Comparison of Avant-Garde Art

This paper will be an examination of the works of two titans of the Avant-garde, working in the early phases of the Abstract; Woman With Yellow Hair (1931) by Pablo Picasso, and Morning in the Village after Snowstorm (1912) by Kazimir Malevich. In its time the Avant-garde artistic movement caused great changes in the world of painting, influencing countless persons and reaching creative communities across the globe. The phrase ???Avant-garde??? itself stems from the French term used for a scouting group maneuvering in the fore of a larger army. This analogy rings true, with fringe artists leading the way into new fields through creative experiments with medium, subject, and style. Pablo Picasso was arguably one of the worlds most famous and renowned artists, and one of the frontline “soldiers” of the Avant-garde movement Picasso is famous for his imaginative, distinctive, and varied approach to his craft, going through a variety of styles over the period of his life. The Russian-born Kazimir Severinovich Malevich was another leading artist in the mostly Western-dominated Avant-garde. An inventive Abstract artist famous for having formed and led the Suprematist movement, a movement that put a radical emphasis on geometric shapes and a movement away from traditional artistic formats, many say Malevich ???is unquestionably the most celebrated Russian artist of his generation???1 Woman With Yellow Hair (fig. 1), is an oil on canvas piece by Picasso, and a permanent part of the Guggenheim Museums Thanhauser collection. The work can be summed up simply as ???Picassos voluptuously curvaceous painting of [a] sleeping Marie-Therese Walter??? 2, Marie-Therese being Picassos mistress around the time. The piece is at the time of writing located on the second floor of the Guggenheim, in the ???Paris and The Avant-Garde??? exhibition, surrounded by other examples of abstract Parisian art. According to the Guggenheim website, Picasso, as a response to recent denouncements of the Cubist style, painted this beautiful piece as part of a ???series of nine vibrantly colored still lifes (1924-25), executed in a bold Synthetic Cubist style of overlapping and contiguous forms??? 3. The main subject of the painting is a pink-skinned and blonde woman in white sleeveless shirt and black pants, who is seemingly drowsing on a round table. She sits on the right hand side of the table, her body in profile facing the left, with only one eye visible, and her lips parted as if in the middle of drawing a breath. The womans arms are folded on top of each other and she rests her head on them, with her legs slightly crossed below the table. Her hair is a golden yellow, and at the top of the painting the color in the hair runs directly into the womans arm. The fingers on her right hand do much the same, blending into the arm they are draped over, and the effect is again repeated at the border between her collarbone and shirt. This kind of blending of detail brings a sort of dream-like sense to the composition. Her face, while not the typical Picasso stereotype, that of a mish-mash of scattered features, is still slightly distorted. Her face is in perfect profile, her closed eye drawn large, her nose seamlessly running into her forehead, and her ear almost unattached, floating in her golden hair. The womans skin color is pink, drawing the eye to her, replete with a tinge of blue, which again helps give the sense she is resting. The background is a pale orange, bringing to mind a simple, unfurnished stucco-walled apartment. The table she rests on is predominantly green, with parallel red and white stripes going through it. This table appears to be drawn at a strange angle, its surface seeming to rise up to the upper right of the painting despite the fact that the table cloth drapes the opposite direction, giving the painting a very strange perspective. As a whole the objects in the painting are primarily described by the bold, defined, curving lines throughout, an effect which is contrasted by the pin-straight pattern on the table cloth. Despite the heaviness of the lines that compose the woman, her shape is still fluid, and a bit indeterminate, lending greatly to the sense that she is sleeping and perhaps dreaming. The large brushstrokes Picasso uses in the color of the painting are thick and quite apparent, and create a heavy, swirling texture, again adding to the dreaming feeling of the work. Malevichs piece Morning in the Village After Snowstorm (fig. 2) is also an oil on canvas painting, and it too resides in the Guggenheim. It is currently on the third floor of the museum, as part of a limited retrospective exhibition of six of Malevichs paintings, mostly of his more geometric paintings that define his Suprematist movement. The paintings apparently have not been displayed together as a group since 1927.4 The painting, which is perfectly square, is almost immediately striking in its use of simple shapes to define its contents. Its contents depict a wide avenue going through the center of the painting and down a snowed-in village. The village itself is a cluster of square houses with triangle roofs and rectangle chimneys, with a lone frozen tree to the left of its center. Triangular icy mountains loom in the far background, under the red sky of a new dawn. Two women, with their dresses coats and hats all conical in shape, walk up the avenue from the bottom of the painting towards the background, while a man in the background pulls at what seems to be a sledge. The defining lines that outline objects in this painting are blurry, adding to the feeling that the snow is coating every object. But while indistinct lines do outline objects quite effectively, shape in the painting is primarily defined via color. Color in the painting is primarily composed of red and blue, with a splash of green in the chimney smoke, brown on the tree trunk and chimneys, and orange. Most colors in the painting are used with a white gradient, giving the impression of an encroaching frost on every surface. These gradients also add to the geometric elements in the painting, further subdividing objects, such as a roof section to the left of the painting, a triangle with a red, blue, and white triangle in its body. The overall color temperature is very cool, with the blues predominantly concentrated on the snow drifts. A contrast of blue and red appears on the houses and in the womens clothing. This combo, combined with Malevichs use of gradients, keeps the eye moving about the painting. The effect is feeling of hustle and movement in spite of the oppressive blanket of snow. In addition to this, the perspective of the painting is jumbled and haphazard, with rolling round snow mounds obstructing the parts of the scene, while giving much to the overall texture. The snow truly does seem thick and difficult to traverse, an idea reinforced by the womens stiff gate as they carry what seems to be buckets or baskets, and the struggling, awkward pose of the man pulling the sledge in the background. Being early examples of art in the Avant-garde style, Woman with Yellow Hair and Morning in the Village After Snowstorm bear a few similarities worth exploring. While the subjects of each paintings composition can be considered quite archetypal and stemming from frequently used themes, the total effect and look of the paintings are quite dissimilar to classic examples of art. In Morning, Malevich visits the classic subject of the peasantry at work. ???Malevich came from humble circumstances and it is clear in autobiographical accounts that vivid memories of his country childhood compensated for his lack of a formal art education. Morning in the Village after Snowstorm demonstrates that his hard-won skills as a sophisticated painter were rooted in an unmistakably Russian experience.??? 5 In exhibiting the type of rustic setting Malevich himself grew up in, Malevich displays a love for his people and culture. He chooses to display most prominently the exertions of two women who plod through the snow that rises above their ankles. The figure in the background portrays much of the same determination, hauling his heavy black sledge. Somewhat in contrast to these proletarian elements are the white gradients throughout the painting. These can seem metallic at times, and when combined with Malevichs use of Euclidian shapes, the figures become more like mannequins and the houses like rough-cut sheets of metal. The painting begins to look almost as if it is made out of tin, with painted dolls set in the jumble of a diorama. Picassos Woman displays a classic tableau known in almost every style of painting: the simple figure of a woman reclining. Here Picassos emphasis is not on some classical ideal of beauty, however. She is not laying back, on display for the viewer, but rather hunched over the table, in a much more human pose. Here he does not use his art to create an idealized woman, but rather uses a woman to create a sort of abstract ideal: the flowing beauty of the painting stems from curving lines, not curving flesh. The two paintings can also be seen as representatives of significant events and people in the lives of the artists. Picassos Woman was painted a few years into his tumultuous affair with Marie-Therese Walter, which began in 1927, and is one of his many portraits feature the seemingly ever-cheerful and illuminated woman.6 Malevichs painting Snowstorm can be viewed through the lens of Malevichs Communist party ties long after the October Revolution. Close to the end of his life, Malevich had abandoned his abstract works and ???returned to old motifs of peasant and genre scenes???7, abandoning his Suprematist works in order to fit into party lines. In contrast to that later backsliding, this painting displays how close Malevich was to forming the Suprematist style and abandoning representational drawing altogether. These two Avant-garde painters were at the fore-front of artistic innovation for the time period. Although apparent in practically every one of their pieces, these two paintings simply and elegantly illustrate Picasso and Malevichs immense skill and sense of duty to their art. They are relatively early works delving into the Abstract style that so defined each of their careers. Woman is a celebration of Picassos new love and a revived interest in delving into the Abstract style. Malevichs Morning is part of the beginning of Malevichs movement away from traditional landscapes and portraiture and into the startling geometry of Suprematism. As a result of these and other tireless forays to the edges of the artistic world, these two artists have both been a source of inspiration and stimulated thought for generations of artists who came after. Figure 1 Your browser may not support display of this image. Figure 2 Your browser may not support display of this image. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Drutt, Matthew, ed. Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2003. Gerami, Sheila. The Figurative Works of Kazimir Malevich: Reconsidering White on White. New York: City College of New York, 2003 2002. Malevich, Kazimir Severinovich. The Non-Objective World: The Manifesto of Suprematism. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2003. Golding, John. Paths to the absolute: Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock, Newman, Rothko, and Still. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, c2000 Milner, John. Kazimir Malevich and the Art of Geometry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. Douglas, Charlotte. Kazimir Malevich. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1994. Rabinow, Rebecca A. ed. Cezanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Aavant-Garde. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Taylor, Brandon. Avant-Garde and After: Rethinking Art Now. New York: H.N. Abrams, c1995. Lauf, Cornelia. ???Morning in the Village after Snowstorm??? Guggenheim.org. 1 May 2010. Smith, Roberta. ???Rendezvous At the End Of a Century???. The New York Times. 16 Oct. 1998. Spector, Nancy. ???Woman With Yellow Hair???. Guggenheim.org. 1 May 2010. ???Malevich in Focus???. Guggenehim.org. 19 Feb 2010. ???Marie-Therese Walter??? Wikipedia.com. 1 May 2010. Savvine, Ivan. ???Kazimir (Severinovich) Malevich???. The Art Story. 1 May 2010


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