William Baziotes

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William Baziotes (1912–1963) was an American painter influenced by Surrealism and was a contributor to Abstract Expressionism. He participated in discussions and exhibitions of the New York School. In the early 1940's he was a close friend of Jackson Pollock; they painted some paintings together.

Quotes[edit]

  • The eye seems to be responding to something living.
    • In: Modern Artists in America, R. Motherwell et al. eds., First series, New York 1952, p. 100
  • As for the subject matter in my painting.. ..it is very often an incidental thing in the background, elusive and unclear, that really stirred me.
    • In: Fifteen Americans, Ehibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, 1952 p. 12
  • The talk was mostly of ideas in painting. There was an unconscious collaboration between artists. Whether you agreed or disagreed was of no consequence. It was exciting and you were compelled to paint over your head… …If your painting was criticized adversely, you either imitated someone to give it importance, or you simply suffered and painted harder to make your feelings on canvas convincing.. ..What does happen when artists meet is that we are able to see more clearly the unfolding of character as time goes on.
    • William Baziotes is referring to the many art-debates and exchanges between the artists - among others Willem De Kooning and Jackson Pollock - all employed in the Work Project Administration, called W.P.A. in the 1930's; in his text for the symposium 'The Creative process', Art Digest Vol. 28, no 8, 15; January 1954, p. 33
  • I think when a man first discovers that two and two is four, there is 'beauty' in that; and we can see why. But if people stand and look at the moon and one says 'I think it’s just beautiful tonight' and the other says 'The moon makes me feel awful' we are both 'clear'. A geometric shape – we know why we like it; and an unreasonable shape; it has a certain mystery that we recognize as real; but it is difficult to put these things in an objective way.
    • In: Abstract Expressionism Creators and Critics, edited by Clifford Ross, Abrams Publishers New York 1990, p. 221: Remark in the Artists' Session at Studio 35, 1950.
  • There is always an unconscious collaboration among artists.. ..the artist who imagine himself a Robinson Crusoe is either a primitive or a fool.
    • from his text for a symposium in 1954; as quoted in William Baziotes – paintings and drawings, ed. by Michael Preble, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 2004, p. 18
  • Let the poet dream his dreams. Yet, the poet must look at the world; must enter into other men’s lives; must look at the earth and the sky, must examine the dust in the street; must walk through the world and his mirror.
    • In: 'The Artist and His Mirror', Right Angle Vol. III, no. 2, Washington DC, June 1949
  • To be inspired. That is the thing.
to be possessed; to be bewitched.
To be obsessed. That is the thing.
To be inspired.
  • a poetry line on painting, in: 'Tiger’s Eye', Vol. I, no. 5, Westport, Connecticut, October 1948, p. 35
  • Today it’s possible to paint one canvas with the calmness of an ancient Greek and the next with the anxiety of a Van Gogh. Either of these emotions, and any in between, is valid to me.. ..I work on many canvasses at once. In the morning I line them up against the wall of my studio. Some speak, some do not. They are my mirrors. They tell me what I am like at that moment.
    • In: 'I Cannot Evolve Any Concrete Theory', William Baziotes, in Possibilities, Vol. I, no. 1, New York, winter 1947-48, p. 2
  • Each painting has its own way of evolving. One may start with a few color areas on the canvas; another with a myriad of lines, another with a profusion of colors.. ..Once I sense the suggestion I begin to paint intuitively. The suggestion then becomes a phantom that must be caught and made real. As I work, or when the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself.
    • William Baziotes is referring here to automatic writing as a surrealist concept; in: 'I Cannot Evolve Any Concrete Theory', William Baziotes, in Possibilities, Vol. I, no. 1, New York, winter 1947-48, p. 2
  • Well, I looked at Picasso (Picasso exhibition, Museum of Modern Art in 1939) until I could smell his armpits and the cigarette smoke on his breast. Finally, in front of one picture – a bone figure on a beach – I got it. I saw that the figure was not his real subject. The plasticity wasn't either – although the plasticity was great. No. Picasso had uncovered a feverishness in himself and is painting it – a feverishness of death and beauty.
    • In: Modern Art U.S.A., R. Blesh, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1956, pp. 268-69
  • My whole intention in painting is to make a thing poetical; but not poetical in a literary sense. I want something that evokes mood, a background, a stage set for certain characters that are playing certain parts. When I paint I do not consider myself an abstractionist in the sense that I’m trying to create beautiful forms that fit together like a puzzle. The things in my painting are intended to strike something that is an emotional involvement – that has to do with the human personality and all the mysteries of life, not simply colors or abstract balances. To me, it’s all reality.
    • In: 'An interview with William Baziotes', eds. P. Franks and M. White, Perspective no. 2, Hunter College New York (1956-57), pp. 27, 29-30
  • I kept.. ..returning to the (ancient Roman) wall paintings with their veiled melancholy and elegant plasticity.
    • quote from his letter to Alfred H. Barr Jr. 6 November, 1955; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism, Barbara Hess, Taschen, Köln, 2006, p. 34
  • The large gray spiked form rising from the bottom of the picture is to me the symbol of death and ruin. And finally the black ovoid form is the symbol of fire, lava and destruction.
    • quote on on his painting 'Pompeii', he made in 1955; from his letter to Alfred H. Barr Jr. 6 November, 1955; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism, Barbara Hess, Taschen, Köln, 2006, p. 34
  • The emphasis on flora, fauna, and beings makes the exhibit a most intriguing and artistic one for it brings forth those strange memories and psychic feelings that mystify and fascinate all of us. (remark in 1957)
    • In: 'William Baziotes'; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism, Barbara Hess, Taschen, Köln, 2006, p. 34
  • In the beginning I drew and painted from nature in order to know her. Then later, only to fall under her spell. And today, to let her mirror my thoughts and feelings.
    • In: catalog of the traveling exhibition 'Nature in Abstraction', Whitney Museum of modern Art, 1958, p. 61


In Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, (1983)[edit]

Quotes in Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts 1983,

  • One hundred artists introduce us to one hundred worlds.
    • p. 136 : Original source: Artists Club, January 8, 1952, as
  • I can not evolve any concrete theory about painting.
    • p. 135 : Original source: Willem de Kooning, Moma Bulletin pp. 6,7,
  • One can begin a picture and carry it through and stop it and do nothing about the title at all.
    • p. 147


In: Artists’ Session at Studio 35, 1950 (1990)[edit]

Artists’ Session at Studio 35, 1950, as quoted in Abstract Expressionism Creators and Critics, edited by Clifford Ross, Abrams Publishers New York 1990.

  • I consider my painting finished when my eyes goes to a particular spot on the canvas. But if I put the picture away about thirty feet on the wall and the movements keep returning to me and the eye seems to be responding to something living, then it is finished.
    • p. 213
  • We are getting mixed up with the French tradition. In talking about the necessity to ‘finish’ a thing, we then said American painters ‘finish’ a thing that looks ‘unfinished’, and the French, they ‘they ‘finish’ it. I have seen Matisses that were more ‘unfinished’ and yet more ‘finished’ than any American painters. Matisse was obviously in a terrific emotion at the time and he was more’’unfinished’ than ‘’finished’.
    • p. 216
  • Whereas certain people start with a recollection or an experience and paint that experience, to some of us the act of doing is the experience; so that we are not quite clear why we are engaged on a particular work. And because we are more interested in plastic matters than we are in matters of words, once can begin a painting and carry it through and stop it and do nothing about the title at all. All pictures are full of association.
    • p. 217
  • I think the reason we (he himself and Lippold) begin in a different way, is that this particular time has gotten to a point where the artist feels like a gambler. He does something on the canvas and takes a chance in the hope that something important will be revealed.
    • p. 219

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