Archive for the 'sculpture' Category

02
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st July – 8th November 2015

 

A scintillating exhibition at NGV International which showcases one of the world’s greatest art collections. Exhibition design is outstanding (particularly the floor tiling), as are the Da Vinci, Titian, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens and Flemish still life. Among my favourites is a small Watteau Savoyard with a Marmot (1716) which is absolutely still, delicate and exquisite: I thought of the photographs of Atget, his street sellers, when I saw this painting; and Frans Snyders’ tour-de-force Concert of birds (1630-40) which has such presence.

Well done to the curators, the Hermitage Museum and the NGV for staging such a magnificent exhibition.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

All photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

 

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great showcases one of the world’s greatest art collections. Featuring works by artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez and Van Dyck, the exhibition offers a dazzling array of works including the finest group of Dutch and Flemish art to come to Australia.

This exclusive Melbourne exhibition will also highlight the innovation and vision of Catherine the Great, whose inexhaustible passion for education, the arts and culture heralded a period of enlightenment in the region. The extraordinary works sourced and commissioned by Catherine during her thirty-four year reign, created the foundations for the Hermitage today – considered to be one of the world’s greatest treasure houses of art and decorative arts. The exhibition will offer audiences an immersive experience, recreating the rich atmosphere of the Hermitage to showcase these exquisite works.

German-born Catherine the Great (Catherine II) came to power in 1762, aged thirty-three, and ruled Russia for the next thirty-four years, until her death in 1796. She saw herself as a Philosopher Queen, a new kind of ruler in the Age of Enlightenment. Guided by Europe’s leading intellectuals, she modernised Russia’s economy, industry and government, drawing inspiration both from Antiquity and contemporary cultural and political developments in Western Europe. A fluent speaker of Russian, French and German, Catherine was largely self-educated, independent, idealistic and visionary.

While her reign was not always peaceful, Catherine sought to bring order, stability and prosperity to the vast Russian Empire. Her ideals of abolishing serfdom and ensuring the equality of all citizens under the law were ahead of her time, and strongly resisted by the nobility of the day; however, she achieved numerous other reforms, including the introduction of paper money and modernisation of Russia’s education system. French philosopher Denis Diderot, who visited St Petersburg in 1773, described an audience with Catherine as being ‘more like study than anything else: she is a stranger to no subject; there is no man in the Empire who knows her nation as well as she’.

 

Room 1 Catherine the collector

Between 1762 and 1796, the years of her reign, Catherine the Great oversaw a period of cultural renaissance in Russia. The world of ideas in which she was deeply involved from an early age found tangible expression in the material world the Empress later created around herself. The great complexes of imperial buildings Catherine constructed reflected her informed interest in both Classical and Chinese culture.

Catherine not only assembled a collection of Old Master paintings equal in scale and quality to leading European collections, but also paid considerable attention to the acquisition of contemporary art. While the richness and technical perfection of her diverse collections of decorative arts aimed to dazzle and please, they also had the more practical purpose of raising standards of artistic production in Russia. The fact that more than 400 exemplary works of art from her personal collection, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, porcelain, silver and precious gems, are seen here for the first time in Australia is cause for celebration.

 

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

 

Installation views of room 1 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718-93) Portrait of Catherine II 1776-77

 

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Sèvres Cameo Service

The Sèvres Cameo Service relates to Catherine’s great passion for collecting engraved gemstones. Comprising 797 individual pieces designed to serve dinner, dessert and coffee to sixty people, the Cameo Service was commissioned from the celebrated Sèvres porcelain manufactory outside Paris as a present for Catherine’s court ‘favourite’, Prince Grigory Potemkin. The Empress’s monogram, ‘E II’ (the Russian version of her name being Ekaterina), woven from garlands of flowers and surmounted by a crown, adorned almost every object in the service.

Production of the service was both time consuming and labour-intensive. The exquisite blue element alone – made from separate layers of copper enamel that gradually seeped into the porcelain and set the pure colour – required five firings. In addition to the hundreds of porcelain objects decorated with painted and sculpted cameos and related silverware, the service also included grand central table decorations fashioned from biscuit, or unglazed cream-coloured porcelain, by the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot. These decorations illustrated tales from Greek mythology, and were presided over by a grand biscuit statue of Catherine the Great as Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts.

 

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 1 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Exhibition passageway

Installation view of passageway video of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of passageway video of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

 

Room 2 Italian art

When Catherine the Great began collecting European art, opportunities to acquire fine Italian Old Master paintings were already severely limited. Demand from wealthy collectors was high and the marketplace was saturated with misattributed works, some of which inevitably made their way to the Hermitage and other great collections.

Despite this, Catherine achieved great success collecting sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings, particularly from Venice, including great paintings by Titian, Paris Bordone and the enigmatic Lorenzo Lotto. These are complemented by fine examples of Roman and Florentine paintings, such as the famous Female nude (Donna nuda), by an artist very close to Leonardo da Vinci. This select group of paintings beautifully illustrate developments in figurative art, portraiture and religious art in Italy from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

In the early years of her reign, Catherine the Great acquired en masse several large collections of drawings representing all the main European schools. This set the foundations for the current Hermitage Museum’s outstanding Cabinet of Drawings. In terms of quality, Catherine’s acquisitions of Italian drawings were of the highest standard. The majority of these date from the mid sixteenth to late eighteenth centuries and include many rare and precious works.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623) 'Portrait of an actor' 1620s

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623) Portrait of an actor 1620s

 

Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623) 'Portrait of an actor' 1620s

 

Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623)
Portrait of an actor
1620s
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

Domenico Fetti was court painter to Gerdinand II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, when he made this striking portrait of an actor. It is though to be Tristano Martinelli who made his fame working in the commedia dell’arte tradition. It is believe that Marinelli created and popularised the standard roll of the Harlequin in theatre. Fetti himself was involved with the theatre in both Mantua and Venice.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71) 'Portrait of a lady with a boy' Mid 1530s

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71) Portrait of a lady with a boy Mid 1530s

 

Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71) 'Portrait of a lady with a boy' Mid 1530s

 

Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71)
Portrait of a lady with a boy
Mid 1530s
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

This work by Venetian artist Paris Bordone is a typical example of formal Renaissance portraiture. Bordone’s main aim was to show the high social standing of the sitters, so he painted their luxurious costumes in great detail. He draws our attention to the sumptuous sleeves of this woman’s dress, he headgear resembling a turban, as well as her opulent jewellery. Bordone was one of Titian’s most talented pupils whose work is characterised by a level of precision not often present in his master’s work. This painting entered the Hermitage as a work by Giorgione.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring to the left, Domenico Capriolo (Italian c. 1494-1528) 'Portrait of a young man' 1512 and to the right, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine' 1529-30

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring to the left, Domenico Capriolo (Italian c. 1494-1528) Portrait of a young man 1512 and to the right, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine 1529-30

 

Portrait of a young man by the Venetian master Domenico Capriolo captures the intellectual values of Renaissance art. Everything that surrounds this youth speaks of his interests, such as the church that indicates his piety; the statue of Venus that reveals his passion for Antiquity; and the folder (containing verses or drawings) that illustrates the richness of his inner world. The painting is dated 1512 and the artist’s name symbolised by a medallion containing a Capreolus, or deer, which is a play on his name. Such allusions were common in Renaissance art and would have been readily understood by his contemporaries.

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine' 1529-30

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine' 1529-30

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556)
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine
1529-30
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

Lorenzo Lotto is a much admired sixteenth-century Venetian artist. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine has the typical dynamism of Lotto’s work, achieved not only through the poses, gestures and movement of the foliage, but also through his intense colour palette and the juxtaposition of resonant blues with red and yellow tones. Here, the Holy Family has been joined by Saint Justine of Padua, martyred in 304 AD, identifiable through her attribute of a sword piercing her breast. Justine was a very popular subject for artists of Northern Italy.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Leonardo da Vinci (school of) 'Female nude (Donna Nuda)' Early 16th century

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Leonardo da Vinci (school of) Female nude (Donna Nuda) Early 16th century

 

Leonardo da Vinci (school of) 'Female nude (Donna Nuda)' Early 16th century

 

Leonardo da Vinci (school of)
Female nude (Donna Nuda)
Early 16th century
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

This painting entered the Hermitage collection as a work by Leonardo da Vinci, but is now widely accepted to be by one of his close followers, possibly his pupil Salai. Perhaps more important is that it may be a close copy of a lost painting by Leonardo. Female nude (Donna Nuda) also shares some of the qualities of the famous Mona Lisa c. 1503-19, in the Louvre Museum, Paris; namely the repetition of the pose, the position of the hands and the landscape setting seen behind a stone ledge in front of which the figure is set. This is the most refined of numerous variants of this composition in existence.

 

 

Room 3 Flemish art

In the seventeenth century, Flanders comprised the Catholic-dominated Southern Netherlands or ‘Spanish’ Austrian Netherlands, an area larger than modern Belgium. Thanks in large part to the talents of artist Peter Paul Rubens, the Flanders or ‘Flemish’ school in this era became very prestigious. While chiefly a painter, Rubens had far-reaching stylistic influence on many visual art forms, from prints to silverware and architecture. Every leading artist of seventeenth-century Flanders studied in, passed through or was connected with Rubens’s studio.

A diplomat and court insider, Rubens operated on an international stage. His art was correspondingly monumental; characterised by large forms modelled with loose brushstrokes in glowing, brilliant colours. Rubens’s pupil Anthony van Dyck and collaborator Cornelis de Vos led the way in bringing new naturalism to portraiture. While they catered to different markets (van Dyck to the nobility and de Vos to a rich merchant class) their mutual influence is apparent.

Flanders was a nation built on trade, and Flemish artists travelled widely, especially to Italy. From Italy they brought back new pictorial trends, such as the theatrical naturalism of Caravaggio. Flemish artists excelled in naturalistic effects, which they applied even to traditionally humble subjects, such as still lifes and animal pictures, seen to brilliant effect in the art of Frans Snyders and David Teniers II.

 

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

room-three-installation-e

 

Installation views of room 3 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Peter Paul Rubens and workshop (Flemish 1577-1640) The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1620 at centre

 

Rubens painted the subject of the Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2:1) more often than any other episode from Christ’s life. Rendered at life-sized scale, this painting combines the humility of Christ’s birth with splendid, worldly pageantry. Three Kings from the East are shown crowding into Christ’s stable (portrayed as a cave, in an allusion to Christ’s later interment) wearing gold- embroidered silks and satins, and offering gifts. The eldest king, Caspar, kneels before Christ with gold; behind him is Melchior, with frankincense; and Balthazar with myrrh, used for embalming. With the help of his studio, Rubens produced more than sixty altarpieces during his career.

 

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 3 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577–1640) 'Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)' c. 1612

 

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640)
Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)
c. 1612
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Acquired from the collection of Count Cobenzl, Brussels, 1768

 

Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero) depicts a story told by the Roman historian Valerius Maximus in his Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX (Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings), written around 30 AD. The story involves Cimon, an old man awaiting execution in prison who was not given food. Cimon’s daughter Pero visited him, and suckled him at her breast like a child. Pero’s nourishing of Cimon was considered an outstanding example of paying honour to one’s parents.

 

 

Room 4 Dutch art

The Hermitage holds the finest collection of Dutch art outside the Netherlands. While Peter the Great (1672-1725) had a passion for Dutch art and acquired some notable masterpieces, Catherine the Great established the depth and breadth of this extraordinary collection, beginning in 1764 with her first acquisitions. In that year Catherine purchased 317 paintings that had been assembled for Frederick II of Prussia by the German merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. Among this substantial group were more than 100 Dutch paintings by the most notable masters.

In 1769 Catherine purchased the collection of Count Heinrich von Brühl, which included spectacular landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael, Isaack Jansz. van Ostade and Aert van der Neer, as well as four Rembrandt portraits, including the wonderful Portrait of a scholar, 1631. For the rest of her life Catherine continued to add outstanding Dutch works to her rich collection. Although the paintings and drawings from the Dutch school included here are only a fragment of the extensive and diverse collection assembled by Catherine the Great, they reveal her artistic preferences and taste.

 

Installation view of room 4 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 4 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 4 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with Rembrandt. Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch 1606-69) Portrait of a scholar 1631 at centre.

 

Rembrandt painted Portrait of a scholar shortly after moving from his native Leiden to Amsterdam in 1630. He had already established a growing reputation in Leiden and was enticed to the capital by the art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh, father of his future wife Saskia. Once completing the move, Rembrandt rapidly became the city’s leading artist, mainly on account of dazzling portraits such as this early masterpiece. He then secured the most prestigious commissions from wealthy and powerful citizens of Amsterdam.

 

 

Room 5 French taste

The Russian aristocracy spoke French and modelled their manners and style on those of the French Court. Catherine followed the vast intellectual strides of the French philosophes with passionate interest. She also embraced the arts, luring French artists, architects and craftsmen to St Petersburg.

Catherine relied on agents and advisors in France and Germany to identify and acquire works of art on her behalf. In this way she acquired the collection of Paris banker Louis Antoine Crozat, Baron de Thiers and other important bodies of work in France. Her holdings of French art came to encompass works by Renaissance masters as well as seventeenth-century landscapes and history paintings.

Catherine also acquired examples of work of her own century by Rococo artists such as Antoine Watteau. The playful, erotic and at times wistful art of Watteau’s generation gave rise to the intimate and worldly art of François Boucher, whose pictures Catherine also purchased. The Empress collected modern masterpieces created in reaction to French courtly and decadent styles. Her paintings by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin are premier examples of a new, moralising directness in ambitious French art.

Catherine’s buying in France was not limited to French art. Also in this room are paintings by great German, Spanish and Italian masters that were acquired in Paris from prestigious collections under the direction of Catherine’s French advisors.

 

Installation view of room 5 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 5 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 5 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne.

 

 

Room 6 Catherine and the world

For Catherine the Great, collecting art was part of a wider economic and diplomatic program designed to stimulate economic and cultural activity at home and abroad. At a meeting in December 1762 with the Moscow Senate, Catherine suggested that consuls be stationed in Spain, Holland and England not only to promote maritime trade but also to source luxury goods and works of art as examples for Russian artists and manufacturers to aspire to.

Through Catherine’s consuls and agents, such items began to flow into St Petersburg, steadily elevating that city into a vibrant centre of European culture. While her cultural sympathies were French, Catherine was also very curious about Britain – the economic success story of the age. She informed herself about Britain’s trade, commerce, manufacturing, philosophy and political system, and purchased works by modern British neoclassical masters, such as Joseph Wright of Derby and Joshua Reynolds. Examples of Spanish, Italian and German art were often not sourced in their own countries of origin but acquired as a part of larger collections.

 

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 6 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with the 1773 sculpture Catherine II by Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741-1826) at centre.

 

 

Room 7 The Walpole collection

In 1779 Catherine the Great acquired 198 paintings from a celebrated collection formed by Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, Britain’s first prime minister. They were bought from the family estate, Houghton Hall, and sold by Walpole’s grandson, George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford, who approached the Russian ambassador to Britain directly about the sale. At more than £40,000, the price was high, but the transaction was concluded in only two months. Attempts were made to keep this famous collection in Britain, to no avail.

The Walpole collection was outstanding in quality, and significantly enhanced the Hermitage’s range of Flemish and Italian works. The Russian ambassador to Great Britain, Alexey Musin-Pushkin, who organised the valuable purchase, wrote to Catherine the Great: ‘The greater part of the nobility here are displaying general dissatisfaction and regret that these paintings are being allowed out of this country, and are setting in train various projects to keep them here … No little assistance comes from Lord Orford’s zealous desire to unite [the collection for] the gallery of Your Imperial Majesty, rather than to sell it to parliament itself or, least of all, to divide it through sale to different individuals’.

 

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 7 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) Concert of birds, 1630-40 at right and Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) Jan Boekckhorst (German 1605-68) Cook at a kitchen table with dead game, c. 1636-37 second left
Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) 'Concert of birds' 1630-40

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Concert of birds
1630-40
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

An important place in Flemish seventeenth-century painting is occupied by two specific genres: animal painting and the still life. One of the most important animal and still-life painters was Frans Snyders, a very close collaborator of Peter Paul Rubens who often painted still-life details and animals on the master’s canvases. Snyders’s superb skill as a painter of animals is revealed by Concert of birds, based on a subject from Aesop’s Fables. It shows a gathering of feathered creatures screeching and singing under the direction of an owl seated on a dried branch in front of an open music score.

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) 'Concert of birds' 1630-40 (detail)

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Concert of birds (detail)
1630-40
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) Jan Boekckhorst (German 1605-68) 'Cook at a kitchen table with dead game' c. 1636-37 (detail)

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Jan Boekckhorst (German 1605-68)
Cook at a kitchen table with dead game (detail)
c. 1636-37
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

Frans Snyders was the son of the owner of one of Antwerp’s largest wine and eating houses. His dramatically realistic still lifes celebrate the exotic variety of rare fowls available at Antwerp’s markets. Images of dead animals being prepared for a banquet were understood in Snyder’s time as lessons in Christian morality. Many Dutch and Flemish still lifes featuring the sacrifice of an animal for the table functioned as allusions to Christ’s Passion and the transience of the flesh.

 

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 7 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with, at left in the bottom image, Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599-1641) Portrait of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Wharton, 1640

 

This is one of the most charming portraits of children paint by van Dyck, who had particular talent for such works. It is one of a group of family portraits commissioned from can Dyck by Philip, Lord Wharton in the late 1630s. Van Dyck worked in England for approximately ten ears and brought a new standard of elegance and style to English portraiture. He largely conveyed this through his flair for painting lavish costumes and sumptuous fabrics, a sensibility he carried through to his portraits of children.

 

 

Room 8 China

Eighteenth-century Enlightenment fascination with the East, particularly China, is reflected by Catherine the Great’s architectural and landscaping works completed in St Petersburg and at her summer and winter palaces, as well as by her collecting of Oriental curiosities and philosophical texts. Russian interest in China can be traced to the reign of the Romanov tsars in the seventeenth century, when several missions brought back Chinese treasures and goods to the Russian Court. Importantly, in 1689 the first treaty between Russia and China was signed at Nerchinsk, outlining the border between the countries and rules about caravan trade.

Like many educated people of her time, Catherine was fascinated by the concept of the enlightened ruler thought to be found in China, such as the Kangxi Emperor (reigned 1662-1722), Yongzhèng Emperor (reigned 1723-35), and Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1736-95). One of her regular and most influential correspondents was French philosopher Voltaire, who praised the Celestial Kingdom, its monarchs and men of wisdom; only in China, he thought, was a man’s life, honour and property truly protected by law. Such a clear link between Catherine’s desire for justice and order in Russia and general perceptions of good Chinese government, combined with the Enlightenment fashion for curiosities of all kinds, led to great Russian interest in China in the second half of the eighteenth century.

 

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 8 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours for exhibition
10am – 5pm daily

NGV Masterpieces from the Hermitage website

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28
Jun
15

Review: ‘Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne 

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 5th July 2015

Curator: Helen Carroll

 

 

Gorgeous catalogue with luscious plates, insightful text by Bill Henson (below) and evocative poetry by John Kinsella. Stars on the front cover and silver edged pages. No expense spared in production, with money literally thrown at the project, or so it would seem.

The curator, Helen Carroll, talks about ‘wonder': “It is a capacity for wonder that makes us human”. Henson talking about ‘wonder’ and ‘love’ – about moments that change your life when looking at and breathing in great art. Then why does this exhibition feel so… well, needless? Despite some fascinating individual works of art, collectively there is little wonder on show here.

Perhaps it is because this exhibition looks to be a cut down version of the one first shown at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 2012, with many works missing from what are listed in the catalogue. Or perhaps it is the hang which at the Ian Potter Museum of Art consists of two rooms on the ground floor of the museum, one housing lighter works, the other dark works. Too dichotomous for my tastes. Nothing is ever so cut and dried.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the concept of the exhibition – light in its many guises – seems to have been tagged onto a groups of art works which are anything but about light. Or are about light in a roundabout, merry-go-round kind of way. The wall text states, “Rather than a chronological or stylistically ordered presentation, the exhibition follows a loosely intuitive flow of ideas and imagery, moving through night to day. The artists in this exhibition explore light from the perspective of the optical experience, the connection between the starts and the cycles of life on earth; and from diverse cultural, mythic and spiritual points of departure.” Apparently the works are more about the phenomena of light than about light itself.

While the art works are interesting in their own right they don’t really work together cohesively as a group to investigate the theme of the exhibition. Trying to burden a collection of art bought for investment purposes with a concept not “natural” to the work, or just a curator’s idea of what seems implicit in the work but is just a cerebral construction, simply does not work in this case. As I looked around the exhibition, I felt the works were more about the physicality of time and space (of history and place), about links in the existential chain, than they were about light. For me, this evinced Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the ‘chronotype’ – meaning ‘the connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed’ (in literature). Perhaps the intuitive flow of ideas and imagery and the multiple points of departure work against the very idea the exhibition seeks to investigate. This is so broadly thematic (the effects of light on the world) that it needed to be more focused in its conceptualisation.

It’s also a real worry when text panels in the exhibition quote Richard Goyder, Managing Director, Wesfarmers Limited, as saying that this is the first time that Wesfarmers has showcased the contemporary art of the collection, “and the works selected for Luminous World illustrate some of the ways in which the collection has grown in recent years. For instance, the inclusion of art from New Zealand, where Wesfarmers has a significant business presence, and the heightened emphasis on representing the great diversity of contemporary Indigenous art.”

The inclusion of New Zealand art because Wesfarmers has a significant business presence – not the quality or wonder of the art work – but a business presence. And only now are they collecting contemporary Indigenous art, after the collection has been in existence for more than three decades, 1977 being the first acquisition date. At least he is being refreshingly honest about why the art work has been added to the collection, but it does not give you confidence in the choice of the art work being displayed here. Goyder, Carroll and Kinsella also proselytize about the benefits of employee’s living with this art in their daily working lives and that may be the case. But for the casual visitor to the gallery this collection of art left me feeling cold and clammy – like a fish out of water.

As the add for Reflex copy paper says with more humour than any of this work can muster, I didn’t find “enwhitenment”, or wonder, within the gallery walls. Oh, the luminosity of it all.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

What is the Night?

‘What is the night?’ Macbeth enquires in the banquet scene, once the ghost of Banquo has departed and his wide has dismissed their mystified guests. Deprived of sleep, and half-psychotic, he urgently needs to know the time. But this is also, implicitly, a philosophical question that hints at the ontological meaning of the night…

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s most elaborate meditation on the night, is a sustained, if not obsessive, exploration of the nocturnal as a realm of alternative values – ones that contradict and threaten to undermine those of the diurnal regime that is ostensibly the domain of politics in the early modern period. In this violent, vengeful tragedy, the language and culture of the medieval night, incarnated above all in the witches, irrupts into the more enlightened languages and culture of a purportedly post-medieval epoch. An apocalyptic night, in Macbeth’s barbaric court, is one of the forces that shape realpolitik. In the Renaissance, a period in which daily life encroaches more and more on the night, especially in public settings, in the form of elaborately lit masques at court, Macbeth thus stages the limits of enlightenment.

At a time when more systematic, socially centralized modes of illumination are increasingly disrupting older patterns of rest, including biphasic sleep – so that, for the early modern ruling class at least, night starts to feel like an extension of the day, its observe rather than its inverse – Shakespeare dramatizes the tyrannical attraction, the absolutism, of darkness. Macbeth describes a process of nocturnalization whereby the night irresistibly colonizes the day, fatally infiltrating both the state and the protagonist’s consciousness. To use a word that has some currency in the seventeenth century, but has long since fallen out of use, Shakespeare’s drama is a study of ‘benightment’.”

Matthew Beaumont. “What is the Night?” in Matthew Beaumont. Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015, pp. 86-87.

 

Luminous World brings together a selection of contemporary paintings, objects and photographs from the Wesfarmers Collection in a conversation about light. Through works of scale and conceptual invention that chart the range and depth of the collection, this exhibition presents significant contemporary paintings, photographs and objects by leading Australian and New Zealand artists acquired by Wesfarmers over three decades and shared together for the first time with the Australian public.

The Potter is the fifth venue for this touring exhibition which to date has travelled to Charles Darwin University Art Gallery, Darwin; National Library of Australia, Canberra; Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide; and The Academy Gallery, University of Tasmania.

 

 

Brook Andrew. 'Replicant series: Owl' 2005 

 

Brook Andrew
Replicant series: Owl
2005
Ilfochrome print
130 x 195 cm
© Brook Andrew, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

Brook Andrew (1970- ) is a Sydney born/Melbourne based interdisciplinary artist of Wiradjuri and Scottish heritage. Andrew’s conceptual based practice incorporates, sculpture, photography, installation, video and performance. The Replicant 2006 series reflects (literally) upon the act of looking, and consequent interchanges between nature and culture, subject and object, real and represented. These dualities fit broadly within the artist’s addressing of Australian identity, polemics and the politics of difference.

For the Replicant 2006 series Andrew borrowed taxidermied specimens from the education department at the Australian Museum, Sydney. These included native species of indigenous significance such as an owl, possum, flying fox and parrot. He shot each animal – artificially propped in their natural poses – and digitally manipulated each image so as to appear duplicated, a process that evolved out of the Kalar midday 2004 series.

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009-10 

 

Bill Henson
Untitled
2009-10
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
© Bill Henson, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

” … And yet certain things – particular experiences that we have are excpetional. They stand apart from the rest of the general activity.

What causes this apprehension of significance – of something in face powerfully apprehended yet not always fully understood?

And why is it that all of us, at some time or other, with have this ‘epiphany’ – Christian or otherwise – in the presence of some work of art, in the experiencing of a performance piece or some unexpected encounter with the true magic of a particular piece of sculpture?

When it happens, I always think of it as being as if one’s life – and everything that it contains – had just been ever so slightly changed, forever. Nothing, if you will, is ever quite the same again.

What happens, I think, is simply that we fall in love – and it’s the apprehension of unexpected beauty that causes us to fall in love.

The sheer force of such beauty can affect us as if it were an act of nature – and of course it is, for despite the arrogance of some theoreticians, culture is never outside nature.

I think that it is this intense, if often quite subtle, love for the subject, and the resultant emotional and intellectual interdependence within that relationship – be it in musical form, something in the visual arts, theatre of dance – that is responsible for – and in fact makes possible at all – these great and fortunate encounters in the arts.

Stare back into time and all kinds of very ‘personal’ things return your gaze. This has always, to me, seemed to a large extent to be what art is about. Sure, it’s personal, but it’s also millennial.

The best art always heightens our sense of mortality. This is not morbidity that I am talking about – rather, we feel more alive in the presence of great art and this is because of a profound sense of continuity – our sense of being inside nature – is expanded.

If you like, art suggests the immortal in all of us.

When we listen to Michelangeli – or, say, Jörg Demus playing Kinderszenen – and we sense that simultaneously proximate and intimate yet utterly abstract presence (was that someone? Schumann perhaps?) and at the same time sense the unbridgeable gulf that exists between ourselves and that distant past – we know that we are in the presence of something magical.

In the end I think that it is love that fuels this activity – that animates the speculative capacity in all of us – and heightens this sense of wonder.

Excerpts from Bill Henson’s speech “Reflections,” in Luminous World catalogue. Perth: Wesfarmers Limited, 2012, pp. 23-24.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

David Stephenson. 'Star Drawing 1996/402' 1996

 

David Stephenson
Star Drawing 1996/402
1996
40 x 40″
Cibachrome Print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1997
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

While the subject of my photographs has shifted from the landscape of the American Southwest and Tasmania, and the minimal horizons of the Southern ocean, and the icy wastes of Antarctica, to sacred architecture and the sky at both day and night, my art has remained essentially spiritual – for more than two decades I have been exploring a contemporary expression of the sublime – a transcendental experience of awe with the vast space and time of existence. (David Stephenson, 1998)

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled 39/139' 1990-91

 

Bill Henson
Untitled 39/139
1990-91
Paris Opera Project
Type C photograph
127 × 127 cm
Series of 50
Edition of 10 + 2 A/Ps

 

Stieg Persson. 'Offret' 1998 

 

Stieg Persson
Offret
1998
Oil on canvas
183 x 167 cm
© Stieg Persson, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Works focusing on light and darkness, and how light creates and reveals our world, from one of Australia’s pre-eminent corporate art collections compiled by Wesfarmers over the past 30 years, will be exhibited at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne.

The exhibition, Luminous World: Contemporary art from the Wesfarmers Collection, presents a diverse selection of contemporary paintings, photography and works of sculpture. The works traverse a diversity of cultural, aesthetic and philosophical perspectives, with the curatorial premise of how contemporary artists explore the phenomenon of light in their work.

Some 50 artists from Australia and New Zealand are featured in the exhibition including: Susan Norrie, Rosemary Laing, Howard Taylor, Dale Frank, Paddy Bedford, Bill Henson, Fiona Pardington (NZ), Brian Blanchflower, Brook Andrew, Timothy Cook and Nyapanyapa Yunupingu. Included alongside the art is a major new body of poetry by John Kinsella, written in response to works in the exhibition. These are published for the first time under the imprint of Fremantle Press in the book Luminous World, with new writing by artist Bill Henson and composer Richard Mills.

Ian Potter Museum of Art Director, Ms Kelly Gellatly said, “Luminous World highlights the strengths ofthe Wesfarmers Collection, which has generously been shared, through the tour of the exhibition, with the wider community.

“In bringing together works across a range of media by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, Luminous World successfully showcases both the depth and continuing resonance of contemporary Australian practice in a rich, open-ended and exploratory conversation about light.

“To know and experience light and its effects however, one must equally understand its other – darkness. Together, these concerns create an exhibition experience that is at once intellectual, emotional and experiential,” Ms Gellatly said.

The Wesfarmers Collection was started in 1977, and is housed in the Wesfarmers offices around Australia and shared with the community through a loan and exhibition program. A Wesfarmers and Art Gallery of Western Australia touring exhibition.”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

 

“For more than three decades Wesfarmers has been collecting Australian art. From General Manager John Bennison’s first acquisition in 1977 of a pastoral scene by the Australian impressionist Elioth Gruner, Wesfarmers’ purpose was to accentuate the value of art in the workplace and encourage and understanding of the importance to society of supporting creative thinking and artistic vision. The company has always been committed to sharing its collection with the community through exhibitions and loans and by opening our workplaces for groups to view the art in our offices.

This is the first time Wesfarmers has showcased the contemporary art in the collection, and the works selected for Luminous World illustrate some of the ways in which the collection has grown in recent years. For instance, the inclusion of art from New Zealand, where Wesfarmers now has a significant business presence, and the heightened emphasis on representing the great diversity of contemporary indigenous art.

We thank the artists whose resonant and timeless works form part of Australia’s rich cultural heritage and hope that the Australian public will enjoy these works and marvel at the ingenuity and artistic vision they represent, as Wesfarmers does, surround by inspirational art in our daily lives.”

Richard Goyder
Managing Director, Wesfarmers Limited

 

The visual world is defined by light; everything we see is processed by the eye as patterns of brightness and colour. Monumental formations in the landscape as well as the most subtle nuances of atmosphere are made real to us by the action of light, transmitted in wavelengths as an infinitely varied register of colour that combine within the eye to shape our sense of space and form.

It is the action of light reflecting off, refracting through and being absorbed by the substance of the world that enables the eye to perceive contours, hues, and textures and mark the passing of time from day to night and season to season.

Luminous World presents a diverse selection of contemporary paintings, photography and works of sculpture, acquired by the Wesfarmers Collection over thirty years and considered through the lens of how contemporary artists variously utilise the phenomenon of light in their work.

Rather than a chronological or stylistically ordered presentation, it follows a loosely intuitive flow of ideas and imagery moving through night to day. The artists in this exhibition explore light from the perspective of the optical experience, the connection between the stars and the cycles of life on earth; and from diverse cultural, mythic and spiritual point of departure.

Published for the first time in the Luminous World catalogue are recent poems by John Kinsella, written in response to selected works in the exhibition, together with new writing by artist Bill Henson and composer Richard Mills that extend an artistic dialogue in which all can share.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Hung fire' 1995

 

Rosalie Gascoigne
Hung fire
1995
Retro-reflective road-sign on wood
209 x 176 cm
© Rosalie Gascoigne, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

Elizabeth Nyumi. 'Parwalla' 2010 

 

Elizabeth Nyumi
Parwalla
2010
Acrylic on canvas
120 x 180 cm
© Elizabeth Nyumi, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

About Parwalla

This painting depicts the country known as Parwalla, which is Nyumi’s father’s country. This country is far to the south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert, west of Kiwirrkurra, and is dominated by tali (sand hills). Parwalla is a large swampy area, which fills with water after the wet season rain and consequently produces an abundance of bush foods. The majority of Nyumi’s painting shows the different bush foods, including kantjilyi (bush raisin), pura (bush tomato) and minyili (seed). The whiteish colours, which dominate the painting, represent the spinifex that grows strong and seeds after the wet season rains. These seeds are white in colour, and grow so thickly they obscure the ground and other plants below.

Biography

When Nyumi was only a very young child her mother died at Kanari soakwater close to Jupiter Well. As a young girl, Nyumi lived with her family group in their country. As a teenager she walked along the Canning Stock Route into the old mission with her father and family group. There she was given clothes and taken to Billiluna Station to be trained as a domestic worker and to work for the wives of the station managers around the region.

Nyumi commenced painting in 1987 and emerged as a leading artist in the late 1990s. She is married to the artist Palmer Gordon and has four daughters, three of whom are still living and beginning to paint with strong encouragement from Nyumi. Her elder brothers Brandy Tjungurrayi and Patrick Olodoodi are both senior lawmen and recognised artists. Nyumi is a very strong culture woman and dancer and an enthusiastic teacher of culture to children, ensuring the traditional dances and songs are kept alive.

Nyumi’s paintings are mainly concerned with the abundant bush food in the country belonging to her family. Initially, she worked with a thick brush, covering the canvas with fluent lines in tones of yellow, green and red. She has now developed a strong personal style of thick impasto dotting, to build up fields of texture heavily laden with white, in which motifs of camp sites, coolamons, digging sticks and bush tucker stand out.

 

Gretchen Albrecht. 'Pink and orange sherbet sky' 1975  

 

Gretchen Albrecht
Pink and orange sherbet sky
1975
Acrylic on canvas
166 x 177 cm
© Gretchen Albrecht, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australia

 

Rosemary Laing. 'Brumby mound #5' from the series 'One dozen unnatural disasters in the landscape' 2003

 

Rosemary Laing
Brumby mound #5 from the series One dozen unnatural disasters in the landscape
2003
C Type photograph
110 x 222 cm
© Rosemary Laing, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

Brumby mound #5 2003 is one of a series of photographs by Rosemary Laing that explores the way European culture has often been uncomfortably imposed on an ancient land. Laing chooses a desert-scape that many identify as quintessentially Australian as the setting for her interventions. The location is the Wirrimanu community lands around Balgo in north-east Western Australia. Onto these traditional lands Laing has incongruously placed items of mass-produced furniture painted to mimic the surroundings.

The words ‘brumby mound’ in her title are a reference to the introduced horses (or brumbies) that are feral and roam uncontrolled, much like the spread of furniture. The seductive beauty of these panoramic images shows the vast spectacle of the Australian bush and makes the disjunction of the natural and the unnatural all the more apparent. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Howard Taylor. 'Bushfire sun' 1996 

 

Howard Taylor
Bushfire sun
1996
Oil on canvas
122 x 152 cm
© Howard Taylor, courtesy of the artist’s estate and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

Michael Riley. 'Untitled' from the series 'Cloud [Feather]' 2000

 

Michael Riley
Untitled from the series Cloud [Feather]
2000
Inkjet print on banner paper
86 x 120 cm
© Michael Riley Foundation, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Feathers float – so do clouds – and dreams.

Feather – a Wiradjuri word for feather and wing are the same, Gawuurra. Probably Cowra, the name of a town to the south, comes from this. In contemporary Aboriginal practices of other groups, feather-appendage is extended in meaning to string tassel, sacred string marking a journey, connecting landscapes, people, family lineages, and, importantly, the embryo cord linking child and mother.

A wing of the eagle hawk, Malyan, a skin name, a scary dream-being overhead. Is it guardian angel or assassin? In the south-east, a feather left behind is often evidence of such a spiritual visit.

At the funeral of actor and activist Bob Maza in 2000, his son held his father’s Bible and recollected his words, ‘to dare to dream your dreams’. It’s interesting that Michael Riley chose to avoid the word ‘dream’ in naming his final photographic work cloud (2000), avoiding glib connections to ‘Dreamtime’. What rolls past our eyes and through our senses is the culmination of self-examination. In a series of poetic photographic texts made increasingly poignant through events in his personal life, these are dreams of childhood memories in Dubbo, New South Wales: dreams of floating, of release…

cloud appears as more personal and free. A floating feather; a sweeping wing; a vigilant angel; the cows from ‘the mission’ farm; a single Australian Plague Locust in flight, referring to the cyclical swarms of locusts; a comforting Bible; and a graceful emblematic returning boomerang. The boomerang is really the only overtly Aboriginal image in the series and the locust is one of the few native species left that is visible and cannot be swept aside. It persists…

Through the large, simply superimposed images of cloud, Michael was trying to minimalise things, to distil his ideas about physical reality and spirit. All are dichotomously connected to Dubbo and Riley and are also universal. They are not about a place but a state, the surrealistic cow with mud and manure on its hoofs floating by. In contrast to Empire’s scenes of a decayed, overworked and desolated landscape, there is no physical land in the cloud imagery.

Aboriginal creation stories begin with a sunrise and follow the journeys of an original being across a physical, seasonal and emotional landscape – seeing, experiencing, and naming this and that plant, animal, climatic occurrence and emotional feelings. Religious song cycles follow this progression. Michael’s set of large, single-subject memories can almost be thought of as a Wiradjuri song cycle of his land and his life.”

Extract from Djon Mundine. Wungguli – Shadow : Photographing the spirit and Michael Riley” on the Michael Riley: sights unseen National Gallery of Australia website.

 

Paddy Bedford. 'Merrmerrji–Queensland creek' 2005 

 

Paddy Bedford
Merrmerrji-Queensland creek
2005
Ochre and synthetic binder on composition board
80 x 100 cm
© Paddy Bedford, reproduced courtesy of the artist’s estate and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Paddy Bedford was a senior Gija lawman born at Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberly region. Like many indigenous artists, he lived a long life as a stockman before he looked upon the Turkey Creek elders – Rover Thomas and Paddy Jiminji – to begin painting. Bedford’s first works were made with the inception of the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art Cooperative in 1997.

The distinctive minimalist style of his work is but a mask to the multifarious layers of meaning. Bedford’s paintings are inspired by the distinctive landscape and stories of his country in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia, as he depicts from an aerial perspective the traditional dreamings of the Cockatoo, Emu and Turkey; the massacres of local Aboriginal people during the colonial period; as well as episodes from his own life as a stockman and as a senior elder of his community.

Merrmerrji- Queensland Creek, 2005 is characteristically sparse in composition with bold forms, a rhythmic application of dotted fluid lines and a powerfully imposing colour palate, which is gained from a wet-on-wet mixture of white and ochre pigments suspended in a fast drying acrylic medium. The effect is a pearly radiant luminosity, an ambience of the sacred.” (Text from the Annette Larkin Fine Art website)

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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24
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars’ at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City

Exhibition dates: 20th June – 27th September 2015

 

Even after nearly six years of making this website, I still get a thrill bringing you the next posting.

And what a posting it is.

Even as their countrymen lay starving in the cities and dying on the fields of battle in World War One, the Romanov’s still kept spending. Oh how the once mighty fell in a heap of their own making. But sometimes you just need a bit of dynastic, debauched (and beautiful) bling to brighten your capitalist day … and to remind you that nothing lasts forever and karma will always have its way.

As a t-shirt in an op-shop that I saw today said, “Workers … possess the power.” And that is why governments, tyrants and despotic royalty will always be afraid of them.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pavel Ovchinnikov. 'The Holy Virgin of Kazan, Saint Prince Aleksandr Nevskii, Saint Mary Magdalene' 1891

 

Pavel Ovchinnikov (1830-1888)
The Holy Virgin of Kazan, Saint Prince Aleksandr Nevskii, Saint Mary Magdalene
1891
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt.
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Pavel Ovchinnikov (1830-1888), Russian jeweller, silversmith, goldsmith, enameller, merchant, industrialist. Hallmark: П.О. or П.Овчинниковъ in a rectangle. Trained in his brother’s workshop and opened a factory in Moscow, where he revived the art of enamelling and worked in the Neo-Russian style. Official purveyor to Tsar Alexander III, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and King Christian IX of Denmark. Awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Order of the Iron Crown. Member of the Moscow City Duma.

Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (Russian: Алекса́ндр Яросла́вич Не́вский; pronounced [ɐlʲɪˈksandr jɪrɐˈslavʲɪtɕ ˈnʲɛfskʲɪj] Ukrainian: Олександр Ярославович Не́вський); 13 May 1221 – 14 November 1263) served as Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev and Grand Prince of Vladimir during some of the most difficult times in Kievan Rus’ history.

Commonly regarded as a key figure of medieval Rus’, Alexander – the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest – rose to legendary status on account of his military victories over German and Swedish invaders while agreeing to pay tribute to the powerful Golden Horde. He was proclaimed as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church by Metropolite Macarius in 1547. Popular polls rank Alexander Nevsky as the greatest Russian hero in history.

 

Russian. 'Imperial Diamond Brooch' 1890–1910

 

Russian
Imperial Diamond Brooch
1890-1910
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Russian. 'Crown Brooch' 1890-1910

 

Russian
Crown Brooch
1890-1910
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Elephant Box' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Elephant Box
before 1899
Nephrite, ivory, gold, rubies, diamonds
3.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (9.53 x 10.16 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Upon the death of Hiskias Pendin in 1882, Carl Fabergé took sole responsibility for running the company. Carl was awarded the title Master Goldsmith, which permitted him to use his own hallmark in addition to that of the firm. Carl Fabergé’s reputation was so high that the normal three-day examination was waived. For several years, Carl Faberge’s main assistant in the designing of jewellery was his younger brother, Agathon Faberge (1862-1895), who had also trained in Dresden.

Carl and Agathon were a sensation at the Pan-Russian Exhibition held in Moscow in 1882. Carl was awarded a gold medal and the St. Stanisias Medal. One of the Fabergé pieces displayed was a replica of a 4th-century BC gold bangle from the Scythian Treasure in the Hermitage. The Tsar declared that he could not distinguish the Fabergé’s work from the original and ordered that objects by the House of Fabergé should be displayed in the Hermitage as examples of superb contemporary Russian craftsmanship. The House of Fabergé with its range of jewels was now within the focus of Russia’s Imperial Court.

When Peter Carl took over the House, there was a move from producing jewellery in the then fashionable French 18th century style, to becoming artist-jewellers. Having acquired the title of Supplier to the Court from Tsar Alexander III on May 1, 1885, Fabergé had full access to the important Hermitage Collection, where he was able not only to study but also to find inspiration for developing his unique style. Influenced by the jewelled bouquets created by the eighteenth century goldsmiths, Jean-Jacques Duval and Jérémie Pauzié, Fabergé re-worked their ideas, combining them with his accurate observations and fascination for Japanese art. This resulted in reviving the lost art of enamelling and concentrating on setting every single stone in a piece to its best advantage. Indeed, it was not unusual for Agathon to make ten or more wax models so that all possibilities could be exhausted before deciding on a final design. Shortly after Agathon joined the firm, the House introduced objects deluxe: gold bejewelled items embellished with enamel ranging from electric bell pushes to cigarette cases, including objects de fantaisie.

In 1885, Tsar Alexander III gave the House of Fabergé the title; ‘Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Elephant Box' (detail) before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Elephant Box (detail)
before 1899
Nephrite, ivory, gold, rubies, diamonds
3.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (9.53 x 10.16 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Monumental Kovsh' 1899–1908

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Monumental Kovsh
1899-1908
Silver, chrysoprase, amethyst
15 x 27.5 x 12.25 in. (38.10 x 69.85 x 31.12 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Monumental Kovsh' (detail) 1899-1908

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Monumental Kovsh (detail)
1899-1908
Silver, chrysoprase, amethyst
15 x 27.5 x 12.25 in. (38.10 x 69.85 x 31.12 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

The Kovsh is a traditional drinking vessel or ladle from Russia. It was oval-shaped like a boat with a single handle and may be shaped like a water bird or a norse longship. Originally the Kovsh made from wood and used to serve and drink mead, with specimens excavated from as early as the tenth century. Metal Kovsh began to appear around the 14th century, although it also continued to be carved out of wood and was frequently brightly painted in peasant motifs. By the 17th century, the Kovsh was often an ornament rather than a practical vessel, and in the 19th century it was elaborately cast in precious metals for presentation as an official gift of the tsarist government.

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Star Frame' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Star Frame
before 1899
Gold, enamel, pearls, glass, ivory
3 x 2.625 x 3.5625 (diameter) in (7.62 x 6.67 x 9.05 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Star Frame' (detail) before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Star Frame (detail)
before 1899
Gold, enamel, pearls, glass, ivory
3 x 2.625 x 3.5625 (diameter) in (7.62 x 6.67 x 9.05 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840–1917). 'Plate' 1899–1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Plate
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Feodor Ivanovich Rückert, Russian silver- and goldsmith of German origin, Fabergé workmaster. Born in Moscow in 1840. Worked with Carl Fabergé from 1887. His mark Ф.Р. (F.R. in Russian Cyrillic) can be found on cloisonné enamel objects made in Moscow, sold independently or by Fabergé.

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840–1917). 'Plate' (detail) 1899–1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Plate (detail)
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

“More than 230 rare and storied treasures created by the House of Fabergé will be celebrated in a new exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Fabergé: Jeweler to the Tsars will be on view from June 20 through September 27, 2015. The exhibition, drawn from the Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, will showcase Karl Fabergé’s fine craftsmanship in pieces of jewelry and adornments once belonging to the Russian Imperial family.

“This exhibition represents a double honor for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art – the opportunity to collaborate with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and to showcase the largest Fabergé collection outside of Russia,” said E. Michael Whittington, OKCMOA President and CEO. “The technical and artistic virtuosity of the Fabergé workshop is without parallel. Individually, these objects are breathtaking. Collectively, they represent a unique window into an empire and subsequent revolution that dramatically altered 20th century history. We are proud to present such an extraordinary collection of treasures to our community.”

From dazzling Imperial Easter eggs to delicate flower ornaments and from enchanting animal sculptures to cigarette cases, photograph frames and desk clocks, Fabergé often turned the most mundane objects into miniature works of art. The vast majority of his designs were never repeated, and most pieces were made entirely by hand. The success of his business was inextricably linked to the patronage of the Romanov dynasty and the close ties among the British, Danish and Russian royal families, who often exchanged works by Fabergé as personal gifts.

The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg of 1912, which will be on view at OKCMOA, was a gift to Empress Alexandra from her husband, Emperor Nicholas II. The egg commemorates their son, Alexsei, who nearly died the previous year of hemophilia. For the shell, craftsmen joined six wedges of highly prized lapis lazuli and hid the seams with an elaborate gold filigree encasement. Inside the egg, a diamond encrusted Romanov family crest frames a two-sided portrait of the young child.

These objects were associated with refinement and luxury because the House of Fabergé was known for accepting nothing less than perfection as well as for being business savvy. Beyond the elegant showrooms in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, hundreds of the country’s finest goldsmiths, enamellers, stone carvers, gem cutters and jewelers were at work creating innovative and complex designs that could not be readily imitated.

The presence of the Romanov family – Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children – is most intimately felt in the exhibition through the display of more than 40 family photographs held in enameled Fabergé frames. These family photographs and jewels were some of the only possessions the Romanovs took with them when they were forced out of St. Petersburg during the Revolution. In an effort to preserve their wealth, the Romanov daughters are said to have sewn Fabergé jewels into their undergarments. In the end, their diamond-lined corsets managed to prolong their execution and sealed the fate for the inevitable fall of the dynasty.”

Press release from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Christ Pantocrator,' 1914–17

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Christ Pantocrator
1914-17
Oil on panel, silver gilt, filigree silver, precious and semiprecious stones, seed pearls
11.875 x 10.125 in. (30.16 x 25.72 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantocrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator or Pantokrator (Greek: Παντοκράτωρ) is, used in this context, a translation of one of many names of God in Judaism. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, Pantokrator was used both for YHWH Sabaoth “Lord of Hosts” and for El Shaddai “God Almighty”. In the New Testament, Pantokrator is used once by Paul (2 Cor 6:18). Aside from that one occurrence, the author of the Book of Revelation is the only New Testament author to use the word Pantokrator. The author of Revelation uses the word nine times, and while the references to God and Christ in Revelation are at times interchangeable, Pantokrator appears to be reserved for God alone.

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846–1920). 'Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg' 1903

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Vasilii Zuiev, Painter of miniatures Russian , 1870-unknown
Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg
1903
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Peter, the Great Egg, is a jewelled Easter egg made under the supervision of the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé in 1903, for the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. Tsar Nicholas presented the egg to his wife, the Czarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. Made in the Rococo style, the Peter the Great Egg celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703.

Executed in gold, the curves are set with diamonds and rubies. The body of the egg is covered in laurel leaves and bulrushes that are chased in 14-carat green gold. These symbolize the source of the “living waters”. The spikyheads are set with square rubies. White enamel ribbons inscribed with historical details encircle the egg. On the top of the egg is an enameled wreath which encircles Nicholas II’s monogram. The bottom of the egg is adorned with the double-headed imperial eagle, made of black enamel and crowned with two diamonds.

The paintings representing the “before” and “after” of St. Petersburg in 1703 and 1903. The front painting features the extravagant Winter Palace, the official residence of Nicholas II two hundred years after the founding of St. Petersburg. Opposite this, on the back of the egg, is a painting of the log cabin believed to be built by Peter the Great himself, representative of the founding of St. Petersburg on the banks of the Neva River. On the sides of the egg are portraits of Peter the Great in 1703 and Nicholas II in 1903. Each of the miniatures is covered by rock crystal. The dates 1703 and 1903, worked in diamonds, appear on either side of the lid above the paintings of the log cabin and Winter Palace, respectively.

Below each painting are fluttering enamel ribbons with inscriptions in black Cyrillic letters. The inscriptions include: “The Emperor Peter the Great, born in 1672, founding St. Petersburg in 1703″, “The first little house of the Emperor Peter the Great in 1703″, “The Emperor Nicholas II born in the 1868 ascended the throne in 1894″ and “The Winter Palace of His Imperial Majesty in 1903.”

The surprise is that when the egg is opened, a mechanism within raises a miniature gold model of Peter the Great’s monument on the Neva, resting on a base of sapphire. The model was made by Gerogii Malychevin. The reason for this choice of surprise is the story of a legend from the 19th century that says enemy forces will never take St. Petersburg while the “Bronze Horseman” stands in the middle of the city.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg' (detail) 1903

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Vasilii Zuiev, Painter of miniatures Russian , 1870-unknown
Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg (detail)
1903
Gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, enamel, bronze, sapphire, watercolor on ivory, rock crystal
4.25 x 3.125 (diameter) in. (10.80 x 7.94 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg' 1912

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Henrik Wigström Russian, 1862-1923
Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg
1912
Lapis lazuli, gold, diamonds, platinum or silver
5.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (on stand) (14.61 x 10.16 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg, created by workmaster Henrik Wigström, has six lapis lazuli segments with doubleheaded eagles, winged caryatids, hanging canopies, scrolls, flower baskets, and sprays that conceal the joints. It is set with a large solitaire diamond at the base, and a table diamond (a thin, flat diamond) on top over the Cyrillic monogram AF (for Alexandra Feodorovna) and the date 1912. The surprise found inside is a portrait painted on ivory, front and back, of the tsesarevich in a diamond-set, double-headed eagle standing on a lapis lazuli pedestal. In addition to assisting Perkhin with 26 imperial eggs, Henrik Wigström produced 20 to 21 additional eggs between 1906 and 1916, including this masterpiece.

Henrik Immanuel Wigström (1862-1923) was one of the most important Fabergé workmasters along with Michael Perchin. Perchin was the head workmaster from 1886 until his death in 1903, when he was succeeded by his chief assistant Henrik Wigstrom. These two workmasters were responsible for almost all the imperial Easter eggs.

Once in Madsén’s employment, his master’s trade with Russia, as well as his numerous business contacts here, brought him to work in St. Petersburg. It is unknown who employed Wigström on his arrival in the capital, but Wigström became assistant in 1884, at the age of 22, to Perchin, whose shop at that time was already working exclusively for Fabergé. Wigström became head workmaster at Fabergé after Perchin’s death in 1903. The number of craftsmen in Wigström’s workshop diminished drastically with the outbreak of World War I. By 1918, the Revolution forced the complete closing of the House of Fabergé. Aged 56, Wigström retreated almost empty-handed to his summer house, on Finnish territory, and died there in 1923.

His art is similar to Perchin’s but tends to be in the Louis XVI, Empire, or neo-classical style. Nearly all the Fabergé hardstone animals, figures and flowers from that time period were produced under his supervision.

 

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Imperial Pelican Easter Egg' 1897

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Johannes Zehngraf, Painter of miniatures Russian, 1857-1908
Imperial Pelican Easter Egg
1897
Gold, diamonds, enamel, pearls, watercolor on ivory
4 x 2.125 (diameter) in. (10.16 x 5.40 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Michael Evlampievich Perchin (Russian: Михаил Евлампьевич Перхин) (1860-1903) was born in Okulovskaya in Olonets Governorate (now Republic of Karelia) and died in St. Petersburg. He was one of the most important Fabergé workmasters along with Henrik Wigström. Perchin became the leading workmaster in the House of Fabergé in 1886 and supervised production of the eggs until his death in 1903. The eggs he was responsible for were marked with his initials.

He worked initially as a journeyman in the workshop of Erik August Kollin. In 1884 he qualified as a master craftsman and his artistic potential must have been obvious to Fabergé who appointed him head workmaster in 1886. His workshop produced all types of objets de fantasie in gold, enamel and hard stones. All the important commissions of the time, including some of the Imperial Easter Eggs, the renowned “Fabergé eggs”, were made in his workshop. His period as head Fabergé workmaster is generally acknowledged to be the most artistically innovative, with a huge range of styles from neo-Rococo to Renaissance.

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Imperial Pelican Easter Egg' (detail) 1897

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Mikhail Perkhin, Workmaster Russian , 1860-1903
Johannes Zehngraf, Painter of miniatures Russian , 1857-1908
Imperial Pelican Easter Egg (detail)
1897
Gold, diamonds, enamel, pearls, watercolor on ivory
4 x 2.125 (diameter) in. (10.16 x 5.40 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Johannes Zehngraf (born April 18, 1857 in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark; † February 7, 1908 in Berlin) was a Danish painter of miniatures and chief miniaturist in the house of Carl Peter Fabergé in St. Petersburg. He was the son of painter and photographer Christian Antoni Zehngraf  and Rebecca de Lemos and married on January 27, 1880 in Aalborg Caroline Ludovica Lund (* June 30, 1856; † after 1908), the daughter of Carl Ludvig Lund and Pouline Elisabeth Poulsen.

Zehngraf  learned in Aalborg with his father the art of photography and worked at first as a photographer, later in Aarhus, Odense and Malmö (1886-1889). The small-scale retouching his photographs led him then to miniature painting. As a miniaturist he settled down in 1889 in Berlin and counted the European royal houses to its customers. He led the photographic realism with their richness of detail in his painting. Portraits of the Russian Emperor Alexander III., His wife, the Empress Maria Feodorovna, the Danish Princess Thyra and a series of portraits of eleven miniature effigies of the Danish King Christian IX family testify to his skill. He painted, among others, the thumbnails on the Lily of the Valley Faberge Egg (1898)

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits' 1915

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Henrik Wigström, Workmaster Russian, 1862-1923
Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits
1915
Silver, enamel, gold, mother-of-pearl, watercolor on ivory, velvet lining
3 x 2.375 (diameter) in. (7.62 x 6.03 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits' (detail) 1915

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Henrik Wigström, Workmaster Russian, 1862-1923
Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg with Portraits (detail)
1915
Silver, enamel, gold, mother-of-pearl, watercolor on ivory, velvet lining
3 x 2.375 (diameter) in. (7.62 x 6.03 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Ring Box' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Ring Box
before 1899
Gold, ruby, silk
1 (height) in. (2.54 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Rooster' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Rooster
c. 1900
Carnelian, diamonds, gold
1.5 x 0.5 x 1.25 in. (3.81 x 1.27 x 3.18 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920) 'Rooster' (detail) c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Rooster (detail)
c. 1900
Carnelian, diamonds, gold
1.5 x 0.5 x 1.25 in. (3.81 x 1.27 x 3.18 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Miniature Easter Egg Pendant' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Miniature Easter Egg Pendant
c. 1900
Gold, enamel, diamonds, sapphires
0.75 (height) x 0.5 (diameter) in. (1.91 x 1.27 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Miniature Easter Egg Pendant' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Miniature Easter Egg Pendant
c. 1900
Chalcedony, gold, diamonds
1.35 x 0.875 (diameter) in. (3.18 x 2.22 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Cane Handle' before 1899

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Parasol Handle
before 1899
Bowenite, gold, diamonds, pearls, enamel
3¼ H x 1½ W (8.26 cm x 3.81 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Cane Handle' (detail) before 1899

 

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Parasol Handle (detail)
before 1899
Bowenite, gold, diamonds, pearls, enamel
3¼ H x 1½ W (8.26 cm x 3.81 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

The tapering, pentagonal parasol handle has panels of pink guilloché enamel painted with dendritic motifs within opaque-white enamel borders. A diamond is centered on each panel and Louis XVI-style floral decorations are set between the panels. Atop the handle is a brilliant-cut diamond finial in a rose-cut diamond surround with diamond-set fillets.

Marks : Early initials of workmaster Mikhail Perkhin, assay mark of St. Petersburg before 1899, 56 zolotnik

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). 'Statuette of a Sailor' c. 1900

 

Peter Karl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920)
Statuette of a Sailor
c. 1900
Agate, obsidian, aventurine quartz, lapis lazuli, sapphire
4.625 x 2.5 in. (11.75 x 6.35 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840–1917). 'Loving Cup' 1899-1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Loving Cup
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917) 'Loving Cup' 1899-1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Loving Cup
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917) 'Loving Cup' (detail) 1899-1908

 

Fedor Rückert (Russian, 1840-1917)
Loving Cup (detail)
1899-1908
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of Silver
Photo: Travis Fullerton
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

 

Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm
Closed: Monday and Major Holidays

Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

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07
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Nature/Revelation’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st March 2015 – 5th July 2015

Curator: Joanna Bosse

 

This is a fascinating exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, one of the best exhibitions I have seen this year in Melbourne. Unlike the disappointing exhibition Earth Matters: contemporary photographers in the landscape at the Monash Gallery of Art this exhibition, which addresses roughly the same subject matter (climate change and its devastating impact on the earth’s many ecosystems; contemporary notions of nature and the sublime) is nuanced and fresh, celebrating “the unique capacity art has to cut through prevailing rhetoric to stimulate individuals both intellectually and emotionally in the face of current environmental issues.”

Every piece of art in this exhibition is emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically challenging. There is no “dead wood” here. As the press release states, “Nature/Revelation features international and Australian artists who are engaged with poetic and philosophical concerns, and whose work offers potentially enlightening experiences that energise our relationship to the natural world.” And it is true!

I spent over two hours on a couple of visits to this exhibition and came away feeling en/lightened in mind and body. From the formal beauty of Ansel Adams classical black and white photographs to the mesmerising, eternal video Boulder Hand (2012) by Gabriel Orozco; from the delightful misdirection of Mel O’Callaghan’s Moons to the liminal habitats of Jamie North; and from the constructed clouds of Berndnaut Smilde to the best piece in the exhibition, Jonathan Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (2013, below) – every piece deserved its place in this exhibition. I would go as far as to say that Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale is the best piece of art that I have seen since Mark Hilton’s dontworry (2013) which featured in the Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. The sheer scale and beauty of the work (with its graphite on canvas attention to detail) and that doleful eye staring out at the viewer, is both empowering and unnerving. It deserves to be in an important collection.

While nature and the world we live in offers moments of revelation, so did the art in this exhibition. The art possesses moment of wonder for the viewer. Kudos to curator Joanna Bosse and The Ian Potter Museum of Art for putting on a top notch show.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Ansel Adams. 'Clearing winter storm, Yosemite National Park, California' 1935 

 

Ansel Adams 
Clearing winter storm, Yosemite National Park, California 
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
56 x 71 cm framed
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1980
© 2015 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work by Ansel Adams

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work by Ansel Adams (right) and detail of Jonathan Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (left)

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work Jonathan Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), 2013

 

Jonathan Delafield Cook. 'Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)' (detail) 2013

 

Jonathan Delafield Cook 
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (detail)
2013
Graphite on canvas
6 panels: 245 x 1200 cm overall
Courtesy the artist and Olsen/Irwin Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Jonathan Delafield Cook’s life size drawing of a Sperm Whale specimen possesses a haunting melancholy… [He] creates an encounter that recalls those between Ahab and Moby Dick immortalised in Hermann Melville’s famous novel. Being face-to-face, eye-to-eye with this majestic sentient being – distinguished for having the largest brain of any creature known to have lived on the Earth – is an awe-inspiring experience. The overwhelming enormity of scale and the panorama-like expanse of the whale’s skin rouse an acute awareness of our own small presence in the room (in the world).

Delafield Cook’s work belongs to the naturalist tradition, and his detailed charcoal drawing intensifies the physical qualities of the subject in a way that renders it both a forensic study and an otherworldly fantasy. The personal history of this sleek leviathan is writ large, like graffiti, on its skin: the abrasions, the exfoliations, scars and its ragged tail tell of unknown adventures in an environment that lies beyond our own experience, but one not exempt from degradation or environmental change.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work by Ansel Adams (right)

 

 

Gabriel Orozco (born April 27, 1962, Mexico)
Boulder Hand
2012
Video 54 seconds
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Mel O’Callaghan’s Moons (left) and the video Boulder Hand (2012) by Gabriel Orozco (right)

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Mel O’Callaghan’s Moons

 

Mel O'Callaghan. 'Moons (II)' 2014

 

Mel O’Callaghan 
Moons (II)
2014
pigmented inkjet print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Allen, Paris, and Galeria Belo Galsterer, Lisbon

 

 

“Climate change and its devastating impact on the earth’s many ecosystems is arguably today’s most critical global issue. Nature/Revelation celebrates the unique capacity art has to cut through prevailing rhetoric to stimulate individuals both intellectually and emotionally in the face of current environmental issues. Focusing on contemporary notions of nature and the sublime, the exhibition affirms that the world we live in offers moments of revelation, and that nature can provoke a range of associations – both fantastical and grounded – that profoundly affect us.

Nature/Revelation features international and Australian artists who are engaged with poetic and philosophical concerns, and whose work offers potentially enlightening experiences that energise our relationship to the natural world. Artists include Ansel Adams, Jonathan Delafield Cook, David Haines, Andrew Hazewinkel and Susan Jacobs, Jamie North, Mel O’Callaghan, Gabriel Orozco and Berndnaut Smilde. The exhibition also raises questions about concepts of nature and culture following the arguments of philosopher Timothy Morton.

This exhibition forms a key component of the ‘Art+climate=change’ festival presented by Climarte: arts for a safer climate. This festival of climate change related arts and ideas includes curated exhibitions at a number of museums and galleries alongside a series of keynote lectures and forums featuring local and international speakers.

The University of Melbourne, with the Potter as project leader, is the Principal Knowledge Partner of the Climarte program.”

Text from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing David Haines’ Day & Night (right) and Jamie North’s Portal II and Slag bowl I & II (left)

 

 

David Haines (born 1966 London, lives Blue Mountains, New South Wales)
Day & Night
2005-2015
Two channel video projection
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cotter Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Throughout his practice – which comprises investigations into the elemental in carious media – David Haines explores sensation in both seen and unseen forms. He has a particular interest in latent energies, such as aromas, sound waves and electromagnetic currents.

Haines revisits the classic language of the sublime in his 2004 two-channel video installation Day & night. He presents dual images of the sublime: one an immense cliff face with a sea surging against its rocky base; the other a brooding cloudscape, its form gradually unfolding with a mesmeric momentum. The work is simultaneously serene and disturbing, and awakens that range of complex emotions that Kant named the ‘supersensible’ – beyond the range of what is normally perceptible by the senses. The over-riding emotional rush – the presentiment of danger – associated with this experience is a trademark of the sublime.

The abstract sense of danger shifts however when we notice the tiny figure clinging to the cliff face. The scene is abruptly divested of its fantastical quality (its symbolic power is suddenly made real), as we can’t help but identify with the solitary figure. No longer merely observers, we become participants in the scene before us. The perilous figure in Haines’ work provides a touchstone in terms of the overwhelming grandeur of nature. In the context of the exhibition, s/he could represent each of us as we confront the seemingly insurmountable environmental and humanitarian challenges resulting from the increasingly catastrophic effects of global warming.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Jamie North 
Portal II
2014
Cement, marble waste, limestone, steel slag, coal ash, plastic fibre, tree fern slab, various Australian native plants and Spanish moss
2 components: 107.0 x 26.0 x 26.0 cm each
Courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

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Jamie North 
Slag bowl I & II
2013
Concrete, coal ash, steel slag, Australian native plants and moss
15 x 37 x 37cm each
Courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Viewers often mistake Jamie North’s sculptures for actual relics. The sculptures are in fact carefully crafted to emulate liminal habitats where hardy plant species grow in inhospitable conditions. More than mere simulation, each work is itself a miniature ecosystem and has to be tended accordingly.

The sculptures are cast from materials that are commonly found in industrial settings (steel slag, coal ash, marble dust, and concrete) and include local native flora. The specifics of locality are important to North, and his work is a subtle investigation of local environmental systems and the character of place as well as the adaptability of nature in urban settings…

North has an interest in terraforming – the theoretical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology of a planet to be similar to the biosphere of Earth. Here, he creates his own terraforms as a reflection on the environmental manipulations that taking place in the everyday.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Berndnaut Smilde’s Nimbus – Probe  and Nimbus D’Aspremont (left) and Jamie North’s Portal II and Slag bowl I & II (right)

 

Berndnaut Smilde. 'Nimbus D'Aspremont' 2012

 

Berndnaut Smilde 
Nimbus D’Aspremont
2012
Digital C-type print mounted on diabond
75 x 110 cm
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery, London

 

Berndnaut Smilde. 'Nimbus - Probe' 2010

 

Berndnaut Smilde 
Nimbus – Probe
2010
Digital C-type print mounted on diabond
75 x 112 cm
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery, London

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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03
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860′ at Tate Britain, London

Exhibition dates: 25th February – 7th June 2015

Curators: Carol Jacobi, Curator, British Art 1850-1915, Tate Britain, Simon Baker, Curator, Photography and International Art, Tate, and Hannah Lyons, Assistant Curator, 1850-1915, Tate

 

 

“Salt prints are the very first photographs on paper that still exist today. Made in the first twenty years of photography, they are the results of esoteric knowledge and skill. Individual, sometimes unpredictable, and ultimately magical, the chemical capacity to ‘fix a shadow’ on light sensitive paper, coated in silver salts, was believed to be a kind of alchemy, where nature drew its own picture.”

 

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These salted paper prints, one of the earliest forms of photography, are astonishing. The delicacy and nuance of shade and feeling; possessing a soft, luxurious aesthetic that is astounding today… but just imagine looking at these images at the time they were taken. The shock, the recognition, the delight and the romance of seeing aspects of your life and the world around you, near and far, drawn in light – having a physical presence in the photographs before your eyes. The aura of the original, the photograph AS referent – unlike contemporary media saturated society where the image IS reality, endlessly repeated, divorced from the world in which we live.

The posting has taken a long time to put together, from researching the birth and death dates of the artists (not supplied), to finding illustrative texts and biographies of each artist (some translated from the French). But the real joy in assembling this posting is when I sequence the images. How much pleasure does it give to be able to sequence Auguste Salzmann’s Terra Cotta Statuettes from Camiros, Rhodes followed by three Newhaven fishermen rogues (you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night!), and then the totally different feel of Fenton’s Group of Croat Chiefs. Follow this up with one of the most stunning photographs of the posting, Roger Fenton’s portrait Captain Mottram Andrews, 28th Regiment (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot of 1855 and you have a magnificent, almost revelatory, quaternity/eternity.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

'Salt and Silver' at Tate Britain

 

 

This is the first exhibition in Britain devoted to salted paper prints, one of the earliest forms of photography. A uniquely British invention, unveiled by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839, salt prints spread across the globe, creating a new visual language of the modern moment. This revolutionary technique transformed subjects from still lifes, portraits, landscapes and scenes of daily life into images with their own specific aesthetic: a soft, luxurious effect particular to this photographic process. The few salt prints that survive are seldom seen due to their fragility, and so this exhibition, a collaboration with the Wilson Centre for Photography, is a singular opportunity to see the rarest and best early photographs of this type in the world.

“The technique went as follows: coat paper with a silver nitrate solution and expose it to light, thus producing a faint silver image. He later realized if you apply salt to the paper first and then spread on the silver nitrate solution the resulting image is much sharper. His resulting photos, ranging in color from sepia to violet, mulberry, terracotta, silver-grey, and charcoal-black, were shadowy and soft, yet able to pick up on details that previously went overlooked – details like the texture of a horse’s fur, or the delicate silhouette of a tree.” (Huffington Post)

 

Paul Marés. 'Ox cart in Brittany' c. 1857

 

Paul Marés
Ox cart in Brittany
c. 1857
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

One of the most beautiful photographs in this exhibition is Paul Marès Ox Cart, Brittany, c. 1857. At first it seems a picturesque scene of bucolic tranquillity, the abandoned cart an exquisite study in light and tone. But on the cottage wall are painted two white crosses, a warning – apparently even as recently as the 19th century – to passers-by that the household was afflicted by some deadly disease. Photography’s ability to indiscriminately aestheticise is a dilemma that has continued to present itself ever since, especially in the fields of reportage and war photography.

Florence Hallett. “Salt and Silver, Tate Britain: Early photographs that brim with the spirit of experimentation,” on The Arts Desk website, Wednesday, 25 February 2015

 

Calvert Jones. 'The Fruit Sellers' c. 1843

 

Calvert Jones (Welsh, December 4, 1804 – November 7, 1877)
The Fruit Sellers
c. 1843
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

David Hill and Robert Adamson. 'Five Newhaven fisherwomen' c. 1844

 

David Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
Five Newhaven fisherwomen

c. 1844
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

David Hill and Robert Adamson. 'The Gowan [Margaret and Mary Cavendish]' c. 1843-1848

 

David Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
The Gowan [Margaret and Mary Cavendish]
c. 1843-184
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

 

“Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860 is the first major exhibition in Britain devoted to salt prints, the earliest form of paper photography. The exhibition features some of the rarest and best early photographs in the world, depicting daily activities and historic moments of the mid 19th century. The ninety photographs on display are among the few fragile salt prints that survive and are seldom shown in public. Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860 opens at Tate Britain on 25 February 2015.

In the 1840s and 50s, the salt print technique introduced a revolutionary new way of creating photographs on paper. It was invented in Britain and spread across the globe through the work of British and international photographers – artists, scientists, adventurers and entrepreneurs of their day. They captured historic moments and places with an immediacy not previously seen, from William Henry Fox Talbot’s images of a modern Paris street and Nelson’s Column under construction, to Linnaeus Tripe’s dramatic views of Puthu Mundapum, India and Auguste Salzmann’s uncanny studies of statues in Greece.

In portraiture, the faces of beloved children, celebrities, rich and poor were recorded as photographers sought to catch the human presence. Highlights include Fox Talbot’s shy and haunting photograph of his daughter Ela in 1842 to Nadar’s images of sophisticated Parisians and Roger Fenton’s shell-shocked soldiers in the Crimean war.

William Henry Fox Talbot unveiled this ground-breaking new process in 1839. He made the world’s first photographic prints by soaking paper in silver iodide salts to register a negative image which, when photographed again, created permanent paper positives. These hand-made photographs ranged in colour from sepia to violet, mulberry, terracotta, silver-grey, and charcoal-black and often had details drawn on like the swishing tail of a horse. Still lifes, portraits, landscapes and scenes of modern life were transformed into luxurious, soft, chiaroscuro images. The bold contrasts between light and dark in the images turned sooty shadows into solid shapes. Bold contrasts between light and dark turned shadows into abstract shapes and movement was often captured as a misty blur. The camera drew attention to previously overlooked details, such as the personal outline of trees and expressive textures of fabric.

In the exciting Victorian age of modern invention and innovation, the phenomenon of salt prints was quickly replaced by new photographic processes. The exhibition shows how, for a short but significant time, the British invention of salt prints swept the world and created a new visual experience.

Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860 is organised in collaboration with the Wilson Centre for photography. It is curated by Carol Jacobi, Curator, British Art 1850-1915, Tate Britain, Simon Baker, Curator, Photography and International Art, Tate, and Hannah Lyons, Assistant Curator, 1850-1915, Tate. ‘Salt and Silver’ – Early Photography 1840-1860 is published by Mack to coincide with the exhibition and will be accompanied by a programme of talks and events in the gallery.”

Press release from the Tate website

 

William Fox Talbot. 'Scene in a Paris Street' 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot  (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
Scene in a Paris Street
1843
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

By 1841, Talbot had dramatically reduced, from many minutes to just seconds, the exposure time needed to produce a negative, and on a trip to Paris to publicise his new calotype process he took a picture from his hotel room window, an instinctive piece of photojournalism. The buildings opposite are rendered in precise and exquisite detail, the black and white stripes of the shutters neat alternations of light and shade. In contrast to the solidity of the buildings are the carriages waiting on the street below; the wheels, immobile, are seen in perfect clarity, while the skittish horses are no more than ghostly blurs.

Florence Hallett. “Salt and Silver, Tate Britain: Early photographs that brim with the spirit of experimentation,” on The Arts Desk website, Wednesday, 25 February 2015

 

James Robertson and Felice Beato. 'Pyramids at Giza' 1857

 

James Robertson (British, 1813 – 1888) and Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832 – 29 January 1909)
Pyramids at Giza
1857
Photograph, salted paper print from a glass plate negative

 

 

James Robertson (1813 – 1888) was an English photographer and gem and coin engraver who worked in the Mediterranean region, the Crimea and possibly India. He was one of the first war photographers.

Robertson was born in Middlesex in 1813. He trained as an engraver under Wyon (probably William Wyon) and in 1843 he began work as an “engraver and die-stamper” at the Imperial Ottoman Mint in Constantinople. It is believed that Robertson became interested in photography while in the Ottoman Empire in the 1840s.

In 1853 he began photographing with British photographer Felice Beato and the two formed a partnership called Robertson & Beato either in that year or in 1854 when Robertson opened a photographic studio in Pera, Constantinople. Robertson and Beato were joined by Beato’s brother, Antonio on photographic expeditions to Malta in 1854 or 1856 and to Greece and Jerusalem in 1857. A number of the firm’s photographs produced in the 1850s are signed Robertson, Beato and Co. and it is believed that “and Co.” refers to Antonio.

In late 1854 or early 1855 Robertson married the Beato brothers’ sister, Leonilda Maria Matilda Beato. They had three daughters, Catherine Grace (born in 1856), Edith Marcon Vergence (born in 1859) and Helen Beatruc (born in 1861). In 1855 Robertson and Felice Beato travelled to Balaklava, Crimea where they took over reportage of the Crimean War from Roger Fenton. They photographed the fall of Sevastopol in September 1855. Some sources have suggested that in 1857 both Robertson and Felice Beato went to India to photograph the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion, but it is more probable that Beato travelled there alone. Around this time Robertson did photograph in Palestine, Syria, Malta, and Cairo with either or both of the Beato brothers.

In 1860, after Felice Beato left for China to photograph the Second Opium War and Antonio Beato went to Egypt, Robertson briefly teamed up with Charles Shepherd back in Constantinople. The firm of Robertson & Beato was dissolved in 1867, having produced images – including remarkable multiple-print panoramas – of Malta, Greece, Turkey, Damascus, Jerusalem, Egypt, the Crimea and India. Robertson possibly gave up photography in the 1860s; he returned to work as an engraver at the Imperial Ottoman Mint until his retirement in 1881. In that year he left for Yokohama, Japan, arriving in January 1882. He died there in April 1888. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

John Beasly Greene. 'El Assasif, Porte de Granit Rose, No 2, Thébes' 1854

 

John Beasly Greene (French-American, 1832 – 1856)
El Assasif, Porte de Granit Rose, No 2, Thébes
1854
Salted paper print from a waxed plate negative

 

A French-born archeologist based in Paris and a student of photographer Gustave Le Gray, John Beasly Greene became a founding member of the Société Française de Photographie and belonged to two societies devoted to Eastern studies. Greene became the first practicing archaeologist to use photography, although he was careful to keep separate files for his documentary images and his more artistic landscapes.

In 1853 at the age of nineteen, Greene embarked on an expedition to Egypt and Nubia to photograph the land and document the monuments and their inscriptions. Upon his return, Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard published an album of ninety-four of these photographs. Greene returned to Egypt the following year to photograph and to excavate at Medinet-Habu in Upper Egypt, the site of the mortuary temple built by Ramses III. In 1855 he published his photographs of the excavation there. The following year, Greene died in Egypt, perhaps of tuberculosis, and his negatives were given to his friend, fellow Egyptologist and photographer Théodule Devéria. (Text from the Getty Museum website)

 

James Robertson. 'Base of the Obelisk of Theodosius, Constantinople' 1855

 

James Robertson (British, 1813 – 1888)
Base of the Obelisk of Theodosius, Constantinople
1855
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Nelson’s Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
Nelson’s Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square
1844
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Nelson's Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
Nelson’s Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square
1844
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative

 

 

Exhibition of intriguing images that charts the birth of photography

Another week, another photography show about death. It’s not officially about death, mind you; it’s officially about the years 1840 to 1860, when photographers made their images on paper sensitised with silver salts. The process was quickly superseded, but the pictures created this way have a beautiful artistic softness and subtlety of tone, quite apart from the fact that every single new photograph that succeeded represented a huge leap forward in the development of the medium. You see these early practitioners start to grasp the scope of what might be possible. Their subjects change, from ivy-covered walls and carefully posed family groups to more exotic landscapes and subjects: Egypt, India, the poor, war.

By the time you get to Roger Fenton’s portrait Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards of 1855 you have an inkling of how photography is changing how we understand life, for ever. Balgonie is 23. He looks 50. His face is harrowed by his service in the Crimean War, his eyes bagged with fatigue, fear and what the future may hold. He survived the conflict, but was broken by it, dying at home two years after this picture was taken. That is yet to come: for now, he is alive.

This sense of destiny bound within a picture created in a moment is what is new about photography, and you start to see it everywhere, not just in the images of war. It’s in William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Great Elm at Lacock: a huge tree against a mottled sky, battered by storms. It’s in John Beasly Greene’s near-abstract images of Egyptian statuary, chipped, cracked, alien. And it’s in the portraits of Newhaven fisherwomen by DO Hill and Robert Adamson (their cry was ‘It’s not fish, it’s men’s lives’). In a world where death is always imminent, photography arrives as the perfect way to preserve life, and the perfect way to leave your mark, however fleeting.

Chris Waywell. “Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860,” on the Time Out London website

 

Jean-Baptiste Frénet. 'Horse and Groom' 1855

 

Jean-Baptiste Frénet (French – Lyon, 31 January 1814 – Charly, 12 August 1889)
Horse and Groom
1855
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Around 1850 Frénet meets in Lyon personalities involved in the nascent photography, and he has to discover this technique to reproduce the frescoes he painted in Ainay. Curious, he is passionate about this new medium that offers him a respite space in the setbacks he suffers with his painting.

Frénet applies the stereotyped views taken of the time involving heavy stagings and is one of the first to practice the instant, the familiar and intimate subject. Five years before Nadar he produces psychological portraits and engages in close-up. He sees photography as an art, that opinion has emerged in the first issue of the magazine La Lumière (The Light), body of the young and ephemeral gravure company founded in 1851. Frénet open a professional practice photography in 1866 and 1867 in Lyon. Unknown to the general public, his photographic work was discovered in 2000 at the sale of his photographic collection, many parts are purchased by the Musée d’Orsay. (Translated from the French Wikipedia)

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Cloisters, Lacock Abbey' 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
Cloisters, Lacock Abbey
1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877) was a British scientist, inventor and photography pioneer who invented the salted paper and calotype processes, precursors to photographic processes of the later 19th and 20th centuries. Talbot was also a noted photographer who made major contributions to the development of photography as an artistic medium. He published The Pencil of Nature (1844), which was illustrated with original prints from some of his calotype negatives. His work in the 1840s on photo-mechanical reproduction led to the creation of the photoglyphic engraving process, the precursor to photogravure. Talbot is also remembered as the holder of a patent which, some say, affected the early development of commercial photography in Britain. Additionally, he made some important early photographs of Oxford, Paris, Reading, and York.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Study of China' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
Study of China
1844
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Plaster Bust of Patroclus' before February 1846

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
Plaster Bust of Patroclus
before February 1846
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Roger Fenton. 'Cossack Bay, Balaclava' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Cossack Bay, Balaclava
1855

 

Roger Fenton. It is likely that in autumn 1854, as the Crimean War grabbed the attention of the British public, that some powerful friends and patrons – among them Prince Albert and Duke of Newcastle, secretary of state for war – urged Fenton to go the Crimea to record the happenings. He set off aboard HMS Hecla in February, landed at Balaklava on 8 March and remained there until 22 June. The resulting photographs may have been intended to offset the general unpopularity of the war among the British people, and to counteract the occasionally critical reporting of correspondent William Howard Russell of The Times. The photographs were to be converted into woodblocks and published in the less critical Illustrated London News. Fenton took Marcus Sparling as his photographic assistant, a servant known as William and a large horse-drawn van of equipment…

Despite summer high temperatures, breaking several ribs in a fall, suffering from cholera and also becoming depressed at the carnage he witnessed at Sebastopol, in all Fenton managed to make over 350 usable large format negatives. An exhibition of 312 prints was soon on show in London and at various places across the nation in the months that followed. Fenton also showed them to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and also to Emperor Napoleon III in Paris. Nevertheless, sales were not as good as expected. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Auguste Salzmann. 'Terra Cotta Statuettes from Camiros, Rhodes' 1863

 

Auguste Salzmann (French, born April 14, 1824 in Ribeauvillé (Alsace) and died February 24, 1872 in Paris)
Terra Cotta Statuettes from Camiros, Rhodes
1863
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

David Hill and Robert Adamson. 'Newhaven fishermen' c. 1845

 

David Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
Newhaven fishermen
c. 1845
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Roger Fenton. 'Group of Croat Chiefs' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Group of Croat Chiefs
1855
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative

 

Roger Fenton. 'Captain Mottram Andrews, 28th Regiment (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Captain Mottram Andrews, 28th Regiment (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot
1855
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Roger Fenton. 'Cantiniére' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Cantiniére
1855
Salted paper print from a glass plate negative
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

A woman who carries a canteen for soldiers; a vivandière.

 

Roger Fenton. 'Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards
1855
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

Roger Fenton. 'Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards
1855
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

 

If I had to choose a figure it would be the Franco-American, archaeological photographer John Beasly Greene. His career was short and dangerous, he died at 24, but he challenged the trend towards clarity that dominated his field. Instead, he used the limits of the medium – burn-out, shadow, halation and the beautiful grainy texture of the print itself – to explore the poetic ambiguity of Egyptian sites.

This revolutionary photographic process transformed subjects, still lifes, portraits, landscapes and scenes of daily life into images. It brings it’s own luxurious aesthetic, soft textures, matt appearance and deep rich red tones, the variations seen throughout this exhibition is fascinating to observe. It’s also an incredible opportunity to view the original prints in an exhibition format, which has never been done before on a scale like this before.

The process starts with dipping writing paper in a solution of common salt, then partly drying it, coating it with silver nitrate, then drying it again, before applying further coats of silver nitrate, William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered what became known as the salt print and the world’s first photographic print! The specifically soft and luxurious aesthetic became an icon of modern visual language.

The few salt prints that survive are rarely seen due to their fragility. This exhibition is extremely important to recognise this historical process as well as a fantastic opportunity to see the rarest and best up close of early photographs of this type in the world.

Anon. “Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860,” on the Films not dead website

 

Félix Nadar. 'Mariette' c. 1855

 

Félix Nadar (French, 6 April 1820 – 23 March 1910)
Mariette
c. 1855
Photograph, salted paper print from a glass plate negative
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon]. Tournachon’s nickname, Nadar, derived from youthful slang, but became his professional signature and the name by which he is best known today. Poor but talented, Nadar began by scratching out a living as a freelance writer and caricaturist. His writings and illustrations made him famous before he began to photograph. His keenly honed camera eye came from his successful career as a satirical cartoonist, in which the identifying characteristic of a subject was reduced to a single distinct facet; that skill proved effective in capturing the personality of his photographic subjects.

Nadar opened his first photography studio in 1854, but he only practiced for six years. He focused on the psychological elements of photography, aiming to reveal the moral personalities of his sitters rather than make attractive portraits. Bust- or half-length poses, solid backdrops, dramatic lighting, fine sculpturing, and concentration on the face were trademarks of his studio. His use of eight-by-ten-inch glass-plate negatives, which were significantly larger than the popular sizes of daguerreotypes, acccentuated those effects.

At one point, a commentator said, “[a]ll the outstanding figures of [the] era – literary, artistic, dramatic, political, intellectual – have filed through his studio.” In most instances these subjects were Nadar’s friends and acquaintances. His curiosity led him beyond the studio into such uncharted locales as the catacombs, which he was one of the first persons to photograph using artificial light. (Text from the Getty Museum website)

For more information on this artist please see the MoMA website.

 

Lodoisch Crette Romet. 'A Lesson of Gustave Le Gray in His Studio' 1854

 

Lodoisch Crette Romet (1823 – 1872)
A Lesson of Gustave Le Gray in His Studio [Antoine-Emile Plassan]
1850-1853
242 x 177 mm
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

Jean-Baptiste Frénet. 'Women and girls with a doll' c. 1855

 

Jean-Baptiste Frénet (French – Lyon, 31 January 1814 – Charly, 12 August 1889)
Women and girls with a doll
c. 1855
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

John S. Johnston. 'One of Dr Kane’s Men [possibly William Morton]' c. 1857

 

John S. Johnston (American, c. 1839 – December 17, 1899)
One of Dr Kane’s Men [possibly William Morton]
c. 1857

 

John S. Johnston was a late 19th-century maritime and landscape photographer. He is known for his photographs of racing yachts and New York City landmarks and cityscapes. Very little is known about his life. He was evidently born in Britain in the late 1830s, and was active in the New York City area in the late 1880s and 1890s. He died in 1899.
.

William Morton. “Belief in the Open Polar Sea theory subsided until the mid-1800s, when Elisha Kent Kane set forth on a number of expeditions north with hopes of finding this theorized body of water. On an 1850s expedition organized by Kane, explorer William Morton, believing he discovered the Open Polar Sea, described a body of water containing

Not a speck of ice…As far as I could discern, the sea was open…The wind was due N(orth) – enough to make white caps, and the surf broke in on the rocks in regular breakers.

Morton, however, did not find the Open Polar Sea – he found a small oasis of water. Morton’s quote is likely tinged with a desire to raise the spirits of his boss, Kane, who saw the Polar Sea as a possible utopia, an area brimming with life amidst a harsh arctic world. (Text by Keith Veronese)

 

David Hill and Robert Adamson. 'Thought to be Elizabeth Rigby' c. 1844

 

David Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
Thought to be Elizabeth Rigby
c. 1844
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative

 

Jean-Baptiste Frenet. 'Thought to be a Mother and Son' c. 1855

 

Jean-Baptiste Frénet (French – Lyon, 31 January 1814 – Charly, 12 August 1889)
Thought to be a Mother and Son
c. 1855
Photograph, salted paper print from a collodion negative transferred from glass to paper support

 

William Fox Talbot. 'The Photographer's Daughter, Ela Theresa Talbot' 1843-44

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
The Photographer’s Daughter, Ela Theresa Talbot
1843-44

 

Roger Fenton. 'Portrait of a Woman' c. 1854

 

Roger Fenton (British, 28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869)
Portrait of a Woman
c. 1854
Photograph, salted paper print from a glass plate negative

 

John Wheeley Gough. 'Gutch Abbey Ruins' c.1858

 

John Wheeley Gough (British, 1809 – 1862)
Gutch Abbey Ruins
c. 1858
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

 

John Wheeley Gough Gutch (1809 – 1862) was a British surgeon and editor. He was also a keen amateur naturalist and geologist, and a pioneer photographer.

In 1851, Dr. Gutch gave up his medical practice to become a messenger for Queen Victoria, and he began photographing the many cities he visited on his diplomatic missions. During a trip to Constantinople, he became seriously ill, resulting in permanent partial paralysis that ended his public service career. While undergoing experimental treatments in Malvern, England, Dr. Gutch again turned to photography as a cure for his melancholy. His works were exhibited throughout London and Edinburgh from 1856-1861, and he became a frequent contributor to the Photographic Notes publication. Dr. Gutch’s camera of choice was Frederick Scott Archer’s wet-plate camera because he liked the convenience of developing glass negatives within the camera, which eliminated the need for a darkroom. However, the camera proved too cumbersome for him to handle, and had to be manipulated by one of his photographic assistants. His photographs were printed on salt-treate paper and were placed into albums he painstakingly decorated with photographic collages.

Dr. Gutch’s “picturesque” photographic style was influenced by artist William Gilpin. Unlike his mid-nineteenth century British contemporaries who recorded urban expansion, he preferred focusing on ancient buildings, rock formations, archaeolgical ruins, and tree-lined streams. In 1857, an assignment for Photographic Notes took him to Scotland, northern Wales, and the English Lake District, where he photographed the lush settings, but not always to his satisfaction. Two years’ later, he aspired to photograph and document the more than 500 churches in Gloucestershire, a daunting and quite expensive task. He fitted his camera with a Ross Petzval wide-angle lens and managed to photograph more than 200 churches before illness forced him to abandon the ambitious project. Fifty-three-year-old John Wheeley Gough Gutch died in London on April 30, 1862. (Text from the Historic Camera website)

 

William Fox Talbot. 'The Great Elm at Lacock' 1843-45

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 11 February 1800 – 17 September 1877)
The Great Elm at Lacock
1843-45
Photograph, salted paper print from a paper negative
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

 

Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7887 8888

Opening hours:
10.00 am – 18.00 pm daily

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19
Mar
15

Exhibition: ‘Shatter Rupture Break’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 15th February – 3rd May 2015

 

Again, I am drawn to these impressive avant-garde works of art. I’d have any of them residing in my flat, thank you very much. The Dalí, Delaunay and Léger in painting and drawing for me, and in photography, the muscular Ilse Bing, the divine Umbo and the mesmeric, disturbing can’t take your eyes off it, Witkiewicz self-portrait.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Art Institute of Chicago for allowing me to publish the art works in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Everything had broken down in any case, and new things had to be made out of the fragments.”

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Kurt Schwitters, 1930

 

 

“A century ago, society and life were changing as rapidly and radically as they are in today’s digital age. Quicker communication, faster production, and wider circulation of people, goods, and ideas – in addition to the outbreak of World War I – produced a profoundly new understanding of the world, and artists in the early years of the 20th century responded to these issues with both exhilaration and anxiety. Freeing themselves from the restraints of tradition, modern artists developed groundbreaking pictorial strategies that reflect this new shift in perception.

Shatter Rupture Break, the first exhibition in The Modern Series, explores the manifold ways that ideas of fragmentation and rupture, which permeated both the United States and Europe, became central conceptual and visual themes in art of the modern age. Responding to the new forms and pace of the metropolis, artists such as Robert Delaunay and Gino Severini disrupted traditional conventions of depth and illusionism, presenting vision as something fractured. Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz explored collage, using trash and bits and pieces of printed material in compositions to reflect social and political upheaval and produce something whole out of fragments. In the wake of new theories of the mind as well as the literal tearing apart of bodies in war, artists such as Hans Bellmer, Salvador Dalí, and Stanisław Witkiewicz produced photographs and objects revealing the fractured self or erotic dismemberment. The theme of fragmentation was ubiquitous as inspiration for both the formal and conceptual revolutions in art making in the modern age.

Shatter Rupture Break unites diverse objects from across the entire holdings of the Art Institute – paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, decorative arts and designed objects, textiles, books, and films – to present a rich cacophony that exemplifies the radical and generative ruptures of modern art.

The Modern Series

A quintessentially modern city, Chicago has been known as a place for modern art for over a century, and the Art Institute of Chicago has been central to this history. The Modern Series exhibitions are designed to bring together the museum’s acclaimed holdings of modern art across all media, display them in fresh and innovative ways within new intellectual contexts, and demonstrate the continued vitality and relevance of modern art for today.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website

 

 

Ivan Albright. 'Medical Sketchbook' 1918

 

Ivan Albright (American, 1897-1983)
Medical Sketchbook
1918
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Philip V. Festoso
© The Art Institute of Chicago

 

Salvador Dalí. 'City of Drawers' 1936

 

Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989)
City of Drawers
1936
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Frank B. Hubachek
© Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2014

 

Ilse Bing. 'Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1931' 1931

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1931
1931
Julien Levy Collection, Gift of Jean and Julien Levy
© Estate of Ilse Bing

 

 

Luis Buñuel (Spanish, 1900-1983)
Un Chien Andalou
1929

 

 

Fernand Léger
Ballet Mécanique
1924

 

Ballet Mécanique (1923-4) is a Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written, and co-directed by the artist Fernand Léger in collaboration with the filmmaker Dudley Murphy (with cinematographic input from Man Ray). It has a musical score by the American composer George Antheil. However, the film premiered in silent version on 24 September 1924 at the Internationale Ausstellung neuer Theatertechnik (International Exposition for New Theater Technique) in Vienna presented by Frederick Kiesler. It is considered one of the masterpieces of early experimental filmmaking

 

Claude Cahun. 'Object' 1936

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
Object
1936
The Art Institute of Chciago
Through prior gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman

 

 

“The Art Institute of Chicago is introducing an innovative new series of exhibitions that presents works from the museum’s acclaimed collection of modern art in reimagined ways that demonstrate the continued vitality and significance these works have today.

The Modern Series debuts with Shatter Rupture Break, opening Sunday, February 15, in Galleries 182 and 184 of the museum’s Modern Wing. The exhibition unites such diverse objects as paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, decorative arts and designed objects, textiles, books, and films.

“We wanted to explore how the idea of rupture permeated modern life in Europe and the Americas,” said Elizabeth Siegel, Associate Curator of Photography, who, with Sarah Kelly Oehler, the Gilda and Henry Buchbinder Associate Curator of American Art, took the lead in organizing the first exhibition. “It served as an inspiration for revolutionary formal and conceptual developments in art making that remain relevant today.”

A century ago, society was changing as rapidly and radically as it is in today’s digital age. Quicker communication, faster production, and wider circulation of people, goods, and ideas – in addition to the outbreak of World War I – produced a profoundly new understanding of the world, and artists responded with both anxiety and exhilaration. Freeing themselves from the restraints of tradition, modern artists developed groundbreaking pictorial strategies that reflected this new shift in perception.

Responding to the new forms and pace of cities, artists such as Robert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941) and Gino Severini (Italian, 1883-1966) disrupted traditional conventions of depth and illusionism, presenting vision as something fractured. Delaunay’s Champs de Mars: The Red Tower fragments the iconic form of the Eiffel Tower, exemplifying how modern life – particularly in an accelerated urban environment – encouraged new and often fractured ways of seeing. Picturesque vistas no longer adequately conveyed the fast pace of the modern metropolis.

The human body as well could no longer be seen as intact and whole. A devastating and mechanized world war had returned men from the front with unimaginable wounds, and the fragmented body became emblematic of a new way of understanding a fractured world. Surrealists such as Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975), Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954) and Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) fetishized body parts in images, separating out eyes, hands, and legs in suggestive renderings. A more literal representation of the shattered body comes from Chicago’s own Ivan Albright, who was a medical draftsman in World War I. In his rarely shown Medical Sketchbook, he created fascinatingly gruesome watercolors that documented injured soldiers and the x-rays of their wounds.

Just as with the body, the mind in the modern era also came to be seen as fragmented. Stanislaw Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939) produced a series of self-portraits as an act of psychological exploration. His work culminated in one stunning photograph made by shattering a glass negative, which he then reassembled and printed, thus conveying an evocative sense of a shattered psyche. The artistic expression of dreams and mental imagery perhaps reached a pinnacle not in a painting or a sculpture, but in a film. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) mystified viewers with its dreamlike narrative, dissolves from human to animal forms, dismembered body parts, and shockingly violent acts in an attempt to translate the unconscious mind onto a celluloid strip.

Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948) and George Grosz (German, 1893-1959) explored collage, which took on new importance for avant-garde artists thanks to the aesthetic appeal and widespread availability of mass-produced media. Schwitters used the ephemera of German society to create what he called Merz, an invented term signifying an artistic practice that included collage, assemblage, painting, poems, and performance. The Art Institute owns a significant group of these collages by Schwitters, and six will appear in the exhibition. The use of thrown-away, ripped up, and scissored-out pieces of paper, divorced from their original meaning and reassembled with nails and glue into new objects, was an act that exposed the social and political disruptions of a German society that seemed broken and on the edge of collapse in the aftermath of World War I.

Shatter Rupture Break is unusual in that it unites objects from across the entire museum – from seven curatorial departments as well as the library. This multiplicity is significant because modern artists did not confine themselves to one medium, but explored different visual effects across a variety of media. As well, the show prominently features the voices of artists, writers, scientists, and other intellectuals of the period. The goal is to create a dynamic space that evokes the electrifying, disruptive, and cacophonous nature of modern art at the time.

“We hope to excite interest in the modern period as a crucial precursor to the changes of our own time, to show how what might seem old now was shockingly fresh then,” said Oehler.

Considered one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world, the Art Institute’s collection of modern art includes nearly 1,000 works by artists from Europe and the Americas. The museum was an early champion of modern artists, from its presentation of the Armory Show in 1913 to its early history of acquiring major masterpieces. This show highlights some recent acquisitions of modern art, but also includes some long-held works that have formed the core of the modern collection for decades. Shatter Rupture Break celebrates this history by bringing together works that visitors may know well, but have never seen in this context or with this diverse array of objects.”

Press release from the Art Institute of Chicago

 

Robert Delaunay. 'Champs de Mars: The Red Tower' 1911/23

 

Robert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941)
Champs de Mars: The Red Tower
1911/23
The Art Institute of Chicago
Joseph Winterbotham Collection

 

Fernand Léger. 'Composition in Blue' 1921-27

 

Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955)
Composition in Blue
1921-27
The Art Institute of Chicago
Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

Stuart Davis. 'Ready-to-Wear' 1955

 

Stuart Davis (American, 1892-1964)
Ready-to-Wear
1955
The Art Institute of Chicago
Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sigmund W. Kunstadter; Goodman Endowment

 

Designed by Ruben Haley, Made by Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company. "Ruba Rombic" Vase, 1928/32

 

Designed by Ruben Haley
Made by Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company
“Ruba Rombic” Vase
1928/32
Art Institute of Chicago
Raymond W. Garbe Fund in honor of Carl A. Erikson; Shirley and Anthony Sallas Fund

 

Kurt Schwitters. 'Mz 13 Call' 1919

 

Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948)
Mz 13 Call
1919
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Culberg
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Diego Rivera. 'Portrait of Marevna' c. 1915

 

Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957)
Portrait of Marevna
c. 1915
The Art Institute of Chicago
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
© 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Hans Bellmer. 'The Doll (La Poupée)' 1935

 

Hans Bellmer (German, born Poland, 1902-1975)
The Doll (La Poupée)
1935
Gelatin silver print overpainted with white gouache
65.6 x 64 cm
Anonymous restricted gift; Special Photography Acquisition Fund; through prior gifts of Boardroom, Inc., David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg, Sherry and Alan Koppel, the Sandor Family Collection, Robert Wayne, Simon Levin, Michael and Allison Delman, Charles Levin, and Peter and Suzann Matthews; restricted gift of Lynn Hauser and Neil Ross
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

Umbo (Otto Umber). 'Untitled' 1928

 

Umbo (Otto Umber) (German, 1902-1980)
Untitled
1928
Julien Levy Collection, Gift of Jean and Julien Levy
© 2014 Phyllis Umbehr/Galerie Kicken Berlin/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. 'Self-Portrait, Zakopane [Broken Glass]' 1910

 

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939)
Self-Portrait, Zakopane [Broken Glass]
1910
Promised Gift of a Private Collection

 

 

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
T: (312) 443-3600

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, 10.30 – 5.00
Thursday, 10.30 – 8.00
Friday, 10.30 – 8.00
Saturday – Sunday, 10.00 – 5.00
The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.

The Art Institute of Chicago website

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15
Mar
15

Exhibition: ‘Florence Henri. Mirror of the avant-garde 1927-1940′ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 24th February – 17th May 2015

Curator: Cristina Zelich

 

 

Objects in and of space, the two the same

Florence Henri is rapidly becoming one of my favourite photographers, an artist who emerged during one of the golden periods of photography, the avant-garde of the 1920s-30s. While we have seen some of these photographs before in a previous posting, there are some new and delightful images to enjoy here.

If you believe the text by Priscilla Frank, “Meet Florence Henri, The Under-Acknowledged Queen Of Surrealist Photography,” on the Huffington Post website, you could be forgiven for thinking that her photography is based on Surrealist themes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is nothing about Henri’s photographs to suggest that they are based on the creative potential of the unconscious mind exemplified by the irrational juxtaposition of images. Henri’s photographs are quite logical and ordered, being an investigation into space, time and object using the “extension of the formal and structural aesthetics of Cubism, Purism and Constructivism.”

Her geometric abstractions “exploited the dialogue between realism and abstraction… and she explored spatial extension and fragmentation in her utter modern vocabulary. Her still life and abstract compositions achieved by balancing abstraction with a pure and essential subject were created in the spirit of the machine age. She viewed space as if it were elastic, distorting figure and ground and altering planes through the use of mirrors and lenses.”

Through attention and attentiveness to subject, Henri achieved her results by using created space to investigate the fragmentation and distortion of the world. Her art is not about the production of phenomena (the spectacle), but about the creation of volumes that are in an of space itself. As Donald Judd’s observes of his created volumes in 1981: “… familiar objects, objects as we habitually perceive them, assume physical neutrality because they and their environment are deactivated: “They are points in space, and space is an empty surround. Instead, what is needed is a created space, space made by someone, space that is formed as a solid, the two the same, with the space and the solid defining each other.” Objects in and of space, the two the same: this was the crux. Judd did more than set new solids into existing voids. He formed solids and their correlative spaces as an integrated operation, as if he were establishing an architecture from the ground up, creating the entire environment, intensifying it, saturating it with its own sensation.”1

In a photographic sense, Henri can be seen as a precursor to Judd’s volumes, creating her own worlds from the ground up, creating the entire environment where the space and the object are one and the same thing… only to then record and flatten that space into the essential nature of the photograph, its physicality. Her sensory affects “remain fixed in the concatenation of materials, structure and placement that generates it. They are the lived equivalent of those conditions, experienced as continuous in time – hence, timeless – remaining wholly the same until interrupted.”2 How appropriate for Henri’s photographs for they do indeed have a timeless “air”, a transcendence of the time and place they were taken, a transcendence of the space which her volumes inhabit. Objects in and of space, the two the same.

As Judd observes, “Time and space don’t exist [as idealized absractions]; they are made by events and positions. Time and space can be made and don’t have to be found like stars in the sky or rocks on a hillside.” Time and space are grounded in being human: they exist when someone experiences them.”3 Here is the nub of the matter, for it matters that we experience Henri’s photographs each in its definite time and space. Henri’s being is immersed in these volumes and they hold our interest because the created environments are saturated with her own sensations.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. Donald Judd quoted in Richard Shiff. “Sensous Thoughts,” in Marianne Stockebrand (ed.,). Donald Judd. The Multicolored Works. Yale University Press, 2014, p. 106
2. Ibid.,
3. Ibid., p. 107.

.
Many thankx to the Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“With photography, what I really want to do is compose the image, as I do in painting. The volumes, lines, shadows and light should submit to my will and say what I would like them to say. All of this under the strict control of the composition, because I do not claim to be able to explain the world or to explain my own thoughts.”

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Florence Henri in an interview with Attilio Colombo, “Specchio, essenzialità, geometría,” in Florence Henri (Milan: Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri, 1983)

 

“Henri soon recognised the medium’s capacity as a pictorial language and outlet for creative expression. Upon returning to France [from the Bauhaus], Henri began to develop a large body of photographic work based upon her Bauhaus experience and an extension of the formal and structural aesthetics of Cubism, Purism and Constructivism. These non-objective principles forged an alternative to the then-dominant French art movement Surrealism. Henri transcended the avant-garde of one art form to that of another…

Henri’s greatest experimentation with geometric abstraction occurred during the period between 1929-1930… In the photographic work, Florence Henri exploited the dialogue between realism and abstraction, but always maintained a recognisable subject. She was concerned with transparency and movement, and she explored spatial extension and fragmentation in her utter modern vocabulary.

Her still life and abstract compositions achieved by balancing abstraction with a pure and essential subject were created in the spirit of the machine age. She viewed space as if it were elastic, distorting figure and ground and altering planes through the use of mirrors and lenses.”

.
Lynne Warren. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, 3-Volume set. Routledge, 2005, p. 691

 

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition' 1928

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition
1928
Gelatin silver print, vintage
27.2 x 37.5 cm
Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti Photo
© Bauhaus Archiv

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition' 1928

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition
1928
Gelatin silver print, vintage
27 x 37.1 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition abstraite [Still-life composition]' 1929

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition abstraite [Still-life composition]
1929
Collage, gelatin silver print cut and pasted on paper
12 x 14 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Portrait Composition, Tulia Kaiser' c. 1930

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Portrait Composition, Tulia Kaiser
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print, vintage
23 x 29.2 cm
Achat grâce au mécénat de Yves Rocher, 2011
Ancienne collection Christian Bouqueret Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti Photo
© Centre Pompidou, Mnam-Cci, Dist. Rmn-Grand Palais / Georges Meguerditchian

 

 

Summary of exhibition

Florence Henri. Mirror of the avantgarde illustrates the desire of the Jeu de Paume to highlight the important role played by women photographers from the 1920s to the 1950s, and follows on from previous exhibitions devoted to Claude Cahun, Kati Horna, Eva Besnyö, Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Laure Albin Guillot and indeed,Lee Miller.

The exhibition brings together, for the first time in France, over 130 vintage prints by Florence Henri, as well as rare documents and publications, revealing the artist’s photographic production. Influenced by Constructivism, Cubism and Surrealism, Florence Henri’s work is part of the exciting creative tenor of the period, during which, photography, like cinema or architecture, embodied a spirit of innovation and progress, as well as a certain unconventionality in terms of the dominant visual order.

Familiar with Bauhaus, Florence Henri was one of the figures of the European artistic intelligentsia of the time. Her friendship with Fernand Léger, the Delaunays, Hans Arp, László Moholy-Nagy and Theo van Doesburg would have a profound influence on her work. In 1929, Florence Henri opened a photography studio in Paris. It soon rivalled that of Man Ray’s. Her classes were very well-attended and her talents as a portrait photographer were quickly recognized.

It is not so much the image alone as the constant research that brings Florence Henri’s work to life. Lines and geometric compositions are recurring elements in her photographs. Over the years, she made her compositions increasingly complex through the use of mirrors, industrial and natural objects, or through collage and superposition. The exhibition attempts to both decipher and highlight the work of Florence Henri in terms of reflections, perspective, the depth of field and photomontage – key technical experimentations in the history of modern photography.

 

Florence Henri. 'Mannequin de tailleur [Tailor's mannequin]' 1930-1931

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Mannequin de tailleur [Tailor’s mannequin]
1930-1931
Gelatin silver print, vintage
17.1 x 22.8 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
©Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition Nature morte [Still-life composition]' 1931

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition Nature morte [Still-life composition]
1931
Gelatin silver print dated 1977
23 x 30 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Pont [Bridge]' 1930-1935

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Pont [Bridge]
1930-1935
Gelatin silver print dated 1977
23.5 x 23.8 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition, The Glory that was Greece' c. 1933

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition, The Glory that was Greece
c. 1933
Photomontage, gelatin silver print dated 1975
23.5 x 29.5 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

 

“All that I know, and how I know this, is primarily made up of abstract elements: spheres, planes, and grids whose parallel lines provide numerous opportunities, without taking into account the mirrors I use, to present the same object from several different angles within a single photograph, in order to yield, in the same way, different visions that complement and complete each other, and which when taken as a whole, are better able to explain it. Essentially, all of this is much more difficult to explain than to do.”

.
Florence Henri in an interview with Attilio Colombo, “Specchio, essenzialità, geometría,” in Florence Henri (Milan: Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri, 1983)

 

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne (France) 1982) was a multi-faceted artist, who was first known for her paintings before making a name for herself as a major figure in avant-garde photography between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1940s. She lived in Silesia, Munich, Vienna, Rome and above all Berlin, before finally settling in Paris in 1924 and devoting herself to photography. This medium enabled her to experiment new relationships with space, in particular by the use of mirrors and other objects in her compositions.

The Jeu de Paume is presenting a vast panorama of Florence Henri’s photographic production from 1927 to 1940, including her self-portraits, abstract compositions, portraits of artists, nudes, photomontages, photocollages, as well as documentary photos taken in Rome, Paris and Brittany. The exhibition comprises vintage prints, various documents and published material.

When she was young, Florence Henri studied music and painting in England and Germany. In 1919, when she was a student at the Berlin Academy of Arts, she made the acquaintance of writer and art historian Carl Einstein and became friends with several figures of the avant-garde, including Hans Arp, Adrian Ludwig Richter, John Heartfield and Lázló Moholy-Nagy. She took classes with Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus in Weimar. In 1924 she moved to Paris, where she followed classes at the Académie Montparnasse, whose director was André Lhote, then at the Académie moderne (founded by Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant). In 1927, after a visit to Bauhaus in Dessau, she abandoned painting in favour of photography. It was at this time that she produced her famous self-portraits in mirrors and her still lifes; the result of her first steps in the spatial research that she would carry out through the medium of photography.

Between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, three mythical exhibitions in terms of the history of European photography took place in Germany: “Fotografie der Gegenwart” at the Folkwang Museum in Essen (1929); “Film ind Foto” (Fifo) organised the same year by the Deutscher Werkbund in Stuttgart and “Das Lichtbild” held in Munich (1931). These exhibitions bore witness to the rapid expansion of new photographic concepts and a rupture with tradition. Fifo marked the zenith of the Neues Sehen (New Vision) movement of which László Moholy-Nagy was an exponent and “Das Lichtbild” marked the triumph of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), whose leading representative was Albert Renger-Patzsch.

Florence Henri was invited to show an important number of prints at these three exhibitions in recognition of her photographic production during this fundamental period that saw the photography used to free our vision and open out onto new experiences.

Florence Henri’s studio rivalled that of Man Ray, even if she had also opened a school of photography where Lisette Model and Gisèle Freund, amongst others, would enrol. In fact, despite the central position that her oeuvre occupied in avant-garde photography at the end of the 1920s, her reputation as a portraitist in Paris, and the fact that her photos had been published in many of the period’s illustrated magazines such as Arts et Métiers and Lilliput etc, Florence Henri’s body of work remains largely unknown.

László Moholy-Nagy’s* comments are a perfect illustration of Florence Henri’s position: “With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase, the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today. Above and beyond the precise and exact documentary composition of these highly defined photos, research into the effects of light is tackled not only through abstract photograms, but also in photos of real-life subjects. The entire problem of manual painting is taken onboard by the photographic process and is manifestly given a whole new depth thanks to this new optical instrument. Reflections and spatial relationships, superposition and intersections are just some of the areas explored from a totally new perspective and viewpoint.”

*László Moholy-Nagy, “Zu den Fotografien von Florence Henri”, i10, No 17-18, Amsterdam, December 20, 1928.

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Florence Henri. 'Double portrait' 1927-1928

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Double portrait
1927-1928
Gelatin silver print dated 1977
24 x 18 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Autoportrait [Self-portrait]' 1928

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Autoportrait [Self-portrait]
1928
Gelatin silver print, vintage
39.3 x 25.5 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

 

Her most well-known work is a self-portrait, in which Henri sits before a mirror, dolled up almost as if in drag. Two silver balls lay reflected up against the mirror, equivocal symbols of both testicles and breasts. Henri, influential in both her artistic style and personal styles, toyed with gender binaries, using her personal appearance to emphasize the performative nature of gender. The artist was married to a Swiss house servant, but went on to have other relationships with both men and women, including a longtime affair with artist and model Margarete Schall.

Henri established herself as a formidable photographer, and remained consistent in her work up until World War II. Then her work declined considerably, both due to lack of materials and the prohibitions imposed under the Nazi occupation. Henri briefly returned to painting, but her central period of output remained in the 1920s and 1930s. Her compositions, simultaneously warm, playful, clever and inquisitive, set the stage for future explorations into the limits of photography, or lack thereof.

Priscilla Frank. “Meet Florence Henri, The Under-Acknowledged Queen Of Surrealist Photography,” on the Huffington Post website, 20th February 2015.

 

Florence Henri. 'Femme aux cartes [Woman with cards]' 1930

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Femme aux cartes [Woman with cards]
1930
Gelatin silver print, vintage
39 x 28.5 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Portrait Composition, Cora' 1931

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Portrait Composition, Cora
1931
Gelatin silver print, vintage 13.6 x 11.4 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Fernand Léger' 1934

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Fernand Léger
1934
Gelatin silver print, vintage
30.4 x 24 cm
Private collection, courtesy Archives Florence Henri, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

 

Earliest compositions

Her earliest compositions introduce an element that would be fundamental for her artistic investigations, namely the mirror. Using a very limited number of elements, Henri created extremely complex images characterised by the fragmentation of space and the use of multiple viewpoints. They include one of her best-known works, the self-portrait looking in the mirror with two metal spheres, which may be said to embody the spirit of freedom typical of that period, conveying the image of a modern and emancipated female artist, one who failed to conform to the societal status traditionally assigned to women.

Multiple exposure

Florence Henri uses methods such as multiple exposures when shooting, or a combination of several negatives, some inverted, to obtain abstract images, in which she manages to bestow static objects with a sense of dynamism. Florence Henri’s output during this early phase can be described as a perfect synthesis between abstract geometrical painting and the innovations of New Vision photography.

 

“Florence Henri’s work lured me to come to Paris in 1929. I wanted to live in a place where images were made that coincided with my own concepts.”

Ilse Bing, quoted in Gisèle Freund’s preface to Ilse Bing 1929/1955 : Femmes de l’enfance à la vieillesse

 

Advertising photography

In the field of professional photography, Florence Henri stands out for her very personal approach to advertising photography. Indeed, her images are the natural extension of her photographic experimentation and investigations using objects and mirrors.

Collages

She quickly substitutes industrial objects with natural elements in her compositions. In addition, she introduces a new tool in her work: collage. She makes them with fragments of prints, and then reproduces them to create the final print. She also introduces a new technique into her work –  collage – thereby underlining her interest in autonomous images that move away from a simple reproduction of reality, all the while emphasizing the conceptual work of the artist.

Shadows

Her quest for experimentation leads Florence Henri to work on the shadows passing vertically through the frame, creating a dark gap that interrupts and fragments the continuity of the image.

Nu composition

Their aesthetic characteristics clearly place the works grouped under the title Nu composition as part of the formal research Florence Henri carried out from the early 1930s, where the mastery of the composition obviously remains the central concern of her work.

Here, the camera is positioned at a slight distance in order to capture the sensuality of the female form, while natural objects – hyacinths and shells – or other more enigmatic elements, such as a comb or cards, also appear in the frame.

Rome

In late 1931 and early 1932, Florence Henri visits Rome where she takes a series of photographs, notably at the Roman Forum, but also at Saint Peter’s Square, which she uses, upon her return to Paris, as material for numerous collages, developing the technique she had already used in certain of her still lifes.

Portrait composition

The series Portrait Composition, is characterized by the tight framing of the central figurer – though some are models, most are her friends, including Grete Willers, Sonia Delaunay, Woty Werner, Kurt Wilhelm-Kästner, Fernand Léger, and Tulia Kaiser. The artist often makes use of harsh lighting, which marks the traits or make-up of her subjects with a diagonal composition or even distorts the image.

Brittany

The photographs taken in Brittany, which at first glance could be seen as purely documentary, reveal a very carefully considered attention to structure. In some of the more general shots, Florence Henri inserts a blurred, graphic element between the lens and the landscape, thereby going against the idea of photography as merely capturing reality, and once again, reinforcing the notion of composition.

Store windows

When Florence Henri strolls through Paris with her camera, her images reveal a very different preoccupation to that of other photographers. Faithful to her attention to structure, in the reflections of store windows she finds the same spirit that brings life to her studio compositions using mirrors. In 1936, Florence Henri moves to the Rue Saint-Romain in Montparnasse, where she makes use of the terrace to work in natural light, and to pursue her study of the fragmentation of the image through the use of shadows and reflections. She also returns to her self-portrait work.

 

Florence Henri. 'Fenêtre [Window]' 1929

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Fenêtre [Window]
1929
Gelatin silver print, vintage
37.3 x 27.5 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Jeanne Lanvin' 1929

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Jeanne Lanvin
1929
Gelatin silver print, vintage
36.7 x 28.7 cm
Collection particulière, courtesy Archives Florence Henri, Gênes
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition Nature morte [Still-life composition]' 1931

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition Nature morte [Still-life composition]
1931
Gelatin silver print, vintage
45.9 x 37.7 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Composition Nature morte [Still-life composition]' c. 1933

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Composition Nature morte [Still-life composition]
c. 1933
Photomontage, épreuve gélatino-argentique d’époque
29.4 x 24 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Robert Delaunay' c. 1935

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Robert Delaunay
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print, vintage
49.5 x 39.7 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 - Compiègne 1982) 'Bretagne [Brittany]' 1937-1940

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Bretagne [Brittany]
1937-1940
Gelatin silver print, vintage
28.2 x 24.2 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Structure (intérieur du Palais de l'Air, Paris, Exposition Universelle) [Structure (Interior of the Palais de l'Air, Paris, World's Fair)]' 1937

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Structure (intérieur du Palais de l’Air, Paris, Exposition Universelle) [Structure (Interior of the Palais de l’Air, Paris, World’s Fair)]
1937
Gelatin silver print dated 1976
17.5 x 17.5 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

Florence Henri. 'Autoportrait [Self-portrait]' 1938

 

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne 1982)
Autoportrait [Self-portrait]
1938
Gelatin silver print dated 1970’s
24.8 x 23.1 cm
Private collection, courtesy Florence Henri Archive, Genoa
© Florence Henri / Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
T: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Friday: 12.00 – 19.00
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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