Posts Tagged ‘Hobbema’

Blackpaint 317 – Wandering Ears and Landskips

January 4, 2012

Van Gogh’s Ear

The Taschen book shows three self portraits done in August and September1889, in which Vincent appears to show the left side of his face in half-profile.  In two, the ear is clearly intact; in the other one, it is mutilated.   Since it was the left ear that was damaged, the viewer is probably seeing a mirror image transcribed by VG.  The same goes for the two pictures with bandaged ear; the bandage appears to be on the right ear, so it must be mirror image.  In the third self portrait, presumably also done with a mirror, the ear is damaged .  So, what’s happened here?  He must have realised the “error”, and put it right – or maybe he just preferred himself with the ear intact.  Doesn’t matter, I know; but he had a thing about realism and it intrigued me to know.

Gainsborough

Reading the Phaidon book on above, and to my surprise, it’s fascinating.  Gainsborough refers to a “landskip” and my Dutch mother-in-law tells me that’s the Dutch spelling of landscape – which makes sense, as the Dutch more or less made the genre their own in the 17th century.  The author suggests that G may have had a job putting little figures in imported Dutch landscapes to make them acceptable to the English market.

“Landscape with Sandpit” – to my eyes, completely atypical of Gainsborough; chunky, blocky, low sandhills surrounded with lush vegetation, like some Caribbean treasure island (Dutch landskips by Ruisdael and Hobbema, for instance, sometimes look like Sumatran jungle, rather than European woods and copses).

There is that staggering portrait of the Linley sisters, in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  The distinctly creepy, challenging stare and smile of Mary, peering slightly down on us head-on, rather than slightly tilted in other portraits.

Unfinished

I was surprised to read that several of the best-known pictures are unfinished; The Andrews husband and wife icon is one; there is a patch of plain canvas in Mrs. Andrews’ lap, under her folded hands.  The portrait of G’s two daughters pursuing the butterfly is also unfinished, as is the Diana and Actaeon.  I have to say that I don’t think they are any the worse for this; like Turner, whose sketches of Venice outshine many of his highly finished works.

William Gear

The book on the two Roberts that I referred to in the last blog, mentions this Scottish painter as one of the earliest British abstractionists; he apparently exhibited with CoBrA in 1949, so maybe they should have got an “E” for Edinburgh in the title somewhere.

Klee

Reading a Taschen on Klee – sounds like a tiresome individual in a number of ways.  A couple of paintings, one called “The Daub”, remind me of a wobbly Sean Scully.

Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

Again, the cinema (Ritzy) was freezing, but at least they had an apology pinned to the door.  I think the success of the Swedish Wallander (Kristerson) and The Killing was partly due to the distance provided by the foreign language and subtitles, which somehow smooths over the ridiculous plots and unlikely twists.  This new version of the Larsson is in English, so the absurdity of the plot is all too apparent.  However, Rooney Mara is a real face; she reminded me a little of Darryl Hannah’s replicant in Blade Runner – the black eye make-up, I think – and also, strangely and I don’t know why, of the girl in Franju’s Yeux Sans Visage.

Blackpaint

4/01/12

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Blackpaint 238

January 4, 2011

1st blog of the year – but not necessarily the best, which is yet to come.

Posters

Looking at that Durer rhino in the British Museum the other day, I was reminded of the posters that used to cover the stains and graffitti on the walls of my room at university some years ago.  Decades, actually; several, in fact.  I can see them now, in my mind, through a cloud of swirling cigarette smoke, stuck crookedly to the internal breeze block walls of Suffolk Terrace; Cinnamon Girl pounding out and drowning the howling of the wind blowing from the Urals across the plains of Earlham Village.

Sorry about the digression.  Anyway, there was the rhino and another Durer – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – in gold lines on black paper.  Later, when I moved in with my partner in the Fine City, there were new ones on the wall – a Hobbema treescape of somewhere in the Netherlands that looked more like Indonesian jungle, and Kandinsky’s “Cossacks”.  For months, I thought it was completely abstract, vivid squiggles of colour on an off-white ground – until one day, it was pointed out to me that the upright lines on the right were the Cossacks’ lances and the red squares were their furry hats.  This sort of reassured me and I began to like it, but it was many years before I was completely happy liking pictures that didn’t correspond to something in the “real world”.

The difference was that my Durers came from the poster shop in town, whilst my partner’s Kandinsky was from some gallery in London, probably the Tate.  Abstract didn’t sell well to students, but the Apocalypse – mounted dead men after all – were just like the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings.

Uffizi

My eldest son gave me a catalogue of the above for Christmas – when we went in 2002, the queue was too long.  I was looking at the Piero di Cosimo, “The Liberation of Andromeda”.  Weird monster, with its straight tusks – but then, the whole picture is weird.  There are, to quote the guide, “nordic woods and straw huts on the unlikely looking hilltops in the background.  The musical instruments are equally unlikely…they are all missing a soundbox or strings”.  This is also weird, since the strings are clearly visible – the writer is correct about the soundboxes however and the lute – like thing on the right seems to have a serpent’s head attached to a bagpipe chanter or a flute of some kind.   Didn’t I read somewhere that there is someone who specialises in building strange instruments depicted in paintings?  He’d have fun with this one.

Lorenzo Monaco

In the same book, Monaco’s altarpiece, “Coronation of the Virgin”, 1413.  On the left hand panel (looking at it, that is) a group of saints and martyrs with highly suspicious and disgruntled expressions.  some can be identified by their attributes; there is the Baptist with his staff ending in a cross, Stephen with two rocks on his head, Peter with his big key and one with a club – or is it a bundle of sticks?  If a club, I think it’s St. James the Less, who was beaten to death with a hatter’s club.  But who is that with the sword?  Someone who was beheaded, I suppose.

More on Uffizi, and on Cezanne and others in next blog.  Meanwhile, good to see Wolfie Adams through but a pity that he had to knock John Boy Walton out – what a game of darts though.

Blackpaint

Midnight

03.01.11