Posts Tagged ‘Modigliani’

Blackpaint 612 – Murder, Suicide, Sex and Some Art

December 12, 2017

Modigliani, Tate Modern

Enormous exhibition, rammed to the gills when I went, a couple of weeks ago when it had just opened.  Best or most interesting ones are Nudo Dolente (1908), very rough, upward looking; the breastless nude girl on the reverse canvas in the first room; the Gaston Modot portrait with the long, thick neck (maybe because it’s the fabulous Modot, the mad-eyed hero of l’Age d’Or and the violent gamekeeper of Regle de Jour);

 

 

The portraits of Cendrars, Cocteau and Brancusi, on the reverse of the Cellist.

Blaise Cendrars

There is a corner of beautiful nudes at the end of the exhibition; these, I think, are marred a little by the come hither or demure expressions worn.

I was interested by the eyes – Modigliani has a habit of blacking or scratching out the pupil of one eye in many of the portraits; I was beginning to think he had problems with aligning the gaze, but then noticed several where the pupils were not effaced and were correctly aligned.  So that remains a puzzle.  I also have to say that the pictures of Jeanne Hebuterne (Modigliani’s lover, who killed herself after his death, by jumping, pregnant, from a window) don’t look at all like her photograph.

Caravaggio, Sebastian Schutze (Taschen)

Ploughing on through the Taschen book, I notice that there is a marked change in the flesh tones and dark backgrounds he used in several paintings done in Sicily in 1608/9; the Burial of St. Lucy, for example, and the Raising of Lazarus both have a dusty golden flesh tone and a warm brown background darkness, contrasting with the starker contrasts and whiter flesh of earlier and later paintings.  Maybe its to do with the light in Sicily; I’m sure the repros are not at fault, as Taschen is pretty reliable.

Happy End (Michael Haneke, 2017)

Saw this at the Ritzy in Brixton and was unable to make sense of the first 20-odd minutes, due, I thought, to some demented soul drumming on the wall of the cinema.  When I could stand it no more, I stormed out to complain and discovered it was flamenco dancing night in the studio upstairs.

I eventually (after the dancing ceased) managed to make sense of the story – mostly – but the difficulty might have been just as much a result of Haneke’s narrative style;  things happen and you find out what’s going on later.  Quite common now and OK, as long as the flamenco dancers keep away…

There are some other typical Haneke tropes; the lack of sentimentality, to put it mildly, and the sudden violence.  I was reminded of the sudden, shocking suicide in Hidden.  It also recalled Festen in places, notably the scene where the son turns up at the engagement dinner, with a reluctant group of African asylum seekers in tow.  Isabelle Huppert is her chilly “self” and Jean-Louis Trintignant is brilliant as a determined, wheelchair-bound, would-be suicide.  It’s a black comedy, apparently…

Walter Hopps, The Dream Colony – A Life in Art (Bloomsbury, 2017)

This cost me £30, which I thought was a lot for a book of 300-odd pages, but I’m so glad that I bought it.  Hopps was the founder of the Ferus Gallery in LA and later, a groundbreaking curator in museums and collections in California.  He was running a gallery, working nights in a mortuary, addicted to speed, living hand to mouth, nurturing wealthy collectors – simultaneously.  He drops into the narrative – it’s “as told” to Deborah Treisman of the New Yorker – surprising asides such as “My mother was dating an actor named Marion Morrison, later better known as John Wayne”, or “at the time I was living with Charles Mingus”…

The story of Ferus, Hopps’ relationship with the smooth Irving Blum and with the macho Ferus artists is also told in the film “The Cool School” and the book has some interesting contrasts with the film, notably in the area of Blum’s marriage to Hopps’ ex- wife, Shirley Neilson and Blum’s re-purchase of the Warhol soup can pictures.  And, of course, there are the  passages on the great Ed Kienholz and the tragic story of the collector Edwin Janss, who threw himself out of a 12th floor hospital window, following an incapacitating stroke.

So, sorry – suicide in Modigliani, Haneke and Hopps; not in Caravaggio, however; he killed Tomassoni in a brawl in Rome and then, maybe, wounded another in a brawl in Malta.

Two new pictures to end with:

Red Plume

 

Green Plume

Blackpaint 

12/12/17

 

 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 443 – Deacon, Cezanne, Fellini and Bragg

April 25, 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain – until Sunday!

I was unexcited about the prospect of visiting this exhibition, since painting is more my thing than sculpture usually; that’s why it took me so long to get around to it.  I was surprised – it’s great.  Wood, metal, cement. sometimes all three together – wooden strips looping along the floor and rearing up like lassos; an oblong metal “shell”, open at both ends, with a flat metal lip overlapping and then blending with the edge of the orifice.  It just lies there on the floor, like a giant grey metal cream horn.

deacon1

A splintered and tortured steamed oak and metal structure, writhing all over the floor – how does he twist the wood like that?  I presume it’s made possible by the steaming process.

deacon2

A black “hogan” shaped thing, or maybe giant seed case called “Struck Dumb”, rather spoilt in my view by a red bow tie shape at one end;  “After”, a huge, “wickerwork” snake, curling across the gallery, stiffened by a wide silver metal band running from end to end.  A group of small, organic shapes, sculpted in various materials, like a group of sea creatures washed up by the tide.  And terrific, looping, diagramatic drawings with erasures and fuzzed lines in blue ink.

deacon 3

Great sculptures and great engineering.  It finishes this Sunday, so go this weekend.

Ruin Lust, Tate B

I thought this stretched the definition of “ruin” a bit far; there is a series of photographs by Gerard Byrne, for instance, which show hangovers or survivals of 60s design in present-day architecture and society – great photos, interesting idea, but not really “ruin”.  Unlike Waldemar Januszczak, however, I don’t really care if the concept is stretched though, as long as there’s some good art to look at in the exhibition.  And there is some; several paintings and prints of Llanthony Abbey to kick off.  I know it well and none of these look much like it (not that it matters).   The usual suspects are here; Turner, Constable, Wilson Steer.  There’s a mildly Apocalyptic John Martin, of the Pompeii eruption, which looks to me as if it’s happening in a vast underground chamber – my partner tells me he did some designs for sewers during the cholera epidemics, so maybe that influenced him. They are in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition in Nottingham, I understand.  Photos of stupendous German bunkers and gun emplacements on the Atlantic coast, by the Wilson sisters;  A couple of familiar surrealistic pictures by Paul Nash; a great Sutherland and a Piper church.

piper 1

I thought Ian Hislop’s description of Piper as “a committed Modernist, in love with the Olden Days” (The Olden Days, BBC2) was spot on.  Some war photographs from Rachel Whiteread and a Patrick Caulfield, which displays the contrast between his clean, radiantly coloured, graphic style and the ruinous subject matter.  Not one of the great exhibitions, but a good 30 minute job. if you are a Tate member and don’t have to fork out specially.

Cezanne and the Modern , Oxford Ashmolean Museum

This is just packed out with interesting things, as is the permanent collection at the museum ( I’ll write about that in next blog, along with the Matisse cut-outs).

The Cezannes are mostly watercolours; the best of these are one of a rockface or quarry, almost like an early Hamilton car fender drawing from a distance; and one called “Undergrowth”, I think, like a pen and ink and wash drawing.  Then, there is a single, large, unfinished oil painting called “Route to le Tholonet”, which has beautiful, subtle blue, brown and green hillsides behind a couple of tree trunks and a sketchy cottage – it’s oil, but it looks like watercolour, especially in the exhibition guide (good for £5).  Also pears in a bowl, a skull and a shimmering bottle still life.  Great St.Victoire, next door with the others.

Others: Great Modiglianis, one of Cocteau, pink cheeks, spidery body and features, wrists and chin and a male face, a Russian I think, with a crooked, “stuck on” nose;

A striking Degas nude, “After the bath, woman drying herself” – her bum is right in your face as you enter the gallery; she appears to be diving forwards, her arm and shoulder outlined in red, head disappearing behind divan, or whatever.  Her head’s in the wrong place, it seems to me, too far to the right…;

degas ashmolean

A Van Gogh, “the Tarrascon Stage”, the paint badged on thickly in sticky-looking squares;

A fabulous Manet, “Young Woman in a Round Hat” – on the wall above is a quotation from Manet; “There are no lines in Nature…” and yet, round the woman’s left shoulder and arm, a very visible black line.  Great painting though.

manet round hat

 

Soutine – these are a revelation; he’s much more than the sides of beef.  A thick red-lipped, crop-headed self portrait; A beautiful, sad-eyed portrait of an unknown woman in a black dress, with a dark blue background;  an awful choirboy and an awful hanging turkey BUT – three expressionist paintings of the town of Ceret, that look a little like Auerbach building sites, but with curving lines.  There’s a church spire from below looking up, recalling Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower.  Another, with two paths meeting to form a triangle, like the legs of that Boccione statuette… all done in the late 20s.

soutine 2

Fellini, “81/2”

Stunning opening and closing sequences – in the opening, Mastroianni (Fellini) floats high above, attached by the ankle to a line and to a car (it’s a dream sequence) – and the closing, the actors take part in a Dance of Fools, hand in hand, to the music of a clown band – shades of “The Seventh Seal”.

The Olden Days (BBC2)

I mention this series again, NOT because my son Nicky was a researcher on it (although he was), but because I was struck by the startling resemblance of Billy Bragg to the photograph portrait of the older William Morris…

??????????

Heaven Only Knows (final version)

Blackpaint

25.04.14

Blackpaint 302

October 31, 2011

Tarkovsky

I mentioned that Bunuel was deaf in last blog, and that may be why music was apparently not so important in his films; watching Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” last week, and his use of, for instance, Bach’s Matthew Passion, it’s clear that Tarkovsky is the opposite of Bunuel in this respect – as also in the total lack of humour in any of his films (T., not B., that is, of course).  One other thing in “Sacrifice”; the painterly, bleached, interior scenes, are surely based on Hammershoi.  It was filmed in Sweden, after all.

Middlemarch

Exchange of literary opinion on the North Downs Way last week:  “How you getting on with Middlemarch?”

“More than half way through.”

“Anything happened yet?”

(Pause..) “No.”

Venice Guggenheim

Was transported to Venice as a birthday present, so expect many Venetian entries in blogs to come.  The Guggenheim has a bunch of Miros, Ernsts (Bride stripped bare, for instance), Picassos, Braques, Kandinskys, Klees..  I’ve picked four of the most striking paintings:

El Lissitsky

Beautiful, clean, geometric, shades of Malevich.

Motherwell

I think it’s called “Personage”.  Again, clean, clear colours, bit dirtier, more painterly than the El.

Schwitters

Little collage this one, with a corroded metal disc (or that’s what it looks like) and a butterfly.

A great transparent cyclist by Metzinger and a portrait of the painter Frank Burty Haviland by Modigliani, early, utterly unlike his almond-headed nudes and portraits.  And, a load of early Pollocks, including one of those Synasthaesia ones (see earlier Blackpaints on Pollock).

Incidentally, have been given the Taschen on Modigliani and I’ve revised my opinion of him drastically.  I’d thought of him as a sort of Lempicka, doing tasteful pin-up nudes in an endlessly reproduceable, stylised way; but the portraits are great, the styles more varied, the flesh surfaces unexpectedly painterly (hate that word, won’t use it again) – look at the surface, for instance, of the Courtauld Gallery nude…. the problem for me is the pretty faces. The bow lips, demurely downcast eyes, long lashes, come-hither looks would be OK on a biscuit tin, though not sure about the naked bodies.

More Venice, including the Biennale, in the week.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

28.10.11

Blackpaint 138

May 21, 2010

That Robbery in Paris

Staggering that someone could nick five  paintings of such worth in such a simple way – no sawing through roofs, swinging upside-down from wires to avoid photo-electric cells (what was that film called- Topaz? Topkapi? Rififi?); just break in in a mask, ignore the cctv, presumably cut them out of the frames and shove them up your jumper.

Actually, I was there only about five weeks ago and although it’s in a very swish part of Paris, it looks sort of run-down and dishevelled.  Maybe that’s just the graffitti and the skateboarders, though.  An attendant did stop me taking a bottle of water into one of the galleries though, so there was some security.

As to the paintings that were stolen – I don’t remember seeing any of them!  It’s always like that when you go to an exhibition, I find – you go round, peer carefully at everything, take notes even (for your blog, that is) then you “exit through the gift shop”, check the postcards and see loads of interesting stuff that you missed; it was in a corner, twenty punters round it, listening to audio guides, or it was just too small to notice.

As to the paintings, I thought that Braque was interesting – more like a Kandinsky or a Matisse.  the Picasso, as Adrian Searle said on Newsnight, was quite a complicated,  “difficult” one; not one, as Searle said, that would go nicely on the wall because it was brown (actually more a grey-green, but the point was made).  I wonder if he had in mind the Picasso quotation in his own Guardian article (see Blackpaint 137)?

The Searle interview was interesting in another respect, in that he chose to describe the Modigliani as a terrible painting and, I think, Modigliani as an awful painter.  I remember he said the shoulders were all wrong, amongst other defects that went past too quickly to note.  This is a very refreshing development, in my opinion; critics now learning from bloggers – you don’t have to offer a reasoned argument, if you think it’s shit, just say so!  It doesn’t matter that Modigliani’s stuff is in prestigious world art galleries –  although, sadly, no longer in the Paris one – his stuff is crap and so is he, because he can’t do shoulders properly!  as I recall, he’s often quite good at other bits, though.

Actually, art critics have always done this sort of thing, haven’t they?  Ruskin and Whistler, the pot of paint in the face of the public…

Off to Edinburgh tomorrow to watch my sons run the marathon; no doubt, I’ll find time to visit the art galleries, so watch out for next blog on Monday.

Blackpaint

21.05.10

Blackpaint 77

February 25, 2010

Courtauld Gallery

As promised yesterday, breakdown of the stuff in this brilliant gallery at the entrance to Somerset House on the Strand.

After Michelangelo, there was a room of Kandinskys, ranging from a “fluffy edged” one to sharp, geometric shapes.

Fauves – Derain, Dufy, Vlaminck, a  nude wife from Van Dongen, some boring Matisses.  A lovely, Matisse-like Ivon Hitchens in an uncharacteristic, square-ish shape.  Sketches from Seurat and Sisley, lots of white sky and blossom, I think.  Miniature figures on the sands from Boudin.

Cezanne – a few trees, a wooded lake (check the reflections – do they really go like that?), a St.Victoire, men in bar.

A couple of Gauguins, one of fields, a garish green – good from a distance.

Manet’s “Bar at the Folies Bergeres”, the one where the girl’s reflection is out of line and the bottles of Bass are on the bar (or is it Worthington?).  Also, a “Dejeuner sur L’herbe” – there must be several, I would think.

There’s a lovely Modigliani girl, best I’ve seen, and some great Degas, especially the black, grey and white woman with the umbrella.

Rubens – 6 or 8, a  sketch of the Deposition from the Cross, well, two actually, one with Christ upside-down and the other, the more famous one of him being lowered right way up.  In both, the man at top of cross has the white sheet in his teeth.  There is also the landscape with the stars.

And Van Gogh – Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

Downstairs, in the Gothic room, there is a triptych by the Master of Flemelles, Robert Campin, another Deposition in those cold, piercing Flemish/German colours.  In the corner is a picture which is crude and rather simple close up, but a work of great, colourful beauty from across the room.

So – it’s a brilliant collection.  Years ago, I used to work for Courtaulds in Norwich, making artificial silk,  running a set of power looms in a noisy weaving shed; but I suppose he’d already bought most of this stuff before that…

Boris Anrep

Not a familiar name to me, but I’ve walked over his work scores of times – he did the two mosaic landings at the National Gallery.  Among the Muses are Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell is there, Some chap climbing a pylon, A.lice in Wonderland for some reason, and the centrepiece, Churchill, fighting the monster Apollyon, I think.  They are well worth a look.

Listening to “Woman Love” by Gene Vincent:

“I went to the doctor, he said “Lord above!

You need a vaccination of woman love.

Let’s go, cats!” (guitar solo).

Blackpaint

25.02.10