BCD#22

Blind Contour Drawing #22 – “Fingal” Gillian Ayres, 2005

Gillian Ayres was born in 1930 in Barnes, London and grew up in comfort due to her family’s hat making business. She developed interest in art early and enrolled at the age of 16 in the Camberwell School of Art and Crafts.

Ayres exhibited with Young Contemporaries in 1949 and with the London Group in 1951. Her first solo show was at Gallery One, London, in 1956. The following year she was commissioned to create a large-scale mural for South Hampstead High School for Girls. It was not appreciated at the time and was quickly covered with wallpaper. Luckily it was rediscovered in 1983 in nearly perfect condition.

She met her husband, Henry Mundy at school and they married in 1951. They had two sons and eventually divorced in 1981 but remained friends and continued to live together in the same house painting in their separate studios. Mundy and many of his friends were ex-servicemen, their distain towards traditionalists suited Ayres anti-authoritarian attitude and helped her find her voice in abstraction.

Ayres’ early works were usually made with thin vinyl paint with a limited palette. She matured as an artist in the 1950s, in the heyday of “experimental art.” Her rebellious nature helped her to become one of the first British admirers of Jackson Pollock.

Her later works in oil paint are very colourful and thick with paint. Her huge canvases were often worked on in sitting-rooms and bedrooms while her bantams, peacocks, cats and dogs roamed freely from her garden to the kitchen to the studio. The marks of their paws and claws may still be detected in some paintings.

In 1957 Ayres showed at the significant exhibition Metavisual, Tachiste, Abstract: Painting in England Today, at the Redfern gallery. She was the only woman in the Situation exhibition at the RBA Galleries in 1960, the first group show of British abstract art of the new decade.

Ayres worked part-time at the AIA Gallery from 1951-59 before starting to teach. She held a number of teaching positions through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1959, she was asked to teach at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, for six weeks. They asked her to stay and she remained on the teaching staff until 1965.

In 1965 she became a senior lecturer at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, she stayed there until 1978 when she became head of painting at Winchester School of Art in 1978, she was the first female teacher in the UK to this position. She left teaching in 1981, and moved north-west Wales to become a full-time painter. 1987 she relocated to the North Devon-Cornwall border where she remained for the rest of her life.

She smoked about 3 packs of cigarettes a day, worked throughout the night if she felt like it, gave money to friends, wasn’t much of a housekeeper, collected broken pieces of china and loved Elizabethan poetry. Her favourite painter was Rubens. Ayres ignored most advice, including medical and didn’t have much time for current affairs.

Ayres was one of Britain’s most significant abstract painters and has been described as courageous, independent, determined with a generous heart.

She died at the age of 88 near her beloved cottage and studio in North Devon. Her paintings and prints are held by major museums and galleries around the world.

Born: 1930, London
Died: 2018, North Devon

 

BCD#19

Blind Contour Drawing #19 – “Falling from the Sky” Tsuneko Kokubo 2013

Tsuneko Kokubo was born in Steveston B.C., in 1937, and raised in by her Grandparents during WWII in Japan. Returning to Canada in her late teens, she studied Fine Arts for four years at Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University), focusing on drawing and painting.

She has worked extensively in theatre as a performer, dancer, costume designer and continues to do so.  In 1990, she became a full-time painter, working mainly in oils and acrylics.  Her life, like many other Japanese Canadians has been filled with hardship but she chooses to focus on beauty, especially from her garden and mountain home.  She weaves bright colours, images of plants and her life memories to create beautiful and often haunting stories on canvas.

Kokubo has had numerous exhibitions, and has paintings in private collections in Canada, Europe, Japan, Mexico and the USA.

Born: 1937, Steveston, B.C. Canada

Tsuneko Kokubo’s website:  tsunekokokubo.ca

You can learn more about Japanese Canadian artists in this wonderful directory: japanesecanadianartists.com

This is a beautiful short video that was made of Kokubo (Koko) that I would recommend watching:

https://tellingthestoriesofthenikkei.wordpress.com/falling-from-the-sky-tsuneko-kokubo-koko/

I inspire to see her work in person one day and hope to be painting well into my 80’s.

 

BCD#18

Blind Contour Drawing #18 – Malade by Gabriele Munter, 1917

Though not widely known, the German painter, Gabriele Münter made important contributions to the art of the twentieth century.

Münter was born to upper middle class parents in Berlin. She began to draw and play piano as a child and her family supported her love of art. She had a private tutor and took classes at the Woman’s Artist School, since women were not allowed to enroll in German Academies.

Both her parents died before she turned 21. Munter and her sister inherited a large amount of money, allowing them to live freely and independently. Since she didn’t feel challenged by her schooling, the two young women decided take a trip to the United States to visit extended family. They stayed for over two years, mainly in the state of Texas. Munter took this time for self study and there are 6 of her sketchbooks that survived that period. They depict images of people, plants and landscapes in the United States.

Returning to Germany, she enrolled in the Phalanx School of art in Munich in 1902. There she began to attend classes in still life, landscape, woodcut techniques, sculpture, and printmaking. She became romantically involved with the director of the school, Wassily Kandinsky. Their relationship lasted over 10 years.

In 1911 she formed Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) with Kandinsky. The group included Franz Marc, August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky and Paul Klee. The Blue Rider was one of the most important German group of artists of the 20th century

They promoted the connection between visual art and music and were inspired by the work of Henri Rousseau, spiritually-based color theory, and Bavarian folk art.

Münter exhibited paintings at the Blaue Reiter exhibitions of 1911 and 1912. She shared the groups love of  intense colour and expressiveness of line but her still lifes, figures, and landscapes remained representational rather than abstract.

At the beginning of WWI, she moved all of the works done by her, Kandinsky, and the other members of the Blaue Reiter to her house, where she hid them. She was able to preserve them despite several searches of the home, the pieces were never found. On her eightieth birthday, she gave her entire collection, more than 80 oil paintings and 330 drawings, to the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus in Munich.

After the war, Münter and Kandinsky went separate ways. She was inactive for a few years after their relationship ended but begain painting again in the late 1920s. Her palette changed and her focus too. She often painted portraits of women. She moved back to Germany with art historian, Johannes Eichner.

Münter’s work was exhibited in the 1960s in the U.S. for the first time and was shown at Mannheim Kunsthalle in 1961. The Gabrielle Münter and Johannes Eichner foundation was established and has become a valuable research center for Münter’s art, as well as the art that was done by Der Blaue Reiter group. Münter lived the rest of her life in Murnau, traveling back and forth to Munich. She died at her Murnau home on May 19 1962.

Throughout her 60-year artistic career she created more than 2000 paintings, several thousand drawings, water-colours, stained glass, prints and around 1200 photographs, and today she is increasingly considered to have made a striking con­tri­bution to the art of the twentieth century. 

Born: February 19, 1877, Berlin, Germany
Died: May 19, 1962, Murnau am Staffelsee, Germany

 


 

BCD#17

Blind Contour Drawing #17 “Reclining Nude Shepherdess” 1891 Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges, France into a successful middle class family. They encouraged her and her sister Edma Morisot in their interest in art. Morisot showed promise from an early age and once she settled on pursuing art, her family continued to support her career. Her father, in particular admired strong will and perseverance.

At age 20, she made friends with landscape painter of the Barbizon school, Camille Corot, who introduced her to other artists and teachers. She took up plein air techniques and enjoyed painting small pieces outdoors and eventually larger works in a studio. Morisot was first accepted in the Salon de Paris in 1864 with two landscape paintings, and she continued to show regularly in the Salon until 1874, the year of the first impressionist exhibition.

She was acquainted with Edouard Manet in 1868, and in 1874 she married Eugene Manet, Edouard’s younger brother. She convinced Manet to attempt plein air painting, and drew him into the circle of the painters who became known as the impressionists. Her husband however, never saw himself as an Impressionist. He supported his wife and brother’s careers but didn’t appreciate the new art movement.

Morisot’s favorite subject, was her daughter Julie, who was born four years after her marriage to Eugène.  Like Mary Cassatt, Morisot was associated with “feminine” art because her subject matter was usually, women, children, and domestic scenes. Morisot painted what she saw in her immediate, everyday life. As a woman in the middle class, she saw domestic interiors, holiday spots, other women, and children. Her subject matter is equivalent to her male Impressionist colleagues. Edgar Degas painted rehearsals of the ballet, horse races, and apartments. Claude Monet painted his garden, his children, and his neighbour’s haystacks. Morisot’s art was labeled feminine because she was a woman, but her style and subject matter was similar to other Impressionists.

Morisot balanced her role of wife and mother with that of artist, something she had thought earlier to been impossible because she had been taught she would have to sacrifice marriage and motherhood for her art. The Manet family lived quietly, preparing for shows, traveling, which influenced changes in her landscapes, and entertaining their artist friends including Renoir, Degas and Whistler.

The 1890’s saw another change in Morisot’s style, outlines returned to her painting and strong forms put weight in her style. She withdrew somewhat with the death of her husband in 1892, focusing on preparing for her first solo show and spending time with her daughter and nieces. Morisot died in Paris before her solo show, at age 54.  She caught influenza while nursing her ill daughter.

The sentimentality and pureness found in Morisot’s paintings, seem strange because many people describe her as ambitious and stern. Her husband said she had “only an empty shell of a heart.”  Perhaps she painted a peaceful world she wanted, but did not experience.  Although, she was a loving mother and maintained loyal relationships, her paintings were a brave and beautiful mask of happiness that hid the despair and insecurity that haunted her as a female painter forging her way in the 19th century.

Born: January 14, 1841, Bourges, Cher, France

Died: March 2, 1895, Paris, France