Clyfford Still -Paige Lowe

Paige Lowe

ARTH 3539

31 January 2012

The Clyfford Still Museum is in a beautiful contemporary modern building covered by thin slats of wood. The main entry way contains a small front desk and opens up to a large staircase that leads to Stills works of art. The main floor of the building contains a brief history of Still’s life, abstract expressionism, and a small history lesson in different interactive multi media forms. There is a small TV with a dial to select one of five mini movies about Still’s life or the abstract expressionism art movement. Still donated all of his art works to the city of Denver. Then the art could be enjoyed in an entirety of one viewing.

Still’s work progressed after World War I to help express himself through paint. His paintings tend to be full of thick paint and in his later years even some empty canvas peeping out from the chucks of paint surrounding the canvas. His all over composition is a key characteristic of the abstract expressionist movement.

Along a narrow corridor, Still’s paintbrushes, paint, and other personal belongings are on display. The viewer starts to understand Still’s artistic process. It is unique to have an entire display dedicated to helping express Still’s life to the viewer. It sets an emotional standard for when one sees his paintings upstairs. The background history helps the viewer find the artists voice since Still is no longer alive to explain his work.

Walking up the stairs to Still’s collection of art, the viewer comes faced with a self-portrait of Still (PH-382; 1940). He looks as if he is in deep thought and almost as if inviting the viewer into his own home to see his paintings. The work is divided into a series of rooms in a circle. Each room contains a different time periods, which defined characteristics of his artistic style for that time.

His early work contains themes of living on a farm in Canada. Scenes of grass land, trains, and farms are his center of focus. A reoccurring theme that still keeps throughout his changes in artistic style is a blurry, slightly curved line that swivels from top to bottom of his paintings. Here he starts with smoke reaching up into the blue sky above it as the train moves across the prairie.

Still continued his artistic style to include the hardship of manual labor on the human form. In his painting PH-77 from 1936 the curved lines of the men picking up wheat mimic the lines seen in his early works and his later works as well. The painting plays off primary colors of red, yellow, and blue to express the simplicity of the job of picking up wheat but the demanding force on the body the numbing job has as seen on the bleeding arms of the men.  One can feel the torment from hours of labor on the body. Still marks the start of his focus on specific colors. He uses red and blue with a splash of yellow in many of his later works.

As the viewer walks around into the last few rooms. Still’s painting become gigantic in size. The viewer feels as if engulfed by the artwork. One feels a strong emotional feeling towards each painting. The emotional feeling is what Still may have been trying to evoke in every viewer. Still’s use of color and shape help him move away form the human form and landscape painting to abstract expression. His lines in the painting PH – 247 in 1951 express empathy. The single yellow line running down the painting in a sea of dark blue looks lonely. The added texture of the chunky paint adds visual detail and feeling of roughness in the painting. The yellow line is once again seen here in a new form then from his past painting. The simplicity to show his feeling in of maybe hope in the canvas of dark blue.

The Clyfford Still museum is a artistically crafted to understand how one man developed as an artist through is work. When leaving the building, one feels a deep appreciation for basic line and color in everyday life.

2 Responses

  1. I enjoyed the way that you gave a sort of ‘walk through’ for the viewer by using strong visual descriptions of the museum.

  2. Paige! Awesome description of the museum and Still’s actual pieces of work. I love how you key into the environment and the emotional experience each painting has, collecting the view in with his use of line placement.

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