Blackpaint 274


Chagall Windows

Came across these last week walking in the Kent countryside, at All Saints, Tudeley, near Tonbridge.  Not the sort of place or denomination, where you expect to see stained glass windows designed by a world famous Russian Jewish artist . There they were, in narrow windows shaped like the head and torso of a man, with one larger altar wall one, containing a Christ figure.  For the most part, they were in that clear, singing Chagall blue, one of the four blues I see plain in the mind’s eye:  Perugino, Klein International, Chagall and Titian’s Ariadne on Naxos.

What are they doing there?  Memorial to Sarah Avigdor-Goldberg, drowned in 1963 yachting accident, whose parents once lived at the manor.  The church is worth Googling, if you can’t get down (or up) to Tudeley.

Van Gogh

He got a good review from a journalist and sold a picture, famously his only sale, for 400 francs – to a relative, it’s true, not  a civiian, but a sale all the same – AND was getting praise from fellow artists, notably Gauguin – all shortly before shooting himself.

Typically, he wrote to the journalist, thanking him and sending him a picture of a cypress… but then proceeded to tell him he’d got it all wrong and should be praising Monticelli instead of himself.

His fits sound distressing – they involved swallowing paint and turps and eating dirt on occasion.

He wrote a lot about Delacroix, the “master colourist” as he called him, and his last great enthusiasm was for Puvis de Chavannes.  Like many of us, he clearly had no idea how good he was.

Bronzino and Holbein

A chance TV programme on above the other night, from which I learned that Bronzino’s real worth was as a portraitist; brilliant, stagey portraits, dramatic lighting effects, use of props, magnificent, detailed clothing – but also solid, smoothed flesh and sculpted features, imbued with character.  Not a Holbein though – where did H come from, he seems to have dropped from the sky.  His portraits are perfect, completely naturalistic, none of that tendency to all look vaguely alike, precise, quivering with life.. well, they look as if they might.  Completely modern – but better.  Fascinating, too, the disparity between Holbein’s portraits and the religious and history works; in the latter, he seems to revert to a much earlier, less naturalistic style, more in keeping with his contemporaries.

National Portrait gallery

I’ve written about the Tony Bevans and the Larry Rivers; there are two more on that first floor that deserve a mention.  They are Warhol’s Jagger, in which the thick, straight black strokes around his head make him look like a monk in a cowl – and Ruskin Spear’s Francis Bacon, transfixing the viewer with his owl’s eyes.

Ai Weiwei

Six weeks missing now, and two exhibitions in London, at the Courtauld and the Lisson Gallery.  He must be by now the world’s most famous living artist.  If it goes on, there will be that debate again about whether to exert “pressure behind the scenes” or protest openly.  I remember when the Chinese premier visited and the Met lined the route with big policemen and confiscated banners so that he wouldn’t be offended by the sight of Free Tibet protesters.  Let’s keep Ai Weiwei and all other imprisoned artists in our minds and continue to pressure our lot to pressure their lot…

Michelangelo

His “Crucifixion of St. Peter” in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican clearly contains another self-portrait,  the old man on the right of the picture.  The Taschen refers to Peter, being hoisted upside down on his cross, as looking out at the viewer but he looks to me as if he is eyeing the ground, hoping he won’t fall off head first when the cross is raised.  One other thing – there is a vast plain behind the scene, as there is in the companion piece “The Conversion of Paul”;  despite these huge vistas, not a single tree is depicted.  I remind the reader of my major discovery, strangely ignored by the world’s press, that Michelangelo Doesn’t Do Trees (see previous Blackpaint blogs too numerous to mention).

Bela Tarr

The camera pans slowly across a darkening horizon halfway down the screen, interrupted in places by the black silhouettes of leafless trees; an accordion plays, over and over, a Hungarian folk tune which sounds very like part of Beethoven’s Fifth.  The scene changes; now, a small flight of outdoor stone steps, lit in the blackness only by light from the door at the top.  In the light, the rain squalls and buckets down…


New images next blog.

Blackpaint

16.05.11

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