Blackpaint 133

Very short blog today – private view tonight, so I have to get to the supermarket to get the cheap wine and pour it into the expensive-looking bottles.

30,000 Years of Art (Phaidon)

Bought this about a year ago but like all huge, heavy coffee table books, it hasn’t been looked at much – too heavy to read it on your lap; you need a lectern.

I should have made the effort, however, because it’s full of beautiful art, some of it staggering for historical as well as aesthetic reasons.  On page 366, for instance, is the Bikini Mosaic from Sicily, AD325.   Its just like a photograph of Cannes or somewhere in the 60s (well, the poses are, anyway).


Two blogs ago, I mentioned Leonardo’s 1474 landscape in the Renaissance Drawings exhibition; supposed to be the first European landscape.  I checked through “30,000 years” and, sure enough, no Euroscapes; however, the earliest Chinese landscape, by Zhan Ziquian (possibly) is in there, dated AD 602!  Another eight or ten Chinese landscapes, covering the period up to the Leo.  Also, a Korean one and a number of Japanese ones, but these much later than the Chinese; about the same time as the Leo, in fact.

Granted the book is misleading; it doesn’t include any of the Dutch landscapes of the 17th(?) century.  I find it interesting though;  why did Chinese artists see fit take the landscape as a subject – and conversely, why did European painters reject (or not think of) it?  If you know, or have a theory, please comment.

Actually, when you look at those Gothic paintings, Brueghel, for example, with the snow and the mountains, trees and cliffs, there is enormous interest in the landscape and often the human figures are almost insignificant – but they are there and the titles of the paintings point to them and not the landscape.  So- why did the Dutch eventually decide to do the countryside (albeit with cows or farmers and carts included)?  Was it eastern influence – Chinese and Japanese stuff coming back on trading ships?

Still Life

More bizarre, perhaps, is the still life.  Why did someone decide to bung a pot, some bottles, apples, a dead fish or whatever together on a table to paint them?  The earliest one in “30,000 years” is on page 325, a fresco from Pompeii dated AD50.  It consists of a dish of eggs, a pewter jug, a couple of quails, I think, hanging on the wall and some other kitchen bits and pieces.  According to the text, these still lifes were common as a wall decoration in – kitchens, not surprisingly.  Along with those fine mosaics and paintings of fish, shellfish and game, they call to mind the vinyl kitchen wallpaper designs of the 50s and 60s.  Again, if anyone knows more, please comment and educate me.



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