Archive for December, 2022

Blackpaint 710 – Women Modernists at RA

December 29, 2022

The exhibition is actually called “The Making of Modernism”, a bit of a misnomer since it excludes the male German Expressionists and their non-German associates, Still, the men have had plenty of exposure, so fair enough to devote a show to the women exclusively, I suppose. Actually, I don’t know what happened during their working lifetimes, but the work of Munter, Modersohn-Becker, and Kathe Kollwitz is pretty well known surely, maybe Werefkin a little less so. The others I’d never heard of. The exhibition is on until 12th February 2023

Not sure who painted this one – Munter maybe; it has the characteristics of many of the land- and townscape paintings of the Expressionists – vivid (lurid?) colours, crowded, rather claustrophobic canvases, plunging perspectives.

Modersohn – Becker

The other notable feature of this exhibition is the foregrounding of children and parenting, something largely, maybe completely absent from the men’s work for guessable reasons. I may be wrong, but I don’t think the view of a child sucking vigorously on an exposed titty in close-up has been done that often in western art. Maybe Hogarth, a drunken crone with a child at breast (from the back), prior to dropping the baby down a flight of stone steps; or a Dutch pub interior from the previous century,,,

Ottilie Reylaender I believe; this painting was drawing a whole lot of attention when I attended some weeks ago. Based on overheard comments, there seemed to be three reasons for this. First, the quality of the portrait – it’s just great, isn’t it? Her expression – is she cold, shy, timid, or just pensive and withdrawn? Or a mixture of all these… She seems from her grip on the chair arms and her raised shoulders to be quite tense, ready to jump up and escape.

Secondly, there is the frontal gaze, facing directly out at the viewer; unusual.

Lastly, a contemporary issue; would the picture even be on show in a London gallery if it was the work of a male artist? That was the first thought that occurred to me and,it seemed, to most other viewers who commented to friends or partners while I was there.

A touch of Ensor here, maybe? And also of that one in the National Portrait Gallery (or is it now in the NG?) of the Elizabethan women holding the identical babies with different coloured eyes. May be the colours, may mbe the simplicity, but it brought Milton Avery to mind too,

Portrait of Kandinsky by Munter? Looks rather like a Shakespearean character to me, touch of Hamlet (too old) or Falstaff (far too thin)…

Three works by Kathe Kollwitz. I love her drawing, the muscular bodies, the strong contrasts – just the power really. But I find the constant agonizing, the mannerism, the high tragedy a bit too rich for my tastes – which are admittedly shallow and superficial and fickle.

Those bulging knees remind me rather of Jenny Savile. Her drawing I mean, of course,

Two of my latest to finish, as always:

Night Comer 1

Night Comer 2


December 29th 2022

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year

Blackpaint 709 – Roughly Precise: William Talks to Himself

December 2, 2022

At the Royal Academy Ends on December 11th so hurry.

I’ve seen this four times already and even yesterday, I found things in the animations that were new to me. I’ve been with three different sets of people and all of them thought it was great, some of us best we could remember. For me, he’s a bit like Sigmar Polke, in the sense that there’s so much different stuff it’s hard for a blogger to get a handle on it. Best maybe to put down my diary entry for 27th October, (!)which was the date of my first visit.

“Kentridge exhibition – huge, astounding in many ways; one of the best I’ve ever seen. First, his drawing – charcoal, pencil, ink on paper (often – usually – book pages) – superficially rough, graphic, cartoonish of course, because they end up as animations. Sometimes they blossom into Old Masterly precision when required (no, this is wrong – they are always precise even when they’re rough. They’re roughly precise.. Erasures, smears, patches of white (his shirts for instance, part of his uniform).

His repeated inmages – I suppose they’re memes – coffee pots (cf Roy Oxlade), the electrified cat, the compasses/tripods with the megaphone heads, the ancient typewriter the guns, the bent humans with bundle of sticks instead of a head; waterfalls, trees, cryptic slogans – and small and not so small perfect self -portraits of the portly Kentridge, thoughtfully pacing back and forth, for example in the pages of a book in Portuguese, hands in pockets – PERFECT.”

An early drawing – Beckmann, maybe, a wee bit?

Dada – ish sculptures

Pacing in the Portuguese book

The Falls

Soho Eckstein adresses the masses

Kentridge has his characters, maybe avatars, Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitelbaum, one a bullying entrepreneur the other an artist. Eckstein in his boxy suit with the picket fence stripes, the fat cigar, the fierce, hate-filled screaming. often through a megaphone at the African trade unionists, also suited, raw boned, screaming back at him through megaphones of their own, in his stunning, crudely perfect animations. Eckstein is often a lonely, pathetic, almost sympathetic presence – naked in the shower, or dreaming of his wife in one startlingly explicit erotic sequence.

It seems – I read somewhere – that some critics felt that there was an element of anti-semitism in Kentridge’s portrayal of Eckstein. Can’t see that myself; anti – bullying capitalist boor maybe. Kentridge is Jewish himself, but i’t’s more than that – Eckstein is bad but human, Kentridge is too complex and humane to simplify people into stereotypes.

Then there’s his “Notes towards an Opera”; portrayed on a series of giant screens, the music is mainly a slightly distorted singing of the Internationale, with black woman ballerina dressed as a freedom fighter, stick fighters, a suited man miming fighting against a gale, interspersed with photos of Commune dead, famine victims, riots and demos, May 68, Chinese victims of the Cultural Revolution, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and much more. I think the flag waver in this picture is a man by the way, despite the skirt.

Kentridge interviews himself. He bullies, misinterprets, contradicts and pours scorn upon his art and creative method. Very funny, I thought and quite uncanny how he manages to keep his shirt(s) immaculate whilst drawing with charcoal and spreading it about with an electric drill, before blowing off the surplus dust….

I’ve much more to say, but I want to publish, so will finish with one of my own and resume Kentridge next time, along with “Making Modernism”, also at the RA currently.

End of the Rainbow


December 2nd 2022