The Antiques Roadshow – Behind the Scenes and 40 Years of Great Discoveries

The Antiques Roadshow – Behind the Scenes and 40 Years of Great Discoveries

a lecture by Marc Allum

 

For our AGM and 50th Anniversary celebration we were treated to a fascinating lecture by Marc Allum

Marc began by introducing himself and telling us that he had been on the show for 24 years. Even as a young boy he had be fascinated by ‘collecting’ – fossils, postcards etc.

He showed is a box of mixed artefacts saying this is what his head is like . In his travels around the world he was always gathering bits and pieces. As a teenager he began an interest in car boot sales and auctions. He also has a strong interest in archeology.

On the show he is known as a ‘miscellaneous specialist ‘ and he learns something every day. Antiques Roadshow epitomises what is good about British TV .It has been going for 44 years.  During the pandemic people were invited to send in items on line and Marc would receive thousands and have to whittle them down to 55 ! Now the show has 7 venues and 2 or 3 shows are filmed in each venue. 1500 guests are allowed in – all with tickets.

Famous finds include Ozzy the owl  (1990) the Norah Ambrose Punch pot in Liverpool in 1989 and in 1986 the painting Desert Halt by Richard Dadd. Their biggest find was a Leica Luxus 11 camera in Bridgend in 1991. There were only 4 made and this was the only one remaining and it sold in 2013 for £316,000!

They often receive items which cannot be given a monetary value .

He concluded his very entertaining and informative lecture by saying that the Antiques Roadshow is about culture and aspects of culture so it is OK to have a helmet from Star Wars,

 

The Bayeux Tapestry

Threads of History – The World of the Bayeux Tapestry
 
Lecture by Rupert Willoughby on February 14th 2022
 
Rupert Willoughby, historian and classicist, began his excellent lecture by reminding us how miraculous it is that this wonderfully vivid but fragile 1,000-year-old tapestry exists to this day. It is astonishing that it has survived for example not only the religious wars  of the mid 16th century in France but also the French Revolution. The ‘tapestry’ (from the French word tapisserie) comprises seventy-five scenes of wool-embroidered linen cloth, bearing Latin inscriptions. The last panel is missing and would probably have shown the coronation of William the Conqueror. It is 70 metres in length and tells of the the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Norman conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, noticeably told from the Norman perspective. The upper and lower zones include depictions of hunting and images from Aesop’s Fables, as well as scenes of 11th century life. Commissioned by Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, half-brother to William the Conqueror,  it was used to decorate the Cathedral of Bayeux once a year. The eight high-quality dyes are still vibrant today. It is thought that the tapestry was made in Canterbury a few years after the Battle of Hastings. The design is likely to have been created by a team of English craftsmen, as the the Normans had no tradition of figurative art. The high quality of needlework suggests Anglo-Saxon embroiderers, whose work was prized throughout Europe at the time. They are likely to have been  high-born women, their fingers being more nimble than those of men. There is no evidence they were nuns, as has sometimes been suggested. 
Image 1.  
King Edward the Confessor with Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex. Edward wished William of Normandy to succeed him. Here he is sending Harold to France to confirm the pledge with an oath.
 
Image 2.
Harold and his brother enter Bosham Church. Harold is known to have acquired Bosham from the Archbishop of Canterbury by trickery. On the right,  Harold and his men are seen feasting in Harold’s house. Note the two drinking horns, one on the left and one on the right of the table. A cupbearer would be used as it was not possible to put the full drinking horns down. No drinking horns are shown at a later – Norman – feast. Thus the Normans are presented as being more pious and civilized and better to suited to rule than the uncouth Anglo-Saxons, who were known to drink heavily.
Image 3.
Harold boards a longboat to France. He is holding a falcon on his wrist. Harold was obsessed with his falcons and  took them wherever he went. It was a way of bonding.
Image 4.
It is possible to tell the English and the Normans apart by their hairstyles. Harold has long hair and a moustache and so does King Edward (see image 1). In contrast to the English, the Normans wear their hair very short, and shaved at the back, practical for wearing a helmet.  They are also clean shaven. The Normans were offended by long hair “like women” and also by moustaches and beards.
Image 5.
Harold and William got on very well. William invites him to Brittany. Here Harold is shown in a heroic light saving two men from the quicksand at low tide, one of whom he is carrying over his shoulder. Mont St Michel is seen in the background.
Image 6. 
Harold swears a sacred oath on holy relics to Duke William. This oath is of major importance. By later taking the crown of England,  it implies that Harold broke faith with his liege lord and broke his oath to God.

 

Image 7.  
After Edward’s death, Harold is crowned King.  Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury is on his left. He was not recognized by the Pope and at an unknown date was excommunicated. It is made clear that for this reason the coronation was not valid.
Image 8.
After the coronation in January, King Harold and fearful Englishmen watch the 1066 Halley’s comet streaking through the sky, as a portent of disaster and a sign of displeasure from the heavens. In fact, the comet appeared in April, 4 months later.

Image 9

Fortifications are being dug at Hastings. Note the spelling, using ‘ae’ in ‘caestra’. A Norman would have written ‘castra’. In other instances in the tapestry, Edward is written AEdward.  These are another indication that the tapestry was crafted by the English.
Image 10. 
News of the burning of a house in Hastings by William’s men is brought to King Harold. A woman and child are seen escaping. This is an early example of cruelty to civilians.

Image 11a. 

and

Image 11b. 

The end of the tapestry bears the words  ‘Here King Harold has been killed’ (HIC HAROLD: REX INTERFECTUS: EST). This could apply to several images here, including the famous one of Harold with an arrow in his eye. Is he also hacked down? Is he lying on the ground? It is possible all three depict the death of Harold.

Arts and Crafts of Mexico -Past and Present a lecture by Chloe Sayer

Arts and Crafts of Mexico -Past and Present –                                                                                                                                       a lecture by Chloe Sayer on January 10th 2022

Chloe began her fascinating talk with a travel poster for Mexico from the 1930s which, as she explained to us, was the time when Mexico realised it could open up to the world and tourism.

She began by  taking us back to the original culture of Mexico -the mother culture – the Olmecs –  who dated from 1400BC-400BC. This jade mask dates from that period.

 

Some of the sculptures of the Olmecs were enormous and carved in rock.

Their influence spread to the Maya (who were then in this area from 400BC) as shown in this carved stone panel from 747 AD which is  now in the British Museum.

The Mayans were also great ceramic artists.

The Mayan civilisation was followed in 1100 AD by the Mixtecs. They were great artists, particularly working in gold, as shown by the items below including the mask of the Flower Prince.

 

in 1325 AD the Aztecs took over the whole area and were able to take ideas from the earlier civilisations. Moktasuma was their last elected ruler – powerful and spectacular.

He had built one large city and when the Spanish conquered they were impressed by this great city.

In the 1920s Rivera painted a mural of the city and also of the market day in the city.

The  page from an Aztec tax return shows why they became  so wealthy  and therefore why there were so many artists with such a wide variety of skills. The page  showed the areas on the left that were obliged to pay taxes, and the payments they made are shown on the right.

Their artistic skills covered a wide range including feather work ( as in this shield )  and mosaic work as in the double headed serpent.

In 1521 the conquest by Spain resulted in the fusion of two worlds. Most  people converted to Christianity and the infrastructure of the churches became the centre of artwork as in this work depicting Jesus using feathers.

For 300 years Mexico was known as Little Spain and therefore there was a lot of European style, but in 1821 it became a republic and could now welcome artists like Karl Mabel who showed what life was like off the beaten track. Though it was now a republic Mexico still had very wealthy large estates which led to the Mexican revolution in 1910. The famous leader Emilio Zappata died before the revolution succeeded ,but with this demand for land also came a cultural revolution with the people wanting to take a pride in its past.

Rivera painted murals showing Mexico’s past

and although he was certainly not a christian he also painted a mural in a chapel.

Rivera married Mexican Frida Kahlo. in. 1929

who was passionate about everything Mexican – looking for her roots. She was an avid collector of folk art

and an icon of Mexican clothing.

Chloe then took us through the last 60 years of Mexico’s history , looking at various elements of life.

The skills of the goldsmiths and silversmiths are still there today. Also the carvers – as seen in the work of Robert Luis’ carving  in bone of Adam and Eve, which shows such minute detail.The textiles and clothing is typical of 60 different peoples. The Spaniards introduced wool to mexico which the Mayan dyed using natural dyes. The Mayan weavers were reputed to be some of the best in the world. The spaniards also brought embroidery -used in the churches.

CLOTHING – after the conquest men were encouraged to wear shirt and trousers rather than the capes and loin cloths, but women’s clothing has barely changed. The blouses that they wear all have a design particular to their village.

POTTERY

  • The style and method of production has changed little over time as shown in this work by Tiburcio
  • or this glass deer covered in glass beads

and Valadez’s work using threads to build up pictures incorporating theology and cosmology.

 

FESTIVALS – Rivera painted a mural of festivals- this one was a flower festival

 

. Every village had its own type of dance and beautiful costumes

 

Chloe closed her lecture by reminding us that when we see objects it’s easy to forget the spiritual dimension and historical influence. This is particularly applicable to the arts and crafts of Mexico and their love of colour, spectacle and art , which makes Mexico the wonderful country it is. Thank you Chloe for a fascinating talk which really made us aware of the all the influences in Mexican art and crafts. .

 

 

The Journey of the Magi:Origins, Myth and Reality – The True Story of the Three Kings

The Journey of the Magi:Origins, Myth and Reality The True Story of the Three Kings.                                                                                                      – a lecture by Leslie Primo

Leslie began by sharing with us early images of the Maggi. This early image from the side of a 4th century Roman sarcophagus is very simple, showing no gifts –  no indication of gold, frankincense or myrrh. 

The name ‘wise men’ began because they were able to follow a star.

Paintings and carvings of the Maggi then began to show the three men walking in order of their age with the third man – the youngest –  having no beard.

By 1140 the three men have become Kings as on this stone carving – Leslie drew our attention to the clean shaven younger king  at the back.

Paintings at this time show that the men are foreigners as they are shown wearing trousers. They are also shown wearing the Phrygian caps – caps that were worn by people who studied the stars.

Lorenzo Monaco’s painting in 1422 shows them not only as kings but also gives them halos.

As it is in colour we can see that the older king has a grey beard. Also black people can be seen in the background as well as someone wearing the Phrygian cap so there are links between this religion and Christianity.. Not only was it monotheistic but it also had indoor rituals and a feast on december 25th !!

The adoration by Giotto in 1305 shows the oldest king balding and also there is the introduction of camels -(though not a realistic depiction ) possibly designed to introduce exoticism. The star depicted is Halley’s Comet.

 

In 1430 Fra Angelica showed no halos but introduced peacocks which are said to have incorruptible flesh and therefore represent the resurrection.

Benedetto’s  painting of the birth of Jesus is beautiful; there are no peacocks but there is the image of Christ on the cross

Albrecht  Durer’s painting in 1511 shows a black king. and also turbans.

Pieter Bruegel’s painting (1564 )introduces the idea of the future by including the presence of soldiers

and Jakob Lozzano in 1560 shows a black king and the classical crumbling ruins indicating the idea of destruction of the Roman world and the triumph of the Christian world .

The gifts had symbolic meanings – gold represented kingship; frankincense represented divinity and myrrh was a prediction of his death. In Jan Gossaert”s painting in 1470 there were all the elements were included – gifts, soldiers, star. the holy spirit crumbling ruin and dogs .

Sometimes the patrons of the painters are shown as the three kings as in Benotti’s fresco which shows the patrons – the Medicis – also there were no black Magi

In 1475 Botticelli painted the adoration and on the eft are all the members of the medici family and on the right is the person who commissioned the painting. There is also a peacock in this painting.

The painting by Rubens in 1624 shows Magi clearly from another country.

Leslie concluded her talk by recounting the story of the dream of St Helena who dreamt that she knew where the remains of the Magi were ( shown here in a painting by Verrazano)

314 AD they were brought back and after being moved around from place to place, in 1164 they were finally put in the Chapel of the Magi in Cologne, where they still are now.

The lecture shows , as Leslie concluded ‘Images triumph over words”

Goya

 

Goya -A special Interest day led by Jacqueline Cockburn.  November 1st 2021

The first lecture gave us an insight into Goya the person and his historical context including his self-portraiture, rise to court painter, his response to historical events his ongoing health problems and decision to leave Spain.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was born in Fuendetodos, north of Spain. He received schooling and became an artist’s apprentice in Saragossa. He moved to Madrid to study with Anton Raphael Mengs.

Jacqueline asked us to consider the nature of portraiture, compared to a selfie! In those days an artist would gaze into a mirror. The options open to Goya were a ‘direct’ portrait, staring at you, or the head turned to the side (coy) or looking into the distance (thoughtful) or a silhouette.

‘Self portrait’ 1771

He fell out with Menga failing to get into the Academy. Instead, he studied with Francisco Bayeu and married his sister Josefa 1773. She bore him seven children but only one son survived.

‘Self portrait with Spectacles’ 1801

Goya was ambitious and his first commission was an altarpiece for San Francisco el Grande (1784). His portrait was included, a practice commonly used by great artists such as Velazquez. His next commission was for the Count of Floridablanca, an influential man including prime minister to Charles III.

Goya’s delight in infiltrating the higher echelons of society is recorded in his correspondence with Zapater (1786). Jacqueline spoke of evidence of his own cultural awareness through inclusions of intellectual references, in the portraits. Goya used such devices as making his subject seem taller by employing the diagonal. The King sent Goya to his brother Don Luis de Borbon to paint the family,

‘The Family of Don Luis de Borbon’ 1783.

Jacqueline spoke about how the study of physiognomy was popular at the time, Goya would have studied ‘Physiognomy’ by Lavatore (1781-6) , she also referenced Thomas Holloway’s book on Silhouettes. Goya’s silhouette could be interpreted as that of a cautious man.

Goya develops tinnitus and becomes deaf. He moves into his own studio. He is commissioned to paint the Duchess of Alba, who is in a relationship with the finance minister. Her lineage is the longest of any other than the royal Family. Her husband dies and Goya moves in with her. He will paint some daring portraits of her.

‘Duchess of Alba’ 1797

The end of the century approaches leading to a Spain on war. The Queen of Spain invites him to paint the Royal Family on the condition he leaves the Duchess of Alba. He complies and is taken on as lead Court painter.

‘The Family of Carlos IV ‘1800.

Napoleon invades Spain, the start of the ‘Peninsular War’. Everything changes, the Spaniards fight back valiantly.

‘Third of May 1808’

The Spanish king is deposed, and the new king Ferdinand is appointed, only to be usurped by Joseph Bonaparte. Goya remains as court painter in Madrid. During this challenging time, he produces ‘The Disasters of War’ prints.

Plate 39: Grande hazaña! Con muertos!

His wife dies in 1812.

In ‘Self portrait ‘1815 (Museo del Prado), Goya portrays his advancing age. In 1819, he had a serious illness and was saved from death by Doctor Arrieta.

In ‘Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta’ (1820) the doctor supports Goya emulating the Pieta – Mary holding Jesus. (Goya’s green jacket is faded).

Goya retires to Quinta del Sordo, (Villa of the Deaf), where his Black Paintings were painted in oil onto the plaster walls of the house. Analysis has shown that someone else was involved in their construction, it may have been Goya’s son, Javier.

‘La Leocadia’ Mural by Francisco Goya

In 1824, he moves to Bordeaux, where he continues to paint for another eight years, his paintings become brighter once more. He takes with him. Leocadia Weiss, who was his maid companion and possibly his mistress.

He died in 1828 after a stroke. In his will, he left just one portrait to Leocadia.

END OF FIRST LECTURE

 

SECOND LECTURE

This lecture is about Goya’s modernity and Impact. Modernité relates to the C19th looking back over before and the time, in this instance Modernity is perceived as ‘avant garde’ or even contemporary. Painting is subject to matters of the time, while keeping to the themes of the past. His reassessment of the past is precisely what makes him so modern.

Goya trained in Spain and therefore used the Prado as his source. Jacqueline put up an etching by Goya on the screen and did a comparison between his copy and that of Velazquez. Goya’s portrayal had a more contemporary feel. Velazquez influenced Goya in a major way. Goya managed to convey more about physiognomy, about imperfections. Need to consider the psychology involved. In Velazquez’s equestrian portrait of Phillip IV, was the King controlling his horse or his finance minister?

Goya was adept at Frescoes and was employed by Manuel de Godoy. He painted his portrait with a particularly placed baton (1801) reflecting Godoy’s enjoyment of women.

Goya provides a contemporary feel to paintings emulating Velazquez such as ‘The Weavers’, He paints four tondos for Godoy, a series of allegories about scientific and economic progress for Godoy, Prime Minister for Charles IV. Spain did not undergo an Industrial Revolution.

‘Allegory of Industry’ 1805

Jacqueline spoke in depth about the portrait of the Spanish Royal Family, how Goya incorporates imperfections; the Queen was ‘not famed for her beauty but was proud of her arms’.

These were troubled times – the French Royal Family had been executed in France.

He is invited by Godoy to paint two portraits of the Duchess of Alba for Godoy, one clothed, which was hung above the one with her naked. The latter included pubic hair, considered daring at the time. The Duchess gazes straight out of the painting, intimately.

As the French poet Charles Baudelaire wrote in 1857, “Goya is always a great artist, frequently he is a terrifying one. To the gaiety and joviality of Spanish satire… he adds a more modern attitude, one that has been much sought after in the modern world; a love of the intangible, a feeling for violent contrasts and the terrifying phenomena of nature and strange human physiognomies which in certain circumstances become animalistic.”

Plate number 43: ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’ 1799

Los Caprichos is a series of 80 etchings published in 1799 wherein Goya criticized the rampant political, social, and religious abuses of the time period. Of the 80 aquatints, number 43, can be viewed as Goya’s personal manifesto: ‘imagination is what produces works of artistic innovation’.

His take on dreams was likened to the ‘The Nightmare by Fuseli’ 1791. Freud mythologised the notion of the dream.

What happens when Manet emulates Goya? His courtesan adopts the arrangement of Goya’s nude, she places her hand over her pubic hair, implying“You need to pay if you want to see more.” The rise in Prostitution in the nineteenth century was great. Napoleon’s laws safeguarded prostitutes; they each had a medical card.

‘Majas on a Balcony’ 1800-1810

 

‘The Balcony’ by Edouard Manet 1868

Jacqueline compared Goya’s ‘Shooting 3rd May’: victim about to die with arms akimbo, (like Christ o the Cross), stigmata in his hands, in his yellow trousers, to Picasso’s ‘Massacre in Korea’ 1950

Goya moves to Bordeaux away from his Black Paintings but is still haunted by Death. He paints “Still Life with Golden Bream (1808-1812). Jacqueline spoke of the DEAD fish, the use of colour, the unusual visibility (for this time) of brush strokes. Again in ‘3 Salmon Steaks’ 1812, this is not about eating but about the lumps of dead fish there.

‘Still Life – A Butchers Counter’ 1810-1812

This is around the end of the Peninsular War and Goya denies any religious connotations. Picasso will pick up on this theme with his ‘Still Life with Sheep’s Skulls’ sickened by the horrors of war. Andre Malraux ‘Picasso spoke to me of Goya’.

Dali also pays homage to Goya’s ‘Caprichios’: he buys some and reworks the print by painting over it.

‘The Colossus’ 1808

Dali uses this image for his ‘Premonition of War ‘1936.

Francis Bacon uses Goya for his face painting in ‘Man Eating Soup’

Calf’s Head by Goya

Damien Hurst drew upon this idea for his ‘Mother and Child’ exhibits. He sourced Goya to produce the diamond skull ‘for the love of God’.

Jake and Dinos Chapman worked on Goya’s ideas with their little figures, using them to depict hell.

 

 

Questions: Mental health problems? Being deaf must have been disturbing plus the times he lived in. He died happy there is a beautiful painting of Leocadia in ‘Milkmaid of Bordeaux’.

Goya is buried with his son’s wife.

‘Milkmaid of Bordeaux’ 1825-1827

Salamanca Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum

Whilst on a river cruise on the Douro in Portugal my husband and I had the opportunity to visit this fantastic museum. Our only regret was that we only had a couple of hours as there is so much to see and reflect upon, it really is a whole day’s visit or even better to spread it over two days with time to reflect in between. The galleries display a vast array of art nouveau and art deco of all genres.

The actual building was originally a small private palace built in the 20th century but was restored by the authorities in the late eighties to create this museum.

The porcelain collection is the most international collection in the museum.

The enamel works include French enamel from Limoges – particularly a pair of vases made by Camille Faure.

My favourite section was the art deco glass collection with much work by Renee Lalique – (notably displaying his use of plain or pastel shades to represent flora.and aquatics,) and his follower Ernest Sabine. Other glass works on display were by Emile Galle (creator of the Nancy School) and the most beautiful perfume bottles..

 

There are more than 100 works using the mixing of ivory and bronze (chriselephantine) to create statuettes by many famous sculptors, including the stylized and beautiful dancers by Chiparus based on the dancers in the Russian ballet company of the 20s, and some of the works by Ferdinand Preiss..

There is a splendid collection of dolls from Germany ( including the character babies ) and the luxurious French dolls, and a small collection of toys, incuding some by Margarete Steiff.

One of the most important and beautiful bronzes was the sensual dancer created by Karl Kauba.

The fan and jewellery collection was fascinating, and I could have spent hours studying the furniture on display including a wonderful desk by Joan Busquets.

By the time we came to the paintings our heads were full and reeling and wondered if perhaps the museum had considered rotating their displays.

We were not allowed to take photographs apart from the wonderful windows in the cafe

but if you wish to see some of the items that mesmerised us the website is www.museocasalis.org.

 

If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in salamanca ( which is a beautiful city ) then we wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this museum. we promise you will not be disappointed

Caravaggio – The Master of Light and Shadow – Shirley Smith

Caravaggio – The Master of Light and Shadow – Shirley Smith

Monday 8th November 2021

This year was the 450th anniversary of the birth of Michelangelo Merisi. Born in Caravaggio, Lombardy in 1571, and as Shirley pointed out, his talent is still inspiring artists of today.

Shirley was keen to acquaint her audience with the religious backdrop at the end of the 16th century in Italy. Protestantism was spreading fast in northern Europe, and Pope Paul lll was considered the first pope of the Counter Reformation. He was tasked with upholding the structure of the medieval church, its sacramental system, religious orders and doctrine.

Caravaggio started his artistic career as apprentice to Simone Peterzano, and then moved to Rome where he painted many still life portraits such as

‘Boy with a basket of fruit’,

and a self portrait as ‘Sick Bacchus’.

An early patron was Cardinal del Monte, a leading art connoisseur , and through this connection Caravaggio probably gained his first commission to decorate the Contarelli Chapel in the French Church in Rome, with the ‘Calling of St Matthew’.

Caravaggio was hugely influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, and also Tintoretto using ‘chiaroscuro’ a theatrical use of light and shade. Although there were huge constraints on Caravaggio’s art, because of the religious Rulings of the Council of Trent, he chose to depict biblical scenes with extraordinary realism of ordinary people, detailing dirty feet or ripped clothing, alongside a wonderful talent of depicting facial emotion. This is particularly evident in ‘Martyrdom’,

 

and much of his work shows conflict between spirituality and sexuality.

Caravaggio led a tempestuous and angry life, often in trouble with the law, yet despite this, he was commissioned many times to paint altar pieces for papal groups.

 

‘Death of a Virgin’ was rejected by the Carmelites, as being too realistic, yet it was a much sought after piece with aristocracy and kings.

Caravaggio painted directly onto the canvas, without setting the scene, but always set the painting in small spaces, filling the canvass with the immediacy of the moment, unlike the Renaissance pictures which were set in vast spaces.

After being exiled from Rome for murder, he fled to Naples where he was commissioned to paint ‘The Seven Acts of Mercy’,

and his paintings were becoming much darker, with shafts of light highlighting the human emotion. Caravaggio made his way to Malta, where the knights commissioned him to paint the Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt,

and also the famous painting hung in St John’s Cathedral in Valetta of ‘The beheading of St John’.

One of his final commissions was in Sicily, where he painted ‘Raising of Lazarus’,

with the light struggling to penetrate the gloom, but there was still a vibrancy and immediacy within the paintings that people were drawn to.

Caravaggio died alone, back in Rome at the age of 39, but has had a huge influence on many painters over the centuries.

Exhibition review

MK Gallery: Milton Keynes

Laura Knight: A Panoramic View

Visited by Bill and Pam Johnson 29 October 2021

An excellent exhibition of over 160 works from public and private collections including her most famous works. This exhibition is the largest of Dame Laura Knight in over fifty years. Her paintings include figures from the world of ballet, circus and theatre, portraits of people’s lives, marginalised communities and racial segregation in America. As an official war artist in the Second World War her painting compositions are unique. The exhibition is open daily except Mondays until Sunday 20 February 2022. More information on page 63 of the latest Arts Society magazine and the Gallery’s website. The café’s offerings are delicious.

 

Compton Verney: Art Gallery and Park near Stratford-upon-Avon

Two exhibitions for the price of one!

Visited by Bill and Pam 30 October 2021.

 

1. John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace

A major exhibition of John Nash’s work in over fifty years includes iconic oil paintings, accomplished wood engravings, line drawings, lithographs and watercolours. Nash was also one of the 20th century greatest botanical artists. He was also an official war artist in both the First and Second World Wars and his iconic painting “Over the Top, 1918” is on display along with his thanksgiving to survival “The Cornfield, 1918”.

2. Grinling Gibbons: Centuries in the Making

This extensive exhibition is a tercentenary celebration of Grinling Gibbons (died 1721) and his work as the most renowned British woodcarver of the 17th century and arguably the greatest carver in British history. A superb exhibition, “Centuries in the Making”, explores the influences that shaped Gibbon’s vision, his skills and techniques. This exhibition is also open daily except Mondays until Sunday 20 February 2022.

Book online for a Saturday or Sunday. There is a superb café offering cakes and hot meals.

Artists and Their Muses – a lecture by Alexandra Epps

Artists and Their Muses – a lecture by Alexandra Epps on October 11th.  2021

“What is a muse ?”  asked Alexandra at the beginning of her lecture – the definition she gave was ‘ a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for an artist. ‘

In the classical world  artists took angels as their muses – the kiss of creativity was bestowed on the struggling artist who would reinvest himself again and again.

In the more modern world we start to get an idea of the muse who inspired them.

Alexandra continued  by talking of the complex relationships which exist between artists and their muses, and explained that she would be focussing on four of the giants of the art world – giants whose muses were artists in their own right.

She began with

ROSSETTI and SIDDAL

They were founding members of the pre- Raphaelite movement

 

 

 

 

 

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin 1848-9 Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This was the first painting in the pre-Raphaelite movement.

The painting of ‘Ophelia ‘ by Millais in 1851 was the painting which made Siddal famous – it also made her ill as she posed lying in cold water. 

The paintings of Elizabeth Siddall by Rossetti epitomised the pre-Raphaelite view with downcast eyes and a brooding expression.

 

and Alexandra asked us to compare this with Siddall’s self portrait

It shows how disconnected Rossetti was with how they really were.

Siddall became increasingly unwell and when Rossetti finally married her , she had to be carried to the church .

‘Regina Cordium’ painted by Rossetti in 1860 was intended to alay all her fears  with the hearts etc. but she still looks ill.

Rossetti was still painting his other mistresses and they were looking very sensuous and seductive as in Bocca Baciata painted in 1859

 

In ‘Beata Beatrix,’  Elizabeth looks so ill and she takes her own life with an overdose of opium. In the picture you can see a red dove giving her a poppy –  the source of her death.

 

However in spite of all this, the face of Jane Morris  ( the wife of William Morris) was the face that Rossetti was besotted with – seen here in his painting in 1868 – ‘The Blue Silk Dress’

 

The next artist and their muse that Alexandra then introduced us to was

RODIN and CLAUDEL 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a relationship which was the making of Claudel but also it was her destruction. Like other muses they are defined by the mythology that surrounded them.

Rodin’s sculpture ‘The Kiss’ show the story of universal love, although actually it is adultery

Claudel had been brought to Paris by her family because she had shown such promise. She became a student of Rodin and her beauty and skill impressed him immediately. She soon became his model (Rodin like to use inexperienced models)

Danaid by Rodin 1989

Rodin and Claudel had such a strong relationship – they were pushing and challenging each other constantly

‘Aurora’ sculpted in 1885 shows a beautiful face emerging from rough rock

Claudel’s sculpture of Rodin (1888)

 

‘The Eternal Idol’ by Rodin demonstrates how they were wallowing in eroticism which is in a complete comparison to ‘The Waltz’ which is full of gentle movement .

Rodin was living with his partner Rose Mignon but was constantly promising Claudel that he would leave her but he never did. In the end Claudel decided that she must go.

The two sculptures that this created show the eternal triangle with  Rodin’s “The Farewell’ in 1898

and ‘Age of Maturity’ by Claudel in 1899

 

Claudel became a recluse and her brother organised for her to go into a mental hospital, where she remained for 30 years and never sculpted again.

Rodin’s sculpture  ‘The Sculptor and His Muse ‘ sums up the intensity of his feelings. He never got over her and in his will he made it a condition that her work should be exhibited alongside his.

 

The third artist and muse that alexander introduced us to was

PICASSO and  DORA MAAR 

Maar was a young French photographer and the relationship between the two changed both their lives..

Dora Maar “with Green Fingernails’

 

Maar and Picasso met in a cafe and Picasso was watching Maar do performance art by jabbing at her gloved hand with a knife.

Picasso became obsessed with her and says she was everything and in everything – a bird, a dog, an idea …….everything.

Picasso had said that his lovers were a constant source of ‘endless inspiration’ and his painting ‘ Nude, Green leaves and Bust’ 1932  shows another of his lovers, Marie-Therese –  his young secret lover.

He would paint both women , sometimes on the same day. Dora became his public lover but she was very highly strung and is seen smiling in only 2 of the paintings.

Dora Maar Seated by Picasso

Dora, for her part, introduced Picasso to many photographic techniques. She photographed the creation of ‘Guernica’

Marie Therese came to the studio and the two ladies had a fight about who was the most important. Picasso’s painting of the situation between his two lovers  “The Conversation’ shows only the back view of Maar which could be his view of the two ladies.

He would paint Dora spiky and Marie Therese soft. It was Dora who understood Picasso better than any of his other women.

and for his painting ‘The Weeping Woman ” (1937) he uses Dora as his model

However by 1942 Picasso’s painting of Maar as ‘Woman in a Satin Bodice” clearly shows he was no longer in love with her.

Dora had a nervous breakdown when the relationship was over and though they still exchanged gifts they were unkind unpleasant gifts.

The final pair that Alexandra told us about gave us a more positive and cheerful view of Artists and their muses.

STIEGLITZ and O’KEEFE

Stieglitz was one of the first to elevate photography to a fine art.

‘Winter in Fifth Avenue’ – photograph by Stieglitz

O’Keefe was an artist and Stieglitz used O’Keefe’s work in his exhibition without asking her permission;  she was very angry and contacted him and the relationship began from there.

He persuaded her to travel to America although he was married, but he divorced and married O’Keefe.

Though he photographed O’Keefe 350 times he could never see who she really was.

They then both work on the theme of clouds to celebrate their love and subsequent marriage.

O’Keefe

Steiglitz

‘Pink Tulips’ by O’Keefe seems to have sexual undertones

and ‘Radiator Building’  Stieglitz and by O’Keefe

 

They often both worked on the same projects.

O’Keefe then moved away to New Mexico as she craved anonymity  and didn’t come back, having become famous in her own right. For the rest of their relationship their love was exchanged in letters only.

Alexandra then closed this really interesting lecture with the quote

‘The sky is the limit for where an artist seeks inspiration ” which left us thinking and considering the inspiration for other artists.

Twentieth Century Sculpture – a lecture by Linda Smith

Twentieth Century Sculpture – Linda Smith – 13/9/21

The lecture traced the development of sculpture in the twentieth century from a large lump of marble at one end to an object transformed by putting it into an art gallery.

Linda began by explaining the respect for the classical with  Rodin’s The Kiss ( 1901-04) ie oversized marble, idealised  and naked and which was carved by stonemasons in his studio. By contrast Constantin Brancusi’s ‘The Kiss’ was a direct carving (1907-8), the first modern sculpture of the twentieth century and the star of Modernism. The qualities of these sculptures are that they display naturalism, eroticism and have a febrile physicality and energy.  In addition there was a truth to the materials, taking care to retain the sense of a block of stone.

Constantin Brancusi “The Kiss”

An  interest in the primitive ( primitivism) at this time refers to the arts and cultures coming out of non- westernized parts of the world – eg Gaugin in the South Seas and Modigliani’s Head ( c/f African masks on heads on Easter Island)

Jacob Epstein 1913 Figure in Flenite in the style of expressionism.

Picasso’s Head of a woman 1906 and 1909 with pronounced ridges and veins relates to the invention of cubism and revolutionized how shape is related on a flat surface

His Guitars 1912 and 1914 revolutionised the language of sculpture.

Picasso – Guitar with African Grebo Mask

Next came assemblage /bricolage and Brach invented collage. Up to then still life was a painting. Avant-Garde and Futurism and Vorticism followed on. Epstein’s ‘The Rock Drill’ 1913 like a life sized phallic symbol indicating progeny of the future with reference to the war and trenches and what mankind does with advanced technology. In 1913 he got rid of the drill and hands and cast it in bronze – this was an audacious thing to do in British art.

 

Jacob Epstein ‘The Rock Drill 1913

Jacob Epstein Torso in metal from The Rock Drill 1913-16

Marcel Duchamp followed with the ‘Bicycle Wheel ‘and ‘Bottle Rack’ 1914 and so began Conceptual art – where the ideas are more important than the artist/ materials.

It begs the question ‘What is Art’ – is it because the artist says so or because it is in an art gallery. Oscar Wilde and Balsac had their own ideas.

Marcel Duchamp –Fountain 1917

Dada arose out of the extreme reaction to the horrors of the First World War, then came Modernism, Bolshevism, Constructivism, Surrealism and Abstraction.

Barbara Hepworth emerged with her ideas all about forms (‘Three Forms’ 1935) and her husband Ben Nicholson (‘White relief ‘1935) was an internationalist ie using the universal language of art.

Barbara Hepworth – Three Forms 1935

Ben Nicholson – White Relief 1935

Salvador Dali – Lobster Telephone 1936

 

European emigres produced works from the twenties to the fifties when David Smith worked in welded art, abstract sculpture  – eg Agricola 1X 1952. and Australia 1951

David Smith – Australia 1951

Piero Manzoni’s 1961 provocative ‘Tin Can’ contained 30 gms of the artist’s excrement – a joke at the expense of the art world – which said that anything an artist touches can be turned into gold. Tin cans don’t actually contain what they say they do – but does it matter?

Piero Manzoni – Merda de Artista 1961

Pop art emerged – Peter Blake ( ‘The Toy Shop’1962) is nostalgic and Andy Warhol (‘Brillo Box ‘1964), 3 dimensional and made out of plywood  illustrated the language of selling.

Peter Blake – The Toy Shop 1962

Andy Warhol- Brillo Box 1964

Minimalism ( Donald Judd ‘Stacks’ 1967,1968, ) is where the effect comes from the materials used. Jeff Koons’ 1988 ‘Michael Jackson and Bubbles’ in porcelain says that art can be made of anything. Trashy souvenirs were sold at that time, life sized and ghastly, they were ‘Kitsch’.

Jeff Koons – Michael Jackson and Bubbles 1988

However Olafur Eliason’s  ‘The Weather Project’ in the Turbine Hall in 2003-4 was an installation that the public loved.

Olafur Eliasson – The Weather Project 2003-4

Rachel Whiteread’s  ‘ Vienna Holocaust Memorial ‘-  and ‘Library ‘(1999) were colour leached and stripey.

Rachael Whiteread – Holocast Memorial, Vienna1998-2000

Rachael Whiteread – Untitled (library) 1999

Fiona Banner ( ‘Harrier and Jaguar ‘ 2010) says that she finds the objects beautiful – because they are designed to perform a job, even though they are jets designed to kill. That we find them beautiful brings into question the very notion of beauty but also our own intellectual and moral position. She is interested in that clash between what we feel and what we think.

Fiona Banner – Harrier and Jaguar 2010

Art can be baffling but Linda ended her beautifully illustrated mammoth lecture by asking the question ‘Does it interest me to find out more?’ If it doesn’t interest you – move on. No work of art will appeal to everybody in the same way.