Johann David Passavant was born in 1787 in Germany. There’s isn’t much about Passavant’s personal life but let’s take some time to appreciate his contribution to art history. We know that Passavant was a painter and an enthusiastic spokesman for the Nazarene group. (The Nazarene movement was a group of artists inspired to bring spirituality back into art.)
What Passavant gifted us was his shift on the word oeuvre from his monograph on Raphael. He did publish other articles, but at age 52, his historical collection of Raphael was published and changed the way we write monographs forever. The monograph was titled, Rafael von Urbino und sein Vater Giovanni Santi. According to “Art as Existence” by Gabriele Guercio, “Never before in the history of this form of writing had the artist work been presented so explicitly and systematically as a multidimensional organic whole.” His writing style though similar to other monographers had never been done before. He had to pave his own way through writing his monograph in this form. It must not have been easy but he was determined. It says, “Passavant’s project demanded that he chart Raphael’s progress from within, drawing a web of relations among artist’s works that parallels the course of the artist’s life.” This reminds me of one of those boards with the red thread and thumbtacks. He must have spent a lot of time and energy gathering all the little pieces of Raphael’s life and works but it paid off.
His monograph “epitomized in the literature of art the modern conception of the human being as an expressive individual driven to realize his or her nature, whose life cycle is characterized by a continuous dialectic between being and becoming.” Using this method gives the monograph a similar feel to works of fiction. He does this by giving the readers a view of the artist’s character arc.
I find it fascinating the amount of work it took Passavant to give life to the artists and how impactful it was in the end. It feels like we, as writers, are constantly reminding the world of our humanity. Being human is something so easy to misplace or to leave out, especially with the greats. We give them too much credit. We undermine all the hard work they are putting into their art while also handling the same stressors that come with life; death and loss, heartbreak, mental illness, illness, and all the other things that cause suffering without discrimination. We writers will forever be called to bring life to humanity or to remind humans that they are human. We are here to say,
Hey humans we are always somewhere between becoming and being and that’s ok because we’re all like that.
And then we write about it and live like we believe it. Sometimes it pays off and we get to leave the world a little bit better than when it found us.
When you look at an artist’s work, you can’t look at one piece and know the whole artist. One piece of work is just a bleep on the radar. Especially in today’s world. You can’t just look at one post, or one blog, or one short story, poem, whatever. You have to follow the artist. Follow them with the intent to understand where their work is coming from and for the most dedicated followers, where it is going. How is it evolving? How is the artist evolving?
We don’t know Leonardo da Vinci from just the Mona Lisa. We know him for his writing, his contraptions, his relationships with other artist and intellectuals of his time. We appreciate da Vinci for who he was entirely. Would he be so well admired if we didn’t know about him outside of his paintings?
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The point here is, show yourself. Show who your are outside of your art. You are not one painting, you’re an entire collection. You are more than one work of art. You’re a gallery. You are Picasso’s works before, during, and after his Blue period. That’s about……….
According to Allen Combs a professor of Consciousness Studies, “[poet and cultural historian Jean] Gebser’s explorations of art and history [began] with a sudden recognition that art at the fin de siècle represented a new kind of consciousness, a new way of seeing and experiencing reality.” In Combs article he goes on to explain how art and human consciousness has evolved beginning with the idea that consciousness is external or separate from ourselves.
…the number of points of view from which a modern person can see and understand the world is much greater than those available to our ancestors.
Paul Gauguin was a painter who was praised as the leader of the symbolist artists in 1891. This style of painting was inspired by the symbolist writers of the time. In a letter to symbolist poet, critic, and editor of litarary journals Charles Morice, Gauguin says,
…[ There are] two kinds of beauty: one that results from instinct and another which would come from studying. The combination of the two, with its necessary modifications, produces certainly a great and very complicated richness, which the art critic must devote himself to discover….
Art has just gone through a long period of aberration caused by physics, chemistry, mechanics and the study of nature. Artists having lost all their savagery, having lost no more instincts, one could even say imagination, went astray on every path, looking for productive elements which they did not have enough strength to create. Consequently, they act only as a disorderly crowd, they feel frightened like lost ones when they are alone. That is why solitude must not be advised for everyone, since one must have strength to be able to bear it and act alone.
There’s a lot more in this letter than Gauguin’s thoughts on solitude. An artist must learn to art alone. It is in solitude where thoughts come and go freely without the harsh priority of daily chores. When an artist learns to be alone, they gain control of their environment. Like baby turtles they must learn to get from the nest to the ocean without getting lost or snatched up on the way. This requires some instinct and once alone, it requires study. There is an art in arting alone. There is a space where artists must meet themselves and say ok we’re in this together and I’m not leaving you here to drown. It does take a faith in yourself and a great faith in your art.
According to Theories of Modern Art by Herschel B. Chipp, Gauguin thought of himself as “a savage beyond the taint of civilization.” He escaped European civilization and fled to Polynesia where he spent his life painting. All while being pressured by his family to return to business. He painted alone so alone in fact that he did not even have the support of his own wife and family Until. The. Day. He. Died.
He’s right when he says solitude requires strength. I do, however, believe that solitude should be for everyone.
According to Mutualart.com, “Jan Toorop was a Dutch visual artist who was born in 1858. He has had numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and at the Rijksmuseum. Many works by the artist have been sold at auction, including ‘Portret van mevrouw M.J. de Lange — Portrait of Mrs M.J. de Lange’ sold at Christie’s Amsterdam ‘TWENTIETH CENTURY ART INCLUDING BELGIAN ART’ in 2005 for $964,318.
“Paul Cézanne was a post-impressionist painter born January 19th 1839 in France…..He felt that an artist should see nature in a way that no one has seen it before. That they must make a vision for themselves. Not in an extremely cryptic way, but by being fully conscious of their own sensations.”
Donatello was a fifteenth-century Florentine sculpture who helped to establish the increasing naturalism and growing emulation of Classical models that would be central to early Italian Renaissance. According to Volume II Art History, “Donatello’s bronze David was the first life size, free standing nude since antiquity” (Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren 1995).
David stands 5’2 ¼” and was recorded to be in the courtyard of the Medici Palace in 1469. David is shown nude with a sword in his right hand and his foot placed gently over Goliath’s severed head. David doesn’t stand triumphantly over Goliath, but has a calm demeanor and lowered sword. Possibly to show humility and peacefulness. Or a deep reliance on God. It may even be considered by some more of a naivety in his stance. This sculpture is based on the old testament biblical story of a young shepherd boy with no military training who slays an undefeated giant. It is unclear the circumstances as to why this sculpture was created and so it has piqued the interest of many speculators.
We do know, according to Volume II Art History, “David was a potent political image in Florence, a symbol of the citizens’ resolve to oppose tyrants regardless of their superior power, since virtue brings divine support and preternatural strength.” (Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren 1995). When these things, the slaying of a giant, the culture, the story, and how Donatello sculpted the boy’s stance, are brought together it creates a sense that David is gracefully poised between childish naivety and great responsibility. I think Donatello mastered this sculpture paying close attention not only to the things mentioned in the previous sentence but also by adding details to bring the sculpture to life. Like the helmet with the leaves sculpted around it. The ground below his feet is not just a flat surface but looks like rugged ground with a wreath surrounding it. He captured enough to really tell the story and bring us to this event that’s very real according to their history.
This summer I slowed down on a lot of my writing. Worked on the screenplay and some poetry here and there but mostly just backed off and you know what? I realized I have been working my booty off the past two years and not realizing it. And not appreciating my own best efforts. Not in a bragging type of way but in a way that made me realize This Is my best effort. And I feel like the artist Eyck reached through time and confirmed that for me.
Above the portrait painted on the frame which isn’t show here (but you can see it here) the words As I can or “Als Ich Can” written in Greek are painted on the frame. Now there are different ways that line has been interpreted. One is that it is simply a self portrait and he is playing on the pun Ich and his last name Eyck.
Another interesting idea is that as I can is coming from part of a motto that scribes would put at the end manuscripts that they have copied. They would write the entire motto “As I can not as I would.” Or in other words this is the best I can do, I wish I can do better. So he dropped I wish I could do better and just wrote As I can or This is the best I can do.
For some of us artists this is a profound realization. Coming to the place where you accept that you are doing your best work and having the ability to appreciate that. I think that this is a portrait of that moment for him. He found his niche his sweet spot. Makes me wonder if he ever looked at sculptures or mathematicians and thought man I wish I could be more them. But learned to find joy in the talents he excelled in. Oil paints, adding depth, and making sure to add the minute details made his work stand out from the rest even to this day. His works evoke feelings, thoughts, curiosity, and even with me his work confirmed that I need to accept my best efforts for my best efforts.
Paul Cézanne was a post-impressionist painter born January 19th 1839 in France. Cézanne felt that art should go hand in hand with nature. In a letter to one of his pupils, Emile Zola, he says, ” But you know all the pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as the things done outside.” He felt that an artist should see nature in a way that no one has seen it before. That they must make a vision for themselves. Not in an extremely cryptic way, but by being fully conscious of their own sensations. Of both feelings and visual sensations in unison. And then, using intelligence, organize it into their work.
I really like that he says we must make visions for ourselves. I think at this point it’s so easy for people to say “everything’s been done” but I don’t think everything’s been done. If we take things that have already been done and mingle it with our own beliefs and experiences I truly believe we could create something that’s never been done. However if we get too caught up on trying to create the thing that hasn’t been done, we miss out on the act of creating. And that’s where the connection, or the uniqueness, lies. I don’t think creating something that hasn’t been created yet is as important as creating something that truly reflects who you are. And to create something that truly reflects who you are requires a consciousness of yourself, your feelings, your experiences, and the world through your eyes.
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