By Sophia Guddemi

It may not always be obvious but much of modern art is influenced by what has come before; one artist subtly referencing a former long-gone artist’s work. Sometimes hundreds of years span between works that are linked, other times artists work together to aid each other’s journeys. This is part and parcel of how art progresses, borrowing ideas and taking them forward. Find out more here in Inter-Inspiring.

Image on left Le valet de chambre, c. 1927 (oil on canvas), Soutine, Chaim (1894-1943) THE LEWIS COLLECTION

Whether two artists have had an actual relationship which resulted in inspiration flowing or the relationship was not a physical one because each was born at different times, this does not decrease the ‘looking back to look forward’ theme in modern art. Much art after all is a comment on previous works and its this that allows the world of art to progress into new ideas, new thinking and new techniques.

Embedded in the world of modern art is this idea of ‘the reference.’ From artists working in different decades to artists working in the same room, creative sparks tend to inevitably fly from artist to artist in prominent ways that have lead to renaissances and movements in the art world. Here we follow some examples of the most prominent forms of this passionate exchange of creativity.

Pablo Picasso & Georges Braque

Pablo Picasso, a Spanish painter born in 1881, and Georges Braque, a French painter born the year after, had a relationship that inspired a revolutionary new approach to art. The two had formed a friendship that left them inseparable which resulted in a creative rivalry that led to them scrutinizing and criticizing each other’s work. They would work together in the same studio, which motivated and inspired each other. The two came from opposite backgrounds and childhoods but complemented each other in the form of both their art and their friendship.

Together, they invented Cubism, a new approach to representing reality in an abstract way in the early 1900s. The technique of their work became very similar after working so closely, but they leaned into different aesthetics. The two worked collaboratively until around 1914 when Braque was enlisted into the French Army. After the war, both separated and their friendship never recovered, but the impact they had on art was permanent.

Vincent van Gogh & Paul Gauguin

Dutch painter born in 1853, Vincent van Gogh and French painter Paul Gaugin born in 1848 had a different kind of inspirational relationship.

The duo was intense and started after Van Gogh insisted on them meeting due to his admiration of Gauguin’s work. Despite Gauguin being Van Gogh’s mentor, the two still had a competitive relationship. Gauguin would paint some of the same subjects as Van Gogh and sometimes they would even paint portraits of each other.

They had contrasting personalities which caused a rift in their relationship and was reflected in their art. Gauguin was slow and methodical while Van Gogh was quick and slapped paintings together, leaving a mess in their workspace.

After Gauguin became disturbed by Van Gogh’s behaviours, he returned home and the two never saw each other again. Their creatively-driven relationship lead to many important and famous works being produced and left a lasting impression on both the artists’ works even after they had ended the friendship.

Gauguin began to use brighter colours, worked with more religious themes and used thicker brushstrokes, while Van Gogh began to paint from memory, mirroring each other’s frequently used techniques.

Titian & Édouard Manet

Decades after he was alive, Italian painter Titian, who died in 1576, served as inspiration for Édouard Manet, the French painter born in 1832. Particularly, Manet’s Olympia (1863) was inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1548-49) created 300 years prior.

When Manet visited Florence in 1857 and saw the painting, he meticulously studied the work in order to later recreate the feeling that the painting had given him. Manet’s inspiration is said to border on imitation, as the paintings are even almost identical in size. When the nude was first created by Titian in the Renaissance era, a painting with this subject was normal.

However, when Manet painted it decades later, it caused chaos in the 1860s Parisian art world. Manet returned to this Renaissance art and reinterpreted it into a piece that changed modern art forever.

Chaim Soutine & Leon Kossoff

Chaim Soutine, master of the school of Paris and born in Belarus in 1893, inspiring Leon Kossoff, master of the school of London born in London, is another example of the timeless artistry that is born through observation of the art of those who worked in the past.

Although the two never met and their lives only overlapped for 17 years, the line of inspiration between them is clear. Soutine grew up in Belarus and later moved to Paris as a young man while Kossoff was born and raised in London to parents who had migrated from Ukraine. Although their lifestyles and childhoods were very different, both shared an Eastern European Jewish heritage which led to a distinguishable cultural impact on their work.

The passion Kossoff felt when seeing Soutine’s work for the first time in the early 1950’s was impactful. This was not only a significant moment for Kossoff himself, but also his art. After this moment, he was inspired to work his way towards using the direct and expressive use of paint that he saw in Soutine’s work.

“To create transcendent works from the study of everyday life became Kossoff’s mission, as it had been Soutine’s,”

Hastings Contemporary.

The two 20th-century painters will be displayed side-by-side at the Hastings Contemporary from April 1 to September 24. The Hastings is the first-ever museum to explore the artistic relationship between British artist Leon Kossoff and Belarus-born painter Chaim Soutine in their exhibition, fully supported by the Kossoff estate.

The exhibit features both landscapes and portraits from each artist inspired by what they had experienced in their everyday life. The clear difference in lifestyle and location mixed with the similarity in technique and style is what brings the exhibit to life. Both utilize dynamic brush strokes, the heavy use of paint and vivid colours to deepen their work.

Image above Chaim Soutine, Les Platanes a Ceret, c. 1920 (oil on canvas). Collection Diethard Leopold. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

From Soutine, the Hastings showcases landscapes from southern France in the early 1920s like Paysage aux cyprès (c. 1922) and Cagnes Landscape with Tree (c. 1925-26).

Image above Leon Kossoff, Between Willesden Green and Kilburn, Winter Evening, 1991, oil on board. Private Collection. Leon Kossoff Estate.

From Kossoff, London’s industrial landscapes are shown with their unexpected beauty in pieces like Willesden Junction, Summer, No.2 (c. 1966) and Demolition of the Old House, Dalston Junction, Summer (1974).

To find out more information about Soutine / Kossoff and the Hastings Contemporary click here.

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