Archives for category: Art and Museums

Postcards I have added to my collection over the past six months.

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A miniature print of Messiah (1919) by Ernst Neuschul, an Austrian born painter associated with the New Objectivity movement. I purchased this from the New Walk Museum in Leicester, which holds many German Expressionist works – and those of a similar ilk – which I will write about in the near future. You cannot help but be pulled into this image, which is so unflinching and unapologetic. The figure reminds me of the singer Richard Hell.

 

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This is from a box of postcards of Penguin Classic covers, which I was able to purchase singly from Oxfam Books and Music. The novel is The Drowned World by JG Ballard. Ballard’s novels are mainly dystopian in style, his most famous works being Crash and Empire of the Sun. I haven’t read The Drowned World (yet), although I have read others of his, but the submerged image of the Chrysler building, combined with the strong colours, really spoke to me.

 

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I received this in the mail around a month ago. How exciting it was to receive. My friend was on holiday in Scotland and sent me this postcard of John Byrne’s Jock and the Tiger Cat (1968). It is from the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, where the painting is currently held. Byrne is a Scottish playwright and artist, probably most known for the television series Tutti Frutti starring Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson.

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The funfair is something I’ve spoken about a few times on this blog, so adding this image to my collection isn’t a great surprise. I like that the shot is slightly out of focus, connoting movement, that the top of the image almost looks tarnished, and the soft natural haze mingling with the neon lights. It reminds me of Coney Island.

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Whilst on a recent trip to Dublin, I stopped at the National Gallery of Ireland for a look at their current exhibition, Lines of Vision, curated to celebrate 150 years of the gallery. I purchased this postcard of a painting I was drawn to in the collection entitled Moonlight (1926) by Paul Henry. Henry was born in Belfast and was particularly fond of the West coast of Ireland, where he spent a great deal of time painting landscapes. I liked the simplicity of the work, and on a personal note it reminded me of sailing to Norway last year.

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Why did I feel the need to photograph this moment? I don’t know. I just knew I had to. I’m sure the other people on the platform found it strange that I was photographing a shiny red apple on the tracks. Could it be just that: the bright crimson juxtaposed with the grey of both the station and the banality of the situation. Waiting. And waiting. The apple: life. That life about to be wiped out in an instant by a passing train. The need to capture something that was finite. I couldn’t save the apple. I couldn’t give the apple its purpose: food, fuel. Did this apple have a higher purpose? Food wastage, yeh I get it. Life is short. Yeh, and that too. Beauty is fleeting. Come on. Pay attention to the little things. Look around you. (An apple is not). An epiphany. Get to the core of the issue. NO!

This is/is not an apple, Monsieur Magritte.

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A hot air balloon near Bournemouth beach

A hot air balloon near Bournemouth beach

The past 12 months have been fairly busy for me; I switched flats, got engaged, passed my driving test and started a new job. As well as these milestones, the highlights of the year for me were watching the Winter Olympics in February, visiting Norway in May, and continuing to be inspired by so many things, from window worshipping in Kent, to viewing incredible war art for the centenary, getting creative with my face, and nomadic felines on film.

I’m not sure what 2015 will bring, and I haven’t made any plans so far, but I hope to up my blog posts and go on a few more adventures.

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog. I appreciate the comments and follows so much. Have a great 2015 x

When two of your favourite worlds collide, it’s particularly brilliant, especially when it happens to be the influence of one of your most revered artists in a truly great film.

 

Edward Hopper’s ‘House by the Railroad’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960)

Hopper’s Realist depictions of American life were often described as silent theatre, so it’s no surprise that his work has inspired many filmmakers. House by the Railroad shows a beautiful and grand – yet seemingly ordinary – Victorian house, just like the one influenced by it in Psycho – the Bates Motel. The suspense used so prominently in Hitchcock’s films is ideally suited to the tense atmosphere projected in the works of Edward Hopper.

 

Marc Chagall’s ‘The Wedding’ (1944) and several other Chagall influences in Norman Jewison’s Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

The Wedding depicts the nuptials of Chagall’s brother-in-law, which he painted shortly after his wife (and muse) Bella’s death. The happy occasion therefore takes on a sinister note in the painting due to his frame of mind at the time. Whilst there is no exact replica of this scene in Fiddler on the Roof (although there is a wedding), the entire stage production, including its name, was influenced by the life and work of Chagall: village life during the Russian Empire, smallholdings, shack-like wooden houses (Chagall’s town of Vitebsk was built entirely from wood), both Jewish and Christian residents (at this time Vitebsk was very split) and of course Hasidic tradition. Tradition is extremely important, as evidenced in the recurrent song of the same name sung by the main character, Tevye. Chagall was courageous – he embraced his religion and put it out there for the world to see at a time when it was dangerous to do so.

the-wedding

 

Otto Dix’s ‘Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden’ (1926) in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret (1972)

As a predominant German writer and poet of the same era as Dix, he was struck by von Harden’s androgynous and unusual look, as well as her artistic vision. I imagine the reason for recreating this painting in Cabaret was to not only choose a visual look similar to the Berlin intelligentsia, but to celebrate the work of a German artist so closely associated with the First World War.

 

Jacques-Louis David’s ‘Death of Marat’ (1793) in Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt (2002)

This work depicts the murder of Jean-Paul Marat, leader of the French Revolution. Stabbed in his bathtub, he is seen with quill and parchment. In About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson’s character Warren falls asleep in the bath whilst composing a letter. Warren has had a tough time – his wife recently died, he feels redundant after retiring and his only daughter is about to marry a no-hoper. I’m not sure what the exact reasoning for the representation of The Death of Marat is, but my crass interpretation is that due to all his recent issues and feelings of redundancy, the man he once was is now gone.

 

John Everett Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ (1852) in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011)

This beautiful Pre-Raphaelite painting portrays Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet drifting in the river after she falls in. Caught up in the beauty of her surroundings she floats for a while before succumbing to a watery death. In Melancholia, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is a newlywed whose personal relationships are strained and she becomes increasingly depressed. The earth is in danger after news that a planet is set to collide with it. Ophelia’s calm demeanour despite the fact that she is about to drown is mimicked by Justine’s reaction to her own – and the world’s – impending doom.

Anita Berber The Dancer, 1925 by Otto Dix

Anita Berber The Dancer, 1925 by Otto Dix

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I decided to do something a bit different today and use my face as a canvas. I wanted to recreate Otto Dix’s portrait of Anita Berber, making up my face in a similar style as Dix used for the painting. This photograph in no way does justice to the work of art; it is merely an homage to something I admire.

Anita Berber was a German actress and cabaret dancer who was born in Leipzig in 1899. She was a scandalous figure who became addicted to alcohol and hard drugs which she would consume with rose petals. Berber enjoyed the company of both genders (rumoured affair with Marlene Dietrich) and often favoured an androgynous personal style. She died from tuberculosis aged just 29.

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Products I used: MAC lip pencil in Redd; YSL Rouge Pur Pure lipstick in 143; MAC Play It Cool eye palette (limited edition) – shades used Silverwear, Hold My Gaze and Magic Moor; L’Oreal Telescopic mascara; Avon Super Shock gel eyeliner; BarryM liquid liner; Real Techniques brushes; Shu Uemura eyelash curlers; Ardell lashes.

Inspired by my recent trip to Norway (pictures to follow), I decided to compile a short list of my favourite works by Norway’s most famous artist.

Painter and printmaker Edvard Munch was born in Adalsbruk in 1863. He was a symbolic artist, often using psychological profiles, and became an early expressionist.

Munch frequently portrayed images of torment and insanity, most obvious in his most famous painting The Scream (1893). He had a troubled childhood and mental illness ran in the family.

Many of my favourite Munch paintings display a sense of isolation, of foreboding, tension hanging in the air above the figures, an almost palpable anxiety.

The Storm, 1893

The Storm, 1893


The Storm

I saw this painting in person at MoMA in New York and it had such a haunted quality. Its setting is the seaside village of Asgardstrand, where Munch spent his childhood summers. The woman in white is evidently isolated from the rest of the villagers, even in a harsh situation, creating a sense of nadir.

 

Melancholy, 1894

Melancholy, 1894


Melancholy

Melancholy is certainly how I would describe this painting. Sadness etched on the man’s face as he contemplates, pensive and forlorn. I feel like I can relate to this character and I am definitely drawn to the sea when I am feeling this way. The idea of life and death is of course symbolised by the ocean and these are recurrent themes in Munch’s work. Similar in theme and style to Separation below, this work is concerned with love and loss.

 

The Kiss, 1897

The Kiss, 1897


The Kiss

This painting is clearly different from the others detailed in that the figures are locked in an embrace, very much together, in fact almost melding into one. This represents the changing perceptions of women during the era, becoming more boldly sexual and dominant. This is perhaps a much softer version of his work Vampire.

 

Separation 1900

Separation 1900


Separation

This painting brings out such emotion in me. The man clutching his heart, alone but never alone, the woman who holds the key forever with him yet always apart.

 

White Night, 1901

White Night, 1901


White Night

I like this painting for its depiction of the Norwegian landscape – especially after my recent visit – with the spruce trees framing the fjord beyond. Whilst there are no figures in the painting, the single house continues the isolated theme of his work. For me, this has a definite van Gogh influence, and the use of colour is wonderful.

‘War was something horrible, but nonetheless something powerful…Under no circumstances could I miss it! It is necessary to see people in this unchained condition in order to know something about man’ Otto Dix

Marking the centenary of the First World War, the National Portrait Gallery’s current exhibition, The Great War in Portraits, shows the human side of WWI.

This small but powerful exhibit depicts the human horrors of war – facial disfigurement, loss of limbs, mental anguish, and of course death. The world had never before been exposed to such violence, with nine million people losing their lives.

Each work tells a different story from the same event, showing both the British and German response. Whilst the Brits mainly created traditional, conservative portraits, the Germans produced modern avant-garde works in a highly expressive style. These opposing German works could almost be considered part of the enemy at the time, depicting the true horrors in Expressionist and Realist styles.

However, not all of the British work was traditional. CRW Nevinson’s Futurist works were also in contrast to the portraits by war artist William Orpen.

 
GERMAN

The most famous painting on display is Ernst Kirchner’s Self-Portrait as a Soldier. The severed hand in this painting is conceived; Kirchner enlisted in the German army in 1914 but was discharged the following year after suffering a nervous breakdown. Here he displays his mental anguish through imagined physical injury.

Self-Portrait as a Soldier by Ernst Kirchner, 1915

Self-Portrait as a Soldier by Ernst Kirchner, 1915

Kirchner spent the following year convalescing in a Swiss hospital. Like many German artists of his epoch, in 1937 his art was deemed degenerate by the Nazis. Kirchner sadly committed suicide in July 1938. As a founding member of Die Brucke, Kirchner’s legacy in German art is enduring.

 

Max Beckmann was a painter and printmaker concerned with the human condition. Like Kirchner, he was discharged from the army in 1915 due to a nervous breakdown, after joining the medical corps the previous year. His experiences in the war were reflected in his work, often with an exaggerated highly stylised Expressionist manner.

The Hell by Max Beckmann, 1919

The Way Home from Hell by Max Beckmann, 1919

 

Whilst Beckmann and Kirchner are represented in the exhibition, two artists not included but who I feel deserve mentioning are George Grosz and Otto Dix.

Grosz joined the war in 1914 but was sent home after six months. In 1917 he was called up again but was deemed violent and also spent time in a mental hospital. After WWI his distaste for war, the German military and German people in general were depicted in his art; he caricaturised politicians and produced sensationalist work, often using vivid colours. His pejorative views of society and the Weimar Republic are extremely evident on the canvas. Grosz’ work during this time (along with Otto Dix) was part of a movement entitled New Objectivity. Grosz eventually fled to America on the cusp of Hitler’s rule. This painting, entitled Explosion, shows Berlin burning during WWI.

Explosion by George Grosz, 1917

Explosion by George Grosz, 1917

 

Unlike the German artists previously mentioned, Otto Dix served a full four years in the war. He was a machine-gunner. During this period he sketched graphic images of war terror, including scenes from the trenches and crippled and deformed soldiers, which became a central theme in his work until the 1930s. His work was later criticised by the state as being anti-military. Dix was then drafted into the German TA in WW2, was captured by the French and spent time in a prisoner of war camp. After his release he continued to develop his interest in portraits, whilst unusually, spending time in both East and West Germany.

Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas by Otto Dix, 1924

Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas by Otto Dix, 1924

 

BRITISH

One of the most haunting paintings in the exhibition is the Dead Stretcher Bearer by Gilbert Rogers. Rogers was a Liverpudlian who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His art represented what he encountered: wounded British soldiers.

The Dead Stretcher-Bearer by Gilbert Rogers, 1919

The Dead Stretcher-Bearer by Gilbert Rogers, 1919

 

Portrait artist William Orpen is represented, as well as Henry Tonks, a British surgeon. Tonks painted those who had been injured in the war, particularly those with facial disfigurements. During WWI, his medical career took him to France and Italy as well as the UK, working in refugee camps, hospitals and ambulance units. In 1918 he became a war artist with John Singer Sargent.

 

CRW (Christopher Richard Wynne) Nevinson was the son of a war correspondent. He was a Futurist artist, who focused on the transport and movement of London. When the war broke out he went to France with the Red Cross. He left soon after due to injury and continued to use the Futurist style to depict the horrors of war.

La Mitrailleuse by CRW Nevinson, 1915

La Mitrailleuse by CRW Nevinson, 1915

 

If you are in London, this exhibition is well worth visiting. Entry is free and it runs until June 15th.

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/firstworldwarcentenary/exhibition.php

In 1835, a man named James Newlove and his young son, Joshua, stumbled upon a secret cave whilst digging a pond in Margate, Kent. Well, so the story goes.

This cave was covered in a giant mosaic, made up of 4.6 million seashells. No one knows how long the shells have been there, who put them there or why.

There are many theories surrounding the origin of the adorned cave, now known at the Shell Grotto, including its possible use as a meeting place for a secret sect, a religious shrine and a rich man’s folly. The truth is no one knows. Nearly everything about the cave is shrouded in mystery; even the story of its discovery is dubious.

What they do know is that 99% of the shells are of British origin, although there are also Caribbean shells in the Altar (the rectangular chamber at the back of the cave).

The Grotto is Grade I listed and protected by English Heritage, yet sadly it has been on the at risk register since the 1990s due to dampness. The shells are very dirty due to the gas lamps that were used to light the cave in the past, meaning they almost look like part of the walls. Cleaning the shells isn’t viable as it would potentially cause damage.

Being in the Grotto was quite surreal. I felt like I was in some kind of tomb and began to wonder just what else was under the ground. There’s not a lot to explore (70ft of underground passages) but you’ll be mesmerised by the sheer volume of shells, and probably spend some time, as I did, picking out symbols and patterns such as flowers and stars.


The above images show displays of shell art available to view before you descend into the cave, including a sailor’s valentine from the late 19th century (far right), brought home from Barbados by a sailor for a loved one.

Entry to the Shell Grotto is £3.50 for an adult. Open daily from 10am to 5pm
http://shellgrotto.co.uk/

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in a very long time: I went to church. I was there for worship but my deity was Marc Chagall, and I had come to admire his stained glass windows in All Saints’ Church in the quaint English village of Tudeley in Kent.

All Saints’ was blessed with 12 windows, meaning every angle of the small church has been decorated by the Russian artist. It is the only church in the world to have all of its stained glass created by Chagall. He designed the windows over a period of ten years in France, and the last window was fitted in 1985 (the first was fitted in 1967).

Ten of the windows are blue-toned, typical of Chagall’s glass. The remaining two are golden. The windows are of varying sizes, the piece de resistance being the huge religious depiction above the altar, with Christ displayed at the top.

I was lucky enough to visit on a very sunny day, allowing the windows to be seen at their full potential. They were resplendent, and the reflections of the vivid colours danced on the walls. If I lived closer I might have to join the congregation.

To bring my series of Winter Olympic Games posts to a close, I thought I’d finish with a short post showing three very different works of art featuring scenes of winter sports in action and of Sochi itself. I hope you enjoy them.

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Lill Tschudi’s ‘Ice Hockey’ (1933)

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Arshile Gorky’s ‘Garden in Sochi’ (1943)

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‘Skating Minister’ by Henry Raeburn (1795)