Posts Tagged ‘Brueghel’

Blackpaint 517 – Venice Preserv’d

October 30, 2015

It’s preserved in brine.  No-one lives there, except for shopkeepers, hoteliers and gondoliers maybe; the average resident’s age is over 50.  Anyway, this is the pavilions blog.

Giardini (the Pavilions)

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Kerry James Marshall

This magnificent “mirror” picture is one of 5 or 6 both abstract and figurative pictures in the main pavilion, which houses individual artists, rather than national projects.

The British Pavilion

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Sarah Lucas

 

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Sarah Lucas

The British and Russian pavilions form, for me, the opposing poles of the national exhibitions; the Lucas sculptures are joyfully obscene and the great yellow phallus wags like a middle finger before the Gran Bretagna sign (see above).  Inside, a number of sculptures rest on piles of spam tins or plunge headlong into toilets with cigarettes poking out of their bumholes and vaginas.  Lacking in subtlety and pathos perhaps – but no denying the popularity with the punters.  Everybody was laughing and snapping away uproariously; four mature German women obviously very intellectually stimulated…

Romanian Pavilion

I loved the Romanian show again this year, because it contains some real paintings – and good ones at that.  I thought at first glance they were abstract, but was sharply informed by my two companions that they were not; “There’s a hand – and there’s a man in that one”.  True, but the thick paint, applied in swipes by a knife maybe, and the vivid colours make them look abstract.  They are collectively called “Darwin’s Room”, so there is a conceptual basis – but I liked the paintings too much to bother with that.  They remind me of Bosch, or Brueghel, or even the Matthias Grunewald.

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Adrian Ghenie

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Adrian Ghenie

Russian Pavilion

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Irina Nakhova has put together a rather oddly matched group of exhibits; the above is a hologram(?) of a pilot’s face peering anxiously out of a giant oxygen mask; amusing and memorable but… on the other hand, there is a very moving display of film and photographs on the lower floor, constantly playing through “windows”; unsmiling soldiers in uniform, sometimes with guns, scratchy old film of Russian people going about their lives, photos of victims of the NKVD, shot at a rifle range, people whose faces are scrawled over with a pen like the Rodchenko photos.  At one point, the walls appear to be closing in.  The faces, at an angle, look like stained glass windows.

To finish, two more Bellini paintings from the Accademia:  Note the similarity in the position of the dead Christ in the Pieta to that of the baby in the Virgin and Child.

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Giovanni Bellini

 

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Mirror Portrait

Blackpaint

30.10.15

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Blackpaint 509 – Patti in Helsinki, Ray and Tobias, Hard to be a God

August 28, 2015

KIASMA – Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art

Concrete ramps receding into the distance inside – a cross between the New York Guggenheim and the sets for “Caligari”.  There is a stunning Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition; the leathery penises on show I thought rather diminutive but the shots of Patti Smith were riveting.  When she was young, one of the most photogenic women I can think of – not beautiful; skinny, hairy legs. but still..

Patti Smith 1976 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P13083

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As I’ve said before, a biopic needs to be made featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg, before she gets much older.

Other Mapplethorpe portraits of note – Keith Haring, Arnie, Gere, Burroughs, Capote, Sontag, Leibowitz, Rauschenberg, Hockney, Warhol of course.

Helsinki Design Museum

Interesting that Finland had an Arts and Crafts movement very like that in England driven by William Morris, about the same time too.  20th century stuff is arranged by decade.  Current catwalk designs below – far left rather like my current look.

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Ray Carver and Tobias Wolff

Wolff’s stories are reminiscent of Carver’s – except that Wolff tells you what his people are thinking.  Carver mostly tells you what they do and you draw your own conclusions – unless they are talking straight to you over a coffee, say, and then they follow the conventions of the dialogue.  Wolff’s best stories: “Hunters in the Snow” and “Leviathan” – this week, anyway.  Carver’s?  All of them.

Hard to be a God, Aleksei German, 2013

Russian film, black and white.  set on another planet, on which it appears to be Brueghel/Bosch time; the knobbly, gap-toothed, beaky faces are Brueghel peasants or soldiers, the cartwheel gallows, corpses and infernal machinery of “The Triumph of Death” are all there.  The mud is Flanders 1917; everyone is caked with it and shit, the torrential rain is sticky, everyone treats everyone else with brutality throughout, dwarves abound, bowels slide forth, eyes are gouged, etcetera, etcetera.  Through the chaos wanders a “God” from Earth, who resembles Dave, of Chas and Dave, occasionally blowing an outlandish alto saxophone-thing, sub Albert Ayler.  There is some kind of sci-fi/Game of Thrones-type plot (it’s based on a novel, see Wikipedia for plot summary), but the dialogue is so fractured and disjointed, it seems designed to prevent understanding.

hard to be a god

 

Visual references abound: in addition to Brueghel, there is Goya (the conical hats of the Inquisition victims); Pozzo and Lucky from Godot; Fellini’s Satyricon; the Saragossa Manuscript (the gallows corpses); Tarkovsky’s Ivan Rublev (general look, and the use of a peasant’s head – still attached  – as a battering ram).  Unintentionally I’m sure, and probably for British audiences only, there is a strong odour of Monty Python and Blackadder.

The film is around 3 hours long and seems longer – as well as the impenetrable plot, there is the relentless use of close-up.  Most of the time, you are struggling to make out what is going on and when the camera draws back, you sigh with relief.  The actors keep peering and poking at the camera lens which is amusing, at first.  The sub-titles are occasionally adolescent – “zits”, for example – which adds to the Thrones/steampunk/video game feel. German, who died aged 75 in 2013, was no punk wunderkind, however; he never emigrated, but faced a constant struggle to get his films made and shown.

So, it’s probably a critique to some degree of Putin’s Russia and no doubt a masterpiece – I’ll get the DVD when it comes out and watch it in 30 minute bursts; might be bearable, or even brilliant like that.  At the last, beautiful, snowbound scene, I was getting that thing where you pray that nobody will come on or start the dialogue again, so that it can fade out.  Last had that in “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, which was definitely a masterpiece.  My advice is to read the Wiki plot summary a few times before you go, if you feel you really have to…

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Shoreham Dog

 

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Down by the River – rather Expressionist for me, but still.

Blackpaint 

28.08.15

 

Blackpaint 401 – Manhugging at the Fair; Annoying in Chechnya

July 4, 2013

Lowry at Tate Britain

I think he’s more important as a social historian than as a painter; the old Mitchell and Kenyon films which play in this exhibition show that his particular vision was spot on.  No-one else was covering this sort of industrial, municipal vista so consistently.

As I said in last blog, I think there’s something of Brueghel in there and not just the small figures and the white background.  B documented the lives of his peasants and Lowry  is doing the same for the people of his northern towns, to an extent; the Fever Van, the Funeral, Going to and Coming From Work, the Fair at Daisy Nook (twice, at least).  His figures are less solid than B’s, caricatures really, but he does give them individual details, even if they come out looking the same.

Several characters recur; a pair of drunks (?) “man-hugging”, kids, and those two dogs – probably more that I didn’t notice.  None of the figures seem to cast a shadow – indeed, they look somehow separate, even when they overlap, as if collaged.

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No dogs in this one.

When you see the paintings surrounding you, their filmic quality is obvious; you can easily imagine the figures coming to life and swarming through the factory gates towards the smoking chimneys.  I thought of that film of snow-covered Nevsky Prospect and the people  scattering under fire during the 1905 revolution.  It’s on the cover of the paperback of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”.

My favourite painting is uncharacteristic and one of the first in the exhibition – it’s the little brick terraced house with the flowers in the window.  Look closely at it- it’s beautifully painted, especially the brickwork.

Another interesting and uncharacteristic painting was a Welsh scene, I think called “Bargoed”; somehow, the perspectives are more conventional (his townscapes often look like two or three different photographs cut up and collaged together and the diminishing size of the figures as they recede is often “wrong”) and the whole picture has a more “muscular” feel – not better than the townscapes, but much more conventional.

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Quick visit to our favourite room, the one with Bigger Splash and the red Caro – I looked closely at the Bacon triptych and was interested to notice how thin the paint was – the weave of the canvas fabric was clearly visible.  His own remarks about the role of accident and chance in a painting and the common (mis)conception that he painted with a sort of vigorous abandon had led me to believe that the paint would be applied more thickly.

The Tony Cragg “Stack” – how did they install it without its falling to pieces?  It’s surely not stuck together and yet there is no way it could be raised – unless it was on a palette that was somehow slipped out from under it when it was in place…

Aleksandra, Sokurov

How irritating Sokurov’s characters can be.  This is the film about the grandmother who visits her army officer grandson when he is on active service in Chechnya.  She goes around being provocative, as if the presence of a matriarchal figure, overweight and with  bad legs, should be treated as completely normal by the gormless boy soldiers.  They have to help her out and keep her safe.  She meets some Chechnyan counterparts and treats them, and a young Chechnyan assigned as her guide, to a string of platitudes that, I’m sure, would have gone down really well with the population during Russia’s war on the Chechen “rebels”.

I was reminded of the diplomat in Russian Ark; he is also an irritating figure, pushy, inquisitive and  annoying to everyone in the film.  Unlike Alexandra, of course, he (the character, that is) is not Russian, but French or Swiss.  And then there is the Mephistopheles character in Faust – but its right for him to be annoying, I suppose.

Salter, “Light Years”

There’s a great scene in this, where Viri, the central male character, is at a party, getting drunk – except that you don’t know he’s plastered, until he insists on doing a costumed imitation of Maurice Chevalier, unbidden, before the guests, forgets and repeats lines, then passes out in the maid’s bedroom as the others go in to dinner.  It’s a trick that Richard Yates also uses, I think in “Easter Parade”, where the male lead instigates a punching contest with a younger character who is annoying him by being younger and having opinions…

Imagine, Vivian Meier

BBC programme on the staggering work of “amateur” photographer and professional nanny Meier, who printed only a tiny proportion of her 100, 000+ negatives and kept the rest in storage, to be sold off after her death.  She seemed to have taken pictures in just about any style, all good, many stunning.  Joel Meyerowitz made a good point about her portraits, which were often of street people; he said that using a Rolleiflex, which you looked down at while you pointed it at the subject from your midriff, meant that you didn’t have to confront people by raising the camera to your face and looking at them directly.  Maybe that helped – whatever the reason, great pictures were the result.

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Poor Tom – an old one, but I like it…

Blackpaint

4.07.13

Blackpaint 399 – A Failure to Whack; Paulie, Christopher and Landy

June 20, 2013

The Pine Barrens

Brueghel’s “Hunters in the Snow” at the end of the episode, as Christopher and Paulie thaw out in Tony’s car after failing to kill the Russian;  the black tree trunks stand out against the snow and Cecilia Bartoli sings; the first Brueghel of the blog, more to come.  The Sopranos was  better than The Wire, the characters more rounded, the tonal range wider, the satire more biting, the acting better, no irritating “Fuck!” episode, no Steve Earle (great singer, world’s most annoying actor) and no spurious analysis by Zizek – as far as I know.

The Ladykillers

I watched a beautiful print of this film on TV; the first time I’d seen it, I’m ashamed to say, it looked as if it was brand new (directed in 1955 by Alexander MacKendrick).  Guinness, Sellers and Lom, but above all, Katie Johnson as the Lady all great – the shots down onto the railway line as the steam boiled up from the locos.. I watched it almost without a smile, gripped.  I know crime wasn’t allowed to pay in the 50s, but all five villains dead in a comedy is some going – although I suppose there was “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, with a bigger body count.

Ekcovision adverts cropped up again; reminded me of the ghost of Roberts, now a pizza place, in Bedford Hill.

Michael Landy’s Saints Alive at the National Gallery

Well, only three alive when we went.  A short queue on Saturday, but still a twenty minute wait for a token to get in, because they control the numbers.  Around the walls, collages of bits of saints stuck together like Duchamp or Picabia, plus some big drawings by Landy of derelict Catherine wheels in a derelict landscape.

The working models were:

St.Francis – he whacks himself in the forehead with a big cross when you put a coin in the slot;

St.Jerome – he whacks himself on the chest with a rock when you step on the pedal (but you have to wait for it to charge up);

St. Multi-Saint – head of St. Peter Martyr, with curved knife on crown, St.Laurence’s grill, St.Michael’s lion leggings and winged devil from Crivelli and a couple of tiny souls in torment – Adam and Eve? – who jiggle up and down in the pan of a set of scales when Multi-Saint is working.  When it’s working, the knife whacks him repeatedly on the head.

So: whacking with implements is the norm; Doubting Thomas has a gouging finger which no doubt probes the hole in Christ’s side, when he’s working; St. Apollonia has a pair of pliers which she pokes, I presume, into her mouth – when she’s working.  The machinery appears improvised and scavenged – pram or go-kart wheels, that sort of thing – but most of the wheels and cogs seem to function on each model.

I thought it was a laugh; can’t see that it had any of the spiritual resonance that Laura Cumming detected in her Observer review.  I did see a know -all type, dragging his wife over to the various paintings in the NG that were illustrated in Landy’s models, so some fun to be had tracking them…

Other Paintings at the National Gallery

These should be checked out:

The Master of Osservanza

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Ercole de Roberti

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Fabulous little pictures.

Lowry and Brueghel

Jeannette Winterson, in the weekend papers, quite reasonably goes on about repetition, mass society, mass production and the age of industrialisation in her appraisal of Lowry’s work;  I have to say, though, that it seems to me Lowry individualises his little figures.  They have different clothes, hair colours, ages, attitudes; definitely not identical figures.  What they remind me of are Brueghel or maybe Avercamp; the skating scenes probably, because of the white.  I love Brueghel – I find Lowry depressing.

James Salter

Reading “All There Is”, his new novel, and re-reading “Light Years” and “Burning the Days”.  The prose is limpid, rather chilly and distanced, compared to, say, Richard Yates.  The Korean flying sequences in “Burning the Days” are great; he describes the dirt in the bottom of the cockpit floating down around him as he rolls his plane in combat.  The sex is somewhat relentlessly wonderful, however; it’s too stupendous and usually leaves the women and sometimes the men on the point of expiry.  He shares that American obsession with the bad teeth of the British.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

20.06.13

Blackpaint 346 – The Glamour of Desolation

June 14, 2012

Burtynsky again

Second visit and I realise that these fabulous photographs actually glamorise the processes of oil extraction, refinement and waste disposal – not sure if that was the artist’s intention.  The scenes of environmental dereliction, in the Azerbaijan oilfields and especially Chittagong, look great.  If I were in Bangladesh as a tourist, I’d want to go to Chittagong, see the hulks on the beaches with golden light pouring over and round them, and take pictures.  From across the room, the photographs reminded me of those classy riverscape paintings used to illustrate Penguin Classic editions of Dickens – “Our Mutual Friend”, maybe.

If they had been in black and white, they would have looked like Baltermans Soviet war shots; Stalingrad or Kursk…

And, inevitably, the salt flats shot recalls Brueghel…

Tree of Life (Malick)

Another second visit, and the Tarkovsky overtones immediately flooding in, especially “Mirror”; but a couple of Ray Bradbury moments I missed the first time, too – the clown who drops into the water tank (surely that’s Gacy’s clownface?) and the tall man in the wooden tunnel/corridor…  Probably me reading stuff in, rather than Malick.

A series of images at the end to play with; beach and sandbar, desert rocks, doorway in desert and water, that rock fissure from below again, the floating mask – and who are the two girls with the mother when she gives her son to god/eternity/universe…?

British Museum – The Horse

The Stubbs paintings; sometimes, there’s something strange or not right with his riders and horses, isn’t there?  The horses seem to me to be elongated somehow, can’t quite put my finger on it…  It must be a way of seeing, since he did all those anatomical drawings of horses (a copy of the book is in the exhibition).

Van Dyck

There is the most beautiful drawing of a horse in black chalk with white highlights on blue paper; the wall note says it’s probably a sketch for an equestrian portrait like the one of Charles I in the National Gallery – the one in which the horse’s neck is too long and/or the head too small.

Picasso, the Vollard Collection (print room of British Museum)

Seen these etchings already in Santiago de Compostella (see Blackpaint 288).  The beautiful curving line, freedom of depiction, the way he mixes spare line with dense forests of cross-hatching.  That head-knob nose, copied from – forgotten, somewhere Middle East or Med.,  that makes an appearance for several prints and then disappears.  Mostly elderly artist with nude model and statue; a series of Minotaurs, drinking at orgies, or creeping into young girls’ bedrooms – there are usually naked girls, vulnerably loitering or asleep, in the vicinity.  There is a series of five or six “rapes”, with great flurries of limbs and torsos, but difficult to make out.  Finally, there are several blind Minotaurs, being led here or there in a stiff-legged, Egyptian profile walk.  Some Rembrandt and Goya etchings are mixed in, where Picasso had borrowed a theme, or the subject matter/technique is similar.

Blackpaint

14th June 2012

Blackpaint 216

November 7, 2010

Ai Weiwei

Unbelievably, the Chinese have demolished his studio and now placed him under house arrest, presumably because of his support for dissidents and general refusal to toe the line.  His installation, which got such a lot of bemused comment in the British media because of the porcelain dust business, is still “on” in the Tate Modern, our main showcase of modern art to the world; the current campaign of intimidation against him should be headline news, surely.  The Chinese government are also trying to stop ambassadors from attending the Nobel Prize award to Liu Xiaobo.

Arthur Melville

One of the Glasgow Boys, current exhibition at the Royal Academy, this is the painter who has a little picture at the NG of Scotland in Edinburgh that appears to be as near to abstract as makes no difference (see Blackpaint 139, May 24th).  This surely makes it the earliest abstract in Western art (?).  Laura Cumming, in her review of the show, mentions it and points out that it is actually an impressionistic rendering of a scene at the Moulin Rouge, but rightly says it is more like Abstract Expressionism than any other movement around at the time.  Melville’s  more conventional paintings are hugely impressive too; the one in the Observer reminds me of something by Brueghel, big red-flanked mountains, a U shaped lake at the foot (no serpent, unfortunately) – that is, until you notice the brushwork.  Haven’t been to the RA yet, so don’t know if the Moulin Rouge pictures are in the show – I suspect not, or they would have been reproduced in the Observer article.

Zoe Leonard

Should have included her in my list of artists using strange materials (see Blackpaint 162, July 5th): she has made baseballs (must be – she’s from New York) out of orange and grapefruit peel, stitched in sections and a purse out of banana skin with zip fastener attached; “unzip a banana”, as the advert used to tell us.

Mariotto Albertinelli

A strange “Creation and Fall” in the  Courtauld collection by this artist;  Eve is emerging from the sleeping Adam’s side, assisted by an angel supporting each elbow.  To the right of sleeping Adam is Adam awake, receiving the fruit from Eve, who stands by the Tree.  The serpent’s human (but sexually indeterminate) head appears to be whispering in her ear – and a thin twig from the tree, or maybe a foot of the serpent, appears to be tickling her pubic hair.

Blackpaint’s Quiz

A new feature, the result of inexorable dumbing-down pressures on the writer.  Correct answers will be included in Comments, of course – and that will  constitute the prize.

Q.  Who painted a plaster head, a green ball and a glove (looks like rubber) in the same painting?

St.Dorothy by Blackpaint

6.11.10

Blackpaint 215

November 5, 2010

Van Gogh

Yes, so BROWN those early ones;  only relief the odd snow one (like Brueghel), or a red sun going down or red strip on the horizon; or maybe red cloth in the loom or the white cambric caps of the women.  Sorry – there is black and grey as well, in “The Potato Eaters”, a pale, washed blue sky and maybe a dark sea at Scheveningen; dark, burning orange through the poplars at dusk in the woods.

The startling exception is “the Bulb fields” at the Hague, 1883, I think; piercing, bright colours, short, thin brushstrokes – three years too early!  Because, winter of 1886-7, now in Paris, the colours start to push through the brown.   Light appears, and those little, short darting dabs with the brush.. .   There’s still a lot of brown about, and he sometimes reverts – but he’s found some new colours and rediscovered the brushwork of the Bulb Fields.  This is probably well-covered territory, but as someone who knows little about VG, I found it startling how obvious the changes in palette and brush strokes appear when you simply page through the paintings in chronological order.

Michelangelo

I know I said I wouldn’t – but there are a couple of things I must mention.  The first is the Last Judgement again.  There is a skull-faced entity rising from the ground on the resurrection side – beneath him/it,  is the face of a bearded man, invisible except in enlargements; could it be another self-portrait?  Looks close enough to me.

The second point relates to the presentation drawings.  I stated confidently some time back that a disputed painting of the Sermon on the Mount couldn’t be by M because it contained a large number of trees – and Michelangelo doesn’t do trees.  The only exceptions I knew of were the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, around which the serpent is coiled and a couple of shattered trunks, emerging from water in the Flood (both from the Sistine ceiling).  

For the sake of completeness,  I should mention the drawing of Phaeton’s sisters, growing branches and roots as they are transformed (although the gnarled tree bidon’t look like poplar, as Ovid specifies); and a stump in the background of the picture of Tityos having his liver eaten by an eagle.  None of these exceptions, I think, are enough to attack the general proposition, so “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees” remains Blackpaint’s Law.

St. Barbara by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

4.11.10

Blackpaint 133

May 13, 2010

Very short blog today – private view tonight, so I have to get to the supermarket to get the cheap wine and pour it into the expensive-looking bottles.

30,000 Years of Art (Phaidon)

Bought this about a year ago but like all huge, heavy coffee table books, it hasn’t been looked at much – too heavy to read it on your lap; you need a lectern.

I should have made the effort, however, because it’s full of beautiful art, some of it staggering for historical as well as aesthetic reasons.  On page 366, for instance, is the Bikini Mosaic from Sicily, AD325.   Its just like a photograph of Cannes or somewhere in the 60s (well, the poses are, anyway).

Landscape

Two blogs ago, I mentioned Leonardo’s 1474 landscape in the Renaissance Drawings exhibition; supposed to be the first European landscape.  I checked through “30,000 years” and, sure enough, no Euroscapes; however, the earliest Chinese landscape, by Zhan Ziquian (possibly) is in there, dated AD 602!  Another eight or ten Chinese landscapes, covering the period up to the Leo.  Also, a Korean one and a number of Japanese ones, but these much later than the Chinese; about the same time as the Leo, in fact.

Granted the book is misleading; it doesn’t include any of the Dutch landscapes of the 17th(?) century.  I find it interesting though;  why did Chinese artists see fit take the landscape as a subject – and conversely, why did European painters reject (or not think of) it?  If you know, or have a theory, please comment.

Actually, when you look at those Gothic paintings, Brueghel, for example, with the snow and the mountains, trees and cliffs, there is enormous interest in the landscape and often the human figures are almost insignificant – but they are there and the titles of the paintings point to them and not the landscape.  So- why did the Dutch eventually decide to do the countryside (albeit with cows or farmers and carts included)?  Was it eastern influence – Chinese and Japanese stuff coming back on trading ships?

Still Life

More bizarre, perhaps, is the still life.  Why did someone decide to bung a pot, some bottles, apples, a dead fish or whatever together on a table to paint them?  The earliest one in “30,000 years” is on page 325, a fresco from Pompeii dated AD50.  It consists of a dish of eggs, a pewter jug, a couple of quails, I think, hanging on the wall and some other kitchen bits and pieces.  According to the text, these still lifes were common as a wall decoration in – kitchens, not surprisingly.  Along with those fine mosaics and paintings of fish, shellfish and game, they call to mind the vinyl kitchen wallpaper designs of the 50s and 60s.  Again, if anyone knows more, please comment and educate me.

Blackpaint

13.05.10