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Interview with Claude Howell, #173 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Claude Howell, #173
In this art history lecture from the Gwen Ward videotape collection, artist Claude Howell (1915 - 1997) discusses 20th century artistic movements with an audience assembled at St. John's Museum of Art in Wilmington.
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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: Just while we're waiting to begin, I want to call your attention to two things, that will kind of like what we've been going through. One is a film, it's on Thursday, the 17th, In Our Own Time. Clement Greenberg is one of the good critics in the United States, and this the movie. He's going to discuss Jackson Pollack, and his innovative technique. Well, I think we'll talk about Jackson Pollack probably Tuesday, as well, certainly Tuesday afternoon. I haven't quite figured out yet, and the other one is to discuss, or examine the latest movements in today's art. We'll be on that in two weeks. So we may want to give somebody else's penname. The last thing left is Thursday, the 31st, that's Rebecca Martin Nodge [ph?]. She was Rebecca Barton. She is one of the best lecturers I've ever heard. She's lectured here several times already. She's the head of education at the museum of New Orleans, and is a very entertaining, delightful, and certainly knowledgeable speaker. So she's going to talk about the spiritual in 20th century. Tonight, we're going to talk about one of the very few spiritual painters out of this time period, of the 20th century. Shall we start? What time is it?

Q: It's seven o'clock.

Claude Howell: Okay. I'm going to begin. You know, we're kind of wrapping this up now. I don't want to bore you much longer. I think we've drum-line marched long enough. We talked last week about a great many movements and painters who were intellectuals. Tonight, we want to talk about a lot of movements, and a lot of painters, who are emotional painters, and next week's, we want to talk about a lot of movements, and a lot of painters who are irrational, which will be Surrealism, paintings of dream world, Dada. A lot of the movements, all these are reflections of what society has covered. You know, you say, "Why does the artist create this?" The artist doesn't create anything. He reflects the world that you in this room have created. He is, if you don't like contemporary art, change your way of life. This is what I tell everybody, because the audience is responsible. The audience is responsible for society. The artist reflects society. So that's the way it goes. What have we had in the 20th century? Well, we had two disastrous world wars. We've had a horrible Depression. We had all sorts of (audio fades out briefly). In Germany, you had Hitler, and before that you had the terrible invasion and absolute disillusionment with government and society. So it's no wonder that you find a lot of movements arising, which while they themselves are pretty awful, are in a sense, a real true sense a form of protest. The artist is protesting against what he feels are the evils of today. The evils of society. We still haven't gotten everything solved, and you find that a lot of artists, young artists today, a lot of them in the colleges, in the art department, are painting pretty terrible looking pictures, but it's because that is the beat, and they, well, I guess it was in the late '70's and the '80's, where all the student unrest, all of them were revolting against any authority. Artists, like me, were revolting against authority, and they were breaking all the rules that we were taught to believe were right. So at this point in history, there are no rules. There is no right way to work. We have to be perfectly susceptible to almost anything that is put in front of us. Some of it is good. Some of it is not worth looking at, but we can't dismiss a whole movement, because if you got a whole movement, there will probably be one or two good people. The rest will be the followers, the hangers on. You always get that. Anytime somebody starts something new, someone else jumps on the bandwagon almost instantaneously. Generally, the people who start the movements are the highly intellectually and influential artists. They are usually better. Tonight we are going to talk about a movement, which began in France, and it was a definite movement. It was called Fauvism. Well, fauve in French means "the wild beast," and the critic who reviewed the show said he felt like he was in a cage of wild beasts, and this name stuck. Who was the leader? Henri Matisse. There were eight people who banded together in 1901. No, excuse me, 1905, they had their first show. I will read these names to you. Matisse, Marquet, Derain, Vlaminck, Raoul Dufy, van Dongen who was Dutch, and Othon Friesz. Of these people, you probably have heard of three or four. You probably haven't heard of Friesz or van Dongen. Van Dongen was Dutch, and he became sort of the darling of society, and while he was revolting against the academy, against former generations, he changed his way of working. Matisse, who started the movement, didn't remain a Fauve painter too long. The good people in this group were so good that they had to develop their own personal approach. So Fauvism was a short lived movement. It didn't last very long, but it had enormous influence on the next generations. In Germany, all of the disillusioned artists began revolting against the German academy, which was just as strong as the French academy, and they had not just one movement in Germany, but all the different cities had movements. So you find there's a big movement in Munich. There's a big movement in Dresden. They embraced not only German people, but there were a lot of Scandinavians. There were several Russians who came down. There were Norwegians. These people migrated to where they thought the action was, and it happened to be in Germany. For a short period, a lot of the action moved from France to Germany. There's no telling what would have happened in Germany if it hadn't been for Hitler. Hitler ran out all these people. A lot of them migrated to France or to England. Not a one of them stayed there. Well, some of them kept on moving and went to South America, and then up into the United States. They caused the biggest commotion in this country, because they got teaching jobs in big art schools, big universities, and in 1950, springing up all over this country was the movement, which became the academy of the 1950's and '60's, which is Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollack, and all of those people, who just put on one splash of paint after another, and if you painted any other way, you couldn't get into an exhibition. You were not known. You might as well give up painting. It killed a lot of our very best painters. That is their reputation. Now, they are being rediscovered. You know, artists, we are always going back in time, and rediscovering from former generations who think close to the way you think, so we are still doing that. I think I told you that I read this Art History, published in 1900, and El Greco was not even mentioned in the chapters on Spanish art. And of course now we consider El Greco one of the greatest Spanish painters, but it is because taste has changed since 1900. Now what happens, what is the earmark of the Fauve painting? Well, it is Expression movement against Impression movement. Impression movement, we've gone through this, is painting the natural way something looks. Expressionism is painting the way you feel about something, not the way it looks. They both end up, we've saw already in actual paintings, ended up in [inaudible] non-objective painting. The Expressionist painters will end up non-objective painting, with Kandinsky. No recognizable object whatsoever. So both of them are going to warn us towards non-objectivity in art, but they arrive at it in a completely different way. There is always content in Fauve painting, and by content I mean emotional content. You paint gloom. You paint anger. You paint violence. You paint peace, but always there is content. It is not a picture of a man being murdered. It's not that raw. It's not that kind of content, but it is still filled with content. I think one of the most fascinating things to grace in art in the last several hundred years is the brush stroke, because this is a key to what people are doing. We first saw the brush stroke with Frans Hals. You know, the early painters didn't have any brush strokes. Hals started using a [inaudible] technique, big brush strokes. It gets to the point where you recognize the work of an artist by the way he handles the brush. Baskin also uses great brush strokes, beautiful brush strokes. A little dab here, a little dab there. It looks like the most beautiful silk or satin. He can give you the texture of the material, but if you were to examine closely, it looks just like a bunch of brush strokes. Well, we get to Cezanne, and what happens, and the Impressionists? The Impressionists put on brush strokes any which way, small little brush strokes. They're breaking up color. We find that they are more interested in the recovering of the brilliance of color, because they felt it been lost in the academy, so they break it up, and you get a little dazzling quality to a canvas, with a touch of blue next to a touch of red gives you a beat of purple. That's what they did. Then we have Cezanne, who takes the same brush stroke. He makes the brush stroke word. He defines the plane of an apple or a house, or a tree, or a leaf, or whatever it is, or a person, and he does it by using brush strokes, so he is using the brush stroke not to give color, but to give form. Well, that goes on until we come to the post-Impressionists, and what happened with them? We have a man like Vincent Van Gogh, who is quite violent, one of the big influences, by the way, on Fauve painters. He and Gauguin are the big influences on Fauvism, whereas Cezanne is a big influence on Cubists. They take the brush stroke, and turn it into a longer streak of paint. We come to a man like Toulouse Lautrec, who was post-Impressionist. He takes long slices of paint. He's not concerned with using the brush strokes like the Impressionists were at all, but it's in both Impressionism. Now, tonight, we come to "the wild beast." The Fauve. They set out to shock the world. The way that they paint is shocking. It's very violent. They juxtapose passion colors, there's no such thing as a color harmony. The Impressionists were violent painters, because they would form other colors within the harmony. Now, they set out to paint this side of the face red, this side of the face blue, then the shadow on the nose will be bright green. This will be almost pure color. Instead of having a nice looking delicate outline around someone, they will take a loaded paint brush of black, and just go swoosh, like that to define the outline. What they paint is also shocking. We had first the paintings of Madonna and Child [inaudible], then we had queens and kings, we had portraits of kings and queens. Then finally we got into Harlem, we find that the merchants are in charge, so you paint what they own. The still life or the interior of their house. Then we get to the Impressionists, and it really doesn't matter what the subject is, as long as it's pleasant. They are painting the French people at play. Now we are getting to a time when they are painting ugly people, ugly things. Art gets progressively more ugly in the 20th century, until they recently had a show at the Whitney where a piece of sculpture of was a pile of clay on the floor carved to look like somebody's vomit. Now that's pretty repulsive I think, but that is what is art has finally gotten to. We're not saying it's wrong. We are saying it is dirty, and we might as well face it, we're going to see an awful lot of ugly in the next 50 years. If we're around that long. But we've got to have an open mind. Otherwise, we're going to be miserable. I find that there are a lot of things that I first am terribly shocked at, and later grow to really love. Because I feel that, for me, art does not breed contempt. I think, for me, art just breeds acceptance. Now, you think about that. I find that with my mother with music. She loves classical music. But she liked things that she heard her all her life. She loved Mozart, and generally she liked generally she like rather pretty music. So I began to get some little bit more advanced music. I would get Stravinsky, and I would do that, and she would say, "Son, take that off and play me some pretty music." And so a little bit later, I would buy some Berg or some real A-town music, and she'd say, "Son, take that off and put on Mr. Stravinsky." But her taste in music, you know, I made fifty years. So I think it can be done. I think we simply have to become familiar with things. I'm sure that our grandparents would be very shocked at what we've been looking at week or two, because it would have been something that they just didn't understand. Well, these people all moved to other styles of painting when they went out and heard that Fauvism wasn't any good. They just continued to grow. Matisse continued to grow until his dying day. He's one of the great painters of the 20th century. He had a marvelous sense of decoration and color. They are the two things that were so important to Matisse, and while he could express himself when he was with Fauve, it didn't fulfill all of his needs, so he kept on adding other things to it. I think that since Fauvism was a French school of thought, we can always say that it was controlled by the French logic and reason. The French are the most logical and the most reasonable people in the world. We don't like the French now. A lot of American tourists do not like the French, but the fact remains that most of the great philosophers have been French. They have always had a marvelous sense of logic, and their art is generally in good taste. Now, we say these are the wild beasts. They're wild beasts still within the limits of good taste. So, it's not too shocking. Matisse was the leader of this group, and he would alter space and line, very much the way that Cezanne did. He wasn't concerned with visual reality. If he was painting a dress, well, let's take a striped blouse, just like that. You see the red and white striped blouse? I'm using you as a guinea pig. Matisse did not use any perspective. He didn't use any light and shadow. He would make a blue stripe and a white stripe, and it would go from one edge to the other. So, it was a perfectly planned design, but he was such a master of color by what he put next to the blue and white that it turned, and you've got to know what you're doing to do that. People used to say, "How does Matisse paint this marvelous red?" He doesn't paint a marvelous red. He put something next to the red that makes it a marvelous red. If you put blue next to a red, it's going to look redder than ever. If you put yellow by it, it's going to look redder, but you can change the color. I used to give my students a project, and one of them it was just to paint the same picture and have one little area in the middle of the picture remain the same all the time. Okay, make it lighter in one, and darker in the other. How do you do it? If you have grey, you surround it with black, and it looks white. If you have grey, and you surround it with white, it looks very dark. So he did that. Then the next step, make it change in color. So you have, say, a pink. You surround it with red, it looks bluish. Surround it with blue, and it looks hotter. You change the color. Change the intensity. Do you know what intensity is? Intensity is the amount of pigment in a color. You can't get redder than pure red. The minute you put white with it, or black, or any other color, you've lowered the intensity. You've cut the intensity. Matisse seldom changes the intensity like that. He paints a lot in pure colors, but he makes them vibrate by the way he puts them on the canvas. When I was painting the mural down in the little chapel in Norfolk, I had a terrible time, because it's a triptych and I had a yellow and white striped t-shirt on one of the men. I had a red polo shirt on another one of the men. They appeared in all three panels. You could get it to work in one, but then you had to get it to work in the second, and the third, and boy, that is a real problem to do that. If you do that, you know how to [inaudible] these paintings, because you know how difficult it is. It is not easy to paint a picture that works. You may not like it, but whether you like it, or not, doesn't matter. It's "Does it work?", and these paintings do work. We're going to look at lot of them, and you may say, "That's horrible," but Matisse is always analytical. He's never descriptive, and this one of the things about him. He will take a figure, and distort it terribly, but you always know it's a figure, and he's analyzing the figure, rather than painting the way it looks. All these men did the same thing. Raoul was another of the Fauve painters. Raoul as perhaps the only real spiritual, religious painter that we have today. Well, not today, because he's dead, but he was just wonderful. He painted primarily prostitutes, but he had such a compassion for humanity, that it was a spiritual, religious experience for him to paint a picture like that. See if you can't see that when we look at two or three Raoul slides. Look at that. All of these men are very interesting people. They're all individuals. Remember, that they were influenced by Van Gogh. You can see the influence of the violence of Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Sun Over a Field of Wheat. You can see it all the time. Them would get to Germany, and you've got some very strange people in Germany. We're going to look at a lot of slides of Paul Klee. Now, Paul Klee has been claimed by the silhouettes, but we're not going to talk about silhouettes tonight, so we could talk about him next week, as well. He had a marvelous sense of humor. A lot of the German painters do not have any sense of humor. They're as heavy as German food and German architecture, and German and everything else. They're just plain heavy. But Karl Cruddy is not German. He's Swiss. He lived in German for a long time. He helped found the Baliste, which we said last week, moved into Germany, but ran out for many by Hitler. They moved to Chicago, and moved to Black Mountain, and also the School of Design in Raleigh, so in a sense, you could say that Klee has had an influence on the state of North Carolina. If it hadn't have been for him, we wouldn't have those two schools. He paints in a completely different way than most people. He says that to paint a picture is like taking a walk with a line. So he goes for a walk, and he goes up a hill, so the picture goes up, and he comes up, and he comes to a stream, and he has to jump over what? So there are a whole bunch of little dots. He gets lost. The line gets all tangled. He comes to a blank wall. It stops, and he has to start in another direction. He describes and experiments rather than a picture, per se. What he is doing is portraying a state of mind. Now, this can be done. It's been done by a lot of great artists throughout the centuries, but I think probably in the early 20th century it has been done better. Most non-objective painting is describing a state of mind, or a state of consciousness, or some sort of personal experience. A lot of symbolism. What is the difference between symbolism today, which you're not going to understand, and symbolism from the early Christian period, which you can understand? Well, I think that's just it. We all understood the symbols from the early Christian church. They were universal. Now the symbols become personal, so the public says, "There's no sense in it. There's no sense in it." There's perfect sense to it, if you knew the artist, and knew what the symbols meant. He's not making them up. This is not complicated, what we're talking about tonight, but it's kind of the crux of the understanding of what I would say 999 artists out of 1000 working today. If we don't understand this, we might as just as well forget art. We might as well stop looking at it, because we'll never get it. It's like Louis Armstrong, when somebody asked him about jazz, and he said, "If you've got to ask, you'll never get it. You ain't got it." And I think that's true about a lot of contemporary art. You have to feel it, but you cannot always understand it. A lot of this stuff, I don't understand at all. I have no idea what is going on in a lot of these paintings, but I can react to them. I can get a feeling from them. My feeling may not be the same feeling as the artist has, but it's a valid feeling. Some sort of correlations are shape relations, appeal to you. Others don't. Some people like nice, soft, wavy lines. Bouncy ones. Other people like swanky lines. People are like that. People vary, and all of these paintings that we're going to see tonight have to do that. Let's start looking at some of them.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: Are we starting with Matisse? Is that the first one?

Q: That's the first one.

Claude Howell: Okay. This is Matisse when he was an out and out Fauve painter. It's 1905. During the war. There are red brush strokes in it. There are a few blue brush strokes, but there are also yellow brush strokes. This is not a naturalistic picture. You know what it is. The subject matter is violent. There's a lot, no black. Can you see where he's coming from? Impressionism and Van Gogh? Now look at the head of this woman, and this is nothing like as intense as the color really is. The flat part of her nose, the front part, is green. One cheek is pink, one cheek is yellow. There is red line on her right ear. Look at the bright red on her flowers, the orange on her chin. Now, probably when you first looked at that, you didn't notice it, because it works. But he really has taken all manner of liberties. This is the Joy of Life. Look at the heavy outline around the figures. It's more design than it is figures on a landscape, but you know exactly what he's trying to say. A lot of these were in the Barnes' collection in the show in Washington that we saw. Another early landscape. Here you get violet and mauve, and bright here. A green barn, bright red. You see, they just do anything they feel is necessary to get the feeling that they're driving for. These people knew how to draw. They knew how to paint realistically, naturalistically. They weren't interested in that. One of the greatest draftsman I guess who's ever lived is Picasso, but he just wasn't interested in that sort of thing. He didn't feel that it was being creative. This was on the cover of the catalogue of the Barnes show. Look at the dress. Does the dress turn? It does. The design on the dress. Does he have perspective in it? There is none. It's a flat pattern, and he gets much flatter than this before he's through. Let me turn back. You see there's no light and shadow. There's light and shadow in this painting, but there's not light and shadow. Matisse painted a lot of still lives and something else you don't see, he loved to paint goldfish. So we're going to take two or three of his paintings, a nude and a goldfish. Now, no one can handle red and pink and olive like he did. It's color is unbelievable. Look at the flat line which goes from the top of the canvas to the bottom, and yet, this is a table. Moving back in space, there's a wall. Look at the woman. She's outlined. She's got a light skirt, a black blouse. There's no variation from light to shadow of any of the patterns. Look at the lines. A flat area of yellow. The window becomes part of the design. Look at the perspective in the chair. You see how he's keeping everything on the picture plane? He's tracking it. This was painted quite early. It's now in Russia. Gdansk. He did several variations. Now, it's not naturalistic, but it certainly gives you a feeling of spontaneous joy, doesn't it? There's movement in the painting. He, too, went to the South of France. In fact all painters who moved to the South of France becomes very, very influenced by the color. Now, you've never seen a pink floral that pink. Look at the head, the splotches of color. This is what shocked the French bourgeois in 1905. They were beautiful reds. Here we have a Nude with goldfish. The table is outlined in a heavy black line, as are many other things, including the nude. I guess he's one of the greatest colorists the world has ever known. [inaudible] use every black line if he needs to, he was very much influenced by primitive art. He was influenced by [inaudible], by Persian miniatures, by the color of Morocco, [inaudible]. He was a very [inaudible] man. This is one of the very famous, one of the very early ones. He lived to be quite old and he had arthritis so bad, and he would strap about a four or five foot long foot pole onto his paintbrush. Then finally he couldn't do that. He was confined to bed, so he made cut outs, and you've seen a lot of those [inaudible] beautiful shapes and colors. So often he paints a French window, which is so typically of all of the interiors of France. Floor length blinds, and usually about the edge of it. You could just feel the sunlight coming in there. There's some so different to anything. A lot of people tried to copy that piece. Nobody can. Walgrow, Greece. Do you see the decorative pattern in the rug? It was very much influenced by Persian miniatures as well, particularly in his division of the space. You see this really is a composition based on rectangles with a couple of circles in the middle, the head and goldfish bowl. And then that was predominant on the woman. It's quite amazing. You absolutely see through it. It's just a few brush strokes, that's all. Now the nude could never get in that position, and even if she did she would fall off of that bed.


Claude Howell: It's perpendicular almost. But get the space. He's very good at spatial relationship. This is much later. This would be in 1940 to early 1950. He gets flatter and flatter on the use of color. Look at the color of the flesh tone. Lavender.

Q: Do you think that by this time he had difficulty and was using that extended brush that you mentioned, or was this--

Claude Howell: Oh, no, no, that was after this. That was after this.

Q: So this is simply a development?

Claude Howell: Yeah, uh-huh. He was just so free. These people felt free to do anything that they wanted to do because they weren't concerned with any of the rules. They were seeking for a French approach. When we get to Klee, and a lot with Germans, we're going to discover that the influences have changed somewhat. This is the period when people began to study the art of children. Why do they study the art of children? Because it is fresh and innovative. They study the heart of the insane because it is fresh and innovative. Not knowledgeable but fresh. The insane people do anything and they can get away with it. So this is why right here in St. John's Museum we like Mini Peppinger [ph?]. She is fresh and innovative, the opposite of the emulates, the opposite of rational knowledge. This accounts for her [inaudible]. If you understand where all these things came from, you can understand a lot of the reputations today and why people like what they like today. Now, here is another Fouve painting. This is a very early one. It's by Derain, D-E-R-A-I-N, Andre Derain, who a lot of people have said was the most knowledgeable of all the fauve painters. That he probably had more talent and more ability. He certainly was more passively inclined. He painted a lot of portraits later on. I just love them. I mean, I can just see that front door man dancing with that giant woman.


Claude Howell: But this is a fauve painting. The one we just saw was painted before he was a fauve painter. Now, this was painted in 1905. Like at the violent color here, look at the violent brush work. If they set out to shock the ordinary person, you would see that they were very successful, because 1905, this is '94, that's 90 years ago, and it still looks pretty contemporary. Another Derain. But they never lose this kind of... He loved to paint bridges. He went to London and some of his good paintings were done in London. Look at the colors in that water. You've got to be pretty brave to paint water blue and yellow and green. And remember this had never been done before. They weren't emulating anybody. They were experimenting. He softened down quite a bit after he became other than a fauve painter. Here he's beginning to lose the violence. You can see the influence of Cubism again. You're beginning to get the influences all mixed up in a lot of people. He painted a lot of stores and interiors. He had a wonderful feeling for composition. And then a whole series of portraits. The heads looked almost like classic Roman mean heads. Don't you think that looks like a classic Greek head? Still the use of the heavy brush stroke. Look at the black line on the top of the shirt collar. All of these other ones. But you see he's much more classical in his approach as he matured. But he never loses the influence from Cubism, [inaudible]. The shadow on that face is blue. And this is a portrait of, it's a self portrait. He's in front of the easel, and that's his cat, his wife Diane's, dog and his wife's mother, called Family Portrait.


Q: Is that a peacock?

Claude Howell: Yes, there's a peacock in there too, uh-huh. I think she must have had it. I don't think he'd make it up. Now this is quite different. Do you have any idea who this is? This painter becomes the darling of the fashionable world, and this painter influenced practically every perfume ad that was in existence in the '20s and '30s and '40s, Raul Dufy, D-U-F-Y. Now, you thinks he's interested in the room. This is almost a Cubist painting. What he does is he hooked on a big rectangle or color and then he draws in it. He develops something that, well, we could call it calligraphy it's like a _______. This is his more mature one. Do you see that he put on a wash of blue, a wash of green, a swab of red, a swab of white, a swab of orange, and then he draws the headlines over. Advertising people have really utilized this man's technique. It almost killed his reputation. But he was an expert of Cuba, he was an original fauve painter. Still a different kind of artwork. These people are all members of the same group, the same movement, but quite individual in their approach. This is Blaminck, B-L-A-M-I-N-C-K. He painted mainly still life pictures like this and also of streets snowy landscapes. Swishy paintings. They're monotonous, they're so similar. But he was a well-known painter during his lifetime. A loaf of bread. He would sometimes just take a loaded palate and just go across the canvas like that, one great swoop of the canvas. A haystack. Always sky and snow. This is typical of his work. The white snow covered houses and roads. The composition is very similar in a lot of these paintings. And the sky is heavy, it feels like it's going to just break any minute with more snow or sleet or rain. They are similar. They're very interesting paintings. Most of these people lived until they're late 50s or early 60s. None of them are still alive today. They're all finally gone. You have the feeling that if you put them all together it would just end up being one kind, don't you?


Claude Howell: They're so--In execution. But it's emotion, it's what he feels about the landscape rather than the way, the naturalistic appearance of the landscape. I have a quarrel with this painting. It's called something cornflowers.

Q: It looks like pennies.

Claude Howell: It looks like pennies, or something. Maybe the French call it something else.

Q: Probably that's what it is.

Claude Howell: Look at the highlight on the picture. It is not only a slashing pattern, it is about a quarter of an inch thick. It's a raised painting. That's a lot of paint. He paints very slowly. A still life. He does the same thing that all the other men had done, he has made the table perpendicular, he does not go back in space. He is trying to keep his picture forward. Now here we come still another member of this group, George Gerges, G-E-R-G-E-S, who painting so many of the prostitutes. In the beginning, this is during his fauve period, he used long sweeps of paint and everything had to be outlined in black. He had been an apprentice in a stain glass factory, and a lot of people think that he's influenced by stain glass windows. The blacking lining, as we have learned, makes all the colors rich, vibrant, and he always surrounded everything with black lines. It's not a pretty picture of mankind. This is the old king. Doesn't that look like a stained glass window?

Q: Um-hmm, yes.

Claude Howell: Those slides do not give any indication of the beauty of this painting. It absolutely glows with the colors so vibrant. There's also a great deal of paint gloss. He's painting emotions. I only have two or three of these. He was a great photograph. His prints are just wonderful. And, of course, if you can afford one of his prints, they're equally important. The head of The Christ. We haven't seen anything like this in a long time. Religious subject matter has absolutely been forgotten for almost 400 years. Here's something. We have a religious painting. Why do you know that's the head of Christ? You know it is don't you?

Q: Well, it looks like there's kind of a halo above his head.

Claude Howell: Yeah.

Q: Sketchy.

Q: The earliest pictures looked like that.

Claude Howell: It's the traditional Byzantine head of Christ.

Q: That's right.

Claude Howell: And you cannot change it. I think I told you that try changing that and you discover you cannot do it because then it doesn't look like Christ. You've got to use that same shape. The elongated nose always the elongated nose. Now this is the inside of an animal that's been skinned. It's pretty repulsive isn't it?

Q: Yes.

Claude Howell: This is Sutine who was so violent. If you think Vincent Van Gough is violent, this man is twice as violent. He's so emotional that if you really look at his paintings, you go to pieces. But it's not the animal, it's the emotion that he's concerned with. He's painting the violence of the whole thing. His paintings as well as the subject matter are violent. I don't think I would like to [inaudible]. I think he would warn me already. Another of his paintings called The Pastry Cook. It's just as violent in its way as the last one. I think he was Central European or Russian. And another one, this is, I would say, a commissioned portrait. But it comes through. You also can see the fauve technique. Now what about this one? This is by a Norwegian. I guess Shakespeare was right when he talked about the gloomy Danes. This is pretty gloomy isn't it?

Q: Um-hmm.

Claude Howell: This is Munch, M-U-N-C-H.

Q: [inaudible].

Q: He's the one that did The Scream.

Claude Howell: The scream.

Q: -- The Scream that was--

Claude Howell: Uh-huh. The heavy outline. These people are not fauve painters from here on, they belong to the German expressionist school. It's able they were influenced by the French fouve, that was very much influenced by the French fauve, but it's heavier. It's more violent, it's more emotional. Look at that dress. It's absolutely bright. Look at the bright green shadow under her eyes. But when you look at it again, it's a wonderful color isn't it? Perfect beautiful colors. Can you see where a lot of the art in contemporary shows comes from having.

Q: Um-hmm.

Claude Howell: It doesn't seem to shock us when you see [inaudible]. All of this began from Greece right on up to this. We have seen a steady departure, a change in all of these. But you can see how one grows out of another. This is by a man who is a marvelous colorist; he's Nolde, Emil Nolde, N-O-L-D-E. So this is not very vivid color, this slide. He's also Scandanavian.

Q: What's the title of this one?

Claude Howell: I don't know the title of it.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: It does, it does.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: It's on the slide. We can check it tonight, but I'm not sure of the title. Now in Germany, the first revolt occurred in Dresden. The man who began to paint was sold an artist. This is Francis Mott, who's very talented, a very great painter. He was killed in the First World War I think he was 36 or something like that. I must just have one. This is the one you see reproduced a lot, it's called Blue Pulses.

Q: Yeah.

Claude Howell: But he's supposed to have been able to really feel the way the animals felt. He relates to the animals. Now this is an American but he moved to Germany for many years, and he was a member of the German group. His name is Feininger, Lionel Feininger, F-E-I-N-I-N-G-E-R. He has this long masses of shapes. He's influenced by the Cubists. This is Dal Catolia [ph?] and her husband who worked with the [inaudible] and were great friends, or their father was a great friend of Feininger. And they told me something once that I found very fascinating. Their house was filled with paintings by this man. They said that Feininger would go sketching, that he was always sketching. And he would put his sketch pad in his hip pocket and draw while he was looking at the thing he was drawing.


Claude Howell: Well, I-I said why did he do it?" And they said so he wouldn't be bound to reality.

Q: Say that again?

Claude Howell: He wouldn't be bound to the way things looked. He could put down what he felt about it. I think that makes sense when you think about it.


Claude Howell: But I never heard of anybody else doing that. It may be an old wives' tale, I don't know.


Claude Howell: But that's what they said. We're going to see a couple of these. But you see, it's almost like rays of light that streak across everything. Feininger, another one.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: This is one man that I would love to own.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: They're not so terribly many in existence. You don't see them too often. But every time you see one they're actually good paintings.

Q: Is that because they're in private collections?

Claude Howell: Yes, and then-- well, he wasn't as prolific as some of the other painters. He painted with lots of little brushstrokes, hundreds of little brush strokes. But it's Cubist. What we're doing, I don't know whether you noticed it, we're moving towards non-objective painting.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: It's a non-objective painting. The artists are becoming more and more interested in the painting itself than he is in what it represents, and we're going to see it constantly, we're getting close. This is one of the very emotional German sculptures. This is Lembruck, L-E-M-B-R-U-C-K. Either this one, I know the cast of it, in the museum of New York. There's the leaning youth and the standing youth. They used to be at the entrance of ________. They're very beautiful, very tall, very attenuated. The sculptures were as emotionally motivated as were the painters. [inaudible]. And the other sculpture is Barlach, B-A-R-L-A-C-H, Barlach. Can you bring that down just a little?

Q: Yes.

Claude Howell: Good, thank you.

Q: Is this Barlach?

Claude Howell: This is Barlach. These are people who were run out of Germany by Hitler. He called this degenerate everything was completely [inaudible] in the last five years. He's turning sculpture into something that we haven't seen since archaic Greece. In archaic Greece, we had the shape of the stone, the very simple column shape. Here we have the shape of the _________. So that becomes as important as the figure itself. Now the third one we get into Ernst, this is still a member of the German group, but he influenced another whole way of working, which was Dada and surrealism. This is Max Ernst, who lived for years and years and years with _______.

Q: How do you spell his name?

Claude Howell: Ernst. E-R-N-S-T, Max, Max Ernst. He was a very accomplished painter. What upsets you here is the juxtaposition of unrelated objects. This is what throws you. Everything looks real but it's not real. And it's upsetting. He is painting a state of mind too, but in an entirely different way. A piece of his sculpture. He died not so long ago.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Um-hmm, those too.

Q: Did you take this slide?

Claude Howell: Uh-huh.

Q: Was it in the East Wing of the National Gallery?

Claude Howell: No, it was in a book.

Q: Where?

Claude Howell: It was in a book.

Q: Oh.


Claude Howell: We photographed it from a book. I can tell you on the label it tells you where it is. It could be in the National Gallery. They have a lot of paintings. Now this is Max Beckmann who is one of the great social protest painters in the world at the time of Hitler. He too was run out of Germany right away by Hitler because this is called The Palm Tree. He does mainly triptychs. There's always a sense of mystery in his paintings. You know that something's not right, but you're not quite sure what it is. What he was saying was that the something that wasn't right with the Nazis and he wasn't quite sure what it was. So he was protesting. He still sticks to the technique of early German impressionism and the fauve painter. A wonderful draftsman, but he used darks, he used darks purely for emotional purposes. He has a good sense of color. This is a big painting. These figures are just about life size. Now we are still in German expressionism but this is Russian painting. This is Kandinsky. What's it a picture of?

Q: Thoughts.

Claude Howell: It's nonobjective, you see. It's a feeling. Now I'm going to-- there are two or three of these, I'm going to go real fast. You probably will change your feeling as you look because they do change. This has had an enormous influence on contemporary art. It's called automatic painting. He's all in cognition. You know you have somebody sit that can sit down at the piano. Well, he starts with a canvas and just starts painting. It comes from your inner-spirit. Jackson Pollock is going to carry this one step further. He's going to let the painting paint the picture. He is simply the vehicle through which it comes. The finished product is not supposed to be any good. It is the act of painting the picture which is the creative act. You can't go much further than that. The fallacy of that is that Jackson Pollock would sell his paintings for $100,000. So he did think that it was worthwhile after he finished, in spite of his philosophy. This is the beginning of it right here with [inaudible]. Don't you feel different?

Q: Uh-huh.

Claude Howell: These are all improvisations completely nonobjective. Now we've come to nonobjective in this way of working, we came to nonobjective last week with Homer. So we've got to the same place. The same person. Gloom, anger, you see it's content. Now we've come to a Swiss who's our last painter, who has the sense of humor, and the ability. He starts with recognizable objects for a few years, but he soon loses those. You see that's still a landscape. He worked primarily in water color. You can always tell a Klee painting because he had this, invariably he did it; he drew a line across the bottom and wrote something, either the title or his name or the date. I don't know what it is, but it's certainly a journal. We're beginning to lose the visual appearance of the painting. We're also beginning to lose the rectangle. We haven't gotten into shaped canvases yet. That will come along in America in about 20 years. I've got a book on calligraphy about two weeks ago, and this was illustrated as being one of the most beautiful examples of calligraphy in the world that the world has ever known, and they rank it with the calligraphy in the book of Tales. It is a poem.

Q: It's German.

Q: It's in German?

Claude Howell: It's in German. It's in-- I couldn't read it.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Now remember that these are the people that without whom you're automobile wouldn't look like it does, your dishwasher wouldn't look like it does, your radio wouldn't look like it does. These are the people who are responsible for all of the industrial designs that we have today. Perhaps. They're amazingly bare, very small. I'm not so sure what Ruskin would feel about this. Remember, I told you that he said that the greatest art is that which embraces the greatest number of the greatest ideas. This looks a little frightening to me, but after all the 20th Century is fragmentary. We have seen dismembered bodies because of war. [inaudible]. We live in a dismembered society, a fragmentary society. And when we listen to television, we never get any depth, it's always frightening stuff because people won't concentrate longer than a second. So you can't really get Bismarck. This is the beginning of that. This is from an art book, and it's a battle with an imaginary foe. And he does. But look what he's done with the degradation of the squares and form. And up at the top of the sky. A wonderful sense of color. He has influenced topography immensely. This is a man crying. Some of them are very delicate and then others are very heavy.

Q: Yes.

Q: It looks like [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Now this does have vision. In the very back.

Q: Yes.

Claude Howell: What he's created here is not a representation of this world; he's created his own world. What an imagination. What an imagination. All right, it's a landscape with houses isn't it?

Q: Yes.

Claude Howell: Okay, point out one.


Claude Howell: You can't do it. I tried. It's impossible. Look at the wonderful yellow. Cover up that yellow and the picture goes to pieces. It's absolutely necessary. Now you must think back now to Tapes head with the two eyes, the profile and full view. He died in 1940.

Q: It's a mosaic.

Claude Howell: It looks like a mosaic doesn't it?

Q: Yes it does.

Claude Howell: But they're all done with dabs of painting.

Q: It looks like Sherlock Holmes.


Claude Howell: Oh you can read in almost anything.

Q: [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Now this is called stage scenery. And as I looking at it I kept seeing people.

Q: Uh-huh.

Claude Howell: He uses a lot of amorphous shapes. I guess he would be then [inaudible]. But it feels balanced.

Q: It looks like that reverse embroidery.

Claude Howell: Yeah. And one more. This was the last one. He died when he was painting it.

Q: Oh.

Q: Where was he living in 1943 when he died?

Claude Howell: I'm not sure.

Q: Was he in this country?

Claude Howell: No, no, I don't think he came to this country. Probably Paris, his parents were from somewhere in Germany. He had to leave Germany during the time of Hitler, and he was from Vernon from Switzerland. He may have gone back to--

Q: Gone back to Switzerland?

Claude Howell: Uh-huh. But I don't know where he was when he passed.

Q: And what was his last name?

Claude Howell: The Verne Foundation, the Klee Foundation is in Vernon, and that's where a lot of these paintings are now.

Q: These are Klee?

Claude Howell: Uh-huh, these are all Klee, I bet the last one too. Well, we've sort of been through a lot of different types of paintings but they all have one thing in common which is emotion. Now, next week we're going to get into the irrational, the world of the subconscious things that are absolutely amazing, and we're going to talk about not only surrealism of course there's Dali, who was the big showman, but we're going to talk about Dada which is making fun of everything that you believe in so that nothing makes any sense. The theater of the absurd. This movement was going on when I was living in Paris and one of the members of this group got into pulpit of Notre Dame on a Sunday morning and said, "The Pope is a Son of a Bitch."


Claude Howell: Well, there was pandemonium because he was dressed in the robes of a priest. It was absolutely pandemonium. Another thing that they did, this is what we're going to talk about next week, another thing that they did, they said we're going to ban all types of philosophy at 8:00 tonight in such and such a hole. Lots of people went because it was pretty notorious. They went. They had 24 people all talking with loudspeakers at the same time spouting their theories. Nobody heard a word.


Claude Howell: So that's what happened. Why do you do this? You're protesting, you are protesting against the evils of the Germans. Some good can come out of it all this stuff, including some very beautiful paintings a lot that we saw tonight, was something that was very beautiful, very pleasing, and something that you could relate to. It wasn't too shocking to us. It was when it was created, but we are several generations down the road from when it was created. Okay, so much for the emotions people, now next week we get into the inside people.

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