Posts Tagged ‘Augustus John’

Blackpaint 457 – de Stael at le Havre, Perfect Backs and Zola

August 7, 2014

Nicolas de Stael at le Havre – Lumieres du Nord, lumieres du Sud

I’m deeply indebted to Jon Hensher for commenting on 453 and letting me know about this stunning exhibition of de Stael’s late sea-and landscapes, mostly from 1951 – 55 (the year in which he killed himself by jumping from his studio window in Antibes).  Wikipedia gives his place of death as Paris – this must surely be an error, as he jumped from the 11th storey.  Why?  he was very successful and producing fantastic work.  Apparently, he suffered from recurring depression and had had an “unsatisfactory” meeting with an art critic.

Although the exhibition contains only one or two paintings that approach real abstraction, his work throughout is concerned with shape and colour rather than the accurate depiction of reality.  Sea and shoreline are represented by bands or stripes of colour, detail of ships or buildings by his familiar dabs or “tiles” of paint.  On the whole, the textures lack the thickness and crustiness of his earlier large abstracts, apart from one or two, such as “Landscape, Agrigente”,  which are scraped or scratched into (these are, to my eye, among the best).

What I hadn’t appreciated was his mastery of colour.  A few examples below:

de stael paysage sicily

Paysage, Sicile 1953

de Stael lemon

Landscape 1952

de Stael big red

Figures by the Sea (I think – my notes are very scrappy)

de stael bell

Calais – this is the exhibition poster; shades of Vanessa Bell’s “Studland Beach”?

I could rhapsodise about these pictures for some time, but that would be tedious, so I urge all my readers to drop everything, go to France and see for yourselves.  Incidentally, Wikipedia mentions the Bay Area painters as a point of comparison, in that NdS returned to figurative painting after abstraction; there is however a quotation from the artist on the wall of the museum, indicating that he himself made no distinction between abstraction and figuration.

Wim Oepts

Dutch painter, died 1988, who came to mind when I saw the more intense de Staels:


Also Anthony Frost, a bit – those ones he does with sacking.

Tate Britain Archive Room – “The Model and the Life Room”

This is easy to miss, as its down in the basement, at the bottom of the Fred and Ginger stairs.  it’s a collection of life drawings and sketches by the likes of Gaudier- Brzeska, Hilda Carline, Keith Vaughan, Augustus John, Michael Ayrton and Ithell Colquhoun.  There is a drawing by Alfred Stevens called “Seated Woman Gazing at Magog”, which is another in my Perfect Backs series:

alfred stevens

It goes with the likes of Kitaj’s smoking woman




and the back of the real Ginger, dancing with Fred at the end of “Swing Time” (buy the DVD to see what I mean).

fred and ginger swing time


Here’s my own best effort, not in the same league, I know:


Zola; Rougon – Macquart cycle

Started the 20 novel cycle on my Kindle, having downloaded the complete works for £1.99.  What it demonstrates to me is the importance of the translation.  I read “Germinal” and “The Debacle” (or The Downfall, as it is called in the Collected Works) in the 60s Penguin Classics versions; I remember a racy,modern,  brutal, colourful prose style.  The style here is archaic and sentimental – the word “damsel” cropped up early on, used by the narrator, not a character.  Not sure I’ll be able to last the whole twenty – easier than Proust, though, and more happens.

 Next blog: Braque and Yoko at Bilbao, Martial Raysse at the Pompidou.


 Sonia “on the beach”

Or maybe she should be on her side?





Blackpaint 411 – Decorum Returns; Iron Man, Sky Walks and Erasure

September 13, 2013

Ray Howard Jones

I’m in Tenby, Pembrokeshire to support my son in the Iron Man Wales Triathlon.  At the local museum, an exhibition of this artist, who turns out to be a woman.

ray howard jones

Rather like a less washed out Paul Nash, maybe.  I mean “washed out” in a good way, of course.  Also in this great little museum, a David Jones,  A couple of John Pipers and some lovely Gwen and Augustus Johns – and Winifred, the other sister, of whom I had no knowledge.  Augustus and Gwen both draw beautifully. of course; but Gwen is the one with taste.  I love those melancholic portraits.

Marx Reichlich

Recently, re-visited the Courtauld in the Strand; there was a portrait by the above in there, as good as a Holbein.  He was Austrian, 1460 – 1520,  and his work is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna – I wonder if Thomas Bernhard’s character Reger gets round to dismissing him as “kitsch” in “Old Masters”?

(c) The Courtauld Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

It’s fantastic isn’t it?  I think it’s called “Woman with Lily-of-the-Valley”.


I was on about this last week; Joanna Hogg’s masterpiece, set on Tresco in the Scilly Isles.  The cast is a mix of pros and amateurs – the painter Christopher Baker is just that, a painter not an actor – and that seems to have worked brilliantly in making the dialogue sound authentic; but the pro members, most notably Lydia Leonard as the passive-aggressive, uptight daughter are also great.

The most noticeable trope of the cinematography is the use of long framing shots, through windows, doorways, courtyards and particularly on a bend in the staircase, by the newel post.  when I say “long” though – there’s long and there’s Bela Tarr, so maybe these are medium long.  Some great shots – a beautiful, grey/blue granite cave, a laughing herm (I think that’s the term) in the tropical gardens.  I was gratified to hear on the voiceover extra that Hogg was influenced by Hammershoi interiors.

Man on Wire

It’s easy to see how Petit’s personality could overwhelm certain individuals and compel them to assist in his escapades; he seems rather like a dizzying drop himself – draws and repels.  What I found mystifying is how much relevant film footage was around from the planning stages of the WTC walk and the earlier stunts on Notre Dame and Sydney Harbour Bridge; it was as if it had been shot with a view to making “Man on Wire” about 35 years later.  And then, to have no moving footage of the actual walk…

Or rather, walks – he did it eight times, back and forth.

Butcher’s Crossing and Augustus

Reading both of these novels by John Williams, of “Stoner” fame.  They’re OK – Butcher’s Crossing is about a C19th buffalo hunt, Augustus an epistolatory novel about Augustus Caesar – but nothing whatever, so far as I can see, makes them identifiable as the work of Williams.  I can’t think of any other author whose work is so diverse.


I did a couple of life classes recently; the results were depressingly poor.  Turned them into something that looked a bit more classy by smearing and rubbing out the duff bits and getting stuck in with oil pastels on the other bits.  Some results below.



Here’s a more conventional one to finish with – except it’s unfinished…



Work in Progress