Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Nineteen Forties Paintings with Remarks by Mark Rothko

Karel Appel
Hip, Hip, Hoorah!
1949
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Grace Pailthorpe
April 20, 1940 (The Blazing Infant)
1940
oil paint on hardboard
Tate Gallery

Mark Rothko
Untitled
ca. 1946-47
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

On shapes:
     They are unique elements in a unique situation.
     They are organisms with volition and a passion for self-assertion.
     They move with internal freedom, and without need to conform with or to violate what is probable in the familiar world.
     They have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms.  
     The presentation of this drama in the familiar world was never possible, unless everyday acts belonged to a ritual accepted as referring to a transcendent realm.
     Even the archaic artist, who had an uncanny virtuosity, found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demi-gods.  The difference is that, since the archaic artist was living in a more practical society than ours, the urgency for transcendent experience was understood, and given official status.  As a consequence, the human figure and other elements from the familiar wold could be combined with, or participate as a whole in the enactment of the excess which characterize this improbable hierarchy.  With us the disguise must be complete.  The familiar identity of things has to be pulverized in order to destroy the finite associations with which our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment.
     Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama: art's most profound moments express this frustration.  When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.  For me the great achievements of the centuries in which the artist accepted the probable and familiar as his subject were the pictures of the single human figure – alone in a moment of utter mobility.  
     But the solitary figure could not raise its limbs in a single gesture that might indicate its concern with the fact of mortality and an insatiable appetite for ubiquitous experience in face of this fact.  Nor could the solitude be overcome.  It could gather on beaches and streets and in parks only through coincidence, and, with its companions, form a tableau vivant of human incommunicability.
     I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational.  It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breaching and stretching one's arms again.

– Mark Rothko (published in the journal Possibilities, winter 1947-48)   

Gordon Onslow-Ford
A Present for the Past
1942
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Ceri Richards
Blossoms
1940
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Stephen Gilbert
Untitled
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Robert Motherwell
Ulysses
1947
oil paint on cardboard mounted on wood
Tate Gallery

Hilde Goldschmidt
The Sphinx
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.  It dies by the same token.  It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world.  How often it must be permanently impaired by the eyes of the vulgar and the cruelty of the impotent who would extend their affliction universally! 

The progression of a painter's work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.  As examples of such obstacles, I give (among others) memory, history or geometry, which are swamps of generalization from which one might pull out parodies of ideas (which are ghosts) but never an idea in itself.  To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.

– Mark Rothko (published in the journal The Tiger's Eye, 1949)

William Gear
Interior
1949
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Eduardo Paolozzi
Targets
1948
paint on plaster
Tate Gallery

Peter Lanyon
Headland
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Merlyn Oliver Evans
The Mark of the Beast
1940
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Prunella Clough
The White Root
1946
oil paint on board
Tate Gallery

Leonard Rosoman
Bomb Falling into Water
1942
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery