Paintings of Refugees by Maurice Minkowski(1881-1930) and Frances Hodgkins(1869-1947)

The paintings of Jewish refugees from Odessa and Bialystock by Maurycy Minkowski around 1910 are haunting, heartbreaking and evocative. Yet both in their colourful lyricism and moving composition they are a reminder that the refugee crisis is by no means a new phenomena; they are also pointers to some sort of categorical imperative that it requires urgent action still today. These are art works which demand that the fight for peaceful refuge and against racism is taken seriously now and once again.

Translating from the IWO in Buenos Aires, where it states:-

He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Warsaw in 1881. At five years old he was deaf as a result of an accident. Having shown artistic vocation, he studied art at the Art Academy of Krakow where he graduated with honors. In his early years he painted portraits of local personalities and impressionistic landscapes.
His experience Pogrom of Bialystok (1905) was decisive in the course of his life: he abandoned his specialty as a landscape and portrait painter to devote himself almost exclusively to painting scenes of religious and secular Jewish life in Eastern Europe. 
Minkowski rejected the new artistic movements of the early twentieth century to put his painting in the service of a style that could be defined as “ethnographic” and became the portraitist of anonymous Jews, refugees, and the impoverished masses. 
His large canvases showing the victims of the pogroms attracted the attention of the European public, and despite the barriers imposed their origin and communication difficulties, his paintings were exhibited in Antwerp, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Paris and other cultural centers in Europe .mm1
in addition to painting many scenes of the suffering of the Jews in Russia and Poland in the early twentieth century, Minkowski devoted much of his work to exalt the role of women in Judaism,
At http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/suplementos/las12/13-2747-2006-07-06.html we read that of  his work  in Buenos Aires, where this deaf and dumb painter, the critics Silvia Bronstein Wilkis and Zachary M. Baker wrote:-
“Soon Minkowski will present to the Argentine public in his simple and beautiful  work. Undoubtedly and without prejudice, the heart will appreciate a work that only the heart has dictated, ” Julio E. Payró.wrote from Belgium in the newspaper La Nacion, in June 1926, “No violence, no scene of lethal fire, brutal invasion, but the memory and the threat of pogrom weigh in the atmosphere of the work of Minkowski (…) Thus, in his immense tenderness, the artist’s gesture Leasehold the horizon of Poland and embraces all suffering humanity, “said the Belgian art critic in another part of his article.”mm2
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Frances Hodgkins (see these two above images of Belgian Refugee children painted in St Ives in 1916) was a significant New Zealand painter of whom David Tovey has written in his interesting book Sea Change Fine and Decorative Art in St Ives 1914-1930. During World War I she spent some time in Zennor, Cornwall, where she worked with the Swansea painter, Cedric Morris, who painted her portrait in 1917.She herself began to paint in oils in 1915.
As the website at the New Zealand Museum, http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/topic/935 states:- “The outbreak of World War One forced Hodgkins to move from Paris to St Ives, a small fishing village in Cornwall, England. Here she found it difficult to travel or earn money and endured considerable hardship. However, it also meant that she had time to paint, and she experimented with larger works, using oil and tempera as an alternative to watercolours. Her works from this time show the influence of Post-Impressionism. “
Tovey points out that under the proactive approach of Gussie Lindner that St Ives took in some 99 refugees from Belgium of whom something like 62 remained in 1915. The large oil which is in the Christchurch,NZ gallery, the upper of these two above was called “Unshatterable” and was exhibited at the International Exhibition in 1916. He quotes from curator Ken Hall at Christchurch who mentions how in this painting the grey swirling area in the top left represents the absent father. Moffat Lindner felt these paintings showed considerable talent and he was to provide for her and encorage her in various ways. More information on Lindner who was a key figure in the St Ives Society of Artists may be found at http://cornwallartists.org/cornwall-artists/moffatt-lindner
 In 1915 St Ives was a small town but played its part in taking in those in dire need-surely now we can maintain this enlightened tradition particularly for those who are victims of the devastating weaponry and ferocious assault.
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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,{http://www.stivesarchive.co.uk/}

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

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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 http://www.stivesjumbo.com/
St Ives “Jumbo” vessels http://www.stivesjumbo.com/

In the Penwith Gallery( http://www.penwithgallery.com/current-exhibition/) 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” (http://www.anthonyfagin.co.uk/publications/PRESS_RELEASE_resurgence.pdf)si2

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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 http://www.barns-grahamtrust.org.uk/ -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.

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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.

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

www.ishootfilm.de

and for the forthcoming Newlyn Arts Festival

http://www.homemadeproject.net

the latter will be at the Newlyn Art Gallery

Some views of Cornwall Open Studios 2016

Open Studios can indeed be a pleasant opportunity to travel around Cornwall, meet artists in their studios and, of course, purchase perhaps some pieces of their work. Not least is the fun of returning to Krowji and seeing new artists and new developments in what has become a vital and innovative centre for craft, jewellery, painting, prints and pottery situated in the old Redruth Grammar School and brand new studios.NH4NH1

It was great to view the outstanding ceramics made by Nic Harrison, hand thrown forms rooted in the Leach tradition. Nic having worked at the Leach pottery now has a splendidly appointed studio at Penhale Jakes in Ashton near Helston. Oxides of iron, copper and cobalt produce some wonderful coloured glazes. His work may be seen at http://www.nicharrison.com

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Also of considerable interest, because I particularly like the medium, were watercolour studies done both in Spain and locally in West Penwith of Paul Armitage. He has an exhibition coming up at the Trereife Gallery near Newlyn between 20th June and 5th July, this year 2016. The palette of earth tones and greys which he uses have a charming lyrical quality.

http://www.essextyler.com/artist/paul-armitageNH3

After travelling down the high lanes full with the abundance of early summer flowers, a warm welcome awaits in the surreal atmosphere of the Melting Pot cafe in Krowji. Once a Grammar School staffroom it now has something of what I imagine a Zurich kneipe might have developed in the 1920s. The stage seems about to erupt into some avant-garde spectacle.

Visiting Penwith Gallery-March 2016 in St Ives

Even on an overcast day, walking along Lambeth Walk is a pleasure. Just along from the slumbering elegance of the St Ives Arts Club are the reinforced portholes of the Porthminster Gallery. Currently among the many interesting and varied pieces on display here  are the intriguing ceramic tiles of the Austrian artist Regina Heinz.  http://www.porthminstergallery.co.uk/ The sea has always drenched over Lambeth Walk in Spring Tides, but dull or in the early Spring sunshine, the turnstones are a welcome sight. They seem to have appeared during the time that the seagulls have become more aggressive when swooping indiscriminately down to snatch the lunches or suppers of unwitting and hapless tourists. The turnstones are currently abundant and closely related to sandpipers.Turnstones

Currently the Tate Gallery in St Ives is closed although, of course, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is open. Details are available at http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/admission-opening-times. A worthy alternative to the Tate Gallery is the Penwith Gallery where at http://www.penwithgallery.com/about/ it is stated that,”In 1960, the present site, then a pilchard-packing factory, was acquired and converted into a gallery, with artists’ studios above. In 1970 adjacent property became available, and the artist members, assisted by Barbara Hepworth, sought funds to create the present group of galleries, studios and workshops. To take on the task of maintaining its buildings and workshops, to arrange the programme of exhibitions and execute the gallery business the Penwith Galleries Ltd. was created.” Just opposite the Ropewalk where, of course, rope was manufactured, it was here that Troika pottery had it’s workshop and showroom.

Jane Yates
Pot by Jane Yates

The current exhibition runs until April 19th and visitors are likely to find it various with many works to catch the eye. There are the well-known and established favourites like Antony Frost, John Piper and Noel Betowski (whose work from a previous exhibition is shown on the clip above)  as well as painters who have recently joined such as Jessica Cooper;mentioned previously on this blog. In addition to the paintings both pottery and sculpture are on display in this well-lit environment.

Classical Head by John Emanuel
Classical Head by John Emanuel

Two works caught my attention and set off trains of thought. The first was a small work by John Emanuel, who moved to St Ives in 1964 (his work is often to be seen at the charming Belgrave Gallery just off Fore Street-http://www.belgravestives.co.uk/) and is a delightful classical head. Hearing the sound of the sea in the distance might prompt us to these lines of Homer from “The King of Asine” in the Illiad:-

And the poet lingers, looking at the stones, and asks himself
does there really exist
among these ruined lines, edges, points, hollows, and curves
does there really exist
here where one meets the path of rain, wind, and ruin
does there exist the movement of the face, shape of the
tenderness
of those who’ve shrunk so strangely in our lives,
those who remained the shadow of waves and thoughts with
the sea’s boundlessness

(http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181850)

Jason Lilley
Jason Lilley

The second work attracted my attention because it reminded me of the abstract expressionism of Adolph Gottleib. I have often noticed the attractive prints of Jason Lilley – http://jasonlilley.co.uk/gallery_cornwall_artist_jason_lilley.html However, the similarity with Gottlieb may be judged from the accompanying images below. GottliebAdolph_summary

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