Posts Tagged ‘Poussin’

Blackpaint 284

July 7, 2011

Cy Twombly and Poussin at Dulwich

Went round this last Sunday – then came news of Twombly’s death.  The obits always cast a faint sanctimonious glow over the dead; luckily, I wrote notes before the news, so can avoid the solemnity.

As always now, I try to avoid reading anything on the wall at an exhibition, or booklets, until I’ve had a good look at the art – so all I really got was that he used a lot of classical references (knew that already) as did Poussin, and presumably that provides the link.  They certainly don’t look much like each other, not even colours or forms.

The first room had a couple of large canvases in odd shapes, as if a giant ace of clubs were stuck onto the usual rectangle.  I recall a great, dark, grey-blue-green tumbling from top left to bottom right, with a froth of white against a creamy pink haze – like a huge ocean wave crashing down.

In the corridor, large rectangular canvases, some covered with Twombly scribbles and swirls in pencil, or pastel crayon, some with the white dribbles like semen, rough sketches of penises among other dubious items and thick clots of paint splashed on to harden; lines of poetry or names scrawled on canvases.

In the end room, the famous Four Seasons, in raspberry, acidic yellow, Prussian Blue, dark green.  One has Autumn scrawled on it, but they all looked like summer to me.  The smears and trickles and smashes of colour suggested Joan Mitchell a little to me.

The best works for me were two smaller ones in the corridor; Venus and Adonis, and Bacchanalia.  The first had a pad of pink that reminded me of the Osborne bum nose. The second was a rolling scrawl of black, grey and brown pastel like a brown wave rolling in, or maybe a tangle of wire.  Full of movement, lovely picture.  Both of these had pictures stuck to the top part of   canvas; the first an illustration of a rhubarb leaf (!) from an old book, the second a classical engraving of a number of figures.  When I skimmed through the book of the exhibition, I found that Twombly had done four or five of these Bacchanalias, for different months from March to November (the one on show).  They looked pretty similar to me.

As for the Poussins – two types; several dark, brownish, varnished look, like Sickert’s ancestor, the others the sort more familiar to me – the brighter colours, the big cast of parading or dancing characters, the reddish tinge of the undercoat.  The compositions are great, the figures wonderful – a Veronese back in one – but the faces crude.  An inappropriately serene Goliath’s head being carried on a stick like a huge toffee apple; a herm with a red face, which the wall labels (read after) linked to the Twombly rhubarb leaf, and which I thought was pushing it a bit.

So it’s great, if not huge.  Twombly’s pictures demanded a new way of looking that now is part of the orthodoxy, to go with Pollock’s spiralling drips, Rothko’s arches and all the others – we have Twombly’s scribbles too.

Tarkovsky

The boxed set is now out.  I’ve only managed Ivan’s Childhood so far – black and white, pretty conventional WW2 story line, but a couple of striking dream sequences and some great night time shots in the marshes (Pripet Marshes?) with flares arcing in the sky and dropping into the water.  Started watching, resigned to ploughing through a boring early work, but fairly gripped by the end.

Blackpaint

07.07.11

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Blackpaint 177

August 19, 2010

Frederick Cayley Robinson

At the National Gallery.  He died in 1927.  The NG has a suite of paintings he did for a hospital which has been demolished and one in particular on show now.  It’s sort of a cross between Pre-Raphs and very high class children’s illustration, although he said he was influenced by Puvis de Chavannes.  The painting is a pastoral scene – a river winding through its plain in the centre of the picture, with a blinding column of sunlight striking down onto its surface.  Flock of woolly sheep in bottom left, Mabel Lucie Attwell-ish shepherd girls on right, under a couple of silver birch trees, I think, or maybe some sort of willow.

Beautifully painted, and when I looked closely at the sheep, saw a number of small, randomly distributed red dots, which disappeared when I stepped back.  Went in again, to make sure it wasn’t  my eyesight – no, there they were.  Is this some well-known technique of which I am ignorant?  The birch bark was fantastic too.  Interestingly – perhaps – there was a very  thin black outline round the figures, giving them the slightest Rousseau-type, “stuck on” effect. 

As well as this picture, there was a great self-portrait, signed in a cod-mediaeval way; I think he was going for Holbein (about two thirds there).

Fakes exhibition at the NG

Forgot the proper title – worth a visit anyway and it’s FREE (I suppose they can’t really charge you for looking at fakes…).

Not all, or even most, are fakes actually – there are some restorations, different versions by same artist, wrongful attributions  made in  good faith, reconstructions from original  materials – and some genuine  ones (Madonna of the Pinks, Uccello’s St.George and the Dragon) that were originally thought to be fakes.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff on materials, especially pigment – Prussian Blue, invented in early 18th century, seems to have been crucial several times.

There’s a “Madonna of the Iris”, purportedly Durer, actually by a bunch of different artists.  I have to say that, although the madonna is no great shakes, the red fabric of her gown is beautifully done in that International Gothic style.

By contrast, the “Poussin” picture, “The Plague at Ashdod”, was terrible – see the boy in the right hand corner!  It was traced too, I think the blurb said; the faker must have been tired by the time he got to that bit.

The Verrocchio with the two angels (right angel done by a pupil, they think) – his distinguishing features are the lips and eyelashes; always a little prominent (check out  Tobias and the Angel in the main gallery – the one with the little dog they think was done by Leonardo).

There are a couple of Botticellis, featuring his beautiful hippy women with their sleepy, serene eyes, but the star has to be that Uccello – I never thought it looked much upstairs, but down here in level -3, it glows.

Per Kirkeby

Got the book of the recent Tate exhibition reduced (£6.00) – I like the stuff better now.  Maybe there was just too much in the exhibition.  Anyway, as well as himself, he reminds me of a bunch of other painters, as I flick through: Rauschenberg, in the car ones with the dots; Peter Doig, in some of the landscape-y things; and Sigmar Polke with his cartoon figures on horseback.

Rubens

Back upstairs, I was rather disturbed to find the Rubens women, reminiscent as they sometimes are of the Captain  Pugwash cartoons, somewhat erotic.  I clearly need to take up some sort of hobby.

Blackpaint

19.08.10