Blackpaint 335 – Redheads and Lurking Virgins


Deep End

Saw this on TV the other night for first time since 1970 or thereabouts; made by Jerzy Skolimowsky, set in a public baths in the East End.  Although all the actors were English (except, perhaps, Burt Kwouk in a dodgy “Chinese” hat, selling hot dogs), it sounded dubbed at times – I got the impression it was a foreigner’s view of London, same feeling with Polanski’s “Repulsion”, to an extent, but that had Catherine Deneuve as star – this had Jane Asher, who was rather good as a beautiful, hard-edged stripper/baths attendant.  Interesting that, apart from Michael Caine, who was much older, nobody to do working class cockney accents, until Ray Winstone in “Scum”, and maybe Phil Daniels and co in “Quadrophenia” – but that was much later, 79 I think.

The colours were the thing, really; green of the baths, red of Asher’s hair, white uniforms and ceilings and snow, orange, blue… the scarred and peeling walls sometimes recalling those beautiful Armenian and Azerbaijani arthouse films – “Colour of Pomegranates”, for example.  The bits I remembered from 1970 were the Tube journey with the life-size nude-ish cutout of Asher and the shock ending; won’t spoil it, in case it comes out on DVD.

Titian, The Flight into Egypt

Chanced on this new exhibition at the National Gallery today – had no idea it was opening (free).  It consists of the above painting, on loan from the Hermitage in St.Petersburg, referring to it as “Titian’s first masterpiece”, as well as a number of other Titians, Giorgiones, Durers and others that are deemed to have fed into it in some way.  The other Titians include “Noli me Tangere” and the one I wrote about before, calling it the “Flight into Egypt”, which is actually the Virgin and Child with a Shepherd, or some such title.  Confusingly, there is also a “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” on display.

The Hermitage painting is large; a small procession of Joseph, Mary and the child on an ass, led by an adolescent girl through a wooded Italianate countryside, in which a deer, a fox, a hawk, some sheep and a cow appear.  The Titian colours are there; the Virgin’s dress appears to be pink silk or velvet. and Joseph’s cloak a lustrous yellow.  Only the colours suggest Titian to me; I would not have thought of him first, perhaps because of the girl leading the ass, whose square build is unlike any Titian I have seen.  The girl for me is the main focus of the picture.

Homage to a Poet by Giorgione

The Durer drawings are stunning, of course, as are the pair of wolves by someone else, forget who; but the real attraction for me is the beautiful, strange painting by Giorgione, entitled “Homage to a Poet”.  It shows a Christ-like poet with a laurel crown, seated on a rocky outcrop, while devotees bring him tokens, animals wander about (as in the Titian) and a small, shadowy Virgin figure(?) lurks halfway up the opposite bluff.  It’s all very static; the figures stand out somehow, as if collaged on, an effect I remember from Douanier Rousseau pictures at Bilbao a year or two ago.  The shrubbery, dark at the front, lightening at the back, is sharply defined – just beautiful, and strange.  The wall notes point out Giorgione’s regard for the work of Schongauer – maybe that combination of German cold clarity with the warm colours of Venice is the secret.  Anyway, he’s my latest favourite Renaissance painter.

An old Blackpaint – at least three months old

4.o4.12

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