Posts Tagged ‘El Greco’

Blackpaint 599 – A Drink with Bacchus and a Sausage with Goebbels

June 13, 2017

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Vast hoard of treasures here, so can just give a few examples:  Las Meninas (the Maidservants, below) with its complicated geography – painter on the left, looking towards posing royal couple (reflected in the mirror).  Having read Derrida, I feel I can give my own reading of the painting, totally unsupported by the known facts:  for me, it’s one of those paintings where two or more time zones exist simultaneously – like those Crucifixions where the journey to Golgotha, the crucifixion and the deposition, and maybe Judas’ suicide, are all on show.   So in my reading, Velasquez, having completed the painting, turns in the doorway to glance back at his earlier self, still engaged in the work.  The guide book identifies the figure in the doorway to be Jose Nieto, the royal chamberlain – but I prefer my reading.

Las Meninas, Velasquez

 

The Feast of Bacchus, Velasquez

I don’t know why, but this painting reminds me of Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus.  It gives me the impression that Bacchus and the grinning man next to him are travelling, seated, towards us, despite the presence of the kneeling man, who would be ploughed under, were this the case.  There is something about that arm, too…

I don’t quite have a settled view on El Greco; sometimes I think that his elongated figures thrusting up like flames are fantastic and precursors of artists like Kirchner (yes, fanciful…) – other times, the crowdedness and somehow dry surfaces turn me off.

 

The Holy Trinity, El Greco

 

The Annunciation, El Greco

As for Goya, there are some wondrous canvases such as the 2nd and 3rd May 1808 paintings (the Mamelukes and the Executions), the Black Paintings of course, and the Royal portraits.  There are also some terrible paintings – a Flight into Egypt comes to mind.  I think religious themes didn’t inspire him.  A couple of portraits, then:

The Marchioness of Santa Cruz, Goya

 

The Countess of Chinchon, Goya

More on the Prado next time – I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Dance of the Seven Veils, Ken Russell Omnibus (1970) – see it on youtube

Another brilliant example of Russell’s restraint and good taste: Richard Strauss (Christopher Gable) as a Nazi fellow traveller, reaping the rewards under Hitler and pleading coercion after the Downfall.  It begins with Gable, dressed in animal skins, conducting Zarathustra and soon being ravished by crazed nuns.  Later, his wife is raped by crazed Tommies (fantasy sequence, I should point out, as is the nun bit) again, whilst Strauss conducts.  Above, Mrs. Strauss and Goebbels share a German foodstuff…

Ossessione, Visconti (1943)

Visconti’s version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.  Gino the tramp shows up at Giovanna’s garage and roadhouse and sweeps her off her feet – although not onto the kitchen table, as in the Jack Nicholson/ Jessica Lange version directed by Bob Rafelson in 1981.  What to do about Giovanna’s fat, much older husband, however?  Lots of smouldering and some excellent dialogue: (Giovanna to Gino, who has removed his jacket) “Your shoulders – why, you’re built like a stallion!”

 

Rift Valley

Blackpaint

12/06/17

 

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Blackpaint 536 – Newbolt, Soutine, the Leopard and the Greek

March 14, 2016

Thomas Newbolt at Kings Place

Thomas-Newbolt---Figure-IV-,-2015_248w

 

A series of solitary young women,  lost look in their eyes (or asleep as above), in glamorous dresses,  perched on a sofa; and small portraits of women’s faces, some cropped to show only some features.  The paint is thickly sliced on with a palette knife and is thickly textured in an almost Auerbachian manner.  I think there are one or two male heads out of twenty(?) or so.  My friend suggested a resemblance to the portraits of Soutine, which seemed to me exactly right.  I enjoyed the paintings greatly, even though several were obscured by the screens of a corporate event that was taking place.

Soutine

Having mentioned this great and influential artist – Bacon and de Kooning, among several others, were influenced by him – I’ll put up some of his works; wild. expressionist townscapes, the portraits that Newbolt’s paintings faintly resemble and a side of beef, if I can find one:

soutine 2

soutine selfie

Soutine self-portrait

soutine1

That path looks like a salamander holding a pine tree…

 

beef

Mm – Tasty!

 

soutine skate

Here’s a Soutine Ray, to compare with Ensor’s Skate

Why is there no Taschen of Soutine, or any reasonably cheap book of his paintings?  A question I have asked before in this blog; but, despite its wide readership and undoubted influence, no reply has yet been forthcoming.

The Leopard, Visconti (1963)

the leopard 1

Burt Lancaster’s superb performance as the Sicilian prince, facing up to social and political change, his own mortality and that of his caste and values.  The operatic battle scenes, the insufferable nephew Tancredi (played by Alain Delon), the sweaty, shifty, worldly priest (Romano Valli – later, the fussy hotelier in Visconti’s “Death in Venice”, and brilliant in that too) – but above all, the ball  and that waltz with Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale, prefiguring, perhaps, the ball scene in Sokurov’s “Russian Ark”.

leopard 2

Well, no, not above all; there is a scene after the dance in which the ailing prince, looking for somewhere to rest, comes upon a huge room filled with the used chamber pots of the ball guests…

The Renaissance Unchained (BBC4)

I liked this series, especially Waldemar Januszczak’s exploration of Van Eyck and other so-called “Flemish Primitives” such as Memling, which showed up the absurdity of such a term for these brilliant draftsmen of fiendish detail with their clear, cold, deep colours.  I thought he had something when he referred to Michelangelo’s “Opal Fruit colours” in the Sistine Chapel (not the blues and browns though!); I’d also never noticed before the similarity between El Greco’s naked, elongated bodies in “the Opening of the Fifth Seal” and those of Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon”.  Apparently, this has been known since the 80s.  Here’s the El Greco, but I can’t find a decent photo of the Picasso, oddly.  Still, it’s a well enough known image…

fifth seal

I used to think El Greco’s paintings were OK, but sort of stuffy and boring in a dark, heavy, religious, Spanish way (despite coming from Crete); now I like them – but not that shimmery thing he has, see above.  No doubt, next week, I’ll think different.  A couple of life drawing exercises and an old painting of mine to finish:

 

cropping 1

Cropping 1

 

cropping 2

Cropping 2

 

green fuse

Green Fuse

Blackpaint

14.3.16

 

Blackpaint 269

April 25, 2011

Repulsion

Watching this great Polanski film the other day (starring Catherine Deneuve), I was staggered when a character started telling Deneuve the plot of a film she had just seen – starring Charlie Chaplin, in a tramp role!  “Repulsion”, for those who might not know, is set in the 60’s, around South Kensington.  Maybe they still showed Chaplin shorts at the old cartoon picture houses, along with Bugs Bunny and the Cockerel newsreels – I’m far too young to know.

Also in “Repulsion” – briefly, before Catherine slices him up with a cutthroat razor – is Patrick Wymark.  He strikes me as a perfect Francis Bacon character; thick neck, squat, erect body, sneering lips, braying voice, sweaty face, pushy, bullying, canine.  Surprisingly, the Deneuve character is not impressed.  He joins the rotting rabbit carcase and that of the previously murdered John Fraser in the stinking apartment, while Catherine is groped by the (imaginary) hands that emerge from the walls.  And a jazz score by Chico Hamilton.

Leonardo  

In one of the Saturday papers, Guardian or Telegraph, a drawing of a man’s head, newly discovered (loose) in a Leonardo sketchbook.  An Italian academic has claimed it as a Leonardo original – rashly, I think.  It looks more like a picture from a serial in the old Eagle Annual.  Something very modern about it; it’s not sculpted, in the way Leo’s other drawings are.  Italians seem prone to rushing in with these things – see previous Blackpaint entries (Blackpaint 111,212 and 215) on the Michelangelo Sermon on the Mount “discovery” .  Still, maybe I’m wrong and my hard-earned reputation will be destroyed.

Caravaggio

Looking again at the Uffizi catalogue and there are three Caravaggios listed:  Medusa, The Adolescent Bacchus and the Sacrifice of Isaac.  The last is quite startlingly brutal – Abraham is distracted by the angel as he is about to cut Isaac’s throat.  He holds the knife very convincingly and is forcing the yelling Isaac’s face down against a boulder by a hand round the back of his neck, the thumb mashing into his cheek.  Isaac is not looking submissive and reconciled to his fate – not one little bit.

Medusa, also apparently yelling, stares out in horror or shock from a lozenge of green.  Glistening snakes writhe round “her”  head – but it’s the face of a young man, surely.  The blood squirting from the neck gives the picture the air of a waxen guillotine victim at Tussauds.

The Bacchus picture shows a fleshy young boy, crowned with flowers and rouged, holding a big, shallow glass of wine over a bowl of rotting fruit.  The text refers to symbolism, but why?  Corruption, I suppose – but maybe Caravaggio just thought rotting fruit was more interesting.

El Greco

There is a large El Greco in Dulwich Picture Gallery at the moment – The Opening of the Fifth Seal, the Vision of St. John, which is so roughly finished and “modern” in its general aspect that it looks, to me at least, like a Kokoschka.  When you have checked out the El Greco, have a look at the Friends Open in the same gallery; one of mine is in there.

Sorry, old one – having to revamp this week’s, which I screwed up last night.

Blackpaint

25.04.11

Blackpaint 248

February 3, 2011

Exterminating Angel

For those not familiar with this (fantastic) Bunuel film, it concerns a collection of bourgeois dinner guests who find themselves unable to leave the mansion of their host at the end of the evening – they just can’t seem to get out of the dining room, something stops them, a sort of force field that manifests itself through their own fears, reluctance and prevarication.  It’s arguably his most surreal film, apart from l’Age d’Or and Un Chien Andalou, from the collaboration with Dali in the 20s and 30s; sheep (and a bear) wander in to the mansion, a woman has a dead chicken in her purse – that sort of thing.  Great title; I wonder why he called it that.

La Dolce Vita

Before leaving cinema, and whilst pondering unanswerable questions, what does the big, dead fish signify at the end?  Looking up at Mastroianni from those huge, glassy eyes… seeing through the emptiness of his life, maybe – no, far too glib…

Bronzino

Surprised to see (in the Uffizi catalogue again) a most beautiful dress, on the “Eleonora di Toledo”.  I usually associate him with the breast-squeezing teaser in the National Gallery, but he could do clothes too, it seems.  It reminds me of that great dress on the landlady in the Ingres painting, also NG I think – the one that took him 11 years to finish.

Parmigianino and El Greco

This is probably crass, but I see a similarity between these two; not only the obvious one of the elongation of figures, but also in the coloration and lighting of their pictures.  El Greco far more expressionistic in his landscaping, of course, but still..

Van Gogh

I could never quite see the fuss over VG’s famous sunflowers; I find them dowdy and brown.  However, I’ve just seen some of the sunflowers he did in 1887, in that “Cut Sunflowers” series, especially the ones against the blue background, and they are fantastic in repro – would love to see them in the “flesh”.  Also that “Trees and Undergrowth” from the same summer, the one with the dark green foliage and the medallions of yellow sunlight piercing through.

Painting

I’m still getting that thing where the same structure, or very similar, seems to emerge every time – different colours and textures, but same shapes.  Sometimes  only see it when I invert the painting, but its there.   Even when I plan not to do it and do something else entirely, I look at it when it’s “finished” and think, no, that’s no good – and start to paint it over and improvise; and there it is again.  It’s the Exterminating Angel, maybe!

Blackpaint

03.02.11