There may be some things you won’t say, or do, or even contemplate, in front of genteel strangers, but peculiar things can happen at an art gallery. You can find yourself in this type of polite huddle when you are in front of Picasso’s Erotic Scene (1902-3).
The picture contains a self-portrait, the artist was 21 when he painted it, but he seems to imagine himself as a younger boy, reclined on a bed with arms casually behind his head, while a naked woman leans more than a trifle suggestively over his lower regions.
The subject of Erotic Scene was risqué enough for Picasso to deny for many years that he painted it, yet scholars maintain that he did, and it’s not such a surprising painting from one who, at a young age, was so sexually experienced, and whose life would have so many loves. No matter which period of Picasso’s oeuvre one studies, from the Blue Period that shaped the Erotic Scene, through the Cubist years and on into the Neo-Classicism of the 1920s, one might be just as tempted with tales of the great master’s love life as much as with the works that he has created. Viewing his paintings through his personal life would still offer us a rich picture of his work, since it has often been noted how a new woman in Picasso’s life signaled an observable departure in his work.
Man with a Lollipop (1938)
Consider touring Picasso’s love life through a sequence of his fabulous portraits – a few declared as such, most hidden – that reveal his changing moods and amours. While he was in Rome, making sets for the Ballets Russes, he met former dancer Olga Khokhlova; they married in 1918, and his relationship with her coincided with a turn to Neoclassicism in his work, and imaginings of a lost Golden Age on the Mediterranean. Together they had a son, Paulo, and Picasso’s joy in fatherhood was manifest in compositions celebrating women and maternity such as Woman in White (1924). But the artist soon wearied of fatherhood, and of his wife, and as his feelings soured his contact with the Surrealists led him to produce Head of a Woman (1927), a biting satire of Olga. That same year, at the age of 45, Picasso’s attentions were drawn to a 17-year-old girl he met on a Paris street, Marie-Thérèse Walter. His previously cold and dispassionate Surrealist style warmed, to produce sunny, joyfully erotic images of his new love, such as The Dreamer (1932). But again, as his ardency waned, his palette cooled, as in later portraits like Woman Asleep at a Table (1936). And, finally, as was his pattern, Marie-Thérèse was replaced, this time by the fiery and cerebral Surrealist photographer Dora Maar.
Even when Picasso wasn’t painting his women, his thoughts of them were shaping his work: one apocryphal tale has it that in Lent of 1930, the young and pious Marie-Thérèse swore off sex, and Picasso became so enraged he painted a Crucifixion. While this tale is subject to scrutiny, there is little mystery behind Man with a Lollipop (1938), the comic figure who appears with his many depictions of women of the 1920s and 1930s. The composition mocks those who, late in life, return to childhood in order to find replacements for lost erotic love: here it is as if Picasso claims such a fate will not be his.
La Fornarina by Raphael (1518-20)
But which liaison brought the most to his art? The popularity of his portraits of Marie-Thérèse would suggest that it was this unlikely match that brought out the best in him – especially as evidenced in the latest auction price paid for her painting. Or maybe it was the variety of those different experiences which sharpened his art: his works have different erotic images sprinkled throughout: depictions of Venus, of nudes, even a series of prints imagining Raphael in embraces with the young woman who appears in his famous La Fornarina (1518-20). But the sorry tale of the Picasso dynasty – stories of suicide, instability, and unhappiness – suggests that brief encounters with the master weren’t so healthy for his women, nor were they so beneficial for the children to have such as legend as their father. Picasso’s art may have flourished, but other lives weren’t so lucky.
Fernande Olivier photograph Head of a Woman (1909-10)
Fernande Olivier (1904-1912)
An artist and model who posed for over sixty portraits by Picasso over the course of their passionate and tempestuous relationship, Olivier and Picasso met at the Bateau-Lavoir in 1904 and were living together the year after. Olivier was the model for some of Picasso’s most famous forays into Cubism, including being one of the demoiselles in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Once Picasso became a successful artist he left Olivier as she reminded him of more difficult times.
Eva Gouel (1912-1915)
Gouel and Picasso’s relationship had a scandalous start, they met in 1911 while both involved with other people, and began their affair before they left their respective partners. During this time Picasso left secret love notes in his paintings for Gouel, who was the model for many of his works, notably the cubist work Ma Jolie (Ma Jolie was Picasso’s nickname for Gouel). Sadly their love affair was short lived. Gouel died of tuberculosis, or cancer, in 1915. Picasso described her last weeks in the hospital as “hell” in letters to his good friend, Gertrude Stein.
Olga Khokhlova photograph (1918) The Woman in White (1924)
Olga Khokhlova (1917 – 1927)
A dancer with the famed Ballet Russes company, Khokhlova and Picasso met when he designed the costumes and sets for the Ballet Russes’ production of Parade (1917). She was 26 years-old and he 36. Picasso married Olga in 1918, but the relationship waned in the late 1920s. They had a son, Paulo in 1921, but formally separated in 1935. Here, in Woman in White, he depicts her at one of the heights of his love for her. Through amorous eyes, she is illustrated softly in a glow of femininity and maternity.
Marie-Thérèse Walter photograph (1929) The Dreamer (1932)
Marie-Thérèse Walter (1927-1936)
Picasso’s affair with Marie-Thérèse began in 1927 and lasted for nearly a decade, making it one of his longest relationships. However, his wife Olga did not discover the affair until much later when a friend told her that Picasso was expecting a child with his long-time lover. Walter and Picasso’s daughter, Maïa, was born in 1935. In The Dreamer Picasso is caught up in the throws of his passion for Walter, using warm colors to depict her sensuous body in repose.
Dora Maar photograph (1941) Portrait of Dora Maar Seated (1937)
Dora Maar (1936-1944)
Picasso met the Surrealist photographer in 1936, at the famed Parisian cafe, Les Deux Magots, and their relationship lasted until some time after he met a young painter, Françoise Gilot, in 1943. Although primarily remembered for her relationship with Picasso, Maar was a talented artist in her own right, known for Surrealist photography and abstract painting. In this painting of Maar, Picasso depicts her on a throne, the Queen equal to the artist’s King.
Sylvette photograph (c. 1954) David Sylvette (1954)
Sylvette David (1954)
Only nineteen years old when she met the decades older Picasso on the Cote d’Azur, Picasso was instantly attracted to David. Following in the footsteps of Picasso’s previous companions, David served as both muse and model to the artist. She inspired what is known as the “Sylvette Series” of over sixty paintings and portraits. Interestingly, David’s relationship with Picasso was never consummated as she was too shy to even pose in the nude for him. This lack of carnal passion spelled the end of their time together, especially after Picasso met Jacqueline Roque.
Jacqueline Roque photograph (1956) Jacqueline with a Headband III (1964)
Jacqueline Roque (1953-1973)
Picasso met Jacqueline on the French Riviera in 1952 where she worked at a ceramics studio. Roque was 28 years-old to Picasso’s 72. After Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova died in 1961, he and Roque married, remaining together until his death. He created over 400 portraits of her, the most of any of his loves. Roque is called the “muse” of Picasso’s old age.
“I think when I’m doing art,” Baldessari once reflected, “I’m questioning how to do it.” That wasn’t the case when he started out. At the beginning, he was just plain perplexed. It was the early 1950s, and he was studying in California. He majored in art, minored in literature, but by the end of his college degree he felt he was no nearer understanding how to be an artist. How to do it? He decided he needed more training. He needed to follow the same path that artists had traversed before him – acquiring technique and professionalism. So he mastered more styles; he started to paint like those he admired, Matisse and Cézanne; he mastered yet more styles; he became confused. He decided to drive out daily to the cliffs of La Jolla and paint whatever inspired him. Surely, this would force inspiration. It didn’t.
You could say that success only finally came to Baldessari when he accepted failure. When he decided to stop training, stop straining to be an artist. It was around that time, while teaching night school, that he came across a sheet of advice on how to become an artist. Realizing, from his own experience, how absurd that very general advice was, he thought that he might put these cliché ideas to work in an even more absurd and direct way. With that in mind, he made text-paintings such as Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell (1966-8). He then began to wonder if, maybe, art could be about the everyday, about the radically simple.
Perhaps art could be – had to be – ordinary, if it was to continue to matter. So he began to take photographs from the window of his car – driving with one hand, shooting pictures with the other. He transferred the images to canvas and coupled them with simple texts. One picture, Econ-O-Wash (1967-8) shows a car wash glimpsed through passing traffic; below it reads “Econ–O-Wash. 14th and Highland. National City California.” Perhaps art could be made with the slightest of gestures: the video piece I Am Making Art (1971) shows the artist reciting the titular phrase as he makes nothing more than a series of simple arm movements. Perhaps art could be just, well, pointing at things: the painter Al Held had once remarked that that was all Conceptual Art amounted to, so Baldessari responded with a series of paintings in which fingers point, enigmatically, at objects. Perhaps art could be a matter of gathering up the images in the world and rearranging them – for aren’t there already enough images, without artists adding more? And that, in a sense, has been Baldessari’s belief since the late 1970s and 1980s, when he started to make the photo-works for which he is now best known.
I am making art - YouTube
Of course, Baldessari wasn’t unique in coming to these realizations when he did. An extraordinary number of artists were doing so – separately, and internationally – in the early 1960s, as Conceptual art began to emerge. Artists were coming to see that the modern art that had once been controversial and critical had now become mainstream, absorbed into museums and galleries, sapped of its force. There was a need to return to first principles – in fact, there was a need to work out what those principles were in the first place. It was time, as Baldessari puts it, to question “how to do it.”
A common, frustrated response to some Conceptual art like Baldessari’s is to ask a similar question: “Is that it?” Surely, art should offer more than arm gestures and Econ-O-Washes? It’s not a philistine response, it’s a fair one, because such simple artworks are precisely intended to provoke and frustrate. They are intended to do all those things that modern paintings and sculptures once did. The question is fair, also, because that sharp provocation has lost its edge over time, smoothed over as we’ve become accustomed to being needled in this way. Now we look back even on those early and revolutionary Conceptual artworks and feel that they are no better than some of the lazier offerings that lesser artists have brought to us since. So, although worrying over who came first rarely helps us to see what truly matters in the history of art, it does in the case of the powerful provocations made by early Conceptual artists such as Baldessari. He was among the first to carry out that generation’s gleeful house-clearing, the first to trash all those dusty store-room ideas about what art should be and what it should look like.
And to take that other, classic, frustrated response to Conceptual art, “But couldn’t anyone do that?” the answer is “Yes indeed.” That’s the point. When Baldessari came to realize that so many of the skills he had acquired in college were of little use in making art for today, he gave us all the wonderful possibility of believing that we too, untrained and untutored, could make something that deserves to be called art. So why don’t we? Firstly, there is the obvious point that art is harder than great artists make it seem: it takes effort to look effortless. Secondly, there is the sadder fact that, if Conceptual art was a kind of war against the institutional nature of the art world, the art world won the war because generally, one still needs to follow the same old paths to be taken seriously as a professional, exhibiting artist. But, thirdly, and finally, perhaps there is no reason why we don’t – perhaps we ought to try.
Electronic frames have been around for a long time, and most of us have used them to display hundreds of pictures of family and friends in a single ‘picture frame’ in our living room or a dresser in our bedroom. But have you ever thought about using an electronic frame to display quality artwork on your wall?
The main problem with electronic frames that display artwork is quality. A typical frame is great for your family photos, but it is too small, and the displays are of insufficient quality to effectively display most works of art. This is particularly true for modern art, where small gradations of color and texture are not incidental, but express the essence of the piece.
Turn your wall into a museum
Potentially, an electronic frame can make your walls more interesting and stimulate your visual senses with rotating images featuring a single artist, school or genre, or juxtaposing different artists or genres in creative ways. In essence, you could enjoy the benefits of a museum visit every day, right in your home.
Welcome to the New Generation of Electronic Frames
We all know that display technology has advanced, and that today’s wide screen TV’s and computer monitors allow us to watch movies at home that rival the local cinema.
The same technology that drives movie quality displays makes it possible for a photo frame to be large, flat, and display high-resolution images that can do justice to the nuances of almost any piece of artwork.
The Art Story Partnership with Meural
Meural is a leading pioneer in developing electronic frames specifically designed to display high quality images of fine art on your wall. In fact, they developed TrueArtTM technology, a proprietary blend of hardware, firmware, and software designed to render each image as lifelike and textured as gallery art.
The display screen itself is only a small part of what is required to properly showcase artwork. The Meural Canvas also has features such as a built-in light sensor to adjust each image to match the room’s lighting, an anti-glare matte display that deflects light and amplifies the color of the artwork, and gesture controls that allow you to browse through your artwork and learn about each piece with a wave of your hand.
You can own the Meural Canvas at a discount of $50 by using the discount code “THEARTSTORY” on the order page of Meural’s website. Each purchase will also benefit The Art Story foundation, allowing us to continue to develop new content on TheArtStory.org
Over the course of her performance art career, Marina Abramović developed a signature method of techniques that would allow her to reach a higher plane of consciousness required for grueling, endurance-based work. She researched various spiritual and cultural realms, oftentimes spending time with people such as the aboriginal tribes of Australia or Chinese Buddhists. Her learning lent Marina a superhuman sensibility that included the ability to sit for hours on end without moving, to conjure laser sharp focus while spending extended periods of time in repetitive action, or to withstand intense self-inflicted pain.
In The Artist is Present, 2013, she employed the culmination of a career’s worth of her method to be able to sit physically present over many days while still intimately connecting with each and every person who came to sit with her. Although she was physically exhausted and mentally depleted by the end of the performance, viewers had no visible hint of her suffering throughout the piece.
Marina coined her practices the Abramović Method, an exploration of being present in both time and space, incorporating exercises that center on breath, motion, stillness and concentration. She has since shared it via workshops with both aspiring artists and non-artists looking to reach a higher plane of existence.
Part II: The Logic of The Method
Photo (c) PanosKokkinias
Abramović has described the steps as follows: For each workshop, I would take between twelve and twenty-five students outdoors, always to a place that was neither too cold nor too hot, never uncomfortable, and, while we fasted for three to five days, drinking only water and herbal teas, and refraining from speaking, we would do various exercises.
BLINDFOLD: Leave home and go to the forest, where you are blindfolded, then try to find your way back home. Like a blind person, an artist needs to learn to see with his or her whole body.
LONG WALK IN LANDSCAPE: Start walking from a given point, proceeding in a straight line through the landscape for four hours. Rest, then return along the same route.
WALKING BACKWARD: Walk backwards for four hours, while holding a mirror in your hand. Observe reality as a reflection.
FEELING ENERGY: With your eyes closed, extend your hands in front of you toward another participant. Never touching the other person, move you hands around different areas of their body for one hour, feeling their energy.
SLOW-MOTION EXERCISE: For the entire day, do everything very slowly: walking, drinking water, showering. Peeing in slow motion is very difficult, but try.
Toward Our Center:
Part III: Toward Our Center:
Abramović Discusses Presence and Purpose
Marina Abramovic: The Abramovic Method, my body, my performance, my testament | Exclusive interview - YouTube
Part IV: The Abramović Method in Action
Abramović has held workshops from Athens to Sydney, called Marina Abramović: In Residence where she mentors young artists in an intensive two-week program, which culminates in a group show where the artists use what they learned in the Abramović Method.
Here is Abramović describing her method at the Australian workshop:
Episode 3 – Marina Abramović In Residence - Vimeo
The Abramović Method and Lady Gaga, (The Method helped Lady Gaga quit smoking):
The Abramovic Method Practiced by Lady Gaga - Vimeo
A Sample Lesson For You:
By creating her signature method and sharing it with the public, Marina has evolved her work as a performance artist into one of a great teacher. She has spent a career using her body as a medium and now she asks others to consider using theirs to become fully present in their own lives and to embrace the empowerment that results both on an individual level and as part of a connected humanity at large.
Through her MAI Institute, Abramović continues to spread these principles through collaborations with artists and cultural organizations and to groups and individuals looking to benefit personally from her knowledge.