Posts Tagged ‘Musee des Beaux Arts Brussels’

Blackpaint 533 – Brussels; a Dog’s Breakfast and God on an Egg

February 21, 2016

Musee Des Beaux Arts (Museum of Ancient Art) Brussels

OK, a selection of the fantastic art in the above, starting, oddly, with the massive Alechinsky below – just like an Asger Jorn, lots of little animal and elf heads swirling around in it – but not exactly ancient.  It’s in the vast entrance hall, as is the Wappers below it.

 

alechinsky2

 

wappers

Scene from the 1830 revolution, this has got everything in it, all going on at once.  Even a dog in there, women with babies, drummer boy…  Reminds me a bit of that Copley in the Tate Britain, gates of St. Helier, death of some officer..?

christ on egg

Magnificent picture by??   God appears to have four legs, two of which are balanced daintily on a big egg.  Looks like a Last Judgement to me.

 

ribera

de Ribera – Apollo Flaying Marsyas.

Apollo is delicately stripping the skin from Marsyas’ leg as if it were a salmon steak.  And look – the raw flesh echoes Apollo’s lovely gown!  I’m sure M would appreciate that.

Now, a series of huge Rubens:

rubens1

Titian-like compo; and that cadmium red against the yellow ochre, against the blue…

 

rubens2

I think Lucian Freud did a painting looking down on a man in bed with his arm raised like that.  Look at the muscles in the shoulder and arm of the kneeling woman and the red dress of the fleshy angel on the left.

rubens4

The Martyrdom of Saint Livinus.  He’s had his tongue torn out; that’s it, in the pincers, being offered to the dog.

 

rubens5

 

rubens6

A couple of the dozen or so Rubens sketches on show.

 

boy with bobbin

I don’t know who did this picture – the label was too blurred to read in our photo.  Look at the grubby left hand clutching the  – what is it? a bobbin, maybe? – whatever, its one of the great hands.  And the absorbed expression..

Kitaj, Marco Livingstone, (Phaidon, 2010)

kitaj cecil

Kitaj – Cecil Court

Consider this quotation from the end of Livingstone’s account of Kitaj’s life and work: “… he provided both clues to the meanings of his pictures and traps with which to ensnare the inattentive spectator.  The more knowledge one brings to his work, and the more prepared one is to follow up the references and the quotations…..the more one is rewarded.  Long after the artefacts made by many of his contemporaries have exhausted themselves and been drained of content, Kitaj’s paintings will continue to gnaw away at our curiosity and to yield their secrets.”

Or not.  Kitaj’s work is abstruse and impenetrable in many cases because it makes continual reference to his own reading, and his cultural, historical, political and sexual interests (obsessions).  Read the same books, live the same life – you might get it; but you might not, because he likes to be puzzling.  For me, the interesting information in the pictures concerns form, colour, line, composition, texture and a whole load of other things to do with painting that can’t easily be put into words.  That’s the point of painting pictures, figurative or non – figurative.  I don’t want to “follow up the references and the quotations” or avoid the “traps with which to ensnare the inattentive spectator” – PAY ATTENTION, you at the back there! – I just want to look at the pictures.

By the way, Cecil Court, above, is one of the few Kitaj pictures in which there’s any sense of perspective.  Most of his pictures  seem to press up against the “screen” of the front of the canvas.  Not a criticism, just an observation.

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Fascinating explanation of the reason why miles (leagues) are shorter near to Paris and get longer as you head towards Brittany etc.  There’s a great deal to learn in this riveting old book.  I wonder why it was never made in a children’s version, the old Classics Illustrated for example.

wip2

WIP.  Seems to be a droopy charcoal penis in the left centre, on a pink background.  It has no significance to the picture, which is totally abstract.

blackpaint

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Blackpaint 532 – Brussels, Tolstoy, Magritte and those balls – what are they? – they’re Bells!

February 14, 2016

Musee Des Beaux Arts, Brussels

icarus

It’s not actually called this any more, though the Brueghel painting of Icarus plummeting into the ocean that inspired the famous Auden poem is still there; it’s divided into three, or actually four bits (the modern one is closed at the moment), all in the one huge building: the Magritte museum, the “fin-de-siecle” museum and the mighty “museum of Ancient Art” are the sections open at the moment.  The building is at the top of the “Mountain of Art”; big, freezing, windswept square, lines of pollarded trees, watch for the mouse running under the waste basket, turn right after the massive library.

the-fair-captive

The Fair Captive

Magritte first; lots of cloudy skies in window frames, mirrors and easels; skin changing into wood grain or bricks; doves made of leaves; owls in threatening groups; bowler-hatted men (of course) – and those curious metallic balls with the horizontal slots in them, that also feature, I think, in some Max Ernst paintings.  What are they, I wonder.  Looked it up – they’re bells, like you hang round horses’ necks, apparently.

magritte balls

So far, so usual Magritte, but I was interested to see some of his colourful early poster work – I had’t known he was an ad man, but it makes perfect sense; the “surrealism” is often a neat little transposition, tidily illustrated (it’s night in the urban street, dark, street lights on outside the little villas – but it’s broad daylight in the sky above the tall trees) and often he uses the same image several times, slightly adapted, with a different “surreal” name.

villa magritte

There is a startling and inexplicable style change in the 40s(?); the usual neat precision gives way to rough-drawn, pink/brown/yellow pastel colours for a few pictures.  I checked, they were still oil on canvas; but then back to the familiar style again.

the-explanation magritte

The Explanation

Fin – de – Siecle

Some terrific stuff in here: Vogel,  the awful weather painter; that is, the weather’s awful, not the paintings.  It’s always raining, snowing or maybe just grey and drizzly in his town and village streets; Van Rysselbergh,  nothing special, landscapes in lines and stipples – but what a name!  Ranks with Van Dongen and Vantongerloo in my book (yes, there is one Van Gogh, portrait of a young man); Rops and Spillaert, both with loads of paintings, as if the museum director had said “OK, get cracking, we’ll take the lot.” And Finch again!  (see Blackpaint on Helsinki, August 2015).

Some little Kollwitz etchings. reminiscent of Goya penitents, that great Bonnard of his wife stretching, standing naked against the window in the bathroom – where else? – some good Toulouse Lautrec drawings, three Gauguins (two great, one awful) – but the real surprise was Ensor.

Ensor Chinese%20Porcelain%20with%20Fans,%201880

Chinese Porcelain

There were a couple of the cartoon-y clown/mask ones, the sinister ones he’s famous for,  but several good, chunky, almost social -realist pictures and a lovely still life with a central blob of red, a dish I think.  And “The Skate” (below):

Ensor_TheSkate

Ensor boy with lamp

The Lamplighter, Ensor

The last museum, “Ancient Art”, was so rich and enormous that I’m leaving it until the next blog.

On Thursday, we walked beyond the “Mountain of Art” and a huge, depressing palace on our right, towards Jubelpark and Musees Royeaux d’art et d’histoire …..  We trudged along a grey, freezing avenue of empty office blocks and building sites, as traffic tore past, terrifyingly close to very narrow pavements.  A great, glass EU building on the right reared above us and we didn’t notice it, so intent were we on keeping to the kerb.  It was easy to imagine it empty and to let, like all the others…..

The park was pure Magritte, though; neat, tidy, squared off, depressing; someone walking a little dog (loads of dogshit around – Magritte never put that in a picture, I think).  But there were busts of people, sculpted with their bodies apparently enclosed in boxes – and their bare feet poking out at the bottom.

If you eat in the museum restaurant, don’t have the “Americain” – it’s a hefty, cake – sized lump of raw hamburger meat, served with capers, salad and chips; delicious!

Kreuzer Sonata, Tolstoy

Inspired by the TV War and Peace, I’m reading this novella, which I thought I might finish on Eurostar; no such luck.  The views expressed – not sure how far they are Tolstoy’s own; probably all – make Zvyagintsev’s taciturn male bullies look like Hackney hipsters by comparison.

latest wip

The Siege of Brussels (Work in progress)

Blackpaint

14.02.16