And other excerpts from our coverage 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago
100 Years Ago
“British Craftsmen’s Display”
It may safely be predicted that the future generation will benefit by the war to the extent of inheriting valuable family portraits by Orpen, for in the generosity of his heart, this talented artist has volunteered to execute portraits during the duration of the war for the sum of £50, the entire amount to be devoted to the relief funds. As may be easily credited, there is no lack of sitters and it may as easily be assumed, that a fair percentage of them might well have afforded Mr. Orpen’s more usual fees! Still, in these times one must refrain from too critical an examination of motives and be thankful that Mr. Orpen’s most excellent offer has received so enthusiastic a response!
75 Years Ago
“Intimate Cézanne Centennial: Paying Delightful Honor to the Master of Aix: 1839–1939”
By Alfred M. Frankfurter
Someone recently said of Cézanne that his epitaph might be “The Great Amateur,” and, in its broadest meaning, it is a trenchant, perfectly true, even if slightly incomplete, characterization. The kind of amateur of which I think, represents a classification for the major part of Cézanne’s greatness. It takes in the uncompromising spirit, the ever dissatisfied ambition and the never tired renewal of effort to which the professional, in the sense that he is bound to his art by all the economic ties of modern times, can never attain as can the independent agent. Here is something of a guide to the chart that incredible progress of Cézanne from the moment at which he was able and willing to throw away his perfected achievement in the Impressionist formula and, to all intent, begin over again on his own. And it is also a guide to the unique final result when one views the artist’s output in entirety—that strange and often bewildering mélange of epochal masterpieces and sketchy projects and rejected efforts, the sum of a creative life which never had to satisfy anybody else. To this species of what one could call divine amateurism the present showing is an especially good index for, without including any of the familiar monuments of Cézanne’s art, it has somehow lighted on nearly each of the elements that went to make up his artistic personality (and so again atoning for the self-portrait lacuna).
5O Years Ago
“Derain: Illusion and Disillusion”
By Sarah C. Faunce
Derain is the kind of artist who raises questions rather than answers them—questions which may in a strict sense be extra-esthetic but which remain insistently interesting. In thinking about him one cannot remain within the limited and relatively simple categories of the evolution of visual form: one is forced to consider the spiritual character of the man, the problem of the effect upon talent of certain kinds of experience in the modern world, the problem of the relation between traditional forms of intellect and the creative impulse in this world—and other questions of an equally unmanageable sort. … He was a vital figure in the Paris art world of the years before World War I—that decade which saw the gathering of so many and such diverse talents, and an astonishing fertility of styles. It was a time of which we are only beginning to grasp the mulptile significance. Each separate thread that is sorted out and seen in relation to this time and to what came afterward is a contribution to the understanding of this remarkable period. It came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Great War. No artist and no style was the same afterwards.
25 Years Ago
“Growing Up Absurd”
By Arthur C. Danto
There is a dark irony in the fact that Eva Hesse speaks with her greatest vitality and authority in an interview with Cindy Nemser published in the month of her death, May 1970, at 34. There is a certain gaiety of tone in her observations and a striking concern to view her life as a whole. But there is no further expressed sentiment that death is near or that its imminence is especially frightening. Hesse confesses to a vivid admiration for Andy Warhol as “the most as an artist that you could be. His art and his statement and his person are the same. It is what I want to be, the most Eva can be as an artist and person.” And she seems confident that she, too, has achieved this, existentially, so to speak, and artistically. “I am interested in solving an unknown factor of art and an unknown factor of life,” she explains. “My life and art have not been separated. They have been together.” . . . “Absurdity,” she says, “is the key word.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 128.