Friday, December 26, 2008

Seeing art as we want to see it

1872 - The Bachante (Cassatt)

1879- Woman with a Peal Necklace in a Loge (Cassatt)


If you ever look at the very early paintings of Mary Cassatt, they are dark and murky and not very good. She said that when she saw the paintings of Degas,
"I used to go and flatten my nose against the window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it."

At another time, she said after seeing the impressionists, "It was then that I began to live." Just look at how her art changed from 1872 to 1879 by looking at the two paintings above.

This is why I think it's important to expose kids to as many different kinds of art as possible. You never know which artist will be for them the one that makes it possible for them to "see art as they want to see it". I think if you're meant to be an artist, not making art isn't an option, and you discover kindred spirits. It's not that Cassatt imitated Degas, but they had similar approaches and style, and they did influence each other.

For me, one of those "aha" moments of seeing art as I wanted to see it was the summer of 1976. I was eleven years old and my mom had sent me into a 7-11 store to pick up a loaf of bread. On the way out I glanced at the newsstand and saw this...


Cracked magazine ! I stopped dead in my tracks. I knew that I was looking at caricatures of characters from my favorite TV show, Welcome Back Kotter. I ran out to the car and begged my mom for the 50 cents it would take to buy it.

Cracked was kind of an imitator of Mad, which I hadn't discovered yet. If I remember right, it was a little more tame in humor. It was my favorite magazine for a long time.

One of the regular cover artists was John Severin. Severin also worked in war, wester and adventure comics. As it turns out, today is John Severin's birthday. He's 87 years old and still working in comics! Happy Birthday!

1 comment:

Marek Bennett said...

Ah-ha. This explains a lot. Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Wales...