Thursday, January 19, 2012

Words of Wisdom: R.H. Ives Gammell

Great painting is the result of two factors.  The first essential is that the painter should be expressing his own genuine emotional reactions in a form which is the appropriate vehicle for that expression.  The second factor is that he should be a master of that form.
~ R.H. Ives Gammell


eugubino said...

The painting doesn't match the wisdom ,looks like a stilted silent movie film set,though the technical mastery of light and anatomy is clear. - Thanks for this superb blog

jeronimus said...

I agree with eugubio. This kind of painting which cherry picks scenes from mythology in order to cheaply objectify and disempower women, is not worthy of this wonderful blog. The problem is not with the nudity, but with hackneyed presentation of nudity.

innisart said...

Ehhh... I'll start by saying that this is not my favorite work by Gammell. I prefer his portraits to this genre work. However, this was the image I had that was of the best quality and not previously used.

This could still be "expressing HIS own genuine emotions." I can't speak for Gammell.

As far as the Shulamite's attire goes, it can mean lots of things. She was stolen by Solomon, and I think it is safe to say that his motives were not without lust. That he chose to paint this scene in 1934 does not automatically mean however that Gammell's interests were prurient.

Some might argue that she is representative of the Church, and Gammell could be purposefully complaining about what the militaristic society was doing to the sanctity of the Church. Using nudity could very well be making a statement - you just have to know the filter to understand the language.

The museum which houses this painting has a different interpretation. This is what they have to say:

Although his narrative illustrates a biblical text, it also symbolically represents the artist's concern that ideal beauty has been lost in the modern world. The desire to combine realistic subject matter and symbolic content was at the center of Gammell's beliefs about art and imbued his approach to teaching.

James Raczkowski said...

regardless of your personal beliefs this is a superbly executed painting. It is my first time seeing work by this artist. I am thankful that i came across you blog and the related post.


Gabriel Mark Lipper said...

There is nothing in this painting to suggest that this artist has strayed from his genuine emotional reaction to the painted subject. His goal may not even have been objectification. There will always be some in this world who are truly awe struck by the beauty of a woman and others who are threatened by it.
Often, a viewers response to a piece can give us as much insight into the viewers state of mind as the painting does for the artists' "genuine emotional reaction". Based on Gammeli's choice of vehicle, I would guess him to be a man who views his subjects through a clinical and monochromatic lens. The work is stayed and safe. His painting is ruled by technique, not genuine emotional reactions. I love the composition.
Thanks Matthew,
keep em coming.

jeronimus said...

I doubt the artist was consciously trying to objectify, commodify and disempower women, but that doesn't make it acceptable.

innisart said...

That's why I always paint Adam and Eve clothed, even before they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. You know, wouldn't want someone to get the wrong idea.

jeronimus said...

As I have said already, the problem with this kind of painting is not the nudity, but the cliche of the female as a helpless, swooning slave, already worn out as a subject by the Orientalists in the 19th century. This is bad art.

jeronimus said...

To quote from Gammell's biography: "he soon realized that he was completely out of step with the times and under the stress of this oppressive realization as well as the stress of the impending war in Europe, he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1939. He made a slow recovery, and was aided in this process by the writings of Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung."
All credit to Gammell for eventually realising that he was sometimes on the wrong side of history by perpetuating toxic cultural attitudes from the 19th century. The cumulative toxic effect of disempowering imagery (conscious or unconscious) is destructive not only to the disempowered but to the artist perpetuating the imagery. It is not an issue to be brushed off lightly.
I am all for preserving traditional art techniques from the 19th century, but even cultural conservatives can question some of the attitudes of that period, and the presentation of this kind of imagery as great art.
Thanks for posting it anyway.