16 August 2020

Giotto's joy of Donkeys and the gift of invention


One of the earliest forms of invention in Painting has to be in Giotto's work. Yes, everyone goes crazy for the Renaissance but it is in Giotto where one first finds the hint of Cézanne. 

What???...What a thing to say!  What rapport??

And I confess that I don't have anything of academic import to support this but through the images and from my own intuition. But it could just be that in Giotto's world of flat abstraction there is a simplicity which left Western Painting until the arrival of Cézanne 500 years later. And in Cézanne, there was a studious desire to return to a simplicity which centred around the shapes of a cube, a ball, and rectangle. He famously described drawing in those simple terms; the Aix landscape in particular, if I am not mistaken. 

And Giotto's simple structures which he created for his figures seem to be bursting out of the Byzantine crypt. 

Inspired by Cézanne, the early Cubist paintings also made a retreat to simple forms necessary to render their own concept of figures and landscapes. 

In both Giotto and Cézanne human figures feel cold and remote from feeling, almost of another of human world. My father had reproductions of Giotto scattered around his bathroom wall and as a child I felt almost scared just looking at their human faces. And yet, the animals are forever sweet and childlike. Indeed, animals throughout the Renaissance Painting world seem to be the chosen symbol for a humanity depicted side by side with human cruelty.

I wonder if anyone has written about this?

There is so much to say. I simply wanted to find an excuse to put up this top picture of these gentle and happy donkeys.


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