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Artists William Baziotes
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William Baziotes

American Painter

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: June 11, 1912 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Died: June 6, 1963 - New York, New York, USA

William Baziotes Timeline

Quotes

"Each beginning suggests something. Once I sense the suggestion, I begin to paint intuitively. The suggestion then becomes a phantom that must be caught and made real. As I work, or when the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself."
William Baziotes
"It is the mysterious that I love in painting. It is the stillness and the silence. I want my pictures to take effect very slowly, to obsess and to haunt."
William Baziotes
"The emphasis on flora, fauna and beings brings forth those strange memories and psychic feelings that mystify and fascinate all of us."
William Baziotes
"My whole intention in painting is to make a thing poetical . . . when I paint, I do not consider myself an abstractionist in the sense that I'm trying to create beautiful forms that fit together like a puzzle. The things in my painting are intended to strike something that is an emotional involvement - that has to do with the human personality and all the mysteries of life, not simply colors or abstract balances. To, it's all reality."
William Baziotes
"And when the demagogues of art call on you to make the social art, the intelligible art, the good art, spit down on them and go back to your dreams, the world, and your mirror."
William Baziotes

"It is the mysterious that I love in painting. It is the stillness and the silence. I want my pictures to take effect very slowly, to obsess and to haunt."

William Baziotes Signature

Synopsis

William Baziotes was a New York painter whose lyrical and often mysterious works relied heavily on subject matter derived from biomorphism and Symbolist poetry. He was an integral part of the Abstract Expressionist circle and exhibited with them frequently. Like his peers, he was deeply committed to concerns of paint application and abstracted forms, yet his interest in the medium of paint was combined with many sources for his imagery to produce works that evoked particular moods, or dream-like states - often more closely related to European Surrealism than to Abstract Expressionism. This duality in his work was described as "biomorphic abstraction" and was influential to artists such as Mark Rothko.

Key Ideas

Baziotes was one of the few Abstract Expressionist artists who remained committed to the figure. He took his early Surrealist-inspired explorations further by creating strange, primitive imagery that seems to have been pulled from the darkness of the subconscious. His works in this vein were described as "biomorphic abstraction" because of his use of organic forms and other figurative elements that were not easily identifiable.
Unlike his Abstract Expressionist peers, even Baziotes' most experimental canvases contain a structured, almost grid-like composition that was influenced by early Cubism and the artist's work with stained glass. In conjunction with this underlying structure, however, Baziotes also felt that art should evoke emotions and moods through color, shape, and paint application, thus many of his works have a lyrical or poetic element.

Biography

William Baziotes Photo

Childhood

William Baziotes was born in 1912 to Greek parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His family moved shortly thereafter to the working class city of Reading, Pennsylvania, where Baziotes spent his childhood. As a young adult, Baziotes worked at the Case Glass Company from 1931 to 1933, antiquing glass and doing other chores while taking an evening drawing class. It was in Reading that Baziotes met Byron Vazsakas, a poet who became a good friend and who introduced the painter to the work of Charles Baudelaire and the Symbolist poets, whose writing would have a significant impact on his work throughout his life. Vazsakas encouraged Baziotes to pursue art and Baziotes moved to New York City to study painting in 1933.

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William Baziotes Biography Continues

Important Art by William Baziotes

The below artworks are the most important by William Baziotes - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Parachutists (1944)
Artwork Images

The Parachutists (1944)

Artwork description & Analysis: The Parachutists showcases several of Baziotes's early influences. His interest in Cubism was short-lived but is evident in the faceted rendering of the parachutes and the grid-like geometry of the composition. His debt to Surrealism and especially their automatist techniques can be seen in the drips of paint that run down the canvas along with the scumbled brushwork through which color is directly blended on the canvas. The brilliant color and the heavy dark lines reveal his debt to the aesthetics of stained glass. The subject matter is a possible homage to the parachutists of D-Day who, at great risk to their lives, were dropped behind enemy lines at the beginning of the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Duco enamel on canvas - Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Venice

Dwarf (1947)
Artwork Images

Dwarf (1947)

Artwork description & Analysis: This work is one of a group of paintings from 1947 that are all distinguished by a single figure dominating the composition. The primitive, grotesque figures are derived from Surrealist biomorphism and are not clearly human or animal. Like The Parachutists (1944), this work is also about war, but without the lighthearted, almost playful quality of the former. Dwarf instead captures the gruesomeness and violence of war in its reference to a mutilated figure without arms who has oversized, sharp teeth. All of the images in the group have concentric circles or spaces in their lower halves that are meant to be suggestive of female genitalia or targets. The works are a good example of the "biomorphic abstraction," that marked much of the artist's output, characterized by organic forms that are familiar, resembling both plants and animals, but that do not coalesce into recognizable shapes. His use of such imagery is perhaps tied to his interest in Symbolist poetry that is characterized by indirect descriptions, making multiple meanings possible.

Oil on canvas - MoMA

Flesh Eaters (1952)
Artwork Images

Flesh Eaters (1952)

Artwork description & Analysis: In the early 1950s the artist turned more to abstracted depictions of nature with less of a focus on surface and paint handling and, indeed, Baziotes began to eliminate brushwork altogether by repetitive rubbing of the oil paint on the surface. In Flesh Eaters the soft application of paint creates a soft lyrical or poetic quality that contrasts markedly with the title of the work and thus creates ambiguity. The forms have become less recognizable than in the previous decade, evoking a primitive, primordial world where enigmatic and sometimes aggressive plant and animal forms float and collide.

Oil and charcoal on canvas - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

More William Baziotes Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
William Baziotes
Interactive chart with William Baziotes's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Joan MirĂ³Joan MirĂ³
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Roberto MattaRoberto Matta
Charles BaudelaireCharles Baudelaire

Personal Contacts

Roberto MattaRoberto Matta
Max ErnstMax Ernst
Robert MotherwellRobert Motherwell
Mark RothkoMark Rothko

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
ExpressionismExpressionism
CubismCubism

Influences on Artist
William Baziotes
William Baziotes
Years Worked: 1934 - 1962
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Robert MotherwellRobert Motherwell
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Adolph GottliebAdolph Gottlieb

Personal Contacts

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Lee KrasnerLee Krasner

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Useful Resources on William Baziotes

Books

Websites

Articles

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

paintings

William Baziotes: Paintings and Drawings, 1934-1962 Recomended resource

By Michael Preble

William Baziotes: The Poetic Spirit

By Robert Reed Cole, Louis A. Zona, Ethel and Baziotes

William Baziotes

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
November 29, 2012

The Shooting Star Recomended resource

By George Negroponte
BOMB Magazine
November 16, 2012

One-Eyed Jack

By Carroll Dunham
Artforum
Summer 2011

William Baziotes

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
October 19, 2001

More Interesting Articles about William Baziotes
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