Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

André Lhote

What is a Landscape?
1939 - Writings and Theories

André Lhote, who is both a painter and a professor, has become over the years one of the most listened-to theorists of modern art, especially concerned with maintaining a balance with tradition. His Traité du paysage [treatise on the landscape], published by Floury, is a model of its kind. The eternal rules of painting are recalled on each page, and many illustrations are used and presented as the brake and the rudder of any pictorial creation. Lhote's ideas are important to this era, which has, since the turn of the century, seen wave after wave of avant-garde artists, now trying to redefine themselves. Below are essential passages from the Traité.

Which laws must a work of art obey in order to achieve dignified expression while escaping sloppy sentimentality? What profound requirements must a work of art fulfill? Spirits such as Poussin and Seurat who are specifically Latin, who favor impartial speculation and who have temperaments complex enough to quickly give life to the images in their minds, apply definite rules to their art. From the fifteenth century to the end of the Renaissance, intelligent thinkers undertook to examine their feelings or view of the world using line and color, and reflected on the surest means of soliciting or maintaining the respect of others. Even while intending to express their emotions, they calculated the power of certain groupings of lines or blending of colors to cast a spell. They quickly realized that the eye was a tyrant that demanded to be both stimulated by the variety of elements used and reassured by a few well-placed resemblances; Before a surface divided into fragments of different orientations, a crumpled piece of paper, for instance, the eye panics, unable to follow lines that are not unified by an obvious law; the eye soon tires of such a view. In contrast, before a surface divided by a too-obvious law, such as a tiled floor or a gate, the eye is insufficiently stimulated and remains indifferent. Contrary to what the profane believes, the essence of art is not to limit nature but to represent, under the pretext of imitation, pure plastic elements: measures, directions, ornaments, lights, values, colors, matter, distributed and organized according to the demands of the laws of nature. Once this has been done, the artist does not cease to be dependent upon nature; but rather than meanly imitating its accidents, he imitates its laws . . .

Those who study the forms of nature know that plastic manifestations such as air and water currents, the structure of seashells or plants, etc., contain the most beautiful share of these elements, which are both stimulating and reassuring. From then on, the art of drawing and painting, which depends on the art of the senses, finds its laws in morphology. It was not an unreasonable gesture on the part of the Moderns to listen to the lesson of the Africans and Polynesians, for "primitive" people who live side by side with the forms of nature, who follow its rhythms, who physically feel its repercussions, spontaneously find the combination of those forms that are the most vivid. These delegates of natural forces have much to teach the "civilized" peoples who are prisoners of the inhuman machine.

André Lhote, Traité du paysage

[An Excerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 383]



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