Posts Tagged ‘Caracci’

Blackpaint 604 – Holbein, Debussy, Sargent and Mrs Robinson

August 22, 2017

The Encounter, NPG

This is an absolutely stunning little exhibition of Renaissance drawings that should be seen by everyone interested in portraiture, and the reason is Holbein.  Leonardo, Durer, Pontormo,  Rembrandt are there too and some of the works (Pontormo, Rembrandt,  Caracci) are brilliant but the Holbeins are supreme.   Just line and a little sparing colour, but they tremble with life.  I thought, looking at them, that you could walk outside and see these faces adorning the people passing down Charing Cross Road – something that I didn’t get from any of the other masterworks on show.

 

Holbein, John More (son of Sir Thomas) –  could be checking his phone for messages…

Annibale Caracci’s drawings are also something of a revelation, while not in the same class as the wizard Holbein.  I’ll be going again.

The Graduate, Mike Nichols (1967)

I bought the DVD (50th anniversary release), only to find it was all over the TV this week.  Like everyone else of my age, I seem to have seen a bit here, another bit there – the frogman suit, the frantic chase to the church – but never the whole thing, from beginning to end.  A joyful experience to see it through, the perfect soundtrack – but, like my friends, I had an odd feeling that something was missing.  Surely, when Benjamin (Hoffman) was trying to locate the church where Katherine Ross was getting married, he went to at least one wrong location before he found it?  Three of us watched it and thought the same thing, independently…

It was reviewed or mentioned in the Guardian recently; I think it was Peter Bradshaw – he (if it WAS he) made a big deal of Mrs Robinson (Ann Bancroft, above) being a “sexual predator”.  Maybe so, but I can’t see Hoffman’s character having suffered any damage from the predation; rather the opposite.

Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic, National Gallery

The Ofili – designed giant tapestry below, featuring a very Japanese – looking, seated musician, playing a stringed instrument in a colourful, fanciful, slightly Disney-ish paradise.  I liked the tapestry and some of the preparatory, or related small drawings (below).

Chris Ofili

 

Singer Sargent watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lots of people raving about these; I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed.  They are very accomplished, of course,  and there are some beauties: a couple of Boudin-like little beachscapes,  lovely rendition of Venetian statuary and architectural features and three brilliant male nudes at the end.  Also, I loved the oxen, the alligator and the Scottish soldiers.  However, I thought on the whole, it was somehow drab.  It reminded me of painting by numbers.  Probably it’s the subject matter – harbours, gondolas, a Spanish dancer (I think – maybe there just should have been one), pebbles beneath a fast-flowing river.  You can’t blame him retrospectively for cliches, I suppose.  I much prefer the Sargent of the huge oil portraits, the glowing women in their glowing dresses – his Mrs Robinsons (Mrs. Agnew, for example).

Ken Russell’s Monitor programmes

Oliver Reed as an actor playing Debussy, with Annette Robertson as Gaby

The Delius one – Song of Summer – still by far the best, but the Debussy, with Oliver Reed, playing an actor, playing Debussy, has its moments too.  Russell had to do it like this because the BBC, at the time, didn’t allow documentaries in which actors represented real people and spoke dialogue.  In his earlier “Elgar”, Russell had actors playing Elgar and his wife, but it was a sort of dumbshow with a voice-over (Huw Wheldon).  Sounds ridiculous now, but at least the BBC worried about these things, which are sort of important.  How many times do you see “fact-based” programmes now and think hang on – did that really happen?  Anyway, things soon changed, probably because of Ken, so we got the brilliant Delius and all the other strictly factual composer biopics he made subsequently.

Meant to do Matisse at the RA, but think I’ll go again and do it next time.

 

Three Score and Ten

Blackpaint

22/08/17

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Blackpaint 561 – Yeats, Dante and the Four Horsemen

July 3, 2016

I’ve been reading Yeats and I thought I could usefully purloin a quote for a title…

slouching towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

 

wates2

Green Fuse and Canal in E&A Wates’ Showroom, 82-84 Mitcham Lane

My paintings there for the next couple of weeks as part of the Streatham Festival  @Art23_Streatham.  Green Fuse – nicked that from Dylan Thomas.

 

Painters’ Paintings, National Gallery

The idea behind this exhibition is to show paintings that were owned by famous painters (Freud, Degas, Lawrence, Watts, Van Dyke et al), presumably so that you can judge how that influenced their work, if at all.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take much notice of who owned what, so you’ll have to go yourself, if you’re interested.  What you should be aware of is that many of the paintings are in the NG’s possession and have recently been on the walls as part of the permanent collection.  This has been the case with several exhibitions lately; one good example is the Gauguin bowl of flowers, that was in the Delacroix exhibition.  And the Spartan boys, by Degas…

What I’ve done, then, is to pick out some favourites:

Blanche

Jacques – Emile Blanche, M. Poictevin (1887)

Great portrait, this – reminds me of that one by Strang in the National Portrait Gallery, of Thomas Hardy.  That one’s got a green background, not yellow like the one above; but they both somehow recall those medieval ones by Cranach and the like, and maybe even Holbein.  Blanche also did Joyce, below:

 

joyce

J-E Blanche, James Joyce – this one isn’t in the exhibition, but it is by Blanche; it’s in the NPG.  Very different to the Poictevin portrait – could easily be by Singer Sargent.

 

Again, two very different pictures by Ingres:

ingres dante

Ingres, Dante.  Never would have guessed Ingres, in a month of Sundays.

 

ingres norvins

Ingres, M. de Norvins

That’s more like the Ingres I would expect.  He only took a year or so over this one.

 

caracci woman

Caracci, A Woman Borne off by a Sea God

I picked the Caracci (which is huge) because of the hilarious contrast between the bodies and heads of the cherubic characters to the left and right of the god and the unfortunate woman.  Heads of children, bodies of Olympic weightlifters; compare Michelangelo, the Delphic Sybil from the Sistine Chapel.

cezanne bather

Cezanne, Bather with Outstretched Arm

Proof that brilliant painters sometimes do less than perfect drawings.   My partner says he meant it to be “inaccurate”; I’m not sure.

 

I love this Matisse:

matisse selfie

Matisse, Self-Portrait 1918

Perfect, I think.  Is that a suitcase between his legs, with an ashtray on top?

 

Come and See (Klimov, 1985)

Apocalyptic WW2 film, Bielorussia (Belarus) under German occupation in 1942; Klimov makes much use of Florya’s swollen, dried-out, blistered and horror-struck face, pushed close to the camera, as below, as he witnesses mass murders and rape.  The Nazi troops, with their ragbag of collaborating followers, rampage drunkenly around like tourists from hell, taking photographs of the slaughter to a soundtrack of nightmarish yodelling and marching songs.  I thought of the Tin Drum, Hard to be a God – and in the concentration on the facial close-up, maybe Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul – this just hearsay, though; I haven’t yet seen the Nemes (DVD out now).

come and see 1

 

come and see 2

SS Commander with his pet.  Maybe an echo of the Teutonic Knights in Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky.  And Glasha (if it is her who is raped – Wikipedia seems to be in some doubt) is Lavinia from Titus Andronicus…  You are tempted to think that Klimov has gone overboard on the brutality; no conscience-stricken, civilised good Germans here (cf. Cross of Iron, the Pianist); the closing titles point out that more than 600 villages in Bielorussia were destroyed and their inhabitants murdered in exactly the fashion shown here – and that Germans who were there as perpetrators have agreed that it is accurate.

Blackpaint

03.07.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 453 – Making Colour, Orwell and Kafka, Rolf Harris

July 4, 2014

Making Colour, National Gallery

Exhibition of works taken from the permanent collection – nothing new here – illustrating various points about, unsurprisingly, the history of colour use in art.  The technicalities are interesting and some good pictures (see below):

 

caracci

 

Caracci – similar colours in the Veronese exhibition recently.  Love the gesture: “Yeah, straight on down and take a left – can’t miss it.”

stamina

 

Stamina – St. Margaret’ s execution.  It’s the executioner’s purple robe that is the focus for this painting.

Masaccio_StGeromeAndStJohnTheBaptist

 

Masaccio – Sts. Jerome and John.  The colours, the facial expressions and the little lion.

Thomas_Gainsborough_015

 

Gainsborough – Mrs.Siddons.  I think there’s another Mrs Siddons by G in Dulwich Picture Gallery; looks like the same dress.

 

 George Orwell – Taylor’s biography

The Bernard Crick bio is still the one of choice for me, but Taylor’s has the odd illuminating detail missing from Crick.  For example, late in his life when a collected works was being contemplated, Orwell had no personal copies of Burmese Days or Clergyman’s Daughter – he had to do a JR Hartley to get copies.  Can you imagine a modern author without at least one copy of every single edition of his/her work?  Neither can I.

Finished Nineteen Eighty – Four again; I’d forgotten what a gruelling experience the last section was.  Apparently, some prospective reviewers were unable to sleep after reading it.  I wouldn’t go that far, but its certainly depressing.  Taylor discusses the similarities to Murray Constantine’s  “Swastika Night”, and, rightly in my view, dismisses the on-line view that Orwell nicked the plot.

A faint echo that sounded for me was the story “In the Penal Colony” by Kafka.  It will be remembered that an officer of the colony has inherited from his governor an execution machine that kills by repeatedly penetrating, ever deeper, the flesh with needles that write out the “crime” on the body until the condemned is dead.  The point (excuse pun) is that the prisoner comes to some higher understanding of the nature of his crime as he dies.

This is akin to the need of Ingsoc to go beyond just killing malcontents like Winston; first, they must be remade, by torture and brainwashing,  to see their previous ideas as errors and to love “Big Brother”.  this is a real need; to simply dispose of opposition by murder is not sufficient.  It undermines the whole point of totalitarian society to tolerate the existence of opposition, even passive dissent, even in the past.  Dissent must be changed to acceptance and the past must be restructured.

The officer of Kafka’s penal colony himself submits to the machine, because the new governor is against him and  the unnamed observer fails to see a reason for the machine and disapproves on humanitarian grounds.  In this absolutism, the officer resembles the Party in Orwell’s novel.

Jonathan Jones on Rolf Harris

In today’s Guardian, Jones (an art critic) recounts an anecdote in which he” saw Harris’ s dark side years ago” .  At the unveiling in 2005 of Harris’s portrait of the queen, Jones asked him if he seriously believed that “his portrait was a good work of art”.  This brought out the Dark Side, apparently; “anger suddenly crossed his previously beaming face”.  Well, what did Jones expect?  In my experience, creative people are narcissistic through and through and anything less than 100% adulation is unbearable – unless they’re going for shock effect, of course.  If you publicly insult someone in front of the assembled media, I would have thought it quite likely you’ll see an angry expression pass over their features.

He goes on to draw a parallel between Harris’s “determinedly inoffensive daubs” and the “banality of evil”, famously, Hannah Arendt’s phrase describing the Nazis.  “The middlebrow is inherently corrupt”, perhaps, says Jones; “Chocolate box art is a lie”.

What complete nonsense this is.  I would guess that there are some, maybe even many, conventional, inoffensive, “chocolate box” painters who don’t have Harris’s predatory sexual habits.  Some of them might even be decent citizens.  Same goes for the fans and punters – too stupid to recognise the banality of evil, maybe, but not necessarily perverts.

 

 

 

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Blackpaint – St. Clement’s

7.04.14