November 2022

Esprit Rude / Esprit Doux

Philip Gerstein


"True innovation in art is not

making something new and different

but making something better"

~ Walter Darby Bannard

I first learned of the expression esprit rude / esprit doux = rough breathing / smooth (gentle) breathing -- from the title of a musical composition by Elliott Carter (written in the 1980s and dedicated to Pierre Boulez). This seemingly exotic term is merely a kind of an aide-memoire for pronouncing Greek correctly, perhaps a trivial matter for the rest of us. It however fits beautifully as Carter's title to a woodwind duo, and would not sound out of place with almost any musical instrument. In Carter's modernistic composition, the emphasis is on the interval. In that way, both this term and its use to describe a musical composition, can find a reverberating & fully material analogy in the art of painting.


 "Blue Happiness", 48 x 36 in. (122 x 91 cm),
 Oil stick, acrylic & flashe on wood panel, 2022

"Blue Happiness" is a long painting; it took most of the year to complete. Its rough basic texture was laid out on a cold winter day.

As initially conceived, this painting aspired to the simplicity of structure and strong, dense and directly communicated color. Flache paint, flat and quite matte in its appearance, was to be a perfect compliment to the idea of rough materiality. It was going to be called "Stand by Me"... .

And yet, that's not where the act of painting stopped. Something was still a little chilly, austere, unexpressed. Just as yang is bereft without its ying, so the rude is oft incomplete and unbalanced without its doux. The painting kept evolving -- chromatically elaborated and compositionally more complex. It grew happier and airier as the summer wind blew... .


"Blue Happiness", detail

Open, Sesame, let the joy enter, stage right..!


Share This Page

View readers' comments in Letters to the Editor

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Philip Gerstein began exhibiting his work in the 1980's, while pursuing a PhD in Art History at Harvard University. He studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Japanese calligraphy with Toshu Ogawa. Gerstein exhibits in NYC, Provincetown MA, and extensively in the Boston area, as well as organizing and curating painting and photography shows. His work has been reviewed, reproduced and praised in many publications, including The Boston Globe, ArtScope Magazine, and Art New England. For his other work in Scene4, check the Archives

©2022 Philip Gerstein
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine





November 2022

  Sections~Cover · This Issue · inFocus · inView · inSight · Perspectives · Special Issues
  Columns~Adler · Alenier · Bettencourt · Jones · Luce · Marcott · Walsh 
  Information~Masthead · Your Support · Prior Issues · Submissions · Archives · Books
  Connections~Contact Us · Comments · Subscribe · Advertising · Privacy · Terms · Letters

|  Search Issue | Search Archives | Share Page |

Scene4 (ISSN 1932-3603), published monthly by Scene4 Magazine
of Arts and Culture. Copyright © 2000-2022 Aviar-Dka Ltd – Aviar Media Llc.

www,scene4.comSubscribe to our mail list for news and a monthly update of each new issue. It's Free!

 Email Address

Please see our Privacy Policy regarding the security of your  information.

Thai Airways at Scene4 Magazine