'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Thursday, 22 July 2010

In Search of Jazz


I went to the library today to browse the art section. I was looking for some inspiration for a theme or subject for a jazz café mural. "Something jazzy" I thought predictably, as I perused the shelves.

I rejected anything before the Impressionists because it didn't look risky and syncopated enough, although I was momentarily distracted by a tile pattern in the Imam Mosque in Isfahan:

The Impressionists themselves were too boating and picnics and green, only one small step away from gallant William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, really. What I needed was a dose of rebellion.

John William Waterhouse Gather Ye Rosebuds While ye May 1909


Berthe Morisot Eugene Manet et sa Fille au Jardin 1883

Dada began to look promising but they were too anarchic and random - the antithesis of what I was looking for: the tight/loose, individual/cooperative blends of a good jazz band.

Raoul Hausmann ABCD 1923-1924

Balla, of the Futurist movement was getting me warmer, and I could have stayed with the Futurists, with their interest depicting sounds and movement;

Giacomo Balla Mercurio Passa Davanti il Sole 1914

....but the radical Cubists were calling me. I stayed with them for a while, turning over the pages. I looked at the multiple simultaneous viewpoints of Picasso - it seemed like the weaving of the muted trumpet and the dance of the bass. I looked at the African masks of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and I could sense the African blues roots of a jazz band. But something was still missing. The cubist's lines were too similar - all scratchy and unsure. Where was the tip-toes and sinuous confidence of a clarinet? Where was the peggy plonks of a piano? Where the confident power and slurs of the solo sax? I needed a variety of marks. And much more variety in colour. Begone dull browns and fawns of the Cubists! Bring on the Bauhaus! We need the underlying discipline of the melody even if the interpretation varies every night.

Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907


Then I spotted it: I picked it up - a small book with a painting of Pure Jazz on the cover: Yellow-Red-Blue by Wassily Kandinsky. Ah. He's the Man.

Wassily Kandinsky Gelb-Rot-Blau 1925


7 comments:

  1. Your find was spot on!

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  2. indeed....crisp , clean, and distinct....very jazzy....

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  3. I am unashamedly astounded. I actually understood what you were getting at but I would never in a million years have worked my way through that. I can, however, see exactly why you reached the conclusion you did.

    Coincidentally I've seen a number of Waterhouse's paintings recently at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight.

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  4. Thanks Jinksy! And I do like the image of your own creation too! Very jazzy.

    Susan - I really should listen to the cafe group, then I would be able to select WHICH Kandinsky ... But that's getting really fine-tuned. Hope I get the commission, now!

    GB. Thank you for your kind words. I still long to see these in the real. I want to see the actual size, the brush-strokes, etc... I can count the number of my art gallery visits on two hands. Must correct this.

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  5. I hope, Katherine, that you do get to see all the art galleries that you desire. I don't have your knowledge to appreciate art to the same extent as you. But I can say that seeing the pictures 'in the flesh' so to speak is a wonderful experience even for me.

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  6. Yes. Definitely Kadinsky!
    What a fun tour.

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  7. I loved every last one of those paintings! Thanks for introducing me to them, Katherine!

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