter.

He worked in the colour field painting form, and the common theme in his work is the struggle between nature and the human spirit.

Clyfford Still photo

He was a bit controversial, being labelled as a complicated character to deal with in the art community, as he turned his back on the New York art scene. 

“These are not paintings in the usual sense; they are life and death merging in fearful union. As for me, they kindle a fire; through them, I breathe again, hold a golden cord, find my own revelation.”


worm jacques rosas

Jacques Rosas

Jacques Rosas is a famous artist who works in many different genres, including abstract expressionism, pop art and street art.

He has become popular because of his work being placed in TV shows and films, so it reaches millions of viewers on a weekly basis.

jacques rosas photo

He has been commissioned by many celebrities and continues to be a force in the genre.


gagosian helen frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler was a leading contributor to postwar American art. Her work has spanned and been exhibited for over six decades, and she continued to grow and adapt to an ever-changing art form.

She worked with the colour fielding technique, and she was inspired by Hans Hofmann, Greenberg, and Jackson Pollock’s work.

helen-frankenthaler.jpg!Portrait

Her work has been studied and has been part of many retrospective exhibitions, and it is critically acclaimed and award-winning.

“One really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it. It looks as if it were born in a minute.”

Here is a video documentary featuring Helen Frankenthaler from 1993 that you might like to watch.


woman 1 willem dekooning

Willem de Kooning

One of the most well known and esteemed abstract expressionists, Willem de Kooning adopted the abstract technique while never letting go of the human form in his work.

He admired Rembrandt, Rubens, and Ingres, but was also inspired by Picasso and Matisse.

willem de kooning photo

He embodied the reputation of an alcoholic, troubled painter, which ended up costing him much of his personal life and health. 

“Art should not have to be a certain way. It is no use worrying about being related to something it is impossible not to be related to.”

Watch this documentary called “Willem de Kooning: A Way of Living” to find out more about the artist.


Yellow-Red-Blue

Vasily Kandinsky

Around the early 1910s, Vasily Kandinsky was one of the first abstract expressionists. Truly abstract artwork, he stated, should be “art independent of one’s observations of the external world.”

kandinsky

He believed and taught that colour could be separated from any external references for his artwork purposes. 

 “Colour is a means of exerting direct influence on the soul.”

Read our article, “Concerning Spiritual Art with Wassily Kandinsky”


mondrian-painting

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian’s name is closely connected to Modern Art. His geometric squares of bright, primary colours with thick, black borders are famously known and regarded in the community.

He started his art career heavily influenced by Seurat and Van Gogh. Still, he eventually settled into his unique style.

piet mondrian

The goal of his work was to attain a spiritual connection with the divine, which forced it to become increasingly abstract. 

 “Abstract art is not the creation of another reality but the true vision of reality.”

Here is a cool video about Piet Mondrian called “A Life in 10 Snippets”.  Worth a watch!


rothko color field

Mark Rothko 

Along with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko is one of the most famous abstract expressionists.

His style is much different than his peers, as he diffused paint over his canvas, versus the gestural brushstrokes that the genre mainly demonstrated.

mark rothko

His exemplary work consists of large blobs of paint stacked over each other and painted backdrops, with a bright contrast in colour. His goal was to evoke a range of emotions from his admirers. 

“It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academic painting. However, there is no such thing as good painting about nothing.” 

I recommend this documentary called “The Case For Mark Rothko” to learn more about the artist.

Read my article, “Meet Mark Rothko” to find out more about the artist


A-Martin-copy-1010x1024
Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin was a Canadian-born artist who is considered an innovator of minimal art. However, she thought herself an abstract expressionist.

She was consistently seeking a level of perfection in her work, working with grids, bands and little colour to express her concepts. 

2_Agnes-Martin-1280

“My paintings are not about what is seen. They are about what is known forever in the mind.”

Watch this great documentary about Agnes Martin called “Beauty is in Your Mind”.


Sources for this article: 

https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-abstract-expressionism-artists/reference

https://www.timeout.com/newyork/art/best-abstract-artists-of-all-time

https://www.theartstory.org/movement/abstract-expressionism/

https://www.theartstory.org/artist/de-kooning-willem/

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/abstract-expressionism

https://www.saatchiart.com/jacquesrosas

More Posts You Might Like from Our Site:

Comparing Abstract Expressionism And Pop Art

What Is Expressionism In Art?

Marianne von Werefkin – Women of Expressionism

Posted on Leave a comment

Henri Matisse – Father of Fauvism

Henri Matisse was a french painter, draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor.  He was also the co-founder of the Fauvism art style, and one of the most influential painters of the 20th century.

Henri-Matisse-photograph-Alvin-Langdon-Coburn-1913

Fauvism is a way of painting which is very expressive, and uses non-realistic color schemes to depict natural scenes. This movement, although it didn’t last long, made a huge impact on future artists, like the German Expressionists.


Background

Henri Matisse was born on 31 December 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambresis, Northern France, in a grain merchant‘s family.

His way to the art world wasn‘t straight considering a fact that he didn‘t paint as a child or as a teenager.

Moreover, Matisse studied Law in Paris and after that, he returned to his hometown to practice as a court administrator. During the work there, suddenly he got appendicitis.

young henri matisse

The sickness led to that he needed to spend a lot of time at home in bed, so his mom brought him painting tools, to keep her son busy.

Probably nobody could have expected that this innocent hobby step by step will grow into a huge passion, that totally changes Henri’s life.

In later years, when he will be an experienced artist, he will describe the finding of art as “a kind of paradise”, even his decision to become a professional artist, will be a total shock to his parents.

red-room-henri-matisse


Early years in art

In 1891 Matisse returned to Paris to study art at the Academie Julian. At the beginning of his professional career as an artist, he used to paint still lifes, landscapes or copy other painter works.

He was inspired by such painters as Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, Edouard Manet or Japanese art.

At the beginning of his career, he mostly used a darker earth-colored palette of colors, but it totally changed after he was introduced to Vincent Van Gogh‘s works.

It impacted to use way more vivid colors in his works and that led it to look them more alive and expressive. Henri learned a lot from Australian painter John Russel, who taught him the main color theory.

henri matisse art

Between 1898 and 1901 he tried a Divisionist technique, which was popular among neo-Impressionists. After a couple of years, Matisse wanter to try something new in art, so he started to work with clay and create sculptures.


Fauvism

Henri Matisse‘s name was written in art history not only because of his works in general but because of his new ideas creating art.

Together with french painter Andre Derain he created a new art style of Modern art and called it Fauvism.

Even the movement lasted only a few years between 1904 and 1908 and attained critique‘s attention of its too much usage of colors, it helped for Matisse to develop his style and left paintings such as Woman with a Hat, 1905, which is one of the traits that described him as an artist.

Matisse-Woman-with-a-Hat

Around 1906, Henri Matisse met Cubism pioneer Pablo Picasso. Both artists became close friends for many years and also shared their ideas and perspectives on art.

The main difference between these two painters was that Matisse enjoyed painting from nature and Picasso in his works reflected mostly his imagination.

Henri continued his work by creating various landscapes, portraits and still life, but now he used techniques that prevailed in Cubism. These would include more vivid lines, and things with distinctly clear edges.

fauves matisse

According to Françoise Gilot, who was a partner of Picasso and a mother of his two children, Henri liked to see things from close and even touch it and feel their surfaces, while painting them, for example, alive doves, which he adore to paint.

It helped him to reflect shapes and forms way better in his paintings. Common topics in his works were music and dance – one of the most well-known paintings is Dance I created in 1909-1910.

the-dance

In 1917, Matisse moved to Nice in France and after several years of painting, he achieved critical acclaim as a promoter of the classical tradition in French painting.


“Painting with scissors“

In the last years of his life, Henri Matisse was sitting in a wheelchair and he couldn‘t keep painting as he uses to.

matisse-wheelchair

Instead of that, he found a new way to express his creativity. He took huge scissors and started to cut various things from a paper by creating various compositions and called it “painting with scissors“.

By using this unique technique, he created an art book called “Jazz“, which combined color prints and Matisse‘s handwritten notes with his thoughts during the creating process.

matisse jazz book

This example shows, that his love for art was alive till the last days he lived and despite circumstances, an artistic person can find ways to express himself.

Further reading from our site:

Comparing Abstract Expressionism And Pop Art

What Is Expressionism In Art?

How Georgia O’Keeffe Changed The World

Alexej von Jawlensky – Abstract Heads

Posted on Leave a comment

Alexej von Jawlensky – Abstract Heads

Alexej von Jawlensky is a Russian Expressionist who joined German avant-garde during the early 20th century by mostly creating mesmerizing portraits.

Alexej von Jawlensky

Background

Alexej von Jawlensky was born on 13 March 1864 in Torzhok, Russia. His family moved to Moscow when he was ten years old and after he enlisted in military training, he had visited the Moscow World Exposition and got interested in painting.

That interest quickly began to grow and Alexej started to study painting in St. Petersburg. He had a sociable character, which helped him to get into touch with famous Russian painter Ilja Rapin and later with an older and richer artist Marianne von Werefkin, who made a huge impact in his later life.

alexej-von-jawlensky-bärtiger-alte

Munich – a magnet for artists

Munich was very popular for artists at that time when Alexej moved in in 1896 together with his supporter Marianne von Werefkin, who was his main sponsor to create by providing him financial and emotional support for many years.

He started to study there in the art school by famous Slovene realist painter Anton Ažbe. After much studying, he moved from an academic painter to an innovative colorist.

1911 Alexej von Jawlensky (Russian artist, 1864-1941) Spanish Woman

During his years in Munich, Jawlensky has developed his painting style and created many mesmerizing works. Next to his artistic work, he also participated as a social and active member of the German art community.

Jawlensky together with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter created various groups of artists such as the Neue Künstlervereinigung München and the Blaue Reiter who promoted art styles, prevailed in Europe at that time.

Jawlensky‘s private life was complicated (art historians have different opinions about his relationship with Marianne von Werefkin), but in 1922 he married Werefkin‘s maid Helene Nesnakomoff with whom he already had a son Andreas.

Style

While creating his style, Alexej was influenced by Russian religious art especially by Russian icons, which reminded him of his childhood in Russia.

young-girl-with-a-flowered-hat-alexej-von-jawlensky-1910-5ceb6762

A huge impact for him as an artist had other painters like a Fauve style painters Henri Matisse and Kees van Dongen. Their works gave him an inspiration about expressing emotions by using thick strokes of vivid colors.

Since Jawlensky painted mostly portraits, it was very important for him to analyze and convey his imagination of the human‘s heads shapes and forms.

On one of the most well known Jawlensky‘s works called “Blue cap“, all dominant colors are very vivid: red woman‘s blouse with the yellow dots, unnaturally bright pink skin, green and red background and blue hat – all colors merge altogether which shows a strong mood of the work.

blue cap

The manner to highlight the edges of the person‘s face and body by using a dark blue or black brush came from another expressionist Kees van Dongen who used it in his works in a more subtle way.

This portrait of a woman was painted around 1912, just before the First World War and was influenced by Fauve art, but also at the same time trying the new style Abstractionism, which started to be more and more popular in Europe.

This portrait by Jawlensky is unique because of its painting style collected and created from all the inspiration he could have got at that time. It was sold for 6 million dollars and now belongs to a private collection.

“Abstract Heads”

During his active working years, Alexej was following various art styles, including Cubism.

In his several series of paintings called “Abstract Heads”, which were created between 1918 and 1935, he painted abstract faces that combined horizontal and vertical lines and brightly painted blocks of pigment.

jawlensky abstract heads

The viewer can see the influence of Cubism in these works. For creating these type of artworks, Jawlensky was highly interested in Indian philosophy, especially Indian yogis, which inspired him to paint by forgetting any kind of individualism and focusing on the basic elements which make these paintings look organic and unique.

Alexej von Jawlensky died in 1941 when he was 77 years old. He is buried in the Russian Orthodox cemetery in Wiesbaden, Germany. Most of his works are kept at the Museum Wiesbaden, others are in other german museums.

In 2019 his works were exhibited in Gemeentemuseum, the Hague in the Netherlands and also the special exhibition, together with works of Marianne von Werefkin, called “Lebensmenschen” was opened on 22nd October 2019 in Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany where both artists spent years together and will last until 16th of February 2020.

You May Also Be Interested In…

Marianne von Werefkin – Women of Expressionism

Concerning The Spiritual In Art With Vassily Kandinsky

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Marianne von Werefkin – Women of Expressionism

Marianne von Werefkin is a Russian-German-Swiss painter, who started to paint in the Realism style and later developed her style into Expressionism.

Background

Marianne von Werefkin was born on 10 September 1860 in Tula, Russia. She started to paint at the age of fourteen and later became a student of Ilja Rapin, one of the most well known Russian painters.  Here she is in old age, pondering imponderables.

portrait_marianne-von-werefkin_aware_women-artists_artistes-femmes

Since her early days, Marianne faced many challenges, which contributed to creating her personality. She was seventeen when during cleaning a gun at home she accidentally shot her right hand.

This misfortune had an impact on the rest of her life as a painter because she had to use a special tool helping her to paint. Werefkin also has more issues with health such as neuralgia and hysterical epilepsy.

Early Years

Marianne von Werefkin was strongly influenced by Russian realism, which reflected in her early works. Because of her talent to create realistic works she even got a nickname – “Russian Rembrandt“.

In 1893 she painted a “Self Portrait in a Sailor‘s Blouse” – a portrait of herself looking into the distance and holding a bunch of paintbrushes in one hand and leaned on her hip with another.

self-portrait-in-a-sailors-blouse_marianne-von-werefkin__76472.1557615791

This work was created in her family‘s Blagodat Estate in Lithuania, where she used to come to visit her father and later her brother, who owned the property and where she had her first work studio.

Moving to Munich

In 1896, together with another Russian expressionist Alexej von Jawlensky, whom she met in Russia, she moved to Munich, Germany, where she studied painting.

The Black Women, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard, 1910

Munich at that time was a very popular place for artists from Russia and Eastern Europe because of highly-regarded art school founded by Slovenian artist Anton Ažbe.

Unfortunately, instead of creating for herself, she focused on her friend. According to art historians, they were not married, not even a couple, so their relationship could be described only as friends, but at that time, Marianne encouraged Alexej‘s development as an artist and supported him to create. Later he became a father with the other woman whom he married and Marianne never got married or had a child.

Marianne was also known as an active member of a local artists community. She was very social and use to invite various people to her home, her salon, where happened many discussions about art and various ideas. She brought together not only artists but avant-garde writers, dancers even Russian politicians and aristocrats.

marianne von werefkin

She started to paint again after ten years in 1906 when Alexej was not a part of her life anymore and finished her first works in 1907.

Together with another famous Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, she created a Neue Künstvereinigung Munchen – an art group, which was dedicated to the Expressionism ideas.

At that time, her inspiration to create came from French post-impressionists Paul Gauguin and Louis Anquentin, also one of the most known expressionists – a Norwegian Edvard Munch.

When Marianne use to visit her family‘s Estate in Lithuania, she got the inspiration for the country‘s landscape and culture which lead her to create paintings like “The Road”, “The Family”, “City in Lithuania” or “Police Sentinel in Vilnius” (shown below).

Police Sentinel in Vilnius

Werefkin developed her painting style, which mainly consisted of vivid and dark colors. In 1910, she created a new self-portrait, which was different from painting in her early days as an artist.

This one didn‘t reflect Russian realism anymore, Marianne created her painting style influenced at that time prevailing Expressionism.

Marianne_von_Werefkin_self-portrait

The portrait is mesmerizing because of the strict look of her vivid red eyes, also red color dress and hat, yellow skin and vivid blue background and has a strong emotion, which is very specific for expressionists.

Next and Last Stop – Switzerland

Because of the First World War, Marianne von Werefkin with her friend Jawlensky moved to the neutral country Switzerland.

At first, they lived in Geneva, later in Zurich, but when Jawlensky decided to marry the mother of his child, Marianne moved to Ascona, where she lived till her death in 1938.

von_werefkin_marianne_7

Her life back then was difficult because of her living conditions – she didn‘t get enough money, so she couldn‘t paint and create as much as she wanted.

Despite her financial condition, she kept active in social life and in 1924 created an artist group “Großer Bär” which focused on discussions about art.

Exhibitions

Marianne von Werefkin‘s works as an important sign of expressionism were exhibited several times in different locations in Europe.

She together with Alexej von Jawlensky was remembered again in 2019, when the art gallery “Lenbachhaus” in Munich, Germany, where the artist spent one part of her life, created an exhibition called “Lebensmenschen”.

avemaria

This exhibition started on 22nd October and will last until the 16th of February 2020.


Thanks for reading!  Comment below!

You might like to also read:

Alexej von Jawlensky – Abstract Heads

Comparing Abstract Expressionism And Pop Art

What Is Expressionism In Art?

How Georgia O’Keeffe Changed The World