Archive for the 'beauty' Category

29
Jan
20

European research tour exhibition: ‘William Blake’ at Tate Britain, London Part 1

Exhibition dates: 11th September 2019 – 2nd February 2020

Curators: Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790-1850

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This first of two parts of this humongous posting. This exhibition has to be one of the highlights of my (art) life. The techniques, the colours, the forms and the MAGIC of Blake’s compositions brought me to tears.

I will write more on the work in the second part of the posting.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the media images in the posting. All other installation photographs as noted by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Every page is a window open in Heaven … interwoven designs companion the poems, and gold and yellow tints diffuse themselves over the page like summer clouds. The poems [of Songs of Innocence] are the morning song of Blake’s genius.”

.
W.B. Yeats

 

“Blake sang of the ideal world, of the truth of the intellect, and of the divinity of the imagination. … The only writer to have written songs for children with the soul of a child … he holds, in my view, a unique position because he unites intellectual sharpness with mystic sentiment.”

.
James Joyce

 

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain
© Tate
Photos: Seraphina Neville

 

 

Tate Britain presents the largest survey of work by William Blake (1757-1827) in the UK for a generation. A visionary painter, printmaker and poet, Blake created some of the most iconic images in the history of British art and has remained an inspiration to artists, musicians, writers and performers worldwide for over two centuries. This ambitious exhibition brings together over 300 remarkable and rarely seen works and rediscovers Blake as a visual artist for the 21st century.

Tate Britain reimagines the artist’s work as he intended it to be experienced. Blake’s art was a product of his tumultuous times, with revolution, war and progressive politics acting as the crucible of his unique imagination, yet he struggled to be understood and appreciated during his life. Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist and envisioned vast frescos that were never realised. For the first time, The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan c. 1805-9 and The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth c. 1805 have been enlarged and projected onto the gallery wall on the huge scale that Blake imagined. The original artworks are displayed nearby in a re-staging of Blake’s ill-fated exhibition of 1809, the artist’s only significant attempt to create a public reputation for himself as a painter. Tate has recreated the domestic room above his family hosiery shop in which the show was held, allowing visitors to encounter the paintings exactly as people did over 200 years ago.

The exhibition also provides a vivid biographical framework in which to consider Blake’s life and work. There is a focus on London, the city in which he was born and lived for most of his life. The burgeoning metropolis was a constant source of inspiration for the artist, offering an environment in which harsh realities and pure imagination were woven together. Blake’s creative freedom was also dependent on the unwavering support of those closest to him: his friends, family and patrons. Tate Britain highlights the vital presence of his wife Catherine Blake who offered both practical assistance and became an unacknowledged hand in the production of the artist’s engravings and illuminated books. The exhibition showcases a series of illustrations to Pilgrim’s Progress 1824-27 and a copy of the book The Complaint, and the Consolation, or, Night Thoughts 1797, now thought to be coloured by Catherine.

William Blake was a staunch defender of the fundamental role of art in society and the importance of artistic freedom. Shaped by his personal struggles in a period of political terror and oppression, his technical innovation, and his political commitment, these beliefs have inspired the generations that followed and remain pertinent today. Tate Britain’s exhibition opens with Albion Rose c. 1793, an exuberant visualisation of the mythical founding of Britain, created in contrast to the commercialisation, austerity and crass populism of the times. A section of the exhibition is also dedicated to his illuminated books such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience 1794, his central achievement as a radical poet.

Additional highlights include some of Blake’s best-known works including Newton 1795 – c. 1805 and Ghost of a Flea c. 1819-20. This intricate painting was inspired by a séance-induced vision and is shown alongside a rarely seen preliminary sketch. The exhibition closes with The Ancient of Days 1827, an illustration for an edition of Europe: A Prophecy, completed only days before the artist’s death.

William Blake at Tate Britain is curated by Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790-1850. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Text from Tate Britain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Albion Rose (installation views)
c. 1793
Colour engraving
250 x 211 mm
Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This image exemplifies how any single work by Blake might have multiple meanings. It can be related to several different strands within Blake’s poetry and thought. The figure has been reinterpreted many times, as a symbol of youthful rebellion, spiritual freedom and of creativity. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Albion Rose
c. 1793
Colour engraving
250 x 211 mm
Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections

 

 

William Blake

The art and poetry of William Blake have influenced generations. He has inspired many creative people, political radicals and independent minds. His images and words are admired around the world for their originality and spirituality.

Blake lived at a time of radical thought, war and global unrest. The British Empire was expanding. New ideas about social justice developed alongside rapid industrialisation. Blake created imaginative images and texts that resonated with this changing world. They drew on his deeply felt religious beliefs and personal struggles.

The exhibition is organised chronologically. It takes us through the ups and downs of Blake’s creative and professional life. The full range of Blake’s work is on display here. His commercial engravings, original prints, his unique ‘illuminated books’ and paintings are all included. These have been drawn from public and private collections from around the world. To preserve these rarely seen objects, the light levels across the exhibition are deliberately low.

Blake’s art and poetry have appealed to many kinds of people, for different reasons. His work has provoked diverse interpretations. This exhibition does not try to explain Blake’s imagery and symbolism in a definitive way.

Instead it considers the reception of his art and how it was experienced by his contemporaries. It sets out the personal and social conditions in which it was made. In doing so we hope to reveal the circumstances that gave Blake the freedom to create such innovative works. (Wall text)

 

Room 1

The art and poetry of William Blake have influenced generations. He has inspired many creative people, political radicals and independent minds. His images and words are admired around the world for their originality and spirituality.

Blake lived at a time of radical thought, war and global unrest. The British Empire was expanding. New ideas about social justice developed alongside rapid industrialisation. Blake created imaginative images and texts that resonated with this changing world. They drew on his deeply felt religious beliefs and personal struggles.

The exhibition is organised chronologically. It takes us through the ups and downs of Blake’s creative and professional life. The full range of Blake’s work is on display here. His commercial engravings, original prints, his unique ‘illuminated books’ and paintings are all included. These have been drawn from public and private collections from around the world. To preserve these rarely seen objects, the light levels across the exhibition are deliberately low.

Blake’s art and poetry have appealed to many kinds of people, for different reasons. His work has provoked diverse interpretations. This exhibition does not try to explain Blake’s imagery and symbolism in a definitive way. Instead it considers the reception of his art and how it was experienced by his contemporaries. It sets out the personal and social conditions in which it was made. In doing so we hope to reveal the circumstances that gave Blake the freedom to create such innovative works.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph Making himself Known to his Brethren' 1784-5 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph Making himself Known to his Brethren' 1784-5 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph Making himself Known to his Brethren (installation views)
1784-5
India ink and watercolour over graphite on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London showing at left, Blake’s Joseph’s Brethren Bowing down before him (1784-5) and at right, Joseph Ordering Simeon to be Bound (1784-5)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The story of Joseph

Blake’s bitter view of the contemporary art world has its origins in the disappointments and frustrations he experienced early in his career.

In 1785 Blake exhibited these three watercolour designs showing the biblical story of Joseph. Blake showed them at the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, the main showcase for contemporary art.

Students at the Academy were encouraged to depict serious, dramatic subject matter in a classical style. But these exhibitions were filled with more commercial artworks. The exhibition catalogue, also on display here, shows the dominance of portraits, landscapes and light-hearted ‘fancy’ subjects. Being watercolours, Blake’s designs were shown in a separate space where they got less public attention than the oil paintings in the main gallery. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph's Brethren Bowing down before him' 1784-5 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph's Brethren Bowing down before him' 1784-5 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph’s Brethren Bowing down before him (installation views)
1784-5
India ink and watercolour over graphite on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London with at bottom middle, Drawing of the legs of Cincinnatus (c. 1779-80)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake wall text

 

William Blake wall text

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Drawing of the legs of Cincinnatus' c. 1779-80

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Drawing of the legs of Cincinnatus
c. 1779-80
Ink and wash over graphite on paper
Bolton Museum and Archive
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This intimate and apparently casually-drawn portrait shows Catherine Blake (née Boucher, 1762-1831). William and Catherine were married from 1782 until Blake’s death in 1827. Catherine played a huge part in Blake’s creative and commercial work. She helped him with printing and colouring his works, even finishing some of his drawings. Blake’s extraordinary vision depended on his partnership with Catherine. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Catherine Blake' 1805 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Catherine Blake (installation view)
1805
Graphite on paper
286 x 221 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Catherine Blake' 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Catherine Blake
1805
Graphite on paper
286 x 221 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940

 

 

A portrait of William Blake, thought to be his only self-portrait, will be exhibited in the UK for the first time in a major survey of his work at Tate Britain. In the 200 years since its creation, the detailed pencil drawing only been shown once before and never in the artist’s own country. It offers a unique insight into the visionary painter, printmaker and poet responsible for some of Britain’s best loved artwork and will be displayed alongside a sketch of Blake’s wife Catherine from the same period, highlighting her vital contribution to his life and work.

Created when Blake was around 45 years old, the work is thought to present an idealised likeness. Rather than showing Blake as a painter or engraver, signs of his creative intensity are conveyed in his direct hypnotic gaze. This compelling image was produced after 1802, at a turning-point in Blake’s life. Having lived in Sussex for three years and been falsely accused of treason, Blake returned to his native city of London and was re-establishing himself as an artist. The portrait shows Blake as an isolated and misunderstood figure.

A crucial presence in Blake’s life, Catherine offered both practical assistance and became an unacknowledged hand in the production of his engravings and illuminated books. His visual art and poetry began to develop in original ways only after their marriage in 1782. At the time she was illiterate but learnt to read and write with her husband and became an accomplished printmaker in her own right. Together, these rare examples of Blake’s portraiture highlight the ways in which his extraordinary vision was dependent on the domestic stability of his life with Catherine.

Text from the Tate Britain website

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Portrait of William Blake' c. 1802 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Portrait of William Blake (installation view)
c. 1802
Graphite with black, white and grey washes on paper
Collection of Robert N. Essick
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This is probably a self-portrait drawn by Blake when he was in his 40s. It does not present him in the act of writing or drawing. Instead, the image invites us to see his intense gaze as a sign of his creative force. This perhaps reflects his claim that he saw visions. Blake’s art and personal behaviuor divided contemporary opinion. A few friends and supporters accepted him as a genius. Many others considered him eccentric or questioned his mental health. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Portrait of William Blake' c. 1802

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Portrait of William Blake
c. 1802
Graphite with black, white and grey washes on paper
Collection of Robert N. Essick
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

‘Blake be an artist!’

Blake was born in London in 1757, the son of a fairly successful shopkeeper in Broad Street, Soho. Blake wanted to be an artist from an early age. His family indulged his passion. They bought prints and plaster casts for him to copy, paid for drawing lessons and funded his training as an apprentice engraver. In 1779 he enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy of Arts. This gallery explores the art he created in the years that followed. It was during this time that he developed his ambitions as an original artist and poet.

The Royal Academy encouraged its students to imitate the great art of the past. They were expected to copy antique sculptures and look to Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Raphael for inspiration.

Blake later rejected the more rigid ideas associated with Academic teaching. He sought to create a more personal vision and began to identify with the ‘Gothic’ artists of the medieval past. He felt the Academy was being taken over by portrait painters motivated by self-interest. But he did admire some ambitious and individualistic figures there. These included James Barry and Henry Fuseli. Blake took seriously their ideas about painting great public works full of moral purpose and drama. The conflict between such aims and the realities of a cynical and market-driven art world would be a shaping force in Blake’s creative life. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Academy Study' 1779-80 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Academy Study (installation view)
1779-80
Graphite on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Early drawings and watercolours

Blake’s earliest drawings typically used sweeping lines and areas of grey washed ink or watercolour. His figures make grand gestures in bare, even abstract, settings.

His style was based on the innovative art of the 1760s and 1770s, especially the drawings of James Barry, Henry Fuseli, and John Flaxman. They became well known for creating works with strong visual and emotional impact and communicating ideas in a bold way.

Blake’s subjects were often drawn from history, literature and the Bible. This was in keeping with the teaching of the Royal Academy and traditional ideas about ‘high art’. However, Blake’s subject matter from these early years is sometimes unclear. Spiritual forms, ghosts and visions start to appear. This means that the story and meaning of his individual works can be difficult to decipher. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London showing Blake’s Age Teaching Youth (c. 1785-90)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'An Allegory of the Bible' c. 1780-85 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
An Allegory of the Bible (installation view)
c. 1780-85
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate, Bequeathed by Miss Rachel M. Dyer 1969
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Blake started using more colours in the mid-1780s. The mysterious subject matter of this design is new as well. The title is not the artist’s own. It was added by later commentators, as is often the case with Blake’s symbolic designs. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'An Allegory of the Bible' c. 1780-85

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
An Allegory of the Bible
c. 1780-85
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate, Bequeathed by Miss Rachel M. Dyer 1969

 

 

The title of this work is not Blake’s, but its theme seems to be the revelation of knowledge.

Unusually, the foreground and background were both painted initially with a single base colour. The figures and the screen behind those in the background were applied straight onto the white paper. The screen and the lower half of the sky behind it were originally painted a deep rose, with a red lake pigment that is probably brazilwood. This has lost so much colour, except at the edges, that it gives the unintended effect of a flat brown base tone to the whole screen.

Gallery label, September 2004

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London showing Blake’s The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (c. 1780-85)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

This is an illustration of one of Christ’s parables, which appears in several biblical sources.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares' c. 1780-85 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (installation view)
c. 1780-85
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Tiriel

In the late 1780s Blake had established a reputation as a designer and poet among a small circle of friends. He began writing an epic poem, which he also intended to illustrate. It is not clear how Blake would have funded the production of an illustrated edition and it was not published.

Blake’s manuscript and many of the surviving drawings are displayed here. The story combined elements of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare. It also drew on supposedly ancient Gaelic stories (actually composed by the Scottish writer James Macpherson in the 1760s). The narrative concerns a king, now blind, his arguments with his sons and daughters, and his encounter with his elderly parents, Har and Heva. The language is dramatic, with exaggerated imagery suggesting surging emotions, ‘Thunder & fire & pestilence’.

The project represents the culmination of Blake’s early efforts as a painter and poet. It also exposes how his ambitions to combine epic images and texts were frustrated by conventional publishing techniques. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' c. 1786

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing
c. 1786
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 475 × 675 mm
Tate. Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

The subject is from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream illustrating Titania’s instruction to her fairy train in the last scene:

Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.

Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies, are on the left. Puck, the perplexer of mortals, faces us. The fairies Moth and Peaseblossom are easily identifiable.

During the 1780s there was a growing taste for Shakespeare illustrations. Blake had formed a print-publishing partnership in 1784. If the approximate dating of this work is correct, it may represent an attempt by Blake to break into this market.

Supernatural and fantastical subject matter like this enjoyed great popularity in Blake’s time.

Wall text from the exhibition and gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' c. 1786 (installation view detail)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' c. 1786 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (installation view details)
c. 1786
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 475 × 675 mm
Tate. Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy E)' 1794 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy E)' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Europe, A Prophecy (Copy E) (installation views)
1794
Book, 17 plates on 10 leaves
Open to plates 17: Ethinius queen of waters... and 18 Shot from the heights of Enitharrnon
Relief and white-line etching with colour printing and hand colouring
Library of Congress. Lessing J. Rosenwald collection, 1806
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy A)' 1794 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy A)' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Europe, A Prophecy (Copy A) (installation views)
1794
Book, 17 plates on 17 leaves
Open to Plate 2, title page
Colour-printed relief etching in dark brown with pen and black ink, oil and watercolour on paper
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Europe, A Prophecy relates contemporary historical events – specifically the French Revolution – in an epic, symbolic form. As Blake’s biographer Alexander Gilchrist (1828-1861) observed of the book: ‘It is hard to describe poems wherein the dramatis personae are giant shadows, gloomy phantoms; the scene, the realms of space; the time, of such corresponding vastness, that eighteen hundred years pass as a dream’. Catherine Blake is likely to have coloured many of the plates in this copy, including the title page. This copy, may be that bought from Blake by the painter George Romney (1734-1802). (Label text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen' pl. 6 1796, printed c. 1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen pl. 6 ‘I sought Pleasure & found Pain, Unntennable’
1796, printed c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The First Book of Urizen (Copy G)' 1794, printed c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The First Book of Urizen (Copy G)' 1794, printed c. 1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The First Book of Urizen (Copy G) (installation views)
1794, printed c. 1818
27 leaves, open to plate number 14
Relief etching printed in yellow brown with watercolour and gold
Library of Congress. Lessing J. Rosenwald collection, 1807
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

During his lifetime, Blake’s books were appreciated by collectors for their visual qualities far more than for their political and literary content. The First Book of Urizen was first printed in 1794. It was already strongly visual. In this new copy, printed in around 1818, Blake has enhanced this full-page image with intense colouring and gold. (Label text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy H)' c. 1790 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy H)
c. 1790
Book, 27 plates on 15 leaves
Open to title page
Relief etching with hand-colouring
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy B)' c. 1790 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy B)' c. 1790 (installation view)

William Blake label text

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy B) (installation views)
c. 1790
Book, 27 plates on 15 leaves
Open to A Memorable Fancy
Relief etched plates in coloured inks with gluebased pigments and hand-colouring paper
Bodlieian Libraries, University of Oxford
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A Memorable Fancy describes Blake’s invention of relief etching in symbolic terms. His text does little to explain his process practically. Blake’s commitment to individualism and rebellious nature are present in this description of art-making as an experimental and inspired process. This copy belonged to the scholar and collector Francis Douce (1757-1834) and may be in his original binding. (Label text)

 

Relief etching

Blake conceived his technique of relief etching in around 1788. He claimed this was under the inspiration of his brother Robert, who had died in 1787. The technical details of his method have long fascinated and frustrated scholars and collectors and remain debated.

Engraving and etching involve making lines in a copper plate which are filled with ink to create the printed image. Relief etching, on the other hand, involves using acid to eat away areas of the plate that you want to leave unprinted. The remaining surfaces are inked and printed. Relief etching allowed Blake to combine hand-written texts and images on a single plate. These were normally entirely separate processes. Blake also experimented in printing with colours, and added pen and ink, watercolour and later on gold to create more dense, painterly images. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Book of Thel (Copy I)' c. 1789 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
There is no Natural Religion (Copy B) (installation view)
c. 1788 (composition date)
c. 1794 (print date)
Book, 11 plates on 11 leaves
Open to Plate 10. I Mans Perceptions are not Bounded…
Colour-printed relief etching on paper
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

This collection of short philosophical statements was one of Blake’s first experiments in relief etching. This copy, printed in coloured inks, was produced in 1794. (Label text)

 

 

Room 2

Making prints, making a living

 

“I curse & bless Engraving alternately because it takes so much time & is so untractable.
tho capable of such beauty & perfection”
.
William Blake

.
Blake was trained as a reproductive engraver. This exacting craft involved copying an image by cutting fine lines onto a metal plate so that it could be printed and reproduced many times. Blake enjoyed the precision of this work. He gained a good reputation and engraving provided him with an income throughout his life. He was sometimes employed to design as well as engrave illustrations, and for a short period from 1784 ran his own print publishing business with his friend and fellow engraver James Parker.

While Blake admired the uncompromising qualities of older prints, the market favoured more obviously decorative techniques. Blake could adapt his style, but he found the limitations of commercial work frustrating.

Around 1788 Blake invented a new form of printmaking, ‘relief etching’. He described the technique in poetic rather than practical terms so his exact methods remain mysterious. The process allowed Blake to print in colour and combine texts and images. Blake used the technique to create a succession of visionary books. These engaged with the most pressing moral and political questions of the day, including revolution, sexual freedom and the slave trade. Blake’s illuminated books combined poetry and images in experimental ways. His images rarely illustrate the text directly. He also printed some of the images separately without words. Later in life Blake continued to print copies for fellow artists and rare book collectors, adding richer colours and gold to make them more visually enticing. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion' c. 1810 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion (installation view)
c. 1810
Engraving using carbon ink on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion' c. 1810

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion (installation view)
c. 1810
Engraving using carbon ink on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Los and Orc' c. 1792-3

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Los and Orc
c. 1792-3
Ink and watercolour on paper
217 × 295 mm
Tate. Presented by Mrs Jane Samuel in memory of her husband 1962
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This watercolour represents a turning-point in Blake’s art because it depicts a subject taken from his invented mythology which he used across the illuminated books. The figures appear to be the characters Los, representing imagination, and the chained Orc, the spirit of rebellion. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Hell beneath is Moved for thee, to Meet thee at thy Coming Isaiah, xiv, 9' c. 1780-85 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Hell beneath is Moved for thee, to Meet thee at thy Coming (installation view)
Isaiah, xiv, 9
c. 1780-85
Ink and grey wash on toned paper
Lent by her Majesty The Queen
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Lucifer and the Pope in Hell' c. 1794-96

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Lucifer and the Pope in Hell
c. 1794-96
Etching or engraving printed in colour with gum or glue-based pigments and hand-finished with watercolours and ink on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This image was produced using Blake’s relief etching method, printed in colour with additional pen and ink and watercolour, to create a dense, painterly effect. It is based on an earlier drawing. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Frontispiece to ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ (installation view)
c. 1795
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Plate 4 of ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ (installation view)
c. 1795
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Frontispiece to 'Visions of the Daughters of Albion' c. 1795 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Frontispiece to ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ (installation view)
c. 1795
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 7, ‘Of life on his forsaken mountains’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 8, ‘dark seascape with figure in water’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 7, 'Of life on his forsaken mountains' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 7, ‘Of life on his forsaken mountains’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'A Small Book of Designs copy A object 7 The First Book of Urizen plate 23' 1796

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
A Small Book of Designs copy A object 7 The First Book of Urizen plate 23
1796
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
The William Blake Archive, The British Museum
Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 8, 'dark seascape with figure in water' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 8, ‘dark seascape with figure in water’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 9, 'Lo, a shadow of horror' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 9, ‘Lo, a shadow of horror’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 11, 'Gowned Male Seen from behind' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 11, ‘Gowned Male Seen from behind’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Book of Thel, Plate 6' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Book of Thel, Plate 6' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Book of Thel, Plate 6' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Book of Thel, Plate 6 ‘Doth God take Care of these’ (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members,Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Copy A, Plate 7 in 'The First Book of Urizen' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Copy A, Plate 7 in ‘The First Book of Urizen’ (installation view)
1794
Colour relief etching predominantly in black, grey and pink, with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Copy A, plate 12, Design from 'Preludium' in 'The First Book of Urizen' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Copy A, plate 12, Design from ‘Preludium’ in ‘The First Book of Urizen’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etchings with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 10' 1796, c. 1818

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 10' 1796, c. 1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 10 ‘Every thing is an attempt, To be Human’ (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 10 ‘Every thing is an attempt, To be Human’
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

“I was in a Printing house in Hell, & saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.”

.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell c. 1790

 

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 15 (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 15 ‘Vegetating in fibres of Blood’
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 17 ‘Is the Female Death, Become new Life’ (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 17 ‘Is the Female Death, Become new Life’
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence (1789), Songs of Experience (1793) and the combined Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) are the best known of Blake’s illuminated books. He sold more copies of these books than any other (although he probably printed no more than 30 in his lifetime).

The poems deal with themes of childhood and morality, and include striking observations about suffering and social injustice. The visual style is highly decorative. The dense crowding of texts and borders is suggestive of illustrations to children’s books or even embroidered samplers. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) America, A Prophecy (Copy M) Plate 13, 'Fiery the Angels Rose...' 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) America, A Prophecy (Copy M) Plate 13, 'Fiery the Angels Rose...' 1793 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
America, A Prophecy (Copy M) Plate 13, ‘Fiery the Angels Rose…’ (installation view)
1793
18 plates on 18 leaves, disbound
Colour-printed relief etching in brown with ink and watercolour on paper
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The American War of Independence (1775-83) was the key historical event of Blake’s youth. It shattered the British elite’s assumptions that they could rule over a global, English-speaking empire. For many others, including Blake, it was a heroic overturning of the oppressive old order. Blake’s poem deals with historical events in mythical terms. The central character is Orc, the spirit of revolution, who pursues the ‘shadowy daughter of Urthona’. It was produced at a time when the French Revolution inspired both hope and fear that revolution would spread across Europe. (Wall text)

 

Room 3

Patronage and independence

Throughout his life Blake depended upon the support of family and friends. These included several fellow-artists and amateurs, including John and Ann FlaxmanThomas Stothard and George Cumberland. In the 1790s Blake started selling works to Thomas Butts, a senior civil servant. Butts became his most important patron, eventually owning up to 200 works by the artist. The Rev. Joseph Thomas also commissioned series of watercolours illustrating Milton and Shakespeare. The wealthy poet William Hayley was another important supporter. In 1800-3 Blake went to work for Hayley, moving with Catherine to Sussex.

The move opened up new connections, with the Rev. John Johnson and Elizabeth Ilive, Countess of Egremont. The support of Flaxman, Butts, Hayley and their friends gave Blake a degree of financial stability. Blake’s patrons were well-off and socially established, much more so than the artist. They admired the artist’s unconventional character and independent spirit. But Blake resented being their employee and the advice they sometimes offered. As a result these relationships often became strained. (Wall text)

 

Edward Young (British, 1683-1765) 'Night Thoughts' 1797 (installation view)

 

Edward Young (British, 1683-1765)
Night Thoughts (installation view)
1797
Book, 43 plates on 43 leaves
Engravings with hand-colouring
By courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Blake produced over 530 watercolours for Edward Young’s long poem on ‘life, death and immortality’. He created bold designs in large margins around each sheet of the printed text. These often give literal form to ideas in the text. Publisher Richard Edwards commissioned Blake, but later abandoned the project and closed down his business. Blake had asked for over £100 for the designs but was paid only £21. He despaired, writing in 1799: ‘I am laid by in a corner as if I did not Exist’. This copy was hand-coloured by Blake or by Catherine Blake. (Label text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827). 'The Christ Child Asleep on the Cross' 1799-1800 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Christ Child Asleep on the Cross (installation view)
1799-1800
Tempera on canvas Lent by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799 (installation view) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Christ Blessing the Little Children (installation views)
1799
Tempera on canvas
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Christ Blessing the Little Children
1799
Tempera on canvas
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This painting is from of a group of fifty illustrations to the Bible commissioned by Blake’s patron, Thomas Butts. Its subject is taken from chapter 10 of St Mark’s Gospel. Christ, seated beneath a spreading tree, blesses children brought to him while he was preaching. To the left is one of his disciples, who tries to send the children away. Christ tells the disciples:

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God… Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb' c. 1799-1800 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb' c. 1799-1800 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb (installation views)
c. 1799-1800
Tempera on canvas mounted onto cardboard
Tate. Presented by Francis T. Palgrave 1884
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

The frame is original and may even have been chosen by Blake.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb' c. 1799-1800

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb
c. 1799-1800
Tempera on canvas mounted onto cardboard
Tate. Presented by Francis T. Palgrave 1884
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This tempera is very well preserved, mainly because it was painted on thin linen canvas, stuck onto thin cardboard. This is stiff enough to reduce the cracking that develops on flexible canvas. It also made it unnecessary to add the animal glue lining which has spoilt the opaque white effect of Blake’s chalk preparatory layer in many temperas. As a result, Blake’s delicate painted details can still be seen as he intended.

This is the only Blake tempera in this room in a frame dating from the time it was painted. Blake may have chosen the frame design himself.

Gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea (installation views)
c. 1805
Ink with watercolour over graphite on paper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea
c. 1805
Ink with watercolour over graphite on paper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943
Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Number of the Beast is 666 c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Number of the Beast is 666' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Number of the Beast is 666 c. 1805 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Number of the Beast is 666 (installation views)
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Rosenbach, Philadelphia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Number of the Beast is 666' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Number of the Beast is 666
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Rosenbach, Philadelphia
Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Satan in his Original Glory: ‘Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee’ (installation views)
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This watercolour shows how such works have changed over time. There is a strip of much stronger blue colour at the bottom right edge, in an area which had been masked from the light in the past.

This watercolour shows Satan as he once was, a perfect part of God’s creation, before his fall from grace. His orb and sceptre symbolise his role as Prince of this World. It is also an extreme example of the damaging effects of over-exposure to light. The sky was originally an intense blue, now only visible at the lower right edge. The only colours which have survived unaltered are the vermilion red Blake used for the flesh, and red ochre in Satan’s wings. The paper has yellowed considerably. There is no evidence left of any yellow gamboge or pinkish red lakes.

Gallery label, September 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Girding Himself with Strength' c. 1805 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Christ Girding Himself with Strength (installation view)
c. 1805
Chalk and watercolour over pencil on paper
280 × 325 mm
Bristol Culture: Bristol Museums & Art Gallery
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'David Delivered out of Many Waters' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
David Delivered out of Many Waters
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Presented by George Thomas Saul 1878
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This work shows how Blake responded visually to textual sources. It is an illustration to Psalm 18, in which David (at the bottom of the image with his arms stretched wide) calls out to God for salvation from his enemies. Christ appears above, riding upon seven cherubim (angels), not one as in the text. Blake’s gentle, linear style, formal composition and free interpretation of a written source made him attractive to many modern artists. Paul Nash saw Blake as representing a British imaginative tradition.

Gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Crucifixion: 'Behold Thy Mother' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Crucifixion: ‘Behold Thy Mother’
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

Blake often treated subjects from Jerusalem’s history. Christian thought is centred on Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary outside the city, when he died to redeem mankind. His cross, his resurrection and return to earth three days after his death are central to Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection of the Soldiers altarpiece at Sandham; sketches for this are shown in the display case to your left.

Spencer believed that the soldiers had a ‘perfect understanding’ of the sacrifice they had to make. This suggests that both Blake’s ‘Mental Fight’ to build the Jerusalem of peace in England, and the soldiers’ physical fight are equally valid.

Gallery label, July 2008

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Magdalene at the Sepulchre' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Magdalene at the Sepulchre' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Magdalene at the Sepulchre
c. 1805
Pen, ink and watercolour on paper
427 × 311 mm
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Angel Rolling away the Stone' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Angel Rolling away the Stone
c. 1805
Watercolour on paper
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Morse gift

 

 

Two angels in white the one at the head, and the other at the feet / Matw. cn. 28th v. 2nd And below there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door. /17.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Angel Rolling away the Stone' (detail) c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Angel Rolling away the Stone (detail)
c. 1805
Watercolour on paper
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Morse gift

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 1: ‘Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set) (installation views)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

John Milton’s epic poem describes Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. Satan, the rebellious fallen angel, is a major character. Blake made these illustrations for the Rev. Joseph Thomas, following an introduction from Flaxman.

There are three sets: the Thomas set (1807), the Butts set (1808) and the incomplete Linnell set (1822).

 

The Thomas set

The paintings of the Thomas set are each approximately 10x 8.25 inches. They were commissioned by the Reverend Joseph Thomas at an unrecorded date, sometime before 1807. Although the sheets were trimmed at some time, obliterating the date from several, some still retain the date of 1807, establishing the year of their completion. Thomas’ grandson inherited them from his father, and sold them at Sotheby’s in 1872. By 1876 they were in the collection of Alfred Aspland, who by 1885 took them to Sotheby’s again, dispersing the set among several buyers. Henry Huntington reunited the works in 1914, and today they are still in the collection of the Huntington Library. (Wikipedia)

 

Reverend Joseph Thomas

The Rev. Joseph Thomas of Epsom, Surrey, was a clergyman and friend of Flaxman. Flaxman put him and Blake in touch, leading to a series of commissions. Thomas had married an heiress, Millicent Pankhurst. He held no church appointment and was free to pursue his artistic and scholarly interests.

Blake produced several series of watercolours for Thomas illustrating the poetry of the 17th-century writer John Milton, and Shakespeare’s plays. Thomas also purchased a few published works by Blake. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 1: 'Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 1: ‘Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 2: 'Satan, Sin, and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 2: ‘Satan, Sin, and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 4: 'Satan Spying on Adam and Eve's Descent into Paradise' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 4: ‘Satan Spying on Adam and Eve’s Descent into Paradise’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 7: 'The Rout of the Rebel Angels' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 7: ‘The Rout of the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set) (installation view)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 7: 'The Rout of the Rebel Angels' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 7: ‘The Rout of the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 8: 'The Creation of Eve' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 8: 'The Creation of Eve' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 8: ‘The Creation of Eve’ (Thomas set) (installation views)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 8: 'The Creation of Eve' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 8: ‘The Creation of Eve’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 2: 'The Angels appearing to the Shepherds' 1809 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 2: 'The Angels appearing to the Shepherds' 1809 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s Hymn ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ Plate 2: ‘The Angels appearing to the Shepherds’
1809
6 designs on 6 sheets
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Blake was paid two pounds for each of these six designs by Thomas, twice what he was paid by Butts for the individual Bible watercolours. He made another set of these illustrations for Thomas Butts. Milton’s poem celebrates the birth of Christ, and the retreat of pagan and evil forces.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 3: 'The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell' 1809 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 3: 'The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell' 1809 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 3: 'The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell' 1809 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s Hymn ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ Plate 3: ‘The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell’
1809
6 designs on 6 sheets
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester

 

 

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24
Jan
20

Exhibition: ‘Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan’ at The Morgan Library & Museum

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2019 – 2nd February 2020

Curator: Joel Smith

 

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara' 1978

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara
1978
6 (5 x 7 inch) silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text
© Duane Michals, Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

The things-for-which-there-are-no-words

Duane Michals is one of the greatest photographic storytellers of the twentieth century. His parables – seemingly simple stories used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson – resonate, vibrate, with energy, and insight into, the human condition. They are as profound as the air we breathe but cannot see – expressing the invisible, presencing the spiritual. I feel, I know these stories, intimately. Those things-for-which-there-are-no-words.
.

Presencing. In 1885, Van Gogh, wrote a letter to his brother Theo: ‘Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt – [a] magician.’ (Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh [letter 534], on or about 10 October 1885, in Leo Jansen, Luijten and Nienke Bakker (eds.,). Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute, Amsterdam, 2009 [Online] Cited 11/10/2019)

The things-for-which-there-are-no-words remain hidden when approached with conceptual thought. They need to be experienced to be known. The currency of this experience, as we have seen, is deeply personal, but in allowing it we can touch on truth, perhaps even the truth.”1

 

There are things here not seen in this photograph. The spirit leaves the body. William Blake and Duane Michals. Enchanted melancholy. The mysterious / music. In swift embrace. In love. In memory. In death. The fluidity of the line of the artist. Things are queer. The world implodes and ravages itself. Paradise is reborn. The letter, and love, from my father that I, also, never did receive. The nature of reality. Truth?

“I’m completely overwhelmed by the nature of our reality,” he is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog about human evolution. “We’ve been working on this version of man for a thousand years. He lives longer, he’s healthier, but he’s still an unproven product. Still the same greedy little bastard.”

“For Michals, photography is not documentary in nature but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensible version of reality. In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium’s storytelling capacity,” says the press release. Isobel Crombie suggests the ‘medium’ of photography has ‘The ability to speak to us across time and to connect to the mind and the heart.’2

When I was young. What was time?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Kim Devereux. “Me and My Muse,” in the NGV Magazine Issue 19 Nov-Dec 2019, p. 55
  2. Isobel Crombie. “One Suggestive Moment,” in the NGV Magazine Issue 19 Nov-Dec 2019, p. 33

.
Many thankx to The Morgan Library & Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I write with this photograph not to tell you what you can see, rather to express what is invisible.”

.
Duane Michals 1966 in Johnson, B. (ed.,) 2004, ‘Photography speaks: 150 photographers on their art’, Aperture, New York p. 150

 

“I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody’s face in a photograph. The magic is in seeing people in new ways.”

.
Duane Michals

 

Duane Michals uses visual narrative, symbolism and metaphysical imagery to interpret the human condition. His photographic sequences have a film-like appearance and represent intangible elements of dreams, imagination, death, time, myth and spirit. A freelance commercial photographer, Michals began experimenting with sequence works in the 1960s, later adding text to illuminate emotion and philosophical ideas and following in the tradition of painters such as René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico whom he greatly admired. His staged, fictive tableaux vivants are intimate scenes that explore the atmosphere of the invisible and metaphysical…

.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

 

DEATH

Robert Wiles. 'Evelyn Francis McHale May 1, 1947' 1947

 

Robert Wiles
Evelyn Francis McHale May 1, 1947
1947
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 9 1/2 × 8 in. (24.1 × 20.3 cm)
Purchased on the Goldsmith Fund for Americana
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

On 30 April she visited her fiancée in Easton presumably to celebrate his 24th birthday and boarded a train back to NYC at 7 a.m., 1 May 1947. Barry [Rhodes] stated to reporters that “When I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.”

Of course we’ll never know what went through Evelyn’s mind on 66 mi train ride home. But after she arrived in New York she went to the Governor Clinton Hotel where she wrote a suicide note and shortly before 10:30 a.m. bought a ticket to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Around 10:40 am Patrolman John Morrissey, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, noticed a white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the building. Moments later he heard a crash and saw a crowd converge on 34th street. Evelyn had jumped, cleared the setbacks, and landed on the roof of a United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine parked on 34th street, some 200 ft west of Fifth Ave.

Across the street, Robert C. Wiles, a student photographer, also noticed the commotion and rushed to the scene where he took several photos, including this one, some four minutes after her death. Later, on the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray found her tan (or maybe gray, reports differ) cloth coat neatly folded over the observation deck wall, a brown make-up kit filled with family pictures and a black pocketbook with the note which read:

“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

Lizz Buzz. “The Story Behind the “The Most Beautiful Suicide” Picture of Evelyn McHale (1947),” on the Atchuup! website April 23, 2019 [Online] Cited 17/11/2019

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Spirit Leaves the Body
1968
Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'I Build a Pyramid' 1978

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
I Build a Pyramid
1978
6 (5 x 7 inch) silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

ILLUSION

Francesco Salviati (1510-1563) 'Emblematic Design with Two-Headed Horse and Moth' c. 1550-63

 

Francesco Salviati (1510-1563)
Emblematic Design with Two-Headed Horse and Moth
c. 1550-63
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, on paper; framing lines at upper left and right edges in pen and brown ink
Overall: 7 1/2 × 7 3/8 in. (19.1 × 18.7 cm)
Gift of János Scholz
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Satan Smiting Job with Boils' c. 1805-10

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Satan Smiting Job with Boils
c. 1805-10
Pen and black and gray ink, gray wash, and watercolour, over faint indications in pencil, on paper
Overall: 9 3/16 x 11 inches (233 x 280 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902) 'A Cardinal in Profile' 1880

 

Jehan Georges Vibert (French, 1840-1902)
A Cardinal in Profile
1880
Watercolour on paper
Overall: 4 7/8 × 3 3/8 in. (12.4 × 8.6 cm)
Gift of John M. Thayer
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Henry Pearson (American, 1914-2006) '128th Psalm (Study for "Five Psalms")' 1968

 

Henry Pearson (American, 1914-2006)
128th Psalm (Study for “Five Psalms”)
1968
Chinese ink on heavy paper
Overall: 23 1/2 × 18 in. (59.7 × 45.7 cm)
Gift of Regina and Lawrence Dubin, M.D
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Illuminated Man' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Illuminated Man
1968
Gelatin silver print, unique print
Image: 15 5/8 x 22 7/8 inches
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

When Michals arrived in New York from Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, the city provided not only freedom from the strict conventions of his Catholic upbringing, but an opening to worlds of ideas and experiences that extended in all directions. By the early 1960s, he was living with his life partner, the architect Frederick Gorree (who passed away in 2017) and experimenting with the photographic image beyond the single frame, often including handwritten texts.

“Duane cut photography’s umbilical cord,” Smith said about the photographer’s contributions to the medium. “He saw there’s no reason to limit the camera to what you find in the world; it should be part of the history of expressing ideas.” Michals’s 1970 one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art confirmed his significance in establishing a new genre.

In the 1960s, he became interested in Buddhism and meditation, further expanding his artistic concerns. At the Morgan, Michals walked over to a large, eye-popping ink drawing by Henry Pearson, an abstract artist loosely associated with the Op Art movement. Pearson’s “128th Psalm (Study for ‘Five Psalms’)” from 1968, is a light-bulb-shaped form with lines emanating from the center like electrified nerve endings and pulsating out beyond the frame.

“This drawing is pure energy,” he said. That same year, Michals – who had not known Pearson’s work – made “The Illuminated Man,” a photograph of a male figure facing the camera, his head emanating light, suggesting enlightenment. “The Illuminated Man” and “128th Psalm” share the theme of spiritual radiance.

Michals cited a 1937 painting by René Magritte not in the Morgan Collection called “The Pleasure Principle.” It is a portrait of the poet Edward James, a patron of Surrealist art, his head a glowing light bulb. “I only discovered the painting later,” he said, after he had made his own photographic homage, in 1965, in which Magritte appears ghostlike in double exposure, against a canvas on an easel, behind an empty chair. “I was very proud to have had a similar idea to one of my deities,” he said.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Human Condition
1969
© Duane Michals via DC Moore Gallery
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

“The nature of consciousness is always the central question,” he asserted. In The Human Condition, his panel of six photographs from 1969 begins with a man standing on the 14th Street subway platform; the train arrives and he is bathed in a halo of light; the light becomes a swirl and in the last frame he is swept into a white disc the size of a galaxy passing through the night sky. From the immediate to the universal in six frames.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Bewitched Bee
1986
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

IMAGE AND WORD

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'There Are Things Here Not Seen in This Photograph' 1977

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
There Are Things Here Not Seen in This Photograph
1977
10 15/16 x 13 7/8 inches
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals. From the series 'I Remember Pittsburgh' 1982

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
I Remember Pittsburgh 8
1982
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Ciro Ferri (Italian, 1634-1689) 'Fame Painting a Portrait Held by Religion' 17th century

 

Ciro Ferri (Italian, 1634-1689)
Fame Painting a Portrait Held by Religion
17th century
Brush and brown and white gouache, pen and and brown ink, over black chalk, on brown toned paper
Overall: 11 x 7 9/16 inches (279 x 192 mm)
Purchased as the gift of the Fellows
The Morgan Library & Museum

Design for a frontispiece engraved by Gérard Audran for a volume of portraits of cardinals published by Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Giorgio de Chirico, Rome' Rome, 1944

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Giorgio de Chirico, Rome
Rome, 1944 (negative), 1946-47 (print)
Gelatin silver print on paper; mounted to cardstock
Image And Sheet: 7 1/16 × 7 3/8 in.
Gift of Irving Penn, 2006
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Andy Warhol' 1958

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Andy Warhol
1958
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'René Magritte at His Easel' 1965

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
René Magritte at His Easel
1965
77/8 × 97/8 inches (20 × 25.1 cm)
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Florian, Marquis de (1755-1794) 'Red leather portfolio [realia]' 18th century

 

Florian, Marquis de (1755-1794)
Red leather portfolio [realia] – Portefeuille de Monsieur de Voltaire and Donné à Monsieur de Florian
“Voltaire’s briefcase”
18th century
Leather, gold clasp
Stamped on front: “Portefeuille de Monsieur / de Voltaire”; on back: “Donné a Monsieur / de Florian”
Overall: 16 15/16 × 12 5/8 in. (43 × 32 cm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Pierpont Morgan Library Dept. of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Voltaire gave this briefcase to the marquis de Florian, the husband of his niece Elisabeth Mignot. Her sister, Marie-Louise Mignot, Mme Denis, was Voltaire’s companion for the last twenty-nine years of his life. With extensive decorative gold tooling. Exhibited numerous times at the Morgan Library as “Voltaire’s briefcase.”

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Candide, 2019'

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Candide, 2019
2019
Inspired by Voltaire
© Duane Michals via DC Moore Gallery
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

“The things we chose from the collection were so close to what my instincts are,” he said to Joel Smith, the curator of photography at the Morgan, who organised the show with Michals.

The photographer was referring to the kinship between things he chose and the irreverent nature of his own work. “I’m completely overwhelmed by the nature of our reality,” he is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog about human evolution. “We’ve been working on this version of man for a thousand years. He lives longer, he’s healthier, but he’s still an unproven product. Still the same greedy little bastard.”

To illustrate the point, he reached for Voltaire’s briefcase among the holdings in the Morgan’s collection. It dates from the 1700s and is decorated with gold-leaf filigree on its red leather casing.

Smith recalled that Michals was so “wowed at the thought of Voltaire’s ideas living inside it and amused by the showbiz of its provenance” that he went home and painted a portrait of Candide on an old tintype, adding Voltaire’s bitterly ironic refrain in white block letters: “This Is the Best of All Possible Worlds.” The briefcase and Candide, 2019 are both in the show.

Yet, Michals doesn’t share Voltaire’s bleak view of existence. His own work is often characterised by an iconoclastic wit, imbued with serious metaphysical inquiry – a “curiosity about the nature of reality, in a much more profound sense than just a bunch of atoms.”

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Lucifer' c. 1900

 

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
Lucifer
c. 1900
Pencil and watercolour, on paper
Overall: 9 3/8 × 12 7/16 in. (23.8 × 31.6 cm)
Gift of Alexandre P. Rosenberg
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918) 'Embrace' 1914

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918)
Embrace
1914
Graphite on wove paper
Overall: 19 1/8 × 12 3/4 in. (48.6 × 32.4 cm)
Bequest of Fred Ebb
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

[Looks at Egon Schiele’s drawing Embrace (p. 22)] There’s so much emotion in this; it’s so immediate. There’s a few things happening: physical entanglement, then you see the look on his face, registering some kind of emotional response. I love the idea: Schiele had no thought that in a hundred years we’d be standing here or how we’d be talking about it. Art is not really about the future.

Duane Michals in Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan exhibition catalogue 2019, p. 21

 

In this depiction of the artist in the arms of an unidentified companion, the jagged, seemingly erratic contours suggest a psychological agitation characteristic of Schiele’s self-portraits. A feeling of tension derives from the position of the artist’s head-turned away from the woman embracing him – as well as from the placement of the couple to the left of the sheet, with the figure of the woman cropped. The resulting asymmetry conveys the artist’s emotional unbalance and emphasises his egocentric character while demonstrating the amazing technical agility he brought to bear to express a wide range of emotions.

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'A Letter from My Father' 1960

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
A Letter from My Father
1960 (image), 1975 (text)
15 3/4 × 19 7/8 inches (40 × 50.5 cm)
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum proudly presents an exhibition combining a six-decade retrospective of Duane Michals with an artist’s-choice selection of works from all corners of the permanent collection. Michals is known for his picture sequences, inscribed photographs, and, more recently, films that pose emotional, conceptual, and cosmic questions beyond the scope of the lone camera image. Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan (October 25, 2019 to February 2, 2020) takes viewers on a tour of the artist’s mind, putting work from his expansive career in conversation with Old Master and modern drawings, books, manuscripts, and historical objects.

The first retrospective on Michals to be mounted by a New York City institution, the exhibition is organised around animating themes in the artist’s work: Theatre, Reflection, Love and Desire, Playtime, Image and Word, Nature, Immortality, Time, Death, and Illusion. It showcases his storytelling instincts, both in stand-alone staged photographs and in sequences. The exhibition also includes screenings of short films, Michals’s preferred medium in recent years.

For Michals, photography is not documentary in nature but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensible version of reality. In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium’s storytelling capacity. For example, the six images in I Build a Pyramid (1978) find the artist in Egypt, stacking stones in a modest pile that, from the camera’s perspective, appears to rival the scale of the ancient pharaohs’ monuments. Michals reveals that the scenario echoes his childhood habit of building cities from stones in his backyard in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In the exhibition, Michals’s staged scenes are juxtaposed with those of his creative heroes, who include William Blake, Edward Lear, and Saul Steinberg. In his dual role as artist and curator he matches wits with writers, stage designers, toy makers, and his fellow portraitists of the past and the present.

Since 2015 Michals has focused his creative efforts on filmmaking, a natural outgrowth of his directorial habits as a photographer. On a screen in the exhibition, three short films are featured amid a cycle of over 200 photographs from the series Empty New York (1964-65), the project through which the artist first recognised his theatrical vision of reality. Michals will host two special programs of film screenings in the Morgan’s Gilder Lehrman Hall, introducing films that have never been screened publicly before.

Illusions of the Photographer revives the format of the 2015 exhibition Hidden Likeness: Emmet Gowin at the Morgan, which The New York Times said “all but redefined the genre” of the collection dive curated by a contemporary artist. The present project is a personal one for Michals, who explains, “The Morgan literally is my favourite museum in New York. I always learn something at the Morgan. I’m so thrilled about this show, because it’s probably going to be the very last time to see me there, with all my resources and touchstones. I’m … archaic, in a way. I’m eighty-seven! I’m of my generation. My references are not at all to what people are talking about today. I’m comfortable there, that’s where I belong – and that’s what I contribute.”

Joel Smith, the Morgan’s Richard L. Menschel Curator and Department Head, says “Duane Michals’s art is contemplative, confessional, and comedic. It transcends the conventional bounds, and audience, of photography. Through narration and sequencing he reorients the camera towards timeless human dilemmas; he derives poetic effects from technical errors such as double exposure and motion blur. His originality and intimacy as an artist come through in the discoveries he brings to light from the Morgan’s collection.”

Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan is accompanied by an 88-page softcover catalogue featuring a wide-ranging interview with the artist and illustrations of seventy works, including his selections from the Morgan’s collection and the previously unpublished 1969 title sequence.

 

About Duane Michals

Duane Michals (b. February 18, 1932, McKeesport, Pennsylvania) is an American photographer who often combines images with text in a format that recalls cinematic storytelling. Michals received his BA from the University of Denver in 1953. He began photographing for magazines in 1960 and became a prolific portraitist of artists such as Andy Warhol, René Magritte, and Marcel Duchamp. His first solo exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1970. Michals lives and works in New York City.

Press release from The Morgan Library & Museum [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

 

NATURE

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'God Creating the World' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
God Creating the World
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
7 3/4 x 5 1/4 inches (201 x 135 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'God Creates Eve while Adam is Asleep' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
God Creates Eve while Adam is Asleep
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
12 x 9 1/8 inches (305 x 233 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
11 x 8 inches (279 x 203 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'Adam and Eve Perceive their Nakedness' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Adam and Eve Perceive their Nakedness
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
12 1/8 x 8 3/4 inches (308 x 221 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Paradise Regained
1968
6 silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text

 

 

… He picked up a panel of gouache drawings from around 1900 by French illustrator James Jacques Joseph Tissot titled “God Creating the World,” a biblical morality tale in a series of lighthearted scenes depicting the creation of Adam; then Eve; the two of them frolicking; Eve eating the apple; and their banishment from paradise. The Tissot sequence is among nearly 60 works in his final selection for the current exhibition Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan, through Feb. 2. His pick of drawings, paintings and artefacts resides in dialogue with 38 of Michals’s photographic works – his narrative sequences as well as stand-alone prints, projected images from a series titled “Empty New York,” and several of his recent short films.

He pointed out a link between the Tissot drawings and his own “Paradise Regained,” from 1968: a suite of six images that begins with a well-dressed young couple sitting and facing the camera in an empty apartment. With each frame they get progressively undressed, and more and more plants fill up the space behind them. In the final image, they are naked amid a lush, domestic Eden.

“I had been looking at a lot of Rousseau paintings when I made the sequence,” Michals said, referring to the jungle scenes of the French Post-Impressionist. While he loves the Tissot panel, he admitted, “I’m a raging atheist,” distancing himself from its religious message. “I was a pretend Catholic and then I stopped pretending.” The spiritual dimension of “Paradise Regained” is balanced by the artist’s tongue-in-cheek view of urban life, where men and women only return to a natural state indoors, where everything is unnatural.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Jacob Hoefnagel (1573? - c. 1632) 'Orpheus Charming the Animals' 1613

 

Jacob Hoefnagel (1573? – c. 1632)
Orpheus Charming the Animals
1613
Watercolour and gouache, heightened with white gouache, over traces of black chalk, on vellum mounted to panel; bordered in gold
Overall: 6 9/16 × 8 5/16 in. (16.7 × 21.1 cm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978
Morgan Family Collection

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Warren Beatty' 1967

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Warren Beatty
1967
Gelatin silver print
8 × 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Acquisition Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

PLAYTIME

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Things Are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Images: 5 × 7 inches (12.7 × 17.8 cm) each
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

REFLECTION

Wallace Studio, Manchester, New Hampshire. 'Untitled (Mirror)' c. 1880s

 

Wallace Studio, Manchester, New Hampshire
Untitled (Mirror)
c. 1880s
Cabinet card with rounded corners
Mount: 6 7/16 × 4 3/16 in. (16.4 × 10.6 cm)
Print: 5 11/16 × 4 in. (14.4 × 10.2 cm)
Gift of Adam Fuss
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 - c. 1778) 'Interior of a Gallery' 1750s

 

Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 – c. 1778)
Interior of a Gallery
1750s
Pen and black ink and gray and brown wash
Sheet is framed by an overmount of paper that leaves around 8 5/8 x 11 7/8 inches visible
Overall: 9 1/4 × 12 13/16 in. (23.5 × 32.5 cm)
Thaw Collection
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888-1990) 'Multiple Self-Portrait' 1935

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888-1990)
Multiple Self-Portrait
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 3/4 × 10 9/16 in. (34.9 × 26.8 cm)
Purchase on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'A Story About a Story' 1989

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
A Story About a Story
1989
15 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches (40.3 × 50.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

In Michals work, the immediate and the infinite spar. In the show is a single image by a little-known photographer named John F. Collins. The 1935 self-portrait shows Collins looking at us while holding a large photograph of himself; in that photograph he is looking down at the same photograph of himself. In each subsequent picture within a picture, he is looking out, and then into the photograph he is holding, into a spiralling infinity.

It is a striking parallel to Michals’ “A Story Within a Story” of 1989, in which a man leans against a mirror in the corner of the frame and faces a mirror in which his reflection echoes repeatedly as it recedes behind him. “This is a story about a man telling a story about a man. …” starts his text.

He might as well have been describing himself.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

N. Institoris (d. 1845) 'Interior of a Prison' c. 1825-45

 

N. Institoris (d. 1845)
Interior of a Prison
c. 1825-45
Pen and black ink, with gray wash, over pencil, on paper; verso contains slight sketch of a building, in graphite.
13 x 17 1/2 inches (330 x 445 mm)
Gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager, 1982
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (French, 1720-1791) 'Perspective View of the Mechanical Works and Construction of a Theater. Verso: Sketch of an elevation of a colonnade' 18th century

 

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (French, 1720-1791)
Perspective View of the Mechanical Works and Construction of a Theater. Verso: Sketch of an elevation of a colonnade
18th century
Pen and black ink, with gray wash, over graphite, on paper; verso: graphite
12 1/4 x 14 9/16 inches (310 x 369 mm)
Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager in memory of her husband
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Cour de Rouen' 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cour de Rouen
1898
Albumen print
Overall: 8 × 6 3/4 in. (20.3 × 17.1 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Louis Faurer (1916-2001) 'Penn Station Lovers' 1946-47, printed c. 1981

 

Louis Faurer (1916-2001)
Penn Station Lovers
1946-47, printed c. 1981
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in. (sheet)
Purchased as the gift of Elaine Goldman
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York, Subway Interior' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Empty New York, Subway Interior
c. 1964
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Empty New York, Dry cleaners upper East side
c. 1964
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
From the series Empty New York
c. 1964
Gelatin silver prints
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

TIME

Herbert Matter (1907-1984) 'Alexander Calder hanging mobile in motion' 1936

 

Herbert Matter (1907-1984)
Alexander Calder hanging mobile in motion
1936
Gelatin silver print with additions by hand
5 9/16 × 6 3/16 in. (14.13 × 15.72 cm)
Purchased as the gift of Richard and Ronnie Grosbard
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Saul Steinberg (American, b. Romania, 1914-1999) 'Untitled (Cat and wheel of time)' 1965

 

Saul Steinberg (American, b. Romania, 1914-1999)
Untitled (Cat and wheel of time)
1965
Ink (black, blue, red, green, brown) and pencil on laid Strathmore
19 × 25 in. (48.26 × 63.5 cm)
Gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Saul Steinberg defined drawing as “a way of reasoning on paper,” and he remained committed to the act of drawing. Throughout his long career, he used drawing to think about the semantics of art, reconfiguring stylistic signs into a new language suited to the fabricated temper of modern life. Sometimes with affection, sometimes with irony, but always with virtuoso mastery, Saul Steinberg peeled back the carefully wrought masks of 20th-century civilisation.

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'When He Was Young' 1979

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
When He Was Young
1979
8 x 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'What is Time?' 1994

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
What is Time?
1994
Gelatin silver print
16 × 19 7/8 inches (40.6 × 50.5 cm)
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Included in his selection from the Morgan is an amusing drawing by Saul Steinberg, “Cat and the Wheel of Time,” 1965, in which the months of the year, the days of the week, and the hours of the day are written in circles inside a large wheel following a small cat down a hill. “Time has always been central to so much of my thinking,” Michals said. Smith handed him his text and image piece, What Is Time? from 1994, in which an eternally handsome young man holds an old-fashioned round clock to his ear. The text beneath it begins, “Time is the duration of everything, and life is an event, a fluttering of wings … the moment is the interval between now and then and, then, again.”

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY
Phone: (212) 685-0008

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10.30 am – 5 pm
Friday: 10.30 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

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17
Jan
20

Review: ‘Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd June 2019 – 27th January 2020

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Writing the body politic / broken

Ho hum, ho hum.

The exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria is an extension of the 2008 exhibition Body Language: Contemporary Chinese Photography with many of the same photographs being shown again, with new additions to the collection.

Nothing much seems to have changed in the last 12 years. Contemporary Chinese photography still concentrates on limited narratives based around the performing body, the body positioned in time and space in relation to history, memory, tradition, culture and consumerism. What the “turning points” are in the title of this exhibition remains unclear. Turning points for who? The art, the artists, the stories they tell, or the restrictive nature of contemporary Chinese culture.

Certain things remain constant: an emphasis on the performing body, (its) theatrical style, (in) elaborate tableaux, contemporary consumer society, urban reconstruction, and tradition and change. The body is usually isolated against contextless backgrounds, free floating, paired with a rather stilted iconography derived from Chinese culture – coins, calligraphy, statues, spirits, tattoos as traditional historical painting, calligraphy, buildings, revolution – focusing on “the dismantling of tradition during a period of rampant consumerism and modernisation.”

Even while these artists apparently possess, “an urgent desire to explore individual and social identity in a time of unprecedented change … that reflect the tensions in Chinese society as the processes of social change meet traditional culture and expectations head-on”, no/body mentions the elephant in the room – the repressive and aggressive nature of the Chinese government, it’s suppression of dissent both internally and externally, its appalling human rights record and its expansionist policy in the South China Sea. The paradox is that while, “Hai Bo’s paired portraits illustrate the cultural shifts that have occurred over forty years as people in China have become increasingly able to show their individuality”, that individuality is closely controlled by the State. Step out of line, as many artists have found to their peril, and you are soon done for.

No mention here of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the current democracy protests in Hong Kong, or the recently released report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) which contains a damning essay on China’s “global threat” to human rights. No other government “flexes its political muscles with such vigour and determination to undermine the international human rights standards and institutions that could hold it to account.” The HRW report cites a slew of violations ranging from the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in the far-western autonomous region of Xinjiang, to increased censorship, to the use of technologies for mass surveillance and social control. Nothing to see here!

The work of most of the artists in this exhibition seems insular, inward looking – chained to the country’s past and present, memory and history, culture and its re/constitution. Addressing its constitution through supplication. Addressing the representation of institutional power in socialist regimes through images with heroic overtones. It’s almost as if these artists are painting symbols, painting a monosyllabic mythology of how their country was and is now with no turning point in sight. Parsing on ancient and modern to no great effect.

The only two artists who really lay it on the line, who confront the dragon, are Rong Rong’s photographs of a performance by artist Zhang Huan titled 12 square metres (1994, below) in which the artist sat naked, smeared in honey and fish oil in a local public toilet for an hour before cleansing himself in a polluted pond; and Sheng Qi’s Memories (Mother), Memories (Me) and Memories (Mao) (2000, below) in which the artist was deeply affected by the changed political climate following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and uses his disfigurement “as the backdrop for a series of self-portraits that juxtapose his past and present.”

These are the photographs that I will remember. The others, stolid, prosaic, are lost.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. All installation images are by Dr Marcus Bunyan and proceed in a clockwise direction around the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Cang Xin (Chinese, b. 1967) Six photographs from the Communication series (1996-2006)

 

Cang Xin (Chinese, 1967) 'Communication' 1996-2006ommunication 1999-b

 

Cang Xin (Chinese, 1967)
Communication
1996-2006
Type C photograph ed. 10/10
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Cang Xin (Chinese, 1967) 'Communication' 1996-2006ommunication 1999-b

 

Cang Xin (Chinese, 1967)
Communication
1996-2006
Type C photograph ed. 10/10
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Cang Xin is a celebrated performance artist who uses photography as an adjunct to his practice. In these photographs he is documenting a ritualistic performance in which he licks various objects that have a symbolic resonance for him. Each object has a link to China and its history, although those meanings remain intentionally obscured and subjective. The artist literally experiences the objects through a sense of taste and a physical action; the intimate act of licking becomes a gesture of communication or communion with the past.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing at left, Qiu Zhijie (Chinese, b. 1969) Tattoo no. 7 (1994); at second left, Rong Rong (Chinese, b. 1968) East Village Beijing no. 15 (1994); and at middle right, Zhang Huan (Chinese, b. 1965) Shanghai family tree (2001)

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese, b. 1969) 'Tattoo no. 7' 1994

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese, b. 1969)
Tattoo no. 7
1994
From the Tattoo series 1994
Type C photograph, ed. 8/10
101.6 x 76.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

In his Tattoo series, Qui Zhijie overlays self-portraits with drawings, images and objects, such as the coins shown here. Discussing this series, he writes, ‘The Tattoo series focuses on the problematic relationship between an image and its background … In this series the two find common ground. The substance of the subject, the weight of the person, and the physicality of the figure all dissolve … This series is a response to the futility and drowning of the individual brought about by the onslaught of the Chinese media culture which began to develop during the 1990s’.

 

Rong Rong (Chinese, b. 1968) 'East Village Beijing no. 15' 1994

 

Rong Rong (Chinese, b. 1968)
East Village Beijing no. 15
1994
Gelatin silver photograph, coloured dyes
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016

 

 

Rong Rong is well known for his images that show the lives and activities of the avant-garde Beijing East Village artistic community during the 1990s. This photograph is one of a series created to document a famous performance by fellow artist Zhang Huan, during which Zhang covered his naked body with honey and fish oil and sat on a stool in a public toilet, allowing flies to swarm over his body. Rong Rong’s photographs, made throughout the performance, form a crucial record of this performative action that was intended to comment on the squalid conditions in which the artists were living.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Zhang Huan (Chinese, b. 1965) Shanghai family tree (2001)

 

Zhang Huan (Chinese, b. 1965) 'Shanghai family tree' 2001

 

Zhang Huan (Chinese, b. 1965)
Shanghai family tree
2001
Type C photographs ed. 25/25
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Jason Yeap and Min Lee Wong, 2008
© Zhang Huan Studio

 

 

The faces of the two young men and the young woman in Zhang Huan’s suite of nine photographs are used like the blank pages in a book carrying an increasingly oppressive weight of words. The Chinese characters inscribed on their faces gradually obliterate their features and identities. In the final photograph, the trio are shown in front of a new housing development in Shanghai. Their features are totally obscured, suggesting a parallel between the loss of personal identity and the rapid pace of development that is rendering the city unrecognisable.

In 1999 the internationally renowned Chinese performance and video artist, sculptor and photographer Zhang Huan wrote of his distinctive approach to his practice: ‘The body is the only direct way through which I come to know society and society comes to know me. The body is proof of identity. The body is language’. The complex tangle of history and tradition that can override the individual appears as a theme in much of Zhang Huan’s avant-garde performances and photographs and, as seen in this work, is frequently expressed through the use of language. In Shanghai family tree Zhang Huan (to the left) poses with a man and woman, their faces becoming increasingly obscured by Chinese characters. This work seems to suggest the importance of language which, while it can overwhelm the individual, undoubtedly also helps define a person’s relationship to society.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing two photographs from Zhuang Hui’s One and Thirty series (1996)

 

Zhuang Hui (Chinese, b. 1963) 'Untitled' 1996

 

Zhuang Hui (Chinese, b. 1963)
Untitled
1996
From the One and Thirty
Type C photograph, ed. 3/3
61.0 x 51.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh in honour of Tony Ellwood, Director NGV, 2018
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The series title of these photographs, One and Thirty, is didactic. There are ‘thirty’ portraits in the sequence and ‘one’ figure who appears in each image, the ever-smiling figure of the artist. Each photograph shows Zhuang Hui posed with an individual he has selected as the representative of a particular vocational or social group. In one of the works shown here Zhuang is photographed seated beside an older man holding a baby on his knee, a classic doting grandfather; in the other image he is photographed with a smartly dressed, young professional woman.

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966) 'Standard family' 1996

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966)
Standard family
1996
Type C photograph, ed. 8/30
48.2 x 124.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2017
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Wang Jinsong’s Standard family project investigates contemporary Chinese culture and the effects of the one-child policy, which was introduced in China in the 1970s as a means of curbing population growth. Without any clear agenda or critical stance, Wang invited families to participate in photo shoots where the parents invariably elected to pose flanking their lone child. When the images are repeated and presented in a grid, the ‘standard’ nature of the family unit becomes evident, allowing for a reading of generic poses and expressions across the various families, and inviting speculation and commentary on the effects of collectivism when imposed on social structures.

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966) 'Standard family' 1996 (detail)

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966)
Standard family (detail)
1996
Type C photograph, ed. 8/30
48.2 x 124.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2017
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Qiu Zhijie’s Standard Pose series (1996-98)

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese b. 1969) 'Fine series A' 1996-98

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese b. 1969)
Fine series A
1996-98
From the Standard Pose series 1996-98
Type C photograph, ed. 9/10
58.0 x 61.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

In common with many photographers working in China in the 1990s, Qiu Zhijie uses the performing body in his images. Throughout his career he has combined performance, video and photography to create works that explore ideas of history, individuality and identity in contemporary China. The four photographs from the Standard Pose series reference propaganda images produced during the Cultural Revolution and consider the failure of the future that they promised. Photographed in a simple studio setting and wearing contemporary clothes, the models, with their overly dramatic poses and facial expressions, appear comical rather than heroic.

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese b. 1969) 'Fine series C' 1996-98

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese b. 1969)
Fine series C
1996-98
From the Standard Pose series 1996-98
Type C photograph, ed. 9/10
58.0 x 61.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese b. 1969) 'Fine series D' 1996-98

 

Qiu Zhijie (Chinese b. 1969)
Fine series D
1996-98
From the Standard Pose series 1996-98
Type C photograph, ed. 9/10
58.0 x 61.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China explores the work of established and emerging photo-artists working in a time of rapid social and economic change.

In the 1990s, Chinese photography became one of the most dynamic and exciting areas in contemporary international art. Artists in China increasingly began to use photography to not only to document their lives but to question and challenge the status quo. The ‘first generation’ of contemporary Chinese artists included here – those born in the 1960s – examined the societal impact of the Cultural Revolution, and reflected on their own and their families’ personal experiences. The next generation of photographers, born in the 1980s and later, bring not only different life experience, having come of age in the twenty-first century, but are actively engaged with the global community in ways that were not possible in previous decades.

The works included in this exhibition offer commentaries on individuality and identity, cultural change, the transformation of Chinese cities, and the impact of consumerism and globalisation on contemporary society.

The National Gallery of Victoria began to collect contemporary Chinese photography in 2004, and in 2008 presented the exhibition Body Language: Contemporary Chinese Photography. Since that time the Gallery has continued to build this aspect of the collection.

More recently, in 2016 and 2017, the NGV photography collection was transformed through the generosity of Larry Warsh. An American collector, publisher and founder of AW Asia, a private organisation and exhibition space in New York, Warsh presented a suite of twenty-nine contemporary Chinese photographs as a gift to the Gallery. His donation comprises works by some of the most important Chinese photographic artists working in the 1990s and early 2000s, including Hong Lei, Rong Rong and Wang Qingsong. Warsh’s presentation effectively doubled the NGV’s holdings of contemporary Chinese photography, and this exhibition, which includes a number of works from this important gift, was made possible because of his generosity.

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website [Online] Cited 23/12/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing at left, Wang Qingsong’s City walls (2002); at second left bottom Zhang Dali 2001 42A (2001) from the Demolition and Dialogue series; at centre, Chi Peng’s Apollo in transit (2005); at centre right, Yang Yongliang’s Eclipse (2008); and at right Huang Yan’s Chinese landscape – Tattoo (1999)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Wang Qingsong’s City walls (2002)

 

 

Wang Jinsong’s photograph shows aspects of the architecture and history of Beijing, drawing attention to the abandonment of time-honoured buildings, homes and ways of living. City walls comprises a grid of 360 images of buildings in Beijing. The great majority of the photographs are of generic concrete constructions, printed in a grey monotone. Interspersed among these are richly coloured images showing traditional architecture. The placement of the photographs in a grid creates an immediate visual link to the idiosyncratic brick construction of the older buildings, which are rapidly being replaced by new, uniform reinforced concrete structures.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing at top, Weng Fen’s On the wall: Guangzhou (4) (2002) and at bottom, Zhang Dali’s 2001 42A (2001)

 

Zhang Dali (Chinese, b. 1963) '2001 42A' 2001

 

Zhang Dali (Chinese, b. 1963)
2001 42A
2001
from the Demolition and dialogue series
type C photograph
63.5 × 114.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

This photograph, showing a partially demolished wall emblazoned with a large-scale painted outline of the artist’s head and his pseudonym, AK-47, brings together several aspects of the practice of multidisciplinary artist Zhang Dali. Zhang went into self-imposed exile from China in 1989 and when he returned to Beijing six years later, he found his home was in the midst of rapid change. Zhang wanted to protest the loss of traditional buildings, document the ruined remnants before they were swept away, and convey his sense of the loss of history and identity that was a consequence of those changes.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Chi Peng’s Apollo in transit (2005)

 

 

Chi Peng’s works often contain naked figures spiriting or running through ‘history’, while refusing any start or ending of their visual narrative. Unravelling like a traditional Chinese scroll, the red brick wall surrounding the Forbidden City extends the length of this digitally altered panoramic image. The artist has inserted repeat images of himself running left to right alongside the wall, in front of a variety of onlookers. A metaphor for East / West relations, this theatrical image brings together potent symbols of traditional and contemporary life in China.

 

Yongliang Yang (Chinese, b. 1980) 'Eclipse' 2008

 

Yongliang Yang (Chinese, b. 1980)
Eclipse
2008
From the On the quiet water, heavenly city series 2008
Inkjet print 73.0 x 200.0 cm (image) 81.6 x 208.2 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the Mering Corporation Pty Ltd through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2012
© Yang Yongliang

 

Yongliang Yang (Chinese, b. 1980) 'Eclipse' 2008 (detail)

 

Yongliang Yang (Chinese, b. 1980)
Eclipse (detail)
2008
From the On the quiet water, heavenly city series 2008
Inkjet print 73.0 x 200.0 cm (image) 81.6 x 208.2 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the Mering Corporation Pty Ltd through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2012
© Yang Yongliang

 

 

Yang Yongliang creates an optical illusion by combining elements of a traditional Chinese shānshuǐ (mountain-water) landscape painting with imagery from modern Shanghai life. From afar, the work appears to be a watercolour on paper, representing misty mountains and an ethereal sea stretching to the horizon. Upon closer inspection, the ghostly formations are revealed as digitally constructed collages of apartment blocks, buildings, construction sites and giant cranes. The built metropolis becomes indistinguishable from the natural landscape, highlighting the insidious modernisation, construction and environmental degradation characteristic of contemporary existence.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Huang Yan’s Chinese landscape – Tattoo No. 4 and Chinese landscape – Tattoo No. 1 (1999)

 

Huang Yan (Chinese, b. 1966) 'Chinese landscape - Tattoo (Number 1)' 1999, printed 2004

 

Huang Yan (Chinese, b. 1966)
Chinese landscape – Tattoo (Number 1)
1999, printed 2004
Type C photograph, ed. 2/12
80.1 x 108.0 cm irreg. (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2004
© Huang Yan, courtesy of Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

 

 

Prior to commencing his photography practice in the 1990s, Huang Yan trained as a painter. His recent work combines the centuries-old, traditional style of landscape painting with new technology; the images are contemporary while also affirming traditional Chinese culture and values. The artist alludes to complex traditions in this ‘self-portrait’ in which his bare chest is painted with a traditional shānshuǐ (mountain-water) landscape painting. The title of the work implies permanence, yet the scenes painted on the body are ephemeral, suggesting the fragility of the natural environment and the transience of the body.

 

Hong Lei (Chinese, b. 1960) 'After Zhao Ji's loquat and birds (Song dynasty)' 1999

 

Hong Lei (Chinese, b. 1960)
After Zhao Ji’s loquat and birds (Song dynasty)
1999
Type C photograph, ed. 9/10
60.9 x 76.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Hong Lei (Chinese, b. 1960) 'Autumn in the Forbidden City' 1998

 

Hong Lei (Chinese, b. 1960)
Autumn in the Forbidden City
1998
Type C photograph, ed. 7/10
60.9 x 76.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing at centre, Wang Qingsong’s Preincarnation (2002) and at right, Shi Guowei’s Cactus garden (2016)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing one image from Wang Qingsong’s Preincarnation (2002)

 

 

Wang Qingsong works in a theatrical style, constructing and photographing elaborate tableaux in which his models play the roles of characters from traditional Chinese stories and paintings, popular culture and Western historical painting. In the foreground of this work, men carry tools to vandalise or disassemble giant sacred ‘sculptures’ standing atop lotus thrones. The title suggests that the man has been reborn into the past, and upon arriving in Chinese pre-history, is set to destroy it in his relentless pursuit of materialism. This work alludes to China’s relationship with its early history, and the dismantling of tradition during a period of rampant consumerism and modernisation.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Shi Guowei’s Cactus garden (2016)

 

Shi Guowei (Chinese, b. 1977) 'Cactus garden' 2016

 

Shi Guowei (Chinese, b. 1977)
Cactus garden
2016
Gelatin silver photograph, colour dyes
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2017

 

 

Shi Guowei’s subtly coloured image is created through the application of layered pigment to the surface of the photograph. In some areas of the work, the colour is applied with lifelike precision, in others it registers as being ‘not quite right’. His palette recalls that of early colour photographs in which the colour fades or shifts over time, creating a nostalgic quality; however, it also creates an awareness of the artificiality inherent in the scene. Although the planting in this cactus garden is ‘naturalistic’, it is clearly a constructed landscape, and not the wild arid landscape it would seem at first glance.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing at top, Sheng Qi’s Memories (Mother), Memories (Me) and Memories (Mao) (2000)

 

 

Sheng Qi was a key member of the ’85 New Wave art movement in China that championed freedom of expression in the arts over state-approved Social Realism. He was deeply affected by the changed political climate following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and responded in a physically direct and shocking way. He cut off the little finger of his left hand, buried it in a flowerpot, and went into self-imposed exile in Rome. When he returned to Beijing a decade later, he used his disfigured hand as the backdrop for a series of self-portraits that juxtapose his past and present.

 

Sheng Qi (Chinese, b. 1965) 'Memories (Me)' 2000, printed 2004

 

Sheng Qi (Chinese, b. 1965)
Memories (Me)
2000, printed 2004
Type C photograph, ed. 2/5
119.1 x 80.5 cm irreg. (image) 126.9 x 86.9 cm irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2004
© Sheng Qi, courtesy of Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing at left, Wang Qingsong’s Another battle no. 3 (2001) and at right, Hong Hao’s My things no. 2 (2001-02)

 

Zhuang Hui (Chinese, b. 1963) 'Untitled' 1996

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966)
Another battle no. 3
2001
Type C photograph, ed. 1/20
100.0 x 66.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Wang Qingsong

 

 

Wang Qingsong works in a theatrical style, constructing and photographing elaborate tableaux in which his models play the roles of characters from traditional Chinese stories and paintings, contemporary life, popular culture, and Western historical painting. In this work he shows a wounded soldier, trapped behind the battlelines, caught between gunfire and razor wire that is littered with soft-drink cans, one of the most common forms of litter found globally. In this highly theatrical image Wang has taken imagery from popular cinema and used it to highlight the challenges presented by Western-style consumerism.

 

Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1965) 'My things no. 2' 2001-02

 

Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1965)
My things no. 2
2001-02
Type C photograph, ed. 6/15
59.6 x 101.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Completely filled from edge to edge with ordinary, domestic objects, this image is a visual archive of things used by the artist in everyday life. Describing his creative process, Hong Hao writes, ‘Day by day, I put my daily consumed objects into a scanner piece by piece, like keeping a visual diary. After scanning the original objects, I’ll save them in digital forms and categorise these digital files into different folders [on] my PC, in order to make a collage of them later on. This task, like a yogi’s daily practice, has become a habit in my day-to-day life as well as a tool to observe the human condition in contemporary consumer society’.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Wang Jinsong’s One hundred signs of demolition #1980 (1998)

 

Wang Jinsong (Chinese, 1963) 'One hundred signs of demolition #1980' 1998

 

Wang Jinsong (Chinese, 1963)
One hundred signs of demolition #1980
1998
Type C photograph ed. 22/30
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Wang Jinsong (Chinese, 1963) 'One hundred signs of demolition #1995' 1998

 

Wang Jinsong (Chinese, 1963)
One hundred signs of demolition #1995
1998
Type C photograph ed. 22/30
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The two photographs from the series One Hundred Signs of Demolition show the Chinese character ‘chai’, meaning ‘demolition’, that is commonly painted on the walls of buildings earmarked for destruction. For Wang Jinsong it has become a symbol of the inexorable push for urban reconstruction. In his photographs ‘chai’ came to stand for the loss of the ancient city, where buildings were once on a domestic scale and constructed to facilitate interaction in communal space, and their replacement with more socially isolating multistorey tower blocks.

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966) 'Last supper' 1997

 

Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b. 1966)
Last supper
1997
Type C photograph, ed. 3/20
30.5 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Last supper was one of a number of photographs commissioned for the exhibition Christian Dior and Chinese Artists that opened at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, in 2008. The work references the iconography of Western paintings of Christian subjects, in particular depictions of the Last Supper; however, in place of the twelve disciples Wang presents fashion models, and the simple meal traditionally depicted in Western art has been replaced with a feast of digitally enhanced, oversized, unnaturally perfect fruit and vegetables. The result is an image of affluence and excess.

 

Hai Bo (Chinese, b. 1962) 'I am Chairman Mao's Red Guard' 2000

 

Hai Bo (Chinese, b. 1962)
I am Chairman Mao’s Red Guard
2000
Type C photograph, ed. 9/18
40.6 x 60.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Hai Bo’s paired portraits illustrate the cultural shifts that have occurred over forty years as people in China have become increasingly able to show their individuality. In this image, a photograph of a young woman proudly wearing the uniform of the student paramilitary movement, known as the Red Guard, and holding Mao’s Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (commonly known as the Little Red Book) is shown counterpointed by a contemporary picture of the same person, now a smiling middle-aged woman wearing a floral dress. Such a garment would have been unthinkable – and unattainable – forty years earlier.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China' at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne showing Hai Bo’s Wood horse (1999)

 

Hai Bo (Chinese, 1962) 'Wood horse' 1999

 

Hai Bo (Chinese, 1962)
Wood horse
1999
Gelatin silver photograph ed. 16/20
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Larry Warsh, 2016
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

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12
Jan
20

European research tour exhibition: ‘Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, UK Part 2

Exhibition dates: 4th October 2019 – 19th January 2020

 

Theo van Doesburg The Ciné-bal (cinema-ballroom) at Café L'Aubette, Strasbourg, designed by Theo van Doesburg 1926-28

 

Theo van Doesburg (Dutch, 1883-1931)
The Ciné-bal (cinema-ballroom) at Café L’Aubette, Strasbourg, designed by Theo van Doesburg
1926-28
Image: Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, donation Van Moorsel, archive (code): DOES, inv.nr AB5252

 

 

Part 2 on this exceptional exhibition. Of particular interest here are:

the inspired paintings and drawings by Jeanne Mammen of Berlin nightlife which documents “the changing role of women and offer rare images of queer female desire.” Her work, associated with the New Objectivity and Symbolism movements, is incisive and sympathetic in its observation of difference and “depravity”. Her line is strong and the characterisation, assured;

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler’s “scenes of Hamburg after dark [which] convey a raw sense of possibility through bold line, clashing colour and startling imagery.” The attitude of the hands in the painting Lissy (1931, below) balanced by the simplicity of the chair at left, and the furious line and bleeding, washes of watercolour of the men at the table at right – replete with their protruding, predatory teeth – make this a compelling image.

I think I might have found myself a new art hero.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Barbican Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the media photographs in the posting. All installation images are iPhone images by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Strasbourg L'Aubette 1928 wall text

Strasbourg L'Aubette 1928 wall text

 

Strasbourg: L’Aubette 1928 wall text
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Into The Night: Cabarets And Clubs In Modern Art

 

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art
Installation view Barbican Art Gallery 4 October 2019 – 19 January 2020
© Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Theo van Doesburg L'Aubette: Projet de composition pour le sol du café-brasserie et du café-restaurant (L'Aubette: Design for a composition for the floor of the café-brasserie and the café-restaurant) 1927 (installation view)

 

Theo van Doesburg (Dutch, 1883-1931)
L’Aubette: Projet de composition pour le sol du café-brasserie et du café-restaurant (L’Aubette: Design for a composition for the floor of the café-brasserie and the café-restaurant) (installation view)
1927
Gouache and graphite pencil on tracing paper
Paris, Centre Pompidou – Museé national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Theo van Doesburg L'Aubette: Projet de composition pour le sol du café-brasserie et du café-restaurant (L'Aubette: Design for a composition for the floor of the café-brasserie and the café-restaurant) 1927 (installation view)

 

Theo van Doesburg (Dutch, 1883-1931)
L’Aubette: Projet de composition pour le sol du café-brasserie et du café-restaurant (L’Aubette: Design for a composition for the floor of the café-brasserie and the café-restaurant) (installation view)
1927
Gouache and graphite pencil on tracing paper
Paris, Centre Pompidou – Museé national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Theo van Doesburg. Final colour design for the screen wall of the Ciné-Dancing at L'Aubette 1927 (installation view)

 

Theo van Doesburg (Dutch, 1883-1931)
Final colour design for the screen wall of the Ciné-Dancing at L’Aubette (installation view)
1927
East India ink and paint on paper
Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam. Gift Van Moorsel
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Theo van Doesburg Ciné-Dancing wall text
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Into The Night: Cabarets And Clubs In Modern Art

 

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art (downstairs gallery, room recreation)
Installation view Barbican Art Gallery 4 October 2019 – 19 January 2020
© Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

 

Downstairs gallery, room recreation

 

Sophie Taeuber-Arp. 'Aubette 63' 1927 (installation view)

 

Sophie Taeuber-Arp (Swiss, 1889-1943)
Aubette 63 (installation view)
1927
Gouache on paper
Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Paris: Loïe Fuller 1890s wall text

 

Paris: Loïe Fuller 1890s wall text
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown, Loie Fuller, c. 1901

 

Unknown photographer (attributed to Falk Studio)
Loïe Fuller
c. 1901
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

 

 

Auguste and Louis Lumiere
Film Lumiere no. 765, 1 – Danse serpentine [II]
c. 1897-99
Hand-coloured 35mm film
49 secs (complete clip)
Video: Marcus Bunyan

 

Magnificent! Not Loïe Fuller but one of her many imitators. She refused to be captured on film.

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 'Miss Loïe Fuller' 1893 (installation view)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 'Miss Loïe Fuller' 1893

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 'Miss Loïe Fuller' 1893 wall text

 

Installation views of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Miss Loïe Fuller 1893

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901)
Miss Loïe Fuller
1893
Bibliothèque de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Collections Jacques Doucet
Inv. no. NUM EM TOULOUSE-LAUTREC 49 e
Courtesy Bibliothèque de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Collections Jacques Doucet

 

Installation view showing Jules Cheret Folies Bergere La Loie Fuller lithographs

Jules Chéret. 'Fioles Bergère, La Loïe Fuller' 1893 (installation view)

 

Jules Chéret (French, 1836-1932)
Fioles Bergère, La Loïe Fuller (installation view)
1893
Lithograph
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jules Chéret. 'Folies Bergère, La Danse du Feu' (The Fire Dance) 1897 (installation view)

 

Jules Chéret (French, 1836-1932)
Folies Bergère, La Danse du Feu (The Fire Dance) (installation view)
1897
Lithograph
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Paris: Chat Noir 1880s-90s

Paris: Chat Noir 1880s-90s

 

Paris: Chat Noir 1880s-90s wall text
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation views of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Henri Rivière (1864-1951) Poster for the performances Clairs de lune by Georges Fragerolle, L'honnête gendarme by Jean Richepin and Le treizième travail d'Hercule by Eugène Courboin (Le Chat Noir, 16 December 1896) (installation view)

 

Henri Rivière (French, 1864-1951)
Poster for the performances Clairs de lune by Georges Fragerolle, L’honnête gendarme by Jean Richepin and Le treizième travail d’Hercule by Eugène Courboin (Le Chat Noir, 16 December 1896) (installation view)
Cliché and letterpress printing in black on wove paper on linen
58.7 cm x 42.2 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Henri Rivière and Henry Somm's shadow theatre

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Henri Rivière and Henry Somm's shadow theatre

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Henri Rivière and Henry Somm's shadow theatre

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Henri Rivière and Henry Somm's shadow theatre

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Henri Rivière and Henry Somm's shadow theatre

 

Installation views of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Henri Rivière and Henry Somm’s shadow theatre and wall text
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Into The Night: Cabarets And Clubs In Modern Art

Into The Night: Cabarets And Clubs In Modern Art

 

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art (downstairs gallery, room recreation)
Installation view Barbican Art Gallery 4 October 2019 – 19 January 2020
© Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

 

Downstairs gallery, room recreation

 

Adolphe-Leon Wilette. 'La Vierge verte' (The Green Virgin) c. 1881 (installation view)

 

Adolphe-Leon Wilette (French, 1857-1926)
La Vierge verte (The Green Virgin) (installation view)
c. 1881
Oil on canvas
Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In this oil study for a stained-glass window exhibited inside the cabaret, the black cat is held aloft in adoration under the full moon, as though part of an occult ceremony. The ‘chat’ noir’ of the cabaret’s title was celebrated throughout its design, symbolising fierce independence as well as night-time frolics. It gazes imperiously at the onlooker from Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s famous posters, perches on a crescent moon in Adolphe-Léon Willette’s street sign, and endangers pet goldfish in humorous cartoons.

Wall text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. 'Réouverture du cabaret du Chat Noir' (Reopening of the Chat Noir Cabaret) 1896 (installation view)

 

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (Swiss-born French, 1859-1923)
Réouverture du cabaret du Chat Noir (Reopening of the Chat Noir Cabaret) (installation view)
1896
Lithograph
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen Réouverture du cabaret du Chat Noir (Reopening of the Chat Noir Cabaret) 1896

 

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (Swiss-born French, 1859-1923)
Réouverture du cabaret du Chat Noir (Reopening of the Chat Noir Cabaret)
1896
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

George Auriol Théâtre du Chat Noir (Couverture aux coquelicots) (Programme for the Chat noir Theatre (Cover with Poppies)) 1890 (installation view)

 

George Auriol (French, 1863-1938)
Théâtre du Chat Noir (Couverture aux coquelicots) (Programme for the Chat noir Theatre (Cover with Poppies)) (installation view)
1890
Photomechanical print
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Opening 4 October 2019, Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art explores the social and artistic role of cabarets, cafés and clubs around the world. Spanning the 1880s to the 1960s, the exhibition presents a dynamic and multi-faceted history of artistic production. The first major show staged on this theme, it features both famed and little-known sites of the avant-garde – these creative spaces were incubators of radical thinking, where artists could exchange provocative ideas and create new forms of artistic expression. Into the Night offers an alternative history of modern art that highlights the spirit of experimentation and collaboration between artists, performers, designers, musicians and writers such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Loïe Fuller, Josef Hoffmann, Giacomo Balla, Theo van Doesburg and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, as well as Josephine Baker, Jeanne Mammen, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Ramón Alva de la Canal and Ibrahim El-Salahi.

Focusing on global locations from New York to Tehran, London, Paris, Mexico City, Berlin, Vienna and Ibadan, Into the Night brings together over 350 works rarely seen in the UK, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, films and archival material. Liberated from the confines of social and political norms, many of the sites provided immersive, often visceral experiences, manifesting the ideals of the artists and audiences who founded and frequented them. The exhibition features full-scale recreations of specific spaces, such as the multi-coloured ceramic tiled bar of the Cabaret Fledermaus in Vienna (1907), designed by Josef Hoffmann for the Wiener Werkstätte, and the striking abstract composition of the Ciné-Dancing designed by Theo van Doesburg for L’Aubette in Strasbourg (1926-28). The exhibition will feature a soundscape created by hrm199, the studio of acclaimed artist Haroon Mirza, specifically commissioned for the show.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “Into the Night casts a spotlight on some of the most electrifying cabarets and clubs of the modern era. Whether a creative haven, intoxicating stage or liberal hangout, all were magnets for artists, designers and performers to come together, collaborate and express themselves freely. Capturing the essence of these global incubators of experimentation and cross-disciplinarity, immersive 1:1 scale interiors will take the visitor on a captivating journey of discovery.”

Into the Night begins in Paris, on the eve of the 20th century, with two thrilling and iconic locations of the avant-garde. The theatrical shadow plays of the Chat Noir in the 1880s are brought to life through original silhouettes and works that decorated the interior of the cabaret, which acted as a forum for satire and debate for figures such as founder Rodolphe Salis, artist Henri Rivière and composer Erik Satie. The captivating serpentine dances of Loïe Fuller staged at the Folies Bergère in the 1890s were trail-blazing experiments in costume, light and movement. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec captured her performances in his extraordinary series of delicately hand-coloured lithographs, brought together for the exhibition. Visitors will encounter the immersive “Gesamtkunstwerk” (total work of art) design of the Cabaret Fledermaus (1907) in Vienna by the Wiener Werkstätte, where experimental cabaret productions were staged. The exhibition includes original documentation of Oskar Kokoschka’s exuberant puppet theatre and Gertrude Barrison’s expressionist dance.

The Cave of the Golden Calf (1912), an underground haunt in Soho epitomising decadence and hedonism, is evoked through designs for the interior by British artists Spencer Gore and Eric Gill, as well as Wyndham Lewis’s highly stylised programmes for the eclectic performance evenings – advertised at the time as encompassing “the picturesque dances of the South, its fervid melodies, Parisian wit, English humour.” In Zurich, the radical atmosphere of the Cabaret Voltaire (1916) is manifested through absurdist sound poetry and fantastical masks that deconstruct body and language, evoking the anarchic performances by Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings and Marcel Janco. This is the birthplace of Dada, where humour, chaos and ridicule reign. Two significant clubs in Rome provide insights into the electrifying dynamism of Futurism in Italy in the 1920s. Giacomo Balla’s mesmerising Bal Tic Tac (1921) is summoned by colour-saturated designs for the club’s interior, capturing the swirling movement of dancers. Also on show are drawings and furnishings for Fortunato Depero’s spectacular inferno-inspired Cabaret del Diavolo (1922) which occupied three floors representing heaven, purgatory and hell. Depero’s flamboyant tapestry writhes with dancing demons, expressing the club’s motto “Tutti all’inferno!!! (Everyone to hell!!!)”.

A few years later, a group of artists and writers from the radical movement Estridentismo, including Ramón Alva de la Canal, Manuel Maples Arce and Germán Cueto, began to meet at the Café de Nadie (Nobody’s Café) in Mexico City, responding to volatile Post-Revolutionary change and the urban metropolis. The ¡30-30! group expressed its values by holding a major print exhibition (partially reassembled here) in a travelling circus tent open to all. Meanwhile in Strasbourg, Theo van Doesburg, Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp worked together to create the L’Aubette (1926-28), conceived as the ultimate “deconstruction of architecture”, with bold geometric abstraction as its guiding principle. The vast building housed a cinema-ballroom, bar, tearoom, billiards room, restaurant and more, each designed as immersive environments.

After a period of restraint in Germany during the First World War, the 1920s heralded an era of liberation and the relaxation of censorship laws. Numerous clubs and bars in metropolitan cities, such as Berlin, playing host to heady cabaret revues and daring striptease; the notorious synchronised Tiller Girls are captured in Karl Hofer’s iconic portrait. Major works by often overlooked female artists such as Jeanne Mammen and Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, as well as George Grosz, Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, capture the pulsating energy of these nightclubs and the alternative lifestyles that flourished within them during the 1920s and 1930s. During the same time in New York, the literary and jazz scenes thrived and co-mingled in the predominantly African American neighbourhood of Harlem, where black identity was re-forged and debated. Paintings and prints by Aaron Douglas and Jacob Lawrence convey the vibrant atmosphere and complex racial and sexual politics of the time, while poetry by Langston Hughes and early cinema featuring Duke Ellington shed light on the rich range of creative expression thriving within the city.

Into the Night also celebrates the lesser known but highly influential Mbari Artists and Writers Club, founded in the early 1960s in Nigeria. Focusing on two of the club’s key locations, in Ibadan and Osogbo, the exhibition explores how they were founded as laboratories for postcolonial artistic practices, providing a platform for a dazzling range of activities – including open-air dance and theatre performances, featuring ground breaking Yoruba operas by Duro Ladipo and Fela Kuti’s Afro-jazz; poetry and literature readings; experimental art workshops; and pioneering exhibitions by African and international artists such as Colette Omogbai, Ibrahim El-Salahi and Uche Okeke. Meanwhile in Tehran, Rasht 29 emerged in1966 as a creative space for avant-garde painters, poets, musicians and filmmakers to freely discuss their practice. Spontaneous performances were celebrated and works by artists like Parviz Tanavoli and Faramarz Pilaram hung in the lounge while a soundtrack including Led Zeppelin and the Beatles played constantly.

The exhibition is curated and organised by Barbican Centre, London, in collaboration with the Belvedere, Vienna.

Press release from the Barbican Art Gallery [Online] Cited 28/12/2019

 

Berlin: Weimar Nightlife 1920s-30s

Berlin: Weimar Nightlife 1920s-30s

Berlin: Weimar Nightlife 1920s-30s

 

Berlin: Weimar Nightlife 1920s-30s wall text
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rudolf Schlichter Damenkneipe (Women's Club) c. 1925

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
Damenkneipe (Women’s Club)
c. 1925
Private collection
© Viola Roehr v. Alvensleben, Munich
Photo: akg-images

 

Rudolf Schlichter. 'Damenkneipe' (Women's Club) c. 1925 (installation view)

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
Damenkneipe (Women’s Club) (installation view)
c. 1925
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view with Rudolf Schlichter’s Damenkneipe (Women’s Club) c. 1925 at left, followed by work by Jeanne Mammen
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen. 'Bar' c. 1930 (installation view)

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Bar (installation view)
c. 1930
Ömer Koç Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen Bar c. 1930

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Bar
c. 1930
Ömer Koç Collection
© DACS, 2019

 

Jeanne Mammen Bierseidelbetrachtung I (The Contemplative Drinkers I) c. 1929 (installation view)

Jeanne Mammen Bierseidelbetrachtung I (The Contemplative Drinkers I) c. 1929 (installation view detail)

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Bierseidelbetrachtung I (The Contemplative Drinkers I) (installation views)
c. 1929
Watercolour and pencil on paper
Ömer Koç Collection
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen. 'Untitled (Vor dem Auftritt)' (Before the Performance) c. 1928 (installation view)

Jeanne Mammen. 'Untitled (Vor dem Auftritt)' (Before the Performance) c. 1928 (installation view)

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Untitled (Vor dem Auftritt) (Before the Performance) (installation views)
c. 1928
Jeanne Mammen Foundation at Stadtmuseum Berlin
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen. 'Café Nollendorf' c. 1931 (installation view)

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Café Nollendorf (installation view)
c. 1931
Watercolour and India ink over pencil
Private collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Jeanne Mammen’s paintings and drawings of Berlin nightlife document the changing role of women and offer rare images of queer female desire. In contrast to the bitingly satirical images characteristic of George Grosz and Max Beckmann, Mammen sympathetically portrays her mostly female figures. Café Nollendorf is one of several by Mammen published in Curt Moreck’s subversive 1931 Guide to ‘Depraved’ Berlin (shown nearby). It illustrates his account of a lesbian club for ‘open-minded’ clientele. Mammen was also a successful commercial artist, recording modern fashions and mores in popular magazines.

Wall text

 

Otto Dix. 'Anita Berber' 1925 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Anita Berber (installation view)
1925
Pastel on paper
Private collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Otto Dix met the 26-year-old cabaret dancer and silent film star Anita Berber in Dūsseldorf in 1925. Berber was among the most provocative performers of her time, appearing at major Berlin venues like the Wintergarten and the Apollo, as well as the political cabaret Schall und Rauch and the lesbian club Topkeller. In her notorious dance ‘Cocaine’, accompanied by Camille Saint-Saëns’ Valse mignonne (1896), Berber played a sex worker and addict, wearing a leather corset with her breast exposed. Simulating trembles of pain, she dances spasms of hallucination before collapsing on the floor. Despite her theatrical makeup, Dix’s portrait offers a more intimate side of Berber.

Wall text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing on the left, the work of Dodo Burgner and on the right, the work of George Grosz.
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Dodo (Dodo Burgner, German, 1927-1933)
Revue neger (Josephine Baker) (installation view)
c. 1926
Gouache over pencil on cardboard
Collection Krümmer, Hamburg
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Dodo. 'The Fortune Teller', published in 'ULK' February 1929 (installation view)

Dodo. 'The Fortune Teller', published in 'ULK' February 1929 (installation view)

 

Dodo (Dodo Burgner, German, 1927-1933)
The Fortune Teller, published in ULK (installation views)
February 1929
Gouache over pencil on cardboard
Collection Krümmer, Hamburg
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

George Grosz. 'Schönheit, dich will ich preisen' (Beauty, Thee Will I Praise) 1923 (installation view)

George Grosz. 'Schönheit, dich will ich preisen' (Beauty, Thee Will I Praise) 1923 (installation view)

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959)
Schönheit, dich will ich preisen (Beauty, Thee Will I Praise) (installation views)
1923
Offset lithograph
Publisher: Malik-Verlag, Berlin
Printer: Kunstanstalt Dr. Selle & Co. A.G. Berlin
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing at left, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler’s Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub) 1930
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler's Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub) 1930 (installation view)

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler's Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub) 1930 (installation view)

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler (German, 1899-1940)
Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub) (installation view)
1930
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Berlin
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub) wall text
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub) 1930

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler (German, 1899-1940)
Ausblick im Nachtlokal (View of a Nightclub)
1930
Private collection, Berlin

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing at left, showing at left, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler’s Lissy (1931) and at right, Karl Hofer’s Tiller Girls (before 1927)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler Lissy 1931 (installation view)

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler Lissy 1931 (installation view)

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler Lissy 1931 (installation view)

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler Lissy 1931 (installation view detail)

 

Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler (German, 1899-1940)
Lissy (installation views)
1931
Watercolour and pencil on paper
Private collection. Courtesy Städel Museum, Frankfurt
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing at left, Karl Hofer’s Tiller Girls
(before 1927)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Karl Hofer. 'Tiller Girls' before 1927 (installation view)

 

Karl Hofer (German, 1878-1955)
Tiller Girls (installation view)
before 1927
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Karl Hofer Tiller Girls before 1927

 

Karl Hofer (German, 1878-1955)
Tiller Girls
before 1927
Kunsthalle Emden – Stiftung Henri und Eske Nannen
© Elke Walford, Fotowerkstatt Hamburg

 

Into The Night: Cabarets And Clubs In Modern Art

 

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art
Installation view Barbican Art Gallery 4 October 2019 – 19 January 2020
© Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London with Erna Schmidt-Caroll’s
Chansonette (Singer) third from left
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Erna Schmidt-Caroll. 'Chansonette' (Singer) c. 1928 (installation view)

Erna Schmidt-Caroll. 'Chansonette' (Singer) c. 1928 (installation view)

 

Erna Schmidt-Caroll (German, 1896-1964)
Chansonette (Singer) (installation views)
c. 1928
Private collection
© Estate Erna Schmidt-Caroll
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Erna Schmidt-Caroll Chansonette (Singer) c. 1928

 

Erna Schmidt-Caroll (German, 1896-1964)
Chansonette (Singer)
c. 1928
Private collection
© Estate Erna Schmidt-Caroll

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing the work of George Grosz and Max Beckmann

 

George Grosz. 'Menschen in Cáfe' (People in a Cáfe) 1917 (installation view)

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959)
Menschen in Cáfe (People in a Cáfe) (installation view)
1917
Black ink and pen on paper
On loan from the Trustees of the British Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Max Beckmann. 'Nackttanz' (Striptease), from 'Berliner Reise' (Trip to Berlin) 1922 (installation view)

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Nackttanz (Striptease), from Berliner Reise (Trip to Berlin) (installation view)
1922
Lithograph, one from a portfolio of eleven (including cover)
Publisher: J.B. Neumann, Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen. 'Sie reprasentiert!' (She Represents!), published in 'Simplicissimus' vol. 32, no 47, February 1928

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Sie reprasentiert! (She Represents!), published in Simplicissimus vol. 32, no 47, February 1928
Printed magazine
Jeanne Mammen Foundation at Stadtmuseum Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen. 'Maskenball' (Masked Ball), published in 'Jugend' vol. 34, no 5, January 1929

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Maskenball (Masked Ball), published in Jugend vol. 34, no 5, January 1929
Printed magazine
Jeanne Mammen Foundation at Stadtmuseum Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeanne Mammen. 'Fasting' (Carnival), published in Simplicissimus vol. 34, no 46, February 1930

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Fasting (Carnival), published in Simplicissimus vol. 34, no 46, February 1930
Printed magazine
Jeanne Mammen Foundation at Stadtmuseum Berlin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer 'Slide on the Razor', performance as part of the Haller Revue 'Under and Over', Berlin, 1923

 

Unknown photographer
‘Slide on the Razor’, performance as part of the Haller Revue ‘Under and Over’, Berlin, 1923
Courtesy Feral House

 

Ibadan & Osogbo Mbari Clubs 1961-66 wall text

Ibadan & Osogbo Mbari Clubs 1961-66 wall text

Ibadan & Osogbo Mbari Clubs 1961-66 wall text

 

Ibadan & Osogbo Mbari Clubs 1961-66 wall text
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art' at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing at left, Twins Seven-Seven Devil’s Dog (1964) and at right, Twins Seven-Seven THE BEAUTIFUL LADY and THE FULLBODIED GENTLEMAN THAT REDUCED TO HEAD (1967)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Twins Seven-Seven. 'Devil's Dog' (1964) (installation view detail)

 

Twins Seven-Seven
Devil’s Dog (installation view detail)
1964
Ink, gouache and varnish  on paper
Iwalewahaus, Universitat Bayreuth
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Twins Seven-Seven
THE BEAUTIFUL LADY and THE FULLBODIED GENTLEMAN THAT REDUCED TO HEAD (installation views)
1967
Gouache on paper
Iwalewahaus, Universitat Bayreuth
Photos: Marcus Bunyan