Showing posts from June, 2011

Georges Seurat (1859-91)

GEORGES SEURAT (1859-1891). Born Georges-Pierre Seurat. His most famous work A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) is an example of pointillism, a technique of painting in small dots in patterns to create an image.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)

The most famous play of the 20th Century is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Much has been written on what the play is about. Is Godot God? Beckett said no, but no one listened. He was only the author, after all. He also said that he did not know who Godot was, and that if he had known he would have said so in the play. Good point. And in 1975, according to American scholar and Beckett friend Ruby Cohn, she was in Berlin where Beckett was assisting in a production of Godot, when together they went to see a collection of paintings by German Romantics. One was Man and Woman Observing the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich, and, according to Cohn, Beckett announced: 'This was the source of Waiting for Godot, you know'. [Damned to Fame, The Life of Samuel Beckett by James Knowlson, p378]

Friedrich was born in the Greifswald (Swedish Pomerania) and studied in Denmark before settling in Germany. He established himself as a leading Romantic landscape painter, his works often depict…

Emil Nolde (1867-1956)

He was born Emil Hansen in the village of Nolde in Germany (now part of Denmark) and became a leading member in German Expressionism. He painted in both oils and watercolours. When Samuel Beckett during his tramping around Germany in 1936 saw his painting Christ and the Children (Christus und die Kinder) he wrote in his diary: '... clot of yellow infants, long green back of Christ (David?) leading to black and beards of Apostles. Lovely eyes of child held in His arms. Feel on once on terms with the picture, and that I want to spend a long time before it, and play it over and over again like the record of a quartet'. [Damned to Fame, the Life of Samuel Beckett by James Knowlson p235].

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901). Full name Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa. He was born into an aristocratic family of Anglophiles, and spent some time in London designing posters. He became friends with Oscar Wilde and painted his portrait. But he will be forever associated with his paintings and posters of the Moulin Rouge in Paris, though he painted many other subjects, too.

Paul Cézanne (1839-1896)

PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1896). A friend from childhood with writer Émile Zola until he quarrelled with him over Zola's novel L'Oeuvre about a painter (Cézanne) unable to complete his great work. He believed that the true aim of the artist is the study of nature. Of the 300 paintings he completed many are landscapes of Provence in the south of France. His work was admired by many artists and he was an inspiration for the Cubists, but Salvador Dali, on the other hand, thought he was the worst and most catastrophic painter in France.

Caravaggio (1573-1610)

(MICHELANGELO MERISI DA) CARAVAGGIO (1573-1610). Had a reputation as an irrational, violent man who was known to the police for assaults and stabbings. On one occasion he assaulted a waiter in a dispute over a bowl of artichokes. In 1606 he fled Rome after killing a man and exiled himself in Naples, Malta and Sicily. But he was found by his enemies and disfigured in a fight for his life. He is always believed to have died of malaria in 1610, but in 2010 new evidence emerged that it have been the lead in his own paintings that finished him off. As with his life, his paintings too were dramatic. His work The Death of the Virgin was rejected by the Carmelite priests that commissioned it finding it indecent. Other works include Bacchus, a beautiful portrait in the classical mould with an underlying tone of decay. Caravaggio is also credited with introducing chiaroscuro (light and shade) into European painting.…

Walter Sickert (1860-1942)

WALTER SICKERT (1860-1942). Full name Walter Richard Sickert. English artist born in Germany. He had a fascination for Jack the Ripper and believed that he once lodged in the same room as the Victorian serial killer. He even painted the room entitling it Jack the Ripper's Bedroom. In 1976 he was alleged to have been an accomplice in the murders [Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution by Stephen Knight], and in 2002 popular crime novelist Patricia Cornwell went so far as to claim that Sickert was Jack the Ripper himself [Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell].

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985). Born in Belarus though later known as French. Name at birth: Moishe Shagal. He was associated with several artistic styles including expressionism and surrealism. He spent the years of the Second World War in the United States, returning to France in 1948. On the death of Matisse in 1954 Picasso said that Chagall was now the only person alive who understood colour.

Spanish Baroque

Spanish Baroque was largely devotional in nature. This was the period of the Inquisition of the Spanish Hapsburg Dynasty of Philip II, III and IV and painting was profoundly influenced by the church.
Principal artists: JUSEPE DE RIBERA (1591-1652). Dark, sinister paintings. Influenced by Caravaggio. DIEGO VALAZQUEZ (1599-1660). Early Caravaggio influence but essentially his own man. Became the leading painter in the court of Philip IV. Works include Las Meninas, the maids of honour attending the Infanta Margarita Teresa. Also self-portrait in front of his canvas. FRANCISCO ZURBARAN (1598-1664). Works include Still Life with Oranges. BARTOLOME ETABAN MURILLO (1617-1682).

Flemish Baroque

The principal artist of Flemish or Northern Baroque is PETER PAUL RUBENS (1577-1640). He was the most successful artist of the 17th Century and counted among his patrons the kings of France, Spain and England, as well as church leaders and statesmen. He was greatly influenced by Caravaggio, especially in his religious paintings. Works include The Flight into Egypt; Portrait of the Maid of Honour to the Infanta; also the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall (London).
The other leading figure of Flemish Baroque was SIR ANTHONY VAN DYKE (1599-1641). Excelled in the lucrative business of portrait painting, his patrons including Charles I of England. Works include Charles I out Hunting.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

CAMILLE PISSARRO (1830-1903). Born Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro in the US Virgin Islands and had Dutch-French nationality. His influence extended beyond Impressionism into post-Impressionism with artists such as Cézanne, van Gogh and Gauguin. Works includeBoulevard Montmartre au printemps (1897);Orchard in Bloom Louveciennes (1872).

Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

AUGUSTE RENOIR (1841-1919). Born Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Paintings notable for their vivacious use of light and for the intimacy of their compositions, including many nude women. One of his models was SUZANNE VALADON, herself an artist, and with whom he had an affair. Works includeBal du moulin de la Galette (1876);The Boating Party Lunch (1881); also many self-portraits.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917). He was born Hilaire Germaine Edgar de Gas, the son of a rich banker. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of Impressionism, though his early work was inspired by neoclassicism, and he preferred to be known as a realist. Many of his paintings (about 50%) depict dancing and dancers. Works includeFour Dancers (c1899);The Dance Class (1873-76);At the Races (1877-1880);Girl Drying Herself (1885).

Édouard Manet (1832-1883)

ÉDOUARD MANET (1832-1883). "The Father of Modern Art". Many of his paintings depict Paris café life, such asThe Café Concert (1878), andThe Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), in which the barmaid has a glazed expression. One his best known works,Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass), depicting fully clothed men and a naked woman enjoying a pleasant outdoor meal, was rejected by the Paris Salon in 1863 when it was painted. Other works by Manet includeThe Battle of the Kearsarge and Alabama (1864), a sea battle from the American Civil War which took place off the French coast and which the artist may have personally observed.

Epic Journeys #2 - Molloy and Moran

We all know Samuel Beckett’s celebrated play Waiting For Godot. Less well known is his trilogy comprising Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, written in French in the years following the end of the Second World War. Of the three Molloy involves two journeys by their respective protagonists: Molloy in Part I, and Moran in Part II. 
At the beginning of his story Molloy is in his mother’s room though he doesn’t know how he got there. He believes that his mother is dead, at least enough to be buried, and that he himself has a son somewhere, though he isn’t sure. Each day he writes down his story and each week an odd kind of man who we never meet comes to collect his papers and give him some money. The man only ever comes on a Sunday, the other days he isn’t free.
Molloy is crippled, both his legs are stiff, but in the story he writes he remembers the time when he still had one more or less good leg - good in the sense that it wasn’t stiff, though afflicted with corns and bunions an…

Epic Journeys #1 - Ulysses in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom in his travels around the city of Dublin on Thursday the 16th of June 1904 between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. the following morning

Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins, cling to us yet more, a woman to her lover clinging, the more the more.   [p54 Penguin edition] 

Touch me. Soft eyes. Soft soft soft hand. I am lonely here. O, touch me soon, now. What is that world known to all men? I am quiet here alone. Sad too. Touch, touch me.    [p54 Penguin edition] 

It was exactly seventeen o'clock.    [p306 Pengin edition] 

James Joyce's Ulysses is constructed around Homer's The Odyssey. Both recount epic journeys of their heroes Leopold Bloom and Odysseus respectively on their journeys home, Odysseus from Troy to the island of Ithaca, where his wife Penelope is besieged by suitors vying for her hand, Bloom to his house at 9 Eccles Street, Dublin where his wife Molly is with her lover Blazes Boylan. They have to overcome many obstacles and temptations on the way - Sirens and Cyclops for Odysseus, singing barmaids and an ill-tempered nationalist called the Citizen for Bloom. Odysseus arrives home with his son Tele…

André Derain: the Wild Beast of Charing Cross

“A painting is merely a snapshot that endures", said the connoisseur.
“Tell me more”, said the novice.
“I will tell you more”, said the connoisseur. “André Derain, for instance”.
“He sounds French”, said the novice.
“A fauvist”, said the connoisseur. 
“Is that a wild beast?” said the novice.
“It is an art movement founded by the aforementioned André and his friend Henri Matisse”, said the connoisseur.
"Why did they call themselves fauvists?" asked the novice.
"They didn't, it was a derisive term given them by a low-minded critic who did not appreciate their use of unnatural colours", said the connoisseur.
"What did they paint?" said the novice.
"Among other things André Derain painted London", said the connoisseur.
"Why did he do that?" said the novice.
"In order to prove the impossibility of him not doing it", said the connoisseur.
"Really?" said the novice.
"No, not really", said the connoisseur.
"Ah, a j…