The Artist's Eye / by Jeannine Cook

When I was talking to an artist friend recently, she commented on her diffidence about drawing. She said that she had difficulty perceiving things spatially sufficiently accurately to draw them. I reminded her that each artist's eye is personal, and that each of us perceives things in a different fashion. There is no one correct way to organise space in art, especially today...

As I was talking to her, I kept thinking of the Fauves, and the recent art treasures that are coming to auction as a result of famous art dealer Amboise Vollard's personal art collection being released from its long-held Société Générale safety deposit box, where it lay from World War II until 1979. Sothebys is to auction off famous, brilliantly vibrant paintings such as André Derain's Arbres à Collioure, one of his most emblematic paintings. It is the perfect example of the artist's eye being individual, bold and really unique. Organising space can be highly original, as Derain showed. The trees in this 1905 painting are patterned, with pure colours juxtaposed to convey the pulsating, brilliant Mediterranean light. The landscape is pure energy, the space organised for maximum dynamic impact. Indeed, Derain himself remarked, "Le Fauvisme a été pour nous l'épreuve du feu. Les couleurs devenaient des cartouches de dynamite; elles devaient décharger de la lumière." (Fauvism was the trial by fire for us. Colours became charges of dynamite; they had to explode with light.) The Fauvists needed to have an eye that was radically different, for instance, from that of the Impressionists who had proceeded them.

Perhaps Odilon Redon summed up the "artist's eye" situation the most eloquently. He said, "The artist... will always be a special, isolated, solitary agent with an innate sense of organising matter." That means that each of us, as an artist, basically has license to organise our art as we deem fit on the painting or drawing surface. That is both a luxury and a challenge!