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Documenting a period in my development that could become pivotal

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dr. Leonard Kimbrell’s Class - Backgrounds to Modern Art / Studying The Theme of Supper at Emmaus is my Background

I remember 44 years ago at Portland State University my Art History Professor, Dr. Leonard Kimbrell , with a short groomed beard and mustache looking as though he just walked out of a Rembrandt portrait painting. He was less than 5 feet tall making up for his size by his style: He had a huge scholarly presence. He amassed an awesome slide collection and delivered an original art theory supported by a precisely worded analysis for each and every work of art. He was short but he whizzed from painting to painting.

I enjoyed taking notes from Kimbrell's lectures. I made lightening fast sketches picking up on my immediate reaction to the energy in classical paintings. I drew just enough to prick my memory. I rather enjoyed the freshness and immediacy of these quick renderings. I now see a connection to these notes and my paintings in which I strive for immediacy. I believe I pick up movement and energy from the masters whether I am working from a landscape in changing light or dancers shifting from one pose to another.

I am always looking and finding paintings of Emmaus as I did this one by I. Manessier - Les Pelerins D'Emmaus, 1944 in the Le Musee De Poche, Paris. This more modern cubist painting is like the energy studies I did of old masters showing the movement and the connections of shapes and volumes. Here is an example of Tintoretta's Emmaus. More samples are below. For me the theme of Emmaus is a study inspiring in me the spirit of nature and dance. I do not have a desire to illustrate the Biblical Story.

Picking up my term paper a couple weeks ago I looked through it and arrived at an epiphany. The 1964 term paper for Kimbrell’s Backgrounds to Modern Art is a tangible document of the beginnings of my direction in painting. The paper compiled numerous studies of The Supper At Emmaus during the Mannerist period. Then subsequent paintings revealed a direction for modern art. I have continued to keep my eyes open for paintings of the same theme and think about how they relate to my own art.

Below is a copy of Tintoretta's painting from the website on a current exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art. http://www.mfa.org/venice/exhibition.html Additional analitical drawings below.

The many examples of 16th and 17th century Supper at Emmaus paintings have a very strong technical interest in surfaces like fabric and painting of things. These paintings were sometimes commissioned by rich patrons requesting perhaps some of their own possessions and family to be immortalized in the painting. Rembrandt on the other hand did his spiritual etchings and drawings not so much for sale. His spiritual paintings by contrast captured his personal experience of the theme with an economy of elements composed with expressive feelings.

Katharine Kuh wrote an article on the occasion of a Rembrandt exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago January 1970. Kuh wrote, " What makes Rembrandt incomparable is a combination of all these attributes ( in other great painters such as Breughel, Daumier, vanGogh: What sets him apart from others is): his humanity, his light that is more than a physical element as it shines through and isolates apocalyptic encounters, plus - and the plus is big - his drive to expose the living core of everything he touches, the core of man and the individual men, of the earth itself. This he did with modest means. In a tiny drawing, with a smudge or two, a sweeping line, a few calligraphic pen strokes, he generated a spacious landscape, moving, expanding before our eyes. ... In reaching for bare truths, he did not remove the supernatural from life, nor did he permit irrelevancy to obscure it." Saturday Review/ January 10, 1970 p. 47.

Kuh words here have been an important confirmation of me and my background education. I am always trying to leave out the unnecessary as in the gesteral dancers below.
"Ballet Lesson in Havera" 1994 watercolor, NFS

In my own art journey I want to reach the core avoiding painting things for the sake of their surface. I am grateful of Dr. Kimbrell's focus on art history and the other Portland State University faculty who in the 1960s valued the painterly, the intuitive, and the language of painting. The faculty included Frederick Heidel, Richard Muller, Richard Prasch, Robert Colescott, Elizabeth Galzier, Florence Saltzman, Ray Grimm, and Frederick Littman.


Darlene said...

Rembrandt is my daughter's favorite artist. Five years ago we were lucky enough to view a showing of his religious paintings at the J. Paul Getty museum. It was quite a thrill.

Rain said...

That is an interesting path that you have revealed. I think it could be helpful to other artists seeking to find their own

Parapluie said...

Thank you for your comments Darlene and Rain. I am encouraged to continue to write about more topics from my term paper in future posts. It takes a lot of work for me.

Casey Klahn said...

I wonder, too, why I love the Rembrandt one most of all. You are on to something with this, and I'll be thinking about it as I explore his work.

Cool website at the MFA, Boston. Thanks for sharing that!

Your paper looks great. I look forward to seeing more from it.