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Le Motif


Motif:  motive; a theme.  Fr. motif;  Latin. motivum: a moving cause; motivus: moving

This painting shows winter, but we’re all feeling spring. The dandelions are overtaking the yard below the Marchutz studio on the hill, and we’ve finally begun to eat our lunches under the sun in the dry courtyard, or on the hammock, in between our talks about art. Today was seminar. The theme this week was motif – a sort of trite aesthetic term that, from French, translates to “motive,” which can be understood as something “which incites to action, that which determines the choice or moves the will.”

In past seminars on motif John would play Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D Major as we looked at this painting by Kokoshka. We’d also done this with a comparison of Cezanne to Wagner’s Tannhauser. Like the pairing of a fine wine and cheese, corresponding works of art to music can enrich our experience, and comprehension as the case may be, of both. Which makes me think: what if somebody added a meal to the mix?  I mean what would a Kokoshka taste like? Licorice?  Venison with some weird spices?

But that’s beside the point. Please enjoy this painting by Kokoshka called Dent du Midi, with Mahler’s Symphony No. 9.

“From my attic window I watched Loo’s departing sledge…Here was empty space as I had never before been aware of it…Nature which transformed itself before my eyes into an ever wider and deeper interplanetary space, as the rising sun flooded with light the glacier-hung massif, a giant crystal amid the encircling mists. My awe and amazement grew, as down below, over ice and snow, along the pinewood and past the signposts and the telephone wires, Loos disappeared into the distance. The pain of parting grew in my heart alongside my awe at the sunrise. From that moment it became clear to me that a landscape cannot be depicted objectively, captured by Kodak, painted like a still life. Landscape too is something living, something experienced; and I tried to give shape to this new insight in a painting.” – Oskar Kokoshka, My Life



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