Saturday, 13 April 2013

A rare post about art...

Classic become classics because more people (or more 'influential' people?) like them than like non-classic things... That may not be true but I am sticking with it for now. Personal taste is a mysterious thing; who knows why anyone likes anything (or at least anything not-technically-essential for living) more than any other thing (not-technically-essential for living)? Art (or 'the arts') are an excellent example; presumably the things you like say something about the person you are, beyond 'a person who likes cubism' or whatever. Even not being a psychologist I can see that many of my favourite paintings have various things in common, though I have no idea what they say about me; nice to look at though!

Edvard Munch - The Voice (1893)

The Scream will always be Munch's most famous painting, but this is dreamlike, beautiful and beguiling. There are two versions, but in the other the woman has a completely different, and far less appealing expression and face....

James Cowie - Falling Leaves (1934)

A beautifully atmospheric and poignant painting that reminds me of another favourite (also painted in Scotland...)

John Everett Millais - Autumn Leaves (1856)
Painted in Perthshire, this is a lovely painting which for once has no mythological/historical basis and is all the better for it.
Hans Bellmer - La Poupee c.1933-5
German surrealist Bellmer made a series of photographs of his bizarre 'doll' made up of various parts of two 'female' dummies. Sometimes he joined torsos, sometimes it has a mask-like face, here he has linked the four legs together and placed them in a mundane everyday setting (as for a portrait photograph of the era) with dreamlike and disturbing results. There is a strange obsessive quality to this series of photographs, which are at times reminiscent of crime scene photographs, at others of medical studies or of pornography. Icky but effective.
Amedeo Modigliani - Madame Kisling and Elena Pavlowski (c1917)
Two of Modigliani's many great portraits, stylized and simplified, but capturing both the individual features and characters of the sitters.
Lucas Cranach: Judith with the head of Holofernes (c.1530)
German court painter Cranach painted lots of portraits of ladies of the court as Judith (or, more tragically as Lucretia (below) and they are all great, glamorous and a bit creepy. This is my favourite one though.
GF Watts - Choosing (1864)
GF Watts is not very fashionable nowadays; in his day he was considered (in the UK at least) one of the great artists of his time, but now his symbolism-laden yet conventional portraits and landscapes just seem very Victorian indeed. Lovely though.
Jan Vermeer - View of Delft (c.1660/1)
Sometimes underestimated because of its photographic quality, this is a highly atmospheric and just beautiful painting.
Albrecht Durer - Melancholia I (1514)
This highly enigmatic engraving is crowded with obscure symbolism and has been interpreted as a work of philosophy, autobiography or even occultism. I also like the similar painting by Durer's contemporary, Lucas Cranach (below) although his female angel(?) figure looks a bit more cheerful than Durer's.
Wyndham Lewis - Workshop (c.1914/5)
It's hard to imagine this painting, now almost a hundred years old, ever looking 'old fashioned'. Abstract without ever looking aimless or 'easy', Wyndham Lewis' early Vorticist works have an almost palpable sense of arrested energy and dynamism.
Joshua Reynolds - The Misses Waldegrave (1780)
Reynolds was famously not a great painter of women, but obviously that isn't really true, as this is a lovely, intimate-yet-showy and glamorous group portrait.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Female Artist (c.1908)
The German Expressionists used the most dynamic design and colour compositions, but the moods and feelings they evoked were not always extreme or simplistic. Despite its vivid sense of design, this lovely painting captures a strong sense of ennui and melancholy.
Tamara de Lempicka - Madam M (1930)
Polish art deco painter de Lempicka's portraits are the ultimate in 1930s modernist glamour; like this one.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti - May Morris (1872)
The most dedicated member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti was a strange, obsessive artist, painting similar many portraits of many similar-looking women. This one, of the young May Morris, may be the most beautiful. The otherworldliness of Rossetti's vision can be seen by comparing with the more prosaic (but equally delicate) work of the slightly earlier Scottish equivalent(ish) of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, the German Nazarene-inspired William Dyce (1859). This painting is actually of the historical/semi-mythical Beatrice, but looks far more 'real' than the ethereal May Morris. 
Caravaggio - Bacchus (1597)
The epitome of baroque decadence.
There are many many more, but I can't be bothered thinking which to choose right now, much less deciding what these say about my taste; mainly but not exclusively representational & figurative, and, err... dunno.

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