Tim Keane reflects on works by Gustave Moreau on view in the exhibition Les Fleurs du Mal at Nahmad Contemporary, New York, on view through April 9, 2016.
Keane writes: "Moreau’s work is charged by an 'awareness' of an especially modern kind — the psychodynamics between a viewer and an image. His scantily clad figures are secluded, implicating the viewer as a voyeur. Again and again, we become unwitting participants in Moreau’s sado-masochistic spectacles, his beatific and brooding reveries. And finally the language of paint — color for its own sake, and for the sake of its infinitesimal patterns, tonalities, gradations – is Moreau’s definitive subject. The more closely you look at the Moreau paintings hanging at Nahmad, the more you appreciate his vision of painting as a means to transcend or overpower any other plane of reality. In Moreau, the modernist dream of an absolute form of art is realized by fusing hard-earned subversions of traditional iconography with unrelenting attention to minute details and free-floating variations of color and line until fantasy and reality converge, conveying alternating currents of alienation and recognition. Unable to interpret a given scene’s meaning in literal terms, the viewer relies on its inexhaustible concrete particulars to make sense of the whole."
William Poundstone blogs about Gustave Moreau's large body of near abstract works on the occasion of the exhibition A Strange Magic: Gustave Moreau's Salome at the Hammer Museum, on view through December 9, 2012.
Poundstone writes: "At his 1898 death, Moreau left hundreds of near-abstractions in his studio, none of which had ever been exhibited publicly. His partisans have made the case that their man was the first abstractionist. Moreau began producing small, brushy sketches as early as 1855. Some are related to major paintings like Salome; others seem to be color experiments that may not have been preparatory to anything. By the late 1880s Moreau was about where Kandinsky would be 20 years later, producing paintings that were non-objective save for a fugitive hint of figure or a descriptive title."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.