Thursday, September 17, 2009

Recently stumbled upon the work of Grace Hartigan, a contemporary of Pollock, deKooning, Rothko, and Kline. (And I found her without the help of no less.) I think sometimes I worry too much about borrowing ideas from another artist's work, especially considering how often artists of the past incorporated and responded to the work of their predecessors.

Here's the incredibly colorful and energetic River Bathers that Hartigan painted in 1953:

And here's Matisse's Bathers by a River (1906):

And here's what Pierre Schnei
der has to say in Robert Mattison's book about these in Grace Hartigan, a painter's world:

Matisse's painting symbolizes a "vanishing paradise" where "cold, gray figures are trapped by a ruthless pictorial geometry." He goes on to say, "Matisse realized that the concept of idealized nudity in a perfected world - which had been port
rayed from Greek classical art . . .and in Matisse's early canvases - was a modern improbability." Now I don't know if this is really what he was thinking about, but it is clear that Hartigan is painting her iteration of the scene.

You have to look kind of intently to even notice her four figures, so closely are the enmeshed in the vertical areas of color and slashing brushstrokes. Some have suggested that her figures are awkward and uncomfortable with their nudity. I don't know. What I like is that you cannot take in the whole painting at a glance. You just want to go back and back to it, seeing more there each time, enjoying the strong orange/red in the right corner against its pea-green complement, and marveling at the energy coming from all those blues and whites. Too bad it's at MOMA in New York and not nearby.

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