photography, art, and Andy Warhol

October 14, 2009

I visited the UM Museum of Art today for my first time. I had been planning on making a visit there earlier in the semester but never got around to it. I had visited so many amazing art museums over the past six months in Europe that I wasn’t expecting too much. Needless to say, I was very impressed.

The new exhibition was “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874.” Before visiting this exhibit, the notion that photography could play a large role in the development of new painting techniques had never crossed my mind.

As it turns out, in the second half of the 19th century, photography was used to influence the impressionist painting movement. Mainly it was the aspects of capturing motion, cropping of images, and assymetrical placement of objects in the frame. Gustave Le Gray, one of the first and most famous French photographer, was known for capturing the motion of the ocean, clouds in the sky and ships moving in and out of the harbor. Many impressionist artists used his work to study a new impression like painting.

Boats and Horizon
Le Gray’s Photograph circa 1856 of a ship being towed out to sea was praised as a work of art. Never before had anyone seen ships against the horizon like this, crossing the frame. It was viewed as very abstract. To me it looks anything but abstract. Then again it is 150 years old.

Normandy Coastline Photograph
A photograph of the Normandy coastline and the famous Needle rock

Claude Monet's Impressionist Painting
Claude Monet’s painting of the Normandy coastline and the famous Needle rock circa 1873. Although a little blurred, the connection between the photograph and Monet’s impressionistic techniques are pretty evident.

After I was finished with this exhibition I wandered around the Museum a little more, until I found an Andy Warhol exhibit. I love Andy Warhol; mainly because The Velvet Underground is one of my favorite bands of all time. The exhibit was all head-shots Warhol had taken on a Polaroid camera at his numerous parties. It’s so hard to stick a camera in someone’s face and capture them acting normal or bring out a real expression. People are freaked out when I snap a picture of them, unless I coax them into forgetting the camera’s there. But the faces he captured were full of life. Warhol was referred to as the “mirror” because people were so comfortable around him they could always act like themselves (maybe the song “I’ll be your mirror” was about Warhol). He would remove himself from the party and become a spectator, which is hard to do sometimes. It was really awesome to see the skills that this guy had.

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