Posts Tagged ‘Holbein’

Blackpaint 616 – Peevish Charles, Resentful Leavers and the Platypus

February 21, 2018

RA- Charles I Exhibition

Obviously the Holbeins and Van Dycks are the stars of this show – that Van Dyck family portrait with the kids and dog and baby  is noticeably informal, compared to earlier group portraits.  The hunting portrait of Charles, borrowed from the Louvre, is great; I think it’s the satin-clad elbow poking out at you.  On TV, some pundit said the horse in the picture “stole the show”; I say the elbow does.  The triple portrait of Charles on the poster captures a sort of querulous obstinacy; weak-eyed, peevish but with clear indications of an inflexible wilfulness.

Fantastic Mantegna series of the Roman Triumph; tapestries based on Raphael cartoons, especially The Miraculous Draft of Fishes; I’m not keen on that Titian of the man in furs with the big dog jumping up at him.

Leavers and Remainers  (Trauma, Requiem)

Maybe because I’ve just read David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere, I keep seeing the two sides in the Brexit vote represented in TV drama.  The John Sims character in “Trauma”, bitter, obsessive, smouldering with self-righteous anger at the doctor who failed to save the life of Sims’ son after he was stabbed.  He’s the Brexiter, of course, hating and pursuing Adrian Lester’s smooth, rich, elite surgeon.

There is also “Requiem”, with the Remainers being the young cellist and her devoted accompanist, the Brexiters being the hostile, defensive Welsh villagers, burning with resentment towards these invaders from London with their nosy questions.  More to both these series of course; probably just my obsession.

The Post, dir. Spielberg (2017)

Very old-fashioned Spielberg film – stirring music at strategic moments, Hanks and Streep doing the Right Thing in defiance of the US government, an admiring group of young women gazing up at Streep as she leaves the courtroom…   I did reflect, though, that the Washington Post’s publishing of the Pentagon Papers would never have happened in the UK, with the various restrictions on the media that can be brought into play here and, indeed, the willingness of the British media to cave in to the government.

Loveless, dir, Zvyagintsev (2017)

The poster said “mesmerising” and “riveting”; can be code for very, very slow…  But, happily, the film is both (mesmerising and riveting, that is).  After “Leviathan”, Zvyagintsev has shifted his focus from politics and the new gangster elites in Russia to the personal; furious, bitter fighting between his divorcing parents lead a Russian teenager to go missing in a forest near Moscow.  Much of the film concerns the campaign by a volunteer group to trace the youngster, setting about the search in a determined and disciplined way, going to considerable lengths to do what the police might be expected to do, or at least, attempt.

Brett Whiteley

I’ve been looking at Whiteley’s work again, and I have to say, he takes collage to stunning lengths; among the objects affixed to various works are the following: teeth, brain (actually a slice on a slide, by the looks of it in the photo), eggs, birds – and a platypus.

To Yirrawalla (1972)

 

Little Van Gogh

I’ve got some pictures with this group, which rents paintings out to offices, moving them around every few months.  Examples below – they’re all mine.

 

Blackpaint

21.2.18

 

Blackpaint 613- Degas, Soutine, Orwell, Proust and Brexit

January 2, 2018

Soutine again

Revisited this great exhibition at the Courtauld ; waiters, bellboys, patrons (the french kind), with those dipping shoulders, bending faces, pouting lips, supercilious sneers, rich blue and blood red backgrounds.  You can see the influence he had on de Kooning, and maybe Bacon.  That big, long red one reminds me of Beckmann.

Degas et al at the National Gallery

The Degas is free; it’s on the ground floor, in a room after a collection of beautiful small landscapes, of which more in a moment.  Most of the Degas pictures are pastels but there are at least two in oils that look like pastels.  Some lovely sturdy ballerinas, that big brown/orange one of the maid combing out the woman’s hair (usually on display in the first Impressionism room to the right of the main entrance) and a great one of racehorses with jockeys up, in a downpour; a whirl of Russian women dancers.

 

 

As for the landscapes, I thought the most striking was by Lord Leighton, a jutting outcrop against green, from an unusual angle.

Also, a couple of great Boudins, distant families on the beach, Trouville I think.  He’s a “red spot” man.

Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

Just re-read this essay, written near the end of WW2, but staggeringly relevant today (relevance is something you find pretty much every time you pick up an Orwell book).  I recognised my own mindset immediately, with regard to the Brexit “debate” and resolved to think of Orwell every time I read the Guardian.  Doesn’t work though, unfortunately; still teeth grinding and swearing.  Orwell is often spectacularly wrong; for example, he thought in the early days of the war and maybe later, that Britain was bound to lose unless the war became a revolutionary war, with the Home Guard maybe playing the role of a People’s Militia.  But there is always reason and clarity in his writing and he draws attention to his own errors willingly.

Proust 

I’m still ploughing through the books; on the fourth one now (title?).  It strikes me that the Dreyfus case, which keeps popping up in the salons of St. Germain and elsewhere, divided France in much the same way as the Brexit issue has divided Britain, perhaps not yet with the same degree of venom – but give it time…

Best exhibitions last year

Rauschenberg (Tate Modern)

Jasper Johns (Royal Academy)

Soutine (Courtauld)

Kabakovs (Tate Modern)

Holbein, Da Vinci, the Caraccis et al (National Portrait Gallery)

Best Films 2017

Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Best books 2017

The Dream Colony, Walter Hopps and Deborah Triesman

Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart

Caravaggio (Taschen)

Best TV 2017

Howards End

League of Gentlemen

Babylon Berlin

Best DVDs I’ve seen in 2017

Il Topo (Jodorowsky, 1970)

Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)

Blade Runner – the final cut (Ridley Scott, 2007)

Mahler (Ken Russell)

Mauve Nude

 

Black and White

Blackpaint

1/1/2018

Happy New Year.

 

 

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

Blackpaint 471 – Grayson, Grace, Nazis and the Queen

December 1, 2014

Fitzwilliam Permanent Collection

This Cambridge museum is staggeringly ornate inside; the entrance hall is like some gilded cathedral.  Quite a lot of rather mediocre pictures by some great painters, like the Quai d’Orsay – some so-so Titians, an unremarkable Veronese, two really shit Matisses, a bad Degas.  I’m not complaining; it’s interesting to see that the masters can be mediocre too.  And there ARE some beautiful pictures – a great Vuillard interior, a fabulous black paint sketch by Degas, Dutch, French and Spanish still lifes on black ground – butterflies, rotting fruit and lizards (what do they signify?) among the flowers.

Several lovely Camden Town paintings, Harold Gilman, Sickert and Ethel Sands, whose work looked just like the great Gilman to me.

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry

Pottery and tapestry that goes with Perry’s recent TV prog, in which he interviewed a diverse selection of people living in Britain today and produced portraits of them.  There is a big tapestry in which he lists various aspects of the British self-image;  the Modern Family (two men and a child); the Ashford Hijab (below); the Alzheimer’s sufferer and his amazing wife; the Children of God family, and several others.  My favourites are the three love goddesses, that remind me of the Willendorf Venus – but bigger, of course –  and the Cuman figures from the Ukraine that are in Berlin (see next week’s blog).

perry1

 

perry2

The Ashford Hijab

I took the opportunity to go round the collection and discovered a few great pictures with which I was unfamiliar:

grace

WG Grace by Archibald Wortley

Straight off the cigarette card, I think – I love the loose way he’s done the shirt and arms (see Rivers below);

hardy strang

Thomas Hardy, by William Strang

Small, fantastic, Holbein-ish, except for the downward gaze; love the green on red background.

rivers sylvester

David Sylvester by Larry Rivers

Written about this picture before.  The looseness of the background is now a common style; I’m thinking of that portrait of the officer in his dress uniform after a party, at the BP Prize a couple of years ago.  Also, I like the way he has pink soup cascading over his neck and shoulder.

Lore (2012) 

Made in German by Cate Shortland, an Australian, I found this film to be a refreshing take on the Nazi regime – it shows a couple of formidable and chilling old Nazi diehard women, one Lore’s “Omi” (grandmother), the other a peasant woman, lamenting the dead Fuhrer and how the German people had let him down.  Necessary corrective to the attractive face of Nazism presented by Alexandra Maria Lara, who plays Traudl Junge in “Downfall”.

downfall2

Remember Me

Three- part ghost story on BBC1, starring Michael Palin; that beach scene in the opening credits, where the tall, black-shrouded figure appears, is surely inspired by Jonathan Miller’s B&W adaptation of MR James’ “Whistle and I’ll Come to You Lad” – a masterpiece, featuring another Michael -Hordern – and which, for me, ranks with “The Ring” for creepiness, despite its age.

First Love, Last Rites

Still on that theme of finding comparisons, I’ve just finished Ian McEwan’s early short stories (see last blog) and the book that came to my mind was “Tomato Cain” by Nigel Kneale, author of the Quatermass books.  Kneale’s stories lack the explicit sex, of course – it was the 50s – but I thought McEwan’s “Butterflies” in particular was very like Kneale.

Turner Prize

It should have been Tris Vonner -Marshall or James Richards (see Blackpaint a few blogs ago).

 Berlin

Just back from four days of museums and galleries, for which see next blog, but I have to mention Nefertiti in the Neues Museum; all on her own in a darkened chamber, her face is somehow completely modern – I thought maybe behind a desk at an airport.  the beauty  is in the consummate skill of the modelling, the long neck, smooth skin – like a Holbein portrait (see below) it’s more than just brilliant, in that it goes beyond style.

nefertiti2

nefertiti

And Holbein…

holbein gisze

The Merchant George Gisze, Holbein

Different clothes, but I’m sure I saw this bloke on the UBahn on Friday… And to follow Holbein, here’s my latest:

photo (55)

 Water Engine, Blackpaint

01.12.14

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 389 – The Squirrel and the Orang Utan in Art

April 11, 2013

Titian’s Actaeon Surprising Diana in the Bath – this week’s example of Validating Crapness

It’s a fantastic painting; composition, colour, movement, drama. all that and the rest.  However, there’s something wrong with Diana’s head – it’s too small and it looks as though there should be another one in the proper position atop the neck immediately behind it.  It’s VC rather than just crapness because it forms a sort of fossil shell-shaped point of focus in the painting – it draws my eye immediately every time I look at it.

titian vc

Holbein’s Lady with a Squirrel

By way of contrast, this (for me) is in the running for the superlative portrait of all time – but her right hand is wrong, it’s too fat.  The wrongness adds nothing to the picture, unlike Diana’s little head.

holbein

Fischli and Weiss

Two stones on top of one another – actually, I think that might be what it’s called – outside the Serpentine Gallery.  Despite its simplicity, I find it amusing and appealing.  From one angle, it looks to me like Snoopy from Peanuts.

Trockel

Forgot to mention the AbEx “paintings” of Tilda, the orang utan, in Trockel’s Serpentine exhibition; I liked them.  Also the disembodied black female legs, one left and one right, but different sizes (different exhibits, too).  Shades of surrealist fetishists and Bunuel.

Films this week –

Medea (Pasolini); Callas superb, odd headgear as always with P., strange Turkish rock formations, like white kilns in ranks.  The scenes like a series of tableaux almost, with little regard for connecting fore and aft, so familiarity with story helpful.  Great, nevertheless.

Confidence (Istvan Szabo); wartime Budapest, a young wife whose husband is arrested has to be hidden by the underground.  She has to move in with and pretend to be the wife of an activist who is also being hunted.  They respect each other’s privacy at first but the inevitable happens.  Predictable, but moving and erotic too.  Dreamlike shots of rain-slick cobbled streets and massive granite-grey buildings, almost empty of people…

The History of Violence (Cronenberg); the Guardian said this was “taut and brutal”- I knew it involved gangsters victimising an apparently ordinary American family, so I checked on Wikipedia to make sure the wife wasn’t raped.  I don’t like the way women are raped in films to justify an orgy of revenge violence (Straw Dogs said it all, 40 years ago).  Looked OK, so we watched it – but she WAS raped, by the husband.  That is, she gave in and enjoyed it, on the stairs, after putting up a token resistance.  I find this offensive, but for some reason,  Ken Russell’s Roman soldiers raping nuns don’t bother me.

Milo O’Shea 

Died earlier this month.  For me, he was the perfect Leopold Bloom, in Joseph Strick’s Ulysses, which critics always describe as flawed or unsatisfactory.  Like Anthony Quayle’s Falstaff for the BBC’s Henry IV in the 80s, he defined the part.  OK, Welles’ Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight was also iconic, but Quayle “inhabited” the part, as critics now like to say about Daniel Day Lewis in everything.

Bach and Brahms

I was intrigued, when listening to the 8th variation of Brahms’ Anthony Chorale (or Variations on a Theme by Haydn – which it apparently isn’t) to find it was almost the same in essence to Bach’s Matthew Passion, part 75: “Make thee clean my heart from sin”.  So what? Nothing, just noticed it.

The Funeral 

The woman who divided the British people more starkly than any other is being given a Princess Di -style send off by the Establishment, as if she somehow stands above politics.  Cameron, Osborne and the rest are giving two fingers to the plebs – no change there, then.

??????????S

 

Work in progress

Blackpaint

11.04.13

 

Blackpaint 274

May 16, 2011

Chagall Windows

Came across these last week walking in the Kent countryside, at All Saints, Tudeley, near Tonbridge.  Not the sort of place or denomination, where you expect to see stained glass windows designed by a world famous Russian Jewish artist . There they were, in narrow windows shaped like the head and torso of a man, with one larger altar wall one, containing a Christ figure.  For the most part, they were in that clear, singing Chagall blue, one of the four blues I see plain in the mind’s eye:  Perugino, Klein International, Chagall and Titian’s Ariadne on Naxos.

What are they doing there?  Memorial to Sarah Avigdor-Goldberg, drowned in 1963 yachting accident, whose parents once lived at the manor.  The church is worth Googling, if you can’t get down (or up) to Tudeley.

Van Gogh

He got a good review from a journalist and sold a picture, famously his only sale, for 400 francs – to a relative, it’s true, not  a civiian, but a sale all the same – AND was getting praise from fellow artists, notably Gauguin – all shortly before shooting himself.

Typically, he wrote to the journalist, thanking him and sending him a picture of a cypress… but then proceeded to tell him he’d got it all wrong and should be praising Monticelli instead of himself.

His fits sound distressing – they involved swallowing paint and turps and eating dirt on occasion.

He wrote a lot about Delacroix, the “master colourist” as he called him, and his last great enthusiasm was for Puvis de Chavannes.  Like many of us, he clearly had no idea how good he was.

Bronzino and Holbein

A chance TV programme on above the other night, from which I learned that Bronzino’s real worth was as a portraitist; brilliant, stagey portraits, dramatic lighting effects, use of props, magnificent, detailed clothing – but also solid, smoothed flesh and sculpted features, imbued with character.  Not a Holbein though – where did H come from, he seems to have dropped from the sky.  His portraits are perfect, completely naturalistic, none of that tendency to all look vaguely alike, precise, quivering with life.. well, they look as if they might.  Completely modern – but better.  Fascinating, too, the disparity between Holbein’s portraits and the religious and history works; in the latter, he seems to revert to a much earlier, less naturalistic style, more in keeping with his contemporaries.

National Portrait gallery

I’ve written about the Tony Bevans and the Larry Rivers; there are two more on that first floor that deserve a mention.  They are Warhol’s Jagger, in which the thick, straight black strokes around his head make him look like a monk in a cowl – and Ruskin Spear’s Francis Bacon, transfixing the viewer with his owl’s eyes.

Ai Weiwei

Six weeks missing now, and two exhibitions in London, at the Courtauld and the Lisson Gallery.  He must be by now the world’s most famous living artist.  If it goes on, there will be that debate again about whether to exert “pressure behind the scenes” or protest openly.  I remember when the Chinese premier visited and the Met lined the route with big policemen and confiscated banners so that he wouldn’t be offended by the sight of Free Tibet protesters.  Let’s keep Ai Weiwei and all other imprisoned artists in our minds and continue to pressure our lot to pressure their lot…

Michelangelo

His “Crucifixion of St. Peter” in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican clearly contains another self-portrait,  the old man on the right of the picture.  The Taschen refers to Peter, being hoisted upside down on his cross, as looking out at the viewer but he looks to me as if he is eyeing the ground, hoping he won’t fall off head first when the cross is raised.  One other thing – there is a vast plain behind the scene, as there is in the companion piece “The Conversion of Paul”;  despite these huge vistas, not a single tree is depicted.  I remind the reader of my major discovery, strangely ignored by the world’s press, that Michelangelo Doesn’t Do Trees (see previous Blackpaint blogs too numerous to mention).

Bela Tarr

The camera pans slowly across a darkening horizon halfway down the screen, interrupted in places by the black silhouettes of leafless trees; an accordion plays, over and over, a Hungarian folk tune which sounds very like part of Beethoven’s Fifth.  The scene changes; now, a small flight of outdoor stone steps, lit in the blackness only by light from the door at the top.  In the light, the rain squalls and buckets down…


New images next blog.

Blackpaint

16.05.11

Blackpaint 273

May 11, 2011

Ai Weiwei

I understand that the Tate Modern has “Release Ai Weiwei” in enormous letters on the outside of the building; if this was the case when I wrote, criticising the management, I hope they will accept my apologies.  I was up there the other day – Sunday, I think – and didn’t notice it; maybe it was on the other side.  Good to see two new exhibitions at Somerset House and Lisson Gallery and campaign for his release gaining momentum.

Tate Modern

The Rothkos are back in their central “temple” after being temporarily replaced by Agnes Martin and the bloody Austrians.  Looked a long while at the Dubuffet, “Busy Life” –  saw the boulder thing.  The figures, scattered at all angles, look as if they are scraped into rock.  Maybe this is because I saw Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” the other day (see 270).

Stanley Spencer

His “St. Francis Feeding the Birds” looks very much like a portrait of Mike Leigh in costume – unlikely, given the disparity of dates.  This brings me to today’s main theme, which is top ten portraits.  I have two lists of my favourites:  20th Century and pre – 20th century.

Portraits pre 20th Century

1.  Holbein – Thomas Cromwell.

2.  Holbein – Unknown Lady with Squirrel and Starling

3.  Velasquez – Pope Innocent X

4.  Rembrandt – self in age.  Any of them – but especially at the age of 63.

5.  Gainsborough – Mrs.  Siddons, or the Linley Sisters

6.  Leonardo – Lady with an ermine, Cecilia Gallerani (doesn’t the ermine resemble her?)

7.  Ingres – the landlady in the National Gallery.

8.  Goya – Duchess of Alba

9.  Salvatore Rosa – Self portrait.

10.  Whistler – Symphony in White no.2

20 th Century Portraits

1.  De Kooning – Marilyn Monroe.

2.  Marlene Dumas – Jule the Woman.  The red face.

3.  Francis Bacon – 3 studies of Muriel Belcher, or 3 studies of George Dyer.

4.  Gerhard Richter – Betty.

5.  Lucien Freud – Harry Diamond next to the Aspidistra – it’s called “Interior in Paddington”.

6.  Larry Rivers – David Sylvester.

7.  Frank Auerbach – all of them!

8.  Otto Dix – Von Harden

9.  Singer Sargent – Ena and Betty Wertheimer.  And, of course, Lady Agnew.

10.  Joyce’s father – Patrick Tuohy.

Bela Tarr (cont)

The accordion plays the melancholy, repetitive tune, while two drunken old men execute a dance by a snooker table, involving brandishing a chair.  A crowd of unshaven, capped, feral, moustached, semi-drunken men wait in a cobbled square; one forces spirits down the throat of a timid youth who is foolish enough to approach him.  The same youth comes eyeball to eyeball with a rotting, stinking whale in a huge wooden container in the same square – it resembles the recent Balka installation at the Tate Modern (container, not whale).  A drunken mob invades an asylum and lethargically beat the occupants with sticks, fists and feet.

The Banks of the Nile

Blackpaint

11.05.11