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Lecture 2: Primitivism, Matisse, Picasso

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University of Toronto St. George
Mark Cheetham

FAH246H1 WEEK 2 9/19/12 -PRIMITIVISM is Modernism’s troubled rejection of modernity, or perhaps much of modernity was possible only BC of deeply racist + hegemonic practices of colonialism, whose traces we see in primitivism -not so much rejection as it is “return of the repressed” -it is also modernism’s attempted flight from modernity -Matisse, Blue Nude, 1907 -Exoticism vs. primitivism -what question of hierarchy was there here? -not looking at primitivism, rather maybe exoticism -“brutal” and aggressive/primitive colours -Matisse has been burned in effigy because his works outraged public so much Picasso, Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon, c. 1907 -worked very fast but constantly reworked everything -changed storylines, etc. -struggle with question of the PRIMITIVE -viewer moves eye from L to R -originally looked at Iberian sculptures, then used African masks, to model their “primitive” faces -this is NOT the first cubist painting -manifesto of the 20s and 30s Three Women. 1907 -Picasso shows he is not just a straight trajectory into Cubism. Kirchner, Girl Under the Japabese Umbrella, 1909 -colour – brutal colouring => mirrors Matisse/s work -flaunting of sexuality -Bohemian lifestyle Kandinsky, Poster for Phalanx Exhibit -early example of knight figures, picked up from St. George – sense of spirituality Kandinsky, Gabriele Munter, 1903 Kandinsky, Blue Mountain ? -appear hard to see at first -trains eye to see colour by itself, as he slowly accustoms eye to see abstract works The Gesamtkunstwek = “Total Work of Art” -book that showed many different works from everywhere, used by eg. Picasso as examplar -cover overlaps image w/ text -Kandinsky explores this overlap through “Syntesthesia” – a movement begun in music – which explores different mixed expressions of senses -trying new, untainted ways of expression -“Total Work of Art” is a Wagnerian term Matisse Matisse, French Window at Collioure, 1914 vs. Wyndham Lewis, A Battery Shelled, 1919 -both paintings shown because they do not reflect what we usually associate with those artists -the Matisse painting: not like the Matisse we know -Lewis = a British artist -there has been a prejudice against British art in the early 20 c; it was written in a French perspective, therefore, “avant-garde” art was “always French” -look at artwork through different paradigms of interpretation: internal (visual analysis) or external (historical context)? -Matisse’s painting called” French Window” shows a huge black interior? That we can’t see through. Why? Matisse, Sideboard and Table, 1899 Matisse, The Dinner Table, 1897 -Matisse makes ornaments dramatic and optically gripping -for instance, the elaborate way he’s rendered all the arrangements of the table Harmony in Red, 1908 -Fauvian period – wild colours taken on a life of its own -ornamental decorations overtake all of the table and into the wall -makes it difficult for us to see where objects and spaces end and begin; even in here, the woman seems part
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