Posts Tagged ‘Singer Sargent’

Blackpaint 604 – Holbein, Debussy, Sargent and Mrs Robinson

August 22, 2017

The Encounter, NPG

This is an absolutely stunning little exhibition of Renaissance drawings that should be seen by everyone interested in portraiture, and the reason is Holbein.  Leonardo, Durer, Pontormo,  Rembrandt are there too and some of the works (Pontormo, Rembrandt,  Caracci) are brilliant but the Holbeins are supreme.   Just line and a little sparing colour, but they tremble with life.  I thought, looking at them, that you could walk outside and see these faces adorning the people passing down Charing Cross Road – something that I didn’t get from any of the other masterworks on show.

 

Holbein, John More (son of Sir Thomas) –  could be checking his phone for messages…

Annibale Caracci’s drawings are also something of a revelation, while not in the same class as the wizard Holbein.  I’ll be going again.

The Graduate, Mike Nichols (1967)

I bought the DVD (50th anniversary release), only to find it was all over the TV this week.  Like everyone else of my age, I seem to have seen a bit here, another bit there – the frogman suit, the frantic chase to the church – but never the whole thing, from beginning to end.  A joyful experience to see it through, the perfect soundtrack – but, like my friends, I had an odd feeling that something was missing.  Surely, when Benjamin (Hoffman) was trying to locate the church where Katherine Ross was getting married, he went to at least one wrong location before he found it?  Three of us watched it and thought the same thing, independently…

It was reviewed or mentioned in the Guardian recently; I think it was Peter Bradshaw – he (if it WAS he) made a big deal of Mrs Robinson (Ann Bancroft, above) being a “sexual predator”.  Maybe so, but I can’t see Hoffman’s character having suffered any damage from the predation; rather the opposite.

Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic, National Gallery

The Ofili – designed giant tapestry below, featuring a very Japanese – looking, seated musician, playing a stringed instrument in a colourful, fanciful, slightly Disney-ish paradise.  I liked the tapestry and some of the preparatory, or related small drawings (below).

Chris Ofili

 

Singer Sargent watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lots of people raving about these; I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed.  They are very accomplished, of course,  and there are some beauties: a couple of Boudin-like little beachscapes,  lovely rendition of Venetian statuary and architectural features and three brilliant male nudes at the end.  Also, I loved the oxen, the alligator and the Scottish soldiers.  However, I thought on the whole, it was somehow drab.  It reminded me of painting by numbers.  Probably it’s the subject matter – harbours, gondolas, a Spanish dancer (I think – maybe there just should have been one), pebbles beneath a fast-flowing river.  You can’t blame him retrospectively for cliches, I suppose.  I much prefer the Sargent of the huge oil portraits, the glowing women in their glowing dresses – his Mrs Robinsons (Mrs. Agnew, for example).

Ken Russell’s Monitor programmes

Oliver Reed as an actor playing Debussy, with Annette Robertson as Gaby

The Delius one – Song of Summer – still by far the best, but the Debussy, with Oliver Reed, playing an actor, playing Debussy, has its moments too.  Russell had to do it like this because the BBC, at the time, didn’t allow documentaries in which actors represented real people and spoke dialogue.  In his earlier “Elgar”, Russell had actors playing Elgar and his wife, but it was a sort of dumbshow with a voice-over (Huw Wheldon).  Sounds ridiculous now, but at least the BBC worried about these things, which are sort of important.  How many times do you see “fact-based” programmes now and think hang on – did that really happen?  Anyway, things soon changed, probably because of Ken, so we got the brilliant Delius and all the other strictly factual composer biopics he made subsequently.

Meant to do Matisse at the RA, but think I’ll go again and do it next time.

 

Three Score and Ten

Blackpaint

22/08/17

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Blackpaint 564 – Tootles, Sickert, Etel and Breakfast

August 2, 2016

Painting with Light, Tate Britain

Great exhibition of photographs and paintings from photographs; again, much of TB’s collection recycled (Sargent kids with lanterns, Clausen turnip choppers, Rosetti women), but justified on the whole.  Standouts for me were Coburn’s photos of the river and Regents Canal, clearly influencing Whistler:

coburn1

coburn2

His portrait of the beautiful Elsie “Tootles” Thomas:

tootles thomas

Tiny, but fabulous…

And Jane Morris, the model for Rosetti’s “Proserpine”:

jane morris

Proserpine 1874 Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882 Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05064

He’s glammed her up, hasn’t he?  Especially the lips…

Big exhibition, loads of interest, highly recommended.

Just off the main hall is a group of paintings from photographs by Walter Sickert.  This goes nicely with the main exhibition as regards subject matter; Sickert seems to have used a pink grounding and a lot of scraping.  One or two of these pictures are almost like Luc Tuymans or Gerhard Richter.

Claude Phillip Martin 1935 Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942 Presented by Sir Alec Martin KBE through the Art Fund 1958 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00223

 

 

Variation on Peggy 1934-5 Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942 Bequeathed by Dame Peggy Ashcroft 1992 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T06601

 

Etel Adnan, Sackler Gallery

Over by the Serpentine, the third great exhibition, that of the Israeli artist, whose earlier paintings of the 60s and 70s are far superior to those more figurative and simplified that are more recent.  The early ones have great texture and colour and are strongly reminiscent of Nicholas de Stael and also Victor Pasmore (one or two):

adnan2

Corbyn/Manson

Last blog, I made a facetious remark about Jeremy often being surrounded in photos by adoring young women in long summer dresses – like Manson Family members, I “joked”;  Hadley Freeman in Saturday’s Guardian made a similar, but NOT facetious link, linking the apparent “cult of personality” to violence and anti-semitism in the Momentum camp.  That will teach me…

corbyn

Sorry, pathetically short blog this week; running out of steam in many ways.

 

all day breakfast

All Day Breakfast

Blackpaint

1/08/16

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 539 – the Firm of Repin, Serov, Vrubel, Astrup, and Vinyl

April 2, 2016

Russia and the Arts: the age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky ( National Portrait Gallery)

Lovely show.  I’ve started with Repin, who is the most famous, but I think Serov and Vrubel run him pretty close.

russia turgenev

Repin, Turgenev – great hands, aren’t they?

 

russia repin stasov

Repin, Stasov – surely Michael Gambon in a Russian shirt..

russia countess.

Repin, Baroness Hildebrandt – love the red star hat; probably not a revolutionary though…

Serov, Madame Ermolova – Really impressive full-length painting of this theatrical woman in a jet-black dress; I thought Singer Sargent at first, but now I think maybe more like Toulouse-Lautrec in execution.  However, can’t find a picture, so you will have to go see.

Russia Vrubel

Vrubel, Mamontov – Jonathan Jones reckons it’s sort of pre-Cubist, the angles and especially the shirtfront.  I think it looks like a Sickert, or maybe even Ruskin Spear.

 

Russia Morozov

Serov again, Morozov – reminds me of a Scottish Colourist, Fergusson or Cadell, with those flowers behind.

Nightcrawler (2013), Dan Gilroy

Gyllenhaal’s eyes must surely have been “enhanced”; They looked too big to be real to me.  He reminded me of a meerkat.  Obvious comparisons: Jim Carrey in “Cable Guy” and maybe Robin Williams in “One Hour Photo”.  I’d be interested to know just how far they were pushing it; are there really TV stations in LA that would show footage of murder victims in a private house, filmed before the arrival of the police (even with faces and wounds pixillated)?

Vinyl

I liked the comment about Elvis, singing Polk Salad Annie in Vegas: “He’s singing about lettuce…”.  It’s way by far the best thing on TV at the moment.  The man who played Elvis in the white- suited Vegas era was brilliant.

Art of Scandinavia, BBC4

What happened to the 20th century?  The Denmark episode dealt with LEGO and furniture and the Danes’ supposed love for cosy miniaturism in architecture – no mention of Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, CoBrA…

Swedish episode was better;  Zorn, Gan(?) – but then, more furniture and design, model housing for 30’s factory workers…  The only 21st century art mentioned was the graffiti artist who covers everything in black swirls.  More painting in future, please (and sculpture, I suppose).

Nikolai Astrup (Dulwich Picture Gallery

Norwegian painter, died 1928.

astrup woodcut

My first impression on entering the gallery was green – and brown and blue, but mostly green.  The canvases are nearly all landscapes, or lakescapes, with trees and they are  crowded.  There are blossoms that recall Hockney’s “maggot” hawthorns from his huge show a few years ago; there is a breast-shaped dark mountain that pops up in several pictures.  Where there are people, they are mostly women or girls in long peasant dresses that remind me of Munch’s figures.  In the last room, the green is relieved a little by yellow, in a series of pictures depicting enormous bonfires in the dusk.  His brushwork is somewhat rough and blurry – one of the most effective pictures was of Monet-like blurred trees in twilight with a couple of lanterns glowing in the background.

He also did woodcuts, which show a distinct Japanese influence (and a much lighter green), like the one above.

 

St. Anthony 1

St. Anthony and his Pig

Blackpaint

02.04.16

 

 

Blackpaint 351 – Ena, Betty and the Dirty Old Men

July 20, 2012

Late to publish again – sorry.

John Singer Sargent

I feel ambivalent about this painter – sometimes, I am staggered by how good he is (Mrs. Agnew, Ena and Betty Wertheimer) and sometimes he goes way into chocolate box territory (Mrs. Cazalet and her children – especially her children).  No-one, I think, can do shimmering silk in a few dozen loose brush strokes like him.  I suppose the chocolate boxes are an occupational hazard for a Society painter; you won’t get paid if you paint the kids ugly.

Betty and Ena

Chagall

I’m familiar with Chagall’s floating/flying fiddlers, of course, but I have to say I was surprised by the “Fantastic Horse Cart”, painted in 1949, in which a rudimentary green horse (actually it looks more like a tapir) rises into the orange sky, supporting with its front legs a blue-faced fiddler.  If this weren’t enough, the horse is harnessed to a cart, which hangs from the horse and contains two small children.  Below is a village of old wooden houses.  Not Socialist Realism, then.

Mark Wallinger

His exhibit at the National Gallery involves peering through peepholes at  naked or “scantily-clad” women, in poses relating to the Titian  Diana and Actaeon paintings.  In a recent Guardian article,  a museum spokesperson claimed they were being plagued by “dirty old men”.  I can’t believe this – in the 50s and 60s maybe, but not now, when porn is easily accessible on the internet – so I’m told.

Art fairs

Those antique road trip progs on the telly have produced a public which wants a deal on everything.  I was at Urban Art in Josephine Avenue, Brixton last weekend.  It was all “What’s your best price?” or “How much for cash?” or “You did say two hundred, right?”  On the TV, they’re selling stuff just bought from another antique shop down the road; it’s all speculation to make a quick twenty or thirty quid.  It annoys me when people want a deal for paintings I’ve done, as if I expect them to knock me down, and price them accordingly.  Different if they say “I really like that painting, but I can’t quite afford it; is there any chance you could ….”  Might be the same thing, but it feels different to me.

Satantango, Laszlo Krasznahorkai

Finished the book now, and one thing different from Bela Tarr’s magnificent film; when Irimias, Petrina and the boy arrive at the deserted chateau, they are confronted with a vision of the dead girl – in Tarr’s film, it is simply a thick white mist, and only Irimias appears to be overawed, and falls to his knees.

Larva

Blackpaint

20/07/12

Blackpaint 323 – Dinosaurs, Members and Moustaches

February 4, 2012

 Z  Costa -Gavras

Brilliant sequence at the end of the film, where a succession of senior Greek army officers, charged with the murder of a leftist politician, leave the magistrate’s office and attempt to exit, desperately, by the same locked door, shaking and rattling it,  before their lawyers find the right way out.  In the book, they use dinosaurs as pseudonyms – “Mastodontodon”, I remember… but aren’t we all?  Dinosaurs I mean, not pseudonyms…

Migrations

Exhibition at the Tate Britain, which “explores how migration into this country has shaped the course of art in Britain over the last 500 years”, to quote the handout – which is a disappointing map of the rooms with blurb by some luminaries about what they think of the pics.   At the Whitechapel, you get a booklet with miniatures of all the paintings in the exhibition – and that’s for a free show; you have to pay for this one.

So – there are Dutch landscapists and portraitists, Canaletto (Horseguards Parade), Americans like Singer Sargent, and paintings by artists from migrant communities, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean and Asian.  The Singers are stupendous, of course; lovely, lively women in silks looking straight out at us (even if one appears to have a moustache and the hand of Betty Wertheimer seems to be in the wrong place on Ena’s waist – makes her arm too long).

A number of the works are familiar from the Tate’s permanent collection; the Bombergs, of course, “Mudbath” and the other one, Keith Piper’s series “Go West Young Man”. with  images of lynching and slavery, Mirza’s Crucifixion, with Christ like a giant holly leaf.  for my money, the Schwitters collage “picture of Spatial Growth; Picture of Two Dogs” was the best thing on show – from an angle and a distance, the surface evens out and it looks like an ochre and white painting.  Close to, it’s got a hank of black hair like a moustache (again!) in the middle.  Dates: 1920 – 1939!! Did he stick one bit on a year?

Other paintings I liked were Frank Bowling’s rough, yellow red and green take on Barnett Newman and Donald Rodney’s “How the West Was Won”, with that radioactive blue and child-like draughtsmanship – not the proper Coldstream, at all.

Life Drawing

As an English abstract painter, I suffer from that sneaking suspicion (on the part of myself, as well as others) that I do abstracts because I can’t do figurative, i.e.” proper”, painting.  Abstraction is a way of making pictures that can’t be properly tested; you can’t compare them to nature.  This mindset is very common amongst people in England who  consider themselves knowledgeable about art.  I’ve recounted in previous blogs how I heard a woman in the Tate Modern pointing out to her friend how Picasso’s early pre-cubism paintings were really good, “before he went all funny”.  Or watching visitors to Tate Britain recoiling with baffled shrugs from Turner’s more experimental paintings like  “Sea Monsters”.  And the Picassos and Turners are ,after all, figurative.  Real abstraction, Pollock or Stella, say, is blobs and squiggles or meaningless stripes and pretty colours.  Stella is better than Pollock because a child or an elephant with a brush held in its trunk can’t do a Stella – the lines are too straight.  I know I’m exaggerating a little, but not much.  The funny thing is that abstract paintings are old hat, retro, old fashioned – figurative painting is much more the vogue nowadays.

So, because of all this, but also because I enjoy it, I go to life drawing and painting classes.  Trouble is, the others in my class are too good and you come away each week thinking how rubbish you are – I know, it’s not a competition –  but it is, really.  Anyway, I thought I could use some of my life drawings to illustrate errors, as I’ve done in previous blogs.

Some pitfalls illustrated below:

1.  Don’t do the face and then rub it out.  In fact, don’t do the face at all – it usually looks crap.  On the other hand, it can divert the viewer’s attention from all the other little errors – like the left arm in second drawing.

2.  In a 5 minute drawing. don’t think you’ve finished with 10 seconds to go, and then discover you’ve left out the left arm completely (see second pic below).

3.  What about the package?  Do you render it faithfully, in which case it becomes the focal point – or do you suggest it in a sketchy, somehow more tasteful manner?  As can be seen, I’ve adopted the middle way by leaving the end off.  Hope I situated it correctly; looks a bit high up to me now.

And here’s a proper one that I did earlier:

“Baffled Shrug”

Blackpaint

04.02.12

Blackpaint 140

May 25, 2010

National Gallery of Scotland (cont.)

Not an immediately exciting title, I would guess, unless you are a Scots patriot – however, I have saved a couple of really controversial observations for this bit of the review.   Here’s the first;

Titian

Titian’s work is of variable quality.  There is the Diana and Actaeon that was recently “saved for the nation” at a cost of..how much was it?  Great composition, the way he reels back with arm across face – but close up, the brushwork is, well, scrubby and scrappy – or “increasingly broken and impressionistic” as the Companion puts it.  and there’s something wrong with Diana’s head, isn’t there?  It’s too small and in the wrong position.  the Diana and Callisto, closely  resembling the Actaeon in composition, contains no such difficulties – but, somehow, the first one seems the greater picture. 

The Three Ages of Man contains a heap of fat and unappealing babies and an extremely serious young girl, peering into the face of a much older, Byronic (and near naked) man, whilst fingering a flute-type instrument in a distinctly phallic position.

The Virgin and Child with John the Baptist features a similar character as J the B, and the virgin wears a blue  and rose dress, the folds of which are brilliantly depicted in white – but somehow dominate the picture, making the rest look underpainted.  And the right arm of Venus, just risen from the sea, squeezing water  from her hair – too fat.  Colours staggering, however, in all pictures.

Leonardo

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, recently  stolen and recovered, is on display – and again, I have to say, it’s not up to other Leonardos; the faces of both the mother and child seem odd, elongated noses, blurry features..

Raphael

No childish criticism of these three “luminous” pictures, except that Joseph in the tondo seems overly coiffured;   I love the squirming Jesus in the Virgin and Child.  Mary’s eyes don’t engage with the child’s, but seem rather to stare thoughtfully past him to the floor – it seems to me I’ve noticed this lack of engagement in other V and C’s; is it some sort of convention?

Other fantastic stuff

Beautiful, silky surfaced Rubens; a religious allegorical painting by Holbein; Stoning of St Stephen by Elsheimer, with the young man poised to fling  the big stone at the back of the kneeling martyr’s skull; the Van Der Goes Trinity Altarpiece, the legends of St.Nicholas by Gerard David…

The Impressionists

Cezanne’s The Big Trees, with its geometric, blue and brown tunnel, next to Van Gogh’s Olive Trees, with its short, diagonal brush strokes and coiling trunks and limbs, the two pictures echoing and bouncing off each other; unusual, vibrant Gauguins, Jacob wrestling the angel against burning red and the whites of the women’s headgear and the dusky pink of the ground and short, downward “tiles” of foliage in Martinique Landscape – and the Degas portrait of Diego Martelli, arms folded, on the table a spread of yellow, white and blue sketchbooks and papers that could make an abstract painting in themselves.

Finally

John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew, looking directly and intensely at you, the way that white silk dress is painted with those loose brush strokes..

And much more.  I’m going back to see it all again, as soon as I can.

Cold Blue Jug by Blackpaint

25.05.10