Blackpaint 532 – Brussels, Tolstoy, Magritte and those balls – what are they? – they’re Bells!


Musee Des Beaux Arts, Brussels

icarus

It’s not actually called this any more, though the Brueghel painting of Icarus plummeting into the ocean that inspired the famous Auden poem is still there; it’s divided into three, or actually four bits (the modern one is closed at the moment), all in the one huge building: the Magritte museum, the “fin-de-siecle” museum and the mighty “museum of Ancient Art” are the sections open at the moment.  The building is at the top of the “Mountain of Art”; big, freezing, windswept square, lines of pollarded trees, watch for the mouse running under the waste basket, turn right after the massive library.

the-fair-captive

The Fair Captive

Magritte first; lots of cloudy skies in window frames, mirrors and easels; skin changing into wood grain or bricks; doves made of leaves; owls in threatening groups; bowler-hatted men (of course) – and those curious metallic balls with the horizontal slots in them, that also feature, I think, in some Max Ernst paintings.  What are they, I wonder.  Looked it up – they’re bells, like you hang round horses’ necks, apparently.

magritte balls

So far, so usual Magritte, but I was interested to see some of his colourful early poster work – I had’t known he was an ad man, but it makes perfect sense; the “surrealism” is often a neat little transposition, tidily illustrated (it’s night in the urban street, dark, street lights on outside the little villas – but it’s broad daylight in the sky above the tall trees) and often he uses the same image several times, slightly adapted, with a different “surreal” name.

villa magritte

There is a startling and inexplicable style change in the 40s(?); the usual neat precision gives way to rough-drawn, pink/brown/yellow pastel colours for a few pictures.  I checked, they were still oil on canvas; but then back to the familiar style again.

the-explanation magritte

The Explanation

Fin – de – Siecle

Some terrific stuff in here: Vogel,  the awful weather painter; that is, the weather’s awful, not the paintings.  It’s always raining, snowing or maybe just grey and drizzly in his town and village streets; Van Rysselbergh,  nothing special, landscapes in lines and stipples – but what a name!  Ranks with Van Dongen and Vantongerloo in my book (yes, there is one Van Gogh, portrait of a young man); Rops and Spillaert, both with loads of paintings, as if the museum director had said “OK, get cracking, we’ll take the lot.” And Finch again!  (see Blackpaint on Helsinki, August 2015).

Some little Kollwitz etchings. reminiscent of Goya penitents, that great Bonnard of his wife stretching, standing naked against the window in the bathroom – where else? – some good Toulouse Lautrec drawings, three Gauguins (two great, one awful) – but the real surprise was Ensor.

Ensor Chinese%20Porcelain%20with%20Fans,%201880

Chinese Porcelain

There were a couple of the cartoon-y clown/mask ones, the sinister ones he’s famous for,  but several good, chunky, almost social -realist pictures and a lovely still life with a central blob of red, a dish I think.  And “The Skate” (below):

Ensor_TheSkate

Ensor boy with lamp

The Lamplighter, Ensor

The last museum, “Ancient Art”, was so rich and enormous that I’m leaving it until the next blog.

On Thursday, we walked beyond the “Mountain of Art” and a huge, depressing palace on our right, towards Jubelpark and Musees Royeaux d’art et d’histoire …..  We trudged along a grey, freezing avenue of empty office blocks and building sites, as traffic tore past, terrifyingly close to very narrow pavements.  A great, glass EU building on the right reared above us and we didn’t notice it, so intent were we on keeping to the kerb.  It was easy to imagine it empty and to let, like all the others…..

The park was pure Magritte, though; neat, tidy, squared off, depressing; someone walking a little dog (loads of dogshit around – Magritte never put that in a picture, I think).  But there were busts of people, sculpted with their bodies apparently enclosed in boxes – and their bare feet poking out at the bottom.

If you eat in the museum restaurant, don’t have the “Americain” – it’s a hefty, cake – sized lump of raw hamburger meat, served with capers, salad and chips; delicious!

Kreuzer Sonata, Tolstoy

Inspired by the TV War and Peace, I’m reading this novella, which I thought I might finish on Eurostar; no such luck.  The views expressed – not sure how far they are Tolstoy’s own; probably all – make Zvyagintsev’s taciturn male bullies look like Hackney hipsters by comparison.

latest wip

The Siege of Brussels (Work in progress)

Blackpaint

14.02.16

 

 

 

 

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