Artists’ Statements

In class discussion, I’ve read aloud and/or shared with you direct quotations from the artists, about their work. I anticipate you’ll need these for your future papers or studying, so here’s a few of them in text:

Gustave Courbet, 1861: “The art of painting can consist only in the representation of objects visible and tangible to the painter…An abstract object, invisible or nonexistent, does not belong in the domain of painting…Show me an angel, and I’ll paint one.”

1863 art critic’s response to Olympia: “a courtesan with dirty hands and feet…her body has the livid tint of a cadaver displayed in the morgue; her outlines are drawn in charcoal and her greenish, bloodshot eyes appear to be provoking the public, protected all the while by a hideous Negress.”

Vincent Van Gogh: “Instead of trying to produce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily so as to express myself forcibly…[color is] not locally true from the point of the delusive realist, but color suggesting some emotion of an ardent temperament”

Van Gogh on The Night Café: “a place where one can ruin oneself, go made, or commit a crime”

Paul Cezanne: wanted to “make Impressionism something solid and durable like the art of the museums”

Kazimir Malevich: “Under Suprematism I understand the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the wnvironment in which it is called forth…The suprematist does not observe and does not touch – he feels.”

Clement Greenberg on postwar modernism: “A modernist work of art must try, in principle, to avoid communication with any order of experience not inherent in the most literally and essentially construed nature of its medium. Among other means, this means renouncing illusion and explicit subject matter. The arts are to achieve concreteness, ‘purity,’ by dealing solely with their respective selves – that is, by becoming ‘abstract’ or nonfigurative.”

Artist Mark Rothko on Abstract Expressionism: “We assert man’s absolute emotions. We don’t need props or legends. We create images whose realities are self-evident. Free ourselves from from memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man or life, we make it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings. The image we produce is understood by anyone who looks at it without nostalgic glasses of history.”


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