In December, instead of studying one artist all month, I’m sharing just a little snippet about 20 different artists. I hope to find some that I'll want to study more in depth next year. You can help by commenting on the post and letting me know if one of these is someone you’d like to know even more about.
As I've study various artists (it’s been 2 years now) I love looking for connections between them. Who were their artist friends? Who inspired them, encouraged them? One name that comes up more than any other is Marcel Duchamp.
Marcel Duchamp was born on July 28, 1887, in Normandy, France. He was from a family of artists, his grandfather and his mother. Of the family's 6 surviving chidden, four became successful artists.
Duchamp is probably best known for his painting Nude Descending a Staircase and for his 'readymades', found objects which he chose, signed, and presented as art. These include a urinal, bicycle wheel, and a snow shovel.
Duchamp gave up painting in his mid-20's for chess. He became a chess master and a member of the French Olympic Chess team. He came back to art but continued to study and love chess.
My painting at the top is of Duchamp dressed as his female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy (a pun for c'est la vie). Through the 1920's he and Man Ray collaborated on a series of photos of Sélavy and Duchamp later used the name as the byline on written material and signed several creations with it.
Art is a competitive field but Duchamp wasn't. He said: “What is the use of hating? You’re just using up your energy and die sooner.” He was also a bit of trickster... on his grave he had this inscribed “Anyway, it's always the others who die.”
Hannah Höch was born Anna Therese Johanne Höch on November 1, 1889 in Gotha, Germany. She is known as the co-founder of Berlin Dada (and the only woman) and one of the originators of the photomontage.
Key themes in her work were androgyny, politics, and shifting gender roles. During the Third Reich many artists fled Germany but Hannah stayed. Her work was considered "degenerate art" by the Nazis. She bought a house on the outskirts of Berlin, kept a low profile, and hid her art away in a cabinet.
"I would like to show the world today as an ant see it and tomorrow as the moon sees it." –Hannah Höch
Joseph Cornell was born December 24, 1903, in Nyack, New York. He was an avid collector, a pioneer in assemblage art, and an experimental filmmaker.
He spent his life caring for his widowed mother and his brother who had cerebral palsy, rarely leaving New York. He worked in his basement studio (which he called his 'laboratory') where all his collections were carefully categorized.
Though he was painfully shy and a bit of a recluse, he was friends with many NYC artists including Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol. With women he was romantic but awkward. He never married but he had an interesting relationship with Yayoi Kusama (who is 26 years younger) which she describes as “romantic and passionate, but platonic.”
"Life can have significance even if it appears to be a series of failures." -Joseph Cornell
Hilma af Klint was born in 1862, in Solna, Sweden. She is now considered to be a pioneer. She created abstract canvases five years before the 'first' by Wassily Kandinsky, and experimented with writing and drawing guided by the unconscious decades before the Surrealists.
After the death of her younger sister, Klint tried to connect Christianity with Eastern philosophies, along with science. She hosted seances to communicate with the dead. Her paintings, which sometimes resemble diagrams, were a visual representation of her complex spiritual ideas.
She believed her work would not be appreciated by the audience of her time, so she left it all to her nephew, stipulating in her will that it not be shown until 20 years after her death. When she died in 1944, at almost 82 years old, none of her abstract works had ever been shown to the public.
"Life, is a farce if a person does not serve truth." –Hilma af Klint
Joan Mitchell was born on February 12, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of a doctor and a poet. Growing up she enjoyed diving and skating. Perhaps all that movement is later reflected in her work.
Mitchell was an American Abstract Expressionist who exhibited alongside Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. She was one of her era's few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim.
Late in life when she fell ill with cancer (first oral, then lung) she went back to her early influences: Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Matisse. She painted Sunflowers, 1990–91, to “convey the feeling of a dying sunflower.” She also said "If I could paint like Matisse, I'd be in heaven." Her last trip was to see a Matisse exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. She died later that month.