THE QUINTESSENTIAL MODERNIST

Randall Davey- Leaving the Paddock- Matthews Gallery Blog

We’re ending our SPRING OF MODERNISM blog series with the tale of a pioneering artist who was the model of a New Mexico modernist. Randall Davey (1887-1964) was born in East Orange, New Jersey. His father was an architect, and he enrolled at Cornell for architecture in 1905. Three years later he dropped out and moved to New York to study art, to the consternation of his father.

At the New York School of Art, Davey forged a close friendship with teacher and Ashcan School artist Robert Henri. Henri was friends with the founders of the Taos Society of Artists, and worked hard to cultivate New Mexico’s budding reputation as an arts destination. In 1910, Davey exhibited with George Bellows and Stuart Davis and in 1913 his artwork was in the New York Armory Show, the most influential modern art exhibition in U.S. history.

Portraits of Santa Fe Artist Randall Davey- Matthews Gallery Blog
Davey and artist John Sloan visited Santa Fe in the summer of 1919, and Davey fell in love with the Land of Enchantment. His art career in New York had stalled, and the Southwest adventure offered a fresh start. Davey bought an old mill on Upper Canyon Road and moved there permanently the next year. It was a path that had been calling him since his early days as an artist. Inspired by the metropolitan subject matter of the Impressionists, Davey developed a diverse oeuvre of still lifes, horse-racing and polo scenes, artistic nudes and landscapes.
Davey was a true Renaissance gentleman: he made paintings, prints and sculptures, played cello, built a polo field on Upper Canyon Road and was always dressed to the nines (even when he was painting in the hot sun).
Prints and a Drawing by Santa Fe Artist Randall Davey- Matthews Gallery Blog
The lifelong automobile enthusiast died in a car accident on a trip to California at 77 years old. After his death, his wife donated the Davey house and land to the Audubon Society. The Randall Davey House is still open for tours on Fridays, and stands as a tribute to an artist who helped make the Santa Fe art colony what it is today.
A Davey House docent visited the gallery for our SPRING OF MODERNISM opening, and kindly offered us a private tour. Keep your eye on the blog for photos from the tour and more information on Davey. Make sure to visit our exhibition before it closes on March 31st, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more gallery news.

BURST OF BRILLIANCE: Adolph Gottlieb’s Southwestern Epiphany

“It was like being at sea,” said Adolph Gottlieb. The artist had just spent a year in the Desert Southwest- from 1937 to 1938- and returned to his hometown of New York City with a radically altered style. “There’s… a tremendous clarity of light and at night the clouds seem very close,” he continued. This was a very different type of “sea” than the one that carried Gottlieb on his inaugural artistic journey. When he was 17 he dropped out of high school and caught a merchant ship to Europe. He spent two years there, including six months in Paris where he audited art classes and visited the Louvre every day. Back in New York, he studied at The Art Students League and befriended Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Milton Avery. Together they founded the abstract expressionism movement, working to develop color field painting and other innovations. They remained close until Gottlieb decided to strike out on his own to Tucson, Arizona. It was an endeavor that would markedly separate him from his contemporaries, even after his return to the East. Gottlieb’s New York friends called the style he had developed in Arizona simplistic, but the artist refused to look back. He distanced himself from his colleagues and focused on developing a Surrealist style. Experiments with automatism and surrealist biomorphism helped him create an abstract symbol system for his gridded Pictographs series. Finally, in the 1950’s, he started work on two series that would become his most well-known work. Both series are represented in our collection, and their very existence seems linked to the bare, elegant vistas of the Desert Southwest.

IMAGINARY LANDSCAPES

Around 1950-51… I was finally getting away from the pictographs and looking for something… So it was necessary to find other forms, a different changed concept. So finally after a certain period of transition I hit on dividing the canvas into two parts, which then became like an imaginary landscape… What I was really trying to do when I got away from the pictographs was to make this notion of the kind of polarity clearer and more extreme. So the most extreme thing that I could think of doing at the time was dividing the canvas in half, make two big divisions and put something in the upper division and something in the lower section.

The color and texture of the land mass in “Green Foreground” recalls Gottlieb’s sea simile. In this period the artist was consolidating surrealist and abstract expressionist theories by approaching the two movements as different sides of the same coin (hence a “polarity”). Our lithograph implies a fantastical landscape, but works just as well as a flat, wholly abstract composition. If we imagine ourselves exploring this terrain, it would look much like Gottlieb’s surroundings in the Southwest, albeit with a greener tint.

BURSTS

After doing the imaginary landscapes until say 1956, in ’57 I came out with the first Burst painting… There was a different type of space than I had ever used and it was a further clarification of what I was trying to do. The thing that was interesting that it was a return to a focal point, but it was a focal point with the kind of space that existed in traditional painting. Because this was like a solitary image or two images that were just floating in the canvas space. They had to hold the space and they also had to create all the movement – that took place within the rectangle.

Gottlieb’s Bursts are Imaginary Landscapes that have further dissolved into abstraction, though their compositions still root them somewhat in reality. In “Crimson Ground” two discs rise (or set) like a sun and moon from a monochrome tangle with the most ephemeral of horizon lines.

When I started doing the Bursts I began to do part of the painting horizontally. It was necessary to do that because I was working with a type of paint which had a particular viscosity, which flowed, and if it were on a vertical surface it would just run. If it were on a horizontal surface, I could control it… I was using a combination of brushes and knives, palette knives… and spatulas… I’ve tried everything, rollers, rags, I’ve put paint on with everything.

“Crimson Ground” isn’t a painting, but it still has a painterly quality to it. The edges of the discs are uneven and textured, and the forms below are as splattered as a Pollock drip painting. This further highlights the polarity between the surreal landscape and an abstract expressionist painting. One is focused on depth, the other focuses solely on the surface. Learn more about Adolph Gottlieb on our website, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for to-the-minute gallery updates!

PICASSO GETS BURNED: 5 strange facts about the Vollard Suite

Pablo Picasso- Personnages Masques et Femme Oiseau- Matthews Gallery blog

Pablo Picasso, Personnages Masques et Femme Oiseau, aquatint and etching

When it came to marketing himself, art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) was a pro. He had a knack for scouting out young artists with rockstar potential and he wasn’t afraid to ask for favors later on. Vollard gave Pablo Picasso his very first gallery show in 1901. By 1930, Picasso was world-famous and Vollard enlisted him for a special commission. In exchange for paintings by Renoir and Cezanne, Picasso would create a series of 100 etchings ending with three portraits of Vollard.

What better way to immortalize yourself? Picasso completed the Vollard Suite over the next seven years, and it would become one of his most famous print suites. The first etchings in the series are in the neoclassical style and show a sculptor in the studio with his beautiful muse. As World War II set in, Picasso turned to darker subject matter culled from Greek mythology. A friendly minotaur appears, but soon grows agitated and violent. By the end of the series the minotaur has lost his vision and wanders aimlessly.

At Matthews Gallery we have the 24th print from the series, titled “Masked Characters and Bird Woman“. In our research on the print, we’ve discovered some pretty weird facts about the Vollard Suite. Five things you (almost surely) didn’t know:

1.  Armed Art Critics Attack! 

Guerrilleros de Cristo Rey tear down Picasso's Vollard Suite- Matthews Gallery Blog

Spanish paramilitary group Guerrilleros de Cristo Rey on the march

Aside from Steve Wynn 0r Olga Dogaru, Picasso’s most violent critics might just be fascist paramilitary group Guerrilleros de Cristo Rey. Picasso finished the Vollard Suite in 1937, but Vollard’s untimely death in 1939 and World War II prevented the prints from going on the market until the 1950s. In the 1970s, the series starred in a short-lived exhibition in Madrid. In protest of Picasso’s political views on the Spanish Civil War the Guerrilleros stormed the show, tore down the prints and burned them with acid. Ouch.

2. Death by Foot

Honore de Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece inspired Picasso's Vollard Suite- Matthews Gallery Blog

Image from Honore de Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece

Sometimes, art kills. Scholars have tied the Vollard Suite to Honore de Balzac’s short story “The Unknown Masterpiece.” The tragic tale chronicles an artist’s frustration at his inability to capture a model’s supreme beauty on canvas. He manages to paint her foot, but soon gives up and commits suicide in despair. Picasso explores similar themes in his etchings. His lover Marie-Therese Walter appears throughout the series, at first as his adoring model and then as a girlish guide to the blind minotaur. The artist has lost his power to capture his model in his art, and now she nimbly leads him toward death.

3. Sweet Art

Pablo Picasso used a sugar life aquatint technique in his Vollard Suite- Matthews Gallery Blog

Sugar lift aquatint from the Vollard Suite

It seems Picasso had a sweet tooth. The ever innovative artist experimented with new printmaking techniques for the Vollard commission, including dry point and aquatinting. The latter method allows the artist to create varying tones on the print using particles of rosin and an acid. Sugar lift aquatinting is a sweet variation. A layer of sugar syrup is applied to parts of the print and then burned off with acid to create dark fields on a white ground (see the dark patches in the image above).

4. Clairvoyant Pablo

Was Pablo Picasso psychic? - Matthews Gallery Blog

Picasso possessed many artistic talents, but was he also a fortune-teller? One of the Vollard prints shows a model who is a doppelgänger for Picasso’s lover Francoise Gilot, though it prefigures their relationship by over ten years. Third eye or not, the artist noted Gilot’s resemblance to his archetypal female figures when he met her. It made quite the flattering pick-up line.

5. Vollarchitecture

Vollard Suite in Brazil named after Picasso Print Series - Matthews Gallery

The Vollard Suite in Curitiba, Brazil

In more recent news, the world’s first rotating building is named after the Vollard Suite. The futuristic residential complex in Brazil opened in 2001 with an exhibition of Picasso’s prints. Its design resembles a Greek pillar, a reference to Picasso’s neoclassical style in the suite (check out the bird lady’s perch in our print). The skyscraper’s $400,000 apartments turn 360 degrees every hour. It might sound dizzying, but something tells us the extravagant artist would approve.

Learn more about our Vollard print here, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more news from Matthews Gallery!

ONE WORK OF ART: Salvador Dali’s “Frontispiece for Goya Suite”

Salvador-Dali-Goya-SuiteMaster

Salvador Dali, Frontispiece for Goya Suite (1973), multi-plate etching

You can see rare prints by Francisco Goya at the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain, the only U.S. stop of a special traveling exhibition from the British Museum. Learn about Salvador Dali’s twist on one of Goya’s most famous works below, and come see it at Matthews Gallery on Canyon Road. 
In 1797, Francisco Goya embarked on a political art project that almost brought him up against the Spanish Inquisition. In a series of 80 aquatints entitled Los Caprichos (The Whims) he outlined the “innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized societies.”
The hardly whimsical opus was a critique of 18th century Spain, which Goya depicted as full of deformed monsters and foolish beasts. The artist avoided punishment at the hands of the ruling class when the king spoke up for him, but the prints were still withdrawn from public sale in 1799.

426px-Museo_del_Prado_-_Goya_-_Caprichos_-_No._43_-_El_sueño_de_la_razon_produce_monstruos

174 years later, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (left) from Los Caprichos was considered one of Goya’s most iconic works, and another Spaniard by the name of Salvador Dali decided to create a Surrealist tribute to the series. In the etching Frontispiece for Goya Suite Dali used the first image from Los Caprichos, a self-portrait of Goya in a top hat. 

2cb338d5fe19d368d2ee3639caf7a649Dali drops Goya into a universe even more bizarre than that of the original Caprichos, stitching his predecessor’s visage atop the body of a dragon-like beast. A second, more monstrous head with a drippy nose and lumpy halo emerges from behind Goya, and a shadowy figure in the distance leaves a trail like a comet. 
Is Dali’s remix another critique of Spanish society, refreshed for the weird world of 1973? The artist drops a slippery hint in this work’s alternate title, Lenguado Menguado. Lenguado could mean “flat-fish” or “sole”, and menguado is either “well-dressed” or “diminished”.
So, Dali could be calling Goya a stylish fish or a diminished one. The title might refer to the worn—or fashionable—shoes of the pedestrian in the background. In any case, the artist seems to be commenting on Spain’s obsession with appearances, a theme first explored in several of Goya’s Caprichos. Of course, Dali was himself an offender when it came to sartorial dalliances, but that adds some spice to the criticism.
View Dali’s bizarre reworking of a classic Goya print at Matthews Gallery, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more news from Canyon Road.

ART ON PAPER: A (Brief) Visual History of Printmaking

A Visual History of Printmaking on the Matthews Gallery blog

Prehistoric handprints on a cave wall, a Sumerian cylinder seal from ancient Mesopotamia, a woodblock print from the Chinese Diamond Sutra, a page of the Gutenberg Bible, a woodcut from the Ars moriendi, an etching by Albrecht Durer, a stencil print on silk from the Japanese Edo Period, an intaglio print by Rembrandt, a lithograph of Aloys Senefelder, an etching by Whistler, an offset lithograph by the New York Times company and an aquatint and etching by Pablo Picasso!

What does it all mean? Come to Matthews Gallery’s ART ON PAPER: Fine Art Prints reception on Friday, October 25 from 5-7 pm to find out.

ONE WORK OF ART: Toulouse-Lautrec’s Heartbreak

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec- La Passagere du 54- Matthews Gallery

“Love is when the desire to be desired takes you so badly that you feel you could die of it,” said Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It’s a strange perspective on the matter, but not a surprising one when you consider the artist’s difficult life. His parents were nobles and first cousins, a pairing that probably gave Lautrec a rare congenital abnormality called osteogenesis imperfecta. He was particularly prone to bone fractures and broke both of his legs as a teen. Bedridden and bored, Lautrec’s only way to escape his misery was drawing.

By the time Lautrec moved to Paris to study art at 18, his legs had stopped growing and he struggled to support his regularly sized torso. He battled deep insecurities about his appearance, but never dropped an abrasive air of superiority. His first relationship with 17-year-old model Marie Charlet was short and tumultuous, and his second serious lover Suzanne Valadon attempted suicide.

Lautrec immersed himself in the booze-soaked world of Paris’ cabarets and brothels to numb his pain, where he was inspired to produce some of the era’s most innovative images. Many of his works tell tales of longing and lost love, including our lithograph La Passagere du 54. Here’s a sad story from our archives about the 1895 boat voyage that inspired the print:

The story of Henri de Toulouse Lautrec's "La Passagere du 54"- Matthews Gallery blog

No wonder the woman on the poster is giving the viewer the cold shoulder. Most of Lautrec’s sketches must have been completed from this angle, as his haughty subject never gave him a second glance.

Lautrec’s artistic career only lasted a little over a decade, and though he gained considerable fame for his work, his romantic prospects never improved. He died at 36 from alcoholism and syphilis, but left behind a body of work that eternally capture the spirit of the City of Lights.

Do you agree with Lautrec’s definition of love? Sound off in the comments below, or through our Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest profiles.

MANY LIVES: Early and late works by famous artists

Early and Late Works: Georgia O'Keeffe's "Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot)" (1908) and "Sky Above Clouds IV" (1965)

“When I look over the photographs Stieglitz took of me—some of them more than sixty years ago—I wonder who that person is,” said Georgia O’Keeffe. “It is as if in my one life I have lived many lives.”

Look through O’Keeffe’s diverse body of work, and you’ll see just what she meant. “Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot)” is a humble realist work she painted as an art student in her early 20s.  She completed the abstracted, ephemeral landscape “Sky Above Clouds IV”, which is over 20 feet long, when she was almost 80. When they’re side-by-side it’s hard to believe that one artist created both.

The same is true for works that bookend any great artist’s career. Constant evolution is perhaps the most important ingredient to genius, as you’ll see in the images below. While you browse the early and late works of four legendary artists, ponder their differences. Does youthful enthusiasm and bold experimentation move you, or do you prefer a sure hand and a fully realized aesthetic? Join the conversation in the comments section below, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Early and Late Works: Paul Cezanne's "The Artist's Father, Reading 'L'Événement'" (1866) and "Gardanne" (1885-86)

Paul Cezanne painted “Artist’s Father, Reading ‘L’Événement'” when he was in his early 20s and still partially under the thumb of his disapproving parent. The paper his father is reading—a liberal publication that the old man wouldn’t have deigned to open—and the still life painting hanging in the background hint at the artist’s growing confidence in his chosen path. Flash forward to the radical perspectival experimentation of “Gardanne”, completed when Cezanne was in his late 40s. The multi-layered cityscape would later inspire Picasso and Braque in their development of Cubism.

Early and Late Works: Frida Kahlo's "The Accident" (1926) and "Still Life" (1951)

When Frida Kahlo was 19 years old she was in a trolley crash that left her in a full body cast. A year after the accident she created the pencil sketch on the left, drawing from the tradition of Mexican ex-voto paintings that blend text and images. A lifetime later, Kahlo was still suffering from chronic pain caused by the accident and drawing influences from folk art, but she’d discovered a subtler way to express her suffering. She painted “Still Life 1951” just three years before her death, when her body was giving out and she no longer favored self portraiture. The fleshy, congealing watermelon nestled among fresh fruits says it all. “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return,” she wrote just before her death.

Early and Late Works: Pablo Picasso's "Les Saltimbanques" (1905) and "Untitled (From the 156 Suite, 16 mai 1971)"

“Les Saltimbanques” is a drypoint that Pablo Picasso created in his early 20s. The group of frolicking figures are characters from an opera-comique about a circus troupe. Countless artistic transformations later, Picasso etched out “Untitled (From the 156 Suite)“, an image that shows a tangle of prostitutes engaged in a very different acrobatic routine. Innocence is lost, but genius found.

Early and Late Works: Paul Gauguin's "La Seine au Pont de Grenelle" (   ) and "Mahana Atua (The Day of God)" (   )

Paul Gauguin was a 27-year-old family man working as a stockbroker and hanging out at the Impressionists’ favorite cafes when he painted “La Seine au Pont de Grenelle”. By his mid-40s, he’d abandoned his family and job and exiled himself to Tahiti, where he drew inspiration for woodblock print “Mahana Atua (The Day of God)“. The artist learned from one revolutionary movement and then struck off on his own to inspire several others, from Primitivism to Symbolism.

How many lives can one artist live? What do you like better, the earlier or later work? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and sound off!