Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Picasso's Villas

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie at Mougins on the French
Riviera, where Picasso lived for most of the years from
1961 until his death in 1973.
Recently I've been highlighting the homes of various important artists from the past--everyone from Rembrandt to Walt Disney. Today I decided I should explore the French villa of one of perhaps the most important artist of the 20th-century. He called it La Californie. It was only in delving into the artist's life that I discovered the Pablo Picasso actually only lived in Cannes just six years, from 1955 to 1961. Not only that, but over the latter half of his life (those years when he could afford such lodging) the man had four such homes, one in Paris; La Californie overlooking thee harbor at Cannes; another, the Villa Notre Dame de Vie at Mougins; and the Château Vauvernargues near Aix-en-Provence, where he was laid to rest in 1973.

Pablo Picasso's granddaughter, Marina Picasso (the daughter of Picasso's oldest son, Paulo), poses outside La Californie, which she renamed, Pavillon de Flore. The property overlooks Cannes, and recently sold for more than $110-million.
One factor too, which separates Picasso from many of his long-departed peers, is that none of these four homes is currently open to the public. As near as I can tell, only one, the Chateau Vauvernargues, is still owned by any of the descendants of Picasso's three wives or their four children. The other three Picasso residences appear to be privately owned. Moreover, it's not probable they will ever welcome the hoards of art tourists that would likely ensue, the one simple reason being they all occupy some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The going price for a prestigious address on the Cote d'Azur is roughly $390 (€365) per square foot. That would be a pretty pricey tourist attraction.

Grenier de Picasso (Picasso's attic).
Picasso in his Paris studio with
his wood-burning stove, 1944.
Pablo Picasso's first major home-studio was in Paris at the 17th-century Hôtel de Savoie on the Rue des Grands Augustins in the chic 6th arrondissement of Paris. A plaque out front next to the building's wrought iron gates proclaims: "Pablo Picasso lived in this building between 1936 and 1955. It is in this studio he painted Guernica in 1937." His studio was in the cavernous attic (seen just above). Picasso moved into this studio after separating from his first wife, Olga. It was here that Picasso sat out the Nazi occupation of Paris. When a German officer tried to bribe the artist with extra coal to heat his studio, Picasso reportedly refused, retorting: "A Spaniard is never cold!". The heavy overcoat he can be seen wearing in the 1944 photo at left suggests otherwise.

Picasso's view, the old harbor of Cannes. When high-rise
buildings came and blocked his view in 1961, Picasso left.
Picasso's Villa La Californie (top), is a grand mansion in Cannes, France. The house overlooks the bay of Cannes. In the background are the hills of the district of California, from which the estate gained its name. Built in 1920 by a Russian diplomat, Picasso bought the house in 1955 and moved there with his second wife, Jacqueline Roque. From this studio he painted the Bay of Cannes (below), in 1958. In his own Cubist manner, Picasso represents the seascape strangled by the urban environment. He live here only six years before the city's urban sprawl sent him "house hunting" a few miles further up the Mediterranean coast to Mougins.

The Bay of Cannes, 1958, Pablo Picasso.
The Villa Notre Dame de Vie, recently sold for €164-million ($220-million). This luxury mansion, where Picasso took up residence for the final twelve years of his life, is located in the French resort of Mougins (in the Provence of Alpes--Cote d'Azur). For that considerable hunk of cash the new owner got a 35-bedroom villa with two swimming pools, a tennis court, a flower garden, a guest cottage and a guardhouse for protection. The town has also played host to Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Arman, Yves Klein, César Baldaccini, Paul Éluard, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, and Catherine Deneuve.

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie today bears only a modest
resemblance to the house Picasso knew. Modernization
has erased all but the Picasso mystique--that which jacks
up its property value.
Picasso's time in Mougins coincided with the height of his fame and wealth. Although his productivity was slowing down, during this period of time he produced some important artworks from his 'later period'. Among these were: The Dance of Youth, 1961; Nu assis dans un fauteuil, 1963; The Chicago Picasso, 1967; and Femme nue au collier (below), from 1968, which was a painting of Jacqueline Roque.

Naked Woman in the Necklace, 1968, Pablo Picasso
Although Jacqueline Roque was not the easiest women to be around, (she later prevented two of Picasso's children from attending his funeral), there is no doubt that she loved him. Thirteen years after Picasso's death, in 1986, Jacqueline Roque shot and killed herself, unable to cope with the loneliness of life without him. Picasso produced over 400 drawings and paintings of Jacqueline during the twenty years they were together. He produced seventy portraits in one year alone. This was more than he had done from any of his previous relationships, with Dora Maar or Francoise Gilot.

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie, then and now. 
Pablo Picasso died at his home of Notre Dame de Vie, Mougins in April of 1973. During the evening he and Jacqueline had been entertaining friends for dinner, when Picasso fell ill. The cause of his death was fluid on his lungs causing breathing difficulties which led to cardiac arrest. On the grounds of Château de Vauvenargues, near the provincial town of Aix-en-Provence, there is a simple mound of earth, covered in grass and ringed by ivy. Mounted on top is a curvaceous bronze nude, made by Pablo Picasso in 1933, and exhibited alongside Guernica in the Paris international exhibition of 1937. Beneath lies the body of the artist himself.

Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, 1887, Paul Cezanne
The Spanish artist bought Château de Vauvenargues in 1958. The estate is located in the foothills of Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain immortalized in countless paintings by Paul Cézanne (above), whom Picasso regarded as his artistic father. The current owner, Catherine Hutin (the daughter of Jacqueline Roque from her earlier marriage to engineer André Hutin) resides there now. When Picasso bought Château de Vauvenargues, he had intended to spend the rest of his life there. He sent for all his bronzes to be placed on the terrace and hundreds of paintings he had collected were stacked in the château’s cavernous rooms. He loved the isolation and scale of the place, which reminded him of Spain. However Jacqueline apparently found it too draughty and unfriendly. Just two years later, the couple moved to Notre Dame de Vie in Mougins. Picasso lived at Château de Vauvenargues for only a very short time. In death's irony though, he has spent far more time at this villa than he did during his lifetime in all his other villas combined.

Pablo Picasso's castle--Château Vauvernargues, Aix-en- Provence, in the foothills of Mont Sainte-Victoire.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gentile da Fabriano

Adoration Of The Magi, 1422-23, Gentile da Fabriano
Pseudo-Arabic script in the
Virgin Mary's halo, (detail above)
from Adoration of the Magi.
We all like to think that art is eternal--especially our own. However, in the back of our minds, we all know that's not the case. To clean up an otherwise nasty quote regarding the history of human ex-istence (including art) "Excrement hap-pens." Wars happen. Fires happen, as do floods, earthquakes, human greed, simple neglect, and many other enemies of mankind's creative efforts. In large part, perhaps far more than most other artists, that's been the story of the Italian painter, Gentile da Fabriano. In researching this unfortunate painter's work, the words, "now lost" keep appearing over and over again.
Gentile da Fabriano
from Vasari, 1568
Fabriano lived during the early years of the 15th-century, and thus worked almost exclusively for various churches creating lavish altarpieces, which, as art goes, tend to be the most treasured and best preserved works an artist can produce. However, he also lived and worked all his life in northern Italy, which, from Roman times on, may well be the most fought-over hunk of real estate on the face of the earth. As I've said many times before, war is the archenemy of art. In fact, it encompass virtually all the other disasters that may befall this fragile rendering of the genius of man.

Valle Romita Polyptych, 1405-1410, Gentile da Fabriano
Fabriano was born around 1470 and died in 1527. As his assumed name would indicate, the artist was born in Fabriano, located on the back side of the Italian "boot" roughly due east of Florence. In his youth, he gravitated to Venice and the workshop of Jacopo Bellini, where he worked helping to decorate the Doge's Palace. A disastrous fire palace in 1577 destroyed his early work. Fabriano's earliest surviving piece is the Valle Romita Polyptych (above), from around 1405-10, (now in Milan's Brera Art Gallery).

Quaratesi Altarpiece, 1425, Florence, Gentile da Fabriano.
As was the case with many lesser-known artists of the time, Fabriano moved around a lot. Besides Venice, he also worked at various times in Brescia, his hometown of Fabriano, Siena, Rome, and Florence. It was in Florence, in the family Church of San Niccolò Oltrarno, that he painted what's considered his greatest masterpiece, the Quaratesi Polyptych (above) from 1425. Though the work has long since been divided among several museums, through the magic of digital imagery, I've manage to reassemble (after almost two hours). The lower paintings depict (left to right) the Birth of St. Nicholas, The Gift of St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas Saving a Ship from the Tempest, St. Nicholas Saves Three Youths from the Brine, and the Miracle of the Pilgrims at St. Nicholas' Tomb. The upper images depict Madonna with Child and Angels (central compartment), flanked on the left by St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Nicholas of Bari, while on the right side we find, St. John the Baptist, and St. George.

Coronation of the Virgin, ca. 1420, Gentile da Fabriano
If the work of Gentile da Fabriano seems strangely formal and contrived, keep in mind that he worked in a style that's come to be called Italian Gothic. In short, this was the style which preceded the classicism of the Italian Renaissance. In his Coronation of the Virgin (above) from 1420, he used extensive tooling, decorative patterning, gold leaf, and rich pigments to create a sumptuous surface resembling a tapestry. The complex patterning, elaborate materials, and long flowing lines of the robes of the Madonna and Christ are characteristic of the Italian version of the International Gothic style.

Madonna With The Child,
Gentile da Fabriano--
characteristic of the
ravages of time and neglect,
offering a clue as to why so
much of the artist's
work is labeled "now lost."


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Carl Eytel

A Rio Grand Pueblo, 1918, Carl Eytel
There's an old saying having to do with success: "It's not what you know but who you know." Of course, there are some limitations to such a cynical viewpoint, but insofar as it goes, it also applies to artists. In the case of portrait artists, "It's not how you paint but who you paint." And, for the landscape artist, one might say, "It's now what you paint but where you paint." A couple days ago I wrote about an Australian artist named John Eyre, who became historically memorable not because he was such a great artist (he was mediocre, at best), but for the visual history of Sydney, Australia, which he almost inadvertently left behind.
Even in the Sonora desert, and long before Palm Springs became so "pricey," mediocre artists led a rather Spartan existence.
Very much cut from the same cloth was an American painter named Carl Eytel. He was born in 1862 near Stuttgard, Germany. His father was a Lutheran minister who died when Carl was just a child. With the death of his father, the young boy became a ward of his grandfather, who saw to it that he was well educated. At this point I usually mention that the child showed great promise at an early age in becoming an artist. Carl didn't. He wanted to be an American cowboy. That was, of course, taken as a rather silly ambition by everyone he knew, given the time and place. Instead, he studied forestry, which made more sense in that Germany had far more trees than it did cattle.
The Twelve Apostles, Carl Eytel.
After serving time in the Kaiser's army during WW I, Eytel set about to make his boyhood dreams come true. He emigrated to the United States and found work as a ranch hand in Kansas. Tiring, perhaps, of working with cantankerous live cattle, Eytel worked for some eighteen months in a slaughterhouse, "herding" far more docile to speak. However, that too no doubt grew tiresome after a while so when, the young man read an article in a San Francisco newspaper about the desert area of Palm Springs, California, he once more headed west.

Desert Scene, 1902, Carl Eytel
It was during this time that Eytel began to draw cattle rather than wrangle or slaughter them. The problem was that, as intimately familiar as he was with them, both alive and otherwise, dammit, he didn't know how to draw cattle. So, in 1897, by now probably more than a little homesick, Eytel returned to Germany to study up on the subject at the Royal Art School in Stuttgart. Inasmuch as that area of Germany is not particularly well-known for either palm trees or cattle, Eytel stayed for only eighteen months.

Untitled, 1910, Carl Eytel
Back in the United States, still deep-down wanting to be a cowboy, Eytel worked as a cowhand in the San Joaquin Valley for a time before eventually settling once more in Palm Springs around 1903. Living in a small cabin he built himself, the would-be cowboy artist spent the rest of his life in Palm Springs. Eytel often walked in his travels, sometimes covering as much as four-hundred miles in the Colorado desert on foot. His misadventures read like a western dime novel with which he was no doubt familiar. On one occasion he was nearly lynched as a horse thief while another time he was almost lynched again, this time suspected of being a German spy.

Coachella Valley, Carl Eytel
While living as something of a "desert rat" and starving artist, Eytel began to travel throughout the American desert Southwest accompan-ied by author, J. Smeaton Chase and painter, Jimmy Swinnerton. Later he served as a guide for the British photographer and journalist, George Wharton James to (I'm not making this up) "every obvious and obscure location of importance." Eytel then turned his art talent (such as it was) to illustrating James' two volume The Wonders of the Colorado Desert. The work was successful and received generally favorable reviews. The collaboration lasted for four years.

By burro or wagon, it sure beats walking.
The man in the back of the wagon is Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
During the latter years of his life, Eytel became a member of an evolving "brotherhood" of Palm Springs artists including the cartoonist and painter Swinnerton, author James, and photographers Fred Clatsworthy and Stephen H. Willard. The men lived near each other, traveled together throughout the Southwest, helped with each other's works, and exchanged drawings and photographs which appeared in their various books.

Palm Desert, Carl Eytel.
I see the desert, but where's the palms?
As an artist, Eytel was largely self-taught. Stylistically he might be considered an impressionist, though there's little evidence he either understood or utilized their color theories. He was not widely schooled, but he was widely read. Eytel possessed a knowledge not only of the Greek and Roman classics but of the best literature of England, America and his native Germany. More than a little eccentric, Eytel seldom slept indoors in order to inure himself to hardships in the belief it would toughen his constitution. Despite his concern as to his constitution, Eytel died in Palm Springs of tuberculosis in 1925 at the age of sixty-three.

Although, unlike John Eyre in drawing Sydney, Carl Eytel was not
"into" drawing urban landscapes (not that Palm Springs in his day
was what you'd call "urban." Yet his work, and that of his artist
friends, does provide a valuable starting point from which we can marvel at the incredible changes the 20th century brought to this desert oasis.
Eytel's most important art tool.


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell Museum
Inside Norman Rockwell's final studio, not just as he left it when he died in 1978, but as it was around 1960 when he created the painting on the easel, Do Unto Others,  sometimes referred to as the "Golden Rule" painting.
In recent months I've taken to highlighting some of the smaller, yet outstanding, museums this country has to offer. Most of them deal with art in general with perhaps a bias toward a particular type, or era. Some deal only with American art, others only with wildlife or that of the American West, while others concentrate on the wild, wild east. Only one such museum in this series deals with the art of just one man--the iconic, all-American painter, Norman Rockwell. As these smaller museums go, the Rockwell is medium in size with between five and eight hundred original works (depending on who you ask), and is the largest, most complete collection of the artist's work to be found anywhere. It's also Stockbridge, (western) Massachusetts' only major tourist attraction.
Rockwell's studio as it is today (upper photo) and as it
was being moved several miles from Stockbridge to
the museum grounds outside the town.
I'm not going to expound to any great degree on the art of Norman Rockwell. God knows I've done that in the past, many times over. This is about the museum--the big white box (below) that holds and protects it all. The museum was founded in 1969 by the artist and his third wife, Molly. It was then "refounded" by the Rockwell heirs fifteen years after the artist's death on a 38-acre site just over two miles outside of Stockbridge. In addition to hundreds of original works by Rockwell, the museum also houses the Norman Rockwell Archives, a collection of over 100,000 various items, including photographs, fan mail, and business documents. In 2014 the Famous Artists School donated to the museum its archives, including numerous drawings from 1948 by Rockwell, who was one of its founding faculty members.

 Norman Rockwell Museum
Norman Rockwell in his studio with model Hank Bergmans examining the painting Can’t Wait, about 1970-72.
To me, these miscellaneous items, photos, and drawings having to do with the man, his three wives, his three sons, and the source material (photos, below) he had created are far more interesting than his paintings, most of which I've seen dozens of times before. I wish I could say I've seen them in the Rockwell Museum setting, but alas, I haven't gotten that far down my "bucket list" yet. Photos such as the ones below with two of his three sons add an extra dimension to the artist as a father, with which few people are familiar.

Norman Rockwell Museum
Rockwell's youngest son,; Thomas (above-left) has
become a successful artist in his own right.
As a painter myself, nothing delights me more than getting a peek at that which an artist used as reference material. Rockwell was rare for his time in using the services of a professional photographer in posing his models, especially the youthful ones, especially the rambunctious pre-teen boys which so often appeared in his Saturday Evening Post cover art. Rockwell worked for the Post for some forty-two years before switching over to that magazine's upstart rival, Look, during the final ten years of his career. Working for Look, Rockwell took on much more contemporary, often controversial, content such as New Kids in the Neighborhood (below), here accompanied by his source photos. It's especially interesting to observe where he closely followed the photos and when he departed from them, and trying to discern why he may have done so.

Norman Rockwell Museum
New Kids in the Neighborhood, 1967, Norman Rockwell.
(Notice who owns the black dog and the white cat).
The Rockwell Museum is also a good place to come to terms with the evolution of its namesake as to style. Looking closely it's not hard to see three distinct periods in Rockwell's stylistic development. From around 1916, when Curtis Publishing first put Mother's Day Off, on the cover of their flagship magazine, until 1943 when Rockwell painted his famous Four Freedoms (and coincidentally, his studio burned to the ground destroying many paintings and all his old props), we might call his style "Early Post." From that point until 1963 when he painted his last Post cover, we might call it his "mature" period. And finally, during his ten years with Look, he found a new, fresh, much more contemporary, photographic style--"The Look look." The museum covers all these stylistic elements in depth.

The Post years, paintings so familiar Rockwell fans can identify them even in a tiny "thumbnail" format.
In moving and reconstructing Rockwell's studio (top) during the last 25 years of his career, the museum has relied upon the visual documentation provided by an overzealous Post photographer sent to cover a "day in the life of an artist." The man not only shot copious photos of the artist at work, but damned near everything else as well. His employer was not amused by what they saw as a waste of valuable film, but the Rockwell Museum curators have come to bless him to no end. He made their work easy as well as authentic down to the smallest detail.

Norman Rockwell Museum archives.
A "contact sheet" from negatives discovered in the
museums archives.
During Rockwell's years with the Saturday Evening Post, he painted 321 covers. Naturally, not all of these works are represented on the walls of the museum as full-size originals; but even in magazine cover format, they make for quite an impressive display. At one point, a rival periodical offered Rockwell a thousand dollars a week (twice what he was making from the Post.) Rockwell turned them down. So impressed was the Post by the artist's loyalty, they doubled his salary. Rockwell painted sporadically up until early 1978 just six months before he died of emphysema. Ironically, Rockwell's trademark pipe was likely the direct cause of his death.

Norman Rockwell Museum
The museum goes "Postal."

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (detail,
central segment), Norman Rockwell. For
several years Rockwell's studio was on the
second floor of the central building.

Col. Harland Sanders' Portrait,
1973, Norman Rockwell. This may
have been Rockwell's final portrait
commission, coming some five
years before his death.

Click below for a quick tour of the museum.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

John Eyre

Sydney Cove, 1806, John Eyre, now (top photo) and then from roughly the same angle. The present-day photo was probably taken from the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
My interest in people, places, and things as seen now and then is not limited to art. In fact I have long been fascinated by history years before I became a budding artist (by at least a year or two). Ever since the third grade, when I learned the Christopher Columbus wasn't the only maritime explorer to sail the seven seas, I have been as much interested in historic trivia as in history itself. The Australian painter, John Eyre was a trivial painter. Truthfully, one would have to call him a hobbyist by today's standards, his work far more important as visual history than as art. It would appear that, like many such artists, he more or less "backed" into painting for lack of anything better to do.

Sydney Cove, now and then. The famed Circular Quay, built between 1837
and 1844, now occupies the triangular area to the left of Sydney Cove. 
Therefore, very little is known about the man himself. We know John Eyre was born in 1791. He would appear to be self-taught. He certainly didn't get any art instruction from his father, who was a Coventry, England, wool-comer and weaver to whom he was apprenticed in 1794 at the age of thirteen. By the time he was eighteen he had been convicted of "housebreaking" (breaking and entering in today's parlance). He was sentenced to "transportation," which means he would be sent to the British penal colony in Sydney, Australia. He arrived there in 1801 to fulfill his seven-year sentence. If you're looking for a picture of the man, forget it. He didn't do self-portraits and photography hadn't been invented yet.
First Government House, Sydney, John Eyre
Eyre seems to have learned his lesson. He was granted a conditional pardon in 1804. His early drawings are dated from around this time. He generally focused on urban landscapes, giving his creative output value not only as works of art, but also as historical records. Over time, Eyre's work progressed from purely representative topographical depictions, to more artistic compositions with embellishments such as Aboriginal figures and ships at sea. This progression is typical of the developmental pattern of landscape depiction in the early colonial period. John Eyre was still relatively young when he left Sydney in 1812 at the age of forty-one. He was a free man, never to be heard of again.
Sydney Cove by an unknown artist, possibly John Eyre.
I should point out, that about that time, another John Eyre--Edward John Eyre--was born in England. He eventually traveled to Australia to explore the continent, later to become the Colonial Administrator. One source I found had him creating the etching below in 1812, three years before he was born. If that were true, he'd be the youngest child prodigy in the history of art.
Port Jackson Harbor, in New South Wales, with a
distant view of the Blue Mountains, 1812, John Eyre.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Psychedelic Art

The Artist's Hand, 1997, Alex Grey

Let me begin by setting the record straight. I don't do mind-altering drugs, I never have, and except perhaps on my death bed, I never will. I don't smoke--tobacco or any other grassy substance. I don't consume alcohol except for rare, European excursion with lunch. I've never even tasted beer. I have never been inebriated (drunk). Moreover, except for cigarette smokers, I don't hold an opinion one way or another regarding those who pursue any of these pleasures. My own addiction has to do with food, which I fear would probably translate to a similar dependency with regard to these other substances if I were to indulge myself.
Psychedelic art, many probably suppose, has its roods deep in the countercultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Actually, that era merely saw the sprouting of buds, branches, and limbs, as it were, when associated with marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and other such substances. Actually, the so-called "drug culture" literally mushroomed from a mushroom--the Psilocybin mushroom, to be exact. And that little booger has impacted the human consciousness dating back at least six-thousand years to primitive Aztec religious ceremonies. Insofar as art is concerned, carved Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Guatemala dating from as far back as 1000 BC. They depict a mushroom strongly resembling Psilocybe Mexicana found in a west Mexican tomb in the state of Colima. The Psilocybe species was known to the Aztecs as Teonanácatl (literally "divine mushroom"). Thus there's nothing new about psychedelic drugs or the art they've fostered.
An Opium Den At Lime Street (detail), John L. Wimbush
China Opium, A Chinese man
preparing his opium pipe, 1859.
Most of the art associated with mind-altering drugs tends to be about them rather than art created using such substan-ces. For the most part, art about drug use breaks down into two categories, that which glorifies it and that designed to frighten potential users. I won't comment on either type ex-cept to say they are both valid forms of art and the former, naturally, is usually much more attractive. In our modern era, both types have their origin in the opium dens of China. So powerful was the attraction for this drug it came to pervaded all levels of that country's social classes (left). Its economic impact was so huge the British even went to war twice to gain a piece of the action (1839–42 and 1856–60). They won the wars but ended up with Chinese opium dens in London (above).

Peter Max to the max. Were they created about drugs or
using drugs?
The quintessential Psychedelic artist of the 1960s and 70s was (and is) Peter Max. His work has become an indispensable guide for cultural literacy of the 1960s. Today his paintings command a large following (and large prices) in becoming consistently collected worldwide. There were, however, precursors such as Salvador Dali as far back as the 1930s with his The Persistence of Memory (below) which may reference the seeming "slowing of time" reported by many drug users. Was Salvador Dali simply painting an encounter with the wrong kind of mushrooms served at dinner? Quite apart from his state of mind, what I find remarkable about this painting is that the public has so embraced its clash of two different worlds, the real and the imaginative (surreal).

The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dali
Before Peter Max took up Psychedelia, San Francisco graphic designer, Wes Wilson designed some of the first and most well-known psychedelic posters. Among his best were for Bill Graham (not Billy Graham) of The Fillmore in San Francisco, in which he invented a style (below) that is now synonymous with the peace movement, psychedelic era, and the 1960s. In particular, he is known for inventing and popularizing a psychedelic font around 1966 that made the letters look like they were moving or melting.

Fillmore Auditorium Poster, 1966, Wes Wilson
Op Art, short for Optical art, is a style of abstraction that relies on geometric shapes, lines, and color juxtapositions to create optical illusions for the viewer. Gaining popularity in the 1960s, such art had little to do with the drug culture of the time but everything to do with a similar interaction between the brain and the eyes, without the influence of drugs, but having many of the same effects. It often featured patterns, grids, and curving or diminishing objects. In form, it had a tremendous influences upon psychedelic art. The Op art movement was driven by artists such of Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley (below).

Bridget Riley. Stare at it. Pretend you're on drugs.
Abstract Expressionism and the New York School of the 1950s had loosened the bounds of what could legitimately be called art. Psychedelic art feasted upon that broadened definition. But such art also choked on the same problem that had earlier bedeviled Abstract Expressionism. It was so new and there was so much of it being churned out by artists ranging from zombie drug addicts to entrepreneurial masters such as Peter Max, that no one, even most critics, could differentiate between what was "good" Psychedelia and what was simply a bad acid trip splattered on canvas (below).

What's a drug trip like? This may be close.

An artist using drugs? I'd say so, wouldn't you?

The cat that ate my stash.