First They Came for Black

Venus 3

Newberry, Venus 3, oil on linen, 46 x 26 inches.

First they came for black and removed it from our spectrum. Next to go were the colors of light and shadow. They said that color was a power in its own right, not to be used as a slave to luminosity. The real, they said, was freedom from restrictions.

They came for form, claiming that the canvas was flat. Next to go were proportion and spatial depth. They said that painting projected the outside world, like looking through a window was a lie. The real, they said, was that paint was paint and it shouldn’t look like something it is not. Continue reading “First They Came for Black”

Making Sense of Kant’s Senseless Sublime

1051px-Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo_-_Rinaldo_Enchanted_by_Armida_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgGiovanni Battista Tiepolo, Rinaldo Enchanted by Armida, 1742 until 1745. Was this the kind of work Kant associated with charms and sensual delights of beauty?

Originally published online at The Atlas Society.

Making Sense of Kant’s Senseless Sublime

In the last decade of the 18th century Beethoven composed his 1st and 2nd piano concertos, Goya etched the series Los Caprichos, Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat, and Mozart composed the Requiem in D Minor and the great Jupiter Symphony. These works coincided with the French Revolution, and together they guided European culture away from the extravagant art of Rococo exemplified by the sweetly-colored paintings of Boucher and Tiepolo, with their floating florid nymphs, cupids, silks, and princesses.

699px-Jacques-Louis_David_-_Marat_assassinated_-_Google_Art_Project_2.jpg

Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat, 1793. The period of the French Revolution marked a new period of art with more gravitas.

This was a paradigm shift from the superficial to gut wrenching passion, as if Western art was going back to its roots in the dramas of Aeschylus and Euripides; answering the big questions of what is the good and what is important while at the same time elevating the creative process by innovation and superlative skill. This wasn’t for the faint of heart. The artists would have to face inner turmoil and outer rejection as they attempted to get patrons to sponsor wildly dramatic depictions of death, war, and executions, which didn’t lend themselves to the decorative palace dining room.  Risking their livelihoods the artists bore down in this new direction. With this revolutionary spirit we can see the need for a new aesthetic to champion and reflect an Age of Enlightenment.

The Sublime the Absolutely Great
The year 1790, when Beethoven was 20, also marked the publication of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment. It famously compares and contrasts the aesthetic values of Beauty with that of the Sublime. The treatise identifies Beauty representing the lighter more sensual pleasing side and the Sublime addressing what is the “absolutely great beyond all comparison.” Kant wanted to free the Sublime from the constraints of art and launch it into the world of the mind unfettered by perception, form, or realization. Continue reading “Making Sense of Kant’s Senseless Sublime”

Of Nudes and Knowledge

oil painting of the back view of Eve from Adam and Eve.

First published by The Atlas Society.

One of the more poetic events in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is when the protagonist, Howard Roark comes to watch Dominique posing naked for Mallory’s marble sculpture. The sculpture is of the human spirit destined for the Stoddard Temple. The three of them experience a perfect synergy of admiration, creativity, and beauty.

Further plot events see the destruction of the Stoddard Temple, one of the many painful obstacles Roark needs to overcome to continue his unique and innovative vision of architecture.

marlene dietrich the song of songs   studio2
Stills from Song of Songs starring Marlene Dietrich and Brian Aherne

In a way, we can look at art history and see some patterns similar to The Fountainhead that include the beautiful nude, innovations, and the power of the creative artist.

Continue reading “Of Nudes and Knowledge”

Figure the Future, 66 min

Figure the Future
By Michael Newberry
Presented by The Atlas Society, 2008

The premise of this talk is that the heroic and beautiful nude is contemporaneously linked with human evolutionary advancements.

The great nudes witnessed the development of individuals rights in politics, with reason replacing superstition in the humanities, and with authenticity of the human spirit rather than the status symbols of the ruled and rulers. It also was widely appreciated prior to the dawn of democracy and Greek developments of science, philosophy, and aesthetics; prior to the birth of art history, artist’s anatomy (under penalty of death if discovered doing autopsies in Michelangelo’s time); and prior to the replacement of monarchies with democracy.

0:17 Introduction by Robert Bidinotto

3:03 The Nude as the Personification of the Individual The Status of Clothed Figures Ramasus, Queen Elizabeth 1, Ingres, Millet, Whistler, Wyeth, Pearlstein, and Richter.

15:12 Individuality Expressed Through the Nude Courbet, Durer, Bellini, Boucher, Manet, and Renoir.

23:26 The Best Within-Many humans want a balance of happiness, beauty, wealth, health, and good relationships. One device artists developed was proportions of the human figure, a very hard-won technical milestone, to give us not a lesson but what a successful human stance looks like. First Artists to Sign Works, Polyclitus, Praxiteles, Humans as godlike.

27:39 Nude as Inspiration Michelangelo, Galileo, Joseph Dauben, Capuletti.

30:05 The Nude Adjacent to Moving Humanity Forward: Interesting Cultural Developments — Bridging Ancient Greece to the Renaissance – Orbit of Individuals Solon, Democracy, Aristophanes, Botticelli, Translation of Aristotle, Vasari (First Art Historian), Madame de Pompadour, Diderot, Manet’s Olympia, Hugo, Bizet, Copley, American Revolution, Mercy Otis Warren, Rossetti, Eakins, Walt Whitman, Emerson.

42:53 An Aside: Turning Leaves of Grass to Trash to Postmodern Art

44:18 Nazis and the Heroic Nude

45:43 Cultural Conflict — Sabotaging the State The Last Judgment, Heroic Nudes Create Conflict with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Religions.

47:50 Where We Are Today Lucian Freud, Schipperheyn, Collins, and Feldman.

51:19 Q & A Roman Copies, Nudes Convey Individuality of Traits, Erotic Elements, Postmodernists are Grumpy People, Heroic Nude Helped to Defeat the Nazis? Humanism vs Christianity reflected in Renaissance Art, Courageous Figurative Artists, Nudes as Dangerous to Status Quo Cultures, Obscenity, Michelangelo’s Popular Appeal, Propaganda, and Appropriation of Great Art.

Michael Newberry lives in Idyllwild, California with his dog Frida. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Athens, and Rome. He shows at the White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.