Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Drawing, Painting and Alice Neel

My baby
My baby
Last night I fixed a big bowl of popcorn and watched the documentary on the life of Alice Neel created by her grandson, Andrew Neel. In a nutshell she lived a classic artist's life. She had several tumultuous relationships, four children and spent her life in poverty. In her 70's she became famous.

My son
Alice Neel is called a portrait painter. Technically she is but I've never thought of her that way. I think of Alice Neel as a painter who liked to paint people. She painted other things as well as people but it was the heart and soul of another that she liked to capture. My definition of a portrait painter is an artist who paints people on commission. That was not Alice Neel even though, she may have done this at the end of her life.
She painted people the way Picasso did, to capture their spirit.  Her paintings are psychologically probing, not the sort of painting that flatters the individual sitter.  To me this isn't portrait painting.

My husband
Crazy Relationships and Art
In her early years it seems that Alice Neel was ruled by romantic love.  She seemed to fall head over heals in love and then later suffer the consequences, like many of us!  Art comes along for the ride to document and our art often bails us out, emotionally.
One of her children died and she lost a little girl in her marriage split-up. Her husband's family raised the child in Cuba. As a result, she spent time in a mental institution.
In her mid to late 30's she had two boys. Each of them was a result of a different love affair, one with a younger Latino man and one with a documentary filmmaker. In these years of struggle, she rarely sold a painting and lived on welfare. She raised her boys on the dole and yet, they both managed to go to college and become financially successful.

Still life drawing

Alice Neel lived in the same apartment in a poor neighborhood in New York for most of her life. She moved to Spanish Harlem from Greenwich Village early on and stayed for most of her remaining years. Like Picasso she filled her living space with stacks of paintings. It's interesting to see the progression in her art and glimpses of her shabby apartment in NYC in the documentary.  Suffer for Art?  Alice Neel did but late in life she reinvented herself as a famous artist.  Amazing!

Alice Neel did the impossible. She did not live on her art but she lived for her art. She did not get a job, make a living or stay with a man. She managed to keep painting in spite of hardships and deep poverty. 
What of the many artists who have sacrificed for their art but did not, in the end, become well-known?  Or what of the artists who only became famous after they died in poverty, obscurity and misery?  Such is the creative life!  We live for the journey.
Drawings by Charlotte Rossmann

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Artist Francis Bacon

Study for Self-Portrait by Artist Francis Bacon

Crucify 3 by Artist Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon

Above is the work Francis Bacon, Irish born, English artist.  He is very famous for extreme paintings that depict violent, repressed and anxious feelings. The reason I like his work is that it's so personal, so intense and not mainstream. His art has impact born of a terrific talent, scarred past and deep emotion. No, it's not pretty but it is powerful. The paintings come from his soul. There is great painterly quality in Bacon's work, the scrubbing and changing and moving of the paint on the surface of the canvas pulls the viewer into the art.  This style works to bring more intensity to the emotional content of the work.

Growing up in Ireland, Francis Bacon experienced violence at an early age. He described an experience of hiding in a ditch and viewing a violent political murder as a small boy. He was forever marked by his insecure an violent childhood. A lot is made of the fact that Bacon was gay. At the time he was alive it was less accepted but also he had wild life, gambling, drinking in London's Soho which was somewhat a reflection on his life choice. He called this lifestyle, "rough trade".

He was born in 1909 and died in 1992. In his last years he settled down and lived a quiet life. I saw photos of his studio with trash piled everywhere. He liked the chaos and felt that was the best soil for his creative life.

An interesting quote by Margaret Thatcher concerning Francis Bacon: "that man who paints those dreadful pictures."  Dreadful? Maybe.  Life can be dreadful and for Bacon it was his place and his time to give meaning to the feeling of anxiety that a violent past produces.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Colorist Wolf Kahn

Above Painting is one I did based on New Mexico Travels.  See more: http://www.charlotterossmann.com/

When I went back to Southern Illinois University to get my undergrad degree, I had been painting for many years. I already had my own style, cubistic and totally abstract. My painting professor told me that my use of color reminded him of a former classmate of his, Wolf Kahn. I had no clue who Wolf Kahn was. Later, of course, I did find out.
Kahn is a colorist but unlike some of the colorists of the early 20th century he incorporates realism or an effect of images that frequently look realistic in his paintings and drawings. They are very creative in the sense that he is not copying nature but using nature to inspire a form of abstract art that has a look of realism. He is a magnificent artist, to be sure. 
Wolf Kahn was born in Germany and came to the US when he was young. He studied in a variety of places but probably most influential was the time he studied with the famous abstract artist, Hans Hoffmann, who is known for his use of color. Kahn got his degree from the University of Chicago and that must be when my former professor met him.
Wolf Kahn is still alive and painting. His work is available for viewing on the internet and worth the time to check out.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More on Suzanne Valadon

In reading more about Suzanne Valadon I detect an underlying problem of alcoholism.  Her son, Maurice Utrillo, was an alcoholic.  She struggled to keep him out of jail.  One of the important paintings she posed for was Toulouse-Lautrec's wonderful painting called, "The Hangover".  Of course she might have been acting but I doubt it.  I suspect Lautrec saw this in her and it inspired the painting.  After all, this is a woman who spent many of her nights in the bars.  This is how she met her many lovers/husbands as well as artists who befriended her and helped her.  In her 50's she married an artist in his 20's which was probably scandalous in those days. 
I do wonder how she managed to spend so much of her time at night drinking in the bars while she was raising a young son and supporting him as well.  These are the details that I wish to find and cannot.

At least one of her amours called her the only love of his life and found his life to be empty when she left.  He was the composer, Erik Satie.  Without a doubt she left a lasting impression on her part of the world.  She is known for her strong, female, nude paintings.  Before Valadon women were frequently painted as passive and weak but Suzanne, a physically able woman, gave the world a more healthy look at women's strength and abilities.  No wimp, this Valadon lady! 
One has to think she didn't have that much money in her life. She couldn't have had the safety net of middle class security. I think it's interesting that at one point she did marry a banker. They lived together for 14 years but suddenly, she became restless and that is when she left him for the younger artist and went back to her preferred bohemian lifestyle.
She was an illegitimate daughter of a laundress and she had a son without the benefit of marriage. Those were strict societal taboos of the time which would have placed her outside the norm, outside the acceptable.  Yet, this is a woman who is known today as a famous artist, even today. Growing up poor, making something of herself in the world of art on her own terms.
What an unlikely occurrence that this woman would have become famous and have a famous son. Yet, it happened! This was who she was and the world of art is richer for her existence.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Suzanne Valadon: a Famous Woman Artist that I admire

Please visit my website: http://www.charlotterossmann.com/

Suzanne Valadon had a very colorful life.  Born in 1865, she started out as a circus acrobat but a fall from a trapeze ended that career early.  Soon she became a model for many of the most famous artists of the time including Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.  Lautrec gave her painting lessons and Degas encouraged her artistic career and purchased her work.
Valadon was a free spirit and lived her life on her own terms.  She kept a goat in her studio to eat up all the art work she didn't consider fit to show.  When she was 18 and unmarried, she had a child, Maurice Valadon.  Her son later took the name of a family friend and became the well-known artist, Maurice Utillo.
Suzanne, as a model, was the subject in many famous paintings by the artist Renior with whom she had an affair and also in Lautrec's paintings. She was a well-known artist at the time of her death in 1938.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inspirational woman artist: Georgia O'Keefe

Watercolor painting of western scenery.
More contemporary, western scenery on my website: www.charlotterossmann.com

For many women artists, Georgia O'Keefe has been the most inspirational artist. When I was in college as a young student I didn't know of many famous women artists. O'Keefe and Cassett were it. When I went back to college in the 1990's I took a few classes in art history specifically about women artists. I learned that there were, indeed, a lot of women artists and very good women artists throughout history but they had been ignored.  As good as they were, they were not famous.

Georgia O'Keefe was a rarity in her time. As the story goes the reason she was not ignored as an artist was that she had a powerful mentor, Alfred Stieglitz. He was a photographer and also active in the art community in New York City. There was a great age difference and he as the older, experienced, knowledgeable photographer was able to guide her career.

When O'Keefe was in college, before Stieglitz came into her life another student (male) asked her to pose for him. She declined and his reply was that she would end up teaching in a girl's school somewhere and he would go on to be a famous artist. She relented and posed for a portrait.

We all know the impetuousness of youth! Of course, this is one of those cocky comments a college student might make but needless to say the this artist did not go on to be famous. The most famous work he did was the portrait of Georgia O'Keefe. In fact, I would venture the opinion that the most famous photographs that Alfred Stieglitz did were the many portraits of Georgia O'Keefe.

Her work is wonderful but her life is also a work of art. She was adventurous. She was opinionated. She was outspoken. She lived her life in a way that most women did not in those days.  Rough, rugged and independent she lived alone in New Mexico after Stieglitz died.

Her life was long.  She died at the age of 98 but Stieglitz was her only husband.  She did not have children.  I read that she wanted to have a child but Stieglitz said no. He said it would ruin her as an artist. In those days people believed in some of the Freudian nonsense about women. If she didn't have a child, she was more like a man. If she had a child, she would lose her creative edge.

Fortunately, today women can have children and paintings as well. Alice Neel managed to do both. Suzanne Valadon was an excellent painter and mother to the artist Maurice Utrillo. I know that Frida Kahlo was pregnant but she did not deliver a healthy child.

If you can think of another truly famous female artist who was also a mother, please comment.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bold, Bright and Beautiful: Chicano Art

Oil Painting on Canvas by Charlotte Rossmann, Cityscape

A great number of years ago I saw an exhibit at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Boulder, Co.  It was Chicano art.  This was the first time I had ever seen art that was specifically "Chicano Art" but I loved it.  The colors were bold, bright and beautiful.  The images were of daily things, cars, religious images and city scenes.   One artwork was a sculpture with an actual cut up car in it.  From that moment on I've been a huge fan of Chicano art.  What I really like about it is that it's a combination of another culture and yet, it is still American.  It's how this country melts cultures into a force that has vitality and energy.  Chicano art is vivid, real and intense.  Each artist has his/her own vision and yet, by the culture and by the bold colors it becomes part of the larger group identity. 
Cheech Marin has brought Chicano art to the art world by showing many of the artists in displays and in books.  I have one book that Cheech Marin assembled and it's called "Chicano Visions, American Painters on the Verge".  I highly recommend the book.

Check out my website:     http://www.charlotterossmann.com/

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is Cubism?

Cubism is a style of art work that was started by the artist Cezanne. It was considered one of the first truly abstract styles in art. Cezanne's beautiful canvas oil paintings of French landscapes and complicated still life were complex compositions that he painted from life. But by today's standards they don't look very abstract. However, Cezanne changed and invented by breaking down the forms into planes and geometric slashes of color. In the day he was painting, changing the scene in a creative way wasn't what other artists were doing. It was shocking to the art community when Cezanne started showing his revolutionary work in Paris.

Cezanne's concept was expanded but the forms simplified by Picasso and Braque who are credited as the first cubists. Without Cezanne one wonders if it would have happened?
Then again, there are those who say that Picasso stole his ideas from the African masks that he saw on exhibit in Paris at the time he was inventing this new art style of Abstraction. Looking at Picasso's strictly cubistic work, one can understand that claim.

In reality, it doesn't matter.

What matters is, "How does it look?" "How interesting is it?"

Picasso's work does look good. It's very interesting.
In the world of art, the question is: Does it knock your socks off? Picasso's work has lasting success partially because it speaks so well to the modern world.

The painting shown is one of my Cubistic paintings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

David Hockney, a favorite artist!

This painting is one of my New Mexico paintings http://www.charlotterossmann.com/ . I love the area around Santa Fe and feel inspired when I go down there. I like to do abstracted landscapes of specific areas I have visited.
David Hockney is an artist who felt inspired in the same way when he went to California. He was originally from England but lives in California now. He liked the light and the lifestyle of southern California. In fact, my favorite paintings of his are those he did of the Los Angeles area. He uses a lot of patterns, abstract ideas and bright colors. Some of his work is realistic but I like his abstractions the best.
Here's a link to his website for more information: http://www.hockneypictures.com/

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Inspired by the artist Robert Delaunay

Original Oil Painting "Day Dreaming, Carnival, Sea Creatures": $350. 18" by 24" oil on masonite by Charlotte Rossmann.

Long ago way back in college, I came across the artwork of the artist Robert Delaunay (1884-1941). He was a French cubist painter and I love the way he handles paint. It's not just his wonderful colors or his use of color but also how he makes the paint work. Within his abstract, colorful abstractions he models the paint, shading with color which gives his work depth and character.

To see Robert Delaunay's work, check out this website:
To see more of Charlotte Rossmann's artwork, check out my website: http://www.charlotterossmann.com/