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Friday, February 10, 2017

Mention This, Not That

Could I have just a little of both?
My wife is a foodie. That is, she watches the Food Network on TV a lot, counts calories, reads labels, and is very conscious of what she eats. She also harps a lot when I don't follow her great example. My theory is, you only live once, and so what if my favorite cherry smoothie cuts one or two seconds off my lifespan with every sip. My wife also follows the "Eat this, not that" articles which often appear in magazines having to do with making wise choices as to similar food items. Along that same line of reasoning, I've decided to suggest certain, names people should mention in discussing art which are "healthier, lower in calories, and less pretentious" than the "brand name" artists with whom everyone is already familiar and who have become tired, overexposed household names. For instance, mention Leger, not Picasso.
Mention this...not that.       
Pablo Picasso was famous for Cubism. Some wit has labeled Fernand Leger Leger's art "Tubism" because of it is similar to Cubism only more rounded, sometimes having cylindrical qualities. Leger and Picasso knew one another and ran with the same Paris West-Bank crowd. And even though Leger was a few months older than Picasso (they were both born in 1881) there's no doubt who influenced whom. Both men took their brief flirtation with their favorite "ism," and worked at refining it, then moved on. Leger died in 1955 at the age of seventy-four. Picasso died twenty years later, in 1975, at the age of ninety-four. Picasso must have eaten a lot more of "this," not "that."

Mention this...not that.     
Rembrandt van Rijn is considered the greatest of the Dutch Golden Age painters. Carel Fabritius might well hold that high position of esteem had he lived past the age of thirty-two. Rembrandt died in 1669 at the age of sixty-three. The two were not exact contemporaries as were Leger and Picasso. Rembrandt, born in 1606, was sixteen years older than his talented young student. Fabritius died tragically on October 12, 1654, when a gunpowder magazine near his studio exploded, destroying about a fourth of Amsterdam, and taking the life of the young artist, along with that of his student, Mattias Spoors. As the self-portraits (above), painted when they were approximately the same age, demonstrate, the two were definitely cut from the same cloth.

Mention this...not that.       
Norman Rockwell is probably the best-known, most beloved American artist who ever lived. He had a whole host of imitators. Jon Whitcomb was not one of them. If anything, we find the iconic Rockwell imitating Whitcomb as seen in the comparison to two similar portraits of mid-20th-century movie stars Janet Leigh and Ann Margaret painted roughly at the same time. Whitcomb's stock in trade was beautiful women. Rockwell painted...well, rather ordinary women (to say the least). Rockwell, born in 1894, was twelve years older than Whitcomb, born in 1906, but both worked well into their eighties. Their style is similar, but only because public tastes demanded it. Rockwell's paintings told stories. Whitcomb's illustrated stories. If he tried, Rockwell could paint beautiful women too.

Mention this...not that. 
In 1940, the famed art critic, Clement Greenberg, called Hyman Bloom, "the greatest artist in America." Where was Jackson Pollock? Painting living room walls? Well, yes, that's not far from the truth, except they were more like post office walls. Pollock was working for the WPA Federal Art Project at the time. Clement Greenberg, later had a few kind words to say about Pollock too, words like "volcanic, undisciplined, explosive, and compulsive." (He meant them as a compliment.) Born in 1912, Pollock was, in fact, a year older than Bloom. I guess, you might say that the latter artist "bloomed" first.

Modern Art to mention...if you can.
These are only a few possibilities. If you want to dig a little, you might mention Gilbert Stuart and John Trumbull in the same breath (Trumbull being the less well-known). And the next time someone goes on about Claude Monet you might casually mention Blanche Hoschede Monet, who happened to be his stepdaughter and a highly talented Impressionist in her own right. If you really want to open up a can of worms, you can compare Peter Paul Rubens and Nicolas Poussin. Don't forget to mention the Poussinistes and the Rubenistes. In any case you'll sound more aesthetically astute if you mention the more obscure artists rather than the household names.

A mix of the famous and those who
should be more famous.


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