Friday, 30 May 2008
Up for auction shortly are several paintings from the Denmark Expedition. They are pleasant and accomplished landscape paintings and not particularly striking in their own right, but the circumstances of their execution and their historical context make them interesting.
"The purpose of the Denmark Expedition was to map the coast of Northern Greenland and the waters around Peary Land. The scientific project headed by Mylius-Erichsen unquestionably fulfilled contemporary expectations. The group created quite a stir, for instance, by succeeding in mapping the entire North-Eastern coast and its big inlets, including the 200 kilometres deep Denmark Fjord. As a member of this expedition, the painter Aage Bertelsen (1873-1945) was expected to create a visual, historical documentation of this sensational project.
Aage Bertelsen made many sketches, studies and paintings during the expedition...The Bertelsen family tells of the conditions Aage found himself in on the Eastern coast of Greenland when he painted these paintings. It was so cold that his brush strokes could not exceed a length of about three centimetres – otherwise paint, brush and canvas would simply freeze together."
In addition to his documentary paintings, Aage Bertelsen also made several larger paintings when the weather was somewhat milder during the Denmark Expedition, one of them is shown below.
The works go on sale 4th June - http://www.bruun-rasmussen.dk/vfs/news/8700.html
Thursday, 29 May 2008
The first time I saw one of Konrad Witz's paintings I was hooked. It was "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes" (1444, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland.) It is a beautiful painting, and the events which inspired it are described in the bible by St. John (21 : 1-8) - After the crucifixion Simon (Peter,) one of the apostles, returned to Galilea to resume his trade as a fisherman. He and his men spent a fruitless night fishing, then in the morning they saw the figure of a man who told them to cast their nets once again. They did so and pulled in a "miraculous" quanitity of fish. John, who was working alongside Simon Peter, then recognized the figure as Jesus and exclaimed "It is the Lord!" before throwing himself from the boat to try and reach Jesus.
The scene is caputured with incredible emotion in Witz's painting, the figure of John wading arms outstretched through the murky green water, face locked in fear and awe, trying to get close to the red robed figure of Jesus. Apart from the obvious religious intensity of the work, there is a lot to enjoy stylistically. The tiny, obsessively painted hedgerows on the hills in the distance, the slightly crude but honest attempts at the reflections of the figures in the water, the water itself, the thunderous clouds which appear to be rearing up in response to the events below. It's a moving scene, and as a painting it's highly accomplished.
The same scene was painted just a hundred or so years later by Jacopo Bassano, the end result containing none of the humanity or charm of Witz's rendition of the shellshocked fishermen.
As is to be expected of an artist working in the early 1400's, there aren't many of his paintings still around, which is a shame. Here is his painting of Saint Christopher -
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Monday, 26 May 2008
Joachim Beuckelaer (c.1534-c.1574) was active for only fifteen years, dying around the age of forty. He produced some breathtaking works during that period, around forty of which survive today. Focusing on food, primarily marketplaces and kitchens, his works overflow with fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and bread. He included allegories and religious scenes in the background of his works, so while the eye is easily caught by the abundance of food spilling forth from tables and baskets, there is usually a deeper message being conveyed elsewhere in the painting.
With the rounded, stylised modelling of the figures, hugely realistic representations of the food and incredibly vivid colours throughout, his works, especially "Kitchen Interior" which today hangs in the Louvre, appear a lot younger than they are. Perhaps it is because they are bustling, full of life, and slightly at odds with what you would immediately associate with 16th century painting?
This genre of painting - market scenes and kitchen interiors - was "invented" by Pieter Aertsen but it was his nephew Beuckelaer who imbued them with life and vibrancy, and cemented the importance of the marketplace genre. His works were hugely influential during his life and for long after, and it is his works rather than Aertsen's that endure today. His paintings of food were important in the evolution of the modern still life as we know it.
See more of his works here.
Information on his "Four Elements" series here.
"The Four Elements - Fire" 1569. National Gallery, London.
"The Full Kitchen" 1566
"The Vegetable Seller" 156?
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Carel Weight was born in Paddington, London in 1908. As a child he was often sent to be taken care of by poor neighbours in the Chelsea area of London, returning to visit his parents on the weekend. This turbulent childhood lead to an acute awareness of the differences between affluence and poverty in London and informed most of his later works. His paintings tackle themes of human isolation and complex family relationships, a lot of them set in domestic interiors or gardens. Weight, a deeply sensitive man whith an exceptional imagination, took scenes from classical literature and the bible and reimagined them around London, often in his own back garden. He is best known today for these narratives of life in South London, interspersed with ghosts, family relations and figures from the Bible. In this slightly bizarre attention to his own surroundings and locality in London his work is very similar to Stanley Spencer.
He studied at Hammersmith School of Art, Paddington School of Art, and served as an official War Artist during the Second World War before teaching at the Royal College of Art in the 1950's. He was awarded a CBE in 1962 and an Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh University in 1982. He died in 1997.
"The scene is set just outside Bishop's Park in Fulham and depicts a man attacking a woman with a chair. Weight was preoccupied with the themes of public and domestic outbursts of violence in suburban London. This work was not based on an actual scene but on what Weight imagined when he heard a female scream while wandering in the park at sunset."
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
"Iwase Yoshiyuki was born in 1904 in Onjuku, a fishing village on the pacific side of the Chiba peninsula, which encloses Tokyo Bay on the east. After graduating from Meiji University Law School in 1924, he took up lifelong pursuits, heading the family sake distillery and documenting the receding traditions of coastal Japan. In the late 1920's Yoshiyuki received an early Kodak camera as a gift. Since the main livelihood of the town came from the sea he gravitated there, and soon found a passion for "the simple, even primitive beauty" of ama - girls and women who harvested seaweed, turban shells and abalone from beneath the coastal waters.."
This way of life has now completely disappeared but Yoshiyuki's photographs provide a stunning visual testament to these fascinating women. His total output is of a very hight standard but it is his photographs of the ama divers which are truly iconic.
Iwase Yoshiyuki, 1904-2001. These photographs are via his official website, please see the following link for more -
Sunday, 18 May 2008
Mikhail Larionov (Russian, 1881-1964) - "The Rain"
Pol Cassel (German, 1892-1945) - "Landscape"
Luigi Nono (Italian, 1850-1919) - "First Rain"
Yngve Johnson Tore (Swedish, 1928-1979) - "Untitled" c.1949
Thursday, 15 May 2008
I am a fan of Polish fin de siecle painting. I have already featured Polish works here and there will be more to come in the future. However, a lot of it is boring, repetitive and rigidly academic. Julian Falat famously said "Polish art ought to convey our history and our beliefs, our qualities as well as our defects - it must be the quintessence of our soil, our sky, and our ideals." Like a lot of his contemporaries he stayed more or less true to these notions and as a result a lot of his work is bogged down in historical representation, gloryfying Poland and the Polish, and churning out generic scenes of Polish peasantry.
He was an excellent painter nonetheless, and occasionally he turned his hand to large, dramatic canvasses of the Polish countryside. While the earnest representations of his country and its (then) downtrodden populace have probably made a few textbooks over the years, these landscapes are a worthier contribution to the art of Poland.
"Moose in Polesie" 1899
"River in Snow" 19?? (pastel)
"Snow, Poelsie" 1910
"Winter Landscape" 1915
Born near Bologna, Italy, Marco Zoppo was an Italian Renaissance painter, draughtsman and manuscript illuminator who studied under the painters Lippo Dalmasio and Francesco Squarcione (at the age of 21 he became the adopted son of Squarcione.) I can't claim to have come across a lot of his work, and what I have seen isn't all of the same high standard, but he did paint this beautiful picture -
Friday, 9 May 2008
Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939) was an impressionist painter born on the island of Mauritius in the year 1862. Le Sidaner received most of his tutelage from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the instruction of Alexandre Cabanel but later broke away due to artistic differences.
He traveled extensively throughout France and also visited many cities around the globe such as London, New York, Venice, and Paris; as well as some small villages throughout Europe. Le Sidaner exhibited at the Paris Salon, the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris, and the Goupil Gallery in London. He lived in Gerberoy, France.
"Canal in Bruges" 1900
"Grey Gables" 1914
"Le Pavillon Francaise Versailles" 1917
"Rooftops in moonlight" 1910
"Snow in the moonlight" 1903
"The Canal Snow" 1901
"The Church, Nemours" 1919
"The Gray Mill" 1914
"The Wall, Autumn" 1910
"The Old Palace, Venice"