L’art de la bohème in Turn-of-the-Century Montmartre

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Now what many Parisians consider an arrondissement almost wholly belonging to tourists, Montmartre was once a bucolic village on a hill where artists flocked to escape from the city. It was a meeting place for the avant-garde, the Paris-rejects, the burgeoning artistic movements not yet accepted by the majority. Picasso got his start in Montmartre before gaining popularity, Van Gogh created an entire series of works on the area, and famed composer Erik Satie created his hauntingly beautiful Gymnopédies upon moving to the town. Something about this cross between city and country inspired the beautiful and, often, the absurd.
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On the Radar: Gerhard Richter’s Emotional Photo-Painting of His Aunt

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Tante Marianne, 1965, Copyright Gerhard Richter.

For those familiar with Gerhard Richter, he is often associated with his abstract, colorful “squeegee” works. A large portion of his artistic production, however, consists of photo paintings that include his trademark “blur.” In this particular painting–one of his early works–Richter copied a photo of his Aunt Marianne holding Richter as an infant. His Aunt developed Schizophrenia, spent 21 years in a sanatorium, and was euthanized in 1945 as part of Nazi Germany’s “Aktion T4” program, meant to “cleanse” society of mentally “unfit” individuals. Of the painting, Richter said:

“Idiots can do what I do. When I first started to do this [projecting photos on the canvas and painting them after having them traced in details with a piece of charcoal] in the 60’s, people laughed. I clearly showed that I painted from photographs. It seemed so juvenile. The provocation was purely formal – that I was making paintings like photographs. Nobody asked about what was in the pictures. Nobody asked who my Aunt Marianne was. That didn’t seem to be the point.”

-From Wikipedia

This idea that anyone could do what he did taken in the context of this work reminds one of the idea that “ordinary men” did this to his aunt; average people could have done this, and they did.

Sources: Wikipedia (DE) — Marianne Schönfelder, B.Z. Berlin