Tag Archives: Artist

Marisol, the enigmatic Latin Garbo, Warhol muse, Artist-Sculptor, Obituary

Last Supper for Artist Marisol

Marisol Escobar for Time Magazine, 1957
Marisol Escobar for Time Magazine, 1957

A belated obituary of Marisol, who died 2 weeks ago. She was a Bohemian enigma, speaking rarely; described as the Latin Garbo. As a muse of Warhol, she appeared in two Andy Warhol movies – The Kiss and 13 Most Beautiful Girls, “the first girl artist with glamour”. But it was as an artist and sculptor in her own right, that she was the disputed “undisputed queen of pop art”, including by herself and Grace Glueck (New York Times, 1965) – not whether she was queen, but whether it was even Pop Art she was creating.

Marisol abandoned her father’s family name Escobar to make a name in her own right, to “stand out from the crowd”. A Venezuelan, born in Paris, made famous in New York, who was inspired by pre-Colombian art, she was international in her influences. Whilst she started out in painting, in the 1950s she shifted to sculpture, becoming well known only in the 1960s after 5 years travel abroad, despite a well-received first exhibition in 1958.

“Marisol’s sophisticated aesthetic immediately linked her to the new Pop Art movement, but her work remained in a category of its own, displaying a myriad of influences from sources as diverse as Pre-Colombian art and Surrealist imagery. Even today, Marisol’s art resists any linear curatorial reading.” – Review of Sotheby’s Lot by Carter B. Horsley, (2005)

Indeed, her influences and output combined Americas heritage folk art, Pop Art, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism – “a hodgepodge of influences that make up a person’s identity.”

Marisol – The Party

The Cocktail Party - Marisol Escobar, 1965-66
The Cocktail Party – Marisol Escobar, 1965-66

One such art work, which might be described as a mixed media sculpture or installation was the ‘The (Cocktail) Party’, consisting of 15 freestanding figures and ‘accessories’ carved, cast, collaged, photographed and printed. Created during 1965-1966, it sold 40 years later for nearly a million dollars, double its estimate, at Sotheby’s, New York.

The work, like many of hers, bore her face on each figure. Curious for someone whose background personal angst, since her mother’s suicide when she was aged 11, led to a lot of self-analysis and self-enforced silence. Her creations instead were her voice, her image, her projection into, and of, the world, giving it depth, “form and weight”.

“I began to make self-portraits because working at night I had no other model. I used myself over and over again. At time making these self-portraits, I would learn about myself” – Marisol (1968)

Art as Rebellion & Humour

Among her art teachers was abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann, who was “perhaps more influential as a teacher than as an artist“, but she broke away from Hofmann’s adherence to the “flatness of the canvas” despite his interest in the “the illusion of three-dimensional space“, emerging instead as a sculptor, in which she was mainly self-taught, and embarked upon as:

“a kind of rebellion. Everything was so serious – I started to do something funny so that I would become happier – and it worked.” – Marisol (1965)

She regularly used humour and “social satire” in her work poking satirical fun at the possessions and personalities of her subjects, or the strict parameters of the art world’s curators and critics.

“What endures in Marisol’s work is the universality of the impulses she captures. Truly a sculptor of modern life, she evokes the venality of social climbers, the integrity of great artists, the contradictions of the powerful and the quiet dignity of the dispossessed. She feels both their absurdity and their pain and encourages us to do the same” – Eleanor Heartney (2001)

Portraits and Self-Portraiture

Marisol Escobar, Portrait of Willem de Kooning, 1980
Marisol Escobar, Portrait of Willem de Kooning, 1980

Her subjects included migrants and street children, but also those she admired. Willem de Kooning became a friend, brief lover, and ended up in an oak and ash wooden sculpted ‘portrait‘ himself.

Other artists and personalities also ended up as portraits – Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Hugh Heffner, John Wayne, the Kennedys, and others. It is her own face, nonetheless, that so often appears in works, even in an homage to Leonardo da Vinci, in an installation that includes herself viewing a three-dimensional carved Last Supper.

“Whatever the artist makes is always a kind of self-portrait.” – Marisol

Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper - Marisol Escobar, 1984
Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper – Marisol Escobar, 1984

Franz Marc, German artist, painter of not just cats & abstract blue horses

German Artist, Franz Marc, 1880-1916

The Tower of Blue Horses, Franz Marc, 1913
Franz Marc, “The Tower of Blue Horses”, 1913, (missing since 1945)

Bavarian artist Franz Marc died 100 years ago today on 4 March 1916 at the Battle of Verdun, despite an order to withdraw him as a prominent artist. With his love of horses, he appropriately signed-up as a cavalryman and also developed artist-inspired Pointillist painted camouflage for German artillery.

It was a First World War that he oddly believed in despite his art being proscribed as an entarteter Künstler, or “degenerate artist“, during the Nazi era, a quarter of a century after his death. That led to the removal of some 130 paintings from German museums in the late 1930s, some of which were only rediscovered in 2011 in the Cornelius Gurlitt art horde.

Franz Marc, 1910
Franz Marc, 1910

“Serious art has been the work of individual artists whose art has had nothing to do with style because they were not in the least connected with the style or the needs of the masses. Their work arose rather in defiance of their times.” – Franz Marc

Marc painted and drew well over 500 oil paintings, drawings and watercolours, as well as being a woodcut and lithographic printmaker, and whose works now appear on postcards everywhere. Whilst his father Wilhelm Marc was a professional landscape painter he was influenced by studies in Munich and Paris, and inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism.

Friendship with Wassily Kandinsky

The Last Judgement, Kandinsky, 1912
Kandinsky, “The Last Judgement”, 1912

He counted Russian-born artist Wassily Kandinsky as a friend and co-founder of the art collective Der Blaue Reiter, 1911-14.

The Blue Rider” comprised artists formed out of tensions with NKVM, also founded by Kandinsky in 1909, and the rejection of Kandinsky’s “Last Judgement” painting. Although “The Blue Rider” was a 1903 painting by Kandinsky he later suggested the movement’s name was derived from his love of riders and Marc’s enthusiasm for horses, and their shared love of the colour blue. The group folded with the deaths of  Marc and fellow artist August Macke in World War I and the return of Russian-born members to their home country.

The First Abstract Art Painting

Hilma af Klint, Chaos, 1906
Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction V – “Primordial Chaos”, painted 1906-07. From an exhibition at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Although Kandinsky is often credited with creating the first abstract artwork in 1910, Tate‘s 2013 retrospective and The Serpentine Gallery‘s current exhibition (3 March-15 May) of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) would suggest otherwise.

She, yes – a female artist for Sweden was ahead of other nations in allowing women to study art and paint alongside men, was producing abstract paintings from 1906. Curator, Iris Müller-Westermann, describes Af Klint as an “outsider”, a “disturbing artist” who could “rewrite art history”.

Art, Nature, Spirituality & Cats!

Hilma Af Klint’s love of animals, plants, and their science, forged a bond between her art and the the natural world, and an evolution from traditional landscape to abstract art. Her non-traditional ‘occult’ spirituality also inspired her work.

“Today we are searching for things in nature that are hidden behind the veil of appearance… We look for and paint this inner, spiritual side of nature.” – Franz Marc

Franz Marc was also engaged by animals and wild colours that reflected inner emotion and spirituality not the natural world as seen on the surface. Thus his trademark blue horses, a red horse, yellow cow or even a purple hare, might be represented, though many of his earlier painted cats bore more naturalistic colours:

 Increasingly abstract cats in the art of Franz Marc, 1909-1913
Increasingly abstract cats in the art of Franz Marc, 1909-1913

Whilst not as obsessed and pursued by colour as perhaps Monet, nonetheless he imbued his use of colour with meaning and metaphor:

“Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two.” – Franz Marc

He was looking for the “inner truth of things” and it was a quest that took him back to nature:

“Marc found this nature-oriented quest for spiritual redemption inspiring. His vision of nature was pantheistic; he believed that animals possessed a certain godliness that men had long since lost. “People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings,” he wrote in 1915. “But animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me.” By 1907 he devoted himself almost exclusively to the representation of animals in nature.” – Guggenheim

Marc had planned to train as a theologian but instead went into art and married artists, twice. His artistic depictions of the beauty and innocence of animals were painted against a contrasting backdrop of the years leading up to the First World War, a war that cut short his life and art career at just 36 years old.

Selection of Franz Marc paintings
Selection of Franz Marc paintings (click for more)