Ideas and Analysis by Meyer Schapiro of Important Artists and Artworks
Portrait of Chocquet (1875)
In an excerpt from Schapiro's book on Paul Cézanne, he writes in reference to Cézanne's Portrait of Chocquet: "And as in [Cézanne's] landscapes, we follow the action of the brush everywhere, spirited and frank in creating a thick fleshy paste of pigment, rich in flicker, direction, and tone."
Oil on canvas - Lord Victor Rothschild collection, Cambridge, England
A Pair of Shoes (1885)
There is an interesting story concerning Schapiro and this peculiar still life by Vincent van Gogh. In a heated exchange with the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, with whom Schapiro sharply disagreed on many topics concerning art, they discussed the origins of van Gogh's A Pair of Shoes. Heidegger believed that the boots once belonged to a peasant, thus, the portrait was meant to reflect the state of peasant life. Schapiro, on the other hand, saw something of the artist himself in this work, and argued that "the idea of the shoe as a symbol of [van Gogh's] life-long practice of walking, and an ideal of life as a pilgrimage." Schapiro was able to find deeper meaning, a reflection of the artist's life in the portrait. Furthermore, since van Gogh painted many still lifes of shoes, it's still up for debate as to which portrait the two men were discussing.
Oil on canvas - Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Evocation (The Burial of Casagemas) (1901)
In his famous lecture, 'The Unity of Picasso's Art,' Schapiro wrote: "Picasso enters the scene of European painting with an astonishing diversity of practice." According to Schapiro, Picasso had no singular style, but a mastery of nearly every style. In Evocation (one of several paintings devoted to his recently deceased friend Carles Casagemas), the artist employs some elements of European religious art and combines them with provocative imagery (nudes and prostitutes, for example). Schapiro pointed out that it contains a "unity" and "disunity" unfolding at once and is symptomatic of the artist's work as a whole, "for one cannot help but notice also in Picasso's work that at the very same moment he is able to paint and to draw in several different styles, he is not bound to a particular way of working at a moment."
Oil on canvas - Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris
The She-Wolf (1943)
Jackson Pollock's The She-Wolf is an early work that pre-dates his use of dripped paint, and it won Schapiro's admiration while he sat on the acquisitions committee of MoMA in New York City. Despite much hesitation from other committee members, Schapiro, who was highly regarded for his knowledge and professional opinions, convinced the museum to purchase the piece.
Oil, gouache, and plaster on canvas - The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Woman I (1950-52)
Schapiro can claim to have had a direct hand in the successful completion of this piece, since after working on Woman I for eighteen months, de Kooning was ready to abandon it altogether. It was only when Schapiro came to his studio and convinced him that it was worthwhile that he persisted and completed it. To this day, this painting is regarded as one of the most significant and controversial Abstract Expressionist paintings.
Oil on canvas - The Museum of Modern Art, New York