Posts Tagged ‘Adolph Menzel’

Blackpaint 540 – Bacon, Bela, Berlin and Dental Horror

April 9, 2016

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Went to this again last Wednesday and it was thronged; while I was standing looking at the Vrubel portrait of Mamontov (see below), one of the two women in front of me declared “It’s just like a Francis Bacon!”  This seems to be a common observation to make about anything which isn’t a straightforward “realistic” representation – bit of smudging round the features? “Just like Bacon”; limbs a bit oddly positioned? “He’s doing a Francis Bacon”.

Russia Vrubel

It’s not like Francis Bacon, is it?  Or maybe I’m missing something…

bacon nude 2

This is like Francis Bacon.

My partner, however, says that I’m just as wrong in comparing, as I did last week,  the Vrubel to Sickert or to Ruskin Spear – she says it’s more like Braque.

Whoever, if anyone, is right, it’s a brilliant exhibition.  A painting I didn’t mention last time is Repin’s Rimsky Korsakov; the hands again and that “fleshy” paper (can’t see it properly below – you need to go to the exhibition).

Repin Rimsky

Repin is like Adolph Menzel, the painter who nearly fills the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (Blackpaint 473) ; history scenes, portraits, pastorals, scenes from plays, Repin does it all, much more than competently.

Autumn Almanac (DVD), Bela Tarr (1984)

bela tarr

The melancholy Miklos Szekely (tight-lipped, sour featured) is present, on the right in the photo above.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, violent – a man gets a beating (actually, nothing by today’s standards; more like a roughing up) which is filmed from below, through a glass floor, like that film of Pollock painting.  Like other Tarr pictures, notably Damnation, the characters speak to each other in undertones, smiling all the time even when angry, abusive or threatening; in one scene, the two women in the film fight, each smiling into the other’s face the whole time.

It strikes me that, unlike the great Tarr  films based on the books of Krasnahorkai ( Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies), and even The Man from London (taken from a Simenon story), Autumn Almanac shows violence and corruption developing out of the situation itself, with no need of an outside catalyst – in this, it resembles Damnation.  In Werckmeister, the cataclysmic violence arrives with the travelling show, the Prince and the whale; in Satantango, the “community”, such as it is, is destroyed by the arrival of the satanic pair, Irimias and Petrina.  In “London”, the agent of disturbance is the case of money which Maloin sees flung into the harbour when the murder takes place.

I’m not absolutely sure about this; you could argue that the schoolmaster in “Almanac” is an outsider and his ejection allows the others to achieve a sort of twisted, corrupt equilibrium.. or maybe not.  It’s Tarr anyway, so worth seeing, and uniquely for him, in colour (pretty dark, though).

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Selected Stories (Picador)

First heard of this book when it was reviewed before Christmas; her stories were compared to those of Raymond Carver and you can see why.  There’s a similar economy (she often dispenses with verbs), a conversational tone and the settings and subject matter are “dirty”, as in Dirty Realism; alcoholism, abortion, dysfunctional families.  The second story, “Dr. H.A.Moynihan”, is a groin-shrivelling tale of manic dentistry that is the most horrific piece of fiction I’ve ever read – that’s if it IS fiction.  The stories appear to be strongly autobiographical.  I think she differs from Carver, in that he is maybe more experimental with point of view.  he writes as a female character in several stories, “Fat”, for example, and successfully, I think.

Anyway, the blurb on the front says her stories “are electric, they buzz and crackle”.  They don’t, but they are a great, if occasionally gruelling, read.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a piece nearly as physically wrenching (literally) as Berlin’s story – Ted Hughes’ poem about de-horning bulls.

I’ve done no new paintings since last time, so here’s an old one for now, appropriate to Berlin and Hughes perhaps;

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

9.4.16

 

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Blackpaint 473 – Big Babies, the Seven Dwarves and Dead Generals in Berlin

December 15, 2014

Gemaldegalerie, Berlin

This place is absolutely packed with masterpieces; it’s nearly as good as the National Gallery (but not quite).  About 5 or 6 Botticellis, including the following Virgin and Child with two saints – look at the grossly enormous baby; his head’s as big as her’s.  There’s another , Mary with Child and Singing Angels, with the most beautiful Mary, face outlined with a thin dark outline, like the Veroneses in the NG.  Couldn’t find a decent picture on line – it’s a tondo.

BotticelliVirginEnthronedx1Whole

 

Then there’s the Last Supper below – By the Master of the Housebook(?).  Jesus entertaining the Seven Dwarves – or rather nine.  Not sure who the two big ones are, nor what’s going on with the disciple on his lap.

 

dwarves last supper

 

A great Veneziano, Adoration of the Kings, featuring a huge white horse’s arse resembling a face…

veneziano germany

 

 

This great hairy Mary; can’t find the painter.

long-haired madonna

 

And so on, down through the centuries, to about 1800; Canaletto, Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough.. no doubt I’ll be revisiting.

Alte Nationalgalerie

This is on Museum Island, in the old East Germany; massive classical building, beady-eyed, beetle-browed and suited old attendants, always behind you.  A roomful of Caspar David Friedrichs – becalmed ship, moon over forest, mountain with snow, solitary leafless, limbless tree, etc., etc. – usual Friedrich thing.  A clutch of Bocklins, including one of the Isles of the Dead, of course; a bunch of Liebermanns, some Corinths, and a host of really dark, depressing German rural scenes, peasants, cottages, landscapes…

There are several nice (because unfinished, partly) portraits, for instance the one of Mommsen below by von Lenbach.

mommsen

 

The artist who has more pictures featured than anyone else is Adolph Menzel.  All sorts of pictures – military ceremonies, concerts, troop reviews, interiors, portraits, landscapes, woodland – some are vast, the historical ones of course, some tiny.  There are some amazing horses’ heads from some very strange angles.

The most interesting pictures were his drawings of dead generals lying in state and of dead soldiers, following battles in the Prussian wars of the 1860s & 70s; definitely forerunners of Dix, although strangely, it’s the faces of the generals, faces fallen in, caves for eyes, that remind one of Dix, rather than the battlefield casualties (see below).

 

menzel2

 

menzel3

 

There are several French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings – Degas, Renoir, Cezanne – and it is immediately noticeable how the tone and the colour lightens; light seems to flood in.  The influence of the Med, maybe and the absence of enormous fir forests…

Some interesting pictures on the ground floor: a Courbet seascape, great, rolling cabbagy waves; a dark Goya, The Maypole; a lovely grey Constable; and  a couple of really unusual Beckmanns – one, “The Death Scene”, I think, similar to  Munch, with the paint “patted” on.  Also an even stranger de Chirico, nothing like his more well-known work.

Enough Berlin for now; Bauhaus Museum still to come, but I’ll leave that until next time.

Frank Phelan, Messums Gallery, Cork Street

New to me, a St.Ives painter I believe, though born in Dublin; I think his pictures are great.

phelan

 July Heat, Frank Phelan

 

 

And one of mine, to end with-

slink away

 

Slink Away

Blackpaint, 15.12.2014