There was a time in the not-so-distant past when my interest in art history stopped at Post-Impressionism. When I read art books and visited museums, I was instinctually drawn to artwork from the Italian Renaissance through Impressionism and curious to learn about the culture of those eras. When it came to contemporary art, I spent many years just trying to objectively observe and understand everything that was happening in our representational art world and anytime I would glance at the modern art scene there was little that peaked or held my interest.
|Jeanne Hébuterne by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918, oil painting, 36 x 28.
Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Within the last three years or so, however, I've noticed that my eye is changing. A certain restlessness with the familiar is giving way to a search for something new, sparked by a few key individuals whose ways of painting and thinking have pushed my perspective in a new direction. I find myself increasingly interested in work that is skillfully done and respects tradition but that is emotive, expressive, and has contemporary subject matter and style. I am also looking at various forms of abstract and modern art and enjoying the harmony and playfulness of colors, lines, and shapes that seem to coalesce with effortless ease.
I think I started to fully realize this transition within the past year. Last September, while visiting the Lucian Freud show at The Met, I found myself in the modern wing for the second time in my life. I loved the enigmatic subject matter and energetic colors that surrounded me, and found myself intrigued by the works of Modigliani, Soutine, Boccioni, and others. The following month, while in the Pitti Palace, in Florence, I was shocked at how much time I spent in the modern gallery marveling at paintings by such artists as Bernardini (1891-1974) and especially Costetti (ca. 1875-1949) when there were Raphaels and Titians just steps away.
I am pleasantly surprised at this new appreciation and want it to be an extension of the movements I already know and love. I will always have my Old Master favorites, but the art-historical work that is speaking to me at the moment is from artists who built bridges from the old to the new (such as Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso), and in today's art those who combine the skill and tradition of the past with the contemporary content and critical thinking of the present.
My hope is that we are entering a time when each side of the artistic divide can appreciate the other. I am learning that dismissing anything that has happened or is happening in art is dangerous. There is a reason why certain artistic styles and statements appear when they do: they are a reflection of the current cultural and societal climate and a foreshadowing of what's to come. If you watch with open eyes and mind, it helps you understand more about who you are (or are not) as a painter and where you want to go.
How about you? Have you found that your eye and aesthetic has changed over time as you've evolved as an artist, or do the styles and concepts that initially drew you to painting continue to be your inspiration? Leave a comment and let us know.