Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hannah Höch, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse

Hannah Höch, Cut With The Kitchen Knife, Dada Through The Last Weimar Beer-Beely Cultural Epoch In Germany, Pablo Picasso, Guitar, Sheet Music and Glass, Henri Matisse, gouaches découpés
When I first started being fascinated with the collage art form, I began looking at the art historical record for examples of works that best express those principles and elements that I am most interested in: variation and dynamics, color and texture.  I love the challenge of creating interesting compositions utilizing thoughtful designs, and in doing so I have come to favor three artists of the past, Hannah Höch, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse.  Each of the three were born in the late 1800's and were artists in what we now call the Modernist Art Movement of the early 20th century.

Cut With The Kitchen Knife, Dada Through The Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch In Germany

Hannah Höch is most famous for her Dadaist photomontages created during the heyday of the post-World War I Weimar Republic era in Germany, which lasted about fourteen years.  In the example shown above, Cut With The Kitchen Knife, Dada Through The Last  Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch In Germany, she challenges the social and political events of her time.  And she was a master at it - her ability to deconstruct the everyday images from her local newspaper and reassemble them into new images is astounding.  The variety of images, their precise placement, and the way in which the shapes play off of each other, creating a perfectly balanced composition, keep my eyes interested and curious. 

Guitar, Sheet Music and Glass

In about 1912, Pablo Picasso began an exploration in what is known as papier collé, or pasted paper, with the guitar as his subject matter.  Both the technique and the choice of subject matter are said to have been borrowed from his friend and collaborator Georges Braque.  In this image, titled Guitar, Sheet Music and Glass, which is possibly his first in this exploration, color and texture play a great role in setting the still life scene and in creating the shape of the guitar, but what draws me the most to this image is the idea of using everyday objects as art materials.  The 'stuff of life' reassembled: wallpaper, sheet music and a newspaper, all make an appearance here

gouache découpés

Henri Matisse was faulted by critics of the day for his participation in what is now known as the Fauve Movement, which took place from about 1904-1908.  The shock of color they utilized in their paintings drove one critic to call them Fauves, or 'wild beasts'.  I wonder though, if perhaps Matisse's role in this movement is what influenced his bold choice of colors in his later years when he took up gouaches découpés, or 'painting with scissors' as he called it.  This particular collage, which I have been unable to locate the name of, is a good example of the striking color combinations the Fauves were so well known for.  Matisse's use of a simple complimentary color scheme, combined with what is obviously scraps and pieces of hand cut paper, create an asymmetric organic shape that stimulates my eye and keeps it moving, and the colors make me happy and excited.  

I have been a student of art history for a while, both in the academic world and as a personal interest.  A few years ago, though, I decided that it was time to create my own art instead of just looking at it.  But I will say that studying what has come before is a worthwhile activity, as well as getting out into the downtown art galleries where I live.  I would encourage anyone who thinks they are interested in creating art to first, look around you, then look within you.

Thanks for looking!

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