Ford Mustang – The First Ten Years

IMG_0182

The Holy Grail for a TV production company is to have a show that seems to polarize the audience into those who cannot get enough or it and those that just cannot stand it. Such, I suspect, is the audience of Amazon’s “The Grand Tour”.

After a difficult re-birth, it’s essential television and world class car porn. Fronted by a “shaved ape in a shirt” (not my description) Jeremy Clarkson and his trusty sidekicks the first episode saw the unholy three screaming across a Southern California dessert – backed by a brilliant live soundtrack from “Hot House Flowers” – each driving driving a custom model of the sixth generation Ford Mustangs, including the Galpin Fisker Mustang Rocket – a 5 litre V8 725 bhp monster.

A later episode, during the “Conversation Street” spot, Clarkson commented that cars today looked like they had been designed by people who don’t like cars! A damning indictment of the state of car design seemingly limited to the inflexible tolerances of what the Health and Saftey Department will allow. The new generation of Mustangs are refreshing exceptions.

The most “Liked” car on Facebook but what is this iconic car’s history?

IMG_0187

One of only a handful of cars to have enjoyed continuous production for over fifty years the nascent Ford Mustang – “the Pony Car” – was designed in 1962 as a two-seater concept car which by 1963 had become a four seater aimed at the mid-budget demand for a sportier Ford coupe with a long bonnet.

The history of its design, its naming and the galloping Mustang logo are the stuff of legends. What seems clear is that the early design resulted from the collaboration of John Najjar and Philip T Clark who together realised the first two-seat prototype Mustang I.

Clark alone is said to have designed the car’s long-used logo.

IMG_0199.JPG

The car’s name may have come from by Najjar’s liking of the WWII P-51 Mustang Fighter or it may have been suggested by Robert Eggert, a Ford excecutive and horsebreeder, whose wife had given him a book “The Mustangs” as a birthday gift.

Launched on April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. The car’s first base price was $2,368.

IMG_0190

A huge success, the early estimates of 100,000 annual sales were exceeded in the first three months – a total of 400,000 sold in the first year – and the one million manufactured mark was passed in eighteen months of launch. A dealer inadvertently sold the first production model to a Canadian Pilot, an error later rectified by Ford who exchanged his car, which had 10,000 miles on the clock, for the one millionth Mustang, made in March 1966.

At launch the Coupe and Convertible versions were joined in 1965 by a fastback version.

IMG_0198

By 1968 engines were upgraded from six to eight cylinders; coinciding with the role played by Steve McQueen’s character’s Mustang Fastback in “Bullitt”.

In 1969 the front end and body shell were designed to be heftier.

By 1973 the ill-conceived ‘SportsRoof’ version made the once sprightly Mustang appear bloated impacting negatively on sales and prompting a design overhaul resulting in the second generation Mustang II in 1974.

IMG_0195

Images courtesy of Ford Motors

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Peace Sign and The Summer of Love

IMG_0152

As the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” approaches in June 2107, I wanted to pay respectful recognition to an iconic logo, that symbolised so much hope for a peaceful world.

The Hippie movement in all its guises, peace, fashion, anti-war protest and decoration adopted as a core symbol a logo, designed nine years earlier by a Royal College of Art graduate and conscientious objector, Gerald Holtom, for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol comprised a representation of the semaphore signal for the letters “N” and “D” that were understood to mean “nuclear” and “disarmament”.

The mid-sixties was a seminal time spawning a youth movement or counter-culture, that sought to challenge much of what the Old Guard saw as important.

IMG_0168

The Summer of Love saw over 100,000 people dressed in Hippie fashions converge on the San Francisco neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury – or “Hashbury” as it was renamed by Hunter S. Thompson. Why did the Haight-Ashbury district become the centre of hippie culture? In the 60s, Haight-Ashbury was a depressed area, with good-sized homes at reasonable prices. It was on the outskirts of the city but close to two of the parks that starred in the Summer of Love – the Panhandle and the Golden Gate Park.

IMG_0171

The crowd grew with the addition of students on Spring Break in 1967 causing logistical issues for the San Francisco authorities, although reports suggest that the Police were largely tolerant, though unhelpful, towards this largely peaceful community.

There was a groundswell of great excitement, of inspiration and illegal drug use – particularly of cannabis and LSD. Free Love also featured, courtesy of the recent wide availability of the contraceptive pill. Although, it is widely regarded that the bohemian ghetto of Haight-Ashbury was largely drug fuelled, contemporary reports suggest whilst there was widespread abuse the core motivation for many was the search for new forms of self-expression.

IMG_0175.JPG

Largely questioning of their government, particularly in relation to the Vietnamese War – the first war, as shown nightly on TV – they rejected consumerism, promoting sharing and community. Whilst some embraced politics others were more drawn to the expressive arts and alternative religions.

IMG_0174.JPG

The Hippie crowd attended music festivals including the Monterey Pop Festival, in June 1967.

In the UK, the ideals of the Hippie counter-culture were embraced by many with the positive encouragement of band’s including The Beatles who used their influence to benefit the scene with the release on June 1st 1967 of  the “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album – see here our earlier celebration of the album’s iconic cover  – Peter Blake and Jann Haworth – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. London’s King’s Road became the favoured street for those seeking hippie fashions with boutiques including, the brilliantly named, “Granny Takes A Trip” at 488 King’s Road.

IMG_0172

By October 1967, with many young people returning to their college studies the Summer of Love started to wain. However, many commentators agree that its lasting legacy of socio-political reassessment, questioning, tolerance and change was immense.

IMG_0176

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks 

 

El Greco by Spike Ress

El Greco SP

Yesterday, Spike Ress, Aestheticons friend, Watercolorist and source of much History of Art, gave us a fascinating glimpse into the work of El Greco (1541 – 1614) on what is thought to have been his birthday. With Spike’s kind permission I repost his piece here.

Today is believed to the birthday of El Greco, birth name Doménikos Theotokópoulos. El Greco was born in 1541, exact date unknown, he lived until April 7, 1614.

El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. “El Greco” (“The Greek”) was a nickname, a reference to his Greek origin, given to him by the Spanish; however, he normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters.

El Greco was born in Crete, which was at that time part of the Republic of Venice and the center of Post-Byzantine art. He trained and became a master within that tradition before traveling at age 26 to Venice, as other Greek artists had done. In 1570 he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works. During his stay in Italy El Greco enriched his style with elements of Mannerism and of the Venetian Renaissance.

In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.

El Greco 2

El Greco’s dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries but found appreciation in the 20th century some 300 years after his death.

El Greco 9

El Greco is regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism. His personality and works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Nikos Kazantzakis. El Greco has been characterized by modern scholars as an artist so individual that he belongs to no conventional school.

He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagorical pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

El Greco 5

In 1577 El Greco moved to Madrid, then to Toledo. At the time Toledo was the religious capital of Spain and a populous city with “an illustrious past, a prosperous present and an uncertain future”. El Greco did not plan to settle permanently in Toledo, since his final aim was to win the favor of Philip and make his mark in his court. Indeed, he did manage to secure two important commissions from the monarch: Allegory of the Holy League and Martyrdom of St. Maurice. However, the king did not like these works and placed the St Maurice altarpiece in the chapter-house rather than the intended chapel. He gave no further commissions to El Greco. The exact reasons for the king’s dissatisfaction remain unclear. Some scholars have suggested that Philip did not like the inclusion of living persons in a religious scene.

El Greco 4

Lacking the favor of the King, El Greco was obliged to remain in Toledo, where he had been received in 1577 as a great painter. He continued to secure other important commissions. According to Hortensio Félix Paravicino, a 17th-century Spanish preacher and poet, “Crete gave him life and the painter’s craft, Toledo a better homeland, where through Death he began to achieve eternal life.”

El Greco 7

El Greco made Toledo his home. Surviving contracts mention him as the tenant from 1585 onwards of a complex consisting of three apartments and twenty-four rooms which belonged to the Marquis de Villena. It was in these apartments, which also served as his workshop, that he passed the rest of his life painting and studying. He lived in considerable style, sometimes employing musicians to play whilst he dined.

It is not confirmed whether he lived with his Spanish female companion, Jerónima de Las Cuevas, whom he probably never married. She was the mother of his only son, Jorge Manuel, born in 1578, who also became a painter.

Salvador Dali by Dominic Baker

Dali 2

This week Aestheticons’ regular contributor, Dominic Baker, waxes his moustache, suspends disbelief and the forces of nature to celebrate the work of the “Man from Figueres” the irrepressible talent of Salvador Dali

Strap yourselves in its about to get weird….

Salvador Dali where do we begin – his unconventional childhood, his schooling, film and theatre, the symbolism within his many works, his unconventional relationships, his references to science or maybe his politics or religious views? All of which were possibly as vivid and vivacious as his actual works – if not more so.

Unusual by the fact, unlike so many earlier Masters, he was one of the most famous painters that was not only posthumously celebrated, but he managed to experience fame and notoriety during his lifetime. As he dominated the abstract and surrealist worlds for decades and was, arguably, the first celebrity modernist. He made modern art both more accessible and much more popular.

I think it is important to start with his childhood – it had such a profound effect on his state of mind.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1904 . His would be older brother, also named Salvador, had died 9 months before. When he was five years old he was taken to his brother’s grave, where his parents told him that he was the reincarnation of his dead brother, something he later  believed!

Dali education was tumultuous. He discovered painting in 1910, having had a rather impressionistic foray into art from the age of six. Following the trauma of his Mother’s death from breast cancer in 1921, he moved to Madrid in 1922. Whilst studying at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando along with his studies of the techniques of the Dutch Masters – he was already a fine painter – he began to experiment with Cubism and Dadaism, but managed to get expelled in 1926 being accused of causing unrest.

Dali 1.jpg

In 1929, he met his future wife, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova (later to become Dali’s muse called “Gala”) who at the time was married to surrealist poet Paul Eluard. She was ten years older than Dali and a Russian. The romance drove a wedge between Dali and his father. Dali’s completion of a highly controversial religious painting, bearing the inscription ‘Sometimes, I spit for fun on my Mother’s portrait’ was the final straw and his father forcibly ejected Dali from his family’s home and threatened to disinherited him. His father’s wrath eventually ebbed and he eventually accepted his son’s lover.

In 1931, Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (MOMA) – our featured image – was completed, possibly the most important piece of the entire Surrealist movement. The dripping clocks seemingly reject the idea of time being rigid.

With the Spanish Civil War and Second World War in the 1930/40’s, Dali moved to the US where he was an instant hit with his own style of self advertising. He met many famous and influential people including heroes, Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. Whilst in the US he developed his iconic appearance with his famous moustache influenced by a 17th century Spanish painter, Diego Velazquez.

He collaborated on films and photography working with Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel and designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior.

Dali and Coco

By way of payment to his secretaries he often gave them paintings, later to be worth millions.

In 1936 he attended at a surrealist lecture in London dressed in a full diving suit – symbolic of plunging into the depths of the human mind.

Dali 3.jpg

In 1937 in Paris he completed the stunning “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” that is thought, in part, to have been influenced by Dali’s recognition of the success he had enjoyed in the US.

Dali 6

The same year his beautiful “Swans Reflecting Elephants” was completed and seized by the Nazi’s following the invasion of France in 1940.

Dali 7.jpg

In 1948 Dali and Gala returned to their home on the Catalonian coast at Port Lligat where they settled for over thirty years. In 1951, the celebrated “The Christ of Saint John of the Cross” (owned by Glasgow Museums) was painted. Inspired by a 16th century sketch and his own “cosmic dream” it carries a remarkable and evocative message.

Dali 5

In 1952 Dali’s fascination with the atom and nuclear physics led to his depiction of his muse, Gala, in “Galatea of the Spheres”.

Dali 8.jpg

In 1969, somewhat curiously, Dali designed the logo of Spanish lollipop business “Chupa Chups”.

Dali 9

I will finish with the fact that in 2017 Dali is still a cultural icon; his self-portrait and his iconic moustache are now the subject of an many artists. Almost an exercise in branding, a poster boy for a whole genre with their artistic interpretations of him – it is what he represents, the avant guard, the weird, the ground breaking, the popular and, of course, the surreal.

 

Playboy Magazine

playboy logo

I know this is going to have a polarising effect on my audience. The impact of Playboy magazine on my generation of men was profound. There is simply no doubt that to me Playboy and the rabbit logo are simply iconic.

Playboy, founded by Hugh Hefner in October 1953 and launched its first edition in December 1953. The cover photo featured Marilyn Monroe and the centrefold (later to be called “Playmates”) was an unreleased nude shot of Marilyn – taken some years previously for a calendar – something of a publishing coup at the time.

Playboy 1

The name of the magazine was originally slated as “Stag Party” but that was ditched last minute because a rival title threatened legal action. Hefner’s friend and co-founder, Eldon Sellers, suggested the name “Playboy” – his mother had worked for a car company of that name.

After several edition, Hefner decided that it was fast becoming a brand and it needed a logo. He asked his Arthur “Art” Paul, the magazine’s Art Director for 30 years – who commissioned artists including Warhol and Dali to illustrate – to come up with some ideas. It is claimed he returned within a few minutes with a sketch of the rabbit image that was both “frisky and playful” but with an air of sophistication.

The publication now in its 63rd year spawned Playboy Enterprises, Inc that publish in many countries world-wide. A core strategy was to feature girls who had that “girl next door” – obtainable – appeal, like Marilyn and Farrah Fawcett.

In 2015 it operated an eighteen month moratorium on full frontal nudity, the March/April 2017 edition saw its return under a title “Naked is Normal” – although the sub-title “Entertainment for Men” has been removed from the cover.

Playboy 6

In addition to playing its part in the sexual revolution, that characterised much of the 60’s and 70’s, featuring cartoons, the works of great photographers and a monthly interview with a public figure, Playboy has retained its commitment to carrying the works of novelists, including Ian Fleming, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut and Vladimir Nabokov.

The best-selling Playboy edition was the November 1972 edition, which sold 7.1m copies.

Playboy 5

Given losses in 2009 the publishing empire was put up for sale for $300 million. By March 2011, Hugh Hefner received support to complete the buy out to re-acquire  the entire publish business at $6.15 per share. The business has more recently been touted with a $500m price. This increase in value seems to be largely due to the very successful licensing operation of Playboy Enterprises that exploits the use by others of the rabbit logo on merchandising and accessories.

Playboy 4

The Playboy Club was the physical realisation of the magazine’s intention to educate and entertain the adult man. The first Club was in Chicago and opened in February 1960. Playboy Bunnies – served members and their guest food and drink.

I went to a Playboy Club once in Century City, California, with a friend from the UK and a couple we visited – a connection of his parents. After several “CC and 7Up” they suggested lunch, Buzz was a member. My friend and I were 20/21 years old and impressed. The Bunnies were lovely, the food was excellent US club food, enormous steaks, delicious baked potatoes and fresh salads – including cherry tomatoes that we’d never seen. Although the girls were sweet and encouraged two English boys to talk – just to hear our accents – there was nothing at all sleazy about the whole experience.

Playboy 7.jpg

By 1991, the Club chain became defunct. Attempts have been made to revive the Club in Las Vegas and London – but I’ve not been.

 

Willem de Kooning

IMG_0106

Friend of Aestheticons and regular contributor Spike Ress, all the way from Utah, has posted this fascinating piece celebrating the work of Willem de Kooning

IMG_0104

Willem de Kooning (1904 – 1997)

Yesterday was the birthday of Willem de Kooning he was born on April 24, 904 and lived until March 19, 1997. De Kooning was a Dutch American Abstract Expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, South Holland in the Netherlands.

In the post-World War II era de Kooning painted in a style that came to be referred to as Abstract Expressionism or Action painting. He was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the New York School. Other painters in this group included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Clyfford Still, and Richard Pousette-Dart.

Willem de Kooning’s parents were divorced in 1907, and de Kooning lived first with his father and then with his mother. He left school in 1916 and became an apprentice in a firm of commercial artists. Until 1924 he attended evening classes at the Academie van Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen, the academy of fine arts and applied sciences of Rotterdam, now the Willem de Kooning Academie.

IMG_0115

In 1926 de Kooning travelled to the United States as a stowaway on the Shelley, a British freighter bound for Argentina, which landed on August 15 at Newport News, Virginia. He stayed at the Dutch Seamen’s Home in Hoboken and found work as a house-painter. In 1927 he moved to Manhattan where he had a studio on West 44th Street. He supported himself with jobs in carpentry, house-painting and commercial art.

IMG_0114

De Kooning’s paintings of the 1930s and early 1940s are abstract still-lifes characterised by geometric or biomorphic shapes and strong colours. They show the influence of his friends Davis, Gorky and Graham, but also of Arp, Joan Miró, Mondrian and Picasso. In the same years de Kooning also painted a series of solitary male figures, either standing or seated, against undefined backgrounds; many of these are unfinished.

IMG_0116.JPG

De Kooning’s well-known Woman series, begun in 1950 after meeting his future wife and culminating in Woman VI, owes much to Picasso, not least in the aggressive, penetrative breaking apart of the figure and the spaces around it. Picasso’s later works show signs that he, in turn, saw and was impressed by images of works by Pollock and de Kooning.

IMG_0111

 

 

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

CRM Painting Tea Rooms

There can be few who have visited Glasgow and have failed to be impressed by enduring legacy of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928).  Evident in  locations around the city are the iconic result of his work as an architect, designer and artist.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born into a large middle class Glaswegian family. An able student, in 1890 he won the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship to study ancient classic architecture. Thomson, an eminent Glaswegian architect, known for his stunning churches, his influence has been traced to places around the world including New York City and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

His first major architectural project, the Glasgow Herald Building (now known as The Lighthouse) was in 1899.

In 1913, having resigned from a previous partnership, Honeyman & Keppie, he attempted to open his own practice.

Given Glasgow’s heritage and reputation in international shipbuilding, various Japanese engineers were sent to be learn their trades in Scotland bringing with them oriental artefacts. Japanese art and culture caught Mackintosh’s imagination and influenced his style. He was fascinated by simple forms, natural materials, the use of texture and light and shadow.  Japanese arts, furniture and design particularly stressed the quality of the space. Combining an Asiatic influence with new warmer aspects of Modernism and Art Nouveau, that were then arriving from Europe, Mackintosh drew on and blended these influence with his upbringing and traditional Scottish architecture with stunning results.

The Glasgow School of Art sealed his reputation as an influential architect.

An extensive amount of his architectural detailing was almost certainly designed by his wife and fellow artist, Margaret MacDonald

CRM Glasow Art

His architectural output was small, but influential. He was commissioned by the publisher, Walter Blackie, to design Hill House in Helensburgh, to the west of Glasgow.  Blackie stipulated that the construction should include no bricks, plaster, wooden beams or a red-tiled roof.  He wanted grey rough cast walls and a slate roof but otherwise Mackintosh was given a free rein. Mackintosh spent time with the Blackie and his family so as to ensure that his design would suit the needs of the family.

CRM Hill House.jpg

CRM hill house 1

Mackintosh, his wife, her sister, Frances and his architectural colleague, Herbert MacNair, became known a “The Glasgow Four”. They exhibited widely in Glasgow, London and Vienna – influencing a number of contemporaries – and became leaders in the development of the “Glasgow Style” of the 1890’s.

CRM Glass.jpg

Mackintosh’s interior design work is particularly beautiful with the Willow Tea Room and the Ingram Street tea room (now demolished) both being fine examples.

CRM Tea Room

His fine and detailed work is also seen in his furniture, in addition to his signature ladder back chairs he and his wife designed glazed cabinets and screens.

CRM cabinet

Having become disillusioned with architecture, Mackintosh and his wife moved to the Suffolk village of Walberswick in 1941 and there continued to paint, particularly watercolours.

CRM flowers

In 1923 the couple moved to Port-Vendres in the South of France where their work as artists continued but sadly returned to London in 1927 when Charles was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer.

CRM France

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

 

Peter Blake and Jann Haworth – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

“It was twenty years ago today……”  in fact it was fifty years ago on 31.03.17 that the iconic photo was taken by Michael Cooper, for the cover of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. The Beatles 8th studio album was released on 1st June 1967 becoming the first Beatles album to be released simultaneously, worldwide.

Produced by George Martin in just three months the album sold in excess of 2.5m copies in the first there months of release. It spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK album chart and 15 weeks at number one in the US. In 1968, it won four Grammy Awards including for Best Album Cover and Album of The Year.

By 2011, sales had exceeded 32m.

Newly acquired studio techniques including multi-tracking, reverb, a Mellotron keyboard and overdubs used by George Martin and Abbey Road Engineer, Geoff Emerick, along with the multi-cultural soundtrack created an innovative aural landscape. From the band’s perspective, as they had decided to cease touring in 1966, they knew that they would not be required to reproduce the album on stage.

The familiar hippy/psychedelia inspired album cover, was designed by “Pop artists”, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth from an ink drawing suggested by Paul McCartney. It depicts the great and good, as waxworks or cut-out portraits that were enlarged, coloured and worked into a collage by Blake and Haworth. They surround the members of the Beatles as their younger and older selves, wearing moustaches and gaudy uniforms and a grave dressed by marijuana plants.

Sgt Peppers 3

Paul McCartney has been quoted as saying that they chose military style garish uniforms as a statement as it would go against the very idea of a “uniform”. Well, this was 1967!

“Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” were both recorded during the album’s sessions but were released, at the behest of EMI, as a double A side single in February 1967. Due to their lack of success they were dropped from the final cut, much to George Martin’s regret.

The stunning, stand out track, for me has always been “A Day In The  Life” with its lyrical imagery, pace and sheer wall of sound. It’s unsurprising that it was banned by the BBC for its drug allusions and associated imagery. When did a BBC ban ever hurt sales?

The photo session with Cooper, also resulted in the back cover and the inside of the gatefold sleeve. Bonus gifts inside the album’s packaging included a sheet of cardboard cut-outs, a postcard-sized portrait of Sgt. Pepper and a fake moustache – like those worn by the band’s members.

Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandi and Aleister Crowley were each suggested by Lennon and others but ultimately not included for a variety of sensibilities. Elvis Presley, is another notable absentee, which was explained by McCartney being deferential to his stature in popular music at the time.

The final cost for the cover art was reported to be nearly £3,000. A huge sum at the time where £50.00 was the usual budget!

The drum-skin featuring the title of the album was sold in July 2008 for $1,067,346.

Sgt peppers Drumskin

 

 

Vincent van Gogh

VVG1

Our friend and celebrated watercolorist, Spike Ress, commemorates the 164th anniversary of the birth of a very fine artist who is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic paintings. 

Today is the birthday of Vincent van Gogh. He was born March 30, 1853 and lived until July 29, 1890.

Vincent was a major Post-Impressionist painter, a Dutch artist whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. His output included portraits, self portraits, landscapes and still lifes.

Van Gogh drew as a child but did not paint until his late twenties; he completed many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints.

Van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers. He traveled between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught in England at Isleworth and Ramsgate. He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor. From 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community.

In March 1886 he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His paintings grew brighter in color and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.

VVG 2

After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 from what was beleived to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Suicide by gun has long been a part of the myth of the tortured artist that cloaks van Gogh. Biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith note that there are issues with that hypothesis — like the angle of the shot, the disappearance of the gun and other evidence, and the long hike that the wounded van Gogh would have had to make to return to his lodgings. As Naifeh and Smith tell it, a rowdy teenager named René Secrétan, who liked to dress up in a cowboy costume he’d bought after seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, was probably the source of the gun which was sold or lent to him.

The extent to which Van Gogh’s mental health affected his painting has been widely debated by art historians. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, his late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, “longing for concision and grace.”

The most comprehensive primary source for the understanding of Van Gogh as an artist and as a man is the collection of letters between him and his younger brother, art dealer Theo van Gogh. They lay the foundation for most of what is known about his thoughts and beliefs.

VVG 3

Banksy by Dominic Baker

Artist and regular Aestheticons’ contributor, Dominic Baker, looks at the work of Banksy who challenges, amuses and views the “purpose” of Art thus: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” 

Banksy FI

Where do I begin to describe one of the most influential artists of our generation? Unless you have no discernible interest in popular culture, you will certainly have found yourself looking at one of Banksy’ many sensationalist works.

Banksy 1

His mission is to shock and awe. To make you consider your surroundings, open your eyes to the many ways that capitalism, war, censorship and systems of control oppress you. To turn taste on its head. Banksy is massively relevant, shocking and uses a brand new format that took traditional graffiti art by storm.

Banksy Police

The cardboard stencil known as the ‘throw up’. It is quick to spray, accurate and detailed. His modus allows him to hit several spots in one night and do small eye catching pieces in very public places that are unavailable to others. Thus he avoids capture and has remained largely anonymous to this day.

Banksy 2

Originating from Bristol in the early 1990’s, most early work was freehand. Known for  its massive graff scene and underground music with a subversive  anti-culture bubbling just under the surface. Banksy was heavily influenced by the graffiti artist and rapper, Robert “3D” del Naja and Grant Marshall who went on to form  Massive Attack with Tricky and others.

Banksy met the photographer Steve Lazarides who sold some of his works eventually becoming his agent. He travelled all over the UK, but especially London, to deliver his politically charged messages.

Banksy ILNY

In the early 2000’s he started to do exhibitions: 2002 – Existencilism in Los Angeles, 2003 – Turf Wars in London – where he gave a very rare interview. In 2005, he went to Palestine and did some iconic work on the infamous Israeli West Bank Wall.

2006 saw an exhibition called Barely Legal which featured a famously painted with Indian motifs and very much alive elephant thereby courting controversy with animal rights activists.

2009 saw Banksy’s biggest exhibition to date, at the Bristol Museum featuring over 100 works, which proved hugely popular. Banksy and Lazarides also parted company in 2009.

In 2010, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop‘ was aired at Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival in Utah and went on to be nominated for an Oscar.

2015 saw the opening of ‘Dismaland‘ a bemusement park – a none too subtle dig at Disneyland – in collaboration with other iconic artists including Damien Hurst and Jenny Holzer. Everything was supposed to be disappointing, dull, darkly humorous with digs at capitalism and the pro-environmental lobby, even the staff were told to be sullen and uncooperative!

This Behemoth of a social and cultural icon who so cleverly reflects on social ethics, will, I believe, be studied by art student in years to come. He will be as revered and revolutionary in 100 years time as Salvador Dali, Matisse & Picasso were to their era.

Banksy is still out there challenging the status quo, still ‘flipping the bird’ to the authorities and pushing the malleable boundaries in taste. Much of his artwork is now sold for millions and not covered over, which some have said has killed the underground scene.

For now, we pay our respects to the world’s most successful living and still anonymous artist, Banksy.

Banksy statement image