Posts Tagged ‘Beckmann’

Blackpaint 630 – The Frenchman, the Sea Monster and the Swinging Light-Bulb

November 20, 2018

Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain

That glowing orange – red dress curving in its folds to the left is quite something….

….as is the fabulous female back in Perseus and Andromeda but spoilt, I think by the casual model-ish, stance, that makes her look a bit too pretty somehow; better if she’d been in water up to the thighs maybe.

 

Andromeda looks quite unconcerned as Perseus takes on the dragon, as if she doesn’t care who the victor will be.

Lots of well- muscled male buttocks on display in this huge exhibition of huge paintings; a little reminiscent of the recent Queer Art show, especially Duncan Grant’s swimmers.  Also, funny how these mythical maidens and warriors always carry Nazi associations for me – Wagner, Rhine maidens and all that, of course, but I think Ken Russell is also responsible.

Wonderfully skilled painter, great compositions, range of talents (tapestries, for instance)

Callan

My Christmas gift was box sets, in B&W initially, then colour, of the surviving episodes of this great series from the 60s.  It has the most haunting theme tune, played as a light bulb swings before the troubled eyes of Callan and then shatters as a bullet strikes it.

Callan left, Meres background

Callan is an ex-soldier and convict, brilliantly played by Edward Woodward, who is, reluctantly, employed by the Section, a very secret (illegal?) state security organisation, led by a series of toffs, each one codenamed “Hunter”.  “Hunters” are short-lived; there have been four so far, in the 12 episodes I’ve watched –  two of them killed, one by Callan himself.  The body count is high, male and female and the range of murderous agents Callan has had to take on is wide and interesting: old and new Nazis, KGB of course, Czechs, East Germans, OAS veterans (Algerian war) -even a British mercenary officer.  Callan operates in a constant state of barely controlled rage at his public school bosses and fellow agents.

My memory of the series was at fault in one very important aspect: I remembered Callan as a sort of semi-detached assassin, who was allotted a target, paid and was then on his own, especially if caught.  Actually, he is on the payroll and in fact, is the moral centre of the series; the others, especially Meres (Anthony Valentine) and Cross (Patrick Mower) are odious posh boys, lacking anything by way of a conscience.

One aspect of the series, peculiarly, reminded me of modern TV – Callan’s thoughts, like those of Mitchell and Webb in “Peep Show”, are often revealed in voice-over, as he searches a flat or lies in wait.

Faces in the Crowd,  2005, Whitechapel Gallery

Eduard Manet, Masked Ball at the Opera (detail)

I recently acquired the catalogue (above) for this terrific exhibition that I visited at the time but had completely forgotten.  It consisted of paintings, photographs and posters, including work by Manet, Picasso, Beckmann, Magritte, Kirchner, Sander, Walker Evans, Bomberg, Warhol, Bacon, Sickert, Giacometti…. and a hundred more.

Two fascinating facts I have learned from the catalogue: male harlequins are popularly supposed to be able to breastfeed – and Picasso apparently included harlequin figures in some of his sketches for “Guernica”.

Tony Joe White 

RIP.  See him on “Country Rock at the BBC”, tearing up “Polk Salad Annie” with a burning cigarette stuck on the end of one of his guitar strings; “Polk Salad Annie – the ‘gators got your Grannie (chomp, chomp)”…

Tony Joe also wrote “A Rainy Night in Georgia”; enough for one lifetime.  Honey-dripping voice, shit-eating grin.

 

The Frenchman

Blackpaint

20.11.18

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 625 Murder, Sex, Suicide and Some Lovely Cornish Scenery

August 15, 2018

Magic Realism, Tate Modern

This is an excellent exhibition. free for a start, and always interesting, though the art is not all to my taste.  The term Magic Realism has come to be associated primarily with Latin American writing and implies a sort of teeming, intensified, intoxicated hyper-realism, spilling over into surrealism at times and then reeling back.  It is characterised by exaggeration, violence, a sort of profusion or excess that goes well with jungles, dictators, extremes of every kind – think Jodorowsky as well as Marquez.  The term was coined apparently back in 20s Germany, however.

Well, it’s all here: sex murders, suicides, hanging women, prostitution, garish, lurid colours, reds, sulphurous yellows, acid greens, paint like shining varnish.  The circus is a big thing, as are nightclubs, cabarets… seems to me there is something of a spillage into the stuff of “Aftermath”.  Grosz is well represented, with his scathing, precise caricatures – he’s very hard on prostitutes, it seems to me; he treats them not as victims (unless it’s a “Lustmorder”), but as predators and exploiters of the poor.  Dix also has plenty of drawings:  ringmistresses with whips, circus cowboys and Indians tearing round on horseback.

A selection of the pictures below:

 

Albert Birkle, The Acrobat Schulz (1921)

A terrific portrait – reminds me somewhat of Wyndham-Lewis, “The Tyro” maybe, BUT-

 

Albert Birkle

-the same artist was responsible for this monstrosity of a crucifixion.

 

George Grosz, Suicide Street with Dog 

 

Rudolf Schlichter, Woman in Red Scarf

One of several excellent portraits, the best, I think.  These artists seem to favour a confrontational representation, the subject staring straight out at the viewer.

 

Max Beckmann, Woman with Fan

 

Didn’t get this artist’s name but the colours and texture are typical.

 

Lovis Corinth

This Corinth is completely different in style and execution and feel from everything else there.  By the way, that is a white tee shirt and rucksack in the foreground, not a woman in Handmaid’s Tale dress..

Mark Gatiss on John Minton: The Lost Man of Art (BBC4)

A brilliant programme on Minton, painter and illustrator of the 40s and 50s, who killed himself in 1957.  Gatiss feels that his stature was never properly recognised, partly because he was branded “illustrator” (that is, not a proper artist):  he did lots of book covers, famously Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean cookbook.  Also, like many others, he was left behind when Abstract Expressionism arrived.  His students, for example, Robyn Denny, attacked him for his inability to embrace abstraction, “action”, gesturalism, whatever you choose to call it.  Then, there was the heavy drinking (par for the course in the London art world of the time) and the homosexuality, illegal and physically dangerous in post WW2 Britain.

I was struck by how similar his more stylised representation of human figures was to other painters on the scene: Colquhoun and MacBryde, for instance, and early Prunella Clough. all friends of his.  Like Kitaj and Hockney a little later, he was also capable, however, of a naturalistic precision in his portraits, like the one of Nevill Wallace below – looks a bit like a Degas to me.  The others I show were, I think, from his Cornish sojourn and resemble in some degree Sutherland, Piper and maybe Lanyon.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Geese Fly West

Blackpaint

August 2018

 

 

 

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 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 276

May 26, 2011

Jonathan Jones’ review of Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery

I haven’t yet seen the show, but Jones’ review in Tuesday’s Guardian has to be the most damning I have ever read:  I have to recommend it for the degree of vehemence contained – it’s an artwork in itself.  Several reader comments on Jones’ review assumed it was some sort of post-modern satire (he denies this and asserts it’s a genuine opinion).  A few extracts: the headline refers to “farting about with speakers and screens”; “…how terrible an exhibition I had stumbled into”; “The installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with its bonkers talking gadgets…. is one of the worst works of art I have ever seen in a serious gallery”;  “Nothing prepares you for the stupidity and arrogance of the central exhibit…” – and so on.  Read the review on the Guardian website to feel the heat.

What makes this really intriguing is the review posted under Jones’ name for the 2008 Turner Prize, later won – by Leckey.  Here are some extracts:  “This year I care (about the Turner Prize) because Mark Leckey is on the shortlist..”; “Mark Leckey is a fantastically creative example..”; “I find this artist irresistible..’; and he refers to Leckey’s art as “captivating, mysterious, soulful and provocative.”

I checked and, yes, it’s under Jones’ name on the site, dated 13th May 2008.  So what’s happened – has Leckey deteriorated, or has Jones had a Road to Damascus?  The degree of hostility in the recent review suggests the latter.

Violence in Painting (2)

Wrote about this recently in relation to the Caravaggio Abraham and Isaac in the Uffizi.  I was going to do more on pre-20th century paintings of violence – then I realised the scale of the job! Consider the following:

Goya’s horrors of war, Saturn scoffing his young, the witches, the cudgel fighting, the firing squad;

Various Massacres of the Innocents (Rubens comes particularly to mind);

Crucifixions and scourgings of Christ (Grunewald for instance);

Beheadings, sawings, grillings, stonings, skinnings, piercings by arrow of numerous saints – Catherine, John the Baptist, George, Ursula with her Virgins – 11.000 was it?  Agatha with her breasts on a plate…  that  saint having his thin intestine wound out round a tree.

And none of this is shocking to see; we look at it with perfect equanimity in the National Gallery et al, with maybe a wince at the idea of poor Agatha, say.  So what about the 20th and 21st centuries?

Beckman’s Night;

Grosz’s scenes of murder and suicide in Berlin;

Dix’s mutilated Card Players and corpses in the trenches;

The War artists’ pictures of the two World Wars;

Warhol’s car crashes and fallers;

Marlene Dumas’ Dead Marilyn.

Again, none of these are shocking to us, except perhaps the Warhols, because they are prints of actual photographs.  Bacon’s paintings are still more “violent” and shocking than these actual depictions.

The same can perhaps be said of cinema.  How many genuinely shocking instances of violence in recent TV or cinema?  Very few, since Reservoir Dogs started the intensification process in cinema and CSI followed suit on the small screen; we (or at least, I) have become unshockable – nearly.  So in cinema, this is my short list of shocking moments:

Antichrist, the self mutilation of the Charlotte Gainsbourg character;

The Pianist. Again, self harm, this time Isabelle Huppert:

The Orphanage, when the car hits and kills the old woman;

Salo, the scalpings and blindings at the end – but like St.Agatha, this is more the idea than what is actually seen;

Man Bites Dog, the rape and murder scene;

As for TV, I can only think of the John Lithgow killings on Dexter, which I think really pushed the limits.

The knowledge of reality is all – genuinely shocking and distressing, and destined to remain so, is the footage of people falling on 9/11 and the few seconds of the einsatzgruppen in action and the Kovno murders.

So – that’s enough of this unsavoury topic; didn’t set out to dwell so much, but things kept popping up in my head (worrying, in itself, really).  Next blog on still life and flower painting.

Blackpaint

26.05.11

 

Blackpaint 251

February 13, 2011

Kings Place

Three exhibitions on here at the moment, all of which strike a remarkable note of contrast – conflict, really – with the corporate surroundings:

Norman Cornish – The Narrow World of…

A series of drawings and paintings of cloth-capped, mufflered, rough-suited men in pubs, leaning on wooden bars before beer pumps, surrounded by straight glasses, not jugs, of amber beer.  Not a mug in sight – “Glasses with ‘andles? ‘Ow effete!” as an old Bill Tidy cartoon put it – and certainly, no wine glasses.  Dogs figure; rangy whippet-types, with muscular rear ends.  The best is a small yellow watercolour in a corner.

Cornish was a miner himself from Spennymoor, County Durham.  I think there’s a touch of early Van Gogh in his close-ups and a hint of Lowrie in his street scenes (which are not featured in the exhibition, but are in the Cornish book on sale).

Angela Hughes – Transitions

A number of paintings, ranging in size from vast to small, mostly featuring the basement of a derelict glass factory.  Ghostly is the word – sprays of glassy white on a brownish pink-grey background, dim lines of machinery, cable looping down like lianas, racks emerging from the gloom.  Pastels, charcoal and oil all used, but even the oil paintings look as if they were done in the dust and sediment of the factory floor.  This sounds bad, perhaps, but is not meant so – they are effective and haunting.

Keith Pattison – No Redemption

Outstanding photos of the Miners’ Strike, the 84/85 one that is, which mostly centre on Easington Colliery in County Durham and the streets of the town where the miners lived – past tense, because those who still live there won’t have been miners for 25 years.  Pickets, police, skin tight jeans and skimpy denim jackets, the odd biker leather, banners, arrests, working miners under escort…

What really comes across is how much of an invading army the police were – marching in in columns, hard-faced, riot masks and shields, lining your streets, standing on your doorstep, telling you go that way, not this way, dragging you off under arrest from outside your own front door.  You can’t tell if the police are local, or members of, say, the Met who allegedly inflamed the strikers by waving their overtime packets at them – some police were reportedly better than others.  Nothing can disguise the army of occupation impression, however.

Alma Street figures frequently – I wonder if it’s still there, not demolished or re-named.  The photographs are works of art, as well as reportage – beautifully “composed”, in the sense of great anticipation and instant selection on Pattison’s part.  Surprisingly little anger from the strikers; many of the photos have a cheerful, almost carnivalesque atmosphere.

Expressionist Woodcuts at the Strang Print Room, UCL

Nolde’s “Prophet”, a Resurrection by Beckmann, a Grosz with street executions and disabled soldiers, hungry street life, Kathe Kollwitz’s beautifully drawn but oppressively monumental pictures of women with dead sons.  Durer’s Four Horsemen and St. Michael to compare (measure them against?).  A little exhibition but great stuff.

Blackpaint

12.02.11

Blackpaint 136

May 18, 2010

German Expressionists

I said some blogs ago (Blackpaint 105) that German colours had a sort of dead, livid quality; I applied this to pretty much all German artists from Expressionists to date.  Now, obviously this is a ridiculous generalisation and probably bordering on racial prejudice – nevertheless, I’m going to try to modify the view whilst hanging on to some sort of justification for it, simply because I don’t like admitting to being wrong.

I’ve been looking at a beautiful Taschen book on Expressionism by Dietmar Elger – it has a glowing still life in red, yellow, blue and black on the cover, by Jawlensky – and I’ve decided the “problem” for me is that the pictures are so crowded with colour.  Picture after picture is chock-full of brilliantly coloured images which fill the canvas completely, leaving no space at all.  The colours, to be sure, are sometimes livid and acidic; Schmitt-Rottluff and Max Pechstein in particular, turn is some very livid nudes in acid green-blue and greeny yellow.  But almost all the painters in this book crowd out any space with colour.  The exception is Egon Schiele, who eliminated background from his beautiful, diseased nudes altogether.

So, not dead colour –far from it – but too much of it.  That said, I think that in Beckman’s work, for example, that “deadness”, the washed-out quality, can be discerned and it is echoed in the photographic silver greys and dark browns used on and off by Kippenberger, Kiefer and Tuymans (not German, but still) and others.

Flak Tower by Blackpaint.

Listening to Newport News Blues by Will Shade.

“Now don’t you wish your easy roller was both little and cute like mine? (*2)

Every time she walks, you know she reels and rocks behind”.

Blackpaint

18.05.10

Blackpaint 105

April 6, 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

“Did” 30 of these yesterday, being marched round by my eldest son who duly photographed each one, allowing a minute or so for contemplation before continuing.  This was a minute more than many visitors, who contented themselves with the photo – in one case, a photograph of the label, rather than the object.

The most intriguing object for me was the 13,000 year old swimming reindeer (actually two reindeer, the male in pursuit) carved out of mammoth tusk and discovered in a French valley.  The experts have been unable to discover or surmise a use for it, which raises the possibility that it was carved simply for the pleasure, satisfaction, call it what you like, of “artistic” production.  Is this the earliest example of such a piece?  It may, of course, have had some ritual purpose, like animals in cave paintings or fertility objects; but unlike these, it seems to record an observed event. 

The Olduvai stone chopping tool makes you wonder how they knew it wasn’t just an ordinary rock – presumably it was part of a site.

German Expressionism and colour

I have some serious doubts about that stuff I was saying in Blackpaint 102, about “German” colours being dead, washed-out, livid.  I think it’s true, or at least arguable,  for Beckmann, Neue Sachlikheit people like Modersohn-Becker and Schmidt-Rotluff, and on up to Polke, Baselitz, Kiefer and Kippenberger.  But then there was Marc and Macke – OK, they were earlier but they were vibrant and limpid, like Dufy and the Fauves.  And Rouault and Soutine were as dark and/or livid as anyof the Germans I’ve mentioned.  and the Bauhaus people, like Schlemmer, they were bright too – so possibly, it’s all nonsense.  Probably more to do with movements than nationalities.

Beckmann’s “Night”

Surely that’s Lenin in the cap on the right??

Here’s an appropriate one of mine, in dark, dead colours:

Blackpaint

06.04.10