Blackpaint 227

Cezanne’s Card Players

At the Courtauld Gallery.  There are maybe 12 pictures, 5 of card players, the rest pipe smokers and sketches.  What I noticed particularly was the way that the grey or brown jackets were not just grey or brown, but contained patches or layers or streaks of quite different colours, so that if you took an extreme close-up you’d have an interesting abstract picture in itself.  Elementary now, I suppose, like breaking up the outline; but still instructive to the untutored like me.  Also, the bare canvas showing through in most of the paintings, like snowflakes (or dandruff) on their clothes.  The best card players, which are the two paintings on the wall to your left as you enter, are really solid in aspect – the tablecloth looks like wood, or maybe leather.

Also of note

I’ve done the Courtauld  fairly recently (see Blackpaint 77, Feb. 2010), but there were a couple of paintings that were newly displayed.  There was Keith Vaughan’s “Delos, 62”; de Stael – like blocks against a striking blue background.  In the same room, Graham Sutherland’s “Study for Origins of the Land”, 1950, which was a sketch for the Festival of Britain.  Scarlet/pink bricks or blocks, scattered amongst  which are various objects, one like a button, another the skeleton of a bird.  It’s supposed to be a cross section down through the earth – you can see a little sun on the top of the picture; the earth’s surface.


There was a Bacon: two figures or half – figures wrestling (maybe) on the ground, against a black background.  Strokes of paint, like straw or grass, reminiscent of the strokes in the Bacon version of the lost Van Gogh picture, the one in which the straw-hatted painter walks along a sunlit lane with his easel  under his arm.  Nearby, the Daumier picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which Bacon apparently regarded as a major work.  The sculpting of the painting and the skeletal quality of Quixote and his horse vaguely resemble some of Bacon’s work.


There are two fantastic versions of the Deposition – in both, someone is chewing on the shroud, or rather holding it in their teeth while they lower the body with their hands.  Finally, I should mention “The Birth of Saint Augustine” by Murano, down on the ground floor with the Gothic stuff – Augustine’s mother looking very dubious about the vertical, grub-like baby in tight swaddling, being presented to her, eyes wide open.  Shades of Eraserhead.


In Grunewald’s “Crucifixion”, who points a finger at the crucified Christ?



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