When Dave and i went fishing we were after tailor. In a fishermans shack i found a box of art books .I was learning .”art” at high school or zqqzso i thought .As it turned out,I was being propagandised to accept modern art. My box of art books didnt. These guys could paint and draw! when i mentioned Alma Tadema and Lord Leighton ,Solomon , Millais :you would think i had consorted with the devil..Not so,it was a casual encounter at the beach,
I did not realize it would take a lifetime to decipher what had happened to me,to undo the conflict in me.
On one hand, Modernism On the other, Academism. Presented as a clear cut choice,one or the other. It rapidly became a matter of trying to reconcile opposites. After years of study i know that dichotomy was and is false.
Being young i couldnt see the trap that had been sprung. Study of art came equal to teaching it.but in retrospect,our teachers at college were mediocre artists, and left us to our own devices. So long as Cezanne got a nod so did your career. There was no academic drawing class.
Bourgeous Realism is an unfortunate descriptor. Because it needs to cover many styles of realism. It also fails to see that these realistic styles( including Surrealism were adapted at need,modified to suit a particular narrative. Style was not an outcome but an expressive device.
Henceforth it was a matter of conscious choice of styles,not merely mastery of one.
if we ever realised there was a problem,we had to solve it. My nose had detected something rotten in .modern art,and noteably the art market.which looked like an army of gender challenged shop assistants.
somehow i persisted,finding my.own way down the Pollock road. Till one night i saw clearly, “Brian,you cant draw”
at that, Alma Tadema and Lord Leighton came to my recue.
Whichever version of the history of art ńyouu read,its probably wrong..History is written by the forgotten. Its mostly just pale shadows of Greenberg and Rosenberg throwing drunken punches in a frozen New York dawn(or maybe it was Paris before the War.)
Consider that academicians had been at odds for four centuries with pistols drawn ,engaged in arcane debates,about technique and style .The introduction of a brash american or two shouldnt have mattered. Terms of abuse were mandatory ..”Pompier ! “realist,” “romantic,” “impressionist!” .”classicist!”
These were epithets with sharp edges,and contemporary artist academics wore labels proudly. French Polish Russian German and English, all had stronger national traditions to defend artistically, than the Bostonians and New yorkers.But the Americans had dollars,and they were looking for a cheap bargain basement deal.on the new art.
Trouble was, first they had to invent it, Greenberg took until 1939.
The americans were digging over easy ground.,looking for anything to justify the emergence of modernism. Hindsight supreme.
Example.signpost event. ultramarine blue became available in the1830″s and was adopted immediately. 100 years later came debate. Noone was shocked. The pigment was after all invented specifically for artists. Skies, water and silks came alive,but remained subject to the tonal modifications of black and white .Cabanels Birth of Venus was hugely popular and remained so. Wojciech Gersons version too met with delight in1895 .Both versions holding very different assumptions about social class,about reality,about gender.But.noone was calling for impressionisms head. The salon still ruled.,noisily
it was progress.Alma Tademas skies and water were at least as new as Monets.
Realism demands a crisp brush.Impressionism had not arrived. But Art Nouveau had,
From a different premise (science).the inclusion of prismatic colours (especially blue)in the colour wheel resulted in a radical palette-including. complementaries..”broken colour ” it was a long time coming but seemed to be overnight.Classicism was as blue as Realism
The cropped figures of Japanese art,use of flat decorative shapes, experiments in “depth of field” were some of the techniques artists experimentd with for fifty years.
Here the modernists could SEE the modern.They didnt have to explain it. they could avoid the influence of media,skip shifts in society,ignore the effects on artists education .It is ironic that greenberg had a Marxist belief in revolution. Greenbergs took place in cafes and newssheets. All rather bougoise
They found underdeveloped ideas, precedents,precursors,.what in jazz was called “roots ” And they found a lot of american artists to promote.There were a lot in Paris
.They found a lot of art to despise in their messionic zeal.(Bougereau,Lord Leighton chassier Solomon Gerome. )Cigar chomping critics come prophets turned out to be merely apologists with little knowledge of historic trends and their artists avante garding dilletantes How on earth can you put a pollock beside a Sargent?or a Gerome?.,then dismiss the latter as kitsch.? Especially since a lot of artisic production was………..kitsch. It was never a level playing field. some work was just. Awful. But noone of that gets into books “Fifty of the worst paintings of the c19”
It is a matter of record,the foreign assault worked. Art vacated Europe,and only the paintings which fitted the uniform were preserved.and stored away by Kahnwieler ,Stein and Rothschild.
The atelier system slowly collapsed before the depth of the revolution was realised.Art survived in Russia,Boston,Sydney.
And its.i back.