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Interview with Claude Howell, #171 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Claude Howell, #171
In this art history lecture from the Gwen Ward videotape collection, artist Claude Howell (1915 - 1997) discusses post-Impressionist art with an audience assembled at St. John's Museum of Art in Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

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

Claude Howell: Shall we get started? We're on, I hope I'll last six weeks. I'm not too sure yet. Every day I try and figure it out how we can cover this tremendously exciting century that we've just lived through. I believe we can make it. The reason I'd like to get through is it begins to get pretty hot in May, and I'd like to finish before then. And of course, people take trips too. Tonight we're going to talk about Post Impressionism. Last week we were talking about the Impressionists. They were a close-knit group. That was a real school of painters; they knew each other, they were friends. The Post Impressionism is not like that; it's sort of a messy term. It only means the painters who came after the Impressionists. They all painted completely in different ways. Some of them knew each other; some did not. Some didn't like others who were painting at the same time. They had one thing in common, however; they were all revolting against Impressionism. Now the Impressionists were revolting against the academy. By this time, the academy is-- it's not dead, but I guess you would call it moribund. It's pretty well on the way out. It still is going on, but it has very little influence on art in Europe today. We never had a real academy in this country. We do have the National Academy of Design, and they have exhibitions-- but they're usually so bad that nobody pays much attention to them. It's a great big building in New York City, and they do have a lot of members, but none of the good artists pay very much attention to the National Academy of Design. And we've never had anything else in any way resembling an academy. In one respect we have been fortunate, in that we've had a very backward government as far as the arts are concerned, which means that the government has never dictated what the artist has painted. In recent years, we have had several bills where the government is now appropriating funds for the arts; and we have the National Endowment for the Arts. But at the same time we have people like Jesse Helms who want to-- if you give somebody money, they want to tell you exactly what to paint and how to paint it and what not to paint. And of course this never works. The times in history that have been greatest as far as art patronage has been concerned have been the times when we have had enlightened monarchs who gave complete freedom to the artists and also respect them. Tonight we are in a period when the artist is actually at a low point; he's not respected. He's thought of as a crazy mixed up person who's absolutely no good. The artist has in turn turned on the bourgeois, and the call the bourgeois "no good." Well, anyway there's a tremendous gap. It has gone on in our lifetime. President Truman said publicly that all artists are lazy bums. Well, this infuriated at least 99 percent of the people who painted in this country. It didn't do him a bit of good. He later had to apologize, but it was several years later. In the past ten years, we have had a little bit more interest from our government concerning the arts. Other countries were getting so far ahead of us; Great Britain has had a very good art program, and even in places like Indonesia we find that the government is supporting the arts. They do not have easel painting in Indonesia as we know it. I didn't see a single decent painting the whole time I was in India, Indonesia. It's only terrible stuff which is painted for tourist consumption. There must be some way to get patronage for the arts. It does cost money; art costs money. Good artists and good art have always cost a lot of money. These people that we're going to talk about tonight had no patronage. They had no official patronage. And they had no private patronage either. So what did they do? They banded together, most of them; they lived in the Latin quarter of the Left Bank of Paris because this is where all the action was. Most of them would know each other sooner or later. You're bound to run into each other. The Impressionists would actually get together and exhibit together. These people never exhibited together. Who were these people? Well, they are the big names today; they're all the people that we can't possibly afford to buy. There's Edgar Degas, there's Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne; and there is a Belgian, and his name is James Ensor, E-n-s-o-r. Well, they're pretty important people today. There's another man who is equally important; you can't buy one of his works; you perhaps could buy a poster by him. And that's Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He was in this group too. Now, there's another man who we could put in this group, but I think-- I perhaps it's better to talk about him next week when we talk about Cubism and Picasso, because he was a friend of Picasso and that generation. That generation was just a few years younger than the people we're going to talk tonight. What are the dates? Well, we're at the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th. Well, Degas-- he died in 1917, Cezanne in 1906, Van Gogh in 1890, Toulouse-Lautrec in 1901; Ensor didn't die until 1949. So you see, we're getting into, not the modern world exactly, or the contemporary world-- but we're getting into history which we sometimes remember. There are two main trends among these people, and between the two trends you can cover every single art movement that has occurred since then. These were terribly important people, influential as far as what we see today. The Amateurs hadn't gotten as far as these people. They still are copying earlier people; they are copying mainly the Impressionists. But these people have influenced practically every single new movement in the arts, even the anti-art movement, which has been so shocking and so outrageous in the last ten or fifteen years where all mores are discarded, all values are discarded. This of course comes from Dada, which is from this period. The main two trends are-- and I think this holds true from the time of Egypt right on up to today-- the intellectual and the emotional. Now, you probably have not thought of this division among Post-Impressionist people, because they don't look alike. But who is emotional? Vincent Van Gogh is emotional. Who is decorative? Gauguin is decorative. Is Gauguin emotional or intellectual? Well, he influenced both. The intellectual painters took his wonderful sense of color and his wonderful sense of design. The emotional people took his strange color. He said, and I've never forgotten this because I think it's terribly important, that if you feel that a mountain is red, paint it the reddest red you know how to paint. And it looks absolutely right in his paintings. You can look at a landscape of his, and you are not aware that you're looking at a bright red mountain. It looks so right. All right, that is an emotional way of working. What is the intellectual way of working? Well, it would have to be Cezanne. Cubism is absolutely out of Cezanne, Planes in Space. Every brushstroke defines a plane. This is about as intellectual as you can get. It's not emotional. Cezanne is not an emotional painter. Neither was Seurat. When we went to Baltimore and saw that wonderful bonds collection, we saw several paintings by Seurat. These were mathematically established ways of working. Then you're using your head, not using your feelings. When Vincent Van Gogh painted, he simply looked at something, and he tried to get in tune with what he was looking at or tried to react to it. And so it's all emotion. Now, you can't be all emotion or you can't be all intellect, because either way you have to be pretty bad. So you've got to have a little bit of the other in you to be a great artist, and all these people that we are talking about today are more of one and a little bit of the other. But Cezanne and Seurat have influenced Cubism, Futurism-- all of these sorts of intellectual pursuits. I guess Cubism is probably the most intellectual type of painting that we've ever had. Mondrian was an outgrowth of that. Mondrian, who painted only in straight lines, started out painting landscapes, trees-- moving trees-- then he got into arcs with the branches. Finally, he said, "No. The universe is stable. I am seeking stability." So he eliminated various colors; he only used, in the end, yellow and white and black and red. That's all he used. And he eliminated every design except a straight line. Well, you can't get much simpler than that, unless you paint a blank canvas. So that is an intellectual pursuit. A lot of people didn't like this. They say, "It's cold. There's no emotion to it." But I've always felt I have to be intellectual, and the only time that I get emotional is about being intellectual. (laughter) So you see, it can go any way you want it to. Well, these people lived in Paris at the same time; they were not friends. They were all reacting in their own personal ways against Impressionism. Why were they reacting against Impressionism? They felt that the Impressionists had destroyed art, that there was no form. We looked at Renoir; we looked at a lot of beautiful paintings, but they were rather formless. You felt like if you put your finger on a tree or a person it would go right on through it. There was no solidity there. These men are trying to bring it back. They are trying to go back to have the form that we find in the Italian Renaissance, but they didn't discard the discoveries of the Impressionists. The Impressionists learned a tremendous amount about color. So these people use what the Impressionists had added to the theories of color plus what they had learned from the Italians-- the earlier Italian painters. And they simply tried to bring back what they felt was missing in Impressionism. Well, naturally the French public, which was practically the main public in the world at that point, at the turn of the century-- because there was hardly any art in this country or almost anywhere else for that matter at the turn of the century-- the public hated what the Post-Impressionists were doing. Vincent van Gogh, as popular as he is today, sold only two paintings in his entire life. And every time I sell a painting, I think of Van Gogh and I cringe. I just cringe because sometimes people like what I do and buy my work, and I think, "Maybe I'm just not as good as van Gogh." (laughter) Well, you know, you've got to think about these things; you really do if you don't want to become a Norman Rockwell. (laughter) Well, these people, who were outcasts from society, began to live-- well, I guess you would call it a "sordid life." Toulouse-Lautrec came from one of the oldest families in France, much older than the line of the French kings. They looked down their noses at the royal family, his family did. They came from Albion in Southern France. He was a hunchback sort of a dwarf, he moved to Paris. He had plenty of money. He became an alcoholic and he lived a pretty sordid life. You can see it from what he painted. He pained the life that he knew, which was the life a nightclubs, of the bordellos. He painted the prostitutes; he painted all the seamy side of Paris. This is when Paris got its reputation for being the city of sin. And when I was living there, I had a friend come over from this country, and he was an animal. And he was so excited about coming to the city of sin. And he knew that I was an artist who lived in the midst of the Latin quarter, and he wanted me to show him the city of sin. Well, I led a quieter life in Paris that I lead in Wilmington. I didn't have any money. And we sat in a corner café and had a cup of coffee and then went home and went to bed at night. We worked all day. We just did not live it up at all. But I went to the café and I announced my problem, and everybody came to my rescue. And so and so would say, "I hear that there's a lot of sin in this place (laughter). Well, you can try this nightclub too." Well, I took him for one weekend on a tour of Paris the like of which I had never seen. I have never seen such sin in my entire life. He was worn out, and he came back to Wilmington, and told everybody that he never had such a good time in his life. (laughter) One of the things that I have often questioned about the life of Toulouse-Lautrec, of Gauguin, of Van Gogh, of all these people-- you read such lurid accounts of their lives. They couldn't have lived that kind of a life. They wouldn't have had time to paint. If you work, and these people worked-- they had to work eight hours a day to turn out the number of paintings that they did. They didn't have time for too much sex or too much sin. They probably got drunk every now and then, you know, after hours. But I think all through history that the artist has had to work to get anywhere. You can't think a painting; you've got to sit and work, and it takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hard thinking. So you don't-- your mind isn't on other things. Your mind is on creating. Well, the times were pretty bad in Paris, and there were nightclubs. There was a section where a lot of the artists lived, which was across the Seine from the Left Bank. It was up on the hill in Le Marc. It later became even more famous when Picasso and a few other people lived up there. Now it's a tourist haunt and nobody in their right mind goes up there, except tourists. But they go up there except tourists. They go up there to see Moulin Rouge. they go to see the places where these people lived and painted. They left a very acute, accurate picture of the nightlife of Paris. We're going to see that a lot of these men, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Gauguin-- they all painted this section of Paris itself. But Gauguin was-- he was a fairly successful businessman, but the painting bug got to him. And so he began to neglect his family; he quit his job. He went to visit her family, which was in Scandinavia, didn't like the in-laws, didn't like family life. What did he do? He simply left. And he thought that by escaping to the south city he could bring back form into paint. He figured he would be down there in isolation and he could really do something. So he lived down there until he died of some terrible disease years later. A lot of people have felt that he was pretty bad to walk out on his family like he did. They felt that Toulouse-Lautrec was pretty bad to be an alcoholic and to live the sort of life he led. Then you get Vincent van Gogh, who wanted to be a missionary. He was always more or less unbalanced. He would take everything to heart; he hated the plight of the poor, "mis-trodden person. So he was going to save the world. But we wasn't- he wasn't suited to be a minister or an evangelist or anything. He took up painting. He moved to Paris and then later he went to the South of France. He lived for a while with Gauguin. When he was there, he would have fits of depression, and they kept getting worse and worse and worse. In a fit of rage he cut his ear off and sent it to this woman. He finally was put in an institution; he finally killed himself in the institution. Well, that's not a very happy life either. None of these people seemed to have happy lives. They were at odds with society, and certainly society was at odds with them. There was no meeting of the minds. However, they have left the most wonderful legacy from this particular period. It's beautiful, and it is a great picture; and it shows that they were all extremely sensitive people. Cezanne was a little different. Cezanne was sort of a harder-- he wasn't facile, he wasn't clever. He liked to stay at home; he moved outside of Paris into the country, and he was perfectly happy sitting investigating nature. He began painting apples; he painted still lifes, thousands of them, and he learned more from painting an apple than many people learned in a hundred years of painting great religious murals or any such tremendous things. What he did was he would take the apple and he would begin to really examine the apple. He knew that the Impressionists had used color; he carried it a step further. He realized that warm colors come forward and cool colors recede. So to make the apple turn, instead of making it darker he makes the color cool. So you may get an apple that is red in front and blue or green on the sides. This makes it turn. Then he takes the brushstroke-- every one of these men used the brushstroke of the Impressionists, except Degas. He began with it, but he said, "No. I'm not going to use it." So he goes into flat areas of color. But what Cezanne does with the brushstroke, he says, "Okay, I will define a plane with the brushstroke." The Impressionists put brushstrokes on any which way, except to hard and he just did dot, dot, dot. But Cezanne goes much further. He takes an apple and he says, "I see a plane here and a plane here and a plane here, a plane here." He makes his brushstrokes go in that direction. See, I'm telling you these things now so you'll know what to look for when you see the slides. He even goes further than that. Maybe I could explain it better when we do look at the slides, but I want to tell you first what he'd done. He's drawing tables. All right, here's a still life, a bunch of apples. He'll have the table way up here; on this side the table will be way down here. He'll draw the table, and as we know.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: But what he does with the-- he takes perspective, which the Italians had discovered-- the Egyptians didn't know about it, neither did the Greeks-- the Roman's didn't use it. But the Italians from the time of the Italian Renaissance ultimately had things going back to vanishing point. Well, things do not go back to a vanishing point. A road is just as wide a mile down from you as it is where you are. It just looks like it's meeting. So what Cezanne does-- he draws the table, both sides of the table, going up just like this-- they never meet. They should come back this way. What is he trying to do? Well, he's trying to keep the picture plain. He realizes that he's painting on a flat surface, and if you make the table go back too much in space, it's going to destroy the flatness of the canvass. So he's trying to be truthful to the canvass, the surface on which he's working. You see, this is an intellectual way of painting. It's truth. It's a different kind of truth, but it is truth. So you'll see-- the top of the table on this side of the still life, up here. Down here things don't jibe. What's he trying to do when he does that? He is moving; the table's not moving-- Cezanne is moving. He looks at the still life from over here; he gets up and he sits over there. This is the reason that Picasso in the next generation paints a woman with three eyes. She hasn't moved; he's moved. What is the ultimate result of all this? The moving pictures. The Italians tried it in futurism. They never were able to get it on a still surface. So we end up with the moving pictures. So all these things have had an enormous effect on our own everyday lives, even the way we see things today. When we get into Cubism, that's going to be a whole new sort of thing because they take those little planes that were defining the way the apple turned, and they just push them all around. They rearrange them. And that becomes Synthetic Cubism. They feel that that's creating-- that even Cezanne, who led the way, and as great as he was, was not really creating; he was simply copying what was there. And they felt that art was creation. Therefore, as long as you paint what's in front of you, you aren't creating anything at all. You're just delineating what is there. It is skill, but it is not art. Well, let's look now at what some of these people have done. I think they're fascinating people. We're so used to seeing these famous paintings that it's hard to look at them for their real worth. This is the first of them; we don't have many of them, but we're going to see nine or ten of them. This is Degas, the first one. He loves black. We must remember that the camera was now extremely popular, and he gets the casual camera attitude in his paintings. There's something else that has come on the market in Paris, and that is the Japanese print. And you'll see a great influence from the diagonal composition of the Japanese. We saw a little bit of that in Mary Cassatt.

Q: They were good friends weren't they?

Claude Howell: Yes. Degas and Mary Cassatt were very good friends. He was beginning to go blind in his later years. At 52, the age of 52, he became a recluse and never painted anymore. You can see that this is one of his earlier ones. He is still using some of the brushstrokes of Impressionism, but doesn't this have a lot more volume and form to it than any of the Impressionist paintings? It also has line. This is what he's noted for. He loved ballet; he loved it to death. And he has left a remarkable record of ballet dancers in all sorts of positions. This is obviously based on Japanese prints. You start right here and you go down the lake into space. Don't you? You don't go straight back. Your Renaissance way is to go straight back to the vanishing point. Her you are going diagonal. He nearly always incorporates these surroundings of the person, the background. You have portraits against a flat background _________________. He also loved the racetrack. I think you can almost feel the dust in the painting. You see that you go diagonally in the opposite direction in this?

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: There's something else that he's doing here. He's intensifying the colors of the Impressionists and using them-- using those colors in larger areas. There are lots of reasonably flat areas in these paintings. And this is another type that he painted over and over again. He loved the nude figure, but usually the woman was either at her toilette or bathing or doing something. That's a very peculiar composition isn't it? This asymmetrical, unbound composition is from the Japanese print. The way he's cut the figure is quite revolutionary. With Renoir we have always had the whole figure, and generally he was looking at it front view. There is a wonderful circle of the washtub, holding in the figure. Another of his racetrack scenes-- this is out of Chante, and it looks exactly like that today. It hasn't changed one iota. Now, these paintings could not have been done if it hadn't been for the Impressionists. Nothing just happens out of the blue. Every school of painting that we have looked at so far has grown out of the past. It's very unusual compositions, based on the candid camera. You see, you begin to look at the world a little differently now that you have much more motion and you have the camera. You don't look at it the same way that you used to. He also utilized a medium which hadn't been used in France for, oh maybe 150 or 200 years. And he did it so well. He used pastels. We have the 18th century pastel portraits, but they were rather sweet. There's nothing sweet about Degas. He never comments on the people that he paints. It's almost an unemotional eye-- that he's observing rather than commenting. You can-- this painting has two titles. Some people call it The Laundresses; other people call it The Ironers. You can take your picture. You see how always his composition goes to the end of the diagonal. He's great on the occupational gesture. Now, we're going to see another one painted by Toulouse-Lautrec of practically the same subject. Both of these people are just dead running. (laughter) And that's the title of the painting is The Happening. But look how you got into this painting? It really is quite fascinating. You start in the lower left and you go up, and even this menu on the table takes you up to that table. And you go back, and that dark scarf or whatever it is takes into the picture. You do a zigzag to get there. The fact is the figures, the faces, which really is the center of interest in the painting, the fact that that is not in the center of the painting in itself is rather revolutionary. A lot of contemporary composition stems from this painting. But he's the master of the delineation of light areas and dark areas within a rectangle. This is the boss, businessman. His mother was a Creole from New Orleans. And he came to New Orleans and he did one of his masterpieces of the country, which is right here. This is ___________________ in New Orleans. The side is a little too reddish, but it is a reddish paint. It's just a little too intensified. He makes you move with two things. He makes you move with silhouette, a line, and he makes you move with light. You see how the newspaper carries you straight up to those people at the top? This is one of his pastels. They become almost just a great blaze of color at the end of the slide. A lot of detail is lost. Now, I bet if we had a seen a painting in the Italian Renaissance where the figures would be cut in such ungainly planes, you see, it's just like, it's a piece of the work. We begin to get into the fragmentary 20th Century. One thing I don't like about slides is you can't suddenly turn them upside down. This is beautiful when you look at it upside down. It's a great abstraction. Look at the colors. That is not natural color. It's very carefully planned color. Great colors. But I believe that in every single one of these, they'll fall in that diagonal mood. You see that the dancers, they give a counter movement. The legs, that's a perpendicular, which cuts across the diamond. This is a far cry from either the Virgin Mary, or the great pagan goddesses. The nudes are not glamorous. They're beautiful in their way, but they're not too glamorous. Full bodied nudes that we have seen. The subject matter is much more mundane than the formal [inaudible]. And of course we haven't seen any grandiose portraits. He also was a sculptor, and he had some beautiful small pieces of sculpture. This is one of the little object points that he did, and frequently, and it was considered very shocking when he did it, he put on a real tutu on the piece of sculpture like a real man, but he understood the movements of the dance tremendously. Now, we're going to see somebody else. This is very, very early painting. Very early. Do you have any idea who it is?

Q: [inaudible]?

Claude Howell: No, it's Toulouse-Lautrec. It's a portrait of his mother breathing. Can you see the influence from Impressionism? What does he do with his stroke? Instead of using just a little brush stroke, he turns it into a great splash of paint. We'll see that more and more as he moves along. But this is not a regular Champaign at all, but he was quite the artist. This is more what we are used to. The artificial light of the night. This is a private room in a restaurant. Look at the lines. His lines are very beautiful. Now, there's something else to remember here. This is a time of Art Nouveau. Can you see the curlicue line which resembles a lot of the vases, and such things, the décor a time art of the period? Now, he paints a lady at her _______ too. Look at the form of line as we come with him, how important design is, and how solid the pigment is around. Very different from the Impressionists. Because of his love of design, and it gets better planned, he was asked to make posters, and they became great works of art, and he is known as the "father of the poster." This is the reason that so many young people today buy posters and hang them in their house, because of Toulouse-Lautrec. He's the one who made the poster a work of art. And he loved to paint the brothels in Paris. These are two prostitutes waiting for customers. He uses the same diagonal line of the Japanese print. He's beginning to flatten color in the same way that Mary Cassatt did in her prints, and he painted a lot of portraits of people that he probably he knew. They were obituaries of the same places that he went. There's a lot of sort of fighting patterns in what he does. Look at that white table, the angle that it makes, and how it cuts the picture almost in half, and yet it works. And this was one of the great entertainers, La Goulue, and she's ever in the night life. Just as the curlicue shape in the vase that you just barely see on the right, that's pure Art Nouveau. Look at the streaks of paint in the white dress at the bottom. They're almost a foot long. And this is Waiting for the Quadrille to Begin. But he gives a wonderful picture of the life of Paris. They're very thinly painted, by the way. You'd be amazed. Often you can see the canvas. They're just thin streaks of thin washes of paint. They're almost uncolor drawn but a lot of... Woman 2: He uses a lot of red in places.

Claude Howell: Yes, he uses a lot of red paper, and a lot of these things were done on paper. He's certainly one of the most acute observers. I love his sense of design, with lights and darks. We're moving slightly into Cubism all the time. This could almost be a drawing, a painted-in drawing. Look at the sprites on the far left. Take those out and look at it. Hold your hand up and look at it. The painting doesn't work. They're necessary. Is it literal color? It's exaggerated color. Look at her eye, where the shadow is. It's bright green. It looks white but it is not white.

Q: Is that oil?

Claude Howell: Yes, it's in oil. But he uses oil very thin, and a lot of medium, and he puts it on with these thin strokes of paint. This is the paintbrush of Impressionism, that's what it is, but he's just carried it to an extreme. That's a most peculiar composition. At first when I was working on the slides, I couldn't see it too well. I was just holding it up. I thought the slide, something was wrong with the slide. I thought something was spilled on it, because it was such a peculiar composition, but it certainly gives the feeling of [inaudible] on that figure.

Q: Are they hats or wigs or what?

Claude Howell: This is a Milliner. A Milliner. But you'll notice that all of his paintings are of artificial light. And this, now see I forgotten its name, but it's just somebody at the hospital ball. There are certain elegance that all of these things. Sort of simple. And this one, I'd like to blow this up and send it to Jesse Helms.


Claude Howell: It's hanging in the Louvre. He thought it would close the Louvre. These are two prostitutes parading before potential customers. It's considered one of his masterpieces. The slide is a little washed out of its color. And he also painted the circus. You know, Paris doesn't have circuses like we have. They're all indoor circuses, and there's a one ring circus that's called the Cirque Duvea [ph?] and another one called the Cirque du Drama, [inaudible] and they have elephants. Not as many as Ringling brothers, but they have everything going on. It's wonderful Nouveau. And he usually sits in a circle around [inaudible]. If the Japanese print had not come into the knowledge of French people at this point, you couldn't have had this. But they don't look like Japanese prints. Now, we get somebody else. This is Ensor. Baron Ensor. He was a Belgian. He doesn't seem to fit in any place. He believes that people are no damn good.


Claude Howell: And he is so pessimistic, he puts masks on them to make you realize eyes, that underneath there, there's nothing but evil. He is a post-Impressionist. He's not at all like Degas or Toulouse-Lautrec, but he too is revolting against Impressionism. He has the Germanic quality of brutality and ugliness that we have seen in the ruin of all crucifixion, and we've seen a lot of German painting, and we're going to see a great deal of it in the next generation in German Expressionism. But then they were run out of Germany by Hitler. Beautiful color, beautiful compositions, but a very depressing picture. I could only find one slide of Ensor. Now, we come to a man who was very much influenced by the Frenchman, Baudette. He is Dutch, and this is his very first painting of The Potato Eaters. Vincent Van Gogh. Everything is brown in the beginning. No hints of color whatsoever. Everything. He moves to Paris after painting several paintings like this, [inaudible]. Some of these are not working.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: Well, he moves to Paris. He gets into the art world there. He becomes aware of Impressionism. He later moves to Southern France, and that's where for a very few years, not more than ten or 12 years, he painted a series of masterpieces. Look what's happened to his color. He becomes obsessed with the light of Southern France, and his brush strokes, which came from Impressionism, become almost a line, they're so wide. They wiggle. They are tortured. He doesn't paint the way things look at all. He paints the way he feels about what he sees. He distorts, he exaggerates, but he has a wonderful way. These trees are like Thomas Russell's. He, himself, was a Tom Russell, exceptional kind of guy, even when he paints just a peaceful landscape, he's violent. He got to the point where he would discard the paintbrush, and simply squeeze the paint out of the tube on the canvas. This, by the way, is called impasto, very hard to for museums to take care of Vincent Van Gogh paintings. They collect dust. They're three dimensional. They also plaque. He painted quite the self portraits, and they look like a raw, rugged man, I think. Look at the background. Can you see the swirling of the brush strokes? They're perfectly flat, and those of you who went to Baltimore and Washington will probably remember a couple of the wonderful Van Gogh's in the Barnes Collection. Have any of you read his letters?

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: You have? I think they're as great as his paintings. You can't read them, they're twined, they're so beautifully expressed.

Q: When he lived in the South of France, did he live near Provence? Did he live near Provance?

Claude Howell: He lived in Arles for a long time, and the café that he painted is still there in Arles. I went to Arles just to see where he painted a lot of them painted there, but mainly the light is there. That's the main [inaudible], because I didn't see it through Van Gogh's eyes, so it wasn't tormented to me. They cypresses looked like cypresses to me, but they didn't look like tormented souls. Now, olive trees do swirl. They really do, but he even intensified that.

Q: I can see the [inaudible]

Claude Howell: Yes.

Q: Its energy.

Claude Howell: They look like they're terribly, rapidly executed, and yet in his letters he writes about planning with pen and ink the way the brush strokes go, which I find very fascinating. This his famous bedroom. Look what he does with perspective. Now, we must remember that all of the violent painting in the last half of the 20th Century has come from this man. Abstract Expressionism owes a great deal to him. German Expressionism. This is the emotional approach. And The Haystacks. There are a lot of others that you probably more familiar with. I kind of picked some of the ones that weren't so familiar, but that are just as good. Now look at the difference. Gauguin. This was painted in his early days. He had two big periods, his period in Brittany and then his period in Tahiti. This is called The Yellow Christ. It's simply a wonderful color exercise. Look at the trees, the way the trees just kind of fold. Already his wonderful sense of color pattern is developing. A lot of painters lived out in Brittany in the summer. It was cheap. They could get away from Paris. They could see each other, and talk to each other, so it was sort of an art colony. This is also the period when art colonies became very important in this country. The last great one was Woodstock. It's still going on to fall with hard times. The reason is they usually are within commuting distance to the great city, so you can get into the city to talk to or deal, or see a show, then you can go back to your art colony, where your friends live, and where things are about one half of the price. That's the reason for art colonies. You wouldn't-- Michelangelo would not have needed to go to an art colony. You see, he was a friend of the Pope and the King, you know, the top stratum of society. But these people were not. That's when art colonies came about. I've always liked this one. It's a funny composition. There's just spots of dark on a white background. It's pretty close to a lot of non-effective paintings, [inaudible]. Then he goes to the side of the city, and here's where his color really goes crazy. Beautiful color. And if you were to see the original of any of these, you would be aware of his brush strokes, which come from the Impressionists. That's sideways. I think he must have been talking about this painting when he was talking about the red mountain. Look at the color. You've never seen such unrealistic color, and yet it's beautiful color. He's overcome one thing, which is very difficult to overcome, and that is the sappy saccharin quality of the South Sea Island. You know, in the hands of a lesser man, it would be so touristy, and so sweet, so pretty that you couldn't stand it. You're never aware of that feeling. I tried to paint palm trees one time, and gave up. Everybody said bad palm trees. Now, you see how he has, the figure has form, but it's also a blank shade in the composition. They're really introducing a lot of things in the art which we hadn't see for over a 100 years. So while they're pushing ahead, they're looking back, too. Forget what this is, and just half close your eyes and look at it. It's almost like a beautiful oriental rug. Look at the foreground, the lavenders and the yellows. Now we get to the man who is so intellectual, he's clumsy. He had no facilities. We spoke of John Singer Sargent as being affected with facility. This man is not. He's just about as funny as you can get, and he paints funny. He had to work at it, but he overcame it. Everything he paints, even in the beginning, is just as solid as it could be. If you stuck your finger in that little boy, it would bounce right back. It wouldn't go right through. He does the same thing with trees. His line is solid. The reason it's solid is that he spent his whole life studying form. He's trying to get the body [inaudible]. He realized he couldn't do it by painting things the way they look. There's one thing that disappears at night and that is the light and atmosphere of Impressionism. We have light, but it's not the light of the visual reality. They control where it falls. In the background is [inaudible], which he painted over and over and over again. These are all early ones. Now, I wish this slide would be better so you could see the original. In this par [ph?] every brush stroke follows the direction of the plane of that par. On his nose, it goes up, it's flat, it goes back. On his shoulder it does the same thing. Notice the, sort of a shadow follow back. It gets cool, rather than dark. The pink is on the side closest to view. Here we have the beginning of Cubism. He says the whole world can be turned into a cube, a cone, or a sphere, and here you can see that he's beginning to go at it. Things go back into place, but look at the buildings on the hill. They don't destroy the picture plane. They are much closer to you than they probably really were. Now, I'm waiting for a slide of Mont Sainte-Victoire. I'll bet it comes up soon, because I want to tell you something about it. I learned a great deal about what Cezanne does. Look at the cool shadows on her face. She's not a thing of beauty. Very few of his people were. Look at the side between the shape of the hills, and the shape of the house. Now, here we begin to get his affluence. If you follow the top of that table at the top great line and this doesn't quite meet this. They've edged the table they would never meet at a vanishing point. If you received a rule of painting, you received about apples, yet green as they turn, this one right here in particular. It's warm, over here, that's green, and that's what drives that apple. It's not the back. If you squint, there's very little light and dark in those apples. He just takes all kinds of liberties. He doesn't stick to naturalism at all. Most people aren't aware of it, because it looks so right.

Q: How do you explain the statement that he makes, "created order out of the chaos of nature"?

Claude Howell: Nature is chaos. Art is the only thing that doesn't have chaos, and if art has chaos, then it's not art, because art is not chaotic. It is art. I think you could say, I bet I'm right in this, "All artists throughout every age from the beginning up to the present day have tried to create order out of instability." I don't know anybody who hasn't. They've been emotional. Van Gogh was emotional, but he also had order. You know, he had order of color relations, of shades, and this sort of thing. Now, whether you know it or not, if you go to the grocery store and look at an apple, you only see it through Cezanne's eyes. He created the apple, and we will always see Cezanne's apple until somebody better comes along. Just think about that. That's a pretty important thing to do, but he did it. He's brilliant. All right, look at this. He's looking at that from over here, looking at this from over there. He's got nothing blue. Do you know why I think it's so three dimensional? Because we have two eyes, instead of one. If we only had one eye, it would be flat. We are looking slightly around everything we see. If you get up and move, you see even more. And this is what Cezanne was trying to do. His other beauty was Mont Saint-Victoire and the background, and this one. Just so many planes in the space. Every brush stroke defines a plane. Now, I went out and sat in a chair in the back yard where Cezanne sat when he painted this picture at night. I didn't know that his paintings were in this little inn, and this man said, "You come with me, I want you sit here, in Cezanne's chair, and you can see the same view." It's absolutely different. You can hardly see Mont Sainte-Victoire. It's a tiny little speck on the horizon. He has flattened the landscape. He has tilted it up to you. Who else can do that? Every oriental who's ever painted. They do exactly the same thing. The Chinese painter would be at the top of the picture [inaudible]. Probably read it as being in the distance. Cezanne makes the mountain much bigger than it actually is. Make it very disappointing, but I learned a great deal by sitting in that chair. Now, we'll get to that. It's a landscape and a mountain. Doesn't it look almost like a Cubist painting by Picasso. Can you see where Picasso comes from? He does it in this painting, too. This is not the one we saw. This one is in the Louvre. The one we saw I think is much better. Now, Kathleen, we're going to see what we've seen. There it is. That's what we saw. I had a field day this week, because we've all seen the big, beautiful catalogue of the Barnes Collection. This week we photographed it and made slides of every color reproduction in the book. This is one of them.

Q: What is that they're looking at? What are they doing?

Claude Howell: Playing cards. It's called The Card Player.

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: We've seen a couple kinds. [inaudible].

Q: Is there-- that's it, isn't it?

Claude Howell: That is it.

Q: Wow, that was great. Very cool.

Claude Howell: There were interesting men. They all were all doing their own thing, they were quite different, and they all led to major discoveries in the next generation. Next week we'll see what they were.

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