Quotes In Art

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Most Famous World War 1 Posters (England, USA, Russia)

Different armies used very similar recruiting appeal during WWI and later in Civil War: pointing and stress word YOU

British poster ‘Who is absent? Is it you?’ 1915

"Who's Absent?" Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, London, 1915 (September), Andrew Reid & Co., Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne

American poster 'I Want You for the U.S. Army', 1917

By James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) Lithograph, 1917

“Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie's Weekly with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" this portrait of "Uncle Sam" went on to become--according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg--"the most famous poster in the world." Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and matériel into war zones.” (See http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trm015.html)

Russian Civil War Poster: ‘Does you volunteer?’ 1919

Dmitry Moor (real name – Orlov) (1883-1946)

In this case not government make an appeal, because government was not popular, but peoples’ representative, ‘comrade’.

Paintings 'Crossing the Alps' in 1799: Napoleon and Suvorov

During Napoleonic wars at the end of 18th century fighting took place first in Italy and than in Austria.

Both French army under Napoleon and Russian army under Suvorov crossed Alps.
Both events were represented in paintings.
‘Napoleon crossing the Alps’ was painted by 1801 by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

‘March of Suvorov through the Alps’ was painted in 1899 by Vasily Surikov (1848-1916) most probably to challenge famous painting by Jacques-Louis David.

Interestingly enough on both paintings leaders are on horses, but there are much more differences:
a) Napoleon is alone, he is like a semi-god, people, if visible, are like ants.
Suvorov is just part of a huge human mass.

b) The Alps for Napoleon are just hills,
For Suvorov the Alps are enormously difficult.
c) Napoleon is seen as if on a parade, enjoying life,
Suvorov shares hardship.

These differences may be results of different

a) world views about strong leader or mass movement;
b) just adjustments to the viewer - David painting was commission by Napoleon, while Surikov painted for exhibition for mass viewer, and included human mass into painting;
c) or just total culture shift within nearly hundred years dividing these paintings from Romanticism towards Realism

Vasili Vereshchagin 'The Apotheosis of War', 1871 and Salvador Dali 'The Face of War', 1940

Vasili Vereshchagin 'The Apotheosis of War', 1871 shows abundance of symbols of death:
sculls, desert, crows, dead trees, ruin... Noting refers to life.

Salvador Dali 'The Face of War', 1940 shows abundance of symbols of death:
Inserted sculls, desert, snakes… Noting refers to life.

Malevich 'The Black Square' and Rothko 'The Rothko Chapel'

Malevich 'The Black Square' and Rothko 'The Rothko Chapel'

Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935), famous international painter, born in Russia, produced in 1913 strange painting titled ‘The Black Square’, which was exactly black square and nothing more.
It seemed from artistic point of view, and from position of information theory that value of such painting is practically zero, since it could be reproduced by even untrained child after having instruction in just one sentence.

Why this painting became such a well known?
Besides theoretical ideas of art theorists than about associations with forms and colors.
It may be more important that "Malevich always looked upon this work as an icon; in several of his exhibitions, it was hung on a wall at an acute angle as traditional religious images were hung in Russian homes - and at a corner of the room, as if to create a sacred place.

For him it was not just painting but performance – statement about art – do we really need real object?
I would compare the black square with the monitor of a turn-off computer – there are numerous opportunities not known, this is the beginning.
At the same time there is a deep irony of empty object to watch or worship
Malevich lived at a time of revolutions and social upheavals, and he finally died in poverty and

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) American painter born in Russia and definitely well informed about Malevich, received what was once described as one of the last religious commission to a great artist - painting interior of undenominational church in Texas, later known as the Rothko Chapel, finished in 1970.

Standard description of this Chapel didn’t mentioned Kazimir Malevich and his ‘The Black Square’, but interior is a just set of black rectangles facing worshipers.
It looks to be absolutely the same idea, but what was a discovery with irony and political protest to Malevich become business to Rothko representing stability and political conformity.

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
We can paraphrase this according to our commercial time:
Great art ideas appear twice. First time as a free discovery to benefit humanity, second time as a business to generate profit.

Measuring the Universe – divine status of scientists

Voltaire in his ‘Letters on Newton’ from ‘The Letters on the English’ or Lettres Philosophiques, c. 1778 gave detailed description of Newton’s results, making Newton look more important than any military or political leader of his time.

This view is actually very close to Plato’s approach that great heroes of his age are not military leaders imitating Achilles, but philosophers like Socrates.

Semi-divine status of philosophers perfectly integrated in William Blake ‘portrait’ of Isaac Newton.

Blake’s Newton is:

a) naked, looking like a well-trained body-building great hero;

b) placed in a very abstract place, he is outside of human’s world;

c) measuring more than just something on paper, he looks like measuring the whole Universe

Blake's painting represents the same value as the medieval French mid-13th century miniature 'God as the Architect of the Universe'.

Surprisingly image of what God is measuring on this painting is similar to images taken by NASA Hubble space telescope

Size represents importantce

In art importance is often represented by size.

This traditions of equating importance and size can be found in very different cultures.

In Ancient Egypt king’s figure usually was taller than wife or servants figures.

On first relief king and his family in exchange for offerings to sun god receive blessing (at the end of rays) represented by life symbol ankh

Next picture is 16th century Russian image of reception in Moscow, which definitely shows that tsar is taller than all other people.

This traditions survives until recently with large than life monuments to important people and huge images of political leaders at political rallies.

Caricatures regularly employs this feature.

Modern art even can over exaggerate this tendency

Art blast after revolutions in Russia early 20 century produced modern painting using very traditional and even obsolete techniques.

Interesting example is a painting by Soviet painter Boris Kustodiev 1920 ‘Bolshevik’, where one man, characteristically not by genealogy, but by political affiliation with the leading party, become much taller than all others, and is beyond the crowd.

If revolutionary art in 20th century implemented features forgotten in modern Europe but traceable to Ancient Egypt, that makes it easy to believe that:

Any new movement in art is a sort of renaissance – awakening of old tradition, not necessarily consciously.