How might we read such a photograph? It has a surreal quality about it that we might associate it with Magritte. The artist, musician and his instrument appear in a classical composition like the three graces. They are starkly outlined against the white Paris sky in front of the descending staircase. The two men seem isolated in their solitude and their is a feeling of expectation and a gentlemanly respect for the instrument whose feminine shape seems implied.
There is a humane quality which suffuses Doisneau’s work- a magical charm. The photograph makes a nice comparison with the famous HMV poster. It is impossible to say weather the subject is more enchanted by the splendid device or the music emerging from the cumbersome, jolly gramophone. Probably he is entranced by both. His posture and beret adds to the general levity of the scene.
Doisneau photographed many great artists and this photograph captures the master, Picasso in his characteristic striped jersey with his penetrating gaze. The photographer makes a marvellous joke with the distorted fingers of bread rolls. It seems likely that this was contrived between them. A morphic distortion and also an interesting game with perspective too.
Arte produces cultural programmes in English, French and German. The following programme which is in relatively easy German is well illustrated with drawings, original photographs and film clips and centres around Paris in the 1930s.
It is the period leading up to the Second World War and is particularly interesting on the splits between the Surrealists and the Communists leading up to the fight against Fascism particularly in the Spanish Civil War. It is also good on the developments in different forms of photography and the relationships of key figures like Louis Arragon, Max Jacob, the writer Andre Gide, Miro and of course, Picasso. The programme is worth watching for Picasso’s preliminary sketches of Guernica alone.
From the Arte Website we read that:-
Im Juni 1936 reist André Gide nach Moskau, wo er mit großem Pomp empfangen wird. Angesichts der sowjetischen Realität ist ihm der Prunk eher unangenehm. Kurz nachdem er nach Paris zurückgekehrt ist, trifft er sich mit André Malraux, der gerade aus Spanien eingetroffen ist, das sich im Bürgerkrieg befindet. Malraux hat die Fliegerstaffel „España“ aufgebaut und kämpft auf der Seite der Republikaner gegen Franco. Gide möchte den Reisebericht „Retour de l’U.R.S.S.“ veröffentlichen, der hart mit Moskau ins Gericht geht, doch seine Freunde und Malraux halten den Zeitpunkt für ungünstig. Der Aufstieg des Faschismus erfordere es, die UdSSR als einziges Bollwerk gegen den Nationalsozialismus zu unterstützen. Das Buch erscheint dennoch. Die Sowjets sind außer sich, die Deutschen jubeln.
Two interesting figures from this period were Andre Malraux and Louis Aragon. Malraux himself was an Art Historian and significantly helped to build part of the Spanish Republican Air Force- and author of La Condition humaine (Man’s Fate) and himself the subject of biographies by Olivier Todd and also Harold Bloom. He was always close to De Gaulle and became a Minister of Culture from 1958-1969. There is an interesting review of Todd’s book at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/31/style/31iht-malraux_ed3_.html (Photograph below)
Here is a poem by Louis Aragon; it is in French and English translation-
Head to Head at Penzance Public Library Nov/Dec 2013
These works were made in the last ten years of John B Anderson’s life. To quote from the notes at the library, “The fine lines adopted from his abstract period remain as precise: less indeed can be more. The work is observational, some of it quite quirky including bad hair days and some serene moments……… John B Anderson pushed his figurative work as far as he could towards abstraction: he then returned to a figurative style with a more restrained and pared back approach resulting in these fine line works.”
The following images scarcely do these paintings justice taken hurriedly with my mobile. They are hung rather high and difficult to see at their best advantage. However, their geometric style and their delicate colours make them very appealing and remind me in particular of the work of Oskar Schlemmer (4 September 1888 – 13 April 1943) who was a Germanpainter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school. Some of the images displayed may indicate this similarity as well as with the Bauhaus theatre designer, Lothar Schreyer.