Posts Tagged ‘Pieter Bruegel’

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

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 520 – Bellini, Bruegel, Bosch, Berger, Bromden, Bergman

November 16, 2015

Giovanni Bellini again

Returning briefly to Venice,  I have to post a few of Bellini’s Virgins; it’s so obviously the same young girl modelling the BVM and the same child too, I think – ginger hair and normal proportions.

bellini1

virgin1

virgin2

Definitely a different child in this one though.. or much younger.

virgin3

In the new John Berger collection, “Portraits” (Ed. Tom Overton, Verso 2015) , Berger says that Bellini’s Virgins represent a journey towards the open air; they start in dark interiors and progress towards open meadows.

Portraits; John Berger on Artists

Two more startling insights – well, I found them startling – on Bosch and Bruegel:

pieter-_bruegel-

The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1562)

“…Bruegel’s paintings are more relevant to modern war and the concentration camps than almost any painted since.”  I find that hard to contest, looking at the “Triumph”;

hieronymus-bosch-triptych-of-garden-of-earthly-delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch (1500 – 5)

Berger compares Bosch’s vision of Hell to “a typical CNN news bulletin, or any mass media news commentary.  There is a comparable incoherence, a comparable wilderness of separate excitements, a similar frenzy.

“Bosch’s prophecy was of the world-picture which is communicated to us today by the media under the impact of globalisation, with its delinquent need to sell incessantly.”

Overstated no doubt, but apart from the last bit about selling, I thought this was pretty close to right, as regards the coverage of the Paris murders on Friday night.  Sky, Euronews, France 24 all overstated the numbers of dead, as if they weren’t bad enough; BBC repeated some story on Twitter about the jungle camp at Calais being on fire (why do they repeat this shit on “social media”?); it seemed to me that Al Jazeera came closest to getting casualty numbers and other details right at the time.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

ratched

I was roundly criticised by women friends for praising this “misogynist and racist” film when it was first released back in 1975 – and no doubt some of the criticism was justified.  Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) is the embodiment of controlling, malignant authoritarianism; the thuggish, cynical guards are black, the mental patients are white (exception being Chief Bromden, played by Will Sampson) and the anti-hero McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) treats his girlfriends as chattels, to be smuggled into the institution for sex – with himself, Turkle the corrupt guard (the brilliant Scatman Crothers) and, disastrously, with Billy (Brad Dourif).  McMurphy comes close to strangling Nurse Ratched near the end, so violence against women too.

After watching it again on DVD, I have to say that it was even better than I remember; the fishing expedition, the after-hours orgy and the rousing ending were the highlights.  They don’t make them like that any more; tried to think of something similar and the best I could do was Mark Rylance as Rooster in Jez Butterworth’s play “Jerusalem”.

chief

I was sad to read on Wikipedia that Will Sampson died of scleroderma at only 54, after a heart and lungs transplant.

Ingmar Bergman

I wrote last week that a lot of Bergman’s films seem to be set on islands; I did a bit of research and found there are at least seven, starting with “Eva” in 1948 to “The Passions of Anna” in 1969.  Bergman moved to the Swedish island of Faro in the early 60s and founded a studio there – but there were already three films that were wholly or partly island -bound. Something to do with isolating the characters and developing the tensions or attractions between them, maybe; or, as in “Shame” (1968), watching the effect of the outside world bursting in on them – civil war in this case.

shame

Bergman was arrested for tax evasion in 1976; although the charge was dropped, he closed down Faro and said he would make no more films in Sweden.

I was going to write something about Kitaj, but since he doesn’t begin with a “B”, it would mess up my title – so next time.

life2,

 

life6

A couple of life drawings/paintings – yes, I know, but I can assure you the model is alive – or at least, he was when I did it.

Blackpaint

16.11.15

Blackpaint 291

August 30, 2011

Tarkovsky and Bruegel

Watching “Solaris” the other day, came to the bit where the camera closes up on – goes into, almost – the reproduction of Hunters in the Snow;  I recall a scene in “Mirror” that suggested this painting and I’m sure that Tarkovsky quotes this scene in “Solaris” too.

I have to say I was astonished at the clarity with which Bruegel depicted the distant details – landscape, birds, the villagers capering on the ice; never noticed this particularly before, I suppose it takes a film close-up to bring it home.  Also, it reminded me of Bela Tarr’s Hungarian villagers – especially when they dance drunkenly with chairs or bread rolls on the head.

Dead Areas

In last blog, I suggested that most great films have patches in them that are pretentious, or awkward, even laughable (unintentionally).  This is surely more true of art house cinema, since the director is trying to make art, as well as, or maybe rather than, money.  Same goes for all art – music, theatre – and for painting.  Trouble is, when you find a dead area and change it, everything else changes too and you end up painting a different picture.  I’m thinking of abstract painting, where the choice – and therefore the pressure – is maybe greater; but it’s probably there with figurative painting as well.  Adrian Searle, I think, was writing about Lucian Freud, and making a lot of the fact that he painted everything in a picture (walls, window sills, floorboards) with the same attention to detail as the “subject”.

Katherine Jones

Several delicate, hanging “books” in the shape of birds. feathers of thin paper with one-line poems in the edges; prints of her signature mysterious glass-houses on the edge of a dark wood or a black mountain – in the Festival Hall Poetry library, on the 5th floor, and unfortunately now finished.  But have a look on her website anyway; the fact that she is my niece hasn’t influenced my recommendation in any way.

Guggenheim – last word

Robert Gober -A sculpted torso, half male, half female;  an odd, triangular cot; a rolled-up “unfolding door”.

Nate Lowman – stunning colour photographs of oil rigs with sun, moon, fire; what were they doing in the “Transgression” section, along with Paul McCarthy’s ” Tomato Head” and “Sasidge Cut”, and photos of naked men with beer cans, meat and onions for penises?  Interestingly, we had to queue for 30 minutes to get into this bit; overeager attendants letting in only as many as were leaving, despite there being only 20-odd in there at a time.

Thomas Hirschhorn – “Cavemanman”; an extended cavern made from brown tape, composition rocks and tinfoil, containing figures and torsos, pop band posters, overflowing with Coke cans, pages of instructions about voting systems posted up, giant books on Chomsky, multiculturalism, semiotics etc, etc, and film loops of prehistoric cave paintings.  Presumably, the cave is our civilisation as future excavators might see it – but what was meant by the dynamite sticks taped to the wall?

Blackpaint

30.08.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 149

June 10, 2010

Bruegel and Bosch

An obvious pair for comparison, I suppose – but why not be obvious for once, instead of subtle and insightful (lovely word)?

Bosch is considerably earlier, I was surprised to find; C1450 – 1516, lived at ‘s-Hertogenbosch; Bruegel 1525-1569, maybe born at Breda, lived in Antwerp and Brussels.  Bruegel was much younger than Michelangelo, which again, was a slight surprise, since B’s paintings always struck me as more archaic, the difference in place and influences, I suppose.  On reflection though, maybe Bruegel’s peasants, lumpy, awkward and working as they are, are more naturalistic, more “modern”, than the idealised forms the Italians copied from the Greeks and Romans.

Back to Bosch and Bruegel.  The similarities are obvious:

  • the weird beasts and animaculae;
  • the themes;
  • the nightmarish visions.

First, the beasts.  Bosch had the “Tree man”, with the body of a cracked egg with a family inside.  He repeated the figure with minor variations, in “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

He did several giant knives, including one like a cannon’s barrel,  poking up between a pair of ears.

He did various hybrid fish, bird, lizard and insect monsters, many wearing odd pieces of armour.  See his “Last Judgement”.

In “Death of a Reprobate”, he did two odd, armless, walking midgets dressed in black.

He did a bird-headed creature, seated on a sort of throne, eating the damned which it then excretes through a hole in the throne into a sort of darkened glass bulb and thence into the pit.  Glass spheres and bulbs feature frequently, for example, in “The Garden”.

Some pictures, eg “the Wayfarer”, contain torture, execution, gallows.

Bruegel

“Big fish eat little fish..”; his fish closely resemble Bosch.

“Dulle Griet” has a man with an egg backside, spooning gold out of it.  Eggs hatching various monstrosities abound in the picture.  Elsewhere, an upside-down man thing is spooning from a bowl with a spoon up his bottom.

“The land of Cockaigne” has a tiny egg on legs, containing a knife, presenting itself to the sleeping men.  Also in Cockaigne is a living pig with a cut out of its back and a knife through its skin (an idea borrowed by Douglas Adams – the cow that wants to be eaten in “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”).

In “The Fall of the Rebel Angels”, he has a number of mutating, hybrid creatures cascading down with alarmed expressions, under the blades of St.Michael and others; there is a puffer fish, a butterfly, a toadlike thing, lizards with human arms, some clad in armour.

The world is portrayed as a young boy cutpurse, enclosed in a glass sphere, in “The Misanthrope”.

In “The Triumph of Death”, there are skeletal horses, carts driven by skeletons, gallows, executions, tortures.  More gallows (as the name implies) in “the Magpie on the Gallows”.

So in the paintings of both artists, many of the “personnel” resemble each other.  Interestingly (possibly), both artists have turned up on covers of 1960’s SF paperbacks – Bruegel’s “Triumph” on “Timeless Stories” ed, Ray Bradbury and a Bosch egg on legs on Fredric Brown’s “Nightmares and Geezenstacks”.  Sorry – another of my tiresome obsessions.  More at the weekend, when I’ll do themes.

Beefheart by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

10.06.10