Brett Rants

Ballet Dancers
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

I go to the Art Institute of Chicago often enough. Previously, I had made an in-depth study of Paris Street Rainy Day to good effect. So, I thought I would do the same basic thing with another painting.

Welcome To My Art Studio

I like walking around The Loop. And as I was making myself at home in the downtown area, I found it useful to have a membership at the Art Institute of Chicago, so as to have an automatic safe harbour during inclement weather. Or as I once told a fellow patron, who I don't think believed me, "I joined so I'd have access to decent restrooms when I was walking around, as much as anything else."

But in truth, use of restrooms, a warm place to sit, and free coffee, tea, or glass of sugared creamer ("Extra-extra cream, extra-extra sugar, no coffee, thank you") are all wonderful side benefits of a membership at The Art Institute of Chicago... as is looking at the art. I suppose, one must mention the art. Though, if I wanted to be snide, I would then casually mention how little Art The Institute hosts. And then, go off on a tirade about how Modern Art is not Art; Contemporary Art has long since left the scene; and Abstract Impressionism is where it all fell apart. But I have made peace with the fact that most Art sucks, just as most moments in life are completely unremarkable. I suppose all those moments could be remarkable. But as the one experiencing it all, I'd have to try too F'ing hard. So, no thanks. And by the same token, I haven't the patience to treat Pure Schl©'ck! (please see The Modern Wing) as anything more than it appears.

But once again, somehow the words have gotten away from me. I'd actually decided to join The Art Institute (become a member, with all the perks such a membership entails) prior to moving back to Chicagoland. And in truth, I'd expected to become a member of all The Great Museums. And The Art Institute just happened to be the first one I joined... on account of its central location to the loop for reasons already explained.

Anyhow, being a member, I decided to push the limits. Because, why not? And along with filling up on sugared cream (hold the coffee) and availing myself of countless lectures (why are these free events not continually packed full to capacity), at some point I decided to look at a piece of art or two... and from there, study a piece of art or two.

To be sure, I like Ballet Dancers. But if one is wondering why I chose to study Ballet Dancers over Jackson Pollock's Masterpiece (is it #37 or #58, I have no idea), the reasons are twofold:
Anyhow, those (above, being the same as these three below) are the real reasons I chose this particular work.
Between The Field Museum, The Adler Planetarium, The Shedd Aquarium, and The Art Institute, I can easily affirm that The Art Institute has the crappiest, most thinly spaced benches out of the lot. Though, in The Art Institute's defence, I will say there are comfy seats down in the Member's Lounge (why not join, today), a nice dark gallery down oriental ways (sorry, I don't know the formal name of the room, but it is really cool, quiet, and secluded, so an ideal place to spend a few moments and escape the heat on a warm summer day), and very nice (as in, very nice) chairs are available in Griffin Court, while off The Court, in an almost unknown gallery, they show videos (such tripe) and almost everywhere a video is playing at The Institute a bench or chair can be found nearby.

{So in truth, there are plenty of pleasant places to sit, plenty of nooks and crannies, but not every painting I wish to look at comes complete with a bench in front of it.

And believe it or not, the presence or absence of something as simple as a bench has influenced my viewing behaviour.}

In short, my membership cost something like $99 for the year, and assuming I make 20-25 visits to The Art Institute of Chicago in a Year, that's $4-5 per visit that I am forking over. And at that level (of highway robbery, robbery, I tell you), I think I should be able to drag a recliner (of the comfy chair variety) in front of the painting of my choice, kick back, take a nap, and have a warm glass of sugared creamer waiting for me whenever I awaken.

Patron Snoring In Easy Chair
c. 2020, Brett Paufler

In this seminal work of casual disinterest, the artist challenges the structure of society, the nature of belonging, and the elastic resiliency of an ever-changing cultural landscape, as the commons are invaded and those of a more genteel nature abandon the field for the safety of their Gala Nights and Limited Access Operatic Reviews.

Limited Engagement

Mixed Media: Loud Mouth, Scruffy Clothes, and Questionable Hygiene

"You call that art?"

"You want to check out some real art, maybe you should walk your ignorant @$$ back over to The Impressionist Wing. And if you can peel your brainless eyes away from Monet's precious Haystacks, you'll see some Art, Real Art, by a one Henry David the Toe Loose, a humble Hobbit from The Shire, who found his way into the Realms, and spent the rest of his glorious days painting wondrous Elvin Maidens as they twirled about, working their [dance, sic] magic, while for his part, and as the years went by, Toe Loose was rumoured to have imbibed ever increasing quantities of that infamous green-tinged liquid (of an effervescent nature) until he totally lost his mind, dying broke and penniless of the notorious wormwood disease in a whorehouse of particularly ill repute where it is said he liked having his hairy toes licked and suckled by middle aged men dressed as housewives."

"Wait. Where are you going? I'm not done, yet."

Um, the above is random doggerel and should not be taken seriously... or as a serious metaphoric commentary on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

I mean, if I had to guess (fine, alright already, I'll give it a go), I would guess that Monsieur Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was short of stature, rich of banknote, liked the absinthe, and that the love of dancing girls would be the death of him. But it's just a guess. And if the first factoid is wrong, there is little reason to believe any of the other point facts come close to describing any reality... yours, mine, or that of Henri D's.

Besides, he's dead, so he can't be slandered, the little sh!te.

And since I would be more than happy (thrilled, in fact) to be insulted by some wealthy near-midget with a substance abuse problem a hundred years hence, I can only surmise Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, in turn, would be tickled pink to know that some gangly old man, poor of banknote, who liked the chocolate, and knew that legalized marijuana would soon be the death of him took an interest in one of his paintings because he needed a place to sit after a long walk on such a winter's day.

So, um, yeah.

That's the project, that's what I'm doing here.

I hope you enjoy... and I hope you have a back-up plan if you reference any of my 'facts' in that doctoral thesis of yours.
'Yeah, I'm going to have to flunk you. Sorry.'

Ballet Dancers

a quick digital drawing, yellow box frame, two blue hands, one holding a conductors baton, and a bunch of green dancers arching up the page, it is stick figure, very crude, you are not missing all that much
A Schematic Sketch

As one might expect from a painting called Ballet Dancers, there is a string of Ballet Dancers cutting diagonally up the picture with a pair of conductor's hands in the lower right, directing the action.

I'll call the colors a fractal composite of white, blue, and sea green. But those are just words. The paint is light. And although I cannot recall enough to be sure (this page being written months and months after my last meaningful inspection of the painting in person), I think it is a safe guess (but don't bet on it) that the white is merely raw canvas, the paint pigments being scraped thinly over the top.

My notes (from way back when), indicate why I found the painting captivating (you know, why I decided to study this particular piece rather than the one next to it or any other nearby object de art that just so happened to have a bench strategically placed in front of it), in that I can easily interpret the conductor as a magician, as he endlessly duplicates the dancers.

I count seven dancers... maybe eight. The first off screen, the third most prominent. And since I am big on lists, these are my descriptions of those dancers from lower left to upper right.
  1. Gone
  2. The Ideal
  3. Monstrous Mockery
  4. Fading Fast
  5. Disappearing
  6. Only The Beauty Remains
  7. Whisper Of Smoke
  8. Fades Into The Background
I doubt much has been learned by reading the listing. But it is such listings that make up the backbone of any project like this... and if not listings (per se), it is observations, which are almost always list-like, the transition from one idea to the next often tentative, at best.

For instance, in my notes (as I am letting my notes guide these ramblings), I indicate that it is only here that I learned the name of this work (and a piece of work it is), taking a snapshot of both the painting (for reference) and the placard, so as to insure I would be fully informed during any future write-up, as to both the provenance and particulars of Ballet Dancers by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
French, 1864-1901

Ballet Dancers

Oil on plaster, transferred to canvas

We are most pleased to hold several works by The Frenchman Lautrec in our collection. I mean, he is no Monet, Manet, or Renoir. And don't even try to compare him to someone like Rembrandt (Remember Him), Michelangelo (The Angel), or Da Vinci (better known as Da Vince), as Too Loose just won't measure up. But we needed other paintings to fill out The Wing. And we had this one laying about. Besides, that Mr Paufler seems to dig this particular painting. So, as long as he comes looking for it, we'll be changing its place on the wall every few weeks just to mess with him.

Some Donor (you don't know me, I don't know you) 1931.571

Um, in the above, the facts are the facts and the rest consists of random ramblings. Meaning "Henry! Oh! Oh! Henry!" as the ladies used to call him died in his 37th year, probably from some disease easily treatable today... such a loss.

Anyways, in regard to the Placard Information, we have (as they typically have at The Institute):
I pretty much never read placards. But I felt that I should have the information available while writing this page. Besides, with a name like Toulouse, I'm liable to remember it as YouLouse, ToYouLouse, ToYouLouise, and so on and so forth, until a name like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (and what a name that is) gets jiggled around until it becomes a note tucked into a basket, which also, just so happens to contain a baby, left outside some back-room whorehouse door, which reads:
To Louise
Enclosed, please find your new baby boy, whom we have taken the liberty of naming Henri on your behalf.
Best Wishes
Lou T. Wreck, esq.
Eh, the wording is not as witty as I would like. So if you are disappointed in the aside, I am going to have to ask you to take it upon yourself to improve the joke... or just carry on and pretend it never happened.


Perhaps, that would be best.

Or, I know, I can change the subject completely and throw out a few (or to be more precise two) random theories regarding what is going on in the painting.

But first (and to reiterate), for the normals in the audience, Ballet Dancers appears to be a painting whose subject matter consists of a chorus line or string of ballet dancers (please, call them ballerinas), kicking it up ("Show some leg, baby!") under the direction of some off-screen conductor's hands.

But is it?

Is that what's really going on?

I think (though, the medications are helping to keep that from happening) the light green represents magic (as it so often does in these Impressionistic Paintings), which the 'Conductor' (more formally a Witch or Wizard, given the actuality of the situation) is taking from Her (The Source), in order to complete, charge, and/or bring to animated life The Series of Sexy Simulacrums, which form the focus of this painting.

Eh, that's probably not clear.

Imagine an X-Rated interpretation of Disney's Fantasia and one might come close.

An upward trending green line representing the dancers, a blue line flicking the dancers to the left away, a black line pointing to the dancers center right, of course, there are just three lined arrows, upward sloping green, blue pointing leftward, and black pointing upward right center
The Casting Off

And for the second theory (as promised, for I promised two, if you'll remember), we continue the musings of the first (theory), wherein the Conductor (though, I think we have established that he is an Evil Sorcerer of the most depraved sort) is holding the primary (Dancing Elvin Lass, I think I may have mentioned) steady (so, like, she is being held in a magical stasis field) with the black pointer (please, call it a wand, clearly a thinly disguised allusion to the viewer's libido), as the blue (left hand) casually discards the rejects... much as modern gallery goers disregard the depth of experience (virtual or otherwise) to be found in the objects before them.
"OK. We've got dinner reservations for six. I want to drop by The Bean on the way back to the hotel, so we should leave here by five," which is when The Institute typically closes, so how convenient is that. "It's three o'clock now, giving us... um, carry the one... convert to seconds. Ah. OK. So, we have over a thousand pieces of art to look at in roughly two hours, sans any potty breaks or forays into the cafe for liquid refreshment, giving us about ten seconds per Object de Art. You like that? It's French, honey. Look at me, I'm cultured. Anyway, best not spend too much time with any one piece. Ha! Look at that poor sap over there. He hasn't moved since we got here. If he doesn't watch out, he'll have spent his entire day staring at the same stupid painting. Oh, darn. Making that wry observation has cost us fifteen seconds. We'll have to make it up somewhere. Ah, I know. We'll cut out that Jackson Pollock crap. Besides, it's up on the third floor and I'm already tired. Hey, honey! Wait up! Is it time for the next gallery, already?"
Someday, I may do a write-up on Georges-Pierre Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, in which case I should time how long folks (on average) spend in the room and the time-interval on average between mentions of Ferris Bueller's Day Off from the crowd at large.

But for the moment, that is neither here nor there. What is here (and therefore, what was there) is that this is where I broke on my notes during that first sitting.

But that mattered not, as my project was off and running.

A quick but better schematic of Ballet Dancers, we have a line of multi-coloured stick figures rising to the right, in the upper left is an opposing face with blue wand, and in lower right are the conductors hands in blue holding a black want, mostly its lines, the interpretation must be done elsewise, the background is a multi-colored mosaic, rainbow tears or something like that, a turbulance like color background

We are almost done!

There is a sort of outline notation that I use for my notes, sometimes. And that's what I did for the following. It's a sketchy sort of rough idea format, intended to convey primary meanings without requiring much effort on my part. So if anything is unclear, I only have myself to blame.

Anyway, each grouping represents a separate sitting. And since I'd already paused before the painting twice before, we are at:

The Third Sitting

The Fourth Sitting

The Fifth Sitting

The Sixth Sitting
And doing a search for the term ('Zuit') online comes back with Zoot Suit, which is likely what I was thinking of at the time. Certainly, it is what came to mind prior to my search.

Thus ends my exploration of this painting.

Maybe, I will take the walk up to the third floor next time and sit in front of Pollock's stuff for awhile.

Yeah. No. It really is too far to walk.

next Brett Rants entry

Home Brett Rants Index

Just as a by-the-by, part of the rationale for this project stems from the desire to create content while out and about, working it up into a usable format in real time and on the fly, as it is far too easy to walk around town and say 'I'll do that when I get home', only to decide what I really want to do once I'm finally at home is to walk around town a bit more.

I do like being out and about.

© copyright 2020 Brett Paufler