Archival Program Information
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Panel Discussion

Young Italian Woman at a Table / Cézanne
Presented by Thomas Crow, Nancy Troy, and Richard Shiff

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
7:00 p.m.
Harold M. Williams Auditorium

This public discussion brings together three noted art historians to talk about the reflections of four visual artists at the end of their careers: Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian, Paul Cézanne, and Willem de Kooning.

Thomas Crow, Director of the Getty Research Institute, discusses the last thoughts of Rothko, looking particularly at his late paintings with their darker tones, muted hues, and simplified forms, which seem readily to correlate with the facts of his personal decline and eventual suicide. In consideration of Rothko's last thoughts, Crow probes a number of questions, including: Is biography a sufficient explanation for the changes in Rothko's art? In what ways do these changes sustain interest independent of our empathy with the artist's life experience?

Nancy Troy, Chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Southern California, examines the final work of Mondrian as a representation of his last thoughts by considering the significance of the New York studio that Mondrian created and lived in during the last few months before his death. Troy explores the various media in which that space outlived the artist through hybrid representations including fashion photographs, furniture designs, and posthumously produced works that resist definition as documents and as art objects.

Richard Shiff, the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin, discusses both Cézanne and de Kooning. He considers the impact of Cézanne's failing health on his work at the end of his life and asserts that because the artist knew he had limited time he increased the intensity of his works during his final years, expressing impatience and dissatisfaction with criticism, aesthetic theory, and modern times in general. Schiff examines Cézanne's last documented thoughts including, "I am the primitive of my way." In contrast to Cézanne, de Kooning lived much longer, into his early nineties, long enough to lose his mental agility, but without necessarily losing his capacity to paint creatively. Shiff explores the possibility that de Kooning's "last thoughts" were
perhaps expressed only visually, without the artist's ever translating them into words.

This panel is presented in concurrence with the Ojai Music Festival, which also explores the question of Artists' Last Thoughts from the perspective of musicians. For more information on the Ojai Festival please call (805) 646-2053.