Images from the Rape of Lucrece/Lucretia

In the dolorous, beautiful and heart-rending poem “The Rape of Lucrece”, Shakespeare writes these wonderful lines:-

To see sad sights moves more than to hear them told,

For then the eye interprets to the ear

The heavy motion that it doth behold,

When every part a part of woe doth bear.

‘Tis but a part of sorrow that we hear:

Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords,

And sorrow ebbs being blown with wind of words.

The poem may be found on the Literature Network at http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/331/

The work will be presented at the Edinburgh Festival this year and details may be found at http://www.eif.co.uk/rapeoflucrece

Lucretia, 1520/25 Oakwood 76 x 54 cm

The first painting, considered here, ofLucretia is that by Joos van Cleve, a Flemish artist dated 1525 (Oil on panel). The Rijksmuseum says,”Joos van Cleve was probably born in the town or province Kleve in Germany. He trained under a painter in Kalkar. Probably, he started working in Bruges in 1507. Later he moved to Antwerp, where he registered as a master painter in the painters guild. Van Cleve was one of the most influential painters in Antwerp. He received major commissions for portraits and altarpieces. In his paintings he combines a traditional approach with new elements. He was one of the first to paint broad landscapes in the background. In the north, painters began to show an interest in landscapes in the sixteenth century.” It is said that, that like Quentin Massys, a fellow artist of Antwerp, Joos van Cleve appropriated themes and techniques of Leonardo da Vinci.

Flora by Quentin Massys

Having recently seen Massys’s beautiful painting of Flora, 1559 in the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, I can vouch for its entrancing effect which has spurred me to look too at his splendid and interesting oeuvre.

This may be further explored at http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/massys_jan.html

Detail from Lucretia

There are 9 images for The Rape of Lucrece in the Lessing Archive http://www.lessing-photo.com/search.asp?a=1&kc=202020203B61&kw=RAPE+OF+LUCRETIA&p=1&ipp=6 of which that of Joos van Cleve, in my view, is the most moving. This is due partly to the intense use of colour and partly because of the composition. Her head is slightly raised and there is a plaintive and doleful expression on the face which clearly evokes her immeasurable sense of violation. The gesture is expressive rather than realistic and conveys the sense of drama, emphasised in the picture by the diagonal composition. The swirling dishabille of her dress and attendant necklace, the lacing, the elegant sleeving and in particular the looping arc about her headdress adds to the emotional sense of dire confusion. Her royalty is conveyed by these fine robes. The red and black surrounding the more delicate flesh tones add to the sense of catastrophe. Such emphatic use of colour reminded me of Munch’s painting of The Madonna with which it is interesting to compare and contrast, since this second painting with its languorous quality is quite different in terms of the feelings communicated. http://www.edvard-munch.com/gallery/women/madonna.htm

Edvard Munch Madonna 1894-1895

The second picture is by the renowned British print maker, Stanley William Hayter, whose magnificent work has appeared fairly recently at the Annex Galleries, http://www.myspace.com/annexgalleries/blog/433291678.Hayter, it is mentioned was, “A chemist by training, Stanley W. Hayter spent most of his life in Paris. He is often noted for his 1927 founding an experimental workshop for the graphic arts – Atelier 17-that played a central role in the 20th century revival of the print as an independent art form”. His knowledge of chemistry was obviously a great asset in his printmaking and a brief biography may be viewed at http://www.wolman-prints.com/pages/artistbiog/all/h/293.html His etching from 1934 appears to be in MOMA and further detail can be obtained from http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A2558&page_number=3&template_id=1&sort_order=1

Rape of Lucretia (Viol de Lucréce) by Stanley William Hayter

The etching and engraving which in a twisted and troubled composition in black and tones of grey, dramatically suggests the violence of the rape itself in convoluted tubes with a sharp diagonal point, perhaps suggestive of Tarquin’s arm but surely demonstrates the violence of the crime itself. The lower figure seems distraught and crudely exposed to the upper figure which appears too as some sort of metamorphosised fly with the same stabbing structure seeming like some horrific proboscis. Also Armion according to Wikipedia remarks upon,” The association between the phallus and the blade later becomes quite clear when Tarquin enters Lucrece’s chamber and threatens the young woman with his sword”. Here the abstract forms fully express the extremity of the situation. At this time, it appears Hayter had just moved to No. 17, Rue Campagne-Première and was, a few years later to collaborate with Miro, Kandinsky and Picasso on artwork for the Republican cause in Spain. Perhaps this is reminiscent of the significant political result of these events, that Lucius Junius Brutus, nephew of the last Tarquin King led the rebellion against him and founded theRomanRepublic.

Hayter was influenced by the Polish printmaker Józef Hecht, who introduced him to copper engraving. Hecht’s own prints and paintings are both interesting and highly engaging. http://mushecht.haifa.ac.il/art/GhezCollection_eng.aspx?id=8

Joseph Hecht
Noisy Street
oil on canvas, 80×100 cm.

Vendage by Joseph Hecht

 This is now playing in the Edinburgh Festival 2012, should be really interesting:-http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/aug/13/camille-o-sullivan-rape-lucrece

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A Visit to Maggie Matthews’s Studio on the North Coast of Penwith

Maggie with a major work for her forthcoming exhibition

At the end of May I had the opportunity to meet Maggie at her lovely granite cottage just off the coast road from Land’s End to St Just where I interviewed her about her development as a painter and printmaker. She has recently bought herself a new etching press which was on the table where we sat and had coffee around the sturdy wooden table. Her next exhibition will commence at the Cornwall Contemporary (http://www.cornwallcontemporary.com/ ) on the 17th August and runs to the 10th September.

Detail from the work above

Maggie grew up in Brynmawr in Gwent, South Wales and first came to Cornwalljust after leaving Exeter College of Art and Design.  (Further details may be found at http://www.maggiematthews.co.uk/). Graham Sutherland was an early interest, particularly his use of colour. Having already been inspired by the landscape of South Wales with its magnificent mountain scenery, she was further impressed by the fabulous light of Penwith. Her family had strong naval connections, her grandfather had in fact been bombed out of Devonport, and the sea itself was an additional attraction for which she felt a strong, familiar affinity. Her palette changed completely and she became deeply interested in the St Ives painters. She was now to paint in bright and vivid colours which she soon came to use and to love.

Porthcawl andBarryIsland, nearCardiff, during the Miners fortnight holiday had already started a love of the beach and its natural history.ComprehensiveSchoolhad encouraged her interest in art, ceramics and sculpture but in addition Maggie enjoyed biology and maths, interests which were to prove an inspiration as her work has developed.

Detail from Maggie’s recent sketches

The facilities at Exeter, near the river inspired her interests in printmaking and ceramics. The geological society had an outward-bound bus and so there at weekends came down to Cornwalland whilst other students examined the rocks in CotValleyand other places, Maggie would be enthusiastically sketching. The sea, the mining and the Celtic connections were an additional attraction. After a period working on the manufacture of air and oil filters in industry in South Wales, Maggie arrived at Penzancejob centre whilst on a two-week holiday. She got a post working on the Jetsetter computer graphics project drawing paired-down sketches of simple objects like wine glasses and pencils.

Maggie continued to sketch the landscape intensively at weekends. She also went on Friday nights in St Just with Mary Stork to draw life studies, which she found a useful exercise and with Mary’s support she exhibited her work for the very first time.

Maggie outside her cottage with a work for the forthcoming exhibition at Cornwall Contemporary

Her first solo show was in Brown’s Restaurant which Maggie then proceeded to show at for another two more years and then had a further displays at Avalon in Marazion. Her very abstract colourist compositions at this point were very much influenced by her attraction to Patrick Heron’s work. In particular Maggie likes his later garden works and the space and depth created in these compositions. Paul Nash, Samuel Palmer, William Blake and Sutherland remain her favourite works for their pastoral, lyrical qualities. She remains interested in printing, ceramics and expresses an interest too in sculpture.

Hugh Stoneman –The Master’s Master

Available from your local bookseller

“Hugh Stoneman inspired a renaissance in fine print making in Britain and the artistic scene in Cornwall”, according to Fiona MacCarthy in The Guardian and looking through the splendid 144 pages of this book, you can see just why this is the case. The 99 works illustrated include those of Sandra Blow, John Hoyland, Martin Leman and Sir Terry Frost. Many techniques-from woodcuts to photographs, linocuts to carborundum –silicon carbide grit mixed with acrylic binders- are employed. As well as an introduction, showing photographs at work in the seclusion of his purpose built house in the tree lined valley below Madron, there is a biography and a useful and instructive glossary of print terms.

The works illustrated  now belong to the Art Fund Collective and were on display at the Falmouth Art Gallery. The text indicates,”Hugh’s links withCornwall, were always strong . He was first based at Dod Proctor’s previous studio and later he bought Orchard Flower Farm, Madron in the early 1980s with his second wife Linda, which was to become the family home –Hugh commuting toLondonto his studio inLondonevery week”. Hugh was also deeply involved in an endeavour which is about to reach fruition in St Ives, the renovation of the Porthmeor Studios.

Among the attractive variety of prints in this volume there are several which are of striking interest. There is the darkly mauve, purple and black image from Patrick Heron’s Brushworks Series, an etching made in his last year.  This is printed alongside the contrasting botanical, Spring 1957 by Dame Barbara Hepworth. Among the prints by Breon O’Casey, the vibrant simplicity of Four Circles 2003 stands out as does, for quite different reasons, the unusual vibrant simplicity of Little Girl on a Lion by Andrew Murray. This is an inspiring collection worthy of extended perusal; the fruit of many years of work by this masterful print maker.

Details of the Stoneman Gallery in Chapel Street, Penzance may be found at http://www.stonemanpublications.co.uk/

The Parisian Paintings of Jean-Louis Forain (23 October 1852 – 11 July 1931)

la lettre et labsinthe vers-1885

With Maupassant’s new version of Bel Ami portraying the belle époque, having recently been released in the UK, Forain is certainly of current interest. The trailer may be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1440732/ Of course the well-known previous version was released by director, Willi Forst inGermany in 1939.

Forain was a French Impressionist painter, lithographer, watercolorist and etcher and has recently been the subject of some interesting and charming exhibitions. About his drawing the Spaightwood gallery, Upton MA ( http://www.spaightwoodgalleries.com/Pages/Forain2.html) says,”A participant in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886 and a close friend of Manet and Degas, Forain was considered one of the most important artists of the first few decades of the twentieth century, frequently compared to Rembrandt for his emotional power as an etcher. His drawings were regularly reproduced just as Daumier’s had been in the mid-19th century, but Forain’s not only ridiculed follies but sympathisize with the poor and the unfortunate. He was one of Ambroise Vollard’s stable of artists along with Renoir, Rouault, Chagall, Dufy, and many others.”

Forain was strongly influenced by both Daumier and Degas, the latter was a friend of some fifty years and acknowledged the closeness of their styles when he said, “He paints with his hands in my pockets”. Additionally Forain attended the famous heated debates which took place Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas at the Café de la Nouvelle Athènes. There is a particularly relevant and interesting discussion on the social history of such cafés and the development of the modernist movement at http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-0903102-153114/unrestricted/Dees_thesis.pdf

Au café circa 1872 Watercolour 19.5 x 19 cm

Certainly, Forain was an assiduous painter of the café scene as may be discerned from the early watercolour sketch “Au Café” circa 1872. The engaging atmosphere and general bonhomie of the scene, perhaps in Spring depicts clerks and businessmen taking a breather at lunchtime, lovers meeting and the overarching foliage providing the shelter to bavarder over a glass of wine. The poise indicated by the extended legs of the figure seated at the table completes the mood. The influence of Daumier is certainly present; Forain was about 22 or 23 years old.

As is well known, Jean-Louis Forain had a ready wit and was the associate of Rimbaud, Verlaine and in particular Joris-Karl Huysmans. It was Arthur Rimbaud who wrote in a fragment,” Le haut étang fume continuellement. Quelle sorcière va se dresser sur le couchant blanc? Quelles violettes frondaisons vont descendre ?” Which has been translated as.”The upland pond smokes continuously. What witch will rise against the white west sky? What violet frondescence fall?” This is reminiscent of a lovely painting by Forain entitled Young woman standing on a balcony contemplating the Paris Rooftops, 1890.It was completed in Watercolour with black Conté crayons, red chalk and brush on paper and is to be found in theVancouver Art Gallery. It is appears as an early prototype of the bandes dessinées and the woman’s left profile stance resembles the figure in Seurat’s roughly contemporaneous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte,1884–1886.

An idea of the range of Forain’s work may be obtained from a suitable search such as http://www.flickr.com/search/show/?q=Jean+Louis+Forain&z=e

Seurat fragment fom La Grande Jatte

Young woman contemplating the rooftops of Paris

Self Portraits 1900-1912 (4) Stanisław Wyspiański

Self-portrait, 1902

“Stanisław Wyspiański (Polish pronunciation: [staˈɲiswaf vɨˈspjaɲskʲi]; 15 January 1869 – 28 November 1907) was a Polish playwright, painter and poet, as well as interior and furniture designer. A patriotic writer, he created a series of symbolic, national dramaswithin the artistic philosophy of the Young Poland Movement. Wyspiański was one of the most outstanding and multifaceted artists of his time in Europe. He successfully joined the trends of modernism with themes of the Polish folk tradition and Romantic history.” This is how Wikipedia introduces the man who is referred to as being the fourth Polish Bard; this must refer to Wyspiański’s literary skills since the other three are poets. The self-portrait that accompanies the article shows Wyspiański at the age of 33 in 1902. Why is this such an interesting portrait?

The Wawel on the left bank of the Vistula River in Kraków

It is executed in pastels and measures just 35cm by 35cm. It makes fine use of the whiteness of the paper to produce a crystalline, pellucid effect. This is clearly a symbolist work and shows his constant predisposition to add elaborate and striking floral designs. The self-portrait is to be found in the National Museum, Warsaw. However,he only visited Warsaw once.As is quite well-known, Stanisław Wyspiański came from Kraków, in whose general history and culture Wyspiański was deeply immersed. He was responsible for the design of furniture and interiors, and the development of Wawel, the astonishingly beautiful palace on a limestone hill overlooking the Vistula. In 1904 just before the emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, gave the order to withdraw troops from Wawel, Wyspiański and the architect Władysław Ekielski worked on plans to develop the Warwel Akropolis. This is a location that he knew well.” His father, Franciszek, a sculptor, had an atelier at the foot of the Wawel hill, home to a cathedral rich with evidence of the strength of the former Polish state, and to a royal castle, by then an Austrian army barracks.” (http://www.culture.pl/web/english/resources-visual-arts-full-page/-/eo_event_asset_publisher/eAN5/content/stanislaw-wyspianski)

  Stanisław Wyspiański is associated with the movement which was referred to as “The Young Poland Movement”. It appears that some of its members attended the St Anne’s Secondary School in Kraków. Here the students were the pupils were taught in Polish-something which was unusual since the area was under Austrian domination and German used by the dominating power. Lectures were delivered upon Polish history and thus a counter-culture was inculcated.

A lovely presentation with a Chopin track can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpxtIs_aQhw

 

 

Portrait of Ireny Solskiej.1904. Pastel. 48 x 62 cm. Muzeum Narodowe, Poznań.