Sunday, September 18, 2011

Held over Klimt

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 2011
12 x 9'', painting  #199

Last year, my painting- Held over Monet was a result of discovering the fabulous art glass of Robert Held. This new painting is a result of history repeating itself. Of life imitating art and vice versa. Fast forward one year, our son Jean-Luc's soccer team was taking part in another tournament on Prince Edward Island in late July. Different town, different art galleries visited during down time, but same outcome. They win gold in the finals and I acquire another piece of his wonderful art glass. This painting pays tribute to two amazing artists.

Robert Held was born in Santa Ana California. He studied painting at Whittier College until ceramics artist  F.Carleton Ball crossed his path. Pursuing a Master's Degree in Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, Robert was awarded the graduate assistantship. At this time, he won the prestigious "Glen Lukins Award" for new work in ceramics. Upon graduating, Robert was offered a position as Head of Ceramics at a college being built in Ontario. He accepted the position becoming the youngest department head at the Sheridan College - School of Design.

In 1968, after a visit to the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, Robert Held discovered a new love: the art of glassblowing. He returned to Sheridan College inspired and succeeded in launching Canada's first college level hot glass program in 1969. This program allowed many Canadian artists to become skilled in this medium, and crowned Robert Held as the pioneer of art glass in Canada.

Eventually, Mr. Held left the teaching world, and in 1978 he began his own glass studio known as Skookum Art Glass Inc based out of Calgary, AB and operated there until 1987. At this time, he moved to Vancouver, BC, and continues to enjoy much success there today at his studio: Robert Held Art Glass, and also through the many fine galleries and gift shops that carry his work throughout North America, Europe and Japan.

Some works are inspired by the paintings of famous artists such as Monet and Klimt, while others take inspiration from photographers and even interior designers. This vase is from the California Poppy collection. This line was inspired by the famous impressionist painting ''The Poppy fields'' by Claude Monet. In keeping with the color scheme of the vase, in lieu of Monet I was inspired to use an art book of Gustav Klimt featuring ''The Kiss'' on the front cover to ground the composition.  

Born in 1862, Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter and the founding father and a leading member of the Vienna Secession movement, a group of artist who consciously rejected the academic style of the late nineteenth century. Even though he had formally studied art at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. He received training as an architectural painter and was classified as an academic painter who could paint hyperrealist portraits. He became celebrated for his rich, complex, gold-dazzling friezes and portraits of powerful, chic woman from Vienna's turn of the century society. His artistic vocabulary incorporated esoteric design and eroticism, which was not always well received, including some commissions which were never revealed.  His work was greatly influenced by the Byzantine movement and he also was associated with Art Nouveau when the movement was at it's peak.

''The Kiss'' (1907-08) is a celebration of his deeply held belief in the transforming power of idealized love. Klimt himself is the male figure embracing his life companion Emilie Flöge. The art book's author Gilles Néret notes,  ''Klimt's otherwise dominating woman becomes submissive. She yields to the man, abandons herself to him, and sexuality shimmers through her clinging gown''. I read this passage during the time I was doing the preliminary drawing on paper. By the time I started to paint, it dawn on me that the position of the vase and window frame in relation with the image, casted a shadow on the woman side. The positioning of the heads creating polar opposites like a ying-yang and it's attributes. Ying is seen as dark, passive and feminine while yang as light, active and masculine. And of course the only red flowers from the woman's gown are cast in the shadow of the vase, which itself boosts flowers in the same color palette. It becomes easy to over analyse imagery and create a narrative when you have a connection the goes beyond the surface.

The Kiss was done during his ''Golden Phase''. During this period he used gold leaf prominently on the artwork, which brought him both success and critical approval. Many of those Golden Phase paintings were confiscated by the Nazi regime during WWII. The image below entitled Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1(1907) once belong to the Bloch-Bauer couple until it was seized by the Nazis and bought by the Moderne Galerie (now Österreichische Galerie) in Vienna in 1941. (The Kiss is also housed here). In 2006, after a lengthy battle, a court decision attributed the ownership of that painting and four other Klimt paintings to Maria Altmann, a former Jewish refugee and niece of the Bloch-Bauers. On June 18, 2006, on her behalf and the family's heirs, the painting was sold at auction by Christie's to Ronald Lauder (cosmetic mogul of Estée Lauder Co.) for a reported 135 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting in history. Later that fall, Jackson Pollock (No. 5, 1948) and William de Kooning (Woman III, 1953) would both eclipse that figure. The remaining four paintings owned by Maria Altmann were sold at auction for a reported sum totaling 192 million.

On November 2001, Ronald Lauder opened the Neue Galerie in New York City, an art museum a few blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum, dedicated to art from Germany and Austria. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is the centerpiece of the museum's collection.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1- 1907
Oil, silver and gold on canvas, 138 x 138 cm
 Neue Galerie, New York City

Next year in 2012, the city of Vienna Austria, will mark the 150th Birthday of Gustav Klimt with special exhibitions all over the city. We were born exactly 100 years apart, so I too will be celebrating a milestone, but under much less fanfare. 

''Anyone who wants to find out about me- as an artist,
which is all that's of interest - should look
attentively at my pictures.''

Book: Klimt, author- Gilles Néret, published 2007, TASCHEN

This is my third entry for The Still Life, an invitational group show to be held at the Elliott Fouts Gallery from October 1 - November 2, 2011