Monday, October 09, 2006

L’Art nouveau is not new anymore.
The new wine arrives every year after the grape harvest, after it is not new anymore, it is wine which will mature every year and will become better. ( to drink with moderation.) The Art nouveau will be always called like this whereas it has been a long time it is finished; it makes one century that it is finished, hundred years. Did it become better? Yourself, you knew the beginning of 21st century in the year 2000. Those which knew the art nouveau lived at the beginning of the previous century, in 1900. (About when the heavy iron Eiffel tower was launched towards the sky). Thus nobody alive has known the art nouveau at the time it was manufactured. Fortunately, it remains traces of this time that one calls also Modern Style. The opposite of “modern”, is old, the opposite of “nouveau”, is ancient, it is similar. “Modern” it is like “nouveau”. It is neither nouveau nor modern when it is old. One also says “the Beautiful Time” (La Belle Époque), it is simpler to understand, but perhaps we also live a beautiful time… Then one should perhaps say 1900 style? Where can one find traces of this Beautiful modern Time 1900 of Art nouveau? One can find works of this time in certain large cities with the proviso of knowing well what one seeks and looks up. In Nancy, it is rather easy to find splendid decorations of this time right while walking, by looking at the houses and by looking up. It is necessary all the same to learn how to seek the details and the forms of this time, if not one doesn’t know what to look at. The Art nouveau likes the curves, so it is rather easy: curves should be sought. If you find a curve on a frontage, a balcony, a window, or a door, it is probably Art nouveau. If you find decorations which seem to melt like chocolate it is a house Art nouveau. , in Nancy, one says “School of Nancy” (École de Nancy). The odd frontages of houses with curves which one finds in Nancy were drawn and carved by pupils of the school of Nancy, who make Art nouveau, which has more than one century. The pupils of the school of Nancy who are adults like the sinuous lines of the plants going along the walls. They also like the flowers. The flowers are rarely square, triangular, and their stems are neither right neither parallels nor perpendiculars. It is very simple, the School of Nancy hates the geometrical forms.
They are not alone not to like the straight lines.
(1) Pyramids are triangular, the artists of Nancy did not like simple volumes like these. (2) The Greek temples, (3) the Roman temples and (4) the churches of the Renaissance do not have curves either; they are right isosceles triangles posed on parallel lines, the columns. That does not resemble a plant at all (mimicked or drawn). (5) One time ago when one carved curves in the geometrical churches. The triangles were transformed into arcs and they were decorated by spirals which one calls volutes. One called this time “Baroque”, Cigarette smoke makes splendid buckled drawings which one calls “volutes”. Smoking causes serious diseases (6) then…, the Rococo ", there were even more details twisted one in another. (7) The architects of the Gothic cathedrals liked the simple curves, the arcs of a circle; the arcs of a circle which are cut, parallel arcs of a circle. The Gothic cathedrals are very old: they are seven centuries, 700 years and they are always upright, they are only stones piled up, and that gives the impression to be lianas, the artists of the Art nouveau loved Gothic artists. It should be retained that the men who built the houses sometimes liked or hated curved lines. It is strange, there are times when one likes to live in the curves and other times; not. The artists of the art nouveau wrote in their rules:
“Nature makes very beautiful lines, it will be our single source of inspiration."
Those which built differently at that time were not artists of the Art nouveau. Their rules did not last a long time: twenty years only! Then, the vertical line and the horizontal one became the queens again until today; I.e. since about ninety years. Our time is not funny for those who like the funny lines like noodles. At that time, to make fun of Art nouveau decoration, one called it the “noodle style”. It is better to imagine spaghettis cooked without tomato sauce, but it was not so twisted all the same… Those who do not like always exaggerate. For the workmen, it was not easy to cut the hard stone so that it becomes flexible like a climbing plant. Wood is cut easily, but it was not easy for the carpenters to make windows in the shape of ferns. The window-panes could have the forms and the colors which one liked, they benefited from the molten glass when it was hot and soft a little like tart pastry. At that time, they had a lot of iron, the proof, the Eiffel tower. Then these artists used it a lot by twisting it in all the directions as beautiful large angelica which one finds in the meadows in spring. The balconies give the impression to be made of liquorice. The interior of the houses was also decorated a lot. The interior of houses Art nouveau is to be admired. The artists designed and manufactured all the must have in an apartment to live in. When one moves, in theory, one carries the pieces of furniture, its crockery, its objects of decorations… … But, when one arrive in an Art nouveau apartment all is envisaged there, even the toilet-flush, and vases for the flowers. It is pretty incredible, everything looks like each other, everything is a little soft and heavy, is melted like candles, but not spineless, the lines are energetic, like the extremity of a whip which cracks. One also called this style “the whip lash style”. In Germany, those who make fun of it called it “the tapeworm style”. (Of the name of large worm that one could have in the intestine.) There was some who really did not like the forms that make laces! Today, in European towns, it is difficult to enter inside Art nouveau houses, because people live there quietly or all has been transformed since 1900. 1 - Fortunately there are books which show us the pieces of furniture and the objects which were photographed. 2 - There are also museums which expose, the pieces of furniture well preserved, the objects and the vases. It is the case for the museum of Nancy which presents a collection of several hundreds of vases in molten glass more colored and modeled than each others. 3 - There is also in Nancy a museum in a house, all remained in place, one would believe as one returns in somebody’s who never bought anything in the supermarkets…, every object is grooved, odd, very elaborated, soft. However volumes of the rooms of this apartment did not take the shapes of the tulips which the artists liked. They remained cubic! It is a pity the architects did not make the houses in a pumpkin shape, it is a beautiful natural form to make a living room inside… In Nancy, they liked more the thistle flower, a plant that pricks, perhaps who protected them from the Germans at that time. Nancy people did not like them. They were the enemy who had settled not far from them. Many inhabitants of Nancy were people of the departments bordering which had fled “Krauts”. The two camps had just finished a war and it was going to have two more of them out there, but they did not know it yet. To insult and hate oneself often involve a war. The artists of the Art nouveau do not like the world of the large machines which took much importance at that time. They preferred the craftsmen who worked more quietly, more carefully and more delicately. It should not be forgotten that they liked nature, and not much the cities polluted by large coal factories that smoked much more than nowadays. The artists of the Art nouveau would have liked that everyone can live in the beautiful houses they built. They would have liked that everyone eats in the plates they manufactured. That in the middle of the table, there is a beautiful bunch of flowers made up in a splendid vase in molten stained glass. Did they really believe that everyone could afford that? That was expensive to carve so many details on pieces of furniture and tables! Moreover, they often used ivory, mother-of-pearl, crystal, leather, exotic wood, gold, silver, porcelain… Eventually there were only rich people (middle-class) to buy such luxury. It was rich people’s good taste of the time. The labour was expensive, it took a very long time to manufacture complicated things like: - The snails chairs (of Carlo Bugatti), - A butterfly bed encrusted with exotic wood and mother-of-pearl (of Majorelle). - The mushrooms vases (of Gallé), - The crocus vases, the fern balconies (of Gaudi), - Entries of subway in lianas (of Guimard), - A glazed corolla cupola (of Horta). So, craftsmen’s work not factory; not always! Vases and bedside lamps of Emile Gallé were so popular, he sold them so much that he made them in the assembly line of a factory so that everyone can buy some; but it is an exception. Manufactured in the assembly line these objects became less beautiful; when complicated things are made too quickly, they can look less accomplished. He sold them so much, that one decade later, everyone was disgusted, even more nobody want any, they put them in the attic. It had become a sign of bad taste for everyone. And now, there are people who like them again, the lamps. They are very beautiful lamps when they are genuine lamps of this time. The problem it is that there is not much left, therefore the stores sell some brand new one, they are even less authentic, and that will soon disgust everyone again. It is the infernal circle of the lamps Art nouveau and the snake that bites its tail. Have a drink at the Excelsior!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

.MAX ERNST will-o'-the-wisp.
The first Surrealist painting! It is difficult to have a look around the work of max Ernst (1891 /1976). If one had all his works next to each other, that would make much, and one could not know that it is the same person who did them, they are so different from each other! It is perhaps for that reason that we like Max Ernst more than other painters who never changed their painting manner over their life. Him, he changed his ways a lot, to think and to make. Max Ernst is like a flame. He is never motionless, he changes style, and he changes techniques… He is obliged to change place and to change nationality: he was born in Germany, he is expelled by the Nazis, he passes by France, he flees the Nazism while going to the United States, after the war, he becomes French. He does not have the fidgets; in fact wars drive him out. At that time, many German artists did the same. In 1921, he is the first to paints a bizarre painting (that one will call “the first surrealist painting”). He paints a funny elephant with a lid and piping. Nobody believed it is an elephant; it is rather a large pressure-cooker, or a too heavy flying saucer that could not fly. At the end of the horn there is a bull mask. It is starting from that masterly spanking that I was certain I would never have the faith again. I was 17 years old, I was a Royal marine commando parachutist, that was hardly worth better! He astonished his friends with this image that nobody had never seen in painting, he calls it “the elephant Célèbes*”, I do not know why. It would be believed that it means the celebrated elephant …, it is celebrated now, one can see it in London. (*there are some islands which one calls the Célèbes islands. That is true!) When he becomes champion of his receipt of painting, that does not interest him anymore; he invents a new manner of making art. Many of other artists always make the same thing to improve their painting… But also because they cannot make differently since they became famous with that… It is difficult to change, their admirors would not recognize them anymore. One does not easily recognize a painting of max Ernst. Max Ernst always liked to change, he often tried to make differently as if it annoyed him to start again too often.
(I do not know why max Ernst calls it like this. That would mean that it is a kind of transfer, as a flexible paper tattoo which one wants to put on the skin.) When one sees for the first time, for real, a table painted by “transfer”… It is understood well that max Ernst did not paint with a brush but with something else: a piece of paper? - “How can one paint with a bit of paper? ” - “Max Ernst was clever. ” He put fluid oil-base paint on a paper or a piece of wood as on a slice of bread, then it turned over the slice on its canvas and made it slip. He was removing it with a blow to make funny effect… Trails of complicated colors. That one cannot see it on the book! It did not mix much the colors on the piece of paper, he preferred they mix on the fabric when he was making the piece of paper slip. It is necessary to make slice of bread slip with the two hands. At the beginning the results are not good. It often improves when one tests more, but that can irritate, then it is better to test the following day. But one should not give up since Max Ernst succeeded in making splendid paintings with this technique. But max Ernst did not leave his paintings like that! He continued to paint thoroughly with a small brush on slipped and mixed paint. It revealed strange heads by improving things a little; the strange heads almost existed already in the color. It was necessary to see them and show them to the others. (calling that "transfer" whereas it does not transfer anything at all, it is a little exaggerated!) He should have called this technique "the slice of bread and jam turned over on the table" or "slice of bread of paint slipped on a canvas". The "Europe after the rain" painting (L'Europe après la pluie 1940-42) is made in this manner and was thoroughly improved.
Max Ernst and frictions.
- "He rubs what… On what? " He rubs on paper with a pencil… But he put something under his sheet. What could one put under the sheet? A coin of currency! Let us test. But what would be more surprising than a coin? It is necessary to discover alone. Max Ernst says that the technique is not important when one does something artistically. Technique does not have anything mysterious or impossible, it is necessary to understand it and test it. It is as when a surprise is bought, it is not difficult to build the object inside, there are instructions…. What is more difficult is to build another object with the same pieces. It is similar with the frictions, it is not difficult to rub a little everywhere on the sheet, it is more difficult to make another thing of it… Max Ernst is timid, it does not like too much that one says that he is skilful, he does not want to discourage those who want to test, he wants to explain us that by testing, everyone could do what he does. He is perhaps the only artist who tried to make us understand that works are easy to make when the technique is known. Sometimes the other artists made us believe that what they did was very difficult to remake that they were the only ones being able to make it and that it was not worth to test because we were too stupid. Max Ernst him, trusts us and told us to test. He speaks simply. “I remember a wood panel located opposite to my bed, I often looked at it when I was small. I still saw it a little when I was ready to deaden. I saw odd things there. Later it was a floor which made me dream… and a little fear. Washings with the brush had accentuated the grooves of wood. I was attracted by the ground and almost obliged to look all the time at it because of the lines and the nodes in the wood. That irritated me and at the same time I liked that, what I saw changed all the time. I approached the floor with a paper sheet in the hope to keep the traces on the sheet (like one makes with a coin). I changed regularly and slightly the sheet of place…, just a little. I obtained lines of a high degree of accuracy and I trapped the world I had located when I was standing up. Thereafter, I placed paper sheets on other things than wood. Things that wanted to be well rub by my pencil; sheets of trees, fabric of bag, string, dry paint… It is necessary to try in order to understand. ”
Collages of Max Ernst.
At the beginning of the century, there were not many photographs in the magazines, there were especially drawings which resembled to photos, they were carried out with a lot of tight hatchings. If you had been children at that time, you could not have cut photographs out. You would have cut out images made of small very tight features. Moreover, the illustrated books were rare. … advertising leaflets did not exist. At the time of max Ernst, the postman did not leave any in the letter-boxes: Max Ernst managed differently to find images. “One day (in 1919), whereas I looked at an illustrated book of objects (umbrellas, watches, tools, clothing, etc) I was surprised to see such different things tight beside the others, things which one does not see together usually, my eyes saw other objects, I wanted to add with the pencil some lines and hatchings between the various objects so that it gives the same images that I see in my dreams.” The goal of Max Ernst is simple: he wants to reverse the relationship known between the objects; he wants to propose new and unexpected relationship between the images. When his collage was finished, Max Ernst didn’t like that one looks at it closely there were too many defects: collage was a little dirty, with the traces of adhesive, a little ruffled paper and the marks of awkward scissors, he hid it, and he made a photograph of it. At 21th century we would say that it is better to show the photocopy than a little dirty sheet of work. Today a photocopy is not expensive; why stint ourselves, and if the collage is successful, we can offer some to all our friends. Max Ernst really didn’t like one sees that it had stuck pieces of hatched images the ones beside the others! The photocopy, it's ideal! Quite clever who which now will find how that was done! - “One should not know how that has been done. ” One can also make collages with pieces of various photos. That is called your “photomontages”. Another artist, Man Ray, said that he was a “fautographe” and not a “photographer”. Max Ernst has never been a “fautographe” since he never stuck pieces of photographs…, that almost did not exist at his time, otherwise he would have done it too.
The scraping of Max Ernst.
Lottery it is scraping, one scrapes on the black to find a good number… One hopes to gain! Max Ernst likes to scrape his painting, that doesn’t say that he wants to pass through it; it is not either because his painting pricks and that he wants to make it feels good. He scrapes to gain, his painting will be sold better…, it should not be forgotten that he earns his living by selling his works. Here is how he removes paint with scraping: 1 - He installs a canvas. 2 - He paints all the surface of the white canvas. He paints with oil-based paint; it takes a long time to dry. 3 - He must wait. 4 - Then, he paints a second layer of color, he can choose the color, but he can use rests of paint. 5 - He waits until it dries. 6 - He can start once again if he wants it. Thus there are several layers of more or less dry paint the ones on top of the others. 7 - It is here that his true work starts; he takes a scraper, a knife, and he tries to remove the layers of paint: as removing the ice of the windshield of cars in winter. He won’t remove all; otherwise it wasn’t worth to put all these layers of paint on top of each others. Anyway that would be difficult to remove all since paint is dry and hard. One can scrape as he likes, the colors of the lower part will be revealed, and that will never make the similar effect as if he used a brush. One can also scrape the superimposed layers of color: 1 - In greasy pastels. 2 - In gouache. 3 - In acrylic painting. 4 - If the three are mixed that can work. Often the table on which one works is too smooth. That would be better to be on something rougher like an old table, a plank. In any case, one finds things more beautiful with scraping when there are small bumps. Max Ernst is complicated; he can mix all the techniques mentioned before: Transfers, collages, frictions, scrapings… He can make things slip, wait until that dries, to scrape, rub and especially paint over, like the other painters. He can paint with precision, or even make a scribble. Max Ernst is not a beginner! At the beginning it is better do experiments with each technique that allow beautiful discoveries, then, to mix some of them to obtain a more complicated result, but it is difficult to make a success out of something confusing. He neither, he did not always succeed. So it is necessary to continue to scrape…