Posts Tagged ‘Gerard David’

Blackpaint 208

October 18, 2010

A steep decline in hits over the last few days, so I will try to post more frequently and improve the quality of insight – latter may be difficult, however.


Finally got to see the Gauguin on Saturday; well, to glimpse the paintings through chinks in a mass of human backs.  In some ways, this was productive, in that you see the paintings as abstract colours and shapes first and some, particularly the landscapes, work very well in that respect.  There are 11 rooms, but I took no great notice of which paintings were in each, so these will be random observations (some might say, “as usual”).

Dominating one of the rooms – Sacred Themes, probably – is “Jacob wrestling with the Angel”, with that red; it’s culinary, like a hot pepper stew, against the cold milk – white of the women’s caps.  I think the painting, from the NG of Scotland (see Blackpaint 140), actually dominates the exhibition.

In an earlier room, there is “the Ham”, with a less fiery orange backdrop – from a distance, it looked to me like a Picasso, a cow’s skull, maybe.  In the same room, a red tablecloth with a little black idol – he pops up repeatedly elsewhere – and several interiors with Cezanne-ish fruit.  There is a child sleeping, with a large, ornate tankard and several obscure, feathery objects floating surreally round her.  BUT – there are also the awful dogs, drinking from a bowl of milk.

Some of the drawings are very pleasing, the finest being the oddly titled “In the Heat Pigs”(?); a coloured rear view of a peasant woman naked to the waist, doing something, feeding pigs perhaps, that I couldn’t make out, many other views of clothed backs intervening.  I thought his line was reminiscent  of Degas.

The landscape room has the most abstract “feel”; flat planes and plaques of vivid colour, sometimes outlined in black.  Also, to my surprise, several instances of trees and shrubs done in thin, diagonal brush thrusts in tawny and flame colours.  Flatness is the most noticeable quality.  In this room, I believe, is “The Loss of Virginity”; a naked girl lies in a field, a fox at her side, a flower between her fingers – difficult symbolism, this – whilst in the distance, a mob of villagers approach to see what is to be seen.

Back to the “sacred” room – a Tahitian angel with green wings, a lemon-green Christ on the cross with Breton Marys at the base.  These reminded me, rightly or wrongly, of Chagall.  “The Invocation” – that acid green again, with a mauve-magenta-purple ground and again in “Two Women”, which looks like a lesbian fantasy on the artist’s part, with a large, odd dog (fox?) looking on as the women touch and Gauguin, one presumes, approaching in the background.

“Ondine” shows a swimming woman, rendered in a horrible, chalky but sharp blue-green and “The Bathers” has a Garden of Eden appearance, with animals at rest and some tall, vertical plants, maybe creepers (I’m sure there is a particular “Eden” I’ve seen that I have at the back of my mind – but that is where it stays, for now).

Finally, a picture in which the more “sculpted” figure, deeper relief and general depth of background differentiate it from the others – “Tehamana has many Parents” – the Tahitian girl in the black and white striped dress.

Predominant colours:  Pink, that sharp green, that mauve-magenta-violet-purple amalgam, purple-ish brown.  I noticed that the colours in some of the repros on sale were an improvement on the originals.

Two images that have stuck in my mind this week

Gerard David, “Christ being Nailed to the Cross”, the only painting I have seen where the cross, with Christ on it, is lying on the ground;

and Michelangelo, the Doni Tondo, in which the right arm of Mary, touching Christ, looks massive and elongated compared to the left (which is closer to the viewer).

Final Broke line Tide



Blackpaint 140

May 25, 2010

National Gallery of Scotland (cont.)

Not an immediately exciting title, I would guess, unless you are a Scots patriot – however, I have saved a couple of really controversial observations for this bit of the review.   Here’s the first;


Titian’s work is of variable quality.  There is the Diana and Actaeon that was recently “saved for the nation” at a cost much was it?  Great composition, the way he reels back with arm across face – but close up, the brushwork is, well, scrubby and scrappy – or “increasingly broken and impressionistic” as the Companion puts it.  and there’s something wrong with Diana’s head, isn’t there?  It’s too small and in the wrong position.  the Diana and Callisto, closely  resembling the Actaeon in composition, contains no such difficulties – but, somehow, the first one seems the greater picture. 

The Three Ages of Man contains a heap of fat and unappealing babies and an extremely serious young girl, peering into the face of a much older, Byronic (and near naked) man, whilst fingering a flute-type instrument in a distinctly phallic position.

The Virgin and Child with John the Baptist features a similar character as J the B, and the virgin wears a blue  and rose dress, the folds of which are brilliantly depicted in white – but somehow dominate the picture, making the rest look underpainted.  And the right arm of Venus, just risen from the sea, squeezing water  from her hair – too fat.  Colours staggering, however, in all pictures.


The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, recently  stolen and recovered, is on display – and again, I have to say, it’s not up to other Leonardos; the faces of both the mother and child seem odd, elongated noses, blurry features..


No childish criticism of these three “luminous” pictures, except that Joseph in the tondo seems overly coiffured;   I love the squirming Jesus in the Virgin and Child.  Mary’s eyes don’t engage with the child’s, but seem rather to stare thoughtfully past him to the floor – it seems to me I’ve noticed this lack of engagement in other V and C’s; is it some sort of convention?

Other fantastic stuff

Beautiful, silky surfaced Rubens; a religious allegorical painting by Holbein; Stoning of St Stephen by Elsheimer, with the young man poised to fling  the big stone at the back of the kneeling martyr’s skull; the Van Der Goes Trinity Altarpiece, the legends of St.Nicholas by Gerard David…

The Impressionists

Cezanne’s The Big Trees, with its geometric, blue and brown tunnel, next to Van Gogh’s Olive Trees, with its short, diagonal brush strokes and coiling trunks and limbs, the two pictures echoing and bouncing off each other; unusual, vibrant Gauguins, Jacob wrestling the angel against burning red and the whites of the women’s headgear and the dusky pink of the ground and short, downward “tiles” of foliage in Martinique Landscape – and the Degas portrait of Diego Martelli, arms folded, on the table a spread of yellow, white and blue sketchbooks and papers that could make an abstract painting in themselves.


John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew, looking directly and intensely at you, the way that white silk dress is painted with those loose brush strokes..

And much more.  I’m going back to see it all again, as soon as I can.

Cold Blue Jug by Blackpaint