Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Late and Great:

Exhibitions Highlight Late-in-Life Creativity
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), The Jewish Bride, c. 1665 - 1669,
oil on canvas, 47.8 × 65.6 in. (121.5 × 166.5 cm)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Photo:  Wikipedia Web site

Recent exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic highlight the artist as a creative force in old age.  Works by Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Moroni, Picasso, Matisse and even Egon Schiele drive home the idea that the so-called declining years, from old age or illness, may produce a wealth of originality.  

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), Self Portrait, 1669, 
oil on canvas, 25.8 x 23.7 in. (65.4 x 60.2 cm),
Mauritshuis, The Hague 
Photo:  Mauritshuis Web site

The National Gallery's exhibition Rembrandt: The Late Works includes some forty paintings, twenty drawings and thirty prints dating from the early 1650s until the artist's death in 1669.  The show provides convincing evidence that Rembrandt may be unsurpassed in late-in-life artistic exploration and inventiveness.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
The Conspiracy of the Batavians Under Claudius Civilis, Claudius Civilis
c. 1661 - 2, oil on canvas, 10.1 x 6.4 ft. (309 x 196 cm),

Subject matter is catholic encompassing biblical and mythological scenes and figures, officials, family, friends and colleagues, self-portraits as well as landscapes, animals and current events.  The cornucopia of scenarios convey Rembrandt's skills in depicting anything from close intimacy to imposing grandeur. 

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
A Young Woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels)
c. 1654, brush and brown wash with some white bodycolour;
ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink on paper,
9.7 x 8 in. (24.6 x 20.3 cm), 
chain lines vertical, .95/.98 in. (2.4/2.5 cm) apart
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
Photo:  The British Museum Web site

A case in point is the artist's drawing of a woman curled up in sleep. With few brush strokes varying in ink, the artist captures a private moment of what is thought to be his common-law wife, Hendrickje Stoffels.  The brevity and  virtuosity of  lines recall Eastern calligraphy.
Small but impactful, the image exemplifies Rembrandt's confidence and economy of means.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
The Entombmentc. 1654,  first state of four
etching on "Chinese" paper, 
8.3 x 6.3 in. (21 x 16 cm), 
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
Photo:  The British Museum Web site

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
The Entombmentc. 1654,  third state of four
etching and drypoint on Japanese paper, 
8.2 x 6.4  in. (20.7 x 16.2 cm), 
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
Photo:  The British Museum Web site

Prints in their various states demonstrate Rembrandt's bold experimentation. Etched and drypoint lines, ink modulations and use of different papers produced impressions of exceptional individuality. 

From the begginning to the end,  show demonstrates the artist's continued creativity.  It is a must see for anyone interested in art. 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851), The Visit to the Tomb
exhibited 1850, oil on canvas, 
36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm), 
Tate, London
Photo:  Tate Web site

The EY Exhibition:  Late Turner - Paintings Set Free concentrates on J. M. W. Turner's works from the mid-1830s until his death in 1851 at the age of 76.  Many of the work border on total abstraction and set the stage for much later art.  His last four paintings, The Visit to the Tomb among them, are visionary experiences.  Their vigorous inventiveness belies the fact that they were made by an aged artist whose health was faltering.  

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851), The Blue Rigi, Sunrise
1842, water colour
11.7 x 17.7 in. (29.7 x 45 cm), 
Tate, London
Photo:  Tate Web site

The watercolours, displayed along side the paintings, rival the oils in creativity and innovation.  Often combined with pen and pencil, the they capture in pure colors the dazzling display of light at different times of day.  Turner's originality extended to his marketing methods.   He created "sample" watercolours which he presented to collectors for possible commissions into more expansive works.  

For those who can not see the show, the Tate's online catalog is an excellent visual source with some 41,862 Turner entries. (on the Tate Web site, click on "Find art, artists and archival material").   Take a look.

John Constable (1776 - 1837), The Leaping Horse (full scale study), ca. 1825,
oil on canvas, 4.2 x 6.2 ft. (129 x 188 cm),
Photo:  Victoria and Albert Museum Web site

The Victoria and Albert Museum's show, Constable: The Making of a Master, makes a good case for John Constable in the Turner versus Constable discussion.  Although long overshadowed by the popularity of his colleague, Constable may now come into his own.  Rooted in capturing an exact moment of time, committed to an honest rendering of reality, he may be the more influential artist of the two.  

His full-size oil sketches such as The Leaping Horse, are full of raw energy.  Exuberant brushstrokes and thick layers of paint yield a variety of textures and a sense of immediacy.  

Constable's oil sketches were initially reworked into a tidy final version. Later in life, however, his finished works retained the wildness of the preliminary oils.  

John Constable (1776 - 1837), Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, 1831,
oil on canvas, 5 x 6.3 ft. (153.7 x 192 cm),
Tate, London
Photo:  Tate Web site

Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, one of Constable's most highly regarded paintings,  is a tour de force of unrestrained brushstrokes.  This was the artist's last rendering of the great Salisbury Cathedral, a subject which had occupied him throughout his life. 

Although the mood of the painting is overall threatening as some tempest is about to take place, the painterly technique is one of self-assured freedom.  Note the clouds and the handling of paint about the rainbow. Flicks of white pigment illuminate the sky and highlight the stream indicating the presence of sun off to the right.  On the left, the storm dominates with darkness and flashes of lightning.  For an enlarged view of some of the painting's details,  go to the National Museum Wales Web site.  (On the National Museum Wales's Web site, click on "Explore," "Art," then in the search box type in Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows 1831.  Click on view page for this painting.  Scroll down to "Explore the Painting" and click on links.)

Constable's paintings such as these, bring to mind the landscapes of the British artists David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.  The work of Anselm Kiefer and Lucien Freud also seem to look back to Constable.  In fact, the exhibit makes this point.  Freud's etching after Constable's elm oil study is included in the show.  

Seek out Constable where you can and his connection to modernity will certainly be evident.

Giovanni Battista Moroni (c. 1520/24 - 1579), Portrait of a Young Lady, c. 1575,
oil on canvas,  20.1 x 16.5 (51 x 42 cm)
Private Collection
Photo:  The Guardian Web site

The Royal Academy of Arts exhibition of Giovanni Battista Moroni paintings marks the first survey of this artists work to take place in the United Kingdom.  The show of over forty works includes religious themed paintings and the supurb naturalistic portraits by which the artist is known.  

Those unacquainted with Moroni are in for a treat.  This sixteenth-century Italian painter renders his sitters with such intense characterization, their physical existence is palpable.  Clothing, jewelry, coiffures and accessories are represented with jewel-like splendor combining Venetian coloristic artistry with in down-to-earth realism. No less than Titian admired him as Moroni's biographer Carlo Ridolfi recorded. 

Giovanni Battista Moroni (c. 1520/24 - 1579), 
Portrait of an Elderly Man seated with a Book
c. 1575 - 79, oil on canvas,  38.6 x 31..5 (98 x 80 cm)
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy
Photo:  Royal Academy of Arts, Web site

Works completed near the end of Moroni's life such as Portrait of an Elderly Man Seated with a BookAccademia Carrara, Bergamo, affirm the artist's continued competence in humanistic portrayals. The thesis of considerable creativity in what is defined as old age holds here too.  

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Squatting Female Nude, 1910,
black chalk, gouache, opaque white on paper, 16.4  x 12.2 in. (41.7 x 31 cm),
Photo:  The Guardian Web site

Two shows, one in London and one in New York, illustrate how Egon Schiele continued to provoke up to his death.  The exhibition Egon Schiele:  The Radical Nude at The Courtauld Gallery, London, is particularly notable.  Thirty-eight outstanding drawings and watercolours from museums and private collections make clear the artist's exceptional abilities to transform line and color into revolutionary tools of human expression.  

Schiele, who died at age 28 in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, may be seen as an artist cut off in youthful vigor or as someone whose artistry was compressed in a few years.   

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Two Women Embracing, 1915,
pencil, watercolour, gouache on paper, 19.1 x 12.9 in. (48.5 x 32.7 cm),
Photo:  Museum of Fine Arts Web site

His direct depictions of sexuality and expressive representational style broke with contemporary conventions.  With bold foreshortening, unusual perspectives and unorthodox cropping of figures, he created unique imagery.  After some 100 years, Schiele's work continues to disconcert.  Try to catch the London show.

Three more exhibitions in New York add more support.  One, at the Museum of Modern Art, focusses on Matisse's cut-outs, an art form he created in the late 1940s and continued to work with into his last years.  Two shows, at the Gagosian Gallery and the Pace Gallery, focus on Picasso. The first addresses the artist's involvement with the camera - his experimentations with the medium and artwork relating to it.  The second is a two-part gallery exhibit of Picasso's late work created when he was with his second wife and muse Jacqueline Roque.  

These end-of-year exhibitions illustrate that an artist's prowess, originality and explorations may never wan or cease until, of course, the end.  Think about it.

Rembrandt:  The Late Works*
15 October 2014 - 18 January 2015

The EY Exhibition:
Late Turner -
Paintings Set Free
10 September 2014 – 25 January 2015
Tate Britain, London

Constable:  The Making of a Master
20 September 2014 - 11 January 2015.

Giovanni Battista Moroni
25 October 2014 - 25 January 2015

Egon Schiele:
The Radical Nude
23 October 2014 - 18 January 2015

Egon Schiele:  Portraits
October 9, 2014 - January 19, 2015
Neue Galerie, New York

Picasso and the Camera
October 28, 2014 - January 3, 2015
Gagosian Gallery, New York

Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style
October 31, 2014 - January 10, 2015
Pace Gallery, New York

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
October 12, 2014 - February 10, 2015

*Rembrandt:  The Late Works exhibition will be at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, February 12 2015 to May 17 2015. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

II. The Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection:

A Game Changer 

Juan Gris (1887-1927), Still Life With Checked TableclothParis, spring 1915, 
oil and graphite on canvas, 45 7/8 x 35 1/8 in. (116.5 x 89.2 cm),
The Metropolitan Museum of ArtLeonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection,
 Purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2014 (2014.463)
Photo:  Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site 

Of the four notables of Cubism - Georges Braque (1882–1963), Juan Gris (1887–1927), Fernand Léger (1881–1955) and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) - Gris and Léger developed the most individualistic Cubist styles.  Unlike Braque and Picasso whose Cubism could be very similar, Gris's and Léger's work are highly distinct.  Gris never relinquished realism; Léger moved away from representation toward total abstraction.  This is plainly seen in the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and now on view in the exhibition, "Cubism:  The Leonard A. Lauder Collection."*

Gris a Spaniard like Picasso, came to Paris in 1906.**  He became friends with Braque, Léger, Picasso and Matisse.   Gris's use of bold color combinations shows his debt to Matisse.   

The paintings Still Life with Checkered Tablecloth and Pears and Grapes on a Table, illustrate the artist's salient characteristics: unconventional coloration, dizzying viewpoints, transposable foregrounds and backgrounds, checkerboard patterns, diagonally placed objects, abrupt cropping, dark shapes and outlines and depictions of things that would be familiar to everyone.  

A first look at the paintings with their bird's-eye perspective may confuse. Once the spectator realizes he/she is looking down at objects on a table, the scenes becomes clear.  

Juan Gris (1887-1927), Pears and Grapes on a TableCéret, autumn 1913, 
oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 28 3/4 in. (45.7 x 61 cm),
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Photo:  Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site 

In Pears and Grapes on a Table, the table laden with items typical of a light snack or meal - a bowl filled with pears, grapes, a goblet, knife, tablecloth and two folded Le Matin newspapers, identified by the masthead lettering and the artist's choice for news.  

The room's checkered flooring appears to meet the edge of the wood table top.  The pattern partly obfuscates a chair set diagonally to the picture frame and cut off acutely at the its top edge.  Everything is flat, two-dimensional. Even the blue rimmed goblet with some shading and a base decoration that can be interpreted as fingers of a hand seems like a paper cut out.

A mysterious quality permeates the scenario.  Everything is in disarray as if something unusual has taken place.  The use of blacks for fruits, silhouettes and the knife may point to an event that was sinister. The rumpled red shawl left on the rattan seat of the orange chair and the chair's position may indicate a person has left in haste - too rushed to take the shawl or push the chair fully away from the table.  

At this time, a pulp fiction series featuring a master criminal and his exploits was popular among the Parisian avant-garde.  Gris was an enthusiastic fan.  Thrillers, cops and robbers, cliffhangers held the artist's interest.  His paintings, such as Pears and Grapes on a Table, may be viewed as visual equivalents to stories of suspense.  

Fernand Léger (1881–1955), Houses under the Trees, 1913,
oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92.1 x 73 cm),
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Unlike the other Cubists, Léger severs the connection to reality outside of the painting.  He employed a geometric vocabulary of cubes, rectangles, cylinders and circles.  Curves were his preference.  A palette of primary and complimentary colors add to the firm plasticity of  the forms. Drawing and geometries give the work a strong rhythmic quality.   The paintings have motion.  Lines and shapes shift providing equivocal meanings.  In Houses under the Trees, the curvilinear elements that designate trees can simultaneously be interpreted as billowing smoke rising from a city landscape or the curvaceous outline of a shapely nude.  Here, the red, blue and white colors may refer to the French national flag.  If the painting had no title - no references to houses or trees - would the subject be recognizable?  

Fernand Léger (1881-1955), The Smoker, 1914,
oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 in. (100.3 x 81.3 cm),
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

This viewer would be hard pressed to make out the subject in many of Léger's works.   Hints help.  In The Smoker, the painting's subject is seen in a three-quarter view from the rear.  A long oval in the upper center of the canvas indicates the back of the head.  The smoker's red pipe is made up of a tubular stem and bucket-like tobacco chamber. White and blue bulbous puffs of smoke rise in the painting's upper left corner.  The smoker's body is a configuration of cylindrical and curvy forms. Combinations of lines, colors and figurations give the painting motion and three-dimensionality.  

Léger's paintings appear to assemble before the viewer's eyes and give the feeling that if one turns around and looks again, the work will be different - the parts would have moved.

Spend time with Leonard A. Lauder's remarkable gift.  Each artwork is of the highest quality and significant.  This is a gift that keeps on giving for Mr. Lauder has placed no restrictions on his generosity which means the Museum can place the works according to curatorial needs. Furthermore, the collection is not finished.  Mr. Lauder plans to continue enlarging the Cubist holdings when art of suitable value comes to the market.  

Go to the Met.  See the exhibit.  Mr. Lauder's passion for Cubism expressed in his collection will surely ignite your own.  
  A Game Changer Part I," go to ArtWithHillary, November, 2014. 

**This is the year Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) died.  In 1907, two major Cézanne exhibitions took place in Paris:  a large-scale show of the artist's watercolors at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune and a memorial retrospective with 56 of his paintings at the Salon d'Automne, the annual Paris exhibition for the advancement of modern art.

Cézanne's powerful influence on the development of Cubism as well as subsequent artistic movements is firmly established. He presented an alternative view of the world - seeing everything in geometries - implying what we perceive through our eyes is not reality. Painting no longer had to be about copying life but could be about giving solid form to underlying structures, seeking the permanent, eternal.  In his work, contradictions seem to make sense. Planes are flattened, foreground and background appear flush while objects and shapes are rendered three-dimensionally maintaining a sculptural quality.  Cézanne initiated more - such as leaving parts of the canvas untouched by paint yet important to the overall totality of that which is depicted.  His paintings freed artists to explore what art could be and they took from him what they wanted.  

Picasso called him, " one and only master" and said, "Cézanne was like the father of us all."  The latter quote has also been credited to Matisse.    Léger commented, "The power of Cézanne was such that, to find myself, I had to go to the limits of abstraction.”  While Gris asserted, "Cézanne turned a bottle into a cylinder, but I begin with a cylinder and create an individual (object) of a specific type.

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Still Life with Jar, Cup, and Apples,
ca. 1877, oil on canvas, 23 7/8 x 29 in. (60.6 x 73.7 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, 
Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Photo:  Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site

Gris's connection with Cézanne's still lifes are obvious.  The artist used similar motifs: table tops with familiar objects and patterns that one can recognize from painting to painting.  There is also the common knife placed slightly off a table's edge and the mussed white tablecloth. 

I urge readers to spend time with Cezanne's work which is well-represented in New York's museums. 

Cubism:  The Leonard A. Lauder Collection
October 20, 2014 - February 16, 2015
1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), Manhattan
Open 7 Days a Week
Sunday–Thursday: 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, January 1,
and the first Monday in May

Saturday, November 22, 2014

 I. The Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection:

A Game Changer 

A man looks at the back of Fernand Leger’s ‘House under the Trees,’ 
which features a portrait of a woman, scrapped by the artist.* 
Photo:  Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal.

One of the finest private collection of cubist artworks is going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A gift of the art patron and philanthropist Leonard A. Lauder, it will no doubt be a game changer for the Museum as well as those who view it.  

The entire collection, as it exists today, is currently on view in its new home.  The exhibition, "Cubism:  The Leonard A. Lauder Collection," comprises some 81 paintings, drawings, collages and sculptures created by the four principals of Cubism: Georges Braque (1882–1963), Juan Gris (1887–1927), Fernand Léger (1881–1955), and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973).  The artworks, 17 pieces by Braque, 15 by Gris, 15 by Léger and 34 by Picasso, unfold a new way of representation.  For those who think Cubism is too abstruse and impassive, the show will surprise you.  

In general, artwork needs to be seen in person.  This is especially true for Cubism.  Photo imagery simply can not make visible the multiplicity of brushstrokes, diversity of canvas textures, compositional intricacies and color luminosity that characterize Cubist painting. 

On several occasions,  this viewer noted visitors spending exceedingly long times looking at the actual works as opposed to lingering over wall text and labels.  Such a public engagement with art is seldom observed.  

 Two Visitors in front of Fernand Leger (1881 - 1955), The Smoker
1914, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 in. (100.3 x 81.3 cm)
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Photo: Web site

The exhibit is organized by individual artists intermixed with a couple of thematic rooms.  Besides visual delights, viewing imparts a comprehensive understanding of the movement known as Cubism in its Analytic and Synthetic phrases.  It also makes clear the distinct forms of Cubism developed by participating artists.  

Between 1907 and 1908, Braque and Picasso begat Cubism. Landscapes, figures and objects were broken down or fractured into small geometric forms.  These facets were reassembled and laid out on two-dimensional planes.  Modeling, illusions of three-dimensionality, one point perspective in use since the Renaissance were abandoned.  Analytic Cubism "analyzed" things from many points of view.  Palettes were monochromic and muted.  Realistic representation was all but lost - depictions verged on abstraction.  

Braque may have initially been the leader in this new style but Picasso took over as Cubism evolved into its next phrase, Synthetic Cubism.  In 1912, the artists began to add paper and other materials, both real and painted, to their compositions. Bold colors were introduced.  Bits of everyday life like packagings, advertisements, and newspapers mingled with painted imagery. 

Georges Braque (1882–1963), Still Life with Clarinet (Bottle and Clarinet)
Céret, summer–autumn 1911, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 × 19 3/4 in. (64.8 × 50.2 cm),
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo:  Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site

Between 1909 and 1911, Braque and Picasso worked closely together - each aware of what the other was doing.  At this time, their art looked quite similar.  Their differences, hard to distinguish at first, is the subject of one exhibition room where paintings created by the two are hung side by side.  

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Pedestal Table, Glasses, Cups, Mandolin
Paris, spring 1911. oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 19 1/2 in. (61.6 x 49.5 cm),
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo:  Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site

Wall text points out Braque's use of long, unbroken diagonal lines which transfixed forms spread across the picture's surface.  There is no central point of focus - elements are balanced, evenly dispersed. Rendered with thinly applied paint, the whole imparts a sense of dematerialization.  Picasso's compositions are centered.  Tactile qualities are pronounced.  Pigments are applied with opacity.  Contours are emphasized with shading. Facets appear almost three-dimensional. Compare Braque's Violin: "Mozart Kubelick" with Picasso's The Scallop Shell: "Notre Avenir est dans l'Air" which are displayed in a room concentrated on Cubist color.

Georges Braque (1882-1963), Violin: "Mozart Kubelick",
Paris, spring 1912, 0il on canvas,
18 x 24 in. ( 45.7 x 61 cm)
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Photo:  New York Times Web site

Pablo Picasso (1881 -1973), The Scallop Shell: "Notre Avenir est dans l'Air”,
Paris, spring 1912, enamel and oil on canvas,
oval, 15 x 21 3/4 in. (38.1 x 55.2 cm)
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo:  New York Times Web site

Both paintings are complex.  Allusions that would have been understood by the artists's own contemporaries are lost today.  The words in Braque's painting, "Mozart" and "Kubelick" refer to a concert that took place in the spring of 1912 in conjunction with a retrospective of works by the artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). Included in the exhibit  were Ingres's palette and violin.  At the concert, which took place in the art gallery a few days after the exhibit opened, the famed Czech violinist Jan Kubelik** performed Ingres's favorite music on the artist's own violin.  Ingres, who had a special regard for Mozart's oeuvre, had studied music and played the violin regularly. Braque and Picasso greatly admired Ingres and would have had a keen interest in the exhibition.  

Braque deconstructs a violin, the painting's subject, which appears to rest on a table or shelf.  The two words, surrounded by pink, seem as if they are on other realm.  Perhaps they refer to some poster or handbill. Certainly they call attention to the concert event.  The violinist name, Kubelik, includes "kube."  Cubist painters, delighting in word play, often incorporated words with "cube" into their paintings.  As for Braque's misspelling of  "Kubelik,"  it remains a mystery.  

In The Scallop Shell: "Notre Avenir est dans l'Air," Picasso makes reference to the pamphlet, "Our Future is in the Air," which was circulated to promote France's aviation program. Braque and Picasso working closely together towards a new vision likened themselves to the Wright brothers.  The blue, white and red stripes refer to the French national flag - perhaps Picasso's declaration of patriotism to his new home.  The colored bands are painted with ordinary household paint instead of oil paint traditionally associated with fine art.  The use of both oil and house paint - high and low mediums - is another way Cubism brought together the conventional and unconventional.  

The painting's central two shells may hint at a recent trip to Le Havre Picasso took together with Braque or a reminder for the artist of his beloved port city of Barcelona.  Shells had long been symbolic of travelers and pilgrims.  They were sold as tourist souvenirs from port and seaside towns and, as such, would have significance for the artist.  

The letters, "JOU" comes from Le Journal, a daily Paris newspaper - letter stencils making partial words were commonly placed in Cubist works. The Scallop Shell: "Notre Avenir est dans l'Air" has more to impart but let the above suffice for now.  Readers may pursue their decoding on their own. The show's excellent catalogue provides much information and is well-worth looking into.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), The Absinthe GlassParis, spring 1914,
painted bronze and perforated tin absinthe spoon,
 8 7/8 x 5 x 2 1/2 in. (22.5 x 12.7 x 6.4 cm)
Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo:  New York Times Web site

The collection also includes Picasso's revolutionary sculpture, The Absinthe Glass.  Think of early twentieth-century sculpture:  Auguste Rodin, (see ArtWithHillaryThinking about the "Thinker"and More, August 2014), highly finished marble portraits and classical figural groups.  

Picasso's sculpture depicts a commonplace item - a glass for the notorious intoxicating drink absinthe complete with sugar cube and spoon.  The glass is seen from multiple vantage points and includes shadows modeled in three-dimensions. Most shocking, the artist includes a real object - a piece of cutlery.  A sculptured sugar cube rests on a genuine perforated trowel-shaped absinthe spoon placed on the rim of a sculpted glass.  

To drink the anise-flavored liquor, cold water is slowly dripped on the sugar cube which causes the sugar to dissolve into the liquid below. Although the beverage is green, the artist avoids this color.  His colors do not describe the subject.  He uses blues, blacks, reds, whites and touches of yellow.  

Painted dots on the sugar, at the base of the glass and on planes in various views denote the confetti that was used in abundance at Mid-Lent and Carnival parades.  Throwing paper confetti at festivities became a craze in the late nineteenth century and its popularity continued into the twentieth century.***  Along celebration routes, the practice caused small round colored paper pieces to cascade on the outdoor cafe customers and their drinks.  The soft paper disks replaced plaster chips in France in 1892 when the latter was banned for causing injuries.  Colorful stippling in Cubist works refer not only to the confetti craze of revelers but also to Pointillism and Divisionism, styles of painting exemplified in the works of Georges Seurat (1859-1891), Paul Signac (1863-1935) and Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910).  Cubist dottings, unlike the earlier movements, were not used to define or describe objects but to enhance the picture's formal qualities - enlivens surface with texture and light.  At the same time, the dots acknowledge earlier artistic endeavors and the worthiness of popular culture.   

Two very different artists, Juan Gris and Fernard Léger, round off the Lauder Collection's pioneers of Cubism.   More about these painters next month.

* Recto, Fernand Léger (1881 - 1955), Houses under the Trees1913,
    oil on canvas, 36 ¼ x 28 3/4 in. ( 92.1 x 73 cm)
   The Metropolitan Museum of ArtLeonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, 
    Purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2014
    © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    Verso, Houses under the Trees1913,
    oil on canvas, 36 ¼ x 28 3/4 in. ( 92.1 x 73 cm)
    Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
    © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    Photo:  Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site

**The distinguished conductor Raphael Kubelik (1914-1996) was Jan Kubelik's son.  

***When paper confetti replaced plaster chips in 1892 at Paris's annual Carnival festivities, 20,000 kilograms (about 20 tons) were sold.  Three years later, the amount purchased increased to 500,000 kilograms (about 500 tons).  See below the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's advertisement poster for paper "injury-free" confetti made by London paper manufacturer J & E Bella.  

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), Confetti, 1894,
lithograph, composition: 22 5/8 x 15 5/8 in. (57.4 x 39.7 cm); 
sheet: 22 5/8 × 17 9/16 in. (57.4 × 44.6 cm),
Publisher: J & E Bella, London,
Printer:  Bella & de Malherbe, London and Paris,
Edition: approx. 100
Acquired in honor of Joanne M. Stern 
by the Committee on Prints and Illustrated Books
in appreciation for her contribution as Committee Chair
Museum of Modern Art,  New York
Photo:  Museum of Modern Art Web site

****The Museum of Modern Art work is presently not on view.
Cubism:  The Leonard A. Lauder Collection
October 20, 2014 - February 16, 2015
1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), Manhattan
Open 7 Days a Week
Sunday–Thursday: 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, January 1,
and the first Monday in May