Monday, March 15, 2010

There's something inherently ridiculous about a book called 1000 Paintings You must see Before you Die. So why did I pick it up at the library? Probably to see why they would have dedicated three whole pages to quattrocentro painter Tommaso di Giovanni Masaccio and not a single tiny entry to Milton Avery. . .and way too many entries for Unknown. Did come upon one I liked, although I'm not sure it warrants a trip all the way to Helsinki. So maybe this book is useful, after all.

Here's Autumn, the Five Crosses (1902) by Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Evidently he designed this for a mausoleum built in memory of an 11 year-old girl, with the crosses symbolizing the death of summer, or so says 1000 Paintings, page 553. (Seems more likely they symbolize the little girl's death, don't you think?) The distant blue is a vivid cobalt, but stays put somehow, and the large shapes are simple and powerful, especially those mysterious gold/green shapes in the ocean at right. What do you think?

Now that I think about it, maybe I like it because it reminds me of Milton Avery. Here's his Yellow Sky (1958):


  1. A bucket list of paintings! As if we needed more "musts" before kicking it.

    I'm with you on the cobalt blue in the distance, which seems utterly necessary. At first glance, the painting reminded me of Pollock's Blue Poles: Number II, 1952.

    A bit off-topic, but Odd Nerdrum has cited Gallen-Kallela as an influence.

  2. I can see what you mean about Blue Poles. Also, I took a look at Odd Nerdrum's work (what a great name) and see that it's in the same vein as others of Gallen-Kallela's. (This Autumn work is kind of outside his usual style.) Thanks.

  3. 1000 Paintings Before you Die! No pressure then.

    If only they were more conveniently located...