Tag Archives: American art

William Glackens – American Realist Painter

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The timeframe in which William Glackens lived was anything but stable. He was born on the swell of the second industrial revolution, was in his adult years during the First World War and died towards the end of the Great Depression. As a career artist, it only seems natural that Glackens would reflect the stark difference each era brought – and he did, but not in the way everyone would think. Even though his stylistic preferences changed, he had a constant presence in the world of fine art, his family, and his circle of friends and colleagues.

Glackens reaped success with three different art styles: illustration, realism and impressionism. His career began in 1891 as an illustrative reporter for Philadelphia newspapers. Eventually, he went to Cuba with the U.S. Army to capture the events of the Spanish-American war. In this span of 7 years, he would travel to Europe, settle in New York and meet the group of men who would play significant roles in his development as an artist.

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“The Eight” was a popular name for the artist clique that Glackens was part of. Led by Robert Henri, The Eight was an organic collection of artists that grew from a casual art community. At start, these broad gatherings hosted artists who would socialize, showcase, and critique one another’s artwork. The title of “The Eight” wasn’t given until later, in 1908, when eight artists, including Henri and Glackens, joined together to display art that was not yet accepted by mainstream society.

Under Henri’s guidance, this group developed into the Ashcan School of American Art. Glackens is considered one of the founders of this movement. He also earned the title of an “Aschan realist.” Different from popular work of the time, this collection of artists “favored cheerful subjects of leisure activities over the dark manner and social realism of others….”

www.segmation.comIn 1904, Glackens personal life flourished too. He married a woman from Connecticut named Edith Dimock. Together, they raised two children in their home in Greenwich Village. Glackens relationship with his family, like his relationship with art, was considered abnormal for bohemian artists of the day, as he was greatly devoted to them. More so, his commitment to his family mirrors his commitment to art; he always remained true to his passions, even as they changed with time.

Shortly after beginning his family, Glackens began adopting stylistic markings that differed from those of the Aschan movement. He started shifting towards mainstream impressionism and incorporating lively colors into his artwork. After moving from using dark-hues for some time, he opened himself to a world of color. According to an admirer of his work, Forbes Watson, this was exactly where Glackens was meant to be. Watson said of his friend, “the color of the world makes him thoroughly happy and to express that happiness in color has become his first and most natural impulse.”

Some would even refer to Glackens as the “American Renoir.” Even though this title bucked against the realist style he strived for when displaying art alongside “The Eight,” he didn’t mind being given the nickname of the French impressionist painter. He is quoted as saying, “Can you think of a better man to follow than Renoir?”

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As Glackens artistic style matured, so did his career. In 1916, he became the president of the Society of Independent artists. He also received awards from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Even as the next generation of artists began to pursue art forms that were abstract and politically charged, his “old-fashioned” artwork continued to offer him stability in life.

On May 22, 1938, Glackens passed away. His death at the age of 68 was sudden. His memory was honored by friends and fans who gathered at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh.

The legacy William Glackens lives on today. He has a strong presence in the Aschan School. In addition, he will always be remembered as one of “The Eight.” Even when his style transformed and strayed from the style of the group, he remained true to his friends, his family and to his calling to art.

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The Op-Art of Josef Albers

Josef Albers, photograph by Arnold Newman, 1948. © Arnold Newman

In a recent post, a popular art form of the 20th century was introduced. Op-Art puts thought provoking optical illusions onto a flat canvas. During the early 1900’s, the art form flourished with the creative use of lines and patterns. At the start, artists used black and white paint or ink to create captivating images; color was incorporated later. One artist and theorist at the forefront of this art style, who also pioneered the technique of adding color, was a man by the name Josef Albers.

German-born American artist, Josef Albers studied at the Bauhaus school for arts and crafts in Germany. The school existed at the time of Nazi dominance in Germany and, subsequently, closed in 1933. After spending decade at Bauhaus as an art instructor, Alber’s emigrated to the United States, where he continued his career as an artist and teacher.

After spending some time in the United States, Albers accepted a position at teaching at Yale University. It was there that Josef Albers was able to advance the graphic art program before retiring from teaching in 1958.

In the early years of his retirement, as a fellow at Yale, Albers received funding to exhibit and lecture on the art form he had done so much to advance. By this time, Albers had catapulted many artists into successful careers. The list of notable students includes Richard Anuszkiewicz and Eva Hesse. Both artists are considered major forces in the Op-Art movement that swept the world during the 1960’s and 70’s.

Aside from his artwork and teaching, Josef Albers added another form of art to his long list of talents: In 1963, his book, Interaction of Color detailed the theory behind colorful op-art. This writing built upon a foundational thought of Albers — that colors have an internal and deceptive logic all-their-own.

Albers continued to paint and write until he died in 1976. However, the impression he left on the world of art, especially as an abstract painter and theorist, continues to live and influence abstract art today. Even though much of his work is well known and recognizable, it continues to thrive because of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. To this day, the organization supports exhibitions featuring the work of Josef Albers and his wife Anni, who was a textile artist.

The contribution Josef Albers made to the world of art is undeniable. He was successful at merging traditional European art with modern American art, to create an abstract style all his own. While his roots were grounded in the type of constructivist thinking that allowed Bauhaus school of arts and crafts to flourish, his experiences in America allowed him freedom to explore patterns and colors that are now the signature of optical art.

Op-art and graphic art continue to advance while consistently affirming Josef Albers influence. The world renowned teacher, artist, and color theorist is very much alive in the work of abstract artists today. Whether it is through his written words, paintings, or students who survived him, Albers will influence young artists for years to come.

No words can conclude a story about the life of this great man, except, perhaps his own. Alber’s was quoted as saying, “Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. I prefer to see with closed eyes.” Others are happy to have their eyes opened by the influential life and art of Josef Albers. May his legacy and art been seen for years to come.

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