LACMA: “The Orator” – Magnus Zeller
The work that stood out most to me while on the LACMA trip was the painting “The Orator” by Magnus Zeller, c. 1920. The work was displayed in the room dedicated to German Expressionism in the Ahmanson Building. It is an oil painting on canvas with dimensions of 65 in. tall and 83 in. wide.
Seeing the work in person is a very different experience from looking at its picture in LACMA’s digital collections gallery. This largely has to do with the size of the painting; looking at a reproduction that is less than a square foot in size on a laptop screen does little to impart the sense of grandeur and drama that seeing it in full size does. Additionally, the colors in the online version are slightly different than I remember them to be. They seem a hair too bright in hue – the painting appeared to me to be quite dark and gloomy in real life, with the exception of the hint of light shining on its titular central figure. The contrast in the hues is one of the more notable features of the painting, and it was lost in the online photo.
The work relates to our class in obvious ways; it is considered an example of Expressionism, one of the movements we studied. It was displayed in a room alongside many other works that are considered Expressionist. What I liked about that presentation was that there was a huge variance in style amongst all the works, even though they are all part of the same movement. “The Orator” is representational and depicts figures drawn with sharp lines and angles in dim color, while “Cows in the Lowland” by Emil Nolde, on the opposite end of the room, is characterized by blurry outlines of figures accentuated by vibrant color, and “Sign” by Wassily Kandinsky is brightly colored, sharply defined and abstract. Having all of these works in one room emphasizes the exciting and fluid character of Expressionist art.