Saturday, April 9, 2011

Classic portraiture vs. Cubism and Francis Bacon and David Hockney....

We were travelling in Dublin, spending time with our daughter ... found a lovely little easel:

This easel sits in my studio and supports my plates for my prints. But it was very likely created to carry out into the landscape... and so I was thinking... after Constable, after Turner, after Renoir and their forays into open-air painting, come the questions about one-point perspective, posed by Picasso and Braque, that were answered by Cubism. But Cubism is mostly about human-made objects (pitchers, guitars, newspaper headlines) and fruits and sometimes faces... but very seldom about landscape... trees are harder to "square" and reduce... So if Cubism is in part ditching perspective, and staying indoors, then, when it does deal with organic things and with humans, isn't it also jettisoning the one view of the face, the classic portrait (like this terrific picture of Sir Hugh Lane by John Singer Sargent):

(This is a page from my journal where I taped in a postcard from the Hugh Lane Gallery, which also has recreated Francis Bacon's studio in its entirety -- and lovely mess).  The face in Cubism is broken into facets... David Hockney has said that "all drawing is collage" and in that sense, then, maybe Cubism was inevitable... the artist is always making choices: what to add or subtract, what to priveledge, what to shade or make whole... where we see and what we see from that angle... And Francis Bacon (in my notes in my journal picture above) says that "Half my painting activity is disrupting what I can with ease" (Picasso said something like this, too) and "I see every image all the time in a shifting way and almost in shifting sequences."  I think we all do, now... the permanent legacy of Cubism. Not a style, but a way of seeing.

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