Viewing Joseph Wright’s paintings in Derby

Image result for joseph wright of derbyThe light from within the Orrery

illuminates the children’s faces.

This glow in the darkness

spreads and each canvas is lit.

This picture depicts some wonder of generosity;

a marvel that touches deeply your curiosity.

Here around are landscapes, portraits and myths

gathered in profuse display and all Wright.

Here Arkwright sits near the spools of cotton

woven at his water-powered mill,

seemingly the quintessence of optimistic enterprise.

Beyond Arkwright’s son and wife look

more prosperous yet more mannered too as

Gainsborough might depict.

Across here a scene from Laurence Sterne

has captured Wright’s inquisitive imagination.

Nearby Vesuvius again erupts into crimson

and emerald below in the bay boats float

with fishermen undistracted in their industrious

capture of shoals beneath the calm seas.

I too am captured by a certain canvas in which

an Indian squaw sits widowed on a hillside under

her hero husband’s suspended arms and

awaits the breaking tumult from the threatening clouds.

Image result for joseph wright of derby


Derain, Balthus and Giacometti in Paris

This exhibition is currently showing at Le Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville in Paris until the 29th of October and comprises some 350 works which depict the friendship between these three artists. Their friendship which began in 1933 shows their joint fascination for classical Italian masters, formal clarity and experimentation with both still life and open air painting.

Derain, in particular, emerges as the significant and productive painter in this innovative and energetic period and naturally, a truly brilliant colourist. Here we see his later work and not his fauvist period. This exhibition shows their cross fertilisation between the three and their enthusiasms which clearly ricocheted off each other. In addition they shared models, friendships, collectors and in particular their interests in all aspects of contemporary drama. They were, until after the war, energetic in their correspondence, although without clear transcripts, their letters are not always easy to read even if the visitor is a fluent in French. An impressive self-portrait by Giacometti dominates the entrance, which calls to mind a certain likeness to Duncan Grant. Grant and Derain were post-impressionists deeply influenced by Matisse and Cezanne and indeed both were acquaintances of Gertrude Stein.

When comparing these three artists, each of whom are creative masters, it is worth considering their dates:- Derain (1880-1954), Giacometti(1901-1966) and Balthus(1908-2001). Derain was then their guiding light and already very well-known. He was in recovery from his years of military service but ready to move beyond fauvism towards a new classicism. He found time however to design for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russe.  He studied the masters of the early Renaissance and then Pompeian art. It was one particular still life that attracted the penetrating attention of Giacometti with one work- a sombre work from 1936 Nature morte aux poires.

Giacometti is currently on show at the Tate Modern until the 10th September and a few weeks later a new film appears with the Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush playing Giacometti. However, this Paris exhibition shows the cultural hinterland of this key modernist and his interest in working with Beckett, for example in the minimalist staging of Waiting for Godot.

The range of Balthus’s work is illustrated including the disquieting suspense filled eroticism of his depiction of reading, languorous adolescents. Balthus’s East-European ancestry has been the subject of much controversy but it seems that his mother was Jewish and romantically involved with the poet, Rilke. His work shows a deep knowledge and interest in literature. He had moved to Paris in 1933 from Morocco and formed a circle of friends which included the foremost poets and playwrights of the period. The range of his work is shown here and it is unsurprising to learn that the controversial psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan was a major collector of his oeuvre.

The work on show includes some thought provoking portraits, sculptures, stage sets and photographs. It is not difficult to discern the disquieting political atmosphere of the times. As is well known, Derain stood accused on account of his visit to Berlin during the German Occupation. Nevertheless, Derain appears to have offered protection to members of Balthus’s family.    These works which include the magnificent etiolated sketches, almost carved into the background, by Giacometti, evidence the frenzied artistic activity situated between Saint-Germain and Montparnasse.


Their friendships included writers and poets like Artiste Arnaud, Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau together with Breton, Camus and Malraux. Surrealism was penetrating the dramatic experiments of the evolving “theatre of cruelty” with projects by Sartre and Jean-Louis Barrault. The world of fashion with Doucet and Dior, too was an occasional involvement. This is an exciting exhibition and prospective visitors require a minimum of two hours to get their money’s worth.



Moody girls with shiny noses……..and…..Jazz!

“Inesvigo” (Inconsequential) on YouTube is a constant source of pleasure. The combination of paintings with a musical backing gives a short journey into the imagination and concerns of each artist that he chooses to portray. For instance, I have just discovered the bohemian, metropolitan world of Milt Kobayashi.

Image result for Milt Kobayashi.

These paintings by Kobayashi give a glimpse of what I assume to be New York and perhaps Hawaii. They are interesting as a documentation of a historical and social context which is as vivid of the era as, for instance, Christian Schad is of the Weimar Period. The execution is quite different however and very expressive and not dissimilar from the Plymouth painter, Robert Lenkiewicz. 

It is clear that his work is much influenced by the famous French Painters like Degas, Lautrec and Manet. Perhaps indeed some were painted in Paris as the bottles and tablecloths seem to intimate. Often the subjects, treated with moving sympathy seem filled with melancholy -that the Germans call “Wehmutig”.

This is what Inesvigo writes:-“He was born in New York but soon moved to Oahu, Hawaii with his family. At age eight he went to Los Angeles. After graduating from the University of California in 1970, he began working as an illustrator. In 1977 he returned to New York and when he visited the Metropolitan Museum his artistic career changed when he saw a portrait of Velazquez’s Juan de Pareja. He began to study the work of Whistler, Chase and Sargent, who had Velazquez’s influence. Then he studied Japanese painting of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The perspective of Japanese art provided harmony in color, composition and drawing – Kobayashi has received two important awards: the National Academy of Design’s Ranger Purchased Award and the Allied Arts Silver Medal. His work has appeared in the magazines Forbes, Fortune and Reader’s Digest”

St Ives in Mid-October

The town is at last fairly free of tourists and today the St Ives Archive Centre-situated presently in Carbis Bay- is presenting an exhibition of St Ives in the 1970s. Actually the photographic display ( of Sam Bennets) goes back a good deal earlier to Doble’s Wall, sailing ships and coaches (which used to be called charabancs)jammed together in narrow streets. The awkward relation between traffic and pedestrians being one constant through the years. The Archive Centre next year is concentrating on the Torrey Canyon and the promenade Fire,{}

St Ives Archive at the Western Hotel (19/10/16)

St Ives Archive at the Western Hotel (19/10/16)


View from Norway Square

View from Norway Square

The promenade is still warm enough to eat outside so that Kaffekultur survives despite the horrors of Brexit with a great view of Jumbos and other older craft inside the harbour. Polish, German and other newspapers are available from the tiny newsagents opposite the lodge. The atmosphere is more relaxed and it is much easier to move around the town without the impediment of advertising boards and hawkers. The only guy playing a guitar in Fore Street providing a suitably melancholy, but not too plangent  melody.

St Ives "Jumbo" vessels

St Ives “Jumbo” vessels

In the Penwith Gallery( the Autumn Exhibition looks more colourful than ever and the sculpture and the ceramics are eye-catching too. This gallery deserves to be better known. In addition there is a section which is entitled Resurgence by Sue Davis and Anthony Fagin which is both inspiring and vivid. The press release states,” The exhibition takes as its central theme the regenerative power of the environment to recover from global despoliation whether from natural processes or human overexploitation. However it also reminds us – although not in any figurative sense – that while we may inhabit a world of ineffable beauty and bounteous resources, there is nevertheless a tipping point beyond which global recovery from continuing abuse will be impossible. Notwithstanding the gravity of their message, the approach of both artists to their work is positive and life affirming” (



Wilhelmina and Stanley in St Ives

The current exhibition in the Penlee Museum in Penzance lasts until 19th November and is certainly worth seeing for many reasons: its variety of styles, the contrasts between her life in Scotland and St Ives, the photographs, her green transparent glaciers and the more abstract endeavours of her later years. There are paintings which are reminiscent of Christopher Wood, bright touches that are reminiscent of Cezanne and the harmonies of Paul Klee can be glimpsed in the waves and beach scenes. wbg6

The view above was painted in 1940 -and features the Catholic Church on the left as well as the Church of St Ia almost in the middle. The buildings are vertically elongated which gives them an interesting attenuated quality, The grass of the Island and the roof tiles appear in orange against the predominate blue of the sea. The tide is half way in and the crane on the West Pier is just about visible.

Just a few years before, in early summer 1937, much the same scene was painted by Sir Stanley Spencer. It is interesting to compare the resulting works.stan2

The foreground in Spencer’s painting show palm trees and in general the perspective is given a detailed treatment. There is a large boat alongside the pier. The West Pier is shown in full from this angle and the Island and Downalong shown in considerable detail. The tide level is just a little further inshore. The Mariner’s Church and slipway are both clearly delineated. Spencer became a member of the St Ives Society of Artists. He painted other pictures of the town including this atmospheric painting evidently from the promenade.stan3

Here too is a painting showing the coluration of the rocks and fishing boats equipped with sails along with the coast beyond Hayle in the background. Perhaps painted from the rocks on the town side of Porthgwidden. The lighthouse at Godrevy as made famous by Virginia Woolf in 1927.ssfishing-boats-st-ives-1937

Barns- Graham excels in her sketches which are often interesting in their composition and dabs of spare but effective colour. The palette of yellow against grey below shows this in a view crested by The Island.


Summer in West Penwith in Black and White

Inspired by this Youtube clip of Berlin taken in 2015 in black and white, I decided to take a look at some, mostly “street” photographs I have taken  out and about in Penzance, Newlyn and St Ives this Summer.









There are two analogue photography websites i would like to recommend:-

and for the forthcoming Newlyn Arts Festival

the latter will be at the Newlyn Art Gallery

Some German Photographers of the 1930s


More than twenty years ago there was an excellent bookshop at the bottom of Station Hill in Truro. It was manned by a man who looked like a taller version of Alan Bennet who wore a white pullover and so the shop became known in our family as the “White Man’s”. He may well have read English at University because there was an excellent stock of poetry, criticism and literary collections. It was in the front part of the shop that art and photography books were stocked. It was here that I discovered a magnificent book of photographs by Roman Vishniac. ( }that was called “Children of a Vanished World” and was more than I could then afford. It was, however, quite stunning to peruse and an astonishing invocation of the past. As one reviewer on Amazon writes:-

“In this book we can see the faces of the children who disappeared a few years later in the Shoah. Just look at them, they are children like all the others in the world; beautiful, funny, playing, studying, and so on. Lives which were brutally cut in the most monstrous way in human history. If they had lived, they would have been merchants, rabbis, doctors, lawyers; some of them would have been known as novelists, scientists, and so on. Why had the world to live without their talents they wanted to show us?”

Roman Vishniac

Roman Vishniac

Vishniac photographed many subjects including microscopic biological specimens but it is this collection about the Shtetel which made him famous. In a way it provides a complement to the magical paintings of Chagall. Also I started to read “Shtetel” by Eva Hoffmann which is also interesting on this topic.p2


However, more recently,it is the Berlinische Galerie which opened my eyes to two further interesting photographers in their collection- These are Steffi Brandl and Erich Salomon. Brandl’s work is remarkable for it’s portrait and figure photography. Her compositions are unfailingly interesting and captivating. So captivating that I made sketches whist viewing them.p4p5 These are sophisticated photographs that work to capture the essence of the subjects in the lens. She was born in Vienna in 1899 as Stephanie Olsen and trained there under Trude Fleischmann and then married an architect, Ernst Brandl   moving to Berlin in 1926. She had a studio at 211 on the Kurfurstendamm and was forced to emigrate to England in 1933-she moved to New York where she died in 1966.

Erich Salomon’s work is similarly of great interest. In talking of his technique, says the following:-

Übliche Arbeitsgeräte der Pressefotografen waren seinerzeit unhandliche Plattenkameras für Glasnegative bis 13 × 18 cm. Salomon erwarb wenige Monate nach seinen ersten fotografischen Erfahrungen eine Ermanox-Kamera. Diese war ein neu entwickelter, relativ kleiner Fotoapparat mit dem seinerzeit lichtstärksten serienmäßig hergestellten Objektiv (1:2) und einem Schlitzverschluss, der Belichtungszeiten von 1/20–1/1000 sec erlaubte. Mit der Ermanox waren Momentaufnahmen auch bei schwachem Licht, Fotos in Innenräumen ohne Stativ und Blitzlichtmöglich. Als fotografisches Bildmaterial dienten Glasplatten von 4,5 × 6 cm in Einzelkassetten, von denen man problemlos eine größere Anzahl bei sich tragen konnte. 1930 kam eine Leicahinzu – noch leichter und unauffälliger als die Ermanox.

Esentially this says that press photographers used to have to use large glass plates 13x18cm in size, However, Salomon developed the technique by using a newly developed Ermanox camera which was small with a mass produced lens that allowed exposure times of 1/20 to 1/1000 sec and could therefore be used in low light conditions i.e. indoor photography using flash so that the size of the plates were considerably reduced.and a number of plates could be stored in the box which the photographer manhandled. Hence a series of shots might be made.By the 1930s the even smaller and less conspicuous Leica was developed.


Much more can be said about the dramatic life of this photographer who would indeed make a good subject for a film. Among the images which interested me that Salomon made was a photograph in 1938 taken in the Austrian Embassy in London. It shows, of course King George and the young Queen but also the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg whose attempts to keep Austria independent were just about to fail before the Anschluss. After the invasion by Nazi Germany he was arrested, kept in solitary confinement and eventually interned in various concentration camps. Salomon’s fate was worse- as a Jew attempting to escape he was caught in 1940 in the Low Countries and died in Auschwitz in 1944. erich