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PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2005 11:46 pm 
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(moved to the Rothko thread)


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 4:59 pm 
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I really think that Whistler has more to tell us about his namesake. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 5:25 pm 
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Intimidation, is that what this is?

Whistler was five-foot-three, sometimetimes pretended to be Russian, and never painted on Sunday because his mother objected.

Or did you mean you wanted to know about his art? That will require a bit of thought.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 5:48 pm 
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That'll do for a start, while we wait for your brain to warm up.

:llama:

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 6:03 pm 
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Those of you (if there are any!) who are not reading about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell might want to go to Amazon and order To Seize the Passing Dream: A Novel of Whistler, His Women and His World. The author is Ted Berkman, and copies are available through Amazon's subsidiaries for as low as a dollar and change.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 6:45 pm 
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I will make a point of looking for it - after I finish reading about the English gentlemen magicians.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:27 pm 
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Where is Lalaith's Killer Kitten of Doom when we need it? =:)

Speaking of Lalaith, Whistler's White Lady reminds me very much of Lalaith, especially the colour of her hair.

Being a complete and utter ignoramus about Art, I should probably stay out of this discussion. :(

But when have I ever failed to take an opportunity to comment at length on something I know nothing about? :D

The one thing Art must do, for me is to evoke an emotional response. Something in it MUST appeal to me on that level or I take no meaning from it at all. The emotion may be disgust (as in the famous Picnic picture from another thread) or a combination of fear and anger (as the Rape picture from that thread did), or it may be the jolt of "that's what I love!".

(yovargas' sig pic evokes unease in me, a claustrophobic nightmarish feeling. I recognize, therefore, that it is "Art" although Art I don't like. )

Once I've seen the picture and felt the feeling, then I can perhaps start thinking about WHY I feel the way I do. For instance, Whistler's sig pic. I love that picture and have since he first posted it. I've never seen it anywhere else. When I first saw it, it reminded me of Constable or Turner, the light and the water. But then, it had its own life in my mind and I would dearly love to see it in reality.

The above sketch has a sense of immediacy, a moment caught quickly, and the image is perfect in that way. I think a gull sketched it as he zoomed past on his way out to intercept the fishing boats.

Sometimes it's possible -- actually it's always possible for me -- to look at a picture and make up a story about what's happening in it. Or what DID happen, or what MIGHT happen. I can quickly imagine a "backstory" for the woman in the Rape picture, or for the man. A whole novel!

But the charming coloured plastic cubes? What life have they ever had? What life WILL they have? Yes, I would like to pick them up and feel their texture, maybe rearrange them: but that's a sensation/idea, not an emotion, if you see the difference.

Some pictures, like Whistler's portrait of his mother, take on an iconic status that makes it nearly impossible to think of them aside from that. Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" is another. I bet it's the commonest reproduction on the planet! What can be said about it? Lots, actually. I love the picture, myself. And the sweet "Pinkie" by Lawrence, that is often paired with it? I like it, too. Not as much, but it's lovely, just the same.

A friend of mine has a large portrait of her late husband, painted in oils on canvas, painted about six months before he died of cancer at the age of 33. As "art" it may have many flaws. But as a portrait it succeeds! There he is, lanky and thin, his incredible blue eyes ablaze with life and anger and fear -- and defiance. He's wearing a red Mountie's tunic (he wasn't a Mountie) flung over his shoulders, he's lounging against a log wall, long legs crossed, the tunic open showing his bare chest, his feet bare, strangely touching to see. I didn't know him very well in life. He was a wild, complicated young man, troubled and maybe bent on a bad end. He did too much coke, drank too much, rode his motorcycle too hard, kept my friend constantly afraid that he'd leave her: and it's all in there in the picture. He died nearly 30 years ago. She was right to be afraid he'd leave her. Every time I go to my friend's house I see that picture, it dominates the room, you HAVE to look at it. Every time I see it I think of that young man and have a quick imaginary chat with him. He didn't like me much, in life, nor I him. But over the years I've come to love him very much. In my mind that picture is a masterpiece.

Dear me. The Queen of Osgiliation strikes again.

Shall I drag it back on topic?

I think Whistler would like the portrait. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:39 pm 
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I'm afraid that you and Whistler would have locked horns, vision!

More later.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:44 pm 
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Whistler wrote:
I'm afraid that you and Whistler would have locked horns, vision!

More later.
:)

Oh, very likely.

But I meant you, not him. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:15 pm 
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Where to begin with Whistler? I’ve covered some of this material already, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll review and expand a bit.

As a man he was very much a dandy and showman, shamelessly flamboyant and self-promoting. He was the equal of his friend/rival Oscar Wilde in every respect, known for his clever tongue and utter disregard for convention. He was the original of the modern caricature of the effete artist, complete with monocle, whiskers and beret. If he were alive today, he’d be appearing on late-night talk shows and scandalous celebrity magazine covers.

But Whistler’s outrageous manner as a man was calculated to garner attention for his artistic philosophies, which were the antithesis of showiness. He never sought to impress the public with his technical skills (which were considerable) but in fact sought to conceal them. Always he sought to let the art speak for itself while the artist remained in the background, silent and unobtrusive.

A bit of background. Whistler painted in a day when art was understood to require some non-artistic justification for its existence. Beauty was not enough: A painting needed also to tell a story or inspire in the viewer a sense of religious faith, patriotism, or any of a multitude of other strong emotions. Next, a painter was expected to possess an almost supernatural ability to capture a wealth of fussy (and artistically unnecessary) details, and to paint in such a way as to disguise the smallest brush stroke. Art had become nothing more than a matter of manipulating public emotion through dazzling (though ultimately tiresome) displays of technical skill.

Whistler had no use for such “claptrap.” His was the philosophy of “art for art’s sake.” For Whistler, art was the visual equivalent of music. Nobody hears a piano concerto and afterward asks for its meaning: It’s purely a series of sounds, arranged in such a manner as to be esthetically pleasing. Nobody ever asks for more than that.

So why, Whistler asked, should they ask for more of art? Color, value, line and composition were the only concerns of the artist. And if nature, in presenting a scene before the eyes of an artist, failed in properly arranging any of these, it was the right of the artist to “correct” nature as he deemed appropriate.

It was this thinking that led, many years later, to abstractionism. Being still a man of his time, even Whistler dared not go where the 20th Century abstractionists would go. But he paved the way for them in his most important works, which are called “nocturnes.” He used the term “nocturne” for two reasons. The first was that it is a musical term, and Whistler never missed a chance to reinforce his art/music analogy, even using the word “symphony” in the titles of several other works.

The second meaning gets more to the heart of Whistler’s intentions. In setting his pictures at night, Whistler was able to clearly illustrate his esthetic philosophy. Here are a few of the nocturnes, reproduced in widely varying quality:

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

Not impressed, are you? You’re not supposed to be, in the usual sense that one is “impressed” with an artist’s work. Whistler doesn’t want you to say “What a great artist!” He wants you to say “What beautiful harmony of color!” or words to that effect. In this sense the egotistical artist becomes self-effacing, wishing only to fade into anonymity for the sake of his art.

Back to the reason for nighttime settings. What happens when we view a scene at night? Edges blur, details are erased. Depth becomes difficult to judge, resulting in a flattening of images that parallels the flatness of a canvas. Color contrast diminishes dramatically, with every color taking on a single subtle hue––blue, green, purple, whatever––that links it visually with every other color. The result (apologies for stealing a phrase from Andrew Lloyd Webber) is “the music of the night.”

These are mostly small paintings, and in galleries they are usually ignored by the masses. This indifference would not have bothered Whistler, who numbered himself as one of those who “early in life, have rid themselves of the friendship of the many.”

Certainly he rid himself of the friendship of John Ruskin, the most powerful art critic of his day. The last painting above (titled Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, and depicting a fireworks display on a riverbank) so infuriated Ruskin that he assailed Whistler’s “cockney impudence,” calling him a “coxcomb” guilty of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.”

Well, those were fighting words. Whistler realized that, because both men were celebrities, a libel lawsuit against Ruskin would receive tremendous attention by the press, thereby providing him with a free forum for publicizing his artistic philosophies. So Whistler sued Ruskin, gained the publicity he sought, and won his lawsuit––winning one farthing in damages. It was a symbolic victory, but in practical terms it was a disaster, bankrupting the great artist.

Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold is still a symbol, to artists, of the courage displayed by creative people who will compromise neither their vision nor their principles.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:22 pm 
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not something I would recommend
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Quote:
Sometimes it's possible -- actually it's always possible for me -- to look at a picture and make up a story about what's happening in it.


What's the story for my sig painting? :D


Quote:
Not impressed, are you?


The last one has become one of my favorite paintings. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:24 pm 
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One of your favorites? Then Whistler would call you an extremely enlighted person.

Of course.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:37 pm 
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My apologies to Whistler, but I'm very impressed with these! :P

I love the way they treat both light and the absence of light, and how what shapes there are come through.

Is the Venice one supposed to be night though? It looks more like a foggy day or during heavy rain.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:45 pm 
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Well, many of these scenes are set in twilight or simply under conditions of heavy fog or even industrial-age pollution. The name "nocturne" is not meant to be taken too literally.

I'm afraid that most of these reproductions are not of the best quality.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 11:51 pm 
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I like Whistler's paintings, particularly the last one, and think old Ruskin was a poopyhead. (Well, he was, and not just because he didn't like Whistler's painting. But don't let me get started on Mr. Ruskin. . . .)

Whistler had HIS ideas about what he should do as an artist. And since he was the guy who did the work, he should have things his way.

But it's MY job to look at the pictures, and I am just as entitled to have my notions about my work in doing it.

The viewer can take it or leave it, and every painter, writer, composer, knows that. An artist who puts his work before the public has to be prepared to be hated.

And he has to be prepared to be loved --- even for the "wrong" reasons. I think that is sometimes harder for an artist than the work being disliked. (Would Whistler be happy with how his work is valued NOW and WHY it is valued as it is?)

Viewers, listeners, readers, "interpret" an artist's work. Look at LOTR, just as an example, and one we are all familiar with! My word. Tolkien was, himself, dismayed and puzzled by some of his fans.

He famously said he wrote the kind of story he liked. And he did. But look at how many "interpretations of" or "responses to" our beloved story there are in the group here at Hall of Fire!

How close is my interpretation to Tolkien's own ideas when he wrote the book? I never thought, when reading the book over and over for decades, that I was reading a "profoundly religious" book. Not once. I was, according to some, lost in the wilderness of my own ignorance. Maybe. :)

When it comes to Whistler's paintings, I am moved by emotion when I look at them. Therefore, in my limited artistic frame of reference, I think they are "good". His technique mattered to him, it doesn't matter to me. His philosophy enabled him to create works of great beauty that I am free to love and enjoy in my own way. He would no doubt think me a simpleton, but so what?

yovargas, I will think about your question and answer it later, if I may.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:43 am 
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Quote:
Not impressed, are you?


Count me as another one very impressed by those paintings, and not just the last one. And my 'philosophy of art' (such as it is) is very different then Whistler's (the painter). Like vison, a piece of artwork must "say something" to me. But that is true of a musical piece of art as much as a painting. And I don't necessarily have to know what it is that the piece of art is saying to me either.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:17 am 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Quote:
Not impressed, are you?


Count me as another one very impressed by those paintings, and not just the last one. And my 'philosophy of art' (such as it is) is very different then Whistler's (the painter). Like vison, a piece of artwork must "say something" to me. But that is true of a musical piece of art as much as a painting. And I don't necessarily have to know what it is that the piece of art is saying to me either.


I DO have to know. It drives me bats until I can figure it out!!

As for music . . . .well, that's a whole 'nother story. :(

I'm always gobsmacked by people who rave about the lyrics in pop songs. I never hear them. :shock: The lyrics, or rather the voices that sing them, are mostly just sounds to me. Only the odd song catches me by its lyrics right away. Explains why I have never loved Bob Dylan as I should, I think. His voice doesn't move me and since I don't really pay much attention to the lyrics, I don't hear what he has to say. Mostly.

Much music passes me by because I read all the time. You can't read and listen to music. Or at least I can't. The exception is in my car. I can listen to music in my car and really enjoy it.

Once my husband and I were driving home through the Rockies from Alberta. I had just bought a CD of Osama Kitajima's "The Source". I listened to it for miles and miles, hitting the replay button over and over, and to this day when I see Mt. Robson or Mt. Edith Cavell, even in pictures, I hear that lovely sound.

However, that's neither here nor there.
:D

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:25 am 
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vison wrote:
I'm always gobsmacked by people who rave about the lyrics in pop songs. I never hear them. :shock: The lyrics, or rather the voices that sing them, are mostly just sounds to me. Only the odd song catches me by its lyrics right away. Explains why I have never loved Bob Dylan as I should, I think. His voice doesn't move me and since I don't really pay much attention to the lyrics, I don't hear what he has to say. Mostly.


Yes! You and me both, vison!

I have the worst time hearing or caring about lyrics. I realize this makes me culturally blind, but it's how I am. When someone says, "You have to listen to this song!" I strain and strain and get all nervous and almost never understand even half of it, and don't enjoy it at all. Reading the lyrics, separately, as poetry, I can enjoy them. Listening is just painful.

The only exception for me is classical choral music, where I know what they're singing (even if I don't speak the language they're singing it in). Then the meaning is in my consciousness, and the way it works with the music can move me.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 2:09 am 
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vison wrote:
I'm always gobsmacked by people who rave about the lyrics in pop songs. I never hear them. :shock: The lyrics, or rather the voices that sing them, are mostly just sounds to me. Only the odd song catches me by its lyrics right away. Explains why I have never loved Bob Dylan as I should, I think. His voice doesn't move me and since I don't really pay much attention to the lyrics, I don't hear what he has to say. Mostly.


My apologies to Whistler and Whistler.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool's gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Temptation's page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover
That you'd just be
One more person crying.

So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing.

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright, Ma, I can make it.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him.

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer's pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death's honesty
Won't fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes
Must get lonely.

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 2:46 am 
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Well, I’m pleased at the responses. Vision, I am surprised that you like the nocturnes because they don’t “say” anything except “this is beautiful.” I was under the impression that you were more literal-minded than that, judging by your earlier remarks. I judged you unfairly.

Whistler would be appalled that his “Arrangement In Black and Grey” is now known as “Whistler’s Mother” and is widely regarded as a sort of sentimental tribute to motherhood. But of course these things have a life of their own, once they are released to the public.

Voronwë, do you feel better to have that out of your system?


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