Paul Jackson Pollock by Spike Ress

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It’s a pleasure, following my post on the Guggenheim Museum – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to feature another piece from Spike Ress – our Utah based watercolorist colleague who is painting some beautiful landscapes featuring some very big skies. Over to Spike for his study of the life and  work of the iconic artist, Paul Jackson Pollack, written to commemorate the anniversary of his birth.

Paul Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956)

Today is the birthday of Paul Jackson Pollock. He was born January 28, 1912 and only lived until August 11, 1956. Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting.

Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming in 1912, the youngest of five sons. His father, LeRoy Pollock was a farmer and later a land surveyor for the government, moving for different jobs. Jackson grew up in Arizona and Chico, California. While living in Echo Park, California he enrolled at Los Angeles’ Manual Arts High School from which he was expelled.

In 1930, following his older brother Charles Pollock, Jackson moved to New York City where they both studied under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League. Benton’s rural American subject matter had little influence on Pollock’s work, but his rhythmic use of paint and his fierce independence were more lasting.

From 1938 to 1942, during the Great Depression, Pollock worked for the WPA Federal Art Project.

Trying to deal with his alcoholism, from 1938 through 1941 Pollock underwent Jungian psychotherapy with Dr. Joseph Henderson and later with Dr. Violet Staub de Laszlo in 1941-1942. Henderson engaged him through his art, encouraging Pollock to make drawings. Jungian concepts and archetypes were expressed in his paintings. Recently historians have hypothesized that Pollock might have had bipolar disorder.

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Pollock was introduced to the use of liquid paint in 1936 at an experimental workshop in New York City by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. He later used paint pouring as one of several techniques on canvases of the early 1940s,

During his lifetime Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety, a major artist of his generation. Known to be reclusive, he had a volatile personality and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945 he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy.

Pollock died at the age of 44 in a single-car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol.

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In December 1956, only 4 months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held again at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967. Pollock’s work was honoured in 1998 and 1999 with retrospective exhibitions at both MoMA and at The Tate in London.

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Dr Seuss

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I know very few parents who, when reading their child’s favourite “Dr Seuss” story, have resisted the temptation to give their version of the voice of The Cat in The Hat, The Grinch or The Lorax. My kids – or should that be my – favourites  “Green Eggs and Ham” (published in August 1960) – and the voice of “Sam-I-Am” – has also ticked the right boxes with loads of other families, because as of 2001 it was the fourth best-selling English-language children’s book of all time!

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So who is the author and illustrator responsible for these iconic, wry, whymsical and much loved books?

Today, March 2nd, is the anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904, in Springfield (Mass. USA), who’s better known to generations of story-time devotees by his pen-name of “Dr Seuss”. During his long career he published 48 books which have sold in excess of 200 million copies and have been translated into over 20 languages.

Geisel adopted his pen-name,”Dr. Seuss” – his Mother’s maiden name – whilst at University. He attended Dartmouth College – who’s School of Medicine now bears his name. He left Oxford University in 1927 finding work as an illustrator and cartoonist for Vanity Fair and Life magazines and as a commercial artist in New York’s advertising business.

In 1937 he wrote and illustrated his first children’s book “Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”. These were followed The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), and Green Eggs and Ham (1960). In his later years he also tackled more serious issues, such as the environment, with “Lorax” published in 1971.

He won many awards for his work including a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and three Oscars in the 1950’s.

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In America, March 2, has been adopted as the annual National Read Across America Day, and in the UK, by coincidence, today (in 2017) is World Book Day – being the first Thursday in March – I wonder how many tall, red and white hats will be making they way to and from schools today?

In 1948 Geisel and his first wife Helen, settled in San Diego’s beautiful seaside community of La Jolla (California, USA), died on September 24, 1991, aged 87. Sadly, Dr Seuss himself never became a father.

Why not enjoy Dr Seuss with your entire family with this amazing collection of the Dr Seuss books – please click the link following the image

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A Classic Case Of Dr Seuss

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Images courtesy of The Dr Seuss Estate

Grant Wood – “American Gothic”

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I am delighted to introduce a US based artist, Spike Ress, as a guest-writer for Aestheticons.com.

Spike has kindly agreed to allow us to run a series of his posts that largely coincide with the birthdays of the artists featured. I hope you will enjoy Spike’s first post – here it is celebrating the life and work of Grant Wood.

Grant Wood (1891 – 1942)

Today is the birthday of Grant Wood. Wood was born February 13, 1891 and lived until February 12, 1942.

Grant Wood was an American painter born four miles east of Anamosa, Iowa. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest, particularly the painting American Gothic, an iconic image of the 20th century – the original model’s are seen below.

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After high school Wood enrolled in an art school in Minneapolis in 1910 and in 1913 was enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1920 to 1928, he made four trips to Europe, where he studied many styles of painting, especially Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, but it was the work of the 15th-century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck that most influenced him.

Wood was an active painter from an extremely young age until his death in 1942, and although he is best known for his paintings, he worked in a large number of media including lithography, ink, charcoal, ceramics, metal, wood and found objects.

Throughout his life he hired out his talents to many Iowa-based businesses as a steady source of income. This included painting advertisements, sketching rooms of a mortuary house for promotional flyers and, in one case, designing the corn-themed decor (including chandelier) for the dining room of a hotel. He returned to Cedar Rapids to teach Junior High students after serving in the army as a camouflage painter.

Wood is associated with the American movement of Regionalism that was primarily situated in the Midwest and advanced figurative painting of rural American themes in an aggressive rejection of European abstraction. In 1932, Wood helped found the Stone City Art Colony near his hometown to help artists get through the Great Depression.

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“All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow, so I went back to Iowa” – Grant Wood

 

Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits

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It’s 1979 and I’m on the Night Ferry, an overnight sleeper-train running between London’s Victoria Station to Paris’ Gare du Nord. Cue the accordion soundtrack, the slight hint of Channel No 5 and certainly the distinctive aroma of a Disque Blue. Where else could we possibly be? Ah…Paris!

 

The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (literally “Sleeping Cars”) maintained twelve carriages that were custom designed to fit the smaller gauge of the British railway network. The service departed daily from Victoria – from platform 2 to Gare du Nord, starting on 5th October 1936 and discontinued in 1980 – using the same rolling stock throughout.

 

Prior to Eurostar it was the only non-stop way to get from London to Paris by boat train. The carriages were loaded onto “train-ferries” for the cross channel section of the journey and at Dunkerque the carriages were off-loaded for the onward journey to Paris.

 

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The luxurious Wagons-Lits was founded in 1872 by Belgian, Georges Nagelmackers, who had seen the Pullman night carriages operating whilst on a trip to the United States in the late 1860’s. He imported the idea into Europe. Wagon-Lits quickly established itself as the premier provider and operator of European railway sleepers and dining cars. They only provided the carriages and relied upon the domestic or state-wide operators for the locomotives that pulled them.

The journey that I would have loved to taken would have been on The Côte d’Azur Pullman Express which ran from December 1929 until May 1939. The service was operated by Wagons-Lits and the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (known as the PLM). The train was scheduled to leave Paris at 08:50,  stopping  at Dijon, Lyon and Marseilles and making further stops at the resort towns along the French Riviera including, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Nice and Menton  reaching its final destination, Ventimiglia (Italy). The entire journey took 15 hours and 10 minutes.

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Accompanying the promotion for this new service many iconic travel posters were commissioned including in 1929, the Pierre Fix-Masseau piece – shown as our featured image.

Pierre’s father, Pierre Félix Masseau, was, until 1935, the director of the École Nationale d’Art Décoratif  (“Art Deco”) in Limoges. The inevitable result was that, Pierre’s poster work – and that of his many poster-art contemporaries, Roger Broders, Cassandre and Paul Colin – was heavily influenced by Art Deco, a successor to and reaction against Art Nouveau.

Art Deco was above all associated with both luxury and modernity; it combined very expensive materials and exquisite craftsmanship realised in modernistic forms – hence its use in these seductive travel posters.

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These wonderful posters were designed to lure inquisitive travellers into sampling the delights of the then modern European and luxurious railway system, to holiday in alluring destinations of snow and beach but, above all, they are the most remarkable examples of stylised commercial art. Our continued fascination with these fine works has resulted in their comparative scarcity and justifiable value.

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Image Credits – With thanks to SNCF, Wagon-Lits and the estate of Pierre Fix-Masseau