Blackpaint 146


Altdorfer/Elsheimer

Unfortunate names, these, as will become clear:  I’ve been doing a Tanning/Carrington with them (see Blackpaint 121, 122) and mixing them up.  Albrecht Altdorfer is the one who did the Battle of Issus – Alexander the Great a tiny figure on a white horse, in the middle of hordes of  soldiers – and Adam Elsheimer, the one who did the stoning of St. Stephen – the one in the NG of Scotland at Edinburgh, in which the kneeling Stephen very slightly resembles a cartoon character, Tintin perhaps.  My partner points out the more important artistic feature of the triangular structure formed partly by the ray of light from the angel.

Anyway, I discover from Wikipedia that they are about 100 years apart – Altdorfer 1480-1538, Regensburg and Elsheimer 1578-1610 (only 32), born Frankfurt but lived and worked in Rome.  Altdorfer apparently did the first “pure” European landscape in oils, Landscape with Footbridge, in 1518 – 20 (see Blackpaint 132, 133).  he also did an astonishing Birth of the Virgin, in which a posy of flying babies, cherubs, whatever, circle  in the air, hand in hand with angels, above said mother and baby.

I was surprised, too, to read in “Art of the 20th Century” (Taschen) that Altdorfer has been cited as a forerunner of  gestural painting, along with Turner, Kandinsky et al.  I can only think it’s because of his expressionistic skies and clouds and his willingness to ignore perspective and distort human figures – his figures tend to be extremely elongated, for instance.  On both these grounds, however, you would have to include El Greco too, surely.

The fact that Altdorfer, as a member of Regensburg town council, was implicated in the expulsion of the Regensburg Jews links him to another German, or rather Austrian, painter of the 20th century, albeit an amateur, or “failed” one. 

Abstraction

To return to painting, I think, in any examination of gesturalism or abstraction in European art you would have to include Arthur Melville’s little picture of 1889 (Blackpaint 139) – are there earlier examples of “pure” abstraction in British painting, or European painting, for that matter?  please comment, if you know. 

Surfaces

I love built-up surfaces,  done with paint, glue, sand, cement, sacking, slabs of stuff slatched down with a palette knife or just the hand and then scraped and  scratched – Fautrier, Dubuffet, Tapies, Burri, Sandra Blow, Jaap Wagemaker and, I  suppose, Asger Jorn too, as in “Proud, Timid One”.

Listening to Brooks and Dunn;

“I did my best, but her west was wilder than mine”.

Blackpaint

04.06.10

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