Categories
Art and Photographic History

Jacques Tissot’s sad mistress

Portrait of M.N.. Portrait of Mrs N..(Kathleen Newton). La Frileuse. by James J. J. Tissot, 1836-1902

“It is a work extreme delicacy yet great richness, of poetic quiet yet great emotion.” She is sad and shivering, indeed she is very unwell. The full story may be found at https://web.archive.org/web/20070928205059/http://www.williamweston.co.uk/pages/catalogues/single/766/25/1.html

This clip may give some idea of the range of Tissot’s oeuvre.

My personal response to Tissot

There are two factors which have drawn my attention to Tissot recently. Firstly, reading various books and articles by Julian Barnes, who is well versed in French Artists of the Nineteenth Century. Secondly there are particular paintings of his that are especially intriguing. Especially those that seem to show early relationships between the French and English in London. However, more importantly, I seem to remember small illustrated texts from Sunday School back in the 1950s whose subject matter were similar in style and content to those religious paintings that seem to have taken up much of Tissot’s time. Finally, there is of course the insight into the times that these Tissot paintings give.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Tissot

Categories
Art and Photographic History Film Literature

Solitude and Nostalgia-the paintings of Valentin Serov

As someone has commented on You Tube underneath the above, “Wonderful , soulful, expression of Imperial Russia from many aspects just before the Black Curtain of the war that aesthetically affects us into our era!” There are even colour photographs of that strange era in Russia before the Revolution that show the huge contrasts in wealth and also the peaceful landscape which is evoked like a distant Edwardian Summer. Serov died in 1911 having left behind masterpieces of portraiture including his own famous self-portrait. His style was realistic and is still much beloved by the Russian people.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentin_Serov

Russia in Original Photographs, 1860-1920 Paperback – 1 May 1983
by Marvin Lyons

I have just discovered this film which looks good too-

Nostalgia [DVD]

Finally there is an excellent paper, well worth thorough consideration by Stacey Novack called “The Politics of Nostalgia” at https://publicseminar.org/2016/11/the-politics-of-nostalgia/

Categories
Art and Photographic History Penwith

Ponderings on Nostalgia in paintings

Clearly, that which we personally find nostalgic, pertains to ourselves alone but are there paintings which evoke in general this kind of mood state in the viewer? One painting which possibly does is this Matisse. It is discussed in detail on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxe,_Calme_et_Volupt%C3%A9

Matisse-Luxe.jpg

The fact that the title comes from Baudelaire is partly evidence to this state of mind-

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

This lines are from a poem called L’Invitation au voyage and certainly the second stanza has a definite cosy feel to it even when google translated into English-

Shiny furniture,
Polished by the years,
Would decorate our room;
The rarest flowers
Mixing their smells
With the vague scents of amber,
The rich ceilings,
Deep mirrors,
Eastern splendor,
Everything would speak there
To the soul in secret
His sweet native language.

Returning to the painting itself, the colours invoke a sense of delicious and delicate luxury, as does the seaside setting and the recumbent nude figures. The sailing boat with its gaff rig beneath the boughs of the tree, which itself offers a protective quality, suggests that the shore may be quitted should ennui prove too troublesome.

On a personal level, my interest in this technique was stimulated by a term we did in the third year with our art teacher, Charlie Mac, when he suggested we paint using pointillist technique to give our work a more lively quality. We did some nice work from the end of the harbour pier in Penzance. However in the above m, Matisse was following the suggestions of Signac and creating a seminal work of Fauvism. The wild beasts are here in a somewhat pussycat or kittenish era even Louis Vauxcelles, who used the term, the following year in 1905 might grudgingly admit.

Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf and the power of sisterhood | Art UK

This portrait by Roger Fry of Virginia Woolf has I think a somewhat similar pointillist character. However, it evokes nostalgia because I can remember from childhood people dressing in warm woollen jumpers and staring pensively into the distance. This painting is on loan to Leeds Gallery from its owner.

Categories
Art and Photographic History Poetry

I Hear an Army by James Joyce


I hear an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees;
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.

They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.

They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

There is a discussion of this poem at-

https://poemanalysis.com/james-joyce/i-hear-an-army/

The painting above is Marine soir par LéonSpilliaert
Categories
Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews German Matters

LEO PUTZ (1869-1940) German painter

Just discovered this rather relaxing post by this superb anti-Nazi Austrian painter. The accompanying Chopin Nocturne adds to the ambience I find.

Leo Putz (18 June 1869, in Merano – 21 July 1940, in Merano)[1] was a Tyrolean painter. His work encompasses Art Nouveau, Impressionism and the beginnings of Expressionism. Figures, nudes and landscapes are his predominant subjects. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Putz

LEO-PUTZ-(1869-1940)-MODERNE-GALERIE-1909-41x31-inches-106x78-cm-Reichhold--Lang-Munich

1909 Exhibition in Munich

Categories
Art and Photographic History Penwith Uncategorized West Cornwall (and local history)

Sketches from Windows

When I think of paintings from interiors of the scene beyond, I tend to think of the South of France,of Dufy or perhaps Matisse. There is something too which reminds me of looking out from a safe place to the activity beyond. It recalls hours in childhood, perhaps when bored watching the summer visitors who looking lost were exploring the cobbled hill outside, often looking somewhat lost themselves.

The above is a view in an Oxford suburb into the garden with trees and a bird-feeder beyond.

This is a view from an upstairs window in Cornwall. The rubber plant has not survived my feckless care unfortunately.

This is a view from the Newlyn Art Gallery cafe which has a splendid large window overlooking the Mount and Bay.

A sea view at Christmas 

A friend has sent me this useful link-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Man_at_His_Window

Categories
Art and Photographic History Literature Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Remembering Red Barnaloft

I have previously posted about Red Vienna – the time in the 1930s when an attempt was made to establish a form of social security system in the elegant city and when worker’s flats were built to ease the conditions of poorer citizens. Notoriously, they were shelled by nationalists in the dark period leading up to the Anschluss when the Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany. https://jacobinmag.com/2017/02/red-vienna-austria-housing-urban-planning

Karl Polanyi wrote: “Vienna achieved one of the most spectacular cultural triumphs of Western history … an unexampled moral and intellectual rise in the condition of a highly developed industrial working class which, protected by the Vienna system, withstood the degrading effects of grave economic dislocation and achieved a level never reached before by the masses of the people in any industrial society.”

In my personal psychogeography towns and cities remind me of St Ives where I spent many years of my early life. After the gas works was deconstructed and I think, before the Tate arrived many of the fisherman’s lofts and artist studios next to Porthmeor Beach were replaced by the Barnaloft and then the Piazza flats. They seemed to stand out as a statement of the modernism with which the town had been associated. The interior courtyard of the latter had an interesting Hepworth sculpture. They were not by any means worker’s flats but were frequently occupied by what has since been called champagne socialists.

Properties for Sale in St. Ives, Barnaloft St. Ives Cornwall | Nethouseprices.com

Before the flats were constructed there was the beach cafe occupied by the Val Baker family. This was a homely venue offering a superb view of the sea and marvellous sunsets over it to the West. Little was seen of Denys himself whom I assumed was upstairs with leonine head bent over the typewriter. Denys may be somewhat forgotten but represented the spirit of bohemian values to the locals. He had been active in promoting the celtic culture as a Welshman intrigued by Cornwall and St Ives in particular. He and his wife were committed to pacifism and had been active in the committee of 100. https://www.rainydaygallery.co.uk/denysvalbaker.html

100 years of Red Vienna - VIENNA – Now. Forever

The Foot family has been long associated with St Ives. Issac Foot, bibliophile and liberal politician as well as a staunch Methodist stood in the town for Parliament. That by-election was rather interesting in the troubled atmosphere of 1937 and very narrow indeed. Isaac Foot went on to become Mayor of Plymouth.

Left Foot Forward | The Isis

Paul Foot his grandson and active contributor to Private Eye was often to be seen around the town. He was an active and intelligent member of the Socialist Worker’s Party as well as a campaigning journalist with a splendid sense of humour. He died rather young and was a notable loss to radical progress in this country. His book on Red Shelley is a moving introduction to that committed poet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Foot_(journalist)

 

Also some years ago spontaneous outdoor performances were given by another group associated with the Foot family-The Footsbarn Theatre Group. These were jolly and musical. Particularly memorable was a performance in St Ives Guildhall of Around the World in Eighty Days with a scence at the Old Bore’s Club which was gloriously funny -a tour de force.

Which leaves us with the intriguing figure of Peter Shore. Any Freudian would not be surprised that given his name he might have been strongly attracted by the glorious beach at Porthmeor. I used to see him taking his morning beverage be-shorted high above the sands at Barnaloft. These buildings were designed by the St Ives Architect, Cyril Gilbert- a shy charming gentleman who later ran the superb Wills Street Gallery near the Police Station. I digress- Shore was a fascinating figure who it seems travelled from the intellectual left of the party to total opposition to what was then called the Common Market. He was for some time an active M.P. for Stepney. Apparently he acted in a sort of Alistair Campbell role in that he advised on media promotion. I well remember how he responded when interviewed later in his career by someone like Robin Day or Brian Walden. He would begin by rephrasing the question and pointing out the precise strength of the case to which he was opposed. It was about then to be devastated by the power of his retort. However, in the questioning this just didn’t happen due to the interviewer’s interruption.  You were left with the impression of his honesty and rather sad disappointment. And yet now I feel a little more straight honesty in political matters is crucial- a Balm of Gilead.

Sometimes it is salutary to hear what the opposite case – this clip exudes English chauvinism which is deeply misguided.

Categories
Art and Photographic History Poetry

Qui est ce jeune plongeur ?

Is that really Maupassant readying

himself to dive  among the ladies?

These, modestly dressed like himself

beneath the white high cliffs of Étretat.

Behind him on the perilous board

a gentleman stands with arms

folded, wearing a woolen hat, about

to inspect the quality of the dive

into this so called “mer d’huile”.

Notchalantly, a modern-looking

girl in her black bathing costume floats

seemingly unaware of the garrulous.

society society on the nearby anchored punt.

So this jeune homme is conceivably

the fellow who will meet

Flaubert and Swinburne and

pen Bel Ami?

 

[With thanks to Paris Match]

The painter’s details are below:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Lepoittevin

Eugène] Le Poittevin, peintre (Getty Museum)

Categories
Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews

Clifford Rowe (1904–1989) The painter for the people

The Fried Fish Shop | Art UK

I very much admire this painting, “The Fried Fish Shop”, its composition and the limited range of colours which suits this painting which is in the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester. Rowe was an important active member of the Artist’s International Association https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artists%27_International_Association

An interesting Guardian Review of an exhibition in 2013 can be read at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2013/sep/13/exhibitionist-art-shows-14-sep

 

 

Categories
Art and Photographic History German Matters Literature Penwith

Thoughts on history in the making

We seem currently to be going through a period of iconoclasm which has an interesting history itself. One of my favourite plays is “Forty Years On” by Alan Bennett. It often seems to me that British, and particularly English, society resembles some sort of minor public school. Hence I can easily hear John Gielgud intoning Ecclesiastes 44-1:-

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. 2The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. 3Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies: 4Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions.

Now, when I googled this a moment ago, I discovered that the first six words of the title refers to a book written some 75 years ago by Agee and Evans with photographs of tenant farmers and their dreadful plight in the depression. The verse from Ecclesiastes was obscured and immediately raises the question about how the meaning of the past can be changed or indeed obscured. It also raises the questions about for whom history might be written, recorded or commemorated.

However, before examining the text, consider the last sentence….” meet For the people, WISE and ELOQUENT are their instructions”. Well it would be nice if the present incumbents of the senior management team were wise and concerned for the people and by no means can the repetitive bumbling be described as eloquence.

(Incidentally, I remember hearing that controversial Cornishman D.M. Thomas remarking once that we had moved from reading Isaiah to watching dire television in two generations!)

Now before we start praising famous men, let alone building statues to them, we also need to consider women and children. The statue which really brought pimples to the skin and still does was near the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin which shows those children going to the West in the Kindertransport and those from whom they have been sundered, facing the death camps in the East. Then, also very moving is the statue by Kathe Kollwitz. This sculpture is under an oculus and exposed to the rain, snow and cold symbolising the suffering of civilians during World War II. It is a pieta- a woman with her dead child. She had lost her son, Peter on the battlefield in the First World War.

At this point I should like to recommend a book and close with a couple of quotations which I think are worth pondering. The book is by Rachel Hewitt and is called “A Revolution in Feeling” It deals with the changes of feelings during the 1790s. To quote from the dust jacket;” Every society in every age, feels differently, and from the seismic shifts of the 1790s Britain emerged the contours of our contemporary attitude to need, longing and emotion”.

Now from that complex but original thinker Walter Benjamin, This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

WALTER BENJAMIN, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Here we return to eloquence again, a reminder that style in historical writers engage our interest from Hazlitt-

The history of mankind is a romance, a mask, a tragedy, constructed upon the principles of POETICAL JUSTICE; it is a noble or royal hunt, in which what is sport to the few is death to the many, and in which the spectators halloo and encourage the strong to set upon the weak, and cry havoc in the chase, though they do not share in the spoil.

WILLIAM HAZLITT, Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays

Finally

Finally, I listened to a radio programme last night about refugees in camps across the Channel in France desperate to escape persecution and many of them, children in conditions cramped as in a slave ship. What are we going to do to alleviate their situation?

When German trains saved Jewish kids - EXBERLINER.com

Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture 'Mother with her Dead Son', Neue Wache ...

Notes

On Iconoclasm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Iconoclasm

There may be elements of magical thinking in relation to monuments as clearly their destruction does not entail the erasure of the past or the racist structures still in existence. It might be argued that in their removal they can become instrumental towards that aim. Some may also consider that they are works of art which raises further questions about aesthetics – content and form etc.