Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Friday, September 5, 2008

Three Artists (by Rick AND Lisa)

We had the luxurious opportunity to visit the works of 3 artists, solely exhibited in their own space, on 4 separate occasions. (One of these deserved a repeat! More to follow.)

The first of these tours was Atelier Brancusi. This fabulous workshop (atelier) was envisioned and bequeathed to the French State by Constantin Brancusi, prior to his death. He was originally from Romania and adopted France as his own. This atelier is located on the grounds of the Musée d’Art Moderne (Centre Pompidou, aka Beaubourg). The building is a copy of his actual atelier (“exactly as it stood on the day of his death”) where he lived and worked, seemingly not really dividing the two. His works and tools are placed just so, as if he only stepped out for a minute. Seeing the minute living space (a loft really) amongst the explosion of creativity made us wonder what kind of life he really had.

Rick: Was he an artist 24 /7, did he have a love life, outside interests, did he do anything aside from create?
Lisa: Maybe all artists are artists 24/7. I’m an interpersonal psychiatrist and view the world through relationships, artists included. I’m always wondering what influenced an artist to paint this, or sculpt that, or get into a particular series.
Rick: So knowing next to nothing about Brancusi’s personal life, I wonder what inspired him, caused him to create what he did, how he did. One can have a unique vision without interacting with the outside world, but having interactions could thus create a different vision. Where did his influences come from?
Lisa: I have always loved this sculptor, admiring his cool clean lines, especially the Muse series, and whenever I’m in a modern art museum I look for Brancusi sculptures. If there are any, and there usually aren’t, they are few. Now I know why. This guy was so into composition that his sculptures didn’t exist solely as themselves, they needed to be grouped together. The atelier demonstrates this dramatically. While he worked he surrounded himself with pieces already finished and placed JUST SO in proportion to each other. Unlike other artists who sent off their works to this museum or that commission, Brancusi seemed into it solely for the art, and kept his pieces.
Rick: Yes, I enjoyed learning that he even obsessed about the bases and columns on which his pieces were displayed. He was deeply into the spatial relationships, of his art and his space, so even though he lived there, his studio was also the art gallery in which he showed the world his creations. He wanted everything to be perfect, at least to him, and the recreation of his studio really allows even a casual observer of art (like myself) to see the importance of space...and how cohesive it felt for me.
Lisa: Not only the placement of the objects amongst themselves, but the neatly arranged tools, the lighting, the way the limitless columns reached up to the sky, who wouldn’t want to work in a place like that?
Rick: Well, I tend to move fast, which creates the illusion of clumsiness, so I’m not sure they should let me into that place :) I’ll stay on the periphery and enjoy the visuals even though I’d love to put my hands of some of his sculptures. I agree with what Lisa said earlier about his clean lines, and will add that the slender vertical nature of many of his sculptures (partly because so many were done in marble) creates an effect of smoothness, flight, of reaching to the sky. I really enjoyed the Atelier.

We went up to the Hôtel Salé where the Musée Picasso is housed. This was special, as we were on a date, leaving Irie with the hip half-French, half-Dutch babysitter. The Hôtel (city mansion) is located in the trendy 4th arrondissement, so the neighborhood and Hôtel were lovely to see. The museum winds you about progressively through Picasso’s various influences and periods. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures so the recollection of this tour, weeks later, is dimming. Maybe too, because it was disappointing. There was very little of his cubist style. There is much more of his renowned cubist work in Centre Pompidou.

Lisa: I love cubism, they way Picasso can deconstruct a person or an object into fragments, yet still retains the wholeness. He and Braque are side by side at Centre Pompidou and I can just imagine them in their day scrambling to compete in who can chop up a still life. “Can I borrow that guitar after you’re done?” I also love the way Picasso had a limited palette during his best (according to me) cubist period but that the variation in brown and grey hues seemed limitless. When I see green dots thrown in, à la Seurat, YUCK!
Rick: I too was underwhelmed with the Picasso Musée (though the date was très agréable) because of the lack of those later-era paintings with their fantastic distorted yet geometric shapes. Like Brancusi (or Rodin) he would do endless works on the same theme, such as the guitars, goats, and his various poses of women. Was it that they could never get it quite right, or that they fell in love with the creation so used it over and over? With Picasso, I was struck with his obsessive desire to paint women in almost grotesque distortions and wondered if he had a deep-seeded hostility towards the opposite sex.
Lisa: Yea, didn’t really like the goats. And those women, all chopped up and highly sexualized, and to me, objectified. When we browsed through the bookshop and you read that quote about how he knew he had achieved the final product when he “smelled the sex”, yuck again. Interesting that Picasso stayed in Paris all through the German occupation, working away. Yet his masterpiece “Guernica” shows his horror at war. And then the photographs of him in the museum: little old man with those almond eyes and striped sailor shirt, looks harmless. No wonder this museum trip went fuzzy for me--too much to try to make sense of, and not.

So finally we get to Rodin, also housed in his own Hôtel, (Hôtel Biron). Unlike Picasso and the Hôtel Salé, Rodin actually rented out part of this building and prior to his death in 1917 bequeathed his works to the French State. He also made arrangements to display this treasure in the Hôtel Biron. Unlike Brancusi, Rodin had items by other artists in his collection. We learned he often traded art. We wondered what pieces of sculpture van Gogh and Renoir each received for the paintings Rodin had of theirs.

Lisa: I fell in love with this place immediately. First of all, I was sent out with love and good wishes for a day alone. I chose to start in the garden. It was a glorious day--sunny, not too hot, and I turned to see The Thinker with a background of the golden dome of Les Invalides and the top 1/3 of the Tour Eiffel. These outdoor sculptures are larger than life and well placed in this grand and beautiful garden. There were even lounge chairs! Inside the Hôtel are themed rooms. Many of his works such as Walking Man and The Age of Bronze are unto themselves. But there are many smaller versions and models of the gigantic ones outside. This helped to understand the motivation and arduous craftsmanship and tie it all together, especially for massive pieces like The Gates of Hell.
Rick: His work does the exact opposite for me of Picasso. I don’t feel any objectification or hyper-sexuality at play, but instead love, sensuality and often the exact opposite: sorrow and despair. He is renowned for his life-like sculptures, accurate to the tiniest detail. Yet while his busts are full of emotion and delicate features that clearly show why he was acclaimed, many were commissioned by wealthy friends and patrons, so are of less interest to me as they were work-for-pay as opposed to creating because he was moved. Even though his anatomical figures evoke scientific study they are so accurate, that doesn’t account for the incredible beauty (or horror) and emotions that emanate from his figures. The Muse (the inner motivator of an artist) was clearly a force in Rodin’s work.
Lisa: Rodin’s sculptures of Balzac and Hugo (worked and reworked many times), as well as the Three Shades and Berghers of Calais, are such strong male figures that I was swayed away from the “female as object” drive for this man. His women were often paired with men, in loving, sumptuous poses. In fact, some pairs he intended for The Gates of Hell he later left out, as there was too much love and tenderness in them. His commissioned busts, while lovely, nowhere near matched the emotional content he evoked in the faces modeled or inspired by Camille Claudel.
Rick: He definitely sculpted as many men as women, if not more, most completely naked, some with robes or cloaks. My favorites are those which include both genders and are unclothed because of his ability to show such precise proportions, musculature, and yet also an artist’s vision for the pose or posture of the figures. The Kiss and Eternal Springtime evoke wonderful feelings of connectedness. The word “eternal” represents Rodin (and Claudel) perfectly for me as these sculptures do such a wonderful job of evoking feelings that seem infinite, ever-lasting. Lisa and I visited separately, yet these sculptures, this Museum, constantly made me think of Lisa and wish she was there with me. She said the same thing returning from her initial visit, so we took Irie and went back for a repeat visit together. It is now my favorite museum in Paris!
Lisa: A driving force for me in visiting this museum was his relationship with Camille Claudel. She was a student of Rodin, became an obsession for him, and influenced him throughout his life. When he made arrangements for the museum, long after their break up, he made sure her work had dedicated space there. She had been locked away in a psychiatric hospital and remained there until her death in the 1940s. Her room is amazing. She was immensely talented, and the ambivalent mix of passion, love, devotion, loss, and anguish is obvious in this room. I heard a sculptor speak at a conference once and he remarked that sculpting (or art in general) and passionate love cannot coexist. So the sculptor will often give up or avoid that kind of love to keep the art he or she is driven to do. I don’t think the intense personalities of Rodin and Camille could coexist in the same space. He left the relationship to pursue the art, she left sanity.
Rick: I find it a bit sad that an artist must give up passionate love to be creative. I would prefer to believe that love can provoke new art and vision, but how do these three artists prove or disprove the above? Brancusi seemed isolated, Picasso moved from one love interest to another, and Rodin had the constant supportive force of Rose mixed with the intense affair with Camille. What did these artists derive from the passions in their lives? Or did the art drive the destiny of their private lives? I’m not sure it matters, the impact of their art is vivid and lasting, but it is a provocative question for those interested in the art AND the artists’ relationships.


Norm said...

Hi, I am not much into arts but enjoy the commentary on the wine and country side. Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

Howdy Browne Family !

Greetings from Spring Lake!

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