I have a feeling this will be my own little corner on this site… but next to music another related interest I have is the visual arts. Painting, sculpture, and to some extent architecture. I’m not nearly as experienced or as knowledgeable as with music, but it’s a fun subject to study and the parallells with music are surprisingly prominent. Painters after all have characters which can be described in much the same way as musicians, and they also solve artistic problems in much the same was as musicians - if here through brush & chisel rather than hammer & string.
On my mind right now is Italian renaissance master Raphael (1483-1520), who is one of my all time favourite artists. I came across this early self portrait just a few days ago (which now also serves as my avatar) and was rather stunned by it. Not only for the beautifully drawn portrait, but because already here around 1497 - at a mere 14 years of age - it’s so clearly “a Raphael”. The hallmark with him, and what I like so much about him, is the calm and harmony he was able to convey through his paintings. And sure enough, the boy looks alert and alive, but yet the drawing has this quiet peacefulness to it.
Also fascinating to speculate in how he achieved the effect. I’m not painter enough to tell, but note how the facial contour, eyes, mouth and nose are sharply drawn - the essential features which defines a face - while lips, eyebrows, hair, shadows are only hinted and have an elven lightness to them. If the whole portrait had been drawn like that I think it would have made a somewhat weak and forgettable impression, but thanks to these bold contours the portrait has character and strength, as well as grace and elegance.
I have no education in the visual arts whatsoever, so I can only react viscerally to what I see. It’s mostly about the subject and the way the colours interact which affects me. I tend to respond better to landscapes, bowls of fruit don’t really do it for me. I’m kind of sick of museums though, except for Pompidou. Based on my trips to the Louvre, I liked Italian renaissance painting better than French.
It’s same for me. What I know I’ve largely picked up on my own, and it’s also a relatively young interest. I began paying attention to what these people did about 3 years ago, when I also discovered the similarities with music. But I’m still learning and botanizing - I feel I’m beginning to get an overview, maybe, but it’s a huge field and I keep discovering both famous works and famous artists I’ve never heard of before. My favourite periods are by far the Italian renaissance and the “modern” school starting in the late 1800s, but as with music I respond to strong artistic expressions and ideas almost regardless of style.
CJ - it seems that apart from da 88, snooker and whisky we share another great interest! I’ve always loved da 18th/19th/20th century vizual artz…
Apart from visiting museums in Holland, France and Japan regularly, discovering/exploring the internet and making videos for YT (using artworks that somehow “match” the music) were very helpful for me to get more insight in and knowledge of various styles of painting. I’ve discovered many names online that were completely new to me. I have the feeling that it has enriched my “artistic life”, and it also influences the way I want certain music to be interpreted.
That last point is an interesting idea, would you find developing it a little bit?
Yes, I suppose we’re so used to seeing images today that you don’t really pay attention to them. Painting became interesting for me once you began realizing a thing of two about the craft itself. First that you simply can’t draw everything nature shows you so you have to simplify, which is one aspect which is fascinating to see how different artists solved to achieve various results, and also that everything in a painting is deliberate and carefully planned. Nothing is there simply by accident as in a photograph. And that’s where the high-level artistic side of it comes in. How do you represent a motive in a convincing, striking, harmonious, meaningful etc way, when you can control every aspect of it? Putting those two together you can begin to quantify art, and that’s when you begin to see the greatness in Donatello’s sculptures, the novelty in Monet, etc - especially if you have a feel for the timeline so you see this progression which took place ca 1100-2018.
Museums are a bit of a let down here. Our largest art collection is in the National Museum in Stockholm, which has been closed for renovation since 2012 but which reopened now in October. I was there last month and I did enjoy it, but was a bit disappointed in that most works on display by really famous artists were rather insignificant or uncharacteristic. The highlight for me was an early self-portrait by Rembrandt - which was characteristic and which I loved - but it was tiny. I was there with two friends (both amateur painters), and what left the biggest impression on all of us were a few works by Swedish painters, notably Anders Zorn (perhaps natural since that’s where the best works by the best artists were actually on display). One all three of us liked was Midsommardansen, which captured both a special kind of light and a special kind of holiday I’m familiar with from here. Aside from the light what I liked so much about it was such a perfect snapshot of what it’s like to walk through an outdoor, evening party in high summer - if here in a distinct 19th C style. There was commotion everywhere, and the whole painting was slightly blurry to replicate what you see after a few beers and shots (mandatory ingredients in the midsummer festivities, then as now).
Well, I suppose this is as good as any as a second entry in the thread. Anders Zorn, Midsommardans (1897).
Oh, I love Anders Zorn! It’s one of those painters that I’ve explored on this excellent site:
Talking about “special light”, Dutch painters were also known for the way they were able to capture that. As for Rembrandt, I’ve always loved his etchings even more than his paintings, because IMO they succeed even better in expressing the chiaroscuro effects he was so famous for.
Well, I suppose it’s especially true for music that demands a certain pallet of colours, like Debussy or Ravel…but it can also inspire on a more abstract/aesthetic level, like for example the atmosphere on typical Japanese woodblock prints, or the very detailed, fantastic art of Jeroen Bosch, or the symbolism and composition of a Vermeer - all these you can try to “apply” musically on a Mozart or Beethoven piece…difficult to explain…
Yes, I love the Dutch baroque as well. Rembrandt in particular, but also Vermeer and Kalf for instance. Rembrandt is such a special case though. I didn’t like him at all initially, finding him dull and grey, but once you begin to see the humanity in his works… He’s an appropriate painter for our facebook ridden time actually. His portraits are so completely free from anything artificial and contrived. As with Raphael you have this deep seated calm to them, but instead of Raphael’s harmony there’s truth, naturalness and humanity there with Rembrandt.
For me it’s mostly that you broaden your artistic horizons, plus that it’s helped me a great deal (by analogue) to see and make sense of the style and progression in piano playing. But your view of what the “baroque” for instance is, their ideals and how they saw the world is largely formed by what the artists of the time have left - and there music is only one part of it. That I did cartwheels after Sokolov’s BWV 831 here in 2011 for instance was (partly) that what I see in the architecture, the clothes, the paintings of Bach’s time, was so perfectly captured in his performance. It breathed German baroque. This in contrast to Pogorelich’s Bach for instance, which I love as well, but which is stylistically rather ignorant. It has a lot more to do with the 1980s than the 1700s. But the bottomline is that if you have a good overall knowledge of the art of the time of a composer, I think you’re likely to get ideas in how to perform and make sense of their works which will feel more echt.
Let’s drop a Rembrandt (1606-1669) here as well while we’re at it. This is the self-portrait (1630) I saw here in Stockholm. Note the earthy colours, typical for Rembrandt (and they would get even more so later on), and the absolutely uncompromising naturalness to it. See how he weighs and measures himself in the mirror as he paints, and I think you can even see hints of the artifacts of the mirrors of the time. It’s really a self-portrait, as in that he has painted what he saw in the mirror surface - completely freed from the idealized, staged portraits that had been common earlier. This is just him, both in appearance and in character.
Rembrandt’s self portraits are among my favourite works of art, for sure. Such depth and nuance he manages to convey. If art is a vehicle for emotional expression, Rembrandt is one of the greatest, most expressive of all.
I think so too. It was especially apparent when seeing his paintings in a museum next to those of other artists of his time. Rembrandt’s were arguably the least flamboyant and spectacular in the room, but yet they were the ones which caught your eye the most and held your attention the longest. I think it was their colour homogeneity which made them stand out at a glance, and their honest and disarming expression which held your interest.
Maybe it’s cause I’m getting older and dumber, but I can’t generate any interest in looking at art on a computer. It has an appeal in high quality art books, but for the most part (90%) I only get excited and stimulated by it when meeting it face-to-face.
Rembrandt’s a beauty. In my early 20s in London I was really into Ernst Kirchner and early Kandinsky. Both the Blue Rider and Bridge groups are awesome and very appealing. The Fauves too. That time in art is still very exciting.
I miss the days of walking along the Southbank towards Tate Modern on a Friday night and hanging out with friends and all those paintings until 22:00. I’m too isolated in this place. In Amsterdam it was easy to switch late-night concerts and art for late-night films and booze in underground spots (which are their own kind of art). But here it’s not working. Sometimes you know that a time in your life is just a transitional period, but it’s still annoying to know you have to wait your way through it.
Recently I saw paintings by a British artist, a woman, I believe a Royal Academician, whose paintings had a stunning visceral quality and were reminiscent of Lucian Freud. I’m trying to find her name but no luck ATM.
Ah ok it’s Jenny Saville. If you like Lucian Freud and intense looks at people and the human body, I’d suggest checking her work out.
I like Kandinsky a lot as well, Matisse too. This is why Pompidou is my favourite museum to visit (also happens to be my second favourite building in Paris, after Opéra Garnier). I don’t feel any visceral connection to that Rembrandt self-portrait, for some reason. Randomly, I’ve always thought nightscapes would be great subjects but apart from Van Gogh’s are there many painters who’ve done them?
Really?? I live in a rather isolated place and I have to travel quite a few miles to see some important exposition. But when I do that, I’m more than often quite disappointed because it’s so fucking busy that I’m distracted 3/4 of the time - missing many interesting things and details that I only notice in the quiet surrounding of my computer room. But you must have a quality big screen.
Yeah surprised as well. November was my first ever visit to an art museum, and I did enjoy it, but as much or more at home where there’s “just” the picture and not all those distractions around me. Another thing which bothered me with the museum was the lighting. Anything prior to 1880 or so was surely intended to be seen just through the natural light coming in through windows, or even the warm glow from oil lamps, but at the museum everything was super lit. I think it ruined some of the effect with those old murky baroque paintings in particular, and in some cases spotlight reflections in the canvas was a real nuisance too.
Sculptures however, I’d rather meet in person as well.
I agree with you about seeing tha ‘greats’ on a computer. Books are better and of course nothing stands up to seeing da real thing in a legendary museum.
Dat said, I planned on tagging you specifically regarding da topic because some of my favorite visual art for years have been absurd but CG shoops of fighters and fight results. Not just fighters tho, there is gensui in every genre imaginable.
One time marky mark Wahlberg gave an interview claiming he was supposed to be on one of the 9/11 flights and that if he was da plane would have landed landed safely with da first class cabin covered in blood from him defending da plane and hiz family. Da internet quickly figured out he wuz lying about such an absurd claim and produced legendary visual art:
As for the mma stuff:
Silva vs Weidman 2 produced many pieces of art