Tag Archives: Painting

The dark side of the city | BBC Culture

Interesting article on BBC Culture this morning about the depiction of urban loneliness in the paintings of Edward Hopper based on excerpts from The Lonely City, a new book by Olivia Laing.

Excerpt:

“This is the thing about cities, the way that even indoors you’re always at the mercy of a stranger’s gaze. Wherever I went – pacing back and forth between the bed and couch; roaming into the kitchen to regard the abandoned boxes of ice cream in the freezer – I could be seen by the people who lived in the Arlington, the vast Queen Anne co-op that dominated the view, its 10 brick storeys lagged in scaffolding. At the same time, I could also play the watcher, Rear Window-style, peering in on dozens of people with whom I’d never exchange a word, all of them engrossed in the small intimacies of the day. Loading a dishwasher naked; tapping in on heels to cook the children’s supper.”

AAA_miscphot_6918Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker (Source: Wikipedia). Born in 1882, Edward Hopper trained as an illustrator and devoted much of his early career to advertising and etchings. Influenced by the Ashcan School and taking up residence in New York City, Hopper began to paint the commonplaces of urban life with still, anonymous figures, and compositions that evoke a sense of loneliness. His famous works include House by the Railroad (1925), Automat (1927) and the iconic Nighthawks (1942). Hopper died in 1967 (Source: Biography.com).

Read the full article here: The dark side of the city | BBC Culture

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FROM THE VAULT | Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Spirtual_in_Art_CoverFROM THE VAULT
Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky

“It is the conviction that nothing mysterious can ever happen in our everyday life that has destroyed the joy of abstract thought.”

Students and aspiring artists will find the entirety of Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky a fascinating read. Throughout, Kandinsky attempts to lay out a theory of art through analogy to the composition of music. In doing so, Kandinsky is explicitly seeking to promote the inner expression or spirituality of the artist in the creation of a truly abstract art. For architects, urban designers, and urban planners, it is likely that they will find particular sections of Concerning the Spiritual in Art more useful to their own area of interest than others in the book; in particular, page 21-45 on the psychological effect and language/form of color. As might be expected from an artist of Kandinsky’s standing, he has some very interesting and insightful ideas about the use and mixture of colors in composition. It seems like some of these ideas might prove useful application in the built environment, especially for those who find themselves constrained in an oppressive world of beige. Certainly, the use of color in the built environment appears to be a poorly understood subject, especially in the United States. It couldn’t hurt for some professionals to better understand the topic.

Vassily-KandinskyAbout Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky (December  16, 1866 – December 13, 1944) was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting one of the first purely abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa, where he graduated from Grekov Odessa Art school. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics. Successful in his profession, he was offered a professorship (Chair of Roman Law) at the University of Dorpat. Kandinsky began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30. In 1896, Kandinsky settled in Munich, studying first at Anton Ažbe’s private school and then at the Academy of Fine Arts. He returned to Moscow in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I. Kandinsky was unsympathetic to the official theories on art in Communist Moscow and returned to Germany in 1921. He taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed the school in 1933. He then moved to France, where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art (Source: Wikipedia).

Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky
Paperback (76 pages), English
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 11, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1453627426
ISBN-10: 1453627421

You can purchase Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky on Amazon here.

From the Vault is a series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review art, architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in second-hand bookstores.

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Buildings in Motion | The City in Art

Rejcel Harbert’s The Blue City (2012), 22″ x 28″, acrylic on stretched canvas, private collection.

Buildings in Motion | The City in Art
By Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

The city is always in motion. Generally, this statement is understood by professionals to refer to movement through urban space at street level (pedestrians, automobiles, and so forth) and/or the outward physical growth of the city in plan. However, the city is also – and always – in motion at its vertical dimension. It is not merely the movement of people and things vertically across interior elevations (such as elevators) but the buildings themselves move and, metaphorically speaking, grow. A structural engineer understands the need to account for wind shear in building structures, especially the taller the building. Anyone who has worked in and/or visited a skyscraper will have probably experienced the phenomenon of wind shear motion in that building, if only on a barely perceptible level. However, in a metaphorical sense, the buildings of the city are also ‘growing’ as new and higher buildings are erected over time. Harbert paints the buildings much like trees bending against a strong wind, providing a counter-motion horizontally, but also sprouting ever-upwards in a counter-motion against gravity associated with the plane of the ground. In The Blue City (2012), the ground plane is not represented by the solidity of terra firma but the fluidity of a nurturing water, which anchors the buildings much like water feeding the roots of trees. This gives the abstraction a dynamic and organic quality not normally associated with the vertical dimension of the city.

There is an eternal attribute about the city that Harbert captures in depicting a waterfront city at dusk. The onset of dusk is indicated both by the colors of the painting’s background and the use of white in representing the internal lights of the buildings, much in the same way as Georgia O’Keefe’s Radiator Building-Night, New York (1927). In The Blue City, the lights of the city buildings are abstractly reflected in the water at the base of the painting. There is a vibrancy of color contrasted between the upper (reds, browns, and greens) and lower portions (blues, whites, and greens) of the painting. The Blue City reminds us in an abstracted form that the city is always in motion in every dimension (length, width, breadth – the horizontal and vertical – and time itself). In this sense, Harbert captures something about the eternal dynamic of motion in the city. When it comes to the existential being of the city, we may not see it from afar – for example, as we gaze at the skyline of a city – but motion is an essential fact of the thing itself.

BIAS ALERT: I own this painting. I love it so much that I bought it for my private collection. Rejcel usually writes a short description of her paintings on www.rejcel.com but she has not done so for The Blue City. However, when I purchased the painting in 2012, I do recall her telling me the image for The Blue City came to her after a dream.

About Rejcel Harbert
Rejcel Harbert has over eight years of experience as the owner of Art by Rejcel, where she sells photographic services, paintings, and abstract and expressionistic acrylic arts. She received her bachelor of arts in business, economics, and Spanish from Jacksonville University in 2001. She is a member of the Business Fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, the Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi, and received an award from the Women’s Business Organization for Achievement. Ms. Harbert does religious volunteer work including construction and repair work for community members in need. For more information on Art by Rejcel, visit www.rejcel.com.

The City in Art is a series by The Outlaw Urbanist. The purpose is to present and discuss artistic depictions of the city that can help us, as professionals, learn to better see the city in ways that are invisible to others. Before the 20th century, most artistic representations of the city broadly fell into, more or less, three categories: literalism, pastoral romanticism, and impressionism, or some variation thereof. Generally, these artistic representations of the city lack a certain amount of substantive interest for the modern world. The City in Art series places particular emphasis on art and photography from the dawn of the 20th century to the present day.

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Terre Potentiel | The City in Art

Paul Klee’s Highways and Byways (1929), 67 x 83 cm or 26.4” x 32.7”, oil on canvas, Christoph and Andr Collection displayed in Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany.

Terre Potentiel | The City in Art
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

According to the one interpretation of Paul Klee’s Highways and Byways, plots of lands are used as ‘building blocks’ to offer an aerial view of the landscape in order to create the illusion of perspective and relief. “Complexity emerges geometrically by successive doublings from a central ‘highway’ to create ‘byways’ (i.e. small, more dense or compact plots of land), only to be lost again by inversely halving their number.” The largest plots forming the central ‘highway’ approach a water body (probably the River Nile since this period of Klee’s paintings came after a trip to Egypt). However, the title of Klee’s painting indicates a different interpretation than agricultural plots for the colored strata (Source: The Peacock’s Tail: Essays on Mathematics and Culture). It does seem to hint at more than an abstract painting of an agricultural landscape. Perhaps skewed by an American perspective towards the land, it might suggest terre potentiel (the potential of the land). Humans have already intervened in the landscape for agricultural uses and the river already serves as a transportation hub, both associated with the support mechanisms for urban living. “In this pattern of fields, all is order, timeless structure, with a poetic element added… in twentieth-century creative language” (Source: PaulKlee.net). It is in this ‘timeless structure of order’ that can be found the design traces of a future urban pattern, a future city that has yet to emerge from the land but the potential for its emergence is already etched in the landscape. I love this painting, not so much for what it represents in the ‘here and now’ (though it is beautiful only on these terms) but what it represents about the possible, the “undiscovered country,” …the future, where all travelers must venture but none may journey before it is time.

About Paul Klee
Paul Klee (1879–1940) was born near Bern, Switzerland. He studied drawing and painting in Munich for three years beginning in 1898. By 1911, he was involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. In 1914, Klee visited Tunisia. The experience was the turning point. The limpid light of North Africa awakened his sense of color. Klee gradually detached color from physical description and used it independently, giving him the final push toward abstraction. In 1920, Walter Gropius invited Klee to join the faculty of the Bauhaus. Nearly half of Klee’s work was produced during the ten years he taught at the Bauhaus. From 1931-1933, Klee taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf. When the National Socialists declared his art “degenerate”, he returned to his native Bern. Klee suffered from a wasting disease, scleroderma, towards the end of his life, enduring the pain until his death in Muralto, Locarno, Switzerland, on June 29, 1940 (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikipedia).

Visit the Artsy.net Paul Klee page here.

Read a later article about another Paul Klee painting featured in The City in Art series here.

The City in Art is a series by The Outlaw Urbanist. The purpose is to present and discuss artistic depictions of the city that can help us, as professionals, learn to better see the city in ways that are invisible to others. Before the 20th century, most artistic representations of the city broadly fell into, more or less, three categories: literalism, pastoral romanticism, and impressionism, or some variation thereof. Generally, these artistic representations of the city lack a certain amount of substantive interest for the modern world. The City in Art series places particular emphasis on art and photography from the dawn of the 20th century to the present day.

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