Okay, so let's unpack that for a second ... the front-and-back-and-all-sides images present in Cubist work were not Johns's aim, she argues. Instead, there is an all-over "whole," which is intended to be visible at first glance, and to remain visible as the viewer continues to "see" the work. So, he is not exactly Cubist, and his steady, all-encompassing brushstrokes identify him with late Impressionist work. Rose is persuasive. But this is a really interesting angle of attack. If Johns isn't Cubist, can he really be an heir to the Impressionists? Does that place him up against, say, Van Gogh?
I started to think that perhaps at least some artists burst free of categories, and that Johns is one of them. None of the movements I have seen him tied to fit him, exactly. Yes, there are the bronzed beer cans, but they shift into a painting like "Decoy," from 1971, and then (see yesterday's post), he goes from "The Seasons" straight to Cézanne. The Tour de France has developed a term for the mountains too towering to be classified, the most demanding for the riders; the term for these is hors-catégorie. There must be artists like Johns that are hors-catégorie, beyond the normal reach of art-historical labels. Where can we find Jasper Johns's peers, his lines of inquiry and influence?
Start with the basics. I like to see, as I argued yesterday, traces of the artist's hand -- in paintings, this is the brushstroke. So, since that's a famous trait of Johns's work (think of the cross-hatch paintings), let's set up some artists whose strokes are, in Rose's words, "methodically applied with equal pressure over the entire canvas surface" and see what we get. We'll go chronologically, starting in 1870.
I have a new admiration for Camille Pissarro, having seen him at the Legion of Honor recently (see November 7th post) and think his "The Stagecoach at Louveciennes" is a good place to begin:
The clouds, the water on the path, the horses, the tree limbs -- they are not offering us the sort of brush-free illusion we see in a Vermeer. If we take just a corner of the piece, the lower left:
This shows us -- not quite as clearly as I'd like -- what we could see if we were before the actual work.
Now look at the surface of Vincent Van Gogh's "In the Cafe: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin" from 1887:
You can feel Sargent painting here. Now, for Monet, one of the "mature Impressionists" that Rose was likely thinking about. This is "Nympheas," from 1916-1919:
There is a lot of Monet here ... and now to Joan Mitchell, who has been called Monet's heir, with "Row Row" from 1982:
I think if you scroll back over these, you will see another way of looking at these works, the way of the brushstroke, something that unites them across their named movements. This is Johns's tribe.