Painting Review: Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911

Following on from my Cubism Research, and in preparation for assignment 5 annotations I have decided to research Georges Braque’s Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911. The obvious choice of Cubist painting to annotate would be a Picasso which is precisely why I choose one by Braque. Picasso is the household name of Cubism but it seems from my research that they participated fairly evenly in the collaboration, even at times so closely as to be indistinguishable. This was the period known as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Additionally, I could go and see this one in person which always helps me!

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. I went to the Tate Modern to see it (apolgies for the wonky picture, there was a rope around an adjacent exhibit so I couldnt start square on to get the photo).

Georges Braque –
Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece (Clarinette et bouteille de rhum sur une cheminée),
1911, Oil paint on canvas, Support: 810 x 600 mm
frame: 935 x 723 x 74 mm, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The section in the middle triangle with the bottle, the clarinet & scrolls of paper (?), then the writing Valse, then the glass.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? Your eyes rove around the painting from plane to plane trying to make sense of what you’re looking at from one recognisable bit to the next to try and piece together what is there.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? I looked at it all but I still don’t understand many elements.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The little round bit under the clarinet because I know it should be recognise it but I’m still not sure what it is.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.

Colour:

  1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very narrow colour palate typical of Analytical Cubism has been used to concentrate the viewer on the forms.
  2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really
  3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? slightly warm colours
  4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? The colours are muted and earthy to concentrate on the forms
  5. In what way is dark and light colour used? dark and light colour is used to separate the planes

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Very wide from light to black

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out the various planes of the work. The light is not coming from any clear direction.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are in places used to model three-dimensional forms, for example the clarinet mouthpiece and holes, which in this part of the painting is lit from above.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? In contrast to tradition paintins where the distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light here is used almost randomly to separate the various planes and sections.

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in various ways across the surface of the painting. Thinly in places, for example at the edges where you can see the the texture of the canvas. The black lines and white space opaque smooth:
    [Detail 1] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
    and some parts are rather more thickly applied it little dabbing brushstrokes for texture:
    [Detail 2] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, but nothing about Cubism is!
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the planes sort of shimmer above the canvas. its an odd effect.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? yes, the different paint textures mean you associate different sections with different elements

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what.
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale.
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective.
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top.
(e) linear perspective N

Y

One of the tenants of Cubism is the abolishment of single point perspective to explore forms ‘plastically’

Looking at this a bit longer I’ve changed my mind here, there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious.

(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above.

I found it hard to see just by looking and making a sketch helped me here:

The different view points overlay so its a bit confusing so here I’ve tried to break down what i see i my head as separate views. I started with the bottle, on which the scheme seems to rest on. it has serveral view on it. the most obvious being the frontal view, where you can also see the glass and the nail. I’ve left the clarinet out of this picture because i dont think it was placed behind the bottle on the mantelpiece.

Here is one view that i think sets out the main pieces in their places on the mantelpiece. I see the clarinet, the rum, a glass, a scroll of paper (probably sheet music given the words written on it) it looks to me like he has pages under the objects which jut out and overlap the edge of the mantelpiece.

Perspective view from the edge of the mantelpiece

Its possible that this view in blue below is the same scene from the other end of the mantelpiece.

this is my suspected bits of mantelpiece views, from all different directions including underneith to see the corbel.

 

 

 

here i thought these were scrolls of music sheet

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There are plenty of diagonal lines radiating out and upwards from the bottom like a fan and a slight overall pyramidal feeling to the composition. The main elements are in an internal triangle section. Internally to that there are bisecting vertical planes and pieces (eg the Clarinet is horizontal and the bottle is vertical) and various little triangles made of overlapping planes of various textures and detail

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are thick contour lines all around the painting but many are for the contours of the plane not actual for an object as such.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’/ Context & Meaning:

I’ve blocked these two together because without understanding the concepts Cubism it’s really hard to read the painting and understand any of its ‘evidence’ or even what you’re looking at.

In Harrison & Woods Art in theory 1900-2000 anthology there were quite a few articles which helped me understand this painting (and Cubism in general).

 

mostly I put my research straight into the annotations, the other painting review here and the main research notes page here.

References:

Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago
Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

 

Painting Review: Georges Braque – Yellow Seacoast

Following on from my Assignment 5 prep looking at a Cubist painting by Georges Braque, here I’m going to look at a Fauvist painting also by Braque – Yellow Seacoast also known as Boats on the Beach, L’Estaque. Braque came Fauvism late and left early but for a time was fully engaged. I picked this Fauve painting for annotation over the more obvious choices of Matisse or Derain because I thought it would be more interesting to compare two paintings of the same artist from the two (opposing) avant-garde styles of that period. I specifically picked this one because it seemed like this was when Braque was at his most Fauvist, you can tell that by the time he painted The Large Trees, L’Estaque, that he’s starting to waver.

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. Unfortunately, unlike the Cubist painting, I could not actually visit this one in person so I has to analyse an online reproduction. They vary so much too, here are just two of the ‘versions’ of reproductions I could see online. I have choose to use the one from the official website where the painting resides (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) as (hopefully) this should be the most faithful.

Boats on the Beach
Georges Braque (France, 1882-1963)
France, 1906
Paintings
Oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (49.53 x 69.85 cm) Frame: 27 × 31 × 4 in. (68.58 × 78.74 × 10.16 cm)
Gift of Anatole Litvak (53.55.1)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© 2015 Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format, but I keep the comparison grid that my tutor liked on the previous assignment feedback.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The boat in the foreground, then the boats behind in the middle ground, then the sky.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? My eyes strayed out of the picture at the sky and then back in on the reflection on the water and the boats on the right.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? The little town in the background looks like it has a smoking chimney stack in it.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? That boat at the front
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.

Colour:

    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very wide colour palate which is not all realistic but conveys an atmosphere of joy.
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Yes, seemingly everywhere
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? It’s mostly balanced but perhaps a bit on the warm side or that could be an optical illusion of the colours.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? All the colours are bright.
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used? The only dark colours really are blues, greens and purples. The purples form the shadows and the colour of the distant hills, the blue is in the water is quite dark, and in the dark blue contours and there are some darker greens as shadowy bits in the boats and in the background.

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Not as wide as it first looks, there’s no blacks or whites

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest, the boats on the water, the lands edge and the boats masts against the dramatic sky

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms and boundaries such as where the water meets the land

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition and model shadows without using dark and light tints.

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? Like the Cubist work, the paint has been applied smoothly in some places and in little dabbing strokes in others. Unlike the Cubist work, here the brush strokes are much looser. Its difficult to tell from the small online reproduction anything about the texture or thickness of the application.
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It’s not really the medium that is used unconventionally but the colours.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? The mood is a joyous reflection of nature
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? not especially

need this large gap because the table runs into the side of the blog

 

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Effect: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Technique: Yellow Seacoast Effect: Yellow Seacoast
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what. Y The boat in the foreground overlaps the water, the masts of the background boats are  overlapping the town on the horizon and the pontoon
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale Y  The painting has tradition one point perspective with large close boats in the foreground and smaller boats in the background
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective Maybe Its hard to tell if the colour purplish in the background hills is to represent atmospheric perpective of just because he wanted them purple
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top Y  The boats in the background are above the ones in the forground
(e) linear perspective Y there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious Y  You can tell by the boat in the forground and the one just behind it, there might as well be drawn on  guide lines
(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above Y Yes but very slight. There is slight modelling on the boats using colours

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal):  There are implied diagonal lines as you look up the beach from the stern of the boat in the foreground. From there your eye zigzags across the painting along the towns horizontal line, up the slope of the hills to be carried across by the texture in the sky. Several points in this visual zigzag are broken by ship masts pointing into the sky or from the edge of the sky, down the masts into their reflections on the water and across the other colourful water reflection lines.

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness.  True to Fauvist style many of the main objects (such as the boats and waters edge) are outlined in thick contour lines. This has the effect of breaking the colours reactions to each other by circling in dark blue. Other elements are not outlined, allowing the colours to react against each other, for example in the purple of the hills and the red of the sky.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

It looks like he’s expeimenting with colour theory. Many places that I’ve read that the fauves and the expressionists were similar but I don’t think so at all. Superficially maybe, they both use lots of bright direct colours in their work, not necessarily naturalistic either. They also use similar subject matter. But the expressionists seem to be full of anger, doom and gloom. Their colours are used to spit in your eye. The colours in this painting are clearly coming from a different place.

Context & Meaning:

much of my Fauve background reading notes I’ve left in this blog post

https://westernarthistorybysuzy.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/cubism-and-fauvism-research-summary/

The name of The Fauves is from the French Les Fauves, wild beasts, this was a derogatory term coined from the first Exhibition where these bright colourful canvases were hung all together in one room with a Henri Rousseau and more traditional sculpture for maximum contrast. Colour was freed from descriptive representation and used to represent emotions. Braque came to Fauvism late and left early to move towards a more geometric look before fully developing Cubism with Picasso.

Fauvism’s hallmark was amplifying colours and making them richer than they are in real life. A pale red leaf might become a fiery red colour in a Fauvist painting, whilst a splash of watery yellow sunset on the sea would become a strong, bold yellow. (Georgesbraque.net, 2017)

André Derain, Landscape of the Midi, oil on canvas, 1906, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The choppy dabbing brushstrokes are reminiscent of Van Gogh, or some contemporary work by André Derain but the space on the picture plain is less flat than Derain’s work (eg Landscape of the Midi, 1906)

 

 

 

‘The principles of Fauvism may be listed briefly as follows: construction of space with colour, purity and simplification of technique, economy of means’. (Ferrier, 1995)

Braque had plenty of opportunities to paint boats and their masts up on the sky when he lived in Antwerp in 1906 with Friesz eg Le Mat – Le Port d’Anvers, 1906. As with those paintings, here he paints across the water, with no figures and a sense of separateness from the local town although the bright Mediterranean light would have been a much intense than the grey atmosphere of Antwerp.

The composition follows the Impressionists basis for framing the landscape in a 1:2 sky/land ratio, and weighted in the lower left corner. Due to social and economic changes in French tourist towns between the visits from the Impressionists and the Fauves, the Fauves were more likely to make their landscapes nonspecific and idealistic.

Braque painted the same scene over and again until he’d worked out the nuances of the water, wood and rock. Eg Paysage a L’Estaque  (landscape at L’Estaque), 1906 and Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) 1906, Fridart Foundation. They evoke a more daytime feeling that this one which seems like it might be painted at sunrise or sunset when you see the three together you can see more of the colours are representational after all. Painting L’Estaque was a rite of passage for the Normans, allowing them into the fauve circles.

Georges Braque – Paysage a L’Estaque (landscape at L’Estaque), autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas, 49.9x 61cm, Private collection
Georges Braque – Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas,, 50×61 cm, Fridart Foundation

Dufy, Braque & Friesz all came from Le Havre, in Normandy. Dubbed The Fauves Havrais, they have a slightly different take than the more Southern Fauves.  Friesz & Dufy had been taught by the same local art teacher, Charles Lhuillier of Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Braque his successor. At different times they all received a grant to go to Paris. Also at different times they all entered the studio of Leon Bonnat at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Braque initially studied art at night school and had an apprenticeship with House painter Laberthe. He did military service 1901-2, then off to Academie Humbert, Paris. All three artist spent some time together in the studio of Bonnat in 1903, having an impressionistic style in muted colours.

The Fauve landscape book has a fascinating timeline featuring all the fauves, I picked out the Braque bits:

Start of 1904  – Braque studying in Paris and living at 48 rue d’Orsel.

Summer 1904  – he holidays in Brittany and Normandy. Spends time in Le Pouldu near pont-aven where Gauguin painted.

Summer 1905  – he stays with sculptor Manolo (Manuel Martinez Hugue) & the critic Maurice Raynal in Honfleur and Le Havre. According to note 52 (G. Habasque, Les Soirees de Paris, 1954, p37), (Freeman, J, 1990) he acquired a Gabon mask from a sailor.

1906 June – September – Braque and Friesz stay in Antwerp painting the harbour.

Mid-september to Oct 1906 – He’s back in Paris after staying with friesz in nearby Durtal at painter Alexis Axilette’s home.

October – Nov 1906 Fourth Salon d’Automne exhibition features many Fauve works (not braque yet thou)

October 1906 Cezanne died

October – February 1906/7 – Braque stays in L’Estaque at the Hotel Maurin. Starts painting in Fauve style.

Nov – Dec 1906 – Derain back in L’Estaque and writing to Vlaminck notes that Braque, Friesz, Girieud are there and most of the artists from the Salon des Independants are in the region. Matisse spends 8 days there on his was to Collioure.

1907 Mar – april – Matisse is on the hanging committee of the 23rd Salon des independents. Braque exhibits & sells six paintings including those made at L’Estaque. 5 bought by Uhde and 1 by Kahnweiler. Vauxcelles describes the fauve movement as dangerous (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 spring – After possibly travelling to Le Havre to prepare for the Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition that is open in early June, Braque and Friesz go to the south of France. Derain convinces Picasso to visit the ethnographic museum at the Palais de Trocadero. (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 April – Braque meets Kahnweiler, who’d already met Picasso.

1907 may-early September – Braque and friesz in La Ciotat

1907 early june – Braque exhibits two in 2nd exhibition of the Cercle de l’Art Moderne along with other fauves.

1907 summer – Kahnweiler buying many paintings from the fauves including braque.

1907 July – Braque & Friesz stay at the Hotel Cendrillion, Cassis, and the visit Derain (note 190: 9/7/1907 postcard from Friesz to Druet)

1907 July/Aug – Braque & Friesz at La Ciotat and Matisse visits on his way to Italy.

1907 late August – Braque in l’Estaque, sends his Salon submission recommendations to Kahnweiler

1907 September – Braque and Friesz return to Paris. Braque sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon with Apollinaire (notes 199, 200: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 346-47) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1907 Autumn – Matisse exchanges paintings with Picasso. ‘Mercure de france publishes Cezanne’s correspondence with Bernard, which serves as the clearest statement published to date of cezanne’s ideas about composition and form’ (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Nov – ‘Braque goes to l’Estaque, following the Cezanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne’ (note 206:  Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 347), (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Oct – 5th Salon d’Automne. Braque only one painting. Matisse and Marquetry fauves on the jury.

1907 Nov-Dec – Matisse and Derain maybe see Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

1907 Dec – Braque begins to pain Nu (completed in June 1908)

1908 February – Braque and Picasso make drawings of deaf female model, (Freeman, J, 1990) p109

1908 March – May – 24th Salon des Independants. Braque shows 5. ‘In his review Apollinaire says that Braque’s work is the most original effort of the Salon’ p110 ( note 218: Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Les Salon des Independants’ Les Revue des lettres et des arts, May 1, 1908) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 April – may – Braque shows 5 in Salon de la Toison d’Or, Moscow

1908 April – Burgess and Inez Haynes Irwin visit Braque’s Parisian studio (note 222: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 350) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 after May 2nd – Braque goes to help organise Cercle de l’Art Moderne in Le Havre

1908 Mid may – Braque stays for a 3rd visit in L’Estaque, this time at Hotel Maurin.

1908 June – Braque shows 2 in Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition

1908 summer – Braque joined in l’Estaque by Dufy. He possibly visited Derain in Martigues

1908 September – Matisse sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon according to Gertrude Stein (note 237: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 354-441) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 October – Nov – 6th Salon d’Automne. Matisse has his own section which gets positive reviews from the critics (note 239: Louis Vauxcelles, ‘Les Salon d’Automne’, Gil Blas, Sept 30,1908), (Freeman, J, 1990). Matisse and Marquet on the jury. 6 pictures by braque rejected, Marquet saved one. Braque removed himself entirely to show later that November at Kahnweilers gallery. It was his first one man show. 27 works 1906-8 with catalogue text by Apollinaire. Vauxcelles repeats Matisse cube observations in his review.

1908 Nov – Picasso hosts a banquet for Rousseau. Apollinaire, Braque, Friesz, Marie Laurencin Andre Salmon Gertrude Stein + others also attended.

1908 Late Nov – Braque in Le Havre

1908/9 Dec/jan – Braque shows six in group exhibition Gallerie Notre-Dame-Des-Champs.

1908 December – Matisse published notes of a painter

See the final annotation here.

References:

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago

Freeman, J. [et al.]. (1990) The Fauve Landscape. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ferrier, J. (1995). The Fauves. Paris: Terrail.

Georgesbraque.net. (2017). Yellow Seacoast by Georges Braque. [online] Available at: http://www.georgesbraque.net/yellow-seacoast/ [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Georges Braque. The Large Trees. L’Estaque 1906-07 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/78668 [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

Exhibition: David Hockney at the Tate Britain 

I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed an exhibition more than the recent David Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain. It spanned a period of 60 years of creating, as he approached his 80th birthday he’s amazingly still learning new technology and has replaced his sketchbook now entirely with an ipad!

This exhibition shows how the roots of each new direction lay in the work that came before (Tate Britain, 2017a)

I tried to make some notes on my way around the exhibition, which I’ve supplemented with the supplied room guide (picture above). I actually bought the catalogue too.

Room One: PLAY WITHIN A PLAY

intro room:

I felt that this was the introduction room for those who don’t know Hockneys work. Probably so you don’t launch straight into room 2, which is probably the less interesting one in the show (at least I thought so). After this intro room the show progresses mostly chronologically. It also allows the show to come full circle as some works in the last room of the exhibition relate to those in this room. Showing, through the exhibition Hockneys subtle use of repeating themes. This room sets the scene for the rest, setting the viewer thinking about how Hockney questions the conventions of picture making and illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface. It’s quite clever curation.

Play Within a Play 1963

David Hockney – Play Within A Play, 1963
oil on canvas and plexi, 72×78 in. © David Hockney

Inspired by the image of his friend John Kasmin, pressing himself against the glass door of the gallery, this large painting plays with illusion, reality of 3D space with theatrical panache. Kasmin is painted on the canvas standing with his back against a tapestry backdrop/curtain in a tiny space, with a chair next to him. A plexi-glass sheet is a few inches in front of the canvas with his pressed hands and body imprinted on that so what appears real is an illusion and what appears to be an illusion is actually there. Clearly inspired by Domenichino’s Apollo killing the Cyclops, 1616-18 from the National Gallery (below). Hockney has a vast understanding and appreciation of art history (I’m still reading his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters) so it’s unsurprising that he would take an old Fresco as his starting point here. Similarly with 4 Blue Stools, 2014 (also in the room), Hockney is playing with illusion of space and reality. Here he’s using stitched together digital photos to create a scene which on first glance looks real but is actually impossible.

Domenichino and assistants, 1581 – 1641, Apollo killing the Cyclops
1616-18, Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board, 316.3 x 190.4 cm
Bought, 1958. NG6290, This painting is part of the group: ‘Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes’ (NG6284-NG6291), https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6290
David Hockney – Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975, Oil on canvas, 6′ x 60 1/8″ (182.9 x 152.7 cm)
Gift of the artist, J. Kasmin, and the Advisory Committee Fund

Kerby (After Hogarth) Useful Knowledge 1975

The title refers to John Kirby’s 1754 pamphlet on linear perspective, cleverly illustrated by William Hogarth with his engraving Satire on False Perspective. The inscription of which reads

Whoever makes a DESIGN without the Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE will be liable to such Absurdities as are shewn in this Frontispiece (Hogarth).

Throughout the exhibition it becomes obvious that Hockney is obsessed with issues pertaining to the convention of one-point perspective, so it’s no wonder he remade this parody of false perspective. This is another example where the scene, which on first glance looks real, is actually impossible. I’m not sure of the significance of the stand-in of Michelangelo’s David, presumably some sort of artistic in-joke.

William Hogarth – Satire on False Perspective, 1754, Engraving

Model with Unfinished Self-Portrait 1977

David Hockney – Self-Portrait With Blue Guitar, 1977
oil on canvas, 60×72 in. © David Hockney

I didn’t realise at the time but just rereading the title here and the blurb from the exhibition room guide, the figure of Hockney in this one is actually a picture within a picture. It’s the unfinished “Self-Portrait with a blue guitar”, 1977. And the curtain in both paintings looks to be the curtain attached to yet another, unseen painting on an easel behind the sleeping figure of Hockneys boyfriend.

David Hockney – Model With Unfinished Self-Portrait, 1977
oil on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney

Rubber Ring Floating in a Swimming Pool 1971

I think of all the paintings in the first room this was my favourite. A witty take on abstract art, which is blasted once you read the title and cannot unsee the realistic representation.

David Hockney – Rubber Ring Floating In a Swimming Pool, 1971
acrylic on canvas, 36×48 in. © David Hockney

Room two: DEMONSTRATIONS OF VERSATILITY

David Hockney – The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961, oil on canvas, 68×60 1/2 in. © David Hockney

Early work. This room, of all the rooms, I found the least interesting, because it’s the least Hockney-esk. This room showed works from his early years at art school, where he was showing off his art prowess and trying on different styles. As he noted, ‘I deliberately set out to prove I could do four entirely different sorts of picture like Picasso.

Although I did like The Cha Cha That Was Danced in The Early Hours of 24th March, 1961 and some of the ones with Graffiti in them.

 

Initially, Hockney experimented with abstraction, making a small group of free-flowing paintings in which symbols of personal desire began to emerge. As his interest in different pictorial conventions and concepts of space developed, he employed graffiti, cryptic codes, phallic shapes and freehand writing to suggest themes of sex and love. Here, child-like scrawled bodies, identified by numbers corresponding to letters of the alphabet, are situated in areas of spatial ambiguity, offering recognisable representation while drawing attention to formal qualities such as texture and brushwork. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room three: PAINTINGS WITH PEOPLE IN

David Hockney – Domestic Scene, Los Angeles 1963, oil on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney
David Hockney – California Art Collector, 1964
acrylic on canvas, 60×72 in. © David Hockney

Largely based on his first exhibition, Paintings with People In, at the Kasmin Gallery in London in 1963. A few from his series Domestic Scenes, celebrating longer term gay relationships with portraits of the domesticity between couples. The paintings from this point start to be more observational.

Illusion and artifice remained a strong feature of his work of this period, typified by paintings including a curtain. The curtain frames the passage of light, identifying the stage of Hockney’s painting as a theatre of representation. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

The hypnotist 1963. I love the ‘rays’ from the hypnotist’s fingers zapping towards the other figure and the way the figures are so near the edges of the frame with the massive space between them.

David Hockney – The hypnotist 1963. © David Hockney

Room four: SUNBATHER

From 1964, Hockney lived in his ‘promised land’ of Los Angeles. The images in this room reflect his sunny outlook where he found inspiration in the outside spaces, geometric office blocks, patterns in swimming pools and gardens. These are possible what he’s best well known for.

I love the simplicity in A lawn being sprinkled 1967. I enjoyed being able to see in person how crisp those lines are of the jets of water, and how the lawn texture is built up (you cannot really glean this from a picture) and how the lawn and sprinklers seems to come out at you whilst the grey building behind recedes. I could almost hear the sound of sprinklers when I stood before this painting.

David Hockney – A Lawn Being Sprinkled, 1967
acrylic on canvas, 60×60 in. © David Hockney

A bigger splash 1967

Unlike Britain, swimming pools aren’t seen as a luxury in California and they feature heavily in Hockney’s work around this time. So much has been written about this painting it’s hard to know where to start. I love that he said the part that took the longest to paint was the splash when in reality the splash is the most transient part of the painting. Todo: further reading links: here, here and audio here.

Hockney’s laboriously painted splash might be seen as a dig at the macho spontaneity associated with abstract expressionism (Tate Britain, 2017b)

A Bigger Splash 1967 David Hockney born 1937 Purchased 1981 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03254

Sunbather 1966

He was obsessed with how to depict transparency, of glass and especially of constantly moving water. I didn’t realise that the patterns in the water are from the painted pattern on the bottom of patterned until I saw some photographs of it (later in the exhibition). I thought they were stylistic references to sun glitter but they convey the feeling of the motion of the pool either way. Futurist tendancies Mr Hockney?

David Hockney – Sunbather 1966, © David Hockney

Man in the shower in Beverly Hills. 1964

David Hockney – Man in Shower in Beverly Hills 1964, Purchased 1980, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03074
© David Hockney

Hockney has said: ‘For an artist the interest in showers is obvious: the whole body is always in view and in movement, usually gracefully, as the bather is caressing his own body. There is also a three hundred year old tradition of the bather as a subject in painting.’ (Tate, 2017c)

Savings and loan building 1967: Abstract art was dominant at this time and in typical witty Hockney fashion he satirises this by representing observed, realistic looking office building as a modernist grid style.

David Hockney – Savings and loan building 1967
© David Hockney

Room five: TOWARDS NATURALISM

Towards the end of the 1960s, naturalistic representations of the human figure became a key element in Hockney’s work. Drawn to the psychological and emotional implications of two figures within enclosed settings, Hockney worked directly from a circle of friends and acquaintances in a series of double portraits that capture their intimate and often complex relationships. Near life-sized, these carefully staged compositions combine informal poses and settings with the grandeur and formality of traditional portraiture. Almost all these works are painted in acrylic, which dries quickly and cannot be scraped off the canvas, thus demanding a greater degree of planning and meticulous application. This process, with its greater capacity for scrutiny and observation, meant that Hockney could work from photographic studies to sketch out overall compositions but he chose to paint his figures from life. (Tate,2017b)

I loved this room. Here I show them in chronological order, except the first, which I remember seeing first in this gallery, fresh from the sunny swimming pools to serious contemplation on art history, was this intentional curation to emphasis the varied nature of Hockneys interests?

Looking at Pictures on a Screen 1977
Henry Geldzahler studying reproductions of historic paintings in Hockney’s studio. I thought this must be the start of the ‘great wall’ of images that Hockney gathered together for his thesis and book Secret Knowledge? Interesting to see the seat, for viewing the picture he is gazing at. I wondered why not have them all on one wall so you can sit in one place and look to see which one you want? I wondered how much of this was staged.

David Hockney – Looking At Pictures On A Screen, 1977
oil on canvas, 74×74 in. © David Hockney

I love his series of double portraits. As I discovered when researching the Arnofini Portrait, a double portrait is a complex thing. With one person in a portrait, the artists wants to capture the likeness/personality of the sitter, his or her relationship to their surroundings, and to their relationship to the viewer. For a double portrait he has to think about all that for two sitters, plus the relationship between them.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970–71

David Hockney – Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, 1970 – 71
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

Fashion designer Ossie Clark and textile designer Celia Birtwell with their cat in their Notting Hill home shortly after their wedding (where Hockney was best man).

This is much larger than I imagined. Hockney really must have laid the acrylic paint on thickly here because can hardly see the texture of the canvas at all, the surface is completely smooth. He’s made things hard for himself here by situating them against the light. Usually in his double portrait paintings, one of them is looking at the other (to create a “cyclical movement of looking” (Tate, 2017d), see the two others below), here both figures stare out at the viewer, as with the Arnolfini portrait (AP), the viewer feels like a third person in the room, as though you’ve just walked in they both turn to look at you. Perhaps they couldn’t agree on who should look at whom, it is a power play? Percy, the cat looking out of the window from Ossie’s lap, takes the place of the little dog from the AP, but whereas the dog represented fidelity, the cat has “symbolic resonances of the libertine and somebody who disregards rules and does as they please” (Tate, 2017d). This is sort of reflected in Ossie’s relaxed seated pose too. Oh Dear. Celia’s pose looks more guarded, and her expression almost rueful. His expression seems very serious. His bare feet are buried in the rug, and as with the AP, Celias long dress covers hers entirely. Traditionally lillies were symbol of the Annunciation and feminine purity, they sit in the foreground close to her. Hockney has reversed one of the conventions of wedding portraiture by having the man seated while the woman stands, and the two figures are separated by the large open window, perhaps Hockney subconciously picked up signed that their marriage wouldnt last right from the beginning? If Hockney was drawing some parallel between the two paintings he may have also got a kick out of the fact that this was their bedroom but doesn’t look like it, and the AP is not their bedroom but everyone thinks it is (because of the bed)!

Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 1968
English novelist and playwright Christopher Isherwood (right) and his partner, artist Don Bachardy, in their Californian home.

David Hockney – Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, 1968
acrylic on canvas, 83 1/2 x 119 1/2 in. © David Hockney

Interestingly, in this portrait, the background is strangely similar but this time the blinds are firmly closed. Both figures are seated and the light streams in from the right. One looks to the other, who looks at the viewer, creating that aforementioned cyclical relationship. There is a bowl of fruit between them on the table and a stack of books on either side, one more book on the left that the right presumably to break up the symmetry? The power somehow feels more balanced in their relationship as represented than either of the one above or the one below.

Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969
The figure in the centre is Henry Geldzahler, friend of Hockney and his partner, painter Christopher Scott, looks on. This one is interesting, when continuing to think about the power distribution in the relationship. Here, we as the viewer are at eye level with the seated figure who is looking at us. His partner is looking at him, and standing off to the side with his coat on. Geldzahler was the Curator of Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum, New York at the time so he almost looks like he could be conducting an interview here, sitting right in the middle of the sofa is a massive power play, especially when you can make or break the career of everyone in the room. This window has no blinds at all, combined with the view of skyscapers one could assume they are in an expensive high rise appartment. The window, the glass table and Geldzahler’s glasses allow Hockney to play again with three different interpretations on the transparnecy of glass. Although the window is behind them, the light is coming from an unknown source from the left, and since the lamp is not on, this is most likely daylight from another great window.

David Hockney – Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott 1969, © David Hockney

American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman) 1968

David Hockney – American Collectors (Fred & Marcia Weisman), 1968
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

American art collectors Fred and Marcia Weisman outside their modernist Los Angeles house with sculptures by British artists Henry Moore and William Turnbull in the garden. I love how he’s choosen the paint them out here as though they are works or art along with their statues.

Jason Brooks – Neutra House. © Jason Brooks 2015

Some of Hockneys work reminds me of the work of artist Jason Brooks (famous for Hed Kandi Illustrations). I wouldnt be suprised if Brooks if heavily influenced by Hockney. They live in the same sun drenched, stylish, happy flat world.

 

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972

David Hockney – Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures), 1972
acrylic on canvas, 84×120 in. © David Hockney

Painted at the time of their break-up, Hockney’s then boyfriend, artist Peter Schlesinger, looks down at the figure of John St Clair, one of Hockney’s assistants, swimming underwater. (Tate, 2017b)

I found it interesting that the blurb in the booklet stressed that they’d just split up. It makes you assume from the picture that something was going on romantically between the two figures in the painting and perhaps this is the reason for the break up (I have no idea if this is true or not though).  Why would you paint someone like this if you were broken up with them? Was this painting, getting them together like this the cause of the breakup? The blurb poses more questions than the painting alone would have done. Interestingly in this painting, neither people in the painting is looking at the viewer, we’re all looking at the man in the pool, and the other man looking at the man in the pool, interesting when the view out across the mountains is spectacular and no one is looking at that.

My Parents 1977
The artist’s parents, Kenneth and Laura Hockney.

In this work, painted a year before his father’s death, Hockney’s style has shifted towards a closer study of human behaviour. His mother poses, attentive and graceful, while his father, who fidgeted during sittings, was painted reading Aaron Scharf’s book Art and Photography. A book on Chardin draws a parallel with intimate domestic scenes of the past, as do the volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past visible on the shelf. Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ (now in the National Gallery; see below) is reflected in the mirror, forming a triptych with the two figures. Gallery label, August 2004 (Tate, 2017e)

David Hockney – My Parents, 1977
oil on canvas, 72×72 in. © David Hockney

I found it really interesting that he abandoned painting a self-portrait in the mirror in a 1975 version of this but I cannot work out if that means anything or if I’m reading too much into it? Placing himself in the middle connects the two figures of his mother and father in a familial relationship. Placing The Baptism of Christ in the middle, as it was in the middle of the altarpiece, makes the two painted portraits of his parents essentially panels either side (as there were panels either side it on the altarpiece painted by another painter). Is this another art history play with reality vs painted surface conundrum? Also, this one struck me suddenly again, how many square paintings he has in this exhibition, in this one its obvious because he’s left the top of the painting unadorned, perhaps as space for God the Father (the third member of the Trinity) which may have originally have been represented in a roundel above The Baptism of Christ.

Piero della Francesca, about 1415/20 – 1492 – ‘The Baptism of Christ’, 1450s
Egg on poplar, 167 x 116 cm
Bought, 1861, NG665, https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG665

Contre-jour in the French style – against the day dans le style-francais 1974

David Hockney – Contre-Jour in the French Style-Against the day Dans Le Style-Francais, 1974
oil on canvas, 72×72 in. © David Hockney

The last one on the way out of this room caught my eye. this fantastic 70’s wallpaper with the beautiful formal garden beyond. This was directly inspired by a window in the Lourve.

 

 

 

 

 “The first time I went,” he wrote, “I saw this window with the blind pulled down and the formal garden beyond. And I thought, oh it’s marvellous! marvellous! This is a picture in itself … So I took some photographs of it, made a drawing, and started painting.” (David Hockney. My Early Years, op. cit., p285) Consciously drawing on a traditionally French style, the pointillist technique of the neo-Impressionists, helped him to loosen his brushwork again, and from the start the painting went well. The result beautifully depicts the light passing through the translucent blind and its reflection in the parquet floor. (Sykes, C S, 2012)

Room six: CLOSE LOOKING

David Hockney, Study of Water, Phoenix Arizona 1976, crayon on paper, 40.6 x 45.4 cm
© David Hockney

I spent ages in here, the behind the scenes room full of sketches, prep drawings and pen & inks. I love the outline ink on paper portraits and seeing the difference using a camera lucidia had on his drawing. And his study of water, phonex arizona 1976 crayon on paper. Too much looking and not enough note taking for this room thou! The blurb from the exhibition booklet states the following:

From the beginning Hockney’s ability at drawing has provided the bedrock for his art. The earliest work here, a self-portrait, was made when he was a teenager. For Hockney, drawing is primarily a way of looking more intently. Many of the drawings in this room – in pen and ink and in coloured crayon – are from the late 1960s and 1970s. At this time, Hockney developed a way of working that enabled him to capture the essence of a scene with the most economical of means: a few lines express the character of a sitter; one or two items conjure the feeling of a place or a moment in time. Because Hockney tends to make drawings when away from the studio, many reflect his travels and include friends and boyfriends in exotic places, the loneliness of hotel rooms or the pleasures of a lazy lunch. In the 1990s, Hockney proposed that many artists since the Renaissance had used optics as aids to depiction. He made a series of drawings using a camera lucida, a device which transfers the observed object to enable the artist to draw it with optical accuracy. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

David Hockney, W.H. Auden I 1968, pen and ink on paper, 43 x 35.5 cm
© David Hockney, photo: Richard Schmidt

Room seven: A BIGGER PHOTOGRAPHY

This room was dedicated to Hockneys ‘photography’. I remember being especially inspired by this when I was at high school. It’s really much harder than it looks to make a decent looking picture using this technique, especially with a film camera. I can see why he used polaroids to start with which he got used to the technique. A continuation of Hockneys issues with single-point perspective and a revisit to many familiar themes. Taking a cubist approach and trying to communicate the experience of the world as it actually is in 3 dimensions.

He described conventional photography as akin to ‘looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops – for a split second.’ In contrast, he sought to create a photography that could accommodate different viewpoints as well as time and movement. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Billy +Audrey wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982

David Hockney, Billy + Audrey Wilder, Los Angeles, April 1982, 1982. © David Hockney

Don+Christopher, Los Angeles, 6th March 1982

Gregory swimming, Los Angeles, March 31st 1982

David Hockney – Gregory Swimming Los Angeles March 31st 1982. Composite Polaroid. Collection of the artist. © David Hockney

Capturing the motion of a swimmer around the pool.

Grand canyon with foot, arizona, Oct 1982

He got tired of the annoying white borders so swicthed to 35mm photographs. This was an extrodinary collage of 35mm borderless images with the artists foot right on the edge of the cliff. Vertigo inducing. This one doesnt really incorporate motion unlike the next…

Walking in the Zen Garden at the ryoanji Temple, kyoto, Feb 1983

David Hockney – Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Feb 1983, photographic collage, © David Hockney

Another foot one, which shows a tranquil walk around a Japanese Zen garden.

The scrabble game, Jan 1983

David Hockney, The Scrabble Game, 1 January 1983 (1983) , Polaroid composite. Collection of David Hockney © David Hockney

I love this slice of family life one, reminds me of playing scrabble (very badly, and taking pictures) at my husbands family.

Pearblossom hwy 11-18th April 1986 #1

David Hockney – Pearblossom Highway, 11-18 April 1986 #1, Collage, © David Hockney

This is the famous one that everyone knows. Its huge!

Room eight: EXPERIENCES OF SPACE

I wasnt so keen on the this room. Too ‘jazzy’ and abstract. I dont think abstract was really his speciality (with the exception maybe of The eleventh v.n. Painting 1992). The discordant colours made my eyes sore. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it a bit more once I’ve studied part 5 of the coursework. These did catch my eye (in a good way) though:

Breakfast at malibu, Sunday, 1989 & Breakfast at malibu, Wednesday, 1989

David Hockney – Breakfast at Malibu, Sunday, 1989. oil on canvas. © David Hockney
David Hockney – Breakfast at Malibu, Wednesday, 1989. oil on canvas. © David Hockney

 

 

 

 

 

I love everything about them, the setting. the different tea sets, the view, the handling of the sea, the table surfaces, the title that specifies the day but not the month. everything.

Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990

David Hockney – Pacific coast highway and santa Monica, 1990, © David Hockney

This looks abstract at first glance but is actually very realistic view of winding roads and a high up view of Santa Monica (very small buildings on a giant curve of the bay). It has lots of texture. I’ve never been there but if I ever get the chance to go and see this view in person I’ll be delighted.

Through the 1980s and 1990s Hockney’s paintings focused on the experience of looking. The freedom and variety of markmaking within his paintings of this period – descriptive and decorative, denoting space, material and experience – reflect the layers of memory and invention within them. The post-cubist space that he created during this period was applied to landscapes and interior scenes of his new home in the Hollywood Hills. Landscape became the subject for paintings that were about moving through the terrain, the winding roads of Nichols Canyon and Outpost Drive being routes from his hilltop home to his studio. In these works flatness collides with illusion of spatial depth. But above all, these are paintings through which the eye dances, drawn by a sensuousness of line and colour where edges of viewpoints fold into and across each other. Hockney’s painting describes the complexities of space and there was an interchange at this period between his designs for operas and his painting. One tool he exploited was reverse perspective, which in his stage designs was intended to make the audience feel directly involved in the production by exploiting fluctuations of deep and shallow space. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room nine: EXPERIENCES OF PLACE

This room concentrates on Hockneys time in the late 1990s when he was producing landscapes (East Yorkshire where his mum lived, Grand Canyon, his house in Hollywood). I especially liked his images from Yorkshire, the English countryside is bright colours of summer and hairpin turns in the roads vividly reminds me of my frequent trips down to Dorset where you get glimpses of bright yellow rape seed, greenary and various other amazing field patterns whilst trying to fight off the spectacular carsickness.

David Hockney – Going Up Garrowby Hill, 2000, © David Hockney

He used multiple viewpoints to create a sense of his movement through the landscape, in particular up and down Garrowby Hill which rises from the Plain of York to the higher Wolds. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

The road across the wolds 1997

David Hockney – The road across the wolds 1997 © David Hockney

15 canvas study of the Grand canyon 1998

His multi canvas work is so big it lends some of the vastness of the view by being so vast itself. There is apparently a 60 canvas version! (see here)

David Hockney – 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, 1998 oil on 15 canvases, © David Hockney

Hockney also determined to paint the vast spaces of the American landscape. When he saw the Grand Canyon described as ‘the despair of the painter’ he could not resist the challenge, capturing the view with multiple perspectives. In depicting such places Hockney created an illusion of depth by the use of a foreground plain on which were arrayed objects, whether bails of wheat or small desert bushes. These derived directly from the abstract forms in his ‘very new paintings’ of a few years earlier (in the previous room) which themselves had been influenced by his stage work. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room ten: THE WOLDS

This was what my friend described as the room full of worm paintings (because of blossom on some has a giant maggoty feeling to it). She’d seen them at the Royal academy show a few years back (unfortunately I didn’t make that one) and they are amazing. Huge studies of the English landscape across multiple canvases, May blossom on the Roman Road 2009 in particular clearly has a Van Goghishness about the sky.

Hawthorn blossom near Rudston 2008

David Hockney – Hawthorne Blossom Near Rudston , 2008 oil on canvas, two panels, 60 x 96 in, © David Hockney, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas

David Hockney – May blossom on the Roman Road 2009, oil on eight canvas, © David Hockney

Woldgate woods, 6&9 November 2006. 6 canvas

David Hockney – Woldgate Woods, 6 & 9 November 2006. Oil on 6 canvas 78in x 152in. © David Hockney

 

Six part study for bigger trees, 2007

In 2006 Hockney returned to his native Yorkshire to paint the changing light, space and landscape of the Wolds. Works such as The Road to Thwing 2006 and A Closer Winter Tunnel, February – March 2006 show that Hockney was painting outside on larger canvases, sometimes moving between several before assembling them to create the effect of a single image. His move to a warehouse studio in Bridlington enabled him to create ever more complex and expansive pictures and begin exploring computer-generated images to aid their production. Hockney shares with earlier artists including the Romantics an engagement with the landscape based on memory and observation, but his focus is different. ‘Artists thought the optical projection of nature was verisimilitude, which is what they were aiming for,’ he said, ‘But in the 21st century, I know that is not verisimilitude. Once you know that, when you go out to paint, you’ve got something else to do. I do not think the world looks like photographs. I think it looks a lot more glorious than that’ (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room eleven: THE FOUR SEASONS

video room

Following on from the big trees and woods pictures in the previous room, this video room gives a slightly motion-sickness-inducing look at a similar scene across 4 seasons. I didn’t even know Hockney did video installations but here they are. Like his photography, it isn’t just from one point perspective. It’s like cubist video would be. On each wall is a giant bank of screens showing one season creating an immersive environment.

In 2010 Hockney began making multi-screen video works by fixing a number of cameras (one or each screen in the final work) to the outside of a vehicle which was then driven along the road at Woldgate, near Bridlington, Yorkshire. The result was like a cubist film, showing different aspects of the same scene as perceived by a moving observer. As well as an exploration of the way a subject is seen over time, this work was a celebration of the miracle of the seasons. The experience of spring in 2002, after more than twenty years in seasonless California, had been one of the stimuli for Hockney settling in Yorkshire for about a decade. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room twelve: YORKSHIRE AND HOLLYWOOD

I didnt write any notes for this room. Here is the blurb from the booklet:

Hockney’s move from Yorkshire back to the Hollywood Hills in 2013 was marked by two different views of the landscape. His last work in Yorkshire was a sequence of 25 charcoal drawings celebrating the arrival of spring at five locations along the singletrack road running between Bridlington and Kilham that had provided him with much of the subject matter for his painting of the previous years. The first works he made on his return to California were two charcoal drawings of his poolside garden at morning and evening.

The last four years have seen an intense diversification of Hockney’s practice and the media he has used in his constant search for ways to represent the world of three and four dimensions, emotion and feeling, on a two-dimensional surface. Through arrangements in his studio of furniture and people – family, close friends and assistants – he finds new ways to represent the experience of looking. His art springs from a personal environment, yet, for Hockney, the most important place is the studio, where his consistent questioning and hard looking is manifested in pictures that encompass and transform how we see and respond to the world around us. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

Room thirteen: iPADS

Ipads! And the card players, 2015,photographic drawing printed on paper and mounted on dibond

One of my favourite rooms, I spent ages in here watching the timelapse videos of how the images on the ipads gets built up. Despite the difference in technology his style still completely shines through. He’s totally given up using a normal sketchbook and draws on his ipad so he can email straight to his friends. This is amazing use of technology but given his age its extraordinary. I found it very inspiring.

David Hockney Ipad drawings (these two were a video them being created)

Hockney has always welcomed the challenge of picturing transparency. The sheen of glass, passage of light, splash of water, all predominate within his paintings, drawings and photography since the mid-1960s. Something else that has characterised his work from the outset when, as a student, he started printmaking, is his constant desire to master new media. In 2009 glass and technology came together in his discovery of the iPhone, and the following year the iPad, as a new drawing instrument. On the iPhone he drew on the small back-lit glass screen with the side of his thumb, changing to a stylus with the larger screen of the iPad, to offer a different variety of line and a new luminosity of colour. (Tate Britain, 2017b)

further reading todo:

References:
National Gallery. (2017) Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/piero-della-francesca-the-baptism-of-christ
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Sykes, C S. (2012) David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975.
Tate Britain. (2017a) David Hockney At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/david-hockney
(Accessed on 1 June 17)

Tate Britain (2017b) David Hockney Exhibition Room Guide. 

Tate Britain. (2017c) David Hockney – Man in Shower in Beverly Hills, 1964 At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-man-in-shower-in-beverly-hills-t03074
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Tate Britain. (2017d) David Hockney – Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-1 At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-mr-and-mrs-clark-and-percy-t01269
(Accessed on 7 June 17)
Tate Britain. (2017e) David Hockney- My Parents At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-my-parents-t03255
(Accessed on 7 June 17)

Hadleigh Castle Revisited

So following on from the first watercolour experiment I thought I’d have another go. I reviewed my reflection notes and to combat the curling sketchpad paper problem I raided the stationary for these —>

There was nothing I could do about the time limit issue, but to combat the cold and unpleasant outdoor experience I painted indoors from a photo I’d taken of a place I know very well, the ruins of 13th Century Hadleigh Castle. I was able to paint over 3 lunchtimes that way. Here is my finished picture:

Hadleigh Castle, Watercolour on paper
I was standing right on the edge of a drop here so Constable’s view no longer exists

In the eighteenth century ruins were a very popular topic for artists. Constable and J.M.W. Turner were among those who toured Britain in search of ruins and picturesque landscapes. I picked on Hadleigh because it is one of the locations that Constable had painted at. This view point isn’t exactly as his was because the area has changed quite a bit in the last almost 200 years. Whatever high viewing place he was situated on no longer exists. Neither does the large tree or half of the castle ruins. It also looks as though we’ve reclaimed a lot more land because I could only see the sea as a tiny blue line in the distance from where I stood.

Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night. 1829
John Constable, 1776–1837.
Oil on canvas
48 x 64 3/4 inches (121.9 x 164.5 cm)
© Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Reflection:

My paining is not as true to life as the photo. It would have been easier to paint if i hadn’t added the clouds but I thought it needed something other than blue sky. Also, Constable always had interesting skies in his pictures. He took scientific study of clouds to get them more accurate. Also, the colour of my sky is wrong, too deep. I enjoyed experimenting with the brush to create the different textures for the greenery but this wasn’t very 18th C of me because they were painstakingly meticulous and would have drawn it all much more accurately than I have the patience for unfortunately. I think this sketch was more successful than the last one (of St Pauls), because I am more comfortable indoors generally. I would not have had the time to paint this scene from life because it’s too far from London for a lunchtime jaunt and at the weekends I have my toddler with me. Also, the clips (and lack of wind) really helped with curling paper situation. I toyed with the idea or adding some people but in the end decided against it.

Constable’s Castle

Constable also didnt do his giant canvas in the field, he created this pencil sketch in 1814, the only time he visited Hadleigh.

He wrote to his future wife Maria: ‘At Hadleigh there is a ruin of a castle which from its situation is a really fine place – it commands a view of the Kent hills, the Nore and North Foreland & looking many miles to sea’ (letter of 3 July 1814; in R.B. Beckett, ed., John Constable’s Correspondence, II, Ipswich 1964, p.127).(Tate, 1998)

Hadleigh Castle, near Southend
Pencil, Page from a sketch book. Pencil drawing of Hadleigh castle.
8.3 cm x 11.1 cm
Given by Isabel Constable, daughter of the artist
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From that he made some oil sketches such as this one in the Tate to work out any kinks in the compositional details:

Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ c.1828-9 John Constable 1776-1837 Purchased 1935 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04810
© Tate 2017, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

As an aside, the technical paper on this sketch is very interesting. Explaing how they know that someone other than Constable has extended the canvas to add to the sketch and composition on the left (and slightly less on the right). Even in the small reproduction, once its been pointed out, you can clearly see the slightly yellow tone to the edge of the sky on the left and far right.

Constable started painting his 6 footers in 1818, and he submitted his Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1829, the year in which he was elected an Academician.

Constable’s wife Maria died in November 1828, and the sombre, desolate tone of the work is generally assumed to reflect his mood at this time. In a letter of 19 December of that year, he wrote to his brother Golding: ‘I shall never feel again as I have felt, the face of the World is totally changed to me‘ (in C.R. Leslie, ed. Hon. Andrew Shirley, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A., London 1937, p.234). (Tate, 1998)

References:

Duff, N. ‘Constable’s Sketch for Hadleigh Castle: A Technical Examination’, Tate Papers, no.5, Spring 2006. At http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/05/constables-sketch-for-hadleigh-castle-technical-examination (Accessed 9 May 2017)

English Heritage. (2006) History of Hadleigh Castle At: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hadleigh-castle/history/
(Accessed on 7 May 17)
Tate. (1998) Constable Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/constable-sketch-for-hadleigh-castle-n04810
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

V&A. (2017) Hadleigh Castle, near Southend Drawing Constable At: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/british-watercolours-landscape-genre/
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

Yale Centre for British Art. (2017) Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames–Morning after a Stormy Night, Constable At: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1669233
(Accessed on 7 May 17)

Painting Review: The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid

In preparation for assignment 4 annotations I have decided to research Goya’s famous The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid. I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. 

The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The Executions” Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de Copyright ©Museo Nacional del Prado https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-3rd-of-may-1808-in-madrid-or-the-executions/5e177409-2993-4240-97fb-847a02c6496c
The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The Executions”, 1814
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Oil on Canvas, H 268 cm. x W 347 cm.
Copyright ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Royal Collection, Madrid, 1814; entered the Prado Museum, before 1834.
https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-3rd-of-may-1808-in-madrid-or-the-executions/%5B/caption%5D

 

 

I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The man in white, then the soliders, then the bloody bodies on the ground.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? The church in the background
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? The dent in the mans hand, stagmata?
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The man in white
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.

Colour:

    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A narrow colour palate with lots of earthy colours in it makes it feel realistic but also doesnt distract from the tonal lights and darks.
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? The red of the blood and the green trousers of the monk, and the blue sleeves next to the blood on the dead man in the front brings them out slightly dispite being dark figures, more than the rest of the crowd, because the man in white and the soliders sort of steal the show.
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? The mostly warm palate this increases the tension, too much heat on a cool night in spain.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? Most of the clothes and background is dull but the blood is bright red, fresh, dramatic
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used?

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? There is a wide range of colour values, the mood is tense. Very tense.

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest, the light is coming from the lanturn, illuminating the man and the crowd but the soilders are a dark force cutting over the corner of the light.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms of the folds, shadows are picked out from the dramatic lighting, even some which don’t make sense to be there from the lantern, eg the first frechmans coat would have been in darkness

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light is mostly on the left side where the man in white is, darkness on the right from the bodies of the soilders and the dark press of the night sky.

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in what looks to be a hurried fashion, which scratches to reveal layers of colours underneith on the texture of the background. Some parts of the scene are rendered and blended carefull, eg the swords and lantern but some parts look almost unfinished, eg the figures at the edges
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, it is almost sktech like rather than the beautufilly blended realism that we know oil paintings from earlier periods could be.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? it appears desparate as though the artist had to get the image out of his head and on to the canvas.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? not really

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, the pile of bodies, the people overlapping the man in white on the left, on the right the soilders overlapping eachother so closely they look to be touching, the overlap the lantern and the crowd and the background hill overlaps the front of the church looming mist in the background
(b) diminishing scale Y the figures of the crowd look smaller than the soliders and the church is smaller because its further away. The main figure in white would actually be massive if he stood up so his size has been manipluated to to larger than life.
(c) atmospheric perspective Y The chuch is very misty in the background
(d) vertical placement Y the ground they all stand on is nearer than the church in the background
(e) linear perspective Y the soilders line up as a diagonal going out and back into the frame
(f) modelling Y the modelling of the various textures in the scene especially clothes make the illsuion realistic even through when you look closer you can see its not really

 

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal):  The diagonal line of soilders pressing in is quite dramatic, they aim the guns as a strong horizontal at the man in white. The leg of the first soilder is the diagonal towards the pile of bodies, countered by his sword hanging down. The strong V of the man in white’s hands up is mirrored by the same pose in the dead man directly at his feet. the strond diagonal of the rolling hill behind him helps balance the fram from the left.

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are clear contour lines around the feet of the soilders and many of the more roughed out parts of the painting

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

I’ve only read about this painting, and Goya, in WHA so far so I already know a little of the background context. Napoleon sent his troops into Spain in 1808, the two paintings 2nd of May and 3rd of May are a pair, representing the uprising of the Spanish against the invaders (2nd May) and the subsequent consequences of that uprising seen here in the 3rd May. Goya’s The second of May 1808 & the third of May 1808 might be seen as replies to Capitulation of Madrid by Gros which shows the Napolean gracoiusly accepting the ‘win’ in front of some nice clean tents in the daylight.

[caption width="800" id="attachment_2675" align="alignleft"] Capitulation of Madrid, 4 December 1808, Antoine-Jean Gros
 361 x 500 cm
oil on canvas
Represented person : Napoleon I , Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Wagram
“Return of Versailles 13 paintings”, 9 November 1834; Sent to Versailles, January 14, 1835

The dark block of faceless French soldiers are in the middle of executing the local patriots, the bodies pile up beneath the kneeling man in white who raises his arms in surrender, defeated, he represents the nation defeated, he appears as a heroic martyr. His face looks desolate, he knows what is coming next. He monk preys next to him and others in the waiting crowd cover their eyes. All this plays out in front of the church which did nothing to intervene.

Goya uses broad, loose brushwork, blazing colour, and dramatic chiaroscuro lighting to stress the realistic scene. However, it may not be a scene that Goya actually saw, since it was painted in 1814, after Spain’s liberation from Napoleonic rule. The composition is chock full of Christian symbolism, perhaps this scene is taken from a variety of sources of inspiration to represent what actually happened.

Context & Meaning:

In 1807, Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces crossed the Pyrenees into allied Spain under the pretext of invading Portugal. Once in there, he started to take control of regions of Spain. King Charles IV of Spain attempted to flee to South America when he realized what was happening but was forced to abdicate before he could. His son Ferdinand VII took over rule. Napoleon invited both Charles and Ferdinand to France. Fearing their leaders would be executed, the people of Spain rose up against the army (on the 2nd May) and were brutally suppressed (3rd May). Two days later, Napoleon took control, forced both kings to abdicate. He later installed his brother Joseph as Spain’s new monarch. Ferdinand VII was imprisoned for 6 years before he was allowed to reclaim Spain’s throne.

Along with its companion, The 2nd of May 1808 in Madrid: the charge of the Mamelukes, this work was made at the initiative of the Reagent, Luis de Boubon in 1814. Both works may have been used to decorate a triumphal arch during the return of Fernando VII to Madrid, or to commemorate the celebrations of the second of May.  (Museo del Prado, 2016)

The painting has quite a few different names: The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid, The Executions, The Shootings on the Príncipe Pío Hill, (for the location of the scene) and The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid. The work commemorates the arrest & execution of mamelukes/madrileños (people of Madrid) on May 3rd 1808 by the Napoleonic invading army following a civilian revolt. As Goya stated: “It is my ardent wish, to perpetuate by means of my brush the most notable and heroic actions and scenes of our most glorious insurrection against the tyrant of Europe.”

The lower left side still shows the marks of damage suffered when this canvas was transferred to Valencia in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

“The light in his work is merciless for the simple reason that it shows up cruelty,” (Berger, J, 2001)

The focal point of the composition is the illuminated figure of the main figure whose glowing white shirt and disproportionate size immediately draws your eye. He’s thrown his arms up as though he were “throwing his whole life, in extremis, in the face of his murderers,” (Hughes, R, 2004). He is in the posture of a crucified man “linking the figure of the anonymous political martyr to that of Christ”, and this is reinforced by the stigmata on his hands.

Art historian Kenneth Clark remarked on Goya’s dramatic departure from the idealised and heroic style of history paintings in his book Looking at pictures:

One suddenly realises how much rhetoric even the greatest painters have employed in their efforts to make us believe in their subjects. Delacroix Massacre at Chios, for example: it was painted ten years later than The Third of May, and it might have been painted two hundred years earlier….. With Goya we do not think of the studio or even of the artist at work. We think only of the event. Does this imply that The Third of May is a kind of superior journalism, the record of an incident in which depth of focus is sacrificed to an immediate effect? I am ashamed to say that I once thought so; but the longer I look at this extraordinary picture and at Goya’s other works, the more clearly I recognise that I was mistaken. (Clark, K, 1960)

The French author Malraux points out that Goya paints “the absurdity of being human” and is “the greatest interpreter of anguish the West has ever seen.” (Malraux, A, quoted in Berger, J, 2001).

“Most of the victims have faces. The killers do not. This is one of the most often-noted aspects of the Third of May, and rightly so: with this painting, the modern image of war as anonymous killing is born, and a long tradition of killing as ennobled spectacle comes to its overdue end.”  (Hughes, R, 2004)

Goya’s background:

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes was born in a village called Fuendetodos in Aragon, to a modest family in 1746. He studied painting from age 14 under José Lúzan y Martinez.  He moved to Madrid to study with Anton Raphael Mengs. He became a court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786, creating portraits commissioned by the Spanish aristocracy and royalty, and the Rococo style tapestry cartoons designed for the royal palace. In 1793, he had suffered a mysterious illness, perhaps a series of strokes, which left him permanently deaf. This had a profound impact on his art, which became increasingly visionary and strange. In 1799 Goya published a series of 80 prints titled Los Caprichos depicting what he called “…the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual.” (Artdaily.com, 2011) Where he explored themes of irrationality, folly, and corruption, the famous one being “The sleep of reason produces monsters”.

He married Josefa Bayeu in 1775, sadly they had many pregnancies and miscarriages during their life together. He was the court painter before, during and after the war but images he created during and after the war were much darker, both emotionally and visually, than anything he had done previously. He saw many of the war atrocities first hand, prompting him to create a series of anti-war etchings Disasters of War (Desastres de la Guerra) from 1808, these intended for private consumption and were not published until much later in 1863. Goya focused on how war brings out the basest human instincts. The two public paintings 2nd May & 3rd of May present a more politically charged version of the actual historical events. Some of the details of the painting can be seen in the etchings.

John berger speaks of the honesty goya, saying that he was a commentator more interested in events than states of mind. That his work has a culmination effect from one event to another. ‘The way he composed was theatrical. His works always imply an encounter…. One doesn’t analyse th processes of vision that lie behind an etching by goya; one submits to it’s climax’. (Berger, J, 2001)
Goya’s, commentary, his underlying theme was the ‘consequences of man’s neglect [.. ] of his most precious faulty, Reason’. ‘Reason as a discipline yielding Pleasure derived from th Senses. In Goya’ s work the flesh is a battleground between ignorance, uncontrolled passion, superstition on th one hand and dignity, grace and pleasure on th other. ‘ (Berger, J, 2001)

He draws the ‘abuse of human possibilities. What man was capable of doing to man’. (Berger, J, 2001) The argument on if goya was an objective or subjective artist, was he haunted by his own imagination or by what he saw of the decadence of the Spanish court, the ruthlessness of the inquisition and the horror of the peninsular war. Berger points out that he consciously saw himself as being typical of his time and although he used his fears as a starring point in his work, ultimately they were objective and social. He states that modern writers such as Malraux take a different stance, that goya paints ‘the absurdity of being human’, ‘the greatest interpreter of anguish the West has ever known’. Berger feels that Goya was a prophet of atrocities to come, in that he could foresee the consequences of man’s decent. And that Malraux and others are ‘disillusioned intellectuals’ seeing more of Goya’s despair than is present in the work itself. Berger does not believe Goya to be a Romantic artist, he merely borrows from the romantic vocabulary ‘without being affected by the Romantic predicament’. He states that ‘one of the most interesting confirmations that goya’ s work was outward-facing and objective is his use of light. In his works it is not, as with all those who romantically frighten themselves, the dark that holds horror and terror. It is the light that discloses them…. The light in his work is merciless for the simple reason that it shows up cruelty. ‘ (Berger, J, 2001)
Berger’ s point is that Goya was honest in facing the facts whilst still preserving his ideals.

‘the inestimable importance of Goya for us now is that his honesty compelled him to face and judge the issues that still face us. ‘ (Berger, J, 2001)

 

Influence:

The painting has had tremendous influence on artists since the 1800s, for example Manet, Picassco, and many war photographers.

Picasso was ardently anti-war, in his Massacre en Corée he depicting an assassination by firing squad during the Korean War and you can clearly see the influence of the 3rd May here.

Massacre en Corée (Massacre in Korea) – Pablo Picasso
1951
oil on plywood, 110 × 210 cm, Pablo Picasso gift in lieu, 1979, MP 203 © Succession Picasso, 2011/licensed by Viscopy, 2011 © Musée National Picasso, Paris © Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Jean-Gilles Berizzi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manet made several versions, this one was cut into four pieces and reassembled by Degas:

Edouard Manet, 1832 – 1883
The Execution of Maximilian
about 1867-8
Oil on canvas, 193 x 284 cm
Bought, 1918
NG3294
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG3294%5B/caption%5D

 

I found this video of a talk by Irishman Eamonn McCann on the importance of Goya’s painting on artists throughout history. The talk takes place in reference to a new rendition of Robert Ballagh’s ‘pop art’ version of the painting entitled, “The Third of May – After Goya, 1970″, this one has the buildings replaced by Derry buildings in the background. He draws parallel of the Irish Bloody Sunday massacre in the 1970s with Madrid in 1808. The setting has poignant resonance with another date.

Its the corner of Glenfada Park where just feet away Jim Wray, William McKinney, Gerard McKinney and Gerard Donaghy were shot and fatally wounded on 30th January 1972.

References:

Artdaily.com. (2011) 200 Prints by Francisco de Goya, From His Most Important Series, on View in Valladolid At: http://artdaily.com/news/43852/200-Prints-by-Francisco-de-Goya–From-His-Most-Important-Series–on-View-in-Valladolid#.WMaiqU2yrcs
(Accessed on 13 Mar 17)

Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Google Cultural Institute. (2017) Goya At: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/entity/m02y23?col=RGB_89763C
(Accessed on 13 Mar 17)

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Hughes, R. (2004) Goya. London: Vintage

McCann, E, Video. (2014) Talk: Bloody Sunday March Events for 2014 At: https://vimeo.com/86397793
(Accessed on 15 Mar 17)

Museo del Prado. (2016) The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The Executions” At: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-3rd-of-may-1808-in-madrid-or-the-executions/5e177409-2993-4240-97fb-847a02c6496c
(Accessed on 9 Feb 17)

Riding, A. (2006) ‘Picasso Comes Home to Spain’s Pantheon‘ At: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/10/arts/design/10pica.html
(Accessed on 15 Mar 17)

The Art Story. (2017) Francisco Goya At: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-goya-francisco-artworks.htm
(Accessed on 13 Mar 17)

Vereycken, K. (2004) Francisco Goya, The American Revolution, and the Fight Against the Synarchist Beast-Man. Fidelio Magazine, Vol 13, Number 4, Winter 2004

Painting Review: Rubens – Samson and Delilah

For the second annotation I choose a narrative painting from Rubens, Samson and Delilah. I thought I’d jot down some initial thoughts & research on it since I can never fit it all into the one annotation page and my memory can’t hold it all.

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 - 1640 Samson and Delilah about 1609-10 Oil on wood, 185 x 205 cm Bought, 1980 NG6461 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6461
Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640
Samson and Delilah
about 1609-10
Oil on wood, 185 x 205 cm
Bought, 1980
NG6461
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6461

So in line with the review of the Arnolfini Portrait, I’ve tried to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review too. Again, the grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? To the group of four figures of Delilah, Samson, and the old woman and man
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? The men at the door
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? The items on the shelves behind
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The massive form of Samson
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? Not really

Colour:

    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A narrow colour palate with lots of warm colours in it makes it feel sensuous. The only cool colours are on the interlopers
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really, this brings a warm harmony to the painting.
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? Many more warm colours makes the place seem inviting sensuous.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? There are both, the background is a dullish wooden brown but the colours of the satin materials are bright. This brings the foreground as the main focus of the painting.
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used?

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? There is a wide range of colour values.

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest and are heavily used to dramatic effect to pick out the details and two focus areas al la Caravaggio.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms of the folds of the dress, lush fabrics and the man’s massive muscled body.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, from the four figures in the foreground where the largest patch of light is, to the smaller patch on the right hand side where the men are hovering in the doorway. Your eye flows from the ‘front’ to the ‘back’ even through it’s a flat painted surface the illusion is made using lighting and definition

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been carefully blended to make the soft, seamless shadows to model the various textures, you really feel the soft skin stretched over the muscle on the man’s back , against the more directly applied highlights for the satin.
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? This seems a pretty conventional use.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the medium adds to the sensuality of the mood and the impressive scale also.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? not really

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Samson & Delilah Effect: Samson and Delilah
(a) overlapping Y there is a clear front and back to the room, the front two figures overlap with the old woman and man cutting the hair. Also the edgy of Samsons body is overlapping the opening door
(b) diminishing scale Y the men at the door are much smaller than the main four figures, clearly in the background
(c) atmospheric perspective Y the brightest part of the room is also the front of the scene, Samson, Delilah and the bed area
(d) vertical placement Y Samson’s arm is foreshortened such that his hand is the same size as his foot which is further back. His arm leads up and back to his face and the face of the man behind him. Above that there is a statue in a niche on the wall in the background behind them
(e) linear perspective Y the opening door displays the linear perspective
(f) modelling Y the modelling of the various textures in the room, especially all the folds in her dress, the patterned blanket and the muscles on Samson’s back make the illusion realistic

 

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There is a strong diagonal line of Samson’s back across the middle of the picture. There is a grounding horizontal line of the bed at the bottom of the picture and repeating little horizontals in the background, the shelves, the man’s cutting arm, the door frame. there are verticals too, the arm &, Samson’s face, the man’s face and then the statue already mentioned, also the shelves, niche, the doorway and figures of the waiting men all provide vertical interest

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. there are contour lines around the moulding in the furniture and the modelling of the cloth which are quite thick but seen as shadows and add to the illusion.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

Clearly something amiss is going on, if you didn’t know the story you can sense that the man is asleep after being seduced and people are sneakily cutting his hair. Armed men in the background seem to be glaring at each other to keep quiet and not wake the man. He is big and muscly but still, should they be worried? Clearly he’s been tricked by the woman (she still has her breasts out) but she looks a bit sorry. The old woman looks on in tension, biting her lip, that the man will wake up. You feel sorry for the deeply asleep man.

Context & Meaning:

This is based on a bible story (Old Testament, Judges 16: 17-20) where a Jewish hero, Samson, fell in love with Delilah. He was very strong and couldn’t be defeated by the Philistines so they bribed her to find out the secret to his great strength and help to capture him. She asked him many times and each time he gave her a false answer but eventually he gave up and told her that his strength was there because his hair had never been cut. So while he was sleeping they cut his hair, his strength left him and they captured, blinded, imprisoned and humiliated him. Then when his hair grew back his strength returned and he pulled a temple down on everyone, including himself and all the Philistines rulers.

This picture depicts the moment when they are about to cut his hair, they don’t actually know that’ll work this time and if it doesn’t and he wakes up they are all in trouble. Delilah places a soothing hand on his back to calm him so he doesn’t wake and kill them all. The Philistines wait just outside the door, trying to be quite. It’s quite a tense painting. It’s also sensuous, with all the fabric in the setting. Clearly they’ve just been intimate so it can be seen as a moral tale of sin only leads to trouble. He is very vulnerable in this moment, and trusting of Delilah, so can also been taken as ‘love hurts’ because she’s so thoroughly betrayed his trust.

“In a niche behind is a statue of the goddess of love, Venus, with Cupid – a reference to the cause of Samson’s fate.” (National Gallery, 2016a)

Delilah is not a prostitute (apart from the bribe) in the story but according to the Art historian Jacqui Ansell (in the little audio clip on the gallery page) the phrase ‘in Delilah’s lap’ meant to visit a prostitute in the 17th century when this was painted.

According to the blurb on the National Gallery page, this painting was commissioned by Nicolaas Rockox, alderman of Antwerp (and personal friend of Rubens), for his town house in 1609-10. Apparently it was designed to hang above a giant fireplace, so all the warm colours would look all the more sumptuous in that setting. The painting is hung at the same height in the gallery because it is a best height from which to appreciate the perspective.

“It shows the influence of the antique, as well as Michelangelo and Caravaggio. There is a preparatory drawing (private collection, Amsterdam) and a modello (Cincinnati Museum of Art).” (National Gallery, 2016a)

A modello is a small preparatory oil sketch on a wood panel, they could be used as a draft to get the clients approval and as a guide to composition for the finished work. Rubens often then handed over much of the preparation and painting of the main version to his assistants and pupils, carrying out only the final finishing touches.

This painting, like the Arnolfini Portrait, is on Oak as was the early Netherlandish tradition. This is made up of 6 horizontal planks glued together, probably by a professional panel maker. However, since then it’s been planed down to 3mm and stuck onto blockboard as an old method of preservation so there are no original markings on the back or edges. The panel was prepared with a white chalk ground with a binding of animal glue, another Netherlandish tradition. He also uses a limited number of pigments. Interestingly, although there is no green in the picture, some of the brownish paint on the old woman’s dress are no longer recognisable but have a high concentration of copper, which may have been green and browned with age so we may not be seeing it as it was originally painted.

Visit in person:

The painting was so large, I almost couldn’t fit it all into the photograph but I wanted to remember how vivid the colours were and the online reproduction (see above) doesn’t really convey that.

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 - 1640 Samson and Delilah about 1609-10 Oil on wood, 185 x 205 cm Bought, 1980
Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640
Samson and Delilah
about 1609-10
Oil on wood, 185 x 205 cm
Bought, 1980

The painting is hung quite high but it seems to look much better according to the perspective than when you see it online, which is line with what I read about it being desinged to be seen at this height.

 

References:

Biblegateway. (2016) Judges 16 – Samson and Delilah At: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges%2016
(Accessed on 5 Oct 16)
National Gallery. (2016a) Peter Paul Rubens – Samson and Delilah At: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/peter-paul-rubens-samson-and-delilah
(Accessed on 5 Oct 16)
Plesters, J. ‘”Samson and Delilah”: Rubens and the Art and Craft of Painting on Panel’. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 7, pp 30–49.
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/technical-bulletin/plesters1983
(Accessed on 5 Oct 16)

Open University. (2016) Making sense of art history At: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/making-sense-art-history/content-section-0
(Accessed on 15 Aug 16)

Research & Painter Review – Caravaggio

This post started out being a painting review of The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio but ended out being a wider ranging research piece on Caravaggio which could be used as preparation for assignment 3.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 - 1610 The Supper at Emmaus 1601 Oil and tempera on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm Presented by the Hon. George Vernon, 1839 NG172 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG172
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 – 1610
The Supper at Emmaus
1601
Oil and tempera on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm
Presented by the Hon. George Vernon, 1839
NG172
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG172

I saw this painting in my Gallery Visit (Room 32) and made very brief notes in that post (here). I didn’t really understand what I was looking at and although I’ve learnt a lot about 17th century art since then and seen references to Caravaggio (and this painting) in my reading, it could do with a closer look. Being so influential an artist I wanted to learn more about him specifically (and use him as one of the artists in the 500 word analysis in Assignment 3).

The first place to start in understanding this painting is the story behind is. Who is Emmaus and why do these guys with Jesus look so surprised?

On the day of the resurrection two of Christ’s disciples were going to a town called Emmaus.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:15-24)

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24: 28-31)

So Caravaggio’s picture starts to make sense. This is the two disciples just discovering that they are sitting with a recently risen Christ as he blesses the bread. The man serving the table has not removed his hat, having no idea who this is (because he wasn’t at the last supper) but presumably would freak out when Chris just disappears (since he isn’t in the bible account he’s probably just been added as artifice to balance out the composition and the various expressions on the faces of the figures, “His impassiveness is a foil to the disciples’ bewilderment” (De Rynck, 2009)).

Caravaggio has broken with tradition here (as he did in many of his paintings) and represented the scene in a contemporary setting. The background is dark and vague on any details of the setting, the lighting is dramatic so the attention is focused on the scene. The disciple with his arms out (as though talking of the crucifixion) extends into the viewers space to draw us into the scene, hence the drastic foreshortening (I noted it as strange perspective on my gallery visit). Also, the shell on his coat is a scallop, a pilgrims emblem of Santiago de Compostela (named after St James). The fruit basket harkens back to Caravaggio’s still life painting days, critics have pointed out that pomegranates, grapes and figs are summery fruits so are out of place at Easter but apparently over ripened fruit (apples and decaying figs) stand for original sin, grapes (which make wine) and pomegranates are conventional symbols of the resurrection. This fruit hangs over the edge of the table also into our space begging to be pushed back on.

“The disciples look like country bumpkins on a pilgrimage.” (De Rynck, 2009)

Caravaggio painted another Christ resurrection story, one of Doubting Thomas, in 1603 called the Incredulity of Thomas. This one is smaller at only 107x146cm. Thomas is often depicted as a young man (Christ’s twin according to one of the legends but not one I heard in primary school), not so in this painting though. He has expressed doubt about Christ’s resurrection because he hasn’t seen it with his own eyes so Christ is building his finger into the spear wound he received on the Cross. The painting also includes Peter and John, also looking on with intense concentration and undisguised curiosity. Again, there is nothing extraneous to distract attention from the main scene. The figures heads are all clustered together in the centre of the composition but its the finger that gets your eyes attention making you want to lean into the space with them to see it.

He says “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” John 20:25 which reflects the humanist mood of the times where empirical knowledge is the key to truth.

Incredulity of saint thomas,1603. Canvas 107x146 cm, Neues Palais, Potsdam.
Incredulity of saint thomas,1603. Canvas 107×146 cm, Neues Palais, Potsdam.

“Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29

As I noted in my gallery visit, all the reproductions of this painting seem a lot more gloomy than the original.

The Supper at Emmaus 1601, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, nAtional Gallery, London
The Supper at Emmaus
1601, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, National Gallery, London

You see it hangs next to another of Caravaggio’s works, Boy bitten by a Lizard (about 1594-5) which is an eariler work from when he’d just arrived in Rome as a nobody.

Lifestory

His short life story is extremely interesting and you can see how his art develops over the course of his career. The few primary sources about his life are mainly police/court reports and contemporary biographers writings. He is known to get into lots of trouble (hence the documented police reports) and sounds like a very volatile individual. His early training was a four year apprenticeship with Simone Peterzano (in Milan). He was originally from a town called Caravaggio (hence his name, his given name was Michelangelo Merisi). When he arrived in Rome he had nothing and he painted still lives and heads of people to sell in the street which was good training for his later years where he painted from live models which was not the custom in those days. You can see that the figures in The Supper at Emmaus are much more naturally proportioned than the Boy (with the lizard). Some art critics have suggested there is homoerotic undertones in this work, some think it is just a study of drama, the reaction of the boy, some others think it is an allegory on the pain of love (because the still life includes symbols of love).

The Cardsharps - Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) Italian (1571–1610) 16th century c. 1595 Oil on canvas 37 1/16 x 51 9/16 in. (94.2 x 130.9 cm) AP 1987.06
The Cardsharps – Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi)
Italian (1571–1610) 16th century
c. 1595, Oil on canvas
37 1/16 x 51 9/16 in. (94.2 x 130.9 cm), AP 1987.06

His work The Cardsharps, 1595, caught the eye of the influential Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte who offed him lodgings in his palazzo became his patron, and for whom he painted boy with lizard amongst others. This raised his profile in elite circles and he ended up having the opportunity to do his first public works for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. Rome in those days was the artistic center of Italy, artists came from all over Europeto see Classical buildings and famous works of art. He caused a bit of a sensation with his new style and became very famous (his fame spread across Europe) but it seemed that it went to his head and he continued to get into trouble with the police.

According to one of his biographers: ”after a fortnight’s work he will swagger about for a month or two with his sword at his side and with a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or argument, with the result that it is most awkward to get along with him”. (The sword was illegal – as with guns today, one had to have licence to carry arms.) Caravaggio was arrested repeatedly for, among other things, slashing the cloak of an adversary, throwing a plate of artichokes at a waiter, scarring a guard, and abusing the police. (National Gallery, 2016a)

In 1606 it all came to a head and he killed a man in an argument, Ranuccio Tomassoni, and had to flee Rome. He spent a short time in Naples then moved to Malta to join the order of the Knights of Malta in return for painting Beheading of St John the Baptist. He was holding out for a Pulpal pardon so he could return to Rome and induction into the order secured him high social standing. Unfortunately he got into trouble again, fighting with another knight, and got arrested. He escaped prison and went to Sicily. Eventually he did get his pardon so could return to Rome.

He loaded his belongings onto a ship but, for some unknown reason, was then arrested and had to buy his way out of jail. By the time he was released, the ship and all his possessions had sailed without him. As he made his way along the coast he fell ill, perhaps with malaria, and a few days later, alone and feverish, he died. (National Gallery, 2016a)

Biographers and news reports seem to disagree about exactly what killed him at aged 39. This report from the BBC suggests that researchers think he died of sunstroke while weakened by syphilis. On the same day in 2010, this article from the Guardian reports that they think he died of lead posioning from the paints! However they do also mention sunstroke.

Style & Technique

He is famous for the naturalism in his paintings (which wasn’t usual at the time) and for his use of light and dark – chiaroscuro. His religious works are lit dramatically by divine light and his saints look like ordinary people in ordinary contemporary settings (complete with dirty fingernails), the naturalism completely replacing the usual religious symbolism to such an extent prompting one observer to suggest that his Conversion of St. Paul looked like an accident in a blacksmiths shop. He used live models of local people which was also a new way of doing things, to draw from nature.

In between fights he found time to astound his contemporaries with his shocking realism and use of light and shade – chiaroscuro – although he won no favours with religious authorities in Rome when he reportedly used a famous prostitute as a model for the madonna. (The Guardian, 2010)

As a technique he painted directly on the canvas and no preparation drawings or sketches were found. Some researchers even suggest that evidence points to him using camera obscura techniques and chemicals to burn an initial image onto his canvas and sketch directly onto it with white lead paint and luminous barium sulphate in the dark! Its actually quite amazing.

I found this video from the National Gallery really interesting:

A recording of the National Gallery Curator of Italian and Spanish Paintings 1600-1800, Letizia Treves, speaking about Caravaggio at a lunchtime talk.

 

References:

BBC news. (2010) Church bones ‘belong to Caravaggio’, researchers say At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10333158
(Accessed on 18 Aug 16)

BibleHub. (2016) Luke 24 At: http://biblehub.com/esv/luke/24.htm
(Accessed on 14 Auguest 16)

De Rynck, P. (2009) Understanding Paintings: Bible Stories and Classical Myths in Art. Thames & Hudson

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Jones, J. (2002) ‘Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Caravaggio (1595-1600)’ In: The Guardian [online] At: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/jan/05/art
(Accessed on 14 Auguest 16)

Kimbell Art Museum. (2016) The Cardsharps At: https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/search/view/496?text=Michelangelo%20Merisi
(Accessed on 17 Aug 16)

National Gallery. (2016a) Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/michelangelo-merisi-da-caravaggio
(Accessed on 14 Aug 16)

National Gallery. (2016b) Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio – The Supper at Emmaus At: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/michelangelo-merisi-da-caravaggio-the-supper-at-emmaus
(Accessed on 14 Auguest 16)

National Gallery, YouTube. (2016) Caravaggio | You choose | The National Gallery, London At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KcdgFxmnb4
(Accessed on 18 Aug 16)

The Guardian. (2009) Was Caravaggio the first photographer? At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/mar/11/caravaggio-art-studio-photography-first
(Accessed on 18 Aug 16)

The Guardian. (2010) The mystery of Caravaggio’s death solved at last – painting killed him At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/jun/16/caravaggio-italy-remains-ravenna-art
(Accessed on 18 Aug 16)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (2001) Luke 24. Good News Publishers.