The Power of Great Paintings
Todd Mrozinski Reviews the Phillips collection from Washington DC as it is exhibited at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The show is entitled “A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection.” Mr. Todd Mrozinski has an interesting way of describing the works of art in his blogs. He is knowledgeable about the subject of art, and he goes to great lengths in adding information about how the work is produced. Textured would be a term that I could use to describe his writing style. He is not afraid to express his emotional take on things.
Henry Fantin-Latour is represented with the still life of a small group of peaches painted 150 years ago. Sitting right next to it is another still life painting with plums by Jean-Simeon Chardin. This painting is quite atmospheric and landscape like. “The use of hard and soft edges gives this masterfully painted scene its atmosphere. “The haziness of the vase contour behind the sharpness of the peach creates space like a distant mountain range on a foggy day.” The use of landscape to describe how a still life is accomplished is an effective way of setting the scenario.
Berthe Morisot paints a scene with two girls in an interior space. She uses unconventional means to move paint around with rags rubbing it with your fingers or applying it with paintbrush. We have a visceral description of how this painting was created. You can almost feel the paint sliding around under your hand.
“Self Portrait” from 1878-80 is not so much painted as massaged. It is a self anointed portrait which seems to have been built with his thumbs. The clay-like paint is pushed, smeared, and built like the mountain, Mount Sainte-Victoire, that he would paint over 60 times in his life. Paul Cezanne represented with a self-portrait. The painting seems more sculpted than painted as piles of paint are moved around to bring out the finished form of this portrait, like a cubist version. Cezanne also has a still life called “Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears.” Describing the work as feeling like a lump of clay that has been formed by the artist’s hands goes a long way toward describing the physicality that the painting is giving off. Mrozinski lends us his senses through his description, letting us feel as if we are standing in front of this Cezanne.
Pierre Bonnard Uses his wife as a model in an outdoor setting entitled the palm. The painter handles the materials by slathering, smearing, dripping, glazing, and scraping to show a glow of the exterior at dusk and illumination of an interior space. His visceral description of the paint handling allows us to feel the depth of the paint surface. We feel the depth of the paint surface and we are irradiated by the light emanating from the surface of this canvas.
Chaim Soutine paints “The Pheasant which is I still life of a dead peasant on a white cloth. The canvas becomes a casket and the paint, applied with stunning directness, becomes the internal organs. Paint handling described as creating “internal organs” accomplishes much toward giving the subject a very visceral feel. Mrozinski is describing Soutine’s very physically brutal, but sophisticated manner of handling paint.