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Interview with Claude Howell, #170 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Claude Howell, #170
In this art history lecture from the Gwen Ward videotape collection, artist Claude Howell (1915 - 1997) discusses Impressionist art with an audience assembled at St. John's Museum of Art in Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Howell, Claude Interviewer:  Lecture Series Date of Interview:  n.d. Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


[Please note: the audio quality of the source has degraded over the years, resulting in gaps in the following transcript.]

Claude Howell:'s gonna to invite you all to an evening one year from March the 15th. It's going to be, it's my birthday, and I'm going to have a big show a retrospective here at St. John's, and it will be Mark Stender which is a fine wine from 1995. I expect all of you to be here. Graham Brown and I went through over 3,000 slides and reproductions from my work this week. I was getting bug-eyed and terribly depressed at the end of the day, because to see your whole life's work in one fell swoop is almost too much.

Q: But how many people could even see any of their work in their whole life?

Claude Howell: Tonight, we're going to talk about it, and also next week to of the groups of people who are the most expensive spenders that you could possibly find in mind today, the impressionists and the post-impressionists. Both groups had a terrible struggle when they were alive-- they didn't catch on until after their deaths, but now their work sells in the millions, and millions, and millions of dollars. Most museums can't even afford to buy a painting by any of these men who are mentioned tonight. These are the impressionists. They certainly are the most popular people today. They're completely accepted and the way I judge public acceptance is that if you go to a cheap fountain store, or a dime store and you see reproductions of anybody's, you'd know that they'd been accepted. And you see reproductions by Renoir, and Monet, Pissarro, all the impressionist painters you see them in every shop that you go to today. This soon will stop. The post-impressionists had made it to the dime stores too. We had Vincent Van Gogh. Everyone he is sunflowers. The poor man only sold two paintings during his entire life. He was thought of as crazy. He was sent to an asylum at the time, and he committed suicide, and he had a terrible life. Things are getting bad tonight for the painters, but by next week, they'll be much, much worse. The gap between the public and the art which is being produced is getting wider, and wider, and wider. The impressionists were young. They were headstrong. They were disliked because of the way they lived, because of their political beliefs, and particularly because they were doing things that, it was considered pretty ordinary what they were painting. It's hard for us to realize this today because they also completely were peaceful and acceptable these days. The salon, the official French salon, excuse me, decided that these people should not be allowed to exhibit. They considered them a great threat to the established way of working in France. Now, this would be in the 1860s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and late as the early 1900s. We are reaching the 20th century. I want to read some dates to you. I don't know whether you know this or not, but I haven't given you any dates all year, and I'm not going to start tonight, except to give you the death dates of these people. Pissarro, 1903, that's the first time you've gotten to. Sisley. 1899. Berthe Morisot, 1895. Mary Cassatt, 1926. Bonnard, 1947, Rodin, 1917. A lot of us were born when some of these were still alive. Now, what is impressionism? I mean, I think everybody knows about impressionism. I wonder if we really know what it is. It is not essentially painting and impression of something. It's a technical way of working. The impressionists believed that light was the important thing. They believed that atmosphere was terribly important. They were not concerned with what they painted. They painted anything that struck their fancy. Sometimes they would just paint things that just were absolute commonplace. This, in itself, was a great set to the salon of the academy who still believed that a painting should be historic and following the paintings of mythology, Gods, goddesses, et cetera. These people believed that if you took a paint, one dot of paint, and put it by a dot of another oil paint, your eye would mix the two colors. Now, one of the best examples I know. Do any of you remember seeing the rose window in First Christian Church? Were eight big windows. Well, it's called the rose window. It actually is carpeted. There's not a bit of rose in it. There's not a bit of purple in it. When you are sitting in the chapel, there's a lot of distance between you and that window. It's up high. It's made of tiny pieces of red glass and blue glass, but when you look at it, the two colors merge and you see purple. If you put blue and yellow together, you're going to see green. If you put red and yellow together, you're going to see orange. Your eye does this and this was the technical breakthrough which established the impressionist school of painters. They were held together by technique, but they were friends. They all knew each other. They were all struggling. They were all fighting the academy. They had a terrible time at first. It was last June, I believe it was, St. John's had a busload of all of us to go to Baltimore to see a tremendous show by Sisley who is one of these men. Sisley had a terrible time getting a start. In fact, until he died, it was only after he died that his work began to be collected. Bit by bit, these men made an inroad into society. They were accepted first by galleries. Then they were accepted by certain clients, and it grew, and it grew, and the academy went down, and down, and down, until it just ceased to exist. Now, the millionaires have decided to buy this work of these people. They're the only people who can afford. We're talking about Renoir, Pissarro, Manet, Monet, Bazille, a woman. Now, this is very revolutionary. We hadn't talked about any of the women yet, Berthe Morisot is her name, and another woman, an American woman at that, Mary Cassatt. I'll always know Mary Cassatt because we have 13 of her works right here in St. John's and they are worth many, many millions of dollars. We are very lucky to have them. We are one of two places in the entire world which has, which owns the entire collection of her friends. These are her friends. She is well known for her friends that she did in all of her paintings. Other people we don't need talking about. So first of all, it's a technical term, impressionism, but Monet painted a picture, which unfortunately was stolen last year from the Marmottan Museum in Paris. As far as I can figure, no one had heard a thing about it. It was called Sunrise, an Impression, and this was in the first exhibit of the impressionists. They knew each other. They had a group together and the critic that this is just an impression of this ____________________ and they called it impressionism. That's how you got the term impressionism. It's very loosely named. The impressionists used brushstrokes. Now, we had seen brushstrokes in the paintings of ________________. This is where they got the idea of putting slashes of paint on. Every impressionist painter used the brushstrokes in a different way. Some of them used short brushstrokes, some slashing brushstrokes, some just smeared this way. So the brushstroke becomes the signature of the artist. You can recognize a work by Renoir, or by Monet, or by Pissarro, by the way the paint is put on the canvas. This is technically the way that they worked. They were not interested in subject matter at the time. They didn't care what they painted. They never commented. They were not politically attuned to what was going on, so that there was no social protest in their paintings. What did they paint? Well, they painted what they saw. They painted France, and if you would ever walk down the street in France, anywhere in France, or down the street in Paris, it's just like you're walking into an impressionist painting. They are so much like France really is. The color is the same and it's not just the color of the buildings. It's the color of the light which hits the buildings. France is different from say, Wilmington, as far as color. We're much closer to Italy, sharp light and dark, sharp shadows. France is very soft. It's pearly grey. It's a warm, pearly grey, and it's a delightful, charming sort of colors. This is what the impressionists used. They were interested in the sky because they were interested in light. So like the Dutch they painted a great many landscapes which had tremendous areas of the sky. I've already mentioned that Monet painted the haystack to prove that the haystack didn't exist. It was the color of the light hitting the haystack at different times during the day. I don't have a slide of any of the haystack paintings, I wish I did, but I do have two slides of another series that he did, which is perhaps even more famous. It's a series that he did of the Cathedral at Rouen. You can tell that it's the same building, but you just can't... Some of them are painted in blues, some of them are painted in warm paints, some fuchsia color and lavender. Some of them had dots of some yellow and orange in them. It depends on the time of day, the time of the year, because they also were interested in the seasons as well as the time of day. They also were interested in natural phenomena, and Sisley painted, they had a big flood. What did Sisley do? He went down and painted the flood. So you see the old buildings had submerged in the water. Why did he do this? Because it gave him a chance to observe a different sort of light, the light hitting the flood waters and reflecting in the building. This is what he was interested in. You find, also, that Monet in his later years spent hours, and hours, and hours painting pretty much the same picture over and over again. It was the banks of the Marne River, which is very, very close to Paris. I spent the night one time very close to where he painted, and when I woke up in the morning I went and looked at the Marne, and it felt like I was in the middle of a Monet painting. The museum in Raleigh recently, about four or five years ago, bought a perfectly beautiful painting of the Marne River and the trees reflected in the river. Always, you are aware of brush strokes of various colors side by side. So that is mainly the reason we call it impressionism and it is the technique rather than subject matter which is revolutionary. They got their subject matter quite early from the little Dutch masters. It was not quite as homey as the little Dutch masters, but it was ordinary, everyday life in France. Renoir was a city dweller. Well, a lot of people lived in Paris. Like most city dwellers, he longed to go to the pleasures of southern life. What does he do? He goes to the park in Paris and he paints people eating in the park, dancing in the park, picnicking in the park. He gives a wonderful picture of the middle class Parisians enjoying life. I don't know of any group of people in the world who had the same sense of Joi de Vive like the French do, and Paris on a Sunday afternoon is sheer delight. You see all the mothers and baby carriages walking through the park. You see people in a canoe, the boy will probably have an accordion, often the girl is rowing by the way. But it is just delightful to do nothing in Paris. I finally got so I had to ride the metro because if I walked, I never would get where I was doing. I lived maybe four or five minutes, I guess, from the Louvre. I would never get to the Louvre until it closed at five o'clock, and I'd start early in the morning, because there is so much to see. And furthermore, you see all French people doing absolutely nothing but looking at how wonderful life is. This is the feeling you get from impressionism, and probably accounts for a lot of its popularity. It's not a difficult painting to understand. It's surprising to me that anybody, everybody objected to it, but they did because it was different from what they thought art ought to be, not what they liked, but what they were told art should be. This is one of the reasons that I've maintained all along that we in this class must have an open mind and be willing to like anything, whether we are told it is good or bad. It could be very good. Let's have light and start looking. We're going to start with the originator of impressionism, Manet, Edouard Manet. Now, you might say, well you don't see any ____________________. There is something that is a little strange here. Look at the background. It's the same behind him and under him. There is no definition of floor. There's a tiny little shadow under his foot. That's the only thing that it does have. Manet did something which has changed all paintings ever since, and it's funny that people hadn't done it before. The earlier times, all the old masters, all the Dutch, the Spanish, everybody that we've been seeing always started a painting with a dark background. That is the ground, not the background, the ground was dark. They worked up to the light. The last thing that they put on a painting would be the highlights. Well, if you study color, the physics of color, you know that light goes through things until it hits the ground. And if it goes until it hits a dark ground, there's nothing that it can reflect. Manet does just the opposite thing. He works from a light background. The last thing he puts on are the darks, exactly the opposite way. The impressionists take this up, all of them, and this is one of the reasons that impressionism is so light, and airy, and colorful, because this is simply a matter of physics. If you take a blackboard and put a white paintbrush on it, it's not going to effect the amount of light as if you started with a whiteboard and put, say, a bright yellow on it. It works just the opposite way. You'll notice that he still uses black but... He gets this from Velásquez. He was quite enamored of the paintings of Velásquez, and I guess there are two men who are of some note. He's one, Manet, and Velásquez is the other. There is an edge here, but it is not from a sharp, as the earlier paintings. Let's go and look at another painting [inaudible]. But it can go either way.

Q: She didn't give you a new one?

Claude Howell: Well, she must not have.

Q: All right, I'll do it.

Claude Howell: This is also by Manet. We only had two slides. It's a little more painted. You can see brushstrokes in his beard. He is not using the complete technique of the impressionists yet. He does in a few of his very late works, but he's never a pure impressionist. He was connected with them. He influenced them greatly, primarily by what I was just telling you about, reversing the way of working. This was painted from a light background to the darks. It was the last thing added. Okay, now we'll move along a little bit. We talked about the middle class and it's fashion. We've seen another painting which is very similar to this. Do you remember? Winslow Homer. These are his paintings and that's why he painted these paintings. He was very much influenced by the impressionists but he rejected Europe when he came back to America, and that's when he began painting his very strong seascapes and his watercolors of the Maine mountains. You begin to see the use of short little brushstrokes, primarily in groups. You see little bits of light, bits of color. Okay, like all the painters they had to eat and they painted portraits. This is a most unusual portrait. The face is turned away. Look at the skirt. These are big brushstrokes. All this gown this shawl they're all brushstrokes you can actually see. The background is brushed on. You are aware of one thing in this painting and that is paint. The technique of paint with a brush is so different now from the way it was in Flemish paintings when we look at all the earlier painters. Now, you look at the way the artist handles his brush. This is another step toward the disintegration of the object. It's not what you paint, it's how you paint that counts. Okay--

Q: Who was that artist?

Claude Howell: These are all Monet, and this is the one which is Sunrise, an Impression, which gives the name to impressionism. This is one which was stolen. I hope it turns up. See anything wrong? Nothing is wrong. It's more like, I guess you could say optical reality. It's not photographic reality. Photographic reality would have some sharper edges. This is filled with mint, it's filled with atmosphere. It's filled with the glow from the sun, from on the water. Look at the rapid brushstrokes in the water. I can just see Monet going like that with--. We've yet to see Picasso's paintings. You can't see any of the Flemish paintings that way. It's an entirely different approach. These are not very large paintings. Most of them are, say, 25 by 30, 30 by 40 inches, but they're not tremendous paintings. Okay, they love to paint snow and they did it very well. Unfortunately, this was taken up in the later generation by a lot of bad amateur artists who paint purple shadows or blue shadows on the snow. Has been the bane of everybody for the last 50 or 60 years. He does it but he does it so well that it looks like the shadows on the snow. If you want, just look, just look at a little spot right there, that's blue. That's blue. They look at the world the way color really is. Now, we know snow is white. We know that paper is generally white. From my window, I see the sunset and I see a place and I see a spire on a church. They are brilliant, brilliant golden orange at sunset. If I painted them white, which is the color they really are, it wouldn't be true. It wouldn't be the way they looked. This is what the impressionists made us do. They made us see the world as it looks, optical reality. Okay, sometimes these verge on the non-objective. They get so involved in just masses of color, of light, particularly in some of the later watercolor paintings, that they have influenced abstract expressionism in America in the 1950s and the '60's okay.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Everything hollow, the paint the fields hollow because, excuse me, you can just go crazy with all those colors with the tulips and the daffodils. Look at the sky. Okay. Now, this is what he painted most of the time, a still river with reflections. Notice that the sky is hardly ever a bright blue. In the Italian renaissance, the sky was a brilliant blue, a flat blue without any clouds. Here you feel the dampness of the air, the dampness of the clouds. You never see a single leaf. You never see a single drawn object. You imagine all these. There's suggested but they're not carefully delineated. Okay, appraise about this one, A Field of Poppies. Look at the people. They're there but if you're looking at a field of poppies you see somebody in the middle of it, you're not aware of their features. You're not aware of anything except that there is a person. Look at the marvelous faces in this painting. There is a certain sense of direction and composition. You start right here and you follow or you go up there [inaudible]. He's telling you where to look, but he does it very carefully. How about this one? Just a mass of flags flying. Well, if you look at the street full of people and flags, you don't see the people and know that they are but you are aware of just movement. The fond of lines, I guess you could call it the impression that you get from seeing this, but it is a visual reality is the way it looks. It's not the way it is. They weren't concerned with the way things were at all, okay, all right. Don't you feel the intense sunlight? I think the most beautiful part of this right down here of just looking at it. We're going to see a lot of abstract expressionism that looks exactly like that. Things haven't changed so terribly much in the last hundred years. It's just that they a lot, they have got impressionist, and just concentrated on the painting itself. It's quite a feat to be able to paint a white dress against a white cloud in the sunlight. He was pretty brave to tackle that. Look at her arms. Look at her face. Nothing is wrong and yet you know a great deal about this woman. Okay, back in top 3 of modern painting. Okay, now Monet in his later years begins to use shorter and shorter strokes of paint, until at one point they become almost dots of paint. The next generation, Seurat and Signac, we're only going to look at a couple next time, they take those from that Monet, and it's called Pointillist, which means points of paint. Pointillist, Pointillist, that's the next movement. And this is where it comes from. It becomes so mathematical that someone like Seurat, he only painted about ten paintings during his entire lifetime because it took him forever. He worked all the areas out mathematically on paper, so many dots of blue, so many dots of red will give you an area this big of the circle. Now, that gets scientific too. Signac, who was not as talented as Seurat, became a slave to this technique. As you'll discover that in every one of those movements now that we are going to talk about, the greatest painters always break the rules of the movement they have begun. Renoir did it all the time. Renoir was the greatest of the impressionists, but he never stuck to the impressionist technique if it didn't serve his purpose at that particular time. He would change it. Okay, Rouen Cathedral. Now, there are an awful lot of these. We could spend the whole evening looking at the designs in the Ruark. Okay, let's look at the next one. There's a difference. Look at the blue. Look at all the yellow. [inaudible] all kinds of color, and yet look up at that window you see kind of a mauve color, don't you? You blend your eyes blend this color. Let's go back and look at the other. They really are quite astonishing. Okay, you see that the strips painted a little shorter all the time, all right? In his later years, he lived at Giverny, which had beautiful gardens, marvelous gardens, and some of you may have been to see his garden. It's one of the great tourist attractions in France and it has been completely restored to be like it was when Monet lived there. He painted this garden over, and over, and over. This is a Japanese bridge in his garden. Here you see, he spent the last year of his life painting only these watercolors. They have been the greatest influence on modern art of almost anything he had done during his career. We will see a couple of them. Okay, the willow. You have in your _________________ that he commented on it... no. Would you think to paint it if it were an art? You probably wouldn't. It's so completely innocent. Anything becomes a vehicle for a painting with these people. It's not what you paint. It's how you put the painting on this canvas that matters. That's the great thing that we have learned from impressionism. Okay, does this remind you of Turner? There's a similarity in the late work of both men. Okay, oh, I must not have had the water. I thought it was water. It's blue and there's nothing great streaks of blue paint on the canvas. You can't even tell it's watercolor. This is by a woman. This is Berthe Morisot, M-O-R-I-S-O-T, who was one of the really good impressionist painters, with a wonderful sense of temperance. There were two women painters, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, and strange enough they both painted women and children. Here's a, I guess you'd call this a sea scene instead of a landscape... a boat. Look how the paint is scuffled, so different from Monet. The boat. You get a feeling that the water is moving. This is quite different from photographic rhythm. This is optical rhythm.

Q: This is Morisot.

Claude Howell: Yeah, these too. Okay. And this man probably was the most talented of all of the Impressionists. Unfortunately, he was killed when he was very, very young in 1914 during the-- no, 1817. There was a war. This is Bazille, B-a-z-i-l-l-e.

Q: How old was he when he was killed?

Claude Howell: I think he was around 21 or 22.

Q: How old was he when he painted that?

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: The wars in Europe have taken their toll. Okay. I like this one, don't you? Now, look at the water. A red spot. It's red as any you can go. The paint, a like a brownish blue. Why? It's almost a rainbow of colors. Okay. Do you know what this is?

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Both of these, that one and this one were by the same man. Pissarro. He's out to paint the hoodavoz of Paris. He was probably the best technician of any of these painters. He was closest to the least of Impressionism. All right, so there you can see it pretty good. Look at the innumerable colors that are used to create one color. All right. No, these are-- this is Cézanne. He got a little staccato way up there on the canvas. He's more like stiffening. All right. They're not the colors of conscience. They're the colors that we see. All right, if you look right at here. I don't know how it looks to you, that looks pink to me. That's real cool looked like. He's ____________. There's changes in color, all right. It's easy to see why these have become so popular. It requires absolutely no effort on your part to understand. All right, the red roof seen through the trees. It almost becomes an overall pattern of color. If you turn this upside down or look at it upside down, it doesn't loose very much. It's beautiful in color. It's beautiful in pattern of one color against another, of one white against a dark. What is missing in all of these paintings? There are two things. Composition. Because they were so interested in color and light, they got that composition. The form is not flat. This accounts for the big revolt that we're going to see next week with the post Impressionists. They are trying to reintroduce form into art. They are trying to combine what these people had learned about color with what art used to be when you had form-- goodness of solid of form and composition. So the post Impressionists who did not paint at all alike, which is called post Impressionism because they lived after these people. But they each went in their own direction, but all of them were working with paint to bring back the form into art but yet combine it with this. Now, there's something else that's missing and we haven't seen it since Manet.

Q: The line? The outline?

Claude Howell: There's no line. They vanished quietly. They had quietly gone to color, therefore, we will not use black and we won't use brown. So there's no black in any of these paintings. Because of it, sometimes they look a little monotonous. You need a little contrast. Okay. Here you see lots of little pinpoints. He got into it scientifically. A like Seurat was going to do it in the next generation. Okay. It's almost like they just went outside and started painting. And therefore, a wonderful picture it gives you of the French landscape, the French countryside, the French light. I just felt like I was living in Impressionism while I was out in Vienna. Everywhere I went, I could see it. All right, all of these are Pissarro. Okay. Oh, sorry.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: I don't think it is but it looks like it could be. I just don't like. All right, all these people lived and worked in Paris. Paris was then the center of activity because all the moves began in Paris. A lot of the people in next generations are not going to be French. But they joined in and actually became French painters, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso to, you can go around and name them forever. They all lived in France. Now, we come to somebody that you probably recognize. You always tell by the little faces, the funny men, the little [inaudible] that they have and the rather pink cheeks that they have and the round form. Renoir, Auguste Renoir.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: All these people are usually pretty powerful. They don't have any psychological problems.


Claude Howell: We don't have anything that upsets us like the Renoir crucifixion [ph?]. They have no great commitment to anything except a beautiful painting. All right, Renoir painted ordinary people dressed up. These are just two very nice people having a good time. He does this and I [inaudible]. You'll notice that there's something that's a little different background. His strokes are a little more variant. They're not little points of paint everywhere. The background is almost brushed on. He does it in areas of ventures. When it comes to painting flesh, he does streak the canvas with various colors. I'll tell you something you'll rent, I went to a costume ball once at art college with this girl. And we went as Renoir nudes.


Claude Howell: And we were arrested and put into jail. We also won the first prize. It was a case of fear which we gave to all of our friends when they came to see us in jail.


Claude Howell: We were completely clothed. What we did was to put on union suits and take powerdered paint and streak it just like this, just like Renoir does. So we were streaked all over with varying colors of paint. And every time I see a Renoir, I think of that.


Claude Howell: You can't- ruined me and look, white black. That is pure Impressionism, that little area. He paints black in the beginning but he soon banishes black, okay. In the wonderful Sunday park in Paris.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: He went to Italy and when he did, he saw all of the old masters and he realized that something was missing. And he came back and when he started painting again, his paintings were very tightly __________. He was trying to bring back form into art. He wasn't as successful as the next generation. He certainly loosened up again. But in his very late years, specifically in the old age he achieved a great monumentality in his base nude paintings. We haven't seen these yet. He also, with all room to him. And it was so bad that when he painted, he had to scratch the paint brush off his hand when he painted all the wonderful canvases. It was really remarkable. Okay, this is one that you all of you know. Look at the blue shadows, bright blue shadows? Aren't these people having a good time doing nothing? He paints the illusion. He's a great painter of illusion. All the faces on his girls look just alike to me. Okay, On occasion he would paint [inaudible]. All right, now, we come to Sisley who painted with what? Let's see if I know [inaudible]. Nobody else went to Baltimore, did they? Oh, yes, you went. Say it again and it was a great show. I had one criticism of the show. Now, I had that same criticism of looking at all of these slides. They become just a little bit monogamous. There's a certain same quality too. I would like to see a little bit more round. I never feel that about early Italian paintings. I think it's because you've missed the form. This is a little bit flimsy. But look at this water. Just look at that. Forget it's water. Think of it as a beautiful painting. Okay.

Q: But don't you think that all of the paintings that you have slides of, Impressionists-- slides of Impressionists were at least satisfactory?

Claude Howell: Yes. You need to see the painting. You need to see the painting. Another one of the same flood, it's because they don't have any flat areas of color. Look how wonderfully we're able the sky. And if you've ever spent one of in Paris, it is great. For 90 days, I did not see the sun, 90 days. Not even once and you get pretty depressed. Everything is damp. These paintings feel damp. Okay, there's two scenes. This is a small painting. Look how large these brush strokes are. It does kind of give you ghost side of man. Okay, now, we're going to see what all of you have seen over and over and over again because a lot of them are right here in the next door. These are some of the paintings and prints of Marie Cassatt. Okay, she was very much influenced in everything that she did. It was like something that we hadn't see before. But we will see it further along. We'll see it in Vincent Van Gough. We'll see in a lot of French paintings in the next generation, the Japanese print. The Japanese print suddenly became very popular in Paris at the end of the century. And it absolutely startled the painters in Paris because of the beautiful composition. It was a different kind of composition from what Europeans had used. And let's got to the next one. You will see that often there is a diagonal movement into space the Japanese use over and over and over again. You see trying-- the movement not quite-- the woman is moving kind of like-- the head is moving that way. Look how the chair defines that area. It's a vision of a rectangle. She, too, is trying to bring back a little bit of form into art. Look at the waves splashing the brush strokes down here. A little bit Marquett would paint but the white is painted with great strokes. Okay, this could almost be a Japanese print. We own this. All right. These lines though were not made from ours, they were made from reproductions in the book. You'll see that there is something different. There's a line. Don't you think this looks too like a Japanese painting? Okay, all this just one dark shape. And it has form too. Okay, over and over again, you don't see this diagonal. Go back one slide. See the movement between right there. That's what she got from studying Japanese paintings. And she has risen quite a bit of a-- of the influence of Japanese print on her own work. All right, well she was a woman, but she was completely accepted by the French. She also did something else. She quite well to do. She came from Philadelphia. She interested quite a few American collectors in buying paintings by the impressionists. And because of this, you find that some of the greatest French Impressionist paintings are in this country. Because long ago the French began to accept it. Okay, now you know who this is. We just touched on this in Marie Cassatt. She was an ex-baker. This is an ex-bakery, two. And we want to look at three. This is what she-- there's another _______. I don't think he ever really, I could never find any. He, too, was influenced by the blackness of the Japanese print. He did a great deal to shock the bourgeois. He hated them. He hated mediocrity. He did everything in his power to be an eccentric and he succeeded. He wrote a marvelous book, which I have. And it was-- it's hard getting now, "The General Art of Making Enemies."


Claude Howell: He and Ruskin who was great friends have a big altercation. This was back in 1820. Ruskin accused him of throwing paint on a canvas. And he said, "You're right. I did throw it on the canvas. But it took me 15 years to know where to throw it."


Claude Howell: Now, that explains a lot about the aging of modern art, I think. Okay, of course, you have to show Rosen. Actually, it was called an arrangement in a hollow room. And I once read, I say, and it was very convincingly proven that he hated this model and that her feet do not touch the earth, that it goes on, the symbols into [inaudible]. But he does, with the paint, I think, very conclusively. An essence.. This, too, is very much like an oriental painting.

Q: Where was that painted?

Claude Howell: Where it was painted? It was painted in London. She went to London to visit him. He lived there. For years and years, this was the only American painting in the Louvre. They have several now. But for a long time it was the only one.

Q: I just wondering where that painting is, ___________ or whatever it is on the wall back there. Not around here, right?

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: Okay, now this is quite different. This is painted by the darling of society, John Sargent. He became so popular even at a young age that he went up and up and up in his prices. And the more expensive he got, the more bashful he became. He became outrageously expensive. The millionaires flocked to him and we're going to see a big collection of bad paintings by Sargent go to Biltmore House. The Vanderbilt filled up the house with orchards by Sargent. On the other hand, he was he was a good painter and his portraits leave a lot to be desired because they are swift. They're only concerned with surface appearance. This is not optical reality. We've been looking at optical reality. This is not the way things look. It's the way people would like it to look. There's a big difference here. But he also, for his own amusement-- and I don't [inaudible], painted watercolors which are perfectly beautiful as some great watercolors. He did a few colors for his own amusement that are very, very good. Okay, for instance, this is nice. You see the difference between the Homer portrait and this. It happens to be a portrait of four...

Q: This is in the Metropolitan?

Claude Howell: Yeah. I think it's in Boston. Okay, yeah, we talked about it. No, we didn't talk about it. I'm going to talk about it, the Paris Eiffel as the epitome of ostentatious vulgarity. Do you think that this describes this painting?

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: It's slick. It's slick. You see what he's gotten all his slashing brush stroke. From an impressionism. He was influenced by impressionism but he sold out to [inaudible]. It shows you how talent goes astray. It's quite beautiful.

Q: I'm sure those girls loved.

Claude Howell: They all look like that.

Q: They all look alike?

(overlapping conversation)

Q: When you see that painting, can you see the paintings that are in the background better? It doesn't look very interesting.

Claude Howell: They're there but you can't tell where they are at all.

Claude Howell: Okay, onto [inaudible]. Do you see how varied he can be? He could have been a very great painter. And so, the most popular painter who almost had been. He could have been one of the great painters.

Q: The painting, should it be the other way?

Claude Howell: Well, that on the night. It should be up on the side. Do we have one more?

Q: There's several more.

Claude Howell: He was all over Europe. He went from court and court and from rich estate, rich estate. But he painted all the time. And a lot of his travels, I think, really captured the feelings, spirit of the time. All right, this is different, isn't it? We're getting almost into the period of Art Nouveau. I think you could see it from the influence here. All right, let's go ahead. We're getting just. We're getting closer to the time when good commercial art and regular painting come-- they get merged. And even today, you got a big designer and a great painter and there's very little difference the influence permeates both fields. Okay.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: You don't know who this is? He's considered the greatest colorist of all time. He was an impressionist painter who lived in the generation after Impressionism. Bonnait, B-o-n-n-a-i-t, Bonnait. He was just as flat as he could be. Where did he get this? Because he lived during this period when Cubism had almost died. So he did it to flatten them, the way Matisse does. But his color, his technique is the technique of Impressionism. It's the combination that gets so exciting. All right, it's pitiful color. It's broken much more-- his painting in the style of the Impressionist painting. Tell me the time, I feel the time. Do you see the same use of light? People there, they are unimportant.

Q: A cat and a chair. That grand landscape.

Claude Howell: Okay. Now, we are looking at something still different. Functionalism. This is Signat, S-i-g-n-a-t, who was absolutely subservient to the technique. Now, they would paint an area like this and say, "what have I?" on a sheet of paper so many dots of yellow. Everything in here is made up of opposing colors. There's a lot of blue. Artsy inside but a lot of blue. And you get it over in here and you get warm and cool. There's no black in it. But by this time, you're beginning to get into the wonderful, design factor which starts with the 20th century, Art Nouveau. And I think you can see the influence of Art Nouveau here. It's in furniture. It's in everything. It permeates all of the arts. Okay, a landscape by Signat. No, brush strokes anymore only points of paint [inaudible]. Oh, by looking at this, you can see that it comes almost deadly because he settles down by his techniques that he's not free anymore.

Q: And he worked out every area of that canvas.

Claude Howell: Uh-huh. Now, we're going to look at a man who did it and really achieved something. What do they find different?

Q: You want me to turn that back?

Claude Howell: No. Uh-uhm.. this is the next man. And this is one of his subjects, Surat, S-u-r-a-t. He was trying to bring back the form of the earlier time. And he almost succeeding in doing it. Let's look at a few more. The boy. Don't you feel that this is a lot more solid than any...

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: And yet, every inch is painted into the planted technique even this shirt is just formed with little dots. To achieve this, he had to make innumerable studies. He would make half a figure, some of them perfectly good, just black and white chalk [inaudible]. He would make others of light hitting the figure. He worked at it many different ways. Then he worked at it in color and with paint.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Okay.

Q: [inaudible] had an exhibit but it was three years ago [inaudible].

Claude Howell: This has been called a side show. It has several titles.

Q: How long did he take him usually to complete a painting?

Claude Howell: Four or five years working.

Q: That's a lot of painting, isn't it?

Claude Howell: Working like eight, nine hours. Okay, do you recognize this one? This is probably the greatest painting in America. It's in the Art Institute in Chicago. It's their pride and joy. It's enormous. The figures are life size. The composition is simply the most major thing. I could go on for an hour how wonderful this composition is, explaining all the planes and space that these people-- you had these-- that move back and go all the way to the branches. The trees and the figures are a repetition of perpendiculars, which breaks the horizontals of the planes of figures going this way. It's an amazing contradiction to all this painting is. He has another one, which we saw in Baltimore that goes [inaudible]. It was so beautiful. That's in Baum's [ph?] collection. We [inaudible] Baltimore, it was-It was in the national gallery. Okay, I think that's it.

Q: That's it right there.

Claude Howell: I want to stop it now. I guess we've finished this series. So we will start again next Tuesday night with all of the ____________ and keep going currently. I'm going to try to finish before it gets hot. And I hope to finish within the next six weeks. There's a lot to cover yet. We haven't finished all of the isms and we still are on modern art. We haven't gotten to contemporary art. And that's another whole world in itself. And if you all can last until we finish, I'm going to give you a present, not a diploma but I am going to have a nice, big party in my apartment for the following Tuesday after we wrap up. I know that you're thrilled.


Claude Howell: Next week, we will talk about the post Impressionists. That will be Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gough, Toulouse Lautrec, all of the people that you can't push back.

Q: How did you know that the sunrise that you were talking about- it's in modern time because we saw it last summer?

Claude Howell: Oh, that's wonderful. I didn't know because I've been looking.

Q: It's behind glass and you have ropes. You can't get within 20 feet of it. It's there.

Claude Howell: Well, I don't know. I'll have to find out from _______.

Q: And they wouldn't let you [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Three or four paintings. It's a small museum but a very good one in one of the suburbs [inaudible]. And it's why this library [inaudible] do turn up. I was reading a catalog this afternoon of the show that's in Raleigh. And it's got the poignants, poignant means the history of the painting at the end. And it said 1700 poignants, 1800, oh nothing to do with it, 1850 stolen, 1860 in the collection in someone's house.


Claude Howell: I thought it was really entertaining.


Claude Howell: I thought the whole play really happened. I think that's the way, I really enjoyed it. And the Crass Collection, Mr. Frank Spaldey [ph?] and now it's hanging in the Baltimore contemporary.

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