Posts Tagged ‘Botticelli’

Blackpaint 546 – Venus, Golgotha, Ken Russell and Delius

May 21, 2016

Still Life with Green Glass

still life with green glasss 2

Blackpaint – continuing with my new policy of putting my painting at the start of the blog, in case you log out without reading on (unlikely, I know).

 

Botticelli Re-imagined at Victoria and Albert

This exhibition falls into three sections:

1. 20th and 21st century works inspired by Botticelli, one of which is the clip from the Terry Gilliam film below (1997):

 

botticelli Thurman

Uma Thurman, coming out of her shell in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1988)

There is also the inevitable Dr. No clip of Ursula Andress, wading out of the waves to Sean (James Bond) Connery’s astonishment and appreciation;  Warhol’s Ribena/raspberry- coloured graphic of the head of B’s Venus; a Magritte, in which Flora from Primavera accompanies a bowler-hatted man;  David laChappelle’s Koons-ish psychedelic Venus, with two unclothed men holding suggestive conches; and a Munoz, in which Venus, a drawing collaged with nuts and washers rises from a sea of modern detritus.

2.  19th century works inspired by Botticelli:

Several works by Burne-Jones of the rich brown tones; a couple by Gustave Moreau (I like the scrapy one); an Ingres nude with a large vase, on which he worked with someone else whose name escapes me and which took him 36 years to finish; several Mucha-like pictures that reminded me of posters advertising fruit and veg, that I used to see in Mrs. Dean’s greengrocers round the corner in the 1950’s; a lovely, freshly- coloured tapestry by William Morris.  And-

3.  Works by Botticelli himself and “Workshop of..”:

Loads of Virgins with baby Christs, mostly hugely fat or nearly as big as the mother, often accompanied by a young John the Baptist.  Virgins usually good, Christs decidedly not so.  The faces have a very graphic, flat, drawn quality (see Simonetta below), maybe something to do with the use of tempera?  Also gives them a very modern look, somehow.

 

Botticelli Vespucci 1

Simonetta Vespucci, Botticelli

Two versions of the same woman, B’s decidedly more glamorous (compare nose, forehead, chin and figure) but del Garbo’s more convincing to my mind – she looks skeptical and rather bored.

Botticelli del Garbo

Simonetta Vespucci, del Garbo

Some great tondos, two portraits of a Medici man, the Mystical Nativity and B’s great (but difficult to make out) drawings of Dante’s circles of hell are the best things on show.

The Cast Rooms at V and A

The strangest sight in these stunning rooms is, of course, still the 12th century Shobdon Tympanum, with its hippy, androgynous Christ in the skirt and stripey sweat shirt-

shobdon tympanum

 

…but these two German Golgothas, the first the size of an old TV, the second a huge plaque, are also of interest, for the odd headgear as well as the brilliant carving:

 

Cast Room 1

Cast of Oak Altarpiece by Hans Bruggemann C.1514 – 21, Schleswig Cathedral

 

Cast Room 3

 

 

And the main event…

Cast Room 4

I don’t know who executed this – took a photo of the wrong label.

 

Song of Summer – Ken Russell’s 1968 Omnibus film on DVD

Russell’s Omnibus films on Elgar, Debussy and Delius (pictured) are out on DVD/BluRay at last; I got them in FOP, Charing Cross Road for £18 – they’re £29 odd in the BFI on the South Bank.  The early rules for art docs on the BBC seem  extraordinary now, and evolved as Russell made them, as a result of his pushing, I guess.  At first, he wasn’t allowed to have actors at all; for his Prokofiev he could only use archive.  For Elgar, he had a boy riding a horse and actors representing Elgar and his wife – but NO dialogue.  For Debussy, he had to do a film about Oliver Reed et al making a film about Debussy, with a fictional director.  Finally, for Delius, he managed actors and dialogue.  Why these restrictions?  I suppose a ferocious regard for accuracy and authenticity on the part of the BBC.

 

Delius 1

Christopher Gable (left) as Eric Fenby and Max Adrian as Delius – or is it Keith Richards in younger days?

 

delius 2

Fenby writing, Delius dictating

Russell based the Delius film on Eric Fenby’s book “Delius as I Knew Him” and on meetings with Fenby himself.  He (Russell) thought it was his best work and said that it was absolutely accurate; Fenby was reduced to tears on visiting the set, as it all came back to him – he’d had a nervous breakdown in the 20s after four years as a willing slave to the blind and paralysed composer-dictator.

The performances of Christopher Gable – a prominent ballet dancer – as Fenby, Maureen Pryor as Jelka, Delius’ wife and especially Max Adrian as the “monster” himself are stunning.   David Collings is also good as the irritating Percy Grainger, chucking his tennis ball over the house and tearing through to catch it on the other side – impossible, surely.  Fantastic film; Russell was a genius.  I could remember nearly every detail from seeing it on TV in 1968.

Blackpaint

21.05.16

 

 

 

 

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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 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 184

August 29, 2010

Robinson again

(See Blackpaint 177).  Visiting the National Gallery again on Saturday, we noticed that the Cailey Robinson exhibition went on round the corner of the room and consisted of several more paintings than the two I mentioned before.  This should have been obvious, since the poster showed a different painting, but I missed it.  These other paintings were enormous and consisted firstly of processions of attractive, innocent young maids in hospital/orphanage/school uniform, trooping around the castle-like interior of an institutional building, set off by interesting lighting effects; and secondly, of groups of wounded WWI soldiers in “convalescence” uniforms (light blue with red flashes)  with the odd kilted Scottish soldier and picturesque veteran in foreign(?) kit for effect.

Again, the thin black outline was present around the figures, making them static, and calling to mind illustrators of the period, and earlier.  I checked to see if there were any of the random red dots I’d noticed on the sheep (see Blackpaint 177), but could find none.  My partner suggested I should look at Seurat’s writing, since this sounded like one  of his techniques – but I can’t see how they could have operated; too few, too small, too dispersed and random.

Interesting to me to see how a painter so technically proficient – these paintings are really huge and beautifully controlled – could produce works so lifeless.

Fakes Exhibition

Dropped in on this again, and this time, I was impressed by the awfulness of the fake Botticelli;  the faces were  staggeringly bad and worth the trip alone, for the laugh.  I didn’t mention last time the Caspar David Friedrich painting, which isn’t a fake but a copy of the original by CDF himself, they think.  One of those beautifully  painted  snowbound scenes, lonely, fir trees, woods..  This time, I looked a little more closely and saw the wooden crucifixion seen in the central grove.  A country shrine, then, and in the snow – a pair of abandoned crutches!  Clearly, sometimes it’s better to view from a distance and overlook the detail..

Tintoretto

This is getting really bad, as I am about to abuse yet another great painter.  Still, he’s dead and this is an anonymous blog and gratuitous abuse is one of the pleasures.  Anyway, fantastic Tintoretto St. George and even more fantastic “Milky Way” upstairs – and next to it, a vast, rough, black, Spanish- looking painting of Christ  washing his disciples’ feet; it’s terrible, isn’t it?  Or am I missing something?  I can’t believe that the same artist could produce this monstrosity and the Milky Way.  it must have been his studio, not him.

Moroni

Then another example on the way out, but not so bad; the great portrait of the rosy-cheeked blond woman with her pink, anxious eyes and the fantastic pink satin dress  – next to the boring, bearded officer in black with the thin legs and knobbly knees.  I suppose the sitter (or stander in these cases) must make  a difference to the outcome, but hard for me to credit they are by the same artist.

Oil Painting

My own results are, by way of contrast, at least consistent.  Chopped-up ridges, slabs, scrapes and scores, they are getting thicker and busier all the time; more and more claustrophobic.  The trouble is, the oil is so seductive, you want to S-Q-U-E-E-Z-E it straight on and then slice into it and squirl it about – ended up with green paint gloves on last night.

Road to Mandalay 2

Blackpaint

29.08.10

Blackpaint 132

May 11, 2010

Kingdom of Ife

A few blogs ago (Blackpaint 123),  I was writing about the mixture of naturalistic and stylised features in the atrifacts  of this culture as if it were something unique.  it isn’t of course, and I realised this looking at the picture of Nebamun, a “reckoner of grain”, hunting fowl in the marshes, done on a tomb wall in Egypt around 1390BC (30.000 years of  art, Phaidon, page 113).  The hunter is in the typical Egyptian profile pose, one leg advanced, body turned towards the viewer, face side view; the animals, however, particularly a cat, are “Unfettered by the strict conventions that applied to representations of people” – and are portrayed in a more naturalistic way.  There are, no doubt, many other examples from other cultures.

Renaissance Drawings (cont.)

Leonardo, “An old man and young man in profile”; parallel and tonal shading.  Little sketches of his war machines, revolving sickles and circular tanks like little flying saucers.

More Leo – a very densely shaded little sketch, I think of St. Anne with the infant that became the cartoon.  Also, the man in profile with the bizarre winged hat, and that fantastic left leg done in red chalk. 

Sangallo (?) – a poet tearing up a scroll; like the Pollaiulo Adam, very dodgily proportioned arms and legs.  Maybe this is intentional stylisation  which appears “wrong” in the presence of all this virtuosity.

Piero Di Cosimo, St. Jerome in a rocky landscape, done in charcoal on 5 sheets of paper joined together,  it looks like a soft pencil drawing.  The label says the lion is in there, but I couldn’t find it.

In a side room, a sketch for Raphael’s “St.George” that I blogged about on St.George’s Day in Blackpaint 118.  Cross hatching and parallel shading, top left to bottom right.  Also a facsimile of the painting.

More Raphael – an “Entombment”, with cross hatching in the “Michelangelo” style.  Raphael’s male figures, although beautifully drawn, tend to be fleshier and smoother than those of Michelangelo and Leonardo; I wonder if he was less involved in dissecting bits of dead body that the others, who show great relish for delineating the exact dimensions and shape of muscle, bone and tendon.

Michelangelo – best in show, I think; a youth beckoning, with a fantastic back, cross hatching, and the legs and one arm “ghosted” in, fading away from the centre of the drawing;  Loads of big, fat babies their skin in folds, all cross hatched; two perfectly drawn legs upside down on page.  Most of Mick’s stuff is like real sketching in a modern book, jostling for room on a page or intersecting with other drawings.

Carpaccio – lovely effects on blue paper with lead white.

Botticelli – a “Pallas” with two adjacent heads and three eyes, one shared by both heads!

Fra Bartolomeo, Virgin and Child, showing distinct Leonardo influence.

Del Verocchio, Leo’s master – several beautiful, demure heads or women and angel, one of which is the poster girl for the exhibition.

Lorenzo Monaco, whose sketches look decidedly modern, but in painting become those archaic saints  with the dark faces and spade – shaped beards.

Finally (for me, anyway, because I went the wrong way round), that beautiful pair of cheetahs or leopards done by “a follower of De Grassi”. 

Generally then, some very great drawings – I’ll be going again, so will not spoil this with any of my usual cynicism.  To my mind, the exhibition serves to underline the supremacy of L and M; but plenty more of interest too.

Head of St.Anonymous by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

10.05.10