Blackpaint 711 – The Donald, Gene, Fred, Ginger and Lynette

January 22, 2023

Singin in the Rain

Watched this in its entirety for the first time the other day and for a while, I was tempted to say to myself the ultimate blasphemy – “Its almost – better than Fred and Ginger!” Gene Kelly is an athlete with a staggering power and precision – while watching him, you think “Yes – Fred’s a bit sort of wavy; doesn’t quite snap it out so cleanly…” And then there’s Donald O’ Connor, who runs up scenery walls – three big paces followed by a backwards somersault twice and then through the last one which looked like asbestos…

That’s in “Make Em Laugh” in which O’Connor more or less throws himself to the floor repeatedly, wrestles with a headless, handless mannequin behind a sofa and manages to end all this apparently without injury. The ensemble dancing with Kelly is just as sharp and precise (“Moses Supposes”) and with Debbie Reynolds too (Good Mornin’).

There’s a gangster sequence with Cyd Charisse in Broadway Melody that’s very like the one Fred danced with Charisse in The Bandwagon – need to look up the dates and see which one came first. And of course, Singin in the Rain -everyone knows it, nothing new, except Kelly’s fine voice – better than Fred’s, but maybe lacking that touch of pathos that Fred could do.

Then I watched the “Never Gonna Dance” medley in “Swing time” and I swung back. I think it’s actually Ginger, that back, those shoulders, the way Fred spins her round, that staircase, her spin at the end…

O’Connor and Kelly airborne

Fred gazes at that wonderful back in Swing Time

Lynette Yiadom – Boakye

Tate Britain until 26th Feb

Her pictures are not portraits; that is, not of real people. They are portraits of fictional characters. The titles are mystifying, shedding no apparent light on the ” meaning ” of each work. They presumably have meaning for Yiadom – Boakye privately. I’ve no problem with this: for other commentators, the justification, if one were needed, is that the fictional people in the portraits bear no burden of historical representation, as is the case in many (most?) figures of black people in Western art. I think you might make a similar case for the people in Lubaina Himid’s recent exhibition at Tate Britain, although they tended to be groups of persons involved in unexplained situations, rather than naturalistic mock portraiits.

Southern Rock at the BBC

This brilliant compilation turns up periodically, usually on BBC4. I record it then forget to save it and it disappears. It popped up again last night and I was lucky enough to record it again. The highlights are as follows:

Lynrd Skynrd doing “Sweet Hone Alabama” with a huge Confederate battle flag backdrop on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

The gob -smacking Black Oak Arkansas with their singer “Jim Dandy” Mangrum poncing about bare chested in buckskins. He’s a dead ringer for the serial killer who attacks Sigourney Weaver in the toilet in “Copycat”. The song is “Hey y’all”…

Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers, singing “Ramblin’ Man”, stunning guitar as in most of this stuff.

A demented Edgar Winter, with a band straight out of Spinal Tap, out-heavying brother Johnny, who puts in a comparatively sedate piece on the same subject later in the show.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section, a smooth rock ballad called “I am so into you”, distinguished by that guitar solo and the riff. It’s also from a Whistle Test session; another Confederate flag, and someone thought it was a good idea to hang “A.R.S” in big illuminated letters over the band.

Billy Joe White, doing Polk Salad Annie, with a sneering grin and a fag burning away, stuck on the end of a guitar string in the old style, despite the apparently posh venue;

Dobie Gray, the only black artist in the programme – “Gimme the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock an’ roll and drift away…”;

Charlie Daniels and his band doing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – poor Charlie would have been shocked by the rebel flags and testosterone on show – or maybe not, judging by his song “What this world needs is a few more rednecks”…

And Elvin Bishop, in farmer’s dungarees, doing Travelling Shoes. Probably best not to listen too closely to the words.

Only one female singer, Cher, duetting with the Allman brother she was briefly wedded to, on “Move Me”…

One of mine to finish:

Susie Cropped


January 21st, 2023

Blackpaint 710 – Women Modernists at RA

December 29, 2022

The exhibition is actually called “The Making of Modernism”, a bit of a misnomer since it excludes the male German Expressionists and their non-German associates, Still, the men have had plenty of exposure, so fair enough to devote a show to the women exclusively, I suppose. Actually, I don’t know what happened during their working lifetimes, but the work of Munter, Modersohn-Becker, and Kathe Kollwitz is pretty well known surely, maybe Werefkin a little less so. The others I’d never heard of. The exhibition is on until 12th February 2023

Not sure who painted this one – Munter maybe; it has the characteristics of many of the land- and townscape paintings of the Expressionists – vivid (lurid?) colours, crowded, rather claustrophobic canvases, plunging perspectives.

Modersohn – Becker

The other notable feature of this exhibition is the foregrounding of children and parenting, something largely, maybe completely absent from the men’s work for guessable reasons. I may be wrong, but I don’t think the view of a child sucking vigorously on an exposed titty in close-up has been done that often in western art. Maybe Hogarth, a drunken crone with a child at breast (from the back), prior to dropping the baby down a flight of stone steps; or a Dutch pub interior from the previous century,,,

Ottilie Reylaender I believe; this painting was drawing a whole lot of attention when I attended some weeks ago. Based on overheard comments, there seemed to be three reasons for this. First, the quality of the portrait – it’s just great, isn’t it? Her expression – is she cold, shy, timid, or just pensive and withdrawn? Or a mixture of all these… She seems from her grip on the chair arms and her raised shoulders to be quite tense, ready to jump up and escape.

Secondly, there is the frontal gaze, facing directly out at the viewer; unusual.

Lastly, a contemporary issue; would the picture even be on show in a London gallery if it was the work of a male artist? That was the first thought that occurred to me and,it seemed, to most other viewers who commented to friends or partners while I was there.

A touch of Ensor here, maybe? And also of that one in the National Portrait Gallery (or is it now in the NG?) of the Elizabethan women holding the identical babies with different coloured eyes. May be the colours, may mbe the simplicity, but it brought Milton Avery to mind too,

Portrait of Kandinsky by Munter? Looks rather like a Shakespearean character to me, touch of Hamlet (too old) or Falstaff (far too thin)…

Three works by Kathe Kollwitz. I love her drawing, the muscular bodies, the strong contrasts – just the power really. But I find the constant agonizing, the mannerism, the high tragedy a bit too rich for my tastes – which are admittedly shallow and superficial and fickle.

Those bulging knees remind me rather of Jenny Savile. Her drawing I mean, of course,

Two of my latest to finish, as always:

Night Comer 1

Night Comer 2


December 29th 2022

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year

Blackpaint 709 – Roughly Precise: William Talks to Himself

December 2, 2022

At the Royal Academy Ends on December 11th so hurry.

I’ve seen this four times already and even yesterday, I found things in the animations that were new to me. I’ve been with three different sets of people and all of them thought it was great, some of us best we could remember. For me, he’s a bit like Sigmar Polke, in the sense that there’s so much different stuff it’s hard for a blogger to get a handle on it. Best maybe to put down my diary entry for 27th October, (!)which was the date of my first visit.

“Kentridge exhibition – huge, astounding in many ways; one of the best I’ve ever seen. First, his drawing – charcoal, pencil, ink on paper (often – usually – book pages) – superficially rough, graphic, cartoonish of course, because they end up as animations. Sometimes they blossom into Old Masterly precision when required (no, this is wrong – they are always precise even when they’re rough. They’re roughly precise.. Erasures, smears, patches of white (his shirts for instance, part of his uniform).

His repeated inmages – I suppose they’re memes – coffee pots (cf Roy Oxlade), the electrified cat, the compasses/tripods with the megaphone heads, the ancient typewriter the guns, the bent humans with bundle of sticks instead of a head; waterfalls, trees, cryptic slogans – and small and not so small perfect self -portraits of the portly Kentridge, thoughtfully pacing back and forth, for example in the pages of a book in Portuguese, hands in pockets – PERFECT.”

An early drawing – Beckmann, maybe, a wee bit?

Dada – ish sculptures

Pacing in the Portuguese book

The Falls

Soho Eckstein adresses the masses

Kentridge has his characters, maybe avatars, Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitelbaum, one a bullying entrepreneur the other an artist. Eckstein in his boxy suit with the picket fence stripes, the fat cigar, the fierce, hate-filled screaming. often through a megaphone at the African trade unionists, also suited, raw boned, screaming back at him through megaphones of their own, in his stunning, crudely perfect animations. Eckstein is often a lonely, pathetic, almost sympathetic presence – naked in the shower, or dreaming of his wife in one startlingly explicit erotic sequence.

It seems – I read somewhere – that some critics felt that there was an element of anti-semitism in Kentridge’s portrayal of Eckstein. Can’t see that myself; anti – bullying capitalist boor maybe. Kentridge is Jewish himself, but i’t’s more than that – Eckstein is bad but human, Kentridge is too complex and humane to simplify people into stereotypes.

Then there’s his “Notes towards an Opera”; portrayed on a series of giant screens, the music is mainly a slightly distorted singing of the Internationale, with black woman ballerina dressed as a freedom fighter, stick fighters, a suited man miming fighting against a gale, interspersed with photos of Commune dead, famine victims, riots and demos, May 68, Chinese victims of the Cultural Revolution, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and much more. I think the flag waver in this picture is a man by the way, despite the skirt.

Kentridge interviews himself. He bullies, misinterprets, contradicts and pours scorn upon his art and creative method. Very funny, I thought and quite uncanny how he manages to keep his shirt(s) immaculate whilst drawing with charcoal and spreading it about with an electric drill, before blowing off the surplus dust….

I’ve much more to say, but I want to publish, so will finish with one of my own and resume Kentridge next time, along with “Making Modernism”, also at the RA currently.

End of the Rainbow


December 2nd 2022

Blackpaint 708 – Cezanne at Tate Modern

November 28, 2022

Tate Modern until 12th March 2023

Briefly – loved the apples and all the other fruit; the rock formations; some of the Mont St.Victoires and the people with clothes on. However, I don’t think he’s all that good at renditions of the human body. A selection follows:

Great stuff – sketch I’m guessing (didn’t do proper research of course) but it’s all there, if a little pallid…

Really? Arm too long, legs too short, very dodgy right shoulder – but whose idea was it to put it in that frame?

That’s more like it! Rich colour – love that grey – great brooding feel; it’s strong enough to withstand the grip of that huge,suffocating frame.

You can see what I mean about the clothes; they hide the strangenesses of Cezanne’s bodies. I like the picket fence skirt. Others have pointed out the mask-like face..

I find this the picture that is least like Cezanne in the exhibition; the paint is thicker, glossier – the surface more varnished than normal. I imagine it’s early – none the worse for all that, however.

My pictures to finish as always:

Night Comer 1

Night Comer 2



Blackpaint 707 – Branch Line

October 15, 2022

Room 20 at Tate Britain contains an exhibition called “Sixty Years; An Unfinished Conversation”. At first, I assumed it was to do with Black History Month; the first few pictures, photos and films I looked at were the work of artists with an Afro – Caribbean heritage. Then I saw there were others with a South Asian background and then a huge and familiar painting by RB Kitaj (see below).

This puzzled me, so I looked for an explanation in the info on the walls – got no help there, probably looked in the wrong places. Did the usual, photographed the ones that struck me and evenyually looked it up online at home. It turns out that its to do with diasporas (diasporae?) and is related to the work done by Stuart Hall on this theme. it seeks to demonstrate that artists of given heritages interact and are not (or should not be) trapped, as it were, into fixed, “approved” frameworks. I’m thinking of Frank Bowling and Winston Branch, for example, bucking the notion that abstraction somehow is not “appropriate” for a black artist – that it avoids confrontation with injustice, does not contribute to “the struggle”. OK, I’m probably putting this really badly, so here are some pictures with superficial comments, much safer ground for me.

Claudette Johnson – Standing Figure with African Masks.

Love her sardonic expression. Obvious comment on Picasso and the European fetish for “Primitive Art” (masks etc.) What’s that thing like a black rubber dart the wrong way round, hanging from the single breast of the figure facing her?

Faisal Abdu’Allah – I Wanna Kill Sam Cause He Aint My Mother Fuckin’ Uncle

I was interested to know if these were real gang members posing as themselves or possibly models, posed by Abdu’Allah. The title implies they are American; I think all the others were created or photographed in the UK?

This great photo is by James Barnor. Mike Eghan at Picadilly Circus, London (1967).

It reminds me so much of the photos by William Caxton of American jazz musicians, reproduced in “Jazz Life”, one of those massive Taschen tomes, published some years ago. There’s another photo of Eghan, where he seems to be in a recording or broadcasting studio.

Sonia Boyce, Missionary Position 11 – Love the title…. Ghost of me taking photo on the glass, I’m afraid. Who is the missionary here? Red dress on the right, I guess…

Michael Armitage, Day of Judgement – There’s a riot going on. This picture is massive: I walked back into the wall behind, trying to get it all in.

RB Kitaj, The Wedding (1989 – 93) That’s Hockney, partially obscured by Kitaj, the figure wearing the yarmulka.

Winston Branch, Zachary 11 (1982) – I took my pathetic title from this painting, which is my particular favourite of the paintings in the show. In this month’s Tate Etc. magazine, Rianna Jade Parker says this about it: “…a painting which embodies a move in his practice from figuration towards “an abstraction inspired by nature” ” : I’d say he’d got there.

A free show and a good one, not to be missed.

Art Now: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings: “Tulips” until January 2023

Also at Tate Britain is this show of six fresco paintings and a drawing. To quote the artists in Tate Etc., “Fresco is the practice of painting with pigment mixed with water onto freshly laid lime plaster…-as we do it – on wooden panels.” It’s “horribly difficult” because of the speed required and “hideously technical”.

The subject matter is the continual struggle over public space in British cities between the authoritarian forces of order (symbolised by tulips, orderly and upstanding in their traditional beds in public parks and gardens) and the unregimented ranks of Joe Public, in his more or less respectable forms.

Below, some examples: didn’t note the titles, I’m afraid.

That little timbered building looks a lot like the one in Soho Square. Probably not…

Some of mine to end with. They should be in an exhibition called “Light” in Sprout Gallery in November.

Blackpaint 706 – Emin, Locke and Avery and Me

September 20, 2022

A long, long time since last blog, during which time I’ve felt unable to write anything of interest. It may be that I’m right to feel that way, but I’m going to give it another go – what’s the harm? Consequently, the shows I mention have been on for some time, so you may well have seen them already. So – sorry! and thanks for reading, if you do.

RA Summer Show – it finished in August, sorry

I breezed through this weeks ago – it was so rammed with people I was unable to take much note of the pieces. My favourites among those I did notice were these two

Flowery People (didn’t get artist unfortunately)

Reminder of Jeff Koons’ giant flowery cat outside the Guggenheim Bilbao and perhaps more closely of those Thames Day events Ken Livingstone used to put on on the South Bank some years (decades?) ago. There was always a presence or two like this prancing around…..

Tracey Emin

Despite the scorn Tracey seems to engender in the life drawing customers at Putney School of Art and no doubt in other similar classes, I really like her ongoing series of blood drenched, crawling, writhing female figures, done in those broken, scrawly lines. Remind me a bit of Roy Oxlade, stylistically.

Hew Locke at Tate Britain

Locke’s dark carnival parade is a stupendous achievement, when you consider the range of skills required to put it all together; carpentry, tailoring, sculpture (notably cardboard) , costumery – couldn’t have done it all himself, surely. But even if he “just” conceived and designed it and had a bunch of assistants to do the specialised work – it’s still pretty good. I think there’s a video in the display which explains all. I didn’t watch it so I don’t know. Very bad for a blogger, I agree – go and see for yourselves, before 16th October, when it comes down.

Milton Avery – American Colourist, at the RA until 16th October 2022

The paper leaflet that accompanies the exhibition points to Avery’s friendship with Abstract Expressionists, notably Mark Rothko, Gottlieb and Barnett Newman. It says “Through his association with key exponents of Abstract Expressionism, Avery’s early paintings played an influential role in how the movement developed and unfolded.”

This seems to me to be a very large claim, for which there is little evidence in this exhibition. A couple of beach scenes, simplified into lines of colour vaguely suggest Rothko; the brownish (rather depressing) reds he sometimes uses find echoes in Barnett Newman’s Zips – but beyond that, I can’t see a connection.

The bright red hat on the maroon background and the way the figures are grouped vaguely suggest Sickert, a little – maybe?

Cartoon-y girl; love the way her foot’s tucked awkwardly underneath her – and her little head and brown face.

Surely that’s Max Beckmann at the head of the table – looks like him to me anyway…

Self portrait with red ears (obviously).


Oystercatcher – maybe American ones are slightly different.

I like this one – it reminds me very strongly of similar paintings by Malevich at a particular point in his work.

Another cartoonish one – the cone shaped figure, the black sea, red/brown sand – striking.

Cartoon from Private Eye some weeks ago

Sums it up – see the Hogarth exhibition reviewed a couple of blogs ago.

Figure Studies

To finish, some works I sold at my last exhibition “Figure Studies”, at the Sprout Gallery Furzedown , South London. I sold better than ever before – and, as always, felt sort of flat and empty afterwards.

Eco Worrier

Ghost of Autumn

The World Turned Upside Down 1

Red Recliner


20th September 2022

Blackpaint 705 – More Sickert, Surrealism at TM and Heroes of Democracy

June 23, 2022

More Sickert

Two things to add to last blog on Sickert: first, his great “end of the pier” painting of 1915 (below). For my money, the best in show, even if familiar from Tate walls already, Surely, the makers of “Oh What a Lovely War” must have been familiar with it. Melancholy, bitter sweet, elegiac – add your own cliches.

The second painting I want to draw attention to is this one of the conductor Goossens in action. It’s from the last section – last wall, I think – where the paintings are based on press photographs of celebrities. Despite the muted colours, I find it very striking for reasons that I can’t fully explain. Which of course it always should be with art.

Surrealism Beyond Borders, Tate Modern until 29th August

Good exhibition, some of it – well, a lot of it – familiar stuff; lobster telephone, Magritte train emerging from fireplace, Roland Penrose’s torso in a hoop. There are a number of pictures from South America, Mexico and Cuba which are less familiar, however, and which do nothing to elucidate the term itself.

What are the strands of “surrealism”? Well, there are the incongruities, visual jokes often, of Magritte and Dali and Delvaux and others, the biomorphism of Tanguy, Lam, Brauner, Andre Masson’s automatic drawings, the monstrous dreamscapes of Tanning, Ernst – and others (giant insects, bird’s heads, old mansions, huge flowers)…. and much else that I can’t think of now, but which require a thorough analysis to make sense of. So let’s not bother with that because, once again, analysis never gets the essence and often undermines the impact of the image.

Miro, of course – great painting, but is it surrealism?

Max Ernst, Two Children Threatened by a Nightingale – classic surrealism, dream situation, incongruous – and beautiful, haunting image.

Leonora Carrington – Self Portrait. All the epithets I used for Ernst, except beautiful and haunting. I still find it very hard to distinguish her work from much of that by Dorothea Tanning. Is it the similar names. the shared connection with Ernst or sexism on my part?

Pierre Alechinsky

I like this painting, but fail to see why it is deemed to be surrealist.

Arshile Gorky, Waterfall

Similarly, with Gorky’s great image. Why is it surrealism? Much closer to Abstract Expressionism, I would have thought – although I can see why some other Gorky pictures, with their biomorphic shapes and fantastic titles, might suggest surrealism: “The Liver is the Cock’s Comb”, for example.

Navalny (Sky Documentary)

Amazing. What makes someone put themselves in the lion’s den with pretty much no hope of success, more, the certainty of long and brutal incarceration and a good chance of being murdered? Alexei Navalny, the Russian oppositionist, has already survived one poisoning attempt, goodness knows how; he went back (!) to Russia and of course, landed immediately in prison, serving an ever-expanding sentence – fifteen years, was it, at the last count?

He at least knows that his ordeal is being followed in the free world; no such comfort for his incredibly courageous supporters (many of them appear to be “respectable” middle-age, middle-class women) attacked, beaten, dragged away to jail by thugs in police uniforms. What happens to them? Astonishing that there IS an opposition in Putin’s proto-fascist state.

And yet, Navalny appears so – relaxed throughout. Tall, good looking, athletic, casual and friendly and good-humoured in his manner, it’s hard to imagine anyone more the opposite of Tsar Vladimir. the documentary revolves around a “sting” carried out by Navalny and his supporters, which turns up the story of the attempted murder from one of the conspirators. It’s pretty light on N’s politics, beyond democracy, human rights and an end to corruption – but that’s enough to be going on with, surely.

Z (1970, dir. Costa – Gavras)

I followed Navalny with the DVD of Z, which seemed appropriate; the hero – tall, good looking, athletic, friendly and good humoured, not quite as casual as Navalny – comes to Athens to address a left-wing, anti-nuclear rally, in a city seething with right-wing thugs, mostly employed by the security services to break up rallies and beat students with clubs. It’s based on the murder of Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. The protagonist is played by Yves Montand, who is not as “lucky” as Navalny.

It also stars one of my favourite assassins, Marcel Bozzuffi – you’ll recognise him from the French Connection – and Jean-Louis Trintignant as the incorruptible magistrate.

One or two of my old ones to end with as usual:

Bad Old Science

Burning in the Green

Both sold back in the good old days…

Blackpaint June 23rd 2022

Blackpaint 704 – Sickert and Singer Sargent

June 5, 2022

Alliterative exhibitions currently on at Tate Britain, not to be missed. I’ve got more to say on Sickert than can be confined to one blog, so I’ll be revisiting him in future blogs. Sickert is on until 18th September.

Walter Sickert

The earliest ones were done whilst he was working as an assistant (etching) to Whistler, on whose RA exhibition I posted recently. They seem intent in pursuing each other further and further into the gloom. I took few photos of this period: they’re too dark (literally – I’m not referring to Sickert’s later career as a Jack the Ripper suspect).

This is the sort of thing I mean, but much darker, without the figures in white or the red splash. Usually in mean streets too, rather than beach scenes. Sickert seems to have anticipated Auerbach somewhat here – starting dark and almost impenetrable, then adding blobs and patches of brilliant colour here and there. Sickert’s were usually shop or station signs, doors or window blinds. You’ll see them as you go round.

Sickert likes this sort of angle for seaside pictures; very high, or even no horizon, looking down as if from a promenade above the beach.

These early pictures are so similar to Whistler’s own that it is hard to separate them from those of his boss – hope I’ve got it right here and this IS Sickert, not Whistler….

Here’s another beach scene; photographic feel, despite the ridiculously ornate frame, no horizon, looking down from the prom, Lots of his pictures have that snapshot feel (the later ones were copied from photographs), but as the exhibition shows there are affinities to Degas and Bonnard, both of whom used angles and cropping that sometimes resemble photographs.

Having mentioned Degas, there is a parallel to his obsession with ballerinas in Sickert’s repeated depictions of music hall scenes. The poster for the show is of Dot Hetherington performing “The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery” and pointing to same. I’ve no images to hand of the music hall ones – I’ll add some next blog. Similarly with the nudes.

There is , of course, one group of nudes which are famous, those which are named after the Camden Town Murder. In 1907, a young artist, Robert Wood, was tried for the murder of a sex worker, Phyllis Dimmock, in her Camden Town flat. He was defended by the famous Marshall Hall, and was acquitted, to great excitement. The killer was never found. Sickert did several pictures referring to this crime.

In this picture, a fully dressed man – the killer? – stands looking down at the naked woman on the bed. She could be the dead Phyllis Dimmock, which the title “The Camden Town Murder” suggests – well, asserts – but Sickert apparenly gave it an alternative title; “What Shall We Do for the Rent?”, which more than hints at sex work as we call it now and shows Sickert’s opportunism; violent death and sex, never fails to sell. There is no blood in this or the other “murder” pictures, so maybe Sickert wanted to keep his options open.

So they are distasteful and exploitative maybe, but not as horrific to my mind as the drawings and paintings done much later by the Australian artist Brett Whiteley, of the murders at 10 Rillington Place, These were “abstractified” to an extent, but I think that increases their impact, strangely.

I was impressed by all of his portraits but one (I’ll discuss that next blog). Maybe the best is Aubrey Beardsley, who must have been a dream to draw or paint, with his tall, ungainly frame and long limbs.

Economical, apparently simple mark making, the hunch of the shoulders, the way his feet disappear into raw canvas – or maybe wood? – and the way the narrow format enhances the cadaverous body. I can see both Whistler and Degas in this, or at least, I think I can.

This is Harold Gilman, another excellent Camden Town Group painter; he did a great interior of a pie and mash shop and a famous one of his cleaning woman – can’t remember her name – Tilly or Dolly? Anyway, this sort of stippled or broken, dabbing brushwork is something Sickert used several times to interesting effect, Sometimes, it looks as if the picture is breaking down, pixillating, like a TV when the satellite dish is affected (like mine, at the moment. The Sky man is coming on Wednesday). there is one portrait of a fat bearded man, whose trouser leg appears to be on fire, Or consider the leg of the lady in the next picture:

I don’t really know what to make of her left leg, which appears to be swathed in a narrow bandage – has she still got a stocking on, which is reflecting the light? Again, there’s that effect of a picture dissolving or disintegrating, where the top of her thigh reaches the sofa. This sounds sniffy, but I like it…

This is getting too long, so I’m going to finish with Sickert for now, with a great little portrait, but which also tells a story, like “Ennui” and “Off to the Pub”, which I’ll look at next time:

This is titled “In Her New Home”, or something similar. There she sits, with her flat hat crammed down on her head, looking totally lost and dejected against the wallpaper, under the mantelpiece. Strange wallpaper, strange mantelpiece. Reminds me of one of those Victorian tear jerker paintings, you know, partings forever, arrivals too late at the deathbed. Sickert’s is different; she’s not glamourised or , exaggerated, displaying woe – just ordinary, and rather pissed off, in a way that gets your sympathy.

End of Sickert Part One, to be continued.

Singer Sargent, the Wertheimer paintings

These beautiful paintings, nine or ten of them, were done over the years by Singer Sargent at the behest of Asher Wertheimer, a wealthy Jewish entrepreneur.

Here is the patriarch of the family, cigar in hand as befits a tycoon, with his dog at his side. And here –

-are his daughters, Ena and Betty, resplendent in their silk and velvet, beaming at us as if caught by a photographer’s call – “Ladies, over here! Look! That’s it, thanks. Got that great jar in, too…”

Once you have taken in the sumptious fabrics, the bounding presence of these beautiful and beautifully painted people, the character Sargent reveals here (which one of the women is the dominant personality?), additional interestis provided by the commentary, which reveals the way the pictures were reviewed at the time, notably by the Spectator magazine. The reviews don’t criticise Sargent, but rather the subject matter. In doing so, they unfairly implicate him in their sneering take. The worst is of a painting of children of the family: the reviewer is affected by the overpowering smell of scent (read artificiality, heady stuffiness, foreigness). There is the odour of “burnt pastilles” about the picture, by which he (?) means incense. You can imagine – “ugh! Open a window, for God’s sake, and let some fresh English air in! That’s better! Manliness, rugger, rowing, cricket, boxing – that’s what’s needed here!”

It’s anti-semitism. Hannah Arendt. in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1950) touches on similar attitudes to Jewish members of salons in the Faubourg St. Germain in Paris some decades earlier – although there, the “odour” was attractive, exotic, exciting – until the Dreyfus case came along.

Enough for now. I’ll finish with some life drawing efforts of mine – still no proper painting done; I’ve been concentrating on getting an exhibition of Marion’s paintings on at Brixton Tate Library, starting Tuesday. Actually, it’s being curated by my niece, Katherine Jones RA and my friend Charlotte Wyn Parry, who are doing all the real work.

So please come and see, if you can.

Now mine:

Omar’s Back

Omar’s side

Sonia’s Back, on flattened cardboard Wotsits box

That’s it, goodbye for now

Blackpaint, 5th June 2022

Blackpaint 703 – Whitechapel Gallery

May 5, 2022

I just want to get a blog posted as quickly as possible today, aware as I am that I haven’t posted recently and I saw this ages ago (same day as the Barbican show); so lots of pics and few, if any, inane comments.

Bacon’s Studio




Not sure who this is – like it though.

Know this one though – its Schwitters

Duncan Grant of course

I think this screen is Grant too.

Again sorry, didn’t get the name – really big and impressive though.

The great Grace Hartigan by one of her paintings.

The more acute reader or viewer will have noticed that only a few of these pics show artists’ studios, despite the title of the show. I too am perplexed by this but I don’t really care that much, as the paintings are good, and that’s what we go to see – isn’t it?

Actually, the best thing in the show is a video of William Kentridge in a dialogue with himself, that is to say two images of him, one asking the other questions and the other failing to answer. If you go, be sure to watch.

Here’s a couple of my latest figure efforts to finish. Back to normal service next blog.

Back Pain

Crying Over Spilt Milk


5th May

Blackpaint 702 – Postwar Modern, a Saint and Imogen’s Back

March 29, 2022

Jock McFadyen at the RA

Sorry Jock! Managed to spell your name wrongly in last blog, as well as making some facetious and incorrect observations in my attempt to compare and contrast you with Whistler. I’ve managed to find my little booklet of your paintings from 1986, was it? I was pleased to see I’d got the Harry Diamond ref right and the tough blokes with the dog. Spelling now corrected.

Men with Dog

Girls Waiting for Cortina

Harry Diamond Jazz Dancing

Edwin Drood – A Correction

Before we go any further, I have another egregious error to confess; recently, wrote about a Kindle accident in which I strayed from The Mystery of Edwin Drood to another Dickens work, a novella set largely in the Alps which he co-authored with Wilkie Collins, without realising I’d switched books. I referred to the spontaneous combustion scene in Drood, saying I’d missed it. Small wonder, because the spontaneous combustion is in Bleak House, a book I’ve read twice, but still managed to entertain the error.

Postwar Modern: New Art in Britain 1945 – 1965

At the Barbican Centre until 26th June 2022

This is one of two excellent shows on in London simultaneously; there’s this at the Barbican and there’s “Artists in their Studios” at the Whitechapel Gallery, just a tube stop or two away, at Aldgate East. I did them both on the same day, in a couple of hours. I’m doing the Whitechapel next blog.

John Latham

Not sure who this is – I think its Prunella Clough

Magda Cordell – reminiscent of those carcasses of Soutine’s – and of Rembrandt, of course

Fabulous complex triptych by Alan Davie

Franciszka Themerson – Polish artist, totally new to me

One of three, I think, by Aubrey Williams

Portrait of John Bratby, by Jean Cooke

Rather superb, I think, making a great pair of that one of Bratby in his dressing gown (remember wearing those when I was a kid, about 60 years ago)…

John returns the compliment; she gets to avoid the dressing gown however, and sit comfortably naked in the no doubt nicely heated kitchen, with the contents of the scullery cupboards set out before her.

Sylvia Sleigh, another new one on me, Lawrence Alloway. No, Sleigh is the painter; the portrait is of her husband Lawrence Alloway, the art critic. He’s holding a rose.

Eduardo Paolozzi – but doesn’t it remind you of the famous Richard Hamilton picture, “Just What is it…”

Mary Martin – had to include this, Marion would never have let me omit it…

Victor Pasmore – but this is more my cup of tea.

Roger Mayne, I think – but could be wrong… too good a photo to leave out because my notes were inadequate.

Eva Frankfurther, West Indian Waitresses

The great Gillian Ayres

Patrick Heron – uncharacteristically sombre tones

The aforementioned dressing gown – and with the striped pyjamas too, by a coal fire, surely.. ah, nostalgia! Well, no, not really. Some of the photos are rather dark unfortunately, but then so is the Barbican.

It’s now midnight, so I want to finish as always with a couple of mine…


St. Nazaire – sold at last.

Imogen’s Back


March 29th 2022