Posts Tagged ‘Hogarth’

Blackpaint 469 – Portraits of Ladies, Lust, Murder and Mayhem by Land and Sea

November 14, 2014

de Kooning

I have finally got hold of the great Phaidon DK book, written by Judith Zilczer and with a number of paintings that didn’t find their way into John Elderfield’s Retrospective published by Thames and Hudson a couple of years ago.  The illustrations are really high quality too.  I find the sheer density of the marks, in paintings like these below, amazing when you consider how he uses so many colours, and yet manages to keep them vivid and fresh.  I love those run-downs in “Two Figures” – dense and dirty – yet bright and seething, in some way.  Anyway, no point in trying to describe them; have a look and see if you agree.

de kooning woman

de Kooning “Woman” – now, that’s what I call a portrait!


de kooning two figs in a landscape

DK, “Two Figures in a Landscape”


Queen Elizabeth 1 painting,Tate Britain

There’s a fantastic full-length portrait of Elizabeth now on display in the Tate, by Van Der Meulen.  By way of contrast to the DK above, here’s an alternative approach to the full length female portrait.  Actually, it’s much more impressive “in the flesh” so to speak; the face in the actual painting looks like a Holbein (to me, that is).

van der meulen


Scene from The Beggar’s Opera, Hogarth, Tate Britain

A Scene from 'The Beggar's Opera' VI 1731 by William Hogarth 1697-1764


Also at TB, a roomful of Hogarths, the most striking of which is above.  From John Gay’s play, two women beg two men for MacHeath’s life.  That’s him in the middle, with the manly stance; his legs are chained.  On the left, the gaoler’s daughter pleads with her father; on the right, Polly Peachum pleads with the judge.  I like that colour sequence of the dresses and the drapes – red, blue, red, white, black, red.  I’ve got to say the perspective looks a little odd to me; the gate and barred window on the right look like something out of “Doctor Caligari” and the oval window and gate in the rear wall don’t look “right” either.  Hogarth as a forerunner of the C20th German Expressionists?

The Cowards, Joseph Skvoresky

Finally got round to reading this; I’ve had it for about 30 years in Penguin Modern Classics, with a great Dix cover.  Set in a Czech country town in the closing days of WW2, it covers the retreat of the Germans, mostly SS, and the arrival of the Russians on their “liberation” drive towards Berlin.  For most of the book, the tone reminded me of “Catcher in the Rye”; the narrator, a young middle-class jazz fan and amateur musician, spends time fantasising, getting himself into and out of scrapes with the Germans and the self-appointed Czech militias seeking to fill the space between the departing invaders and the coming Soviet troops; some of these are close to being collaborators, but Smirecky, the hero is only really interested in showing off to, and lusting after, Irene, his hopeless love-object and a handful of other attractive women in the town.  Then, right at the end, it takes a very dark turn into ambush, torture, mutilation and executions – but Smirecky takes this pretty in his stride, and the tone remains, well, cheerful and optimistic….

Autumn of the Patriarch,Gabriel Garcia Marquez

And, after several months, finished this.  No paragraphs, a full stop maybe every ten pages or so, constant switching of viewpoint within the same phrase.  Will Self is like Hemingway by comparison.  It’s magic realism, with the cannibalism, mutilation, mass murder, casual rape, prostitution, disease, parrots, jungles, tropical seas that often figure in the genre.  At times, it felt like a 200 page Dylan Thomas poem with extreme violence and a reference to “general, sir…” every other line.  Thoroughly enjoyable, in tiny doses – say two pages at a time.

Leviathan, Dir. Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

This is a staggering documentary, filmed aboard a fishing vessel out of Massachusetts, in the North Atlantic fisheries.  God knows how they got some of the sequences – they must have lowered cameras down with the nets, shot from the mast straight down, hung a camera low over the bow so that it took a sort of “selfie” of the ship, plunging below the water line with the rise and fall.  Gulls flying upside-down from below the sea surface (?), dozens of starfish whirling about in the discarded debris as it swirled overboard.  Most of it shot by night, blinding spotlights, livid greens, orange, blues, reds…  Fish heads sliding across the deck like jewelled gargoyles, a horrible but fascinating sequence where two fishermen chopped skate “wings” from the fishes’ bodies – one held the fish, the other whacked a hook in to steady it and hacked the wings off with a machete with two or three swipes.  It had the most uninspiring little blurb on the TV – “Experimental documentary… contains scenes of fish processing”.  Hooks, nets, knives, chains, hatches, slippery debris underfoot – many ways to have a grisly accident, even if the ship stays afloat.




Recent Life-class effort


Beware of too much white acrylic on backside.







Blackpaint 396 – Mummy Goes to the Tate

May 30, 2013

Tate Rehang

A couple of dozy errors last week – obviously getting old.  first, Gainsborough.  I said there was a picture by G that looked just like a Hogarth, and nothing like the feathery, impressionistic portraits that characterise Gainsborough.  But of course, G did “Mr and Mrs Andrews”, which is similar in style to the family group in the Tate, and which I’d forgotten about.  So, Gainsborough changed his style between 1750 and 1780; not very earth-shattering.

And Fiona Rae – I wrongly located her next to Frank Bowling and opposite the Anthony Caro red metal sculpture.  She’s actually in a different room, opposite Peter Doig. It’s Peter Blake’s portrait of David Hockney with coloured balloons that is near the Bowling.  So what? you ask – well, the room with the Caro, Bowling and Blake is by far the most attractive room in the whole Gallery when viewed as a whole from the archway at the end; and I said as much last week.

Rose Wylie

There is a whole room full of Wylie’s huge, rough, cartoon-y paintings, reminiscent (a bit) of Guston and cartoonist Barry Fantoni; they look like they are done on board or cardboard by a punky youngster – Wylie is 77 years old, a trained artist and ex-lecturer.  I like them, especially her Nazi generals (see below), a painting inspired by the Tarantino film “Inglorious Basterds”.


Why are they there, though?  There seems no obvious reason why her pictures should get a room in the Tate rather than any other artist – apart from the fact that, being huge, they look good.  Maybe the answer lies in Germaine Greer’s support.  In 2010, she wrote a big puff for Wylie in the Guardian, pointing out that she had deferred her painting until her children were raised, Greer had bought a couple of her pictures and that there were others available.

Greer began her article by saying that in Wylie’s house, there were two working artists.  She then wrote exclusively about Wylie, not naming Roy Oxlade, Wylie’s husband.  Why say there were two artists, then write about only one?  Pathetic.


At Tate Britain, with my 90 year old mother-in-law, ex- 1st violinist with Amsterdam Philharmonic and Liverpool Philharmonic, bit deaf but as sharp as a razor – addressed by the attendant as “Mummy”… “Shall I get Mummy a wheelchair?”  Thank goodness she didn’t hear him.  I suppose he was being kind, but still…

James Salter

Reading three Salters at once; “Light Years” and “Burning the Days” I’ve read before.  I’m interested to find that the new book, “All That Is”,  is actually an easier read than the first two, despite the fact that Salter is now 87 years old; maybe he’s more interested in getting the story told now, than in coming up with surprising and original metaphors.  All three are beautifully written, though.  I read a short story by him in the Saturday Telegraph Review – about a long affair and its end.  Only two pages long. but halfway through, Salter states that the woman let her lover whip her once.  Why?  Seems odd just to bung a whipping in gratuitously….  Maybe it went on more in Salter’s younger days….

Dan In Real Life

This Steve Carell/ Juliette Binoche vehicle on TV the other night; one of those US films, usually set in New England (this one’s Rhode Island), where there’s a huge. talented, odd, kind, musical/theatrical/literary family, all living with their precocious kids in a huge, rambling, ramshackle mansion, bitter-sweet, working out issues, playing games, being lovingly eccentric.. I hate them with a burning hatred and blame John Irving of “Garp”, if he founded the genre, as I think he did.  Mind you, sounds a bit like Dickens, when you think about it.





Blackpaint 250

February 10, 2011

Frankenstein at the Olivier

Danny Boyle director and Nick Dear, writer – or rather, adaptor of Mary Shelley’s original.  But the important thing for the audience, which contained a number of excited teenage girls, was Benedict Cumberbatch playing the monster, and to a lesser extent, Jonny Le Miller, playing Victor.  They are going to alternate the roles.

The first 20 minutes or so were fantastic.  Cumberbatch was naked on stage, being “born” from a pulsing, pod-like womb (Body Snatchers, definitely not Spinal Tap); then flip-flopping prostrate like a fish; then swiftly learning to get to his hands and feet, then stand, shakily upright and walk, after a fashion.  There were clear references (I’m avoiding the use of “channeling” here, I hope other pedants will note) to Muybridge and Bacon – the crippled boy walking on all fours – and, above all, Blake.  I think it was the stance; upright, straight-legged, head thrown back – and perhaps the washes of light from the wide ribbon of light bulbs in the “ceiling”.

Then, the Industrial Revolution arrived, in the form of a train, loaded with working men and women who began laying about the stage with sledgehammers and tools – Metropolis – and soon the monster acquired a cloak and a jeering mob – the Elephant Man.  Later in the play, Dickens, in the shape of the children’s costumes, especially the cap of the little boy. The programme mentions Fuseli, but I must have missed that.

I had the feeling throughout that I was watching a musical; I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if someone had burst into song (there was some dancing, flamenco-ish guitar music and something that sounded rather like “Wimoweh” – ask the grandparents).  There was a great revolving stage, luminous huts descending, a mansion facade that also served as a ship at one point, and made reference to Kay Neilson.

I have to say that, as soon as we were back to straight, “naturalistic” exposition, everything went very flat; I was continually waiting for the next spectacle.  There were about four or five of these, I suppose.  In fact, I would have been happy if the whole thing had been done like the first sequence – as a sort of combination of mime, ballet, performance art, spectacle, and music.

There is a rather operatic rape, by the way; a man somewhere behind me was obviously shocked; “Oh no, oh dear “, he gasped in dismay.  The teenagers were undisturbed, needless to say.

National Gallery

Took a turn round the “modern” bit; especially the Degas(es) – what is the proper plural? – that never fail to astound me.  Those two “red” ones, just look at the hands, and the portrait of the pudgy little girl with the challenging stare.  Then, there is the little one of Princess Pauline de Metternich; I bet she wasn’t happy about the bags under her eyes.  What was Degas – an Impressionist? If so, it shows the limitations of these terms, two artists like, say, Degas and Monet yoked together…

That Ingres woman in the dress is Mme Moitessier, a banker’s wife, not a landlady as I said in previous blog.  A chap was copying the picture – I avoided mentioning that it took Ingres 12 years to finish.

A couple of horrible Vuillards; Madame Wormser and her kids.  I hate that acid greeny-blue, bluey green.

Turner’s Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus; how many ships in the picture?  I think four.

Finally, Hogarth’s “Marriage a la Mode”; the last, grim painting in the series, in which the mistress has poisoned herself and the servant who supplied the poison looks on in horror; I was reminded strongly of Madame Bovary, not surprisingly, since I have just reread it.  What is remarkable is that I am also reading “Vanity Fair” – and on Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” the other night, the firemen hurled a bookcase to the floor prior to burning it and two of the books that fell from it, on which the director chose to focus in close up, were Bovary and Vanity Fair. Coincidence, you say?  I think perhaps not, my sceptical reader…

Sorry again, re-used image; new stuff from now on.



Blackpaint 152

June 15, 2010

Rude Britannia

This is in no particular order, as I wrote it down as I remembered it when I got home.

The first thing that impressed was the drawings of Philip Dawe of the huge, ridiculous wigs worn by Regency women.  Also the “Macaroni”, an earlier version of the Beau or dandy. 

The Hogarths, Gin Lane, Beer Alley, the Roast Beef of old England, demonstrate a difference between him and the other well-known cartoonists of the era ,such as Rowlandson – Hogarth exaggerates only slightly; it is the situations that are outrageous (the woman allowing her baby to slide from her lap) rather than the actual representation of them, which is relatively realistic.  Rowlandson, with his huge backsides, drooling lips, gobbling diners, drooling distillers, bum suckers, shit eaters and so on, is the caricaturist, forerunner of Scarfe and Steadman.

Gillray’s stuff struck me as a little tame by comparison (although Laura Cumming points out that there is more savage stuff that was not included).  There is a series of cartoons depicting the conflict between the fleshy, unkempt, bloodthirsty yob Fox and the tall, gaunt patrician Pitt.  Its pretty clear where the cartoonist’s sympathies lie.

Cruikshank’s cartoons seem to rely on lengthy captions (too much reading required in these exhibitions – can’t be avoided, if you want to understand them though).  There is also his huge allegorical painting the Worship of Bacchus; Steve Bell seems to admire it; he (Cruikshank)  strikes me as an early killjoy supporter of the BMA unit mongers.  Some interesting caricatures by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Moving on to WW2, there are Low’s cartoons and those of Leslie Illingworth, of lesser renown, but as good for my money.  Churchill donning armour while dogs marked Royal Navy and RAF attempt to hold back the dragon of Nazism; Stalingrad as a hedgehog of spears, bloodying Hitler.  Recognisably in direct line from Victorian cartoons in Punch and London Gazette.

Modern times – Fluck and Law of course, Steadman and Scarfe (always confuse them), David Shrigley’s banner holding stuffed cat, “I’m Dead”.  Steve Bell and Major’s underpants, kinnardphillips and Alison Jackson’s lookalike Blair and Bush.  Best joke was Angus Fairhurst’s cartoon of the two men clashing heads; also his ill-fitting gorilla suit video.  Most excruciating was the Bateman cartoon of the man biting his tongue off.

The bawdy bit – Donald McGill of course, and a really good Viz cartoon, parodying McGill’s style and exploding it.  Some really impressive erect penises in the work of Aubrey Beardsley and Grayson Perry.

The whole thing was stitched together with a commentary done in the Viz style, by Viz characters, but I couldn’t be bothered to read all that – apparently, it was the funniest part of the exhibition.

As always with these exhibitions, especially in the early stages, you require great patience.  There are those who stand close up to the cartoons so that no-one else can see anything until they have read every word; then they move to the next one and do the same thing.  They tend to have grey hair and goatee beards (the men), Hawaiian short-sleeved shirts and those glasses hanging from cords.  They are mostly teachers (prob. retired), as they delight in pointing out loudly to their spouses the incorrect spelling of “skillful” in the captions.  I know the type; I am one.

Listening to Mean Black Spider by Robert Junior Lockwood.

“You’re a mean black spider and your web’s all over town (*2)

I’m gonna get me a mean red spider, to tear your cobweb down”



Blackpaint 27

January 2, 2010

Barthes and Foucault

These French postmodern philosophers wrote about” the Death of the Author” (title of a book by Barthes)-the idea was no artwork is new or original; all art is basically a cut and paste job.  Artists are merely copying and reassembling previous ideas.  And the reader/viewer creates the meaning.  This sounds about right for my stuff again; when anyone asks me what’s going on in one of my paintings, I can refer them to these two (and Lyotard).

Sir John Soane’s House

Visited this strange, crowded museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields today; full of casts – I think – of bits of tomb, column, friezes, sarcophagi, vases, books, paintings in a gloomy house designed by Soane himself.  Bridges and skylights, arches and coloured glass.  Full of attendants, and on the chairs, what at first looked like toy mice.  They turned out to be teasel heads, I assumed for brushing up the plush seats – but no.  An attendant told one of the visitors that they were to stop people sitting on the chairs; once you received a bottomful of the painful spines, you would think twice about doing it again.

This no-nonsense approach was also displayed by the volunteer marshalling the (tiny) queue outside; in a jovial tone, he told the man in front that there was no drawing allowed on Saturdays – and continued, “If you are caught drawing, you will be asked to leave immediately.”  Maybe foreigners, particularly Americans, respond to this treatment well – evidence of British eccentricity.  I was surprised to get in, shabbily dressed in jeans, my son wearing trainers.


It’s famous for the Hogarth paintings, notably the Elections (just about visible in the gloom).  The one affable attendant – woman from Sheffield, I think – told us that the paintings were really secondary to the engravings, as far as H was concerned; they were a sort of advert or demonstration sampler for the latter.  also some good Fuselis, and scenes from Shakespeare – Lear, the Dream, Merry Wives – in which the main character always has those staring eyes and tragic expression that I associate with Blake.


Jimmy, not Reece.  Listening to: “Times are Getting Tougher than Tough” with T Bone on guitar.

“Prices gettin’ steeper, Money’s gettin’ cheaper,

Had myself a woman, but I just couldn’t keep her-

Times gettin’ tougher than tough,

Things gettin’ rougher than rough,

Well, I made a lot of money, but I just keep spendin’ the stuff”.