Posts Tagged ‘Velasquez’

Blackpaint 599 – A Drink with Bacchus and a Sausage with Goebbels

June 13, 2017

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Vast hoard of treasures here, so can just give a few examples:  Las Meninas (the Maidservants, below) with its complicated geography – painter on the left, looking towards posing royal couple (reflected in the mirror).  Having read Derrida, I feel I can give my own reading of the painting, totally unsupported by the known facts:  for me, it’s one of those paintings where two or more time zones exist simultaneously – like those Crucifixions where the journey to Golgotha, the crucifixion and the deposition, and maybe Judas’ suicide, are all on show.   So in my reading, Velasquez, having completed the painting, turns in the doorway to glance back at his earlier self, still engaged in the work.  The guide book identifies the figure in the doorway to be Jose Nieto, the royal chamberlain – but I prefer my reading.

Las Meninas, Velasquez

 

The Feast of Bacchus, Velasquez

I don’t know why, but this painting reminds me of Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus.  It gives me the impression that Bacchus and the grinning man next to him are travelling, seated, towards us, despite the presence of the kneeling man, who would be ploughed under, were this the case.  There is something about that arm, too…

I don’t quite have a settled view on El Greco; sometimes I think that his elongated figures thrusting up like flames are fantastic and precursors of artists like Kirchner (yes, fanciful…) – other times, the crowdedness and somehow dry surfaces turn me off.

 

The Holy Trinity, El Greco

 

The Annunciation, El Greco

As for Goya, there are some wondrous canvases such as the 2nd and 3rd May 1808 paintings (the Mamelukes and the Executions), the Black Paintings of course, and the Royal portraits.  There are also some terrible paintings – a Flight into Egypt comes to mind.  I think religious themes didn’t inspire him.  A couple of portraits, then:

The Marchioness of Santa Cruz, Goya

 

The Countess of Chinchon, Goya

More on the Prado next time – I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Dance of the Seven Veils, Ken Russell Omnibus (1970) – see it on youtube

Another brilliant example of Russell’s restraint and good taste: Richard Strauss (Christopher Gable) as a Nazi fellow traveller, reaping the rewards under Hitler and pleading coercion after the Downfall.  It begins with Gable, dressed in animal skins, conducting Zarathustra and soon being ravished by crazed nuns.  Later, his wife is raped by crazed Tommies (fantasy sequence, I should point out, as is the nun bit) again, whilst Strauss conducts.  Above, Mrs. Strauss and Goebbels share a German foodstuff…

Ossessione, Visconti (1943)

Visconti’s version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.  Gino the tramp shows up at Giovanna’s garage and roadhouse and sweeps her off her feet – although not onto the kitchen table, as in the Jack Nicholson/ Jessica Lange version directed by Bob Rafelson in 1981.  What to do about Giovanna’s fat, much older husband, however?  Lots of smouldering and some excellent dialogue: (Giovanna to Gino, who has removed his jacket) “Your shoulders – why, you’re built like a stallion!”

 

Rift Valley

Blackpaint

12/06/17

 

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Blackpaint 505 – Francis, Rembr’ndt and the Chimp’nzees

August 2, 2015

Bacon and the Masters, Norwich (UEA)

Afraid this exhibition is now finished – I got to see it in its last week – so its a bit redundant now to review it.  However, I’m rather redundant myself, so here’s a few words.  First, I have to take issue with Jonathan Jones’ assessment in the Guardian; he thought the “Masters” (Matisse, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Gogh, Bernini et al), whose works Bacon used as  templates or providers of inspiration, actually made Bacon’s efforts look rather “silly”. His previous admiration for the British painter evaporated in the presence of the Masters.

There is no doubt that the Rembrandts are striking and the terracotta Bernini torsos staggeringly powerful, even though small; my feeling is, however, that Bacon’s work stands up well and does justice to those whose works he used – or rather, the photographs of them, since he famously avoided seeing the originals.

Take the paintings below, for instance; the powerful, sinister “Figures in a Landscape” (1956):

bacon figures in a landscape

 

or the portrait (1957) of Peter Lacey, Bacon’s sadistic “true love”, who did the painter quite serious injury in lovemaking (I don’t know if Bacon returned the compliment – I suspect not); I think the portrait suggests one of the Furies about to descend…

bacon lacey

or this great sketch or half-started work on linen from 1981, one of the three large sketches that begin the exhibition:

bacon three figures 1981

 

Here’s one of the Berninis for comparison:

bernini

The only Bacon that I felt was not up to par was a sketch of the Screaming Pope.  it suggested a Steve Bell to me…

Look closely at any Bacon and you will see how thinly and carefully he paints, with a stroke that is often very dry.  The portraits are painstaking and the famous distortion does not obscure the likeness in most cases; it’s dissection and reassembly, not butchery, not by a long way.

Afterwards, using one of the luxurious WCs in the Sainsbury building, I saw myself in the mirror which takes up the whole rear wall. Slightly crouched, toilet paper in hand, trousers around lower legs, furtive expression… a rather typical Bacon scenario, to match those in the gallery…

Watching an Arena DVD on Bacon, I was struck again by his odd pronunciation of Rembrandt – it was “Rembr’ndt”.  A while later he did it again with “chimp’nzee”.  I thought it was unique – then I watched a DVD on Auerbach and he said “Rembr’ndt” too.

John Golding, UEA

golding2

Up the stairs from the Bacon exhibition was this large show of paintings from Golding, a major British abstract artist, somewhat akin to Hoyland, I think, as a sort of counterweight to the great figurative master on the ground floor.  Here are three works, all large, from different periods.  This show may still be on – worth a trip to Norwich, if it is.

 

golding3

 

golding6

The Double Life of Veronique, Kieslowski

This film was on TV last week.  I can’t make my mind up about Kieslowski’s work – sometimes, as here, it strikes me as sentimental and soft focus, a little bit “Truly, Madly, Deeply”; she falls in love with a handsome puppeteer, for god’s sake.  Then again, he did “A Short Film about Killing”, with the long murder and the hanging scene….

Two old pictures that I have overpainted somewhat, to finish:

jungle

The Road to Mandalay

 

10th May 1941

 

10th May 1941

Blackpaint,

2.08.15

Blackpaint 416 – “It’s Rather Like…”; Manet in Munich, Mrs. Pynchon in the Newsroom

October 15, 2013

Munich Marathon

Sorry about break in transmission – I’ve been in Germany, running in the above.  Didn’t get the chance to see much art, except for a brief visit to the Neue Pinakothek  (there are about five art museums, all in the same area; there is one with Warhols, Twomblys etc., but I missed that).

There were three pictures that stood out for me; two by Manet, one by Degas.  The first Manet was “Luncheon in the Studio” (1868), in which a young man, Manet’s stepson I think, gazes vacuously out at the viewer, wearing a comedy hat.  Lupin Pooter comes immediately to mind.  A servant attends in the background; the whole picture, execution and composition, made me think of Velasquez.

manet

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

velazquez1

Velasquez. Las Meninas

Not sure, but the positioning of the table, the food, the picture and Christ in the neighbouring room,  the positioning of the figures and gaze of the principal… Wikipedia doesn’t mention Velasquez as an influence; it goes for Vermeer.

The other Manet that struck me was his portrait of Monet painting on the Seine.  The surface sketchiness and flickering brush strokes reminded me of Dufy.

manet2

The Degas I mentioned is a double portrait of two men, looking out at the viewer, at least one hatted.  Didn’t remind me of anything except other Degas and I can’t find it anywhere on the net.

The Pinakothek, like the art museum in Budapest that I wrote about; huge, imposing, echoing rooms, vast staircases, not many punters.

Butchers Crossing

Just finished this novel by John Williams, of “Stoner” fame;  It’s rather cliche – ridden, with sequences that bring back western novels and films of the 50s and 60s – Richard Boone maybe, as Miller, the obsessive buffalo hunter; a young Jeff Bridges, possibly, as Andrews. Perhaps it’s best thought of as a pint-sized Moby-Dick, with all the accompanying rambling left out.  I know that’s rather like Ulysses, without all the annoying thoughts of Bloom and Daedalus and Molly…

The Newsroom

Watching this last night, with it’s preposterous ending, I was taken back to “Lou Grant” in the 80s.  The proprietor, the one who looks like Jane Fonda (now), arrives to pass sentence after the latest fuck up (wrongly accusing US forces of using sarin gas in a raid in Afghanistan); she forgives them all, tells them she loves them, adds some uplifting sentiment…  It’s Mrs Pynchon again, before she morphed into Tony’s Soprano’s mother.  This sequence was, however, the only one in which the characters didn’t communicate at machine-gun speed, finishing each other’s thoughts, as if determined to exclude the chance of a casual viewer accidentally understanding what they are on about.

It’s Rather Like…

I am acutely aware that this blog has become little more than a string of comparisons between paintings, programmes, books, even museums.  I think a change of direction is needed, so I am considering a blog in which I discuss artworks which are NOT like each other in any respect.  So, here goes…

In the Neue Pinakothek, was this beautiful portrait by Wilhelm Leibl, “Girl With White Headscarf”:

Liebl

I was struck by how unlike it is to Turner’s “Snowstorm, Steamboat off a Harbour’s Mouth”, ..which is mostly water.

turner

 

 

More art works which are completely unlike each other in next blog.

marian platz

 

Marian Platz by Marion Jones

Blackpaint

15.10.13

Blackpaint 273

May 11, 2011

Ai Weiwei

I understand that the Tate Modern has “Release Ai Weiwei” in enormous letters on the outside of the building; if this was the case when I wrote, criticising the management, I hope they will accept my apologies.  I was up there the other day – Sunday, I think – and didn’t notice it; maybe it was on the other side.  Good to see two new exhibitions at Somerset House and Lisson Gallery and campaign for his release gaining momentum.

Tate Modern

The Rothkos are back in their central “temple” after being temporarily replaced by Agnes Martin and the bloody Austrians.  Looked a long while at the Dubuffet, “Busy Life” –  saw the boulder thing.  The figures, scattered at all angles, look as if they are scraped into rock.  Maybe this is because I saw Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” the other day (see 270).

Stanley Spencer

His “St. Francis Feeding the Birds” looks very much like a portrait of Mike Leigh in costume – unlikely, given the disparity of dates.  This brings me to today’s main theme, which is top ten portraits.  I have two lists of my favourites:  20th Century and pre – 20th century.

Portraits pre 20th Century

1.  Holbein – Thomas Cromwell.

2.  Holbein – Unknown Lady with Squirrel and Starling

3.  Velasquez – Pope Innocent X

4.  Rembrandt – self in age.  Any of them – but especially at the age of 63.

5.  Gainsborough – Mrs.  Siddons, or the Linley Sisters

6.  Leonardo – Lady with an ermine, Cecilia Gallerani (doesn’t the ermine resemble her?)

7.  Ingres – the landlady in the National Gallery.

8.  Goya – Duchess of Alba

9.  Salvatore Rosa – Self portrait.

10.  Whistler – Symphony in White no.2

20 th Century Portraits

1.  De Kooning – Marilyn Monroe.

2.  Marlene Dumas – Jule the Woman.  The red face.

3.  Francis Bacon – 3 studies of Muriel Belcher, or 3 studies of George Dyer.

4.  Gerhard Richter – Betty.

5.  Lucien Freud – Harry Diamond next to the Aspidistra – it’s called “Interior in Paddington”.

6.  Larry Rivers – David Sylvester.

7.  Frank Auerbach – all of them!

8.  Otto Dix – Von Harden

9.  Singer Sargent – Ena and Betty Wertheimer.  And, of course, Lady Agnew.

10.  Joyce’s father – Patrick Tuohy.

Bela Tarr (cont)

The accordion plays the melancholy, repetitive tune, while two drunken old men execute a dance by a snooker table, involving brandishing a chair.  A crowd of unshaven, capped, feral, moustached, semi-drunken men wait in a cobbled square; one forces spirits down the throat of a timid youth who is foolish enough to approach him.  The same youth comes eyeball to eyeball with a rotting, stinking whale in a huge wooden container in the same square – it resembles the recent Balka installation at the Tate Modern (container, not whale).  A drunken mob invades an asylum and lethargically beat the occupants with sticks, fists and feet.

The Banks of the Nile

Blackpaint

11.05.11

Blackpaint 139

May 24, 2010

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

A lot of real treasures and the most helpful attendants I’ve encountered.

First, they’ve got an exhibition relating to “Dance” in a little gallery at the back; I was astonished to see a Roger Hilton woman, the blue and yellow “Dancing Woman”, leaping across the wall opposite me; interesting to see how ropey the drawing was, close up – the beauty is in the energy of the image.  There was a Sickert chorus line, Degas ballet dancers and two astonishing postcard -size watercolour pictures by Arthur Melville, one of the Scottish Boys, done in 1889.  They are titled Dancers at the Moulin Rouge, which the pink, white and black one shows, but the other one is abstract.  It has a large patch of egg-yolk yellow with a touch of brown decalcomania at the base, a mid region of Prussian-ish blue and a red/orange patch on grey/brown at the bottom.

1889 is early for a British abstract, surely; more surprising when you consider the other beautifully done, but conventional watercolour paintings by Melville on display (conventional in composition – he was an experimentalist with the watercolour medium).

Tipu

The ground floor is dominated by a huge, mad canvas by Benjamin West, of a Scottish Mediaeval king being saved from a raging stag by the spear of one Colin Fitzgerald.  Opposite is the defeat of Tipu Khan (of Tipu’s Tiger fame) by David Wilkie.  Nearby is a portrait of Lady Kinneard, wife no doubt, of Lord FU Kinneard of legendary fame.

Rembrandt

In an alcove is Rembrandt’s “A Woman in bed”; it’s Saskia, leaning out of a four-poster, pushing the canopy curtain aside – and her hands are enormous.  Her left is towards us, so that might be right, but her right is away from us, across her breast, and its the same size.  They’re good hands, but they’re  too big.  Yes, it’s an obsession with me (see blog on Mick’s David, Blackpaint 106)

Dutch Lobsters

There are several perfectly painted Dutch lobsters with glistening fruit; my partner says it’s because lobsters were an expensive status symbol – I suspect it might be that one painter, Kalf for example, did a really brilliant lobster and all the others had to try to beat him.

Velasquez

The old woman cooking eggs, with the blunt-featured, crop-haired young boy looking on; a picture so beautiful that I  can’t think of a sardonic comment.

I’m going to leave the Titians, Raphaels, Leonardo and the Impressionists until tomorrow and finish with

“the Death of St.Ephraim and incidents in the lives of the Hermits”. 

I think that’s what it’s called; irritatingly, it isn’t in the otherwise brilliant Companion Guide to the gallery and I can’t remember who painted it – the Master of somewhere or something. 

It’s full of strange little vignettes – a hermit, cave and lion like  St.Jerome; a monk chasing naked women; black demons in boats with naked women; a circle of flagellants processing round a sort of maypole, scourging themselves; a skeletal corpse rising from a rock to terrify-passers-by; a monk riding a dragon… Who was St.Ephraim? Must look him up.

The Snail Crab Dance by Blackpaint

Listening to Cinnamon Girl, by Neil Young and Crazy Horse

“A dreamer of pictures you run in the night,

You see us together, chasing the moonlight, my Cinnamon Girl”.

Blackpaint

24.05.10