Posts Tagged ‘Schutte’

Blackpaint 110

April 14, 2010

Musee d’Orsay

Do not despair; last entry on Paris,  two collections to go.

This one is the giant train station, with the central aisle and landings occupied by a host of sculptures, some bizarre, reminding me of the murderer’s studio in Roger Corman’s “Buckets of Blood”.  The place was packed, of course; the crowd included a party of elderly Americans, one an octogenarian Jimmy Stewart, about 6’6″, thin as a lath, grey-suited, who pointed at a Degas and drawled in a Boston accent ,”I would love that for my collection,” apparently in all seriousness.

Where to start?  I suppose the thing that surprised us most was the number of truly awful paintings on show by fantastic, legendary painters.  There were three terrible Manets, one a portrait of a woman with fat red lips, that you might have expected to see on the railings at Hyde Park.  Ditto several Cezannes! Browny, creamy, crappy colours, sloppy execution.  Some ugly (to say the least) Bonnards in crude, harsh greens and -mauves, was it? – that astounded me after seeing the Bonnards at the Pompidou the day before.  And there was a turgid, shit-brown house or bar by Van Gogh, surrounded by a group of several Dutch women.  Maybe they were discussing how bad it was; more probably, they were saying, “Look, that’s that restaurant at the corner of…”

Having said this, there were, of course, shedloads of brilliant Degas, Cezannes, Manets, Van Goghs, Lautrecs, Pissaros, Renoirs (don’t like him anyway, too pretty), Redons, some lovely pastels by Maurice Denis… Very few Seurats, I think I’m right in saying, and the few were very small and not striking.  Just too many Impressionists and Post-impressionists, leaving me gasping for the cool water of Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell or de Kooning.

So now the good things.  Manet’s Olympia above all; she’s short, challenging, direct and holds your gaze (which is long) – but her black maid looks odd and unconvincing to me, actually like all black people in paintings by Europeans of the time now I think of it.  Maybe it’s some racism in me, or maybe there’s a thesis in this somewhere – probably already written long ago.  Nearby, Courbet’s vagina – painting, that is – with its little group of engrossed spectators.  Other vast Courbets, darkly varnished, of stags and hunting scenes, elsewhere in rooms of their own, are amongst the awful things.

The wonderful draughtsmanship of Degas and Lautrec evidenced over and over again; those chaps could really do hands!  The Van Goghs, apart from the brown pub, glowing with rich colours, as were some of the Gauguins and Cezannes.  And the Dejeuner sur l’herbe (how many did he do? There’s one in the Courtauld gallery too).

There was a special exhibition called Crime and Punishment, that was like Tussauds with a few great paintings (Blake, Fuseli, Munch) thrown in to give it artistic credibility – but also  a full size guillotine, brown wax death heads, gruesome photos of old murder victims – victims of old murders, that is. 

There was one memorable painting, by Carel Willink, of a hanging scene; the prisoner, in a pin striped suit and collarless shirt, bound at the ankles and knees, standing on the platform, reading from a sheet of paper.  Around him, the hangman and assistants in ’20s suits, waiting patiently, one casually seated on the hand rail.  The noose waiting too, tidily fixed to a hook on the upright timber.  I think it was probably done from a photograph, although he specialised in de Chirico-like empty, dreamlike streets and squares.

Museum of Modern Art

Out by the Eiffel Tower, in a huge white municipal building with columns and steps, covered with graffiti and besieged by skateboarders.  First, Fauves – Vlaminck, Derain, Dufy; loads of ceramics, plates and pots, mostly by Vlaminck, some by Picasso and Matisse; Legers, rough and crumbly close up, a lovely Gris; several harem Matisses, after Delacroix, was it?  A huge Delaunay football painting of a Cardiff City match.

A great room containing several huge Germans – a Polke, a lovely Oehlen, a Baselitz upside-downer – and with them, a Christopher Wool, typical, dark ashy grey, oily lines “crawled” across it in black.  Giant black lemons by Thomas Schutte lying around.  The only annoying thing, pointless to my mind, a number of imitations and copies of paintings by, for instance, Pollock, distinguished by red labels (genuine works were labelled in black).

OK, enough of Paris – back to London tomorrow.

Blackpaint

14.04.10

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