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A Travelogue

Essay by Timothy Taubes

Art in the twentieth century was like a train exploring uncharted territory. First stop ‚ÄĒ Cubism. Many got off to survey the strange terrain. Next stop Expressionism and its many spurs. At each location something new was acquired. Dada, Futurism, Surrealism-each became a sovereign domain ruled by its own, "rags-to-riches," aristocracy.

The train continued to America and took on the aspect of metropolitan rapid transit. Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, Photo-Realism, Post-Expressionism.

The train is arriving at the platform-step lively and watch the closing doors!

The train finally arrived in a no-mans wonderland. Provinces were no longer subject to conquest. The countryside had been settled, its inhabitants were a cross section from all of Art's previous explorations. Let us call this peaceable kingdom, Post Modernism.
Still Life with Globe, 1925, oil on canvasFrederic_Taubes_About_The_Artist___Essay_-_Travelogue_Still_Life_Globe.html

But what happened to the passengers still on the train? Many got off and disappeared into the woodwork. Others were still restless and yearned to go further. They believed that new discoveries were possible-among them was Frederic Taubes.

Frederic Taubes rode the train of twentieth century art. In 1918, he was in Munich creating formal Cubist works. His travels continued to Weimar in 1920 where he studied color theory at the Bauhaus. Further layovers were spent in Expressionism, Surrealism, and the, "new objectivity." Taubes never stayed long at these destinations, always returning to the station before the train departed.

Taubes' train arrived in New York in 1930. America was in the thralls of a “Classical Revival." Here Taubes disembarked. He plied his trade by emulating the painterly masters; Titian, Rembrandt, and Hals. To these he added the Gothic sentiment of his Eastern European heritage.

In 1945, a new train arrived in New York-the Abstract Express. Its passengers exploded on the scene, obliterating all traces of Classicism. After a decade of princely success, Taubes now found himself a refugee. An exile in his adopted home, Taubes packed his bags, made for the terminal, and caught the first train out of town.

Taubes took up residence in his own Pullman coach. Supporting himself through writing and teaching, he vowed never to be side tracked again. Intense self-analysis led him to plumb what had happened to Art during his lifetime. In the process he developed a love/hate relationship with the two most important artists of his time; Cezanne and Picasso.
At the Window, 1948, oil on canvasFrederic_Taubes_About_The_Artist___Essay_-_Travelogue_At_the_Window.html

Cezanne and Picasso arrived at a crucial moment in Art History. Art was in the final stages of its liberation from dogmatic convention. The genesis of this rebellion begins as far back as Michelangelo and Titian. However, the tempo was picked up by Corot, carried by Courbet, received its most significant contributions from Manet, before coming to fruition with Cezanne. Picasso was then in the position to capitalize upon the freedoms that his predecessors had won.

Taubes' feelings toward Cezanne and Picasso were fueled by envy. Envy for Cezanne's artistic intelligence, and envy for Picasso's innate graphic abilities. He intended to learn from their achievements and incorporate them for his own use. Taubes adopted their successes and was as quick to deride their shortcomings, all in an effort to better understand their accomplishments.

Taubes never painted a landscape without Cezanne looking over his shoulder. The importance of surface embellishment disappears. Contours and textures are rendered by their generic characteristics, which establish objectivity. Atmospheric perspective is violated by an equalized color scheme. Spatial relationships become planar relationships. All of these innovations were products of Cezanne's investigations.

Taubes was equally driven by Picasso's boundless graphic abilities. Picasso's anthropomorphia appeared to be without limits. Everything he touched came alive. Picasso was a master of deconstructing an object until its intrinsic properties were revealed. Taubes took it upon himself to reconstruct the object without surrendering the lessons of modernism. He did so by summoning the fundamental aesthetic principles that are the foundation of the painterly-texture, brushstroke, contour, and composition.

Taubes' legacy is that he totally embraced the traditional painting techniques that were viewed by Modernism as impediments to creativity. The Post- Modern caucus has yet to re-indemnify the merits of painterly representation. New tracks need to be laid. A vast unexplored wilderness is waiting for the next wave of immigrants.

Taubes has already reached the Promontory Point. Indifferent to popularity and momentary trends, he forged ahead scouting the best route back to tradition. There he awaits the coming of the next train. When it arrives it will unload its occupants eager for conquest and glory. Taubes will serve as an example of leadership and guidance. Some will choose to remain and carve out empires of their own. Others will return to the train and continue the journey through the meandering permutations of Art.
Painter with Muse, 1957, oil on canvasFrederic_Taubes_About_The_Artist___Essay_-_Travelogue_Painter_With_Muse.html


Click on each painting to see a close-up