Posts Tagged ‘Bruegel the Elder’

Blackpaint 566 – Babes in the Wood

August 23, 2016

Bacon and Auden

I can never read Auden’s staggering poem “September 1st 1939” without remembering Bacon’s painting – and vice versa.  It’s the two men in hats, sitting in a bar(?) while the slaughtered body hovers to their left:

bacon crucifixion 1965

Bacon – Crucifixion 1965

Faces along the bar

Cling to their average day:

The lights must never go out,

The music must always play,

All the conventions conspire

To make this fort assume

The furniture of home;

Lest we should see where we are,

Lost in a haunted wood,

Children afraid of the night

Who have never been happy or good.

Actually, Bacon’s triptych suggests another Auden poem as well; “Musee des Beaux Arts”.  The theme of this is how normal life goes on while momentous and/or tragic events unfold “next door”; Auden refers to Bruegel’s Icarus picture (below), in which the ploughman goes on ploughing as Icarus’ legs – see them? – follow the rest of his body into the depths.  The barflies in the Bacon are sort of parallel to the ploughman.

 

icarus

Bruegel the Elder – Icarus

Interestingly, Auden excluded “September 1st 1939” from his Collected Poems; maybe he regretted being in the USA as Great Britain went to war; maybe he changed his mind about the politics; “Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return” might be represented as an excuse for the rise of Nazism.  Whatever the reason for its exclusion, it has to be one of the best poems on a political theme ever written.

Z, dir. Costa – Gavras, 1969

I fancied something political and unequivocally left-wing to watch, maybe to readjust my parameters a bit, so I turned to the DVD of “Z”; I guess “Battle for Algiers” would have served, or a Franco Rosi, but I haven’t got them.  The film is about the murder of the politician Gregory Lambrakis in 1963, carried out, allegedly, on the orders of local police and army chiefs.  Marcel Bozzuffi (left, below, with Jacques Perrin as an opportunistic journalist) is the assassin and a brilliantly malevolent one he makes; he went on to kill again in “The French Connection” and judging by the titles of many other films, in those too.

Z1

I think Costa -Gavras might face accusations of homophobia if he were making the film today, since Bozzuffi’s character is shown to be both gay and predatory , with arguably little relevance to the plot; presumably the film is historically accurate on this point.  Bozzuffi is a great villain, though, and joins two other of my cinema icons, the wild men Gaston Modot (l’Age D’Or, La Regle du Jeu) and Franco Citti (Oedipus Rex, Canterbury Tales).

franco citti

Citti

 

modot

Modot

 

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (dir.Mat Whitecross, 2010)

Watching Andy Serkis as Ian Dury the other night, composing, or rather throwing together the words to “Spasticus Autisticus” in a stream of consciousness, I was reminded of Finnegans Wake.  I’m sure this is a trite, pretentious observation, made by many commentators before – but I’ve never shied away from triteness and pretension in the past, so why start now?

lost in the wood 1

Lost in the Wood

Blackpaint

23.8.16

Advertisements

Blackpaint 541- Bosch to CoBrA and thence to Berlin

April 17, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch at s’Hertogenbosch – where else?

Well, also at the Prado, where the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych lives and the London National Gallery, where Christ Mocked (the Crowning with Thorns)  lives –

bosch natgal

and at Lisbon, where the Temptation of St. Anthony triptych lives – although this last has apparently been demoted to “follower of ” status, despite containing several of the best known “monsters” (see below).  The saddled fish, the little bird thing in the red tunic and funnel helmet….

bosch triptych-the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516

Although these three works are missing for some reason, the exhibition is still fantastic in every sense and the town is making the most of it, quite rightly.

The paintings have lights within the frames and so look like slide projections in the darkened galleries.  The weirdness of Bosch’s figures and landscapes, I think, have distracted viewers from the sheer quality of the painting; the colours are beautifully subtle.  The Death of a Miser, for example, is in that Duccio pink/brown/Venetian red palette.

There are several similarities to Bruegel, of course; There’s a “Dulle Griet” character dragging a cart, angels with long trumpets, just like those in Bruegel’s “Fall”, crows on bare tree branches, distant gallows and wheels on top of poles (Bruegel’s “Triumph of Death”), street cripples with similar aids (maybe these are stock figures).

I noticed the same model cropping up in several paintings; the old geezer with the white hair, tooth stumps and inane, cruel grin shows up in two versions of “Ecce Homo”, one by Bosch himself, another by a follower  and the NG “Christ Mocked” (above); the man on the left.

eccehomo1

That’s him, in the white robe, isn’t it?

The little armoured character in the St. John of Patmos (below) is a self-portrait of Bosch; why the arrow through his torso – something that crops up in many Bosch paintings?

bosch patmos

I like the monsters in the workshop drawings; “OK fellows, today we’re going to have a competition to see who can draw the best monster…”.  No picture, unfortunately.

Some other highlights for me:

The red/black background in the boy with the walker;

bosch little boy

St. Jerome, lying down with that fish-like tree trunk behind him, and that doggy lion;

bosch st jerome

St. Christopher, with the bear hanging going on behind;

bosch st christopher

St.John the Baptist, or “Doper”, as it is – appropriately? –  in Dutch, looking bored, waiting for TV to be invented, maybe;

bosch john the baptist

The tunnel, or sewer in the sky route to Paradise – is it based on a local canal?

The Disneyland pink tower things in “Garden of Earthly Delights” – sadly, only a copy in the exhibition.

Finally, the workshop painting of Noah’s Ark, grounded after the Flood.

s'hertogenbosch

Me on the left, next to a Bosch “monster” in the town.  I managed to get dressed before the police arrived.

Karel Appel’s animals and settings for “The Magic Flute” and “Noach”

I’ll be blogging about the fabulous Appel and the other CoBrA artists next time, but I’m including these pieces, from the CoBrA Museum in Amstelveen, because they seem to me to relate in some way to Bosch’s flying fish and other weirdnesses – rougher and “childlike”, sort of, but definitely related.

appel - flute1

 

appel flute2

Victoria, dir. Sebastian Schipper (2015)

Victoria

German film, set in Berlin, famously done in a single take, like “Russian Ark”.  A happy-go-lucky (she even looks a bit like Sally Hawkins) Spanish girl takes up with a goonish bunch of Berliners one night  and gets involved (predictably) in serious complications.  I found the first half hour or so irritating and tedious as the Berlin lads clown around and say “fuck” a lot – this sent several of the ICA audience into fits of excited laughter.  It has a definite “Euro” feel about it; could have been set in any Eurocity.  Story was cliched and implausible.  This one take thing has a sort of fetish feel for me – why is it better to do things in one take?

OK, other Dutch museums next time.

life drawings in pastel

Life Drawings in pencil and pastel

On the Rocks

On The Rocks

Blackpaint

17.04.16

 

Blackpaint 240

January 7, 2011

Bruegel the Younger

The Procession to Calvary is staying at Nostell Priory in Yorkshire, after £2.7 million was raised in a “Save it for the nation” appeal.  Its a beautiful, busy picture, browns more drained than those of the Elder, a threatening, cindery sky over Calvary in the top right.  As Maev Kennedy says in the Guardian, ” it shows a landscpe teeming with figures getting on with their lives…, too busy to notice Christ and his captors making their way to a bleak hilltop…”.  In this respect, of course, it echoes the elder Bruegel’s “Fall of Icarus”, the subject of Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts”.

Van Gogh

Reading his Letters and only up to 1880.  It’s noticeable that a different tone has been struck in the letter of 24th September 1880, which ends the longish gap in his correspondence with Theo.  In previous letters, the religious fervour and insufferable piety with which they were loaded has all but dispersed.  A letter or two before, Vincent recounted an entire sermon he had preached in Isleworth, much of which had to do with Pilgrim’s Progress.  Then, there was one in July 1880, full of anguish (and preachiness), in which Vincent tried to portray himself as a superior kind of “ne’er do well” – his words – not the kind that is lazy or immoral but a noble sort of “ne’er do well”, who just hasn’t found the right outlet for his talents.

Now, he has decided that painting is the thing and is obsessively training himself and developing fervent opinions on the subject.  God is still very much hovering about, but mercifully, in the background.

It seems clear to me that Van Gogh’s obsession with religion transferred to art wholesale; I was interested to see this in the letters, as there is currently a sort of revisionism going on with Van Gogh.  He is being presented as the “consummate professional” (see Blackpaint 230), a controlled, dedicated and focused seeker of artistic truth, whose mental problems were separate from his painting, in the sense that they had no influence over the technical process.  He did not paint in a frenzy, as was once popularly thought.

I’m sure this is correct, but I don’t think you can entirely separate the mental problems from the paintings.  I was quite surprised to read the letters and discover just how disturbed he appears to be.  He was surely an obsessive personality and suffered from depression; then again, a lot of artists do, and a lot are obsessive in their practice – Frank Auerbach comes to mind.  And times change; the tone of the letters may have seemed less strange in the 19th century.

Cass Art

I said in Blackpaint 226 that the staff at Cass in Charing Cross Road seemed to have changed and hoped there hadn’t been a mass purge; happy to report I was wrong – must have just picked a different shift to visit last time.

No pictures today  – I’m using my son’s Mac and don’t know how to load them.

Blackpaint

07.01.11