Wednesday, October 29, 2014
A Fine Recent Exhibition & Talk with Carrie Wilson, Dale Laurin, Marcia Rackow, and Myself
Napoleon Comes to Brooklyn by Chaim Koppelman
June 12, 2014 - September 21, 2014
Central Library, Foyer Gallery Cases
Pastels and prints imagining the emperor in this noted artist's hometown of Brooklyn.
’s work includes two themes of continuing interest to the artist, both related to Brooklyn: Napoleon entering Coney Island, and couples. Koppelman described learning from Eli Siege
l, founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism
, “that in my pieces about Napoleon, I was dealing with the problem of the individual and the democratic. Napoleon, he said, represented the pushing sense of one’s individuality, the emperor in oneself, and also the desire for democracy. I am grateful to Eli Siegel for teaching the enduring criterion for judging what is beautiful in art and good in life: ‘All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.’”
Chaim Koppelman studied art at Brooklyn College, American Artists School, and Art Students League, and from 1940 to 1978 studied Aesthetic Realism with its founder, poet and critic Eli Siegel, and then with the Chairman of Education, Ellen Reiss. Koppelman taught at the School of Visual Arts, where he started the printmaking department in 1959. He was on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation from 1973 to 2009. Additional teaching credits include Atelier 17, Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, National Academy, New York University, and SUNY New Paltz. His work has been shown at the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, the Whitney Museum, and the Museo Napoleonico in Rome, among others.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Napoleon Comes to Brooklyn
At the Brooklyn Public Library all summer long through September 21, there is an
exhibition “Napoleon Comes to Brooklyn” with all Chaim’s prints imagining the
emperor in the artist’s hometown.
He is in front of the Cyclone, the Ferris Wheel and with the crowd at
On September 17th, at the BPL, Carrie Wilson and Dale Laurin give a talk: "Napoleon Accompanied."
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Edouard Vuillard or, How a Woman Wants to See and Be Seen by Dorothy Koppelman
I have learned from Aesthetic Realism
woman wants to see and be seen from the time she opens her eyes as a baby;
first,—she wants to see the world as it is, because truly seen, the world has a
structure which is beautiful. In Self and World
Eli Siegel writes:
Aesthetic Realism, in keeping with its name, sees
all reality, including the reality that is oneself, as an aesthetic oneness of
I learned that the only way a person can see the
outside world as friendly is to see it wholly as it is and the only way we can
like ourselves is to see the aesthetic relation of the world and ourselves.
In Aesthetic Realism lessons I was seen by Eli
Siegel not as a disdainful critic, blasé at twenty, but as a woman yearning to
like the way I saw the world around me.
I have had the honor of being seen truly by Eli
Siegel and I know that every woman wants to be seen this way—as having the
opposites of reality itself. He asked me: Are you the same person alone as you
are with other people? It had never occurred to me before that such a thing was
possible. I learned that assertion and retreat, inside and outside were
opposites in the world, and that I could see this in the objects I liked to
paint—that it was this presence of opposites that made me want to paint. I
wanted to see and to like myself and the world at the same time.
Learning this made my life coherent—that I wanted
to see the world all the time in every situation, the way it is seen in the
paintings I cared so much for.
I believe this statement, embodying Aesthetic Realism, is the
greatest seeing the world itself has come to. I have seen it to be true
historically about all art, about my own work, and about people,
I am considering the work of Edouard Vuillard as a
lesson in paint showing how deeply an artist has looked at women and their
lives. The early paintings by Edouard Vuillard put together the opposites in
every woman’s life—the intimate and the large, closeness and distance, thought
and motion or energy and repose. Vuillard shows how the opposites, the structure
of a timeless reality, are present in us and in a work-a-day world; I care for
his work and have been affected by it very much.
A woman wants to be seen in relation to all
things, all the time. When, in an Aesthetic Realism class, Eli Siegel showed me
the way opposites--beginning with the hardness and softness of the chair I sat
in—were all around me, I said three words to myself I had never thought of
before: “I am related, I am related, I am related! My self took on a new
In the Fifteen Questions, Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?,
those beginning opposites of reality are asked about by
Eli Siegel—Sameness and Difference
DOES every work of art show the kinship to be
found in objects and all realities?—and at the same time the subtle and
tremendous difference, the drama of otherness, that one can find among the things of the world?
Vuillard: The Seamstress
In “The Seamstress” Vuillard shows “the kinship to
be found in objects and all realities.” Here is the plain, blue back of a woman
who seems to be absorbed in herself as she is absorbed in her sewing. But the
artist sees the act of sewing as an act of relation. The materials on either
side of the seamstress share her soft shape; under her arm is a white triangle,
and to her right, a blue one. The slim, straight lines of the chair on which
she sits are the same color as her hair, the same as that mysterious vertical
column which connects her head to that pink and red triangle, like a meditative
and lively cap.
Andrew Ritchie, in his 1954 book on the artist
[Vuillard] presents the quiet, ordinary
relationships of the animate and inanimate, the fusion of person and thing until
both become one, and every shape, every color, every accent merges into
sustained, tapestry-like rhythms.
The rhythm of relation, of sameness and difference is here
in, for instance, the way the seamstress’s neck is painted with the same thick
strokes of a light color, the same shape as the rectangular boxes to her right
and to her left.
Vuillard, in his work puts together the opposites every
woman wants to see as one every day, every morning—the near and far, the
everyday and the strange, the familiar and
Vuillard, who lived from 1868 to 1940, was a Symbolist;
affected by the poet, Mallarmé, he went after “nuance,” suggestiveness, and what
the poet called “atmosphere.” In one passage of the Journals he kept for over
40 years, recording what he saw, Vuillard wrote:
In painting after painting on small pieces of brown cardboard, using thick
paint and layers of theatrical glue used in stage sets, Vuillard showed that in
the crowded rooms, the routine domestic activities, there is the romance of the
wide, mysterious world: opposites as one. In “Woman Sweeping” for instance,
one soft color brown pervades the room, showing subtle changes as it mingles
with shadows, and defines the ever-present bureau, the light open door, even the
sweet, round cap of Madame Vuillard. But she is not sweeping everything away so
she can forget things. That slim, diagonal broom is the means of relation
between her round body in its striped gown and that bulky form with its
patterned surface, rising so mysteriously right in the foreground of the room.
It is that weighty shape, like a nucleus, which allows the objects of this room
to go out, spread beyond the edges of the canvas.
This morning, upon awakening I was looking at the different
objects that surrounded me…the curtains, the chair, the paper on the wall…the
knobs of the open door, glass and copper, the differences of perspective through
the two windows….I feel pleased to try and understand the character of
objects…to thus understand the world was…I believe, the goal…to find grand
emotions….And then…I was astonished to see Maman enter in a …peignoir with
…stripes…There was a vivid atmosphere…a living person…
I love teaching with my colleagues in Aesthetic Realism consultations what we
have learned about the only antidote to that boredom, irritation and loneliness
which arise from the idea that we have to separate what goes on inside our homes
from all that goes on in the outside world. The only opponent to that kind of
contempt is to see the vivid presence of the opposites—beauty itself—in
everything that exists.|
Often, when a woman is cleaning, two things occur—feverish activity and then
exhaustion. Is there, however, in this painting, a relation of impediment and
ease, which makes for serenity and, as Eli Siegel described, there must be in
all art, a sense of stir?—Do we see here the oneness of opposites we want in our
Does the fact that so many objects and shapes beyond the edges of this room
suggest that the sweeping woman has a relation to a wider space, a world beyond
that cozy room?
I am sure that every woman wants to be asked as Mr. Siegel
asked me: “Is a person’s business the whole world, or snug warmth?—Do you want
to be in relation to all space or just in a cupboard with a heater?” I see
Vuillard’s painting as not only an affirmation of relation but a criticism of
the desire in a woman, or any person, to sweep things out of sight. Vuillard, as
he showed in his painterly perception the shapes and colors of relation, also
criticized visually the notion of separation in one’s life.
II. What Women Want Is the Aesthetic Criticism of Self
The most dramatic, romantic and important thing that can
happen in a woman’s life—has happened in mine and continues to happen—is to
learn how to see the difference between contempt and its selfish pleasures and
the true criticism which is the same as respect, the same as love, the same as
Eli Siegel was the first to see and to say that all art has
the criticism we need in order to like the way we see the world. In his essay,
now published in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, “Art As
Criticism,” he writes:
To see is to criticize….The world cannot be seen as good
until it is criticized; and art is the criticism and through criticism, the
loving acceptance of the world.
Vuillard: The Blue Sleeve
Edouard Vuillard’s “The Blue Sleeve” exemplifies
that “criticism…” which is the “loving acceptance of the world.” It is a study
in contempt, anger, the accompanying limpness and the grand opposition to those
feelings which exist in our very selves and in the structure of things.
The scowling woman asserts anger, but the artist
asserts a counter-offensive in that very bright blue arm. The girl’s hand, so
large, so limp, rests however, on a rising triangle of light which leads quietly
back to another figure, almost indistinguishable but serenely there in the
background. Because Vuillard was a master at bringing distant depths to the
surface, we feel this person is inextricable—like our whole selves—from the
sidewise view of the unseeing girl. This woman, so brightly in the center of
the painting, is simultaneously held in the girl’s curving arm, while her head
and hair merge with the multi-colored, spreading world behind her.
“The world cannot be seen as good until it is
criticized,” said Eli Siegel, and that is what Vuillard does here: The dark,
almost religious arches of that chair in front support the worship of contempt
and anger; the artist changes them in depth to the light, vertical and
horizontal divisions of the spreading wall; and light and dark have changed
places on the two faces. The angry division of light and dark, with its scowl,
has been reversed so that we see an open eye in bright light and a most pleasing
vivid, and yet symmetrical relation of light and shadow.
In Aesthetic Realism consultations women learn to
see that even when we are asserting anger or scorn for the outside world, there
is another, wider aspect of ourselves—no matter how hidden or submerged—which
wants to be pleased rightly by the wide world.
In “Art As Criticism,” Eli Siegel
In art, what the eye and self do is for the honor
and full truth of reality; in what isn’t art, the eye can change reality out of
fear, and in a manner dishonoring it.
Interior: Mother & Sister of the Artist
“Interior: Mother and Sister of the Artist” of 1893 is perhaps Vuillard’s
most courageous and powerful painting. There is such a perception of evil in
close quarters, and such a stunning aesthetic opposition. This is the desire in
a woman to be unseen—the triumph of contempt in a woman—presented and
masterfully opposed. In the deep perspective of this room, the young lady
retreats, backs into and almost succeeds in merging with the patterned wall.
She is fearful, suspicious and she emerges slyly above the central, implacable
black form of the thickly masked, unseeing woman—her mother.|
Eyes and selves here have “dishonored reality,” as Eli Siegel described. But
the artist’s eye criticizes as we must criticize ourselves. The wall, as wall,
will not allow retreat and it welcomes otherness in its active surface. The
dark mother is center stage; blackness asserted is lightened, less frightening.
And she is surrounded by the friendly red warmth of that bureau with its many
drawers. The speed of the straight black bar at the base of the wall lessens
the distance between these women and joins them just as surely as the light
color of their four hands. I learned from Aesthetic Realism that objects are
ethical because they put opposites together. The bottle, tall and curved,
attached to the white, round plate, the cloth, soft and sharp, all say, as Eli
Siegel said to me, “There’s something to be seen around here.”
Aesthetic Realism teaches this: “The seeing of a person or an object should
contribute to your seeing the universe as it really is.” I am immensely proud
and grateful to be able to study that way of seeing, to have learned more from
the paintings of Vuillard and the writing of this paper, and to be a means of
having the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel seen truly by all the persons of the
Thursday, August 25, 2011
NAPOLEON ENTERING NEW YORK, A New Exhibition by Chaim Koppelman
At the Museo Napoleonico in Rome in October of this year, an historic exhibition will open showing the prints, pastels, paintings and drawings which Chaim Koppelman
did over six decades on the meaning of Napoleon to him. In the 1950s, as part of his study of Aesthetic Realism
, Chaim attended a lecture by Eli Siegel
on the character of Napoleon. Referring to a work by Eli Faure, Mr. Siegel explained something never seen before: "Napoleon," he said, "felt the injustices of the past should be changed." Yes, "he had a tremendous desire for power, but also, he wanted to be welcomed by the masses." Chaim Koppelman was so deeply affected by this idea that he put Napoleon into the 20th century, a man of opposites, in New York, in Coney Island, cavorting on the beach. With his fertile imagination, Chaim did work which showed Napoleon in an entirely new way, in entirely new circumstances--a figure with an ego, in his familiar hat, and also a man of the people. Napoleon retreated from Moscow as Meissonier showed, but he then went to Brooklyn, Chaim Koppelman's hometown.
Labels: NAPOLEON ENTERING NEW YORK
Saturday, March 12, 2011
LEGENDS OF THE PRINTMAKING WORKSHOP
AT LAGRANGE MUSEUM, LA GRANGE, GEORGIA
OPENING April 2, and through August 2011
Showcasing the prints of Will Barnet, Bob Blackburn,Chaim Koppelman
and Tom Laidman
. These works
were personally selected by Wesley Cochran to show
the pioneering spirit of these innovative printmakers.
A film will be shown of a conversation between Bob
Blackburn and Chaim Koppelman where the artist
talks of the effect of Aesthetic Realism on his work, and
particularly on the print Combat
which became part of the
Blackburn collection at the Smithsonian Institution and
is at the Museum of Modern Art.l
Sunday, January 02, 2011
Alice Neel's Studio in 1944
In this much reprinted photo of Alice Neel's studio (recently NYTBR 1-2-11), her portrait of me at age 23 is in the middle right. Alice painted this when she was staying at the studio I shared with Stamos. I was telling Alice about my first Aesthetic Realism Lesson with Eli Siegel. I think what we talked about then made for the quality of the painting.
Damned Welcome: Aesthetic Realism Maxims
I am immensely pleased to say that Damned Welcome: Aesthetic Realism Maxims by Eli Siegel and drawings by Chaim Koppelman is being republished with a new Foreward written by me.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
White Plane Painting, l960
When the plane crash occurred in Park Slope, Brooklyn on December l6, 1960, I was so moved I did first one painting, and then another. The first one was shown in my exhibiton at the Terrain Gallery in 1961, and is on my website now.
One of the deepest and most important things I have learned through my study of Aesthetic Realism is that ugliness is not only in the same world as the beautiful, but through relation we can find something like form in the ugly which makes for a new relation that is wonderful. We can even find sense in what seems so senseless.
Looking at a photograph of the crash I saw the white wings of the plane on the ground and I saw a wide sky. People were dark in the foreground. The photo I saw is reprinted in the Dec. 15 NYT. Something high had fallen low. I saw a symbolism in it quite other than the horror of having more than 100 people suddenly, terribly killed Sometimes when what is high (and wrongly high) is brought low, a person feels it is right. I translated the awful happening into that ethical situation. I hoped to show that in the painting.
Meanwhile I was moved by the fact that one lone, little boy had survived. And I read that a nurse had come to take care of him. Gabe Pressman in his emotionally affecting broadcast may have mentioned this. I do not remember. But I wrote to the woman at a place she was said to have frequented, Snooky's Pub. But unfortunately as the proprietor, Michael Hillyer wrote to me Ms. Lewnes did not appear. Or at least did not choose to respond.
I was born and brought up in Brooklyn not far from the site of that crash, and I was shaken as everyone was. But Brooklyn is the site of such beauty and such tragedy all mixed, and to be made sense of.