Archive for the 'drawing' Category

14
Aug
20

Pamphlet: ‘Australian Aboriginal Art’ with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon, National Museum of Victoria, 1952

August 2020

 

Cover of the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon 1952

 

Unknown artist. Cover of the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art, National Museum of Victoria, 1952

 

 

I found this rare pamphlet in an op shop (charity shop). I have decided to publish it on Art Blart as part of a historical record, so that it is available to researchers into Indigenous Australian culture and art. While I believe that the text and images contain no information of secret sacred importance, if anyone has any concerns please contact me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au.

What is fascinating about the text is that it was originally published by the National Museum of Victoria in 1929, and then reprinted verbatim for this pamphlet in 1952. In other words, no new scholarship had taken place in the intervening 23 years that was noteworthy enough for the Museum to feel it needed to update the text. Other interesting facts are that Aboriginal Art was housed within the Australian Ethnology section, art as an outcome of the study of the characteristics of different people, and that it was known as “primitive art” made by “primitive peoples”. Even the National Gallery of Australia had a “primitive art” gallery up until the 1980s!

Of course, the texts are of their time. In the first text “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett, he questions the quality, authenticity and age of the rock paintings at Mootwingee – whether they are a few centuries old or of old antiquity it – and apparently, it makes no difference. Barrett then praises the magic making art of Indigenous Australians, while at the same time encouraging us to look upon their art as merely pictures (Barrett, p. 11). He seems to be equally attracted and repulsed by “primitive art”, as an expression of man’s artistic tendency, in cave paintings and rock-carvings whose forms are grotesque and even repulsive.

Barrett admits that their finest decorations, on weapons and sacred objects, are magic: “Here is a magic truly; no “Art for Art’s sake.” (Barrett, p. 12). And then in the next paragraph, while extolling that we should have more interest in the Australian race, and learn its culture, he announces that Indigenous Australians are “living fossils” and are failing. Using the terminology of Edward S. Curtis (who photographed the First Nations Peoples of America in the early 20th century), they are The Vanishing Race (1904), the title of his photograph of Navajo riding off into an indeterminate distance. Destined for extinction. Further, Barrett states that every “relic” of the Aboriginals is worth preserving, as though all Indigenous people were already a historical artefact, no longer living. The use of the word relic is informative: its derivation comes from Old French relique (originally plural), from Latin reliquiae, the latter mid 17th century Latin, feminine plural (used as a noun) of reliquus ‘remaining’, based on linquere ‘to leave’. In other words, they remain and leave at one and the same time, the remainder only a husk of the original.

In the second text “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon, the researcher and psychologist into Indigenous art is urged, indeed must, divest themselves of all civilised conceptions and mentality and assume those of a prehistoric man – or that of a child. “Prior or the British settlement of Eastern Australia – to be precise, prior to Governor Phillip establishing his colony at Port Jackson, there appears to be no record of aboriginal paintings or carvings.” (A.S. Kenyon, p. 22) What Kenyon seems to be suggesting is that it is only through the influence of the “civilised” Europeans that Indigenous Australians begin painting and carving. A description of the various representational techniques of Indigenous Australian art making follows, the art divided into two classes: fixed and portable. “In the first class, those of fixed objects, we have (a) rock-paintings; (b) rock-carvings; (c) tree-carvings; (d) tree-paintings; (e) ground-paintings; (f) ground-models. In the second, or portable class, there are (a) figures or models; (b) weapons, implements and utensils, decorated either by painting or carving; (c) ceremonial objects; (d) ornaments or personal adornment; (e) bark-paintings. (A.S. Kenyon, p. 27)

I believe it is important to have these texts (which are less than 100 years old), and the paradoxical historical attitudes towards Australian Indigenous culture and art they contain, published online. The pamphlet recognises Aboriginal culture yet also rules a ledger under it. (Professor Tom Griffiths’ observations on Geoffrey Blainey’s book Triumph of the Nomads). The attitude was that while this “primitive art” was worthy of study, ultimately it belonged to an archaic, fragile culture which was destined to be consigned to history.

I am so glad that this spiritual culture (and the changing Western understanding of Australian Indigenous art and culture) has proved the authors wrong.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Title page of the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon 1952

 

Title page of the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952

 

Preface of the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon 1952

 

Preface of the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952

 

"The Primitive Artist" by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 5

 

"The Primitive Artist" by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 6-7

 

Mootwingee Rock Carvings

 

Unknown photographer. “Mootwingee Rock Carvings. Pecked Type,” in “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 6

 

Great Rock Shelter at Mootwingee, New South Wales

 

Unknown photographer. “Great Rock Shelter at Mootwingee, New South Wales,” in “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 7

 

Rock Engraving, Mootwingee

 

Unknown photographer. “Rock Engraving, Mootwingee,” in “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 7

 

"The Primitive Artist" by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 8-9

 

from North Queensland

 

“Painted Shields from North Queensland,” in “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 9

 

"The Primitive Artist" by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 10-11

 

Bark Drawing. Northern Territory. Native in canoe spearing crocodile

 

“Bark Drawing. Northern Territory. Native in canoe spearing crocodile,” in “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 11

 

"The Primitive Artist" by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 12-13

 

Rock Painting, South Africa

 

“Rock Painting, South Africa,” in “The Primitive Artist” by Charles Barrett from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 12

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 14-15

 

 

“Native Corroboree. Drawn by Tommy Barnes, a Mission Aboriginal, showing European influence,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 14.

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 16-17

 

Prehistoric Rock Painting, Spain. Showing superimposed figures

 

“Prehistoric Rock Painting, Spain. Showing superimposed figures,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 16

 

Stone Churingas from Central Australia. Showing symbolic and totemic figures

 

“Stone Churingas from Central Australia. Showing symbolic and totemic figures,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 17

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 18-19

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 20-21

 

Rock Paintings. Prince Regent River, North-west Australia. Superimposed figures

 

“Rock Paintings. Prince Regent River, North-west Australia. Superimposed figures,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 21

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 22-23

 

Bark drawing representing Settler's Homestead, Lake Tyrrell, Victoria

 

“Bark drawing representing Settler’s Homestead, Lake Tyrrell, Victoria,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 23

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 24-25

 

Rock Carvings, Port Jackson, New South Wales. Grooved type

 

“Rock Carvings, Port Jackson, New South Wales. Grooved type,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 25

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 26-27

 

Rock Painting, Prince Regent River, North-west Australia. From Bradshaw's original sketch

 

“Rock Painting, Prince Regent River, North-west Australia. From Bradshaw’s original sketch,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 26

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 28-29

 

Stencilled Hands in the Cave of Hands, Victoria Range, Victoria

 

Unknown photographer. “Stencilled Hands in the Cave of Hands, Victoria Range, Victoria,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 29

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 30-31

 

Rock Painting, Cave of the Serpent, Langi Ghiran, Victoria

 

“Rock Painting, Cave of the Serpent, Langi Ghiran, Victoria,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 30

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 32-33

 

Carved Tree. From a photograph by Edmund Milne

 

Edmund Milne. “Carved Tree. From a photograph by Edmund Milne,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 32

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 34-35

 

Decorated Shields, Carved and Painted

 

“Decorated Shields, Carved and Painted,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 34

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 36-37

 

Painted Bark Bags, Northern Territory

 

“Painted Bark Bags, Northern Territory,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 36

 

"The Art of the Australian Aboriginal" by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet 'Australian Aboriginal Art' by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon

 

“The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon in the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 38-39

 

Bark Paintings, Alligator River, Northern Territory

 

“Bark Paintings, Alligator River, Northern Territory,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 38

 

Making Tracings of Rock Paintings, Glen Isla Rock Shelter, Victoria Range, Victoria

 

Unknown photographer. “Making Tracings of Rock Paintings, Glen Isla Rock Shelter, Victoria Range, Victoria,” in “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal” by A.S. Kenyon from the pamphlet Australian Aboriginal Art with texts by Charles Barrett and A.S. Kenyon (text reprinted from the 1929 exhibition), National Museum of Victoria, 1952, p. 39

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

22
Jul
20

Exhibition: ‘2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s-1860s’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd December 2019 – closing date to be announced due to the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Antoine-François-Jean Claudet. ‘The Chess Players’ c. 1845 (detail)

 

Likely by Antoine-François-Jean Claudet (French, Lyon 1797 – 1867 London)
Possibly by Nicolaas Henneman (Dutch, Heemskerk 1813 – 1898 London)
The Chess Players (detail)
c. 1845
Salted paper print from paper negative
Sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 11/16 in. (24.5 × 19.6cm)
Image: 7 13/16 × 5 13/16 in. (19.8 × 14.7cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

An excellent selection of photographs in this posting. I particularly like the gender-bending, shape-shifting, age-distorting 1850s-60s Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits by an unknown artist. I’ve never seen anything like it before, especially from such an early date. Someone obviously took a lot of care, had a great sense of humour and definitely had a great deal of fun making the album.

Other fascinating details include the waiting horses and carriages in Fox Talbot’s View of the Boulevards of Paris (1843); the mannequin perched above the awning of the photographic studio in Dowe’s Photograph Rooms, Sycamore, Illinois (1860s); and the chthonic underworld erupting from the tilting ground in Carleton E. Watkins’ California Oak, Santa Clara Valley (c. 1863).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

When The Met first opened its doors in 1870, photography was still relatively new. Yet over the preceding three decades it had already developed into a complex pictorial language of documentation, social and scientific inquiry, self-expression, and artistic endeavour.

These initial years of photography’s history are the focus of this exhibition, which features new and recent gifts to the Museum, many offered in celebration of The Met’s 150th anniversary and presented here for the first time. The works on view, from examples of candid portraiture and picturesque landscape to pioneering travel photography and photojournalism, chart the varied interests and innovations of early practitioners.

The exhibition, which reveals photography as a dynamic medium through which to view the world, is the first of a two-part presentation that plays on the association of “2020” with clarity of vision while at the same time honouring farsighted and generous collectors and patrons. The second part will move forward a century, bringing together works from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Antoine-François-Jean Claudet. ‘The Chess Players’ c. 1845

 

Likely by Antoine-François-Jean Claudet (French, Lyon 1797 – 1867 London)
Possibly by Nicolaas Henneman (Dutch, Heemskerk 1813 – 1898 London)
The Chess Players
c. 1845
Salted paper print from paper negative
Sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 11/16 in. (24.5 × 19.6cm)
Image: 7 13/16 × 5 13/16 in. (19.8 × 14.7cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Lewis Carroll (British, Daresbury, Cheshire 1832 - 1898 Guildford) '[Alice Liddell]' June 25, 1870

 

Lewis Carroll (British, Daresbury, Cheshire 1832 – 1898 Guildford)
[Alice Liddell]
June 25, 1870
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Sheet: 6 1/4 × 5 9/16 in. (15.9 × 14.1cm)
Image: 5 7/8 × 4 15/16 in. (15 × 12.6cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Eighteen-year-old Alice Liddell’s slumped pose, clasped hands, and sullen expression invite interpretation. A favoured model of Lewis Carroll, and the namesake of his novel Alice in Wonderland, Liddell had not seen the writer and photographer for seven years when this picture was made; her mother had abruptly ended all contact in 1863. The young woman poses with apparent unease in this portrait intended to announce her eligibility for marriage. The session closed a long and now controversial history with Carroll, whose portraits of children continue to provoke speculation. In what was to be her last sitting with the photographer, Liddell embodies the passing of childhood innocence that Carroll romanticised through the fictional Alice.

 

Unknown photographer (American) '[Surveyor]' c. 1854

 

Unknown photographer (American)
[Surveyor]
c. 1854
Daguerreotype
Case: 1.6 × 9.2 × 7.9cm (5/8 × 3 5/8 × 3 1/8 in.)
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

This portrait of a surveyor from an unknown daguerreotype studio was made during the heyday of the Daguerreian era in the United States, a time that coincided with an increased need for survey data and maps for the construction of railways, bridges, and roads. The unidentified surveyor, seated in a chair, grasps one leg of the tripod supporting his transit, a type of theodolite or surveying instrument that comprised a compass and rotating telescope. The carefully composed scene, in which the angle of the man’s skyward gaze is aligned with the telescope and echoed by one leg of the tripod, conflates its surveyor subject with an astronomer. As a result, the lands of young America are compared to the vast reaches of space, with both territories full of potential discovery.

 

Unknown photographer (American) '[Surveyor]' c. 1854

 

Unknown photographer (American)
[Surveyor]
c. 1854
Daguerreotype
Case: 1.6 × 9.2 × 7.9cm (5/8 × 3 5/8 × 3 1/8 in.)
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Alphonse Delaunay (French, 1827-1906) 'Patio de los Arrayanes, Alhambra, Granada, Spain' 1854

 

Alphonse Delaunay (French, 1827-1906)
Patio de los Arrayanes, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
1854
Albumen silver print from paper negative
10 in. × 13 5/8 in. (25.4 × 34.6cm)
Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, 2017
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

One of the most talented students of famed French photographer Gustave Le Gray, Delaunay was virtually unknown before a group of his photographs appeared at auction in 2007. Subsequent research led to the identification of several bodies of work, including the documentation of contemporary events through instantaneous views captured on glass negatives. Delaunay also was a particular devotee of the calotype (or paper negative) process, with which he created his best pictures – including this view of the Alhambra. Among a group of pictures he made between 1851 and 1854 in Spain and Algeria, this view of the Patio de los Arrayanes reveals the extent to which Delaunay was able to manipulate the peculiarities of the paper negative. He revels in the graininess of the image, purposefully not masking out the sky before printing the negative, so that the marble tower appears somehow carved out of the very atmosphere that surrounds it. In contrast, the reflecting pool remains almost impossibly limpid, its dark surface offering a cool counterpart to the harsh Spanish sky.

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887) '[Classical Head]' probably 1839

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887)
[Classical Head]
probably 1839
Salted paper print
6 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (16.5 × 15cm)
Purchase, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

This luminous head seems to materialise before our very eyes, as if we are observing the moment in which the latent photographic image becomes visible. Nineteenth-century eyewitnesses to Hippolyte Bayard’s earliest photographs (direct positives on paper) described a similarly enchanting effect, in which hazy outlines coalesced with light and tone to form charmingly faithful, if indistinct, images. These works, which Bayard referred to as essais (tests or trials), often included statues and busts, which he frequently arranged in elaborate tableaux. In this case, he photographed the lone subject (an idealised classical head) from the front and side, as if it were a scientific specimen. The singular object emerges as a relic from photography’s origins and now distant past.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800 - 1877 Lacock) 'Group Taking Tea at Lacock Abbey' August 17, 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800 – 1877 Lacock)
Group Taking Tea at Lacock Abbey
August 17, 1843
Salted paper print from paper negative
Mount: 9 15/16 in. × 13 in. (25.3 × 33cm)
Sheet: 7 3/8 × 8 15/16 in. (18.7 × 22.7cm)
Image: 5 in. × 7 1/2 in. (12.7 × 19 cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Although Talbot’s groundbreaking calotype (paper negative) process allowed for more instantaneous image making, works such as this one nevertheless reflect the technical limitations of early photography. Here, he adapts painterly conventions to the new medium, staging a genre scene on his family estate. The stilted arrangement of figures – rigidly posed to produce a clear image – belies Talbot’s attempt to show action in progress. To achieve sufficient light exposure, he photographed the domestic tableau outdoors, arranging his subjects before a blank backdrop to create the illusion of interior space.

 

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

Unknown artist. '[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]' 1850s-60s

 

Unknown artist (American or Canadian)
[Carte-de-visite Album of Collaged Portraits]
1850s-60s
Albumen silver prints
5 15/16 × 5 1/8 × 2 1/16 in. (15.1 × 13 × 5.3cm)
Bequest of Herbert Mitchell, 2008
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Beginning in the late 1850s, cartes de visite, or small photographic portrait cards, were produced on a scale that put photography in the hands of the masses. This unusual collection of collages is ahead of its time in spoofing the rigidity of the format. The images play with scale and gender by juxtaposing cutout heads and mismatched sitters, thereby highlighting the difference between social identity – which was communicated in part through the exchange of calling cards – and individuality.

 

Unknown artist (American) '[Studio Photographer at Work]' c. 1855

 

Unknown artist (American)
[Studio Photographer at Work]
c. 1855
Salted paper print
Image: 5 1/8 × 3 13/16 in. (13 × 9.7cm)
Sheet: 9 1/2 × 5 5/8 in. (24.1 × 14.3cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In this evocative image, picture making takes centre stage. Underneath a canopy of dark cloth, the photographer poses as if to adjust the bellows of a large format camera. The view reflected on its ground glass would appear reversed and upside down. Viewers’ expectations are similarly overturned, because the photographer’s subject remains unseen.

 

Unknown artist (American) '[Boy Holding a Daguerreotype]' 1850s

 

Unknown artist (American)
[Boy Holding a Daguerreotype]
1850s
Daguerreotype with applied colour
Image: 3 1/4 × 2 3/4 in. (8.3 × 7cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The boy in this picture clutches a cased image to his chest, as if to illustrate his affection for the subject depicted within. Daguerreotypes were a novel form of handheld picture, portable enough to slip into a pocket or palm. Portraits exchanged between friends and family could be kept close – a practice often mimed by sitters, who would pose for one daguerreotype while holding another.

 

James Fitzallen Ryder (American, 1826-1904) 'Locomotive James McHenry (58), Atlantic and Great Western Railway' 1862

 

James Fitzallen Ryder (American, 1826-1904)
Locomotive James McHenry (58), Atlantic and Great Western Railway
1862
Albumen silver print
Image: 7 3/8 × 9 1/4 in. (18.7 × 23.5cm)
Mount: 10 × 13 in. (25.4 × 33cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In spring 1862, the chief engineer in charge of building the Atlantic and Great Western Railway – which ran from Salamanca, New York, to Akron, Ohio, and from Meadville to Oil City, Pennsylvania – engaged James Ryder to make photographs that would convince shareholders of the worthiness of the project. Ryder’s assignment was “to photograph all the important points of the work, such as excavations, cuts, bridges, trestles, stations, buildings and general character of the country through which the road ran, the rugged and the picturesque.” In a converted railroad car kitted out with a darkroom, water tank, and developing sink, he processed photographs that make up one of the earliest rail surveys.

 

Attributed to Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808 - 1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire) Winter on the Common, Boston' 1850s

 

Attributed to Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808 – 1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire)
Winter on the Common, Boston
1850s
Salted paper print
Window: 6 15/16 × 8 15/16 in. (17.6 × 22.7cm)
Mat: 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Having originally set his sights on a career as a painter, Josiah Hawes gave up his brushes for a camera upon first seeing a daguerreotype in 1841. Two years later, he joined Albert Sands Southworth in Boston to form the celebrated photographic studio Southworth & Hawes. Turning to paper-based photography in the early 1850s, Hawes frequently depicted local scenery. This surprising picture, which presents Boston Common through a veil of snow-laden branches, shows that Hawes brought his creative ambitions to the nascent art of photography.

 

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
[California Oak, Santa Clara Valley]
c. 1863
Albumen silver print
Image: 12 in. × 9 5/8 in. (30.5 × 24.5cm)
Mount: 21 1/4 in. × 17 5/8 in. (54 × 44.8cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

For viewers today, the crown of this majestic oak tree, with its complex network of branches, might evoke the allover paintings of Abstract Expressionism with their layers of dripped paint. As photographed by Carleton Watkins, the dark, flattened silhouette of the tree feathers out across the camera’s field of view. The sloped horizon line, uncommon in Watkins’s output, both echoes the ridge in the distance and grounds the energy of the tree canopy, ably demonstrating his masterful command of pictorial composition.

 

George Wilson Bridges (British, 1788-1864) 'Garden of Selvia, Syracuse, Sicily' 1846

 

George Wilson Bridges (British, 1788-1864)
Garden of Selvia, Syracuse, Sicily
1846
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 6 15/16 × 8 9/16 in. (17.7 × 21.7cm)
Sheet: 7 5/16 × 8 13/16 in. (18.5 × 22.4cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

The monk’s gesture of prayer in this image by George Wilson Bridges is a touchstone of stillness against the impressive landscape and vegetation that rise up behind him. Bridges was an Anglican reverend and friend of William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the calotype (paper negative), who instructed him on the method before it was patented. Bridges was also one of the earliest photographers to embark upon a tour of the Mediterranean region; he wrote to Talbot that he conceived of the excursion both as a technical mission to advance photography and as a pilgrimage to collect imagery of religious sites.

 

Pietro Dovizielli (Italian, 1804-1885) '[Spanish Steps, Rome]' c. 1855

 

Pietro Dovizielli (Italian, 1804-1885)
[Spanish Steps, Rome]
c. 1855
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 14 11/16 × 11 5/16 in. (37.3 × 28.8cm)
Sheet: 24 7/16 × 18 7/8 in. (62 × 48cm)
Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Made in late afternoon light, Pietro Dovizielli’s picture shows a long shadow cast onto Rome’s Piazza di Spagna that almost obscures one of the market stalls flanking the base of the famed Spanish Steps. Rising above the sea of stairs is the church of Trinità dei Monti, its facade neatly bisected by the Sallustiano obelisk. In the piazza, a lone figure – the only visible inhabitant of this eerily empty public square – rests against the railing of the Barcaccia fountain. Keenly composed pictures like this led reviewers of Dovizielli’s photographs to proclaim them “the very paragons of architectural photography.”

 

Edouard Baldus (French (born Prussia), 1813-1889) '[Amphitheater, Nîmes]' c. 1853

 

Edouard Baldus (French (born Prussia), 1813-1889)
[Amphitheater, Nîmes]
c. 1853
Salted paper print from paper negative
Overall: 12 3/8 × 15 3/16 in. (31.5 × 38.5cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Instead of photographing the entire arena in Nîmes, as he had two years earlier, Baldus focusses here on a section of the façade, playing the superimposed arches against the vertical, shadowed pylons in the foreground. The resulting composition manages to isolate and monumentalise the architecture, while creating a rhythmic play of light and dark that energises the picture. The photograph was part of a massive, four-year project, Villes de France photographiées, in which the views from the south of France were said to surpass all of the photographer’s previous work in the region.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800-1877 Lacock) 'View of the Boulevards of Paris' 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800 – 1877 Lacock)
View of the Boulevards of Paris
1843
Salted paper print from paper negative
Mount: 9 in. × 10 1/16 in. (22.8 × 25.6cm)
Sheet: 7 3/8 × 10 1/8 in. (18.7 × 25.7cm)
Image: 6 5/16 × 8 1/2 in. (16.1 × 21.6cm)
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

In May 1843 Talbot traveled to Paris to negotiate a licensing agreement for the French rights to his patented calotype process. His invention used a negative-positive system and a paper base – not a copper support as in a daguerreotype. Although his negotiations were not fruitful, Talbot’s views of the elegant new boulevards of the French capital were highly successful.

Filled with the incidental details of urban life, architectural ornamentation, and the play of spring light, this photograph appears as the second plate in Talbot’s groundbreaking publication The Pencil of Nature (1844). The chimney posts on the roofline of the rue de la Paix, the waiting horses and carriages, and the characteristically French shuttered windows evoke as vivid a notion of mid-nineteenth-century Paris now as they must have 170 years ago.

 

Lewis Dowe (American, active 1860s-1880s) '[Dowe's Photograph Rooms, Sycamore, Illinois]' 1860s

 

Lewis Dowe (American, active 1860s-1880s)
[Dowe’s Photograph Rooms, Sycamore, Illinois]
1860s
Albumen silver print
Image: 5 7/8 × 7 5/8 in. (14.9 × 19.3cm)
Mount: 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Above a bustling thoroughfare in Sycamore, Illinois, boldface lettering advertises the services of photographer Lewis Dowe, a portraitist who also published postcards and stereoviews. Easier to miss in the image is a mannequin perched above the awning to promote the studio. The flurry of activity below Dowe’s storefront and the prime location of the outfit, poised between a tailor and a saloon, speak to the important role of photography in town life.

 

E. & H. T. Anthony (American) '[Specimens of New York Bill Posting]' 1863

 

E. & H. T. Anthony (American)
[Specimens of New York Bill Posting]
1863
Albumen silver prints
Mount: 3 1/4 in. × 6 3/4 in. (8.3 × 17.1cm)
Image: 2 15/16 in. × 6 in. (7.5 × 15.3cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Benefit concerts, minstrel shows, lectures, and horse races all clamour for attention in this graphic field of broadsides posted in the Bowery neighbourhood of Manhattan. The stereograph format lends added depth and dimensionality to the layered fragments of text, transporting viewers to a hectic city sidewalk. Published for a national market, the scene indexes a precise moment in the summer of 1863, offering armchair tourists an inadvertent trend report on downtown cultural life.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'The Diamond and Wasp, Balaklava Harbour' March, 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The Diamond and Wasp, Balaklava Harbour
March, 1855
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 8 in. × 10 1/8 in. (20.3 × 25.7 cm)
Mount: 19 5/16 × 24 3/4 in. (49 × 62.9 cm)
Gift of Thomas Walther Collection, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Fenton’s view of the Black Sea port of Balaklava, which the British used as a landing point for their siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, shows a busy but orderly operation. The British naval ships, HMS Diamond and HMS Wasp, oversaw the management of transports into and out of the harbour, which explains the presence of ships and rowboats, as well as the large stack of crates near the rail track in the foreground. Against claims of “rough-and-tumble” mismanagement of Balaklava in the British press, Fenton (commissioned by a Manchester publisher to record the theatre of war) offers documentation of a well-functioning port.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'The Mamelon and Malakoff from front of Mortar Battery' April, 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The Mamelon and Malakoff from front of Mortar Battery
April, 1855
Salted paper print from glass negative
Image: 9 1/8 × 13 1/2 in. (23.1 × 34.3cm)
Sheet: 14 3/4 × 17 13/16 in. (37.5 × 45.3cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Fenton’s extensive documentation of the Crimean War – the first use of photography for that purpose – was a commercial endeavour that did not include pictures of battle, the wounded, or the dead. His unprepossessing view of a vast rocky valley instead discloses, in the distance, a site of crucial strategic importance. Fort Malakoff, the general designation of Russian fortifications on two hills (Mamelon and Malakoff) is just perceptible at the horizon line. Malakoff’s capture by the French in September 1855, five months after Fenton made this photograph, ended the eleven-month siege of Sevastopol and was the final episode of the war.

 

Felice Beato (British (born Italy), Venice 1832-1909 Luxor) and James Robertson (British, 1813-1881) [Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem] 1856-57

 

Felice Beato (British (born Italy), Venice 1832-1909 Luxor) and James Robertson (British, 1813-1881)
[Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem]
1856-57
Albumen silver print
Image: 9 in. × 11 1/4 in. (22.9 × 28.6cm)
Mount: 17 5/8 in. × 22 1/2 in. (44.8 × 57.2cm)
Gift of Joyce F. Menschel, 2013
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This detailed print showing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem provides a sense of the structure’s natural and architectural surroundings. Felice Beato depicted the religious site from a pilgrim’s point of view – walls and roads are given visual priority and stand between the viewer and the shrine. Holy sites such as this were the earliest and most common subjects of travel photography. Beato made multiple journeys to the Mediterranean and North Africa, and he is perhaps best known for photographing East Asia in the 1880s.

 

R.C. Montgomery (American, active 1850s) '[Self-Portrait (?)]' 1850s

 

R.C. Montgomery (American, active 1850s)
[Self-Portrait (?)]
1850s
Daguerreotype with applied colour
Image: 3 1/4 × 4 1/4 in. (8.3 × 10.8 cm)
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The insouciant subject here may be the daguerreotypist himself, posing in bed for a promotional picture or a private joke. His rumpled suit and haphazard hairstyle affect intimacy, perhaps in an effort to showcase an informal portrait style. Because they required long exposure times, daguerreotypes often captured sitters at their most stilted. With this surprising picture, the maker might have hoped to attract clients who were in search of a more novel or natural likeness.

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Phone: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30am – 5.30pm*
Friday – Saturday: 9.30am – 9.00pm*
Sunday: 9.30am – 5.30pm*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

17
Jul
20

Exhibition: ‘Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium’ at Moderna Museet Malmö

Exhibition dates: 4th April 2020 – 21st February 2021

Curators: Iris Müller-Westermann and Milena Høgsberg

 

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 2' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 2
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

The third secret

Af Klint is one my favourite painters. At such an early date (preceding any man), she created new forms from her imagination, abstract forms, that connect to, and exist, on a celestial plane.

af Klint studied Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, expanding her consciousness, trusting that “knowledge of a deeper spiritual reality could be achieved through focused attention on intuition, meditation, and other means of transcending normal human consciousness.” All from 1906-07 onwards.

Her paintings and drawings emit an aura, her aura “drawn” into a cosmic aura, as a revelation of spirit – invisible dimensions that exist beyond the visible world – a connection from our reality to the spirit of the cosmos. Childhood; youth; adulthood; primordial chaos; eros; evolution; the altar and the tree of knowledge. All knowledge that allows us access to the divine, that opens us not to phenomena, but to the noumenal experiences of the felt, spiritual sublime.

Imagine af Klint painting her huge canvases on the floor of her studio, so many years before Jackson Pollock attempted the same connection to altered consciousness, and creating these symbolic and sensation/al masterpieces. Then to have the prescience to understand that the world was not ready for her art, would not understand it, had no way of comprehending the enormity of her artistic enquiry. To leave “a radical body of work – unprecedented in its use of colour, scale and composition – which she hoped future audiences might be better able to sense and decode.” All in hope!

Leaving everything to her nephew, she instructed him not to even open the boxes of her abstract art (which she never exhibited during her lifetime) until 20 years after her death in the late 1960s. In the ultimate irony, in 1970 her entire collection was offered to the Moderna Museet as a gift – the very museum in which this exhibition is being staged – AND THEY REFUSED THE GIFT.

What were the big wigs and curators (probably all men) at the Moderna Museet thinking in 1970? Didn’t they use their eyes, didn’t they sense the bravery of af Klint’s artistic enquiry, or feel the ecstatic (involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence) ecstasy of her work – that rapture of an emotional divine!

I am SO happy her work is now being acclaimed. For the force was truly with her.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

The exhibition opens with the joyful series dedicated to Eros, the Greek god of love, associated with fertility and desire. Full of life, these pink-hued works take up the theme of polarity between male and female as the driving force of evolution. These abstract works completely differ from the classic representation of Eros.

In the series “The Seven-Pointed Star” (1908), Hilma af Klint experimented with a greater economy of line, depicting spiralling energy expanding outwards and forming new centres. As is the case with most of af Klint’s work, there is no singular meaning. Seven is a sacred number in many cultures, associated with divine order, and also the eternal harmony of the universe. In Theosophy the star cluster, known as the Seven Stars or the Pleiades, transmits spiritual energy that eventually reaches the human plane.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 8' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie WU/Rosen, Grupp II, The Eros Series, No. 8
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

During the spring and summer of 2020, Moderna Museet Malmö will give its visitors an opportunity to become acquainted with the fascinating and ground-breaking Swedish artist Hilma af Klint in a comprehensive presentation. The exhibition will present, among other works, the series “The Ten Largest,” which will be shown in it’s entirety.

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was a pioneer of abstraction. As early as 1906 she had developed a rich, symbolic imagery that preceded the more broadly recognised emergence of abstract art. Since her retrospective at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 2013, interest in the Swedish artist has increased all over the world. The exhibition “Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium” further expands our understanding of this groundbreaking artist and researcher.

Hilma af Klint studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm from 1882 to 1887 where she focused on naturalistic landscape and portrait paintings. Like many of her contemporaries, af Klint also had a keen interest in invisible dimensions that exist beyond the visible world. When painting she was convinced that she was in contact with higher consciousness, which conveyed messages through her. Her major series, “The Paintings for the Temple”, became the crux of this artistic inquiry.

The exhibition centres on three aspects of Hilma af Klint’s life and interests – as artist, researcher and medium – that are key to revealing and understanding her art. With few exceptions, af Klint never exhibited her abstract works during her lifetime. Yet she left us with a radical body of work – unprecedented in its use of colour, scale and composition – which she hoped future audiences might be better able to sense and decode.

Hilma af Klint made paintings for the future, and that future is now.

 

Artist and Medium

Like many of her contemporaries at the turn of the twentieth century, Hilma af Klint sought to expand her consciousness in order to gain a wider perspective on what we perceive as reality. Consciousness remains one of the deepest mysteries in our time, a subject eagerly explored in neurology, psychology, quantum physics and epigenetics. As part of her spiritual practice, af Klint meditated, adhered to a vegetarian diet, and studied Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. These two esoteric schools thought knowledge of a deeper spiritual reality could be achieved through focused attention on intuition, meditation, and other means of transcending normal human consciousness. Over a period of ten years, af Klint met weekly with four other women, known as De fem (“The Five”). They trained their capability to access or “channel” higher levels of consciousness through contact with spiritual guides known as De Höga (“The Masters”). Af Klint received a specific assignment, which she accepted, known as “The Paintings for the Temple”. She worked throughout her life to understand the deeper meaning embedded in these works.

“The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brushstroke.” 

.
The artist described how she painted the series as a medium, where shapes, colours and compositions came to her. Although af Klint perceived these works as flowing uninhibitedly through her guided hand, she very much applied herself and all her skills in the process: she worked methodically and sequentially in series, divided into thematically and formally focused groups exploring different aspects of cosmic and human evolution.

 

The Paintings for the Temple

Between 1906 and 1915, Hilma af Klint created “The Paintings for the Temple”. It comprises 193 paintings and drawings, divided into series and groups. Works produced between 1906 and 1908 are on view in the Turbine Hall; works from the second part of the series from 1912 to 1915 are on view in the upstairs galleries at Moderna Museet Malmö.

The overall theme of the series is to convey different aspects of human evolution, instigated by polarity. “The Paintings for the Temple” also thematises different stages of development that every human being goes through during life on earth. The temple in the title refers not only to a physical building, which af Klint imagined would house the work, but also to the body as a temple for the soul.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 1, Childhood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 1, Childhood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

Like many of the other series within “The Paintings for the Temple”, “The Ten Largest” seems somehow unfettered by limitations of place and time. Across ten canvases, swirling shapes in soft pastel colours rhythmically interact with cursive letters, forming a kind of visual poem. Petals, ovaries, flowers and spirals pulsate in constant sparks of creation. Hilma af Klint attributed this series to the exploration of the human life cycle, from childhood and youth to adulthood and old age. The artist created the ten works between November and December of 1907 on large sheets of paper later glued onto canvas. Given the unusual scale of the works, it is likely that af Klint painted each canvas, while it was lying flat on her studio floor.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 4, Youth' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 4, Youth
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 5, Adulthood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 5, Adulthood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, no. 6' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 6
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Ten Largest, No. 8, Adulthood' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Ten Largest, No. 8, Adulthood
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

On June 16, Moderna Museet Malmö opened again after having been closed for a time in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Finally, Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium, a comprehensive presentation of the artist with 230 works occupying the entire museum building, can be experienced by the public.

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was an artist who allowed herself to take a broader perspective on life and who wanted to open up new ways of looking at reality. Her achievement as a pioneer of abstract art has been celebrated before, but with the exhibition Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium, Moderna Museet Malmö now wants to offer new insights into the artist’s systematic research.

“Hilma af Klint radically turned away from the portrayal of a visible reality,” says Iris Müller-Westermann. “For her, art making was about visualising contexts that lie beyond what the eye can see. Af Klint was convinced that she was connected to a higher level of consciousness when she was making her works. The exhibition argues that her spiritual practice was inextricably linked to her artistic practice. First and foremost, however, Hilma af Klint believed in the power of images.”

The whole Moderna Museet Malmö has been transformed into Hilma af Klint’s temple. The exhibition spans the artist’s entire career, and the selection of works examines the artist’s research into nature and the links between the visible and invisible worlds. In addition, the comprehensive exhibition touches on the artist’s own thoughts about her work and its various methods.

“Hilma af Klint had an inquisitive mind,” says Milena Høgsberg. “For her, painting was both an artistic activity and a spiritual one. When she was painting she meditatively allowed something bigger to pass through her and manifest itself in works of art. She then spent her life, systematically and analytically trying to understand the meaning behind her paintings, drawings, and writings.”

The heart of the exhibition are The Paintings for the Temple (1906-15), which the artist considered her most important works. They also include the magnificent series The Ten Largest from 1907.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a comprehensive and richly illustrated catalogue has been produced, with essays by Iris Müller-Westermann, Milena Høgsberg in conversation with Tim Rudbøg, Hedvig Martin, Ernst Peter Fischer, and Anne Sophie Jørgensen. The exhibition catalogue has been published in two editions – one in Swedish and one in English.

Hilma af Klint – Artist, Researcher, Medium will be on view at Moderna Museet Malmö until September 27, 2020.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation views, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'De tio största, nr 9, Ålderdomen, grupp IV' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
De tio största, nr 9, Ålderdomen, grupp IV
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/UW, nr 25, The Dove, No. 1' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/UW, nr 25, The Dove, No. 1
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

“The Dove” (1915) depicts the creation process. It draws upon Christian symbols such as the dove for spirit, peace and unity. It also thematises the battle between the forces of light and darkness through the allegory of Saint George and the Dragon.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Dove, no. 9' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Dove, no. 9
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing at left The Dove, No. 1, and at right The Dove, No. 9
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5' 1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 10' 1906

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 10
1906
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group I, Primordial Chaos, No. 15' 1906-1907

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Primordial Chaos, No. 15
1906-1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

“Primordial Chaos” (1906-07) is devoted to the creation of the physical world. From the original unity a polarised world arose out of spirit, shown here as feminine (blue and the eyelet) and masculine (yellow and the hook), and also as W (material) and U (spirit). These works are full of spirals of energy and sparks of creation, of symbols of fertility and rebirth (sperm, snakes, crosses).

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing at left works from the series Evolution, and at centre works from the series Primordial Chaos
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group VI, The Evolution, No. 7' 1908

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group VI, The Evolution, No. 7
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

The theme of the evolution of consciousness runs throughout “The Paintings for the Temple”. In the series “Evolution” (1908), the process of development is shown through the interplay between polarities: male and female, light and darkness, good and evil. Compositionally these works strive to find a balance, in horizontal and vertical mirroring. Hilma af Klint’s exploration seems aligned with the theosophist notion of evolution as a spiritual process, extending beyond the biological perspective on human development that, with the publishing of Darwin’s “The Evolution of the Species” fifty years earlier, had gained widespread notoriety. This series ends the first part of “The Paintings for the Temple”, as the commission was paused between 1908 and 1912.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group VI, The Evolution, No. 9' 1908

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group VI, The Evolution, No. 9
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group VI, The Evolution, No. 10' 1908

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Evolution, No. 10
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing work from the series The Swan
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, nr 1., The Swan, No. 1' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, nr 1., The Swan, No. 1
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

When Hilma af Klint resumed her work on “The Paintings for the Temple” in 1912, her abstraction became more geometric in nature, and Christian symbols became increasingly pronounced. When working, the artist was still in contact with higher planes of consciousness but was encouraged to interpret spiritual messages more freely.

Viewed in sequence, “The Swan” (1914-15) has a distinct visual rhythm. Often a horizontal line breaks the canvases into two sections where opposite forces meet – light and dark, male and female, life and death. These poles unfold as a black and white swan. Eventually, figuration gives way to abstraction in a fuller spectrum of colour. In the final work in the series, the swan pair returns, unified at the centre, intertwined yet distinct and balanced as male and female poles.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Swan, No. 8' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 8
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 9' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 9
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 16' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 16
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 17' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 17
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 21' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 21
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 23' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 23
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing work from the series The Swan
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 1' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 1
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Altarpiece Group X, No. 2' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Altarpiece Group X, No. 2
1915
Oil and metal leaf on canvas
93.75 x 70.5 inches
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

Hilma af Klint understood the three powerful “Altarpieces” (1915) as the essence of “The Paintings for the Temple”. These works capture the two directions of spiritual evolution: the ascension from the material world back to unity (the triangle pointing to the golden circle) and the descension from divine unity into the diversity of the material world (the inverted triangle). In the third and final painting, a small six-pointed star within the large golden circle is an esoteric symbol for the universe.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation views, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing work from the series Altarpieces
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 3' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Altarpiece Grupp X, No. 3
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp I, No. 1' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp I, No. 1
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

The title of this series from 1916 may refer to the legend of King Arthur, in which Parsifal, one of the Knights of the Round Table, takes part in the quest for the Holy Grail. On 144 sheets, of which a selection is on view, Hilma af Klint depicts the search for knowledge as a journey through various levels of consciousness. In the first image this is marked by a winding path through the darkness towards the white light at the centre of the spiral. In other works, a young boy, shown in different ages, attempts to balance between matter and spirit, up and down. This exploration is continued in radically conceptual yellow monochromes, inscribed with words marking direction: “Nedåt” (downward), “Framåt” (forward), “Bakåt” (backward), “Utåt” (outward) and “Inåt” (inward). Parsifal’s journey also mirrors the artist’s own process in the inward journey she has undertaken by accepting, completing and trying to understand “The Paintings for the Temple”.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp II, No. 69' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp II, No. 69
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp III, No. 110' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp III, No. 110
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Parsifal Grupp III, No. 117' 1916

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Parsifal Grupp III, No. 117
1916
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'No title, No. 22' 1917

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
No title, No. 22
1917
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

De Fem – Drawings

Between 1896 and 1906, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” (“The Five”). They met weekly to meditate, read spiritual literature and accesses higher consciousness through communication with spirit guides, “De Höga” (“The Masters”). These meetings were meticulously recorded in writing and led even to automatic drawings. The women took turns to wield the pen during their sessions, but individual authorship was not important, and rarely indicated on the drawings. The pastel works on view exhibit elements that recur in af Klint’s later work – for example, spiral, stylised floral motifs and other geometrical forms.

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation views, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020 showing at bottom left, the Tree of Knowledge series 1915; and at centre right, work from Late Series
Photo: Helene Toresdotter/Moderna Museet

 

 

New Gallery is dedicated to Hilma af Klint the researcher, specifically her effort to process and understand the deeper meaning of her spiritually guided work in paintings, drawings and writing, from the 1890s to 1930s. Af Klint had an inquisitive mind. She came from a family of naval officers and nautical cartographers and approached her artistic practice with structured rigour. While she had the courage to open herself to let something larger flow through her while painting, she approached the resulting body of work in a systematic and analytic way. 

Throughout her life, af Klint took copious notes, regarding her experiences and interpretations of the messages she apprehended through her spiritual practice. After completing “The Paintings for the Temple”, the artist tried to methodically gain an overview of her work and its possible meanings. In the spirit of a scientific researcher, she edited and reorganised her early notes, created a dictionary of the symbols that appeared in her works and catalogued all the works in “The Paintings for the Temple” in a portable portfolio. Remarkably, af Klint understood all of her works of art as a unified project – a notion radical for the time, but also a testament to the fact that she believed her work to have a higher purpose.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Tree of Knowledge, No. 3' 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Tree of Knowledge, No. 3
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

 

In the series the “Tree of Knowledge” (1913-15), Hilma af Klint maps the different spiritual planes of existence in order to picture the complexity of existence and the connection between the earth and the divine. In later series like “Series IV” (1920) and “VII” (1920), af Klint seems to focus her research on symbols such as the cross, the circle and the triangle as well as the six-pointed star and processes these sacred symbols instigate. Many of these works are characterised by a geometric idiom and involve analysis on both the macrocosmic and microcosmic level.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Tree of Knowledge, No. 5' (Kunskapens träd, nr 5) 1915

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Tree of Knowledge, No. 5
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Group 2, No title, No. 14a - No. 21' 1919

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Group 2, No title, No. 14a – No. 21
1919
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk

 

Installation view, 'Hilma af Klint', Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

Installation view, Hilma af Klint, Moderna Museet Malmö, 2020

 

 

The Blue Books

In 1917, Hilma af Klint had a studio built on Munsö, where for the first time she had the possibility of seeing all “The Paintings for the Temple’s” different series in their entirety. Perhaps this is what precipitated the creation of the ten blue-bound books, a portable overview of “The Paintings for the Temple”. On each spread, a work is represented by a black-and-white photograph and a watercolour intended to give an accurate impression of the original. In some of the watercolours, af Klint adds close-ups and lets us examine the work as if through a microscope in order to further clarify what was not clear enough in the paintings. The works were organised in concordance with the order of the series. This tremendous effort demonstrates that af Klint wanted to reinvestigate and reflect on her life’s work in a systematic way and perhaps to share it more easily with others.

Text from the Moderna Museet Malmö website

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'The Atom, No. 5' 1917

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
The Atom, No. 5
1917
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

 

In “The Atom Series” from 1917, Hilma af Klint explored another aspect of life that could not be perceived by the human eye: the world of atoms and their energy, a science popular at the time. Apart from the first two drawings, all feature two renderings of an atom: a large one in the lower right, which represents the energy of a physical atom, and a smaller one in the upper left, which represents the atom on an etheric or metaphysical plane. In handwritten notes, af Klint describes the atom as embodying human properties. For the theosophists, whom the artist studied, the discovery of atoms, sub-particle waves etc., were seen as proof of an invisible reality beyond the perceptible world. For af Klint, atoms and thus humans were spiritual entities connected to the centre of the universe.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Violet Blossoms with Guidelines, Series I' 1919

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Violet Blossoms with Guidelines, Series I
1919
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

Botanical Studies

Throughout her life, Hilma af Klint had a deep interest in nature and botany. Her early botanical studies up to the late watercolours, convey that she was not only a keen observer, but also possessed a rigorously analytic mind, which she could apply in her endeavour to perceive aspects of existence beyond the visible.

Her botanical studies reveal a shifting focus from naturalistic renderings of plant-life as she observed it, to renderings intended to express the spiritual essence or presence beyond the visible body. In “The Violet, Blossoms with Guidelines, Series 1” (1919) she combines naturalistic renderings of the flower with a diagram of its essence. In “Blumen, Moose, Flechten” [Flowers, Moss, Lichens] (1919-20), represented here as a facsimile, af Klint continues with her systematic investigation of the plant kingdom. She combines a diagram with the plant’s Latin name and the date of investigation, alongside properties such as joy, humility and devotion, which one can attempt to come in contact with through contemplation on the plant in question. By 1923, af Klint made yet another stylistic shift, influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical views on aesthetics and her visits to the The Goetheanum, the centre for the anthroposophical movement in Dornach, Switzerland. Here af Klint gave up painting geometric compositions and began instead portraying the spiritual dimension of nature in fluid watercolours.

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Vid betraktandet av blommor och träd' (When considering flowers and trees) 1922

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Vid betraktandet av blommor och träd (When considering flowers and trees)
1922
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944) 'Titel saknas' 1924

 

Hilma af Klint (Swedish, 1862-1944)
Titel saknas
1924
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

 

 

Moderna Museet Malmö
Gasverksgatan 22 in Malmö

Moderna Museet Malmö is located in the city centre of Malmö. Ten minutes walk from the Central station, five minutes walk from Gustav Adolfs torg and Stortorget.

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Thursday – Sunday 11-17
Wednesday 11-19
Mondays closed

Moderna Museet Malmö website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

29
Jan
20

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

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

Visited October 2019 posted January 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

 

 

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

Opening hours:
10.00 am – 18.00 pm daily

Tate Britain website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

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

Visited October 2019 posted 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