So this is my midterm in-style-of piece. My artists were Willem de Kooning, Egon Schiele, and Georg Baselitz. All three are impressionists, and all three are totally batshit insane. I attempted to replicate the craziness of these artist’s work by using oil pastels, which are gross and thereby suited for this type of work, and focusing on the artists interpretations of the human body. All three artists, but Schiele and de Kooning especially had some strange problems with women. In order to draw this piece, I listed to hardcore punk while pushing as hard as possible into the paper. At the end, I slammed the pastel onto the paper, which surprised and shocked my poor, poor roommate. I feel as though this piece is successful because, while it is obviously not a real woman, it shows what many men see as the most important assets a woman has: face and breasts. In a way, I hope this piece comments on the ridiculousness of judging women based of their appearance.
HON ART 100
20 October 2010
Defining different movements of Expressionism; from Schiele to Baselitz
After the invention of photography in the late 1830’s, the world of western art, which had previously depended mostly upon realistic compositions, shifted into the age of Modernism, a century-long art movement that shifted away from the traditional realistic compositions in favor of more experimental and abstract forms of design as well as a new focus on the function and purpose of art. Generally, a large number of artists in the 19th and 20th centuries shifted away from depictions of actual places, people or things, and became much more interested in their perception of the aforementioned things. Among these more abstract artists include the Expressionist Egon Schiele (1890-1918), the abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), and the neo-expressionist Georg Baselitz (1938- ). Schiele, whose slightly cultivated image as a penniless, misunderstood martyr helped bring fame to his boldly erotic and grotesque pen and ink contour drawings, nevertheless contributed his ability to express his innermost thoughts and desires onto paper to the world of art. de Kooning, a Dutch avant-garde painter who, along with Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko, helped kick-start the widely varied but emotionally intense movement of Abstract Expressionism after World War 2. Baselitz, whose wide body of work can generally be classified as Neo-Expressionism, constantly challenges and pushes the status quo of the art world through his unbridled originality. While all three of these artists were in some way involved with different Expressionist movements, and share some common qualities in at least some of their pieces, all three men vary vastly in their personal interpretation of people, places, and things, and the means in which they depict what they see are also very different.
Schiele was born in 1890, in the small town of Tulln, which resided nearly 20 miles outside of Vienna. Schiece’s lifespan coincided with the waning years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his early death at the age of twenty eight in 1918 was close to the date that the Empire was disbanded. Growing up and living his adult life in a slowly rotting country and city had an enormous effect on the style and form of Schiele’s art, as “It is in Schiele’s work that so many of the concerns which characterize Viennese modernism in literature and which are only hinted at in Klimt’s paintings come completely to the surface in the visual arts: the obsession with death and decay, the penetration of appearances and facades to investigate the darker side of the human personality, and the curiosity about sex,” (Whitford 24). One immediately identifying characteristic of Schiele’s work is the artist’s love of both self-portraiture and portraiture, often in the nude or in an erotic fashion. Schiele was actually jailed for nearly a month on charges of depicting and showing infantile pornography for and to minors. The eroticism of Schiele increased with the presence of While portions of this style may come from Schiece’s close relationship with Vienna Secession artist Gustav Klimt during the late 1900’s, who retained a strong erotic focus in his drawings throughout his career, Schiele differs from Klimt in that, “…Klimt never painted himself, dressed or naked…From now on, Schiele, however, regarded the self-portrait as one of his major subjects and showed himself more often than not fully or partially nude,” (Whitford 51). While the influence of Klimt is vastly important in the early, formative stages of Schiele’s career, it is only until Schiele moves away from Klimt’s “…pronounced flatness and linear decoration,” (Whitford 51) that his work becomes more self-assured and characteristic of his future style. Schiele’s Nude self-portrait (1909) is an excellent example of Schiele’s movement away from Klimt, as a nude self-portrait of the artist is seen ‘coming out’ of a design pattern much like those of Klimt, but the focus is on the upper portion of the composition. As Schiele’s career progressed, his interest in depicting himself in a manner of highly personal and erotic fashions increased greatly; “Like all artists, Schiele was preoccupied with seeing; but more than most, he was obsessed with being seen,” (Knafo 65). Another important aspect of Schiele’s drawing is how he grotesquely caricaturizes figures within his drawings, and especially his self-portraits as, “His distorted body image represented his subjective state of mind, derived from a faulty and immature sense of himself. His art, and particularly those self-portraits in which he is depicted as a hideous caricature of himself, served multiple functions, the most obvious of which was the disburdenment and catharsis of powerful emotions,” (Knafo 163). Especially in his drawings of children, Schiele exaggerates and caricaturizes the body, which provided an emotional outlet for the sexually frustrated and often melancholy artist: “…Schiele saw so many of his sitters as isolated beings tortured by some mental anguish, then his vision was provoked as much by his own perception of himself…In a sense, all his portraits are likenesses of his inner self, mirrors in which he saw his own anxieties reflected,” (Whitford 79). This catharsis of emotional intensity as well as the projection of the artist’s thoughts, worries, and anxieties onto the perception and display of an image is perhaps Schiele’s largest contribution to the works of de Kooning and Baselitz.
While Egon Schiele stuck primarily to pen and ink drawings during his relatively short career, Willem de Kooning experimented and found success within many different mediums, including pencil, pen, painting, and sculpture. De Kooning was born in Rotterdam in 1904, and spent his early years studying art at schools in Rotterdam and Brussels until 1926, when he immigrated to the United States in hopes of finding a fortune. After several years of struggling to make ends meet, de Kooning finally found widespread critical acclaim in the 1950’s as a founding member, along with Jackson Pollock, of the Abstract Expressionism movement and the New York School of artists who followed Pollock and de Kooning. De Kooning’s most famous series of work is the Woman series of paintings, mostly completed between 1950 and 1954. The paintings all share a common theme of having a feminine figure in as the dominant point in the piece, but where De Kooning departs from the influence of Schiele is that the image hovers between figurative and completely abstract. In Women I (1950-2), the facial features of the titular women are relatively clear, but the body of the woman begins to recede and fuse into the vivid, rough brushstrokes that make up the background. While this seemingly uncertainty over direction to take may appear to be amateurish, “As details in a major painting, they exemplify a prime paradox of de Kooning’s art: it is self-contradictory and single-minded,” (Gaugh 51). Much like how Schiele’s style was influenced by the despair and death surrounding turn-of-the-century Vienna, de Kooning was similarly influenced by the culture surrounding New York City in the 1950’s, which gives his Women series a comparison to the idealized artistic depictions of women that were beginning to be used by advertising agencies and movie stars like Marilyn Monroe. However, rather than depict a specific female, de Kooning instead depicts the idea of a woman; a sort of callback to the Venus of Willendorf, as, “de Kooning’s Women share with their prehistoric forebears one feature that, added to their female attributes, makes them archetypes. They are anonymous. They are images of woman in general, not portraits but conceptions…In this regard, de Kooning’s Woman has been worked over as thoroughly as a Paleolithic figure…,” (Gaugh, 52). In addition to producing the Women series, de Kooning also experimented in abstract landscapes, as well as sculpture. One of de Kooning’s most significant landscapes is Easter Monday, which is successful due to the, “…amplitude of the work, its range of brushwork, its abundance of planes and spatial congestion, its muscularity and toughness, and the complex substantiality of its surfaces add up to a phenomenal experience that refuses to fade away,” (Gaugh, 56). Easter Monday is an excellent example of action painting, as it shows the rapid tempo and fluidity of the piece, which is only possible by the very physical intensity required to do action painting. De Kooning’s work in landscape is somewhat similar to Schiele, as the Austrian also created depicted several landscapes near the end of his life, and both de Kooning and Schiele use the same stylistic techniques in their landscapes that they use in other compositions.
After the masterpieces of de Kooning and Pollock were completed in the 1950’s, the more popular styles of art shifted from the school of Abstract Expressionism more towards the Minimalism and Pop Art movements during the 1960’s. While Georg Baselitz is often described as being a Neo-Expressionist, the truth is that his body of work is much more varied and complicated to be narrowed down to one movement. Baselitz was born in 1938, in East Germany, which has had a profound effect on the focus of his work, as, “…Hitler, and what it is to be German, and a German artist, have been much on Baselitz’s mind throughout his career…” (Searle 23). For example, in one of Baselitz’s most famous paintings, Die große Nacht im Eimer, or Big Night Down the Drain, a grotesque image has been described as depicting a small, grotesque child or dwarf is seen after masturbating, but several of the painting’s features invoke a German root, as, “his greasy hair is receding, his eyes are filled with worry, his face spattered with blackheads. His head is too big for his torso. This malformed figure might well be Hitler (in later versions of the image this becomes all too apparent) and …The entire image is somehow slurred and soiled by the paint, like a scene described by a drunk,” (Searle 23). While Baselitz may deny that he is influenced by the work of earlier Abstract Expressionists, there is no denying that his use of color and brushstroke within Die große Nacht im Eimer is at least in the same vein as the techniques of de Kooning. Much like de Kooning, Baselitz also focuses on sculpture, especially in a collection of wooden figures constructed during the early 1980’s. “Baselitz always works with dissonances, deliberately playing on the contrasts of opposites, and avoids smooth transitions. Up to a precisely calculated point, arbitrariness is a formative principle. This is apparent from the proportions, as it is from a consideration of representational criteria as a whole,” (Franzke 182). Rather than focus on creating a unified, visually appealing piece, Baselitz here is more focused on the function and creation of art, as his wood cuts are unsightly and visually unappealing. Baselitz “…is more concerned with defining the individual piece as an autonomous concept of what wood sculpture is than establishing it as a work of art,” (Franzke 182).
Schiele, de Kooning, and Baselitz all greatly contributed to the advancement and progress of the Expressionism movement towards artistic credibility and importance. Schiele’s haunting Expressionist portraits were among the first to be depicted not based on their actual reality, but based on the artist’s perspective on the object and his feelings. De Kooning’s seminal Women series is perhaps the most important Abstract Expressionist series of the later half of the century, as the primitive, sexualized, and mixture between total abstract and figurative had a huge impact on artists in both the New York School and on future artists as well. And Baselitz, whose exploration of several abstract qualities of art, from his Germanic heritage to what makes a wood sculpture, has cemented him as a later-day Expressionist. While the world of art, as well as the Expressionist movement as a whole has advanced exponentially in the past century, several of the qualities and techniques held by early Expressionists like Schiele have transitioned over time to later Expressionists like de Kooning and Baselitz. The history of the Expressionism movement is one that has been defined by the tastes and ability of the artists who choose to embody the basic spirit of the movement. Thanks to Schiele, de Kooning, and Baselitz, the Expressionism movement has cemented it’s place in history as one of the most important Modern art movements.
Franzke, Andreas, and Edward Quinn. Georg Baselitz. Trans. David Britt. Munich, Federal Republic of Germany: Prestel, 1989. Print.
Gaugh, Harry F. Willem De Kooning. Vol. 2. New York: Cross River, 1983. Print. Modern Masters Ser.
Knafo, Danielle. Egon Schiele : a Self in Creation : a Psychoanalytic Study of the Artist’s Self-portraits. Cranbury: Associated Universtiyes, 1993. Print.
Searle, Adrian. “On the Offensive: Georg Baselitz’s Art Tackles the Visceral Reality of Postwar Germany with Child Hitlers, Vegetal Phalluses and Chopped-up Woodcutters.” Guardian [London] 18 Sept. 2007, G2 sec.: 23. Print.
Whitford, Frank P. Egon Schiele. London: Thames and Hudson, 1981. Print.