Archive for the 'Francis Bacon' Category

29
Mar
16

Review: ‘Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan’ at the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum

Exhibition dates: 15th January – 15th April 2016

 

This is the most profound exhibition that I have seen so far this year. Simply put, the exhibition is magnificent … a must see for any human being with an ounce of understanding and compassion in their body.

While I am vehemently anti-war, and believe that we should have never have been in Afghanistan in the first place, these sensual and skeletal paintings represent the danger that these soldiers exposed themselves to in the line of duty. The sensuousness and vulnerability of their solitary, contorted poses – poses which they themselves chose to for Quilty to paint – reflect an actual event, such as taking cover to engage insurgents. That these naked poses then turn out to have a quiet eroticism embedded in them confirms the link between eroticism, death and sensuality as proposed by Georges Bataille. The three forms of eroticism (physical, emotional, religious) try to substitute continuity (life) for discontinuity (death). In these paintings the soldiers lay bare their inner self. They bring forth experiences that have been buried – their dissociation from the reality of what occurred, the experiences they have repressed, the post-traumatic stress – brought to the surface and examined in these paintings through the re-presentation of suppressed emotions, through a form of emotional eroticism, a primordial rising of eroticism, death and sensuality. An affirming act of life over death.

As an artist, Quilty intimately understands this process. I think a strong element of this exhbition is the feeling that there is something missing, that the range of concerns is lacking something. I suspect this is deliberate. Something is being withheld. And what is being withheld in the paintings is, I believe, narrative.

While there is an overarching text narrative – soldiers painted “after Afghanistan” – and individual paintings have titles such as Sergeant P, Troy Park, Trooper M and Trooper Daniel Westcott, these paintings could almost be of any human being who has been a soldier. Other than the specific triptych of Air Commodore John Oddie (and even then the portraits remind me of the ambiguity of Francis Bacon’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953), these paintings could be of any soldier. As Gerhard Ricther observes, “You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that.” After Richter, you might say that “there is no plan”, there is only feeling in the work of Ben Quilty, embodied through his brush. Here, I see links to the work of that great British painter, Francis Bacon.

“Bacon was deeply suspicious of narrative. For him, narrative seems to be the natural enemy of vision; it blinds… Bacon seems to propose an opposition between narrative as a product that can be endlessly reproduced, as re-presentation – the ‘boredom’ is inspired by the deja vu of repetition – and narrative as process, as sensation. Conveying a story implies that a pre-existing story, fictional or not, is transferred to an addressee. Narrative is then reduced to a kind of transferable message. Opposed to this ‘conveying of story’, ‘telling a story’ focuses on the activity or process of narrative. This process is not repeatable; it cannot be iterative because it takes place, it happens, whenever ‘story’ happens… Bacon’s hostility toward narrative is directed against narrative as product, as re-presentation, not against narrative as process.
(Bacon) does not paint characters, but figures. Figures, unlike characters, do not imply a relationship between an object outside the painting and the figure in the painting that supposedly illustrates that object. The figure is, and refers only to itself.”1

The figure is, and refers only to itself, and it is up to the viewer to actively interpret this telling of the story each time they view one of Quilty’s paintings. There is no transferable message.

Further, much like Bacon’s triptychs, Quilty’s paintings depict isolated figures or figural events on the panels. The figures are isolated in their space and their is never any clear interaction between the figures. “Bacon explains the use of the triptych as follows: ‘It helps to avoid storytelling if the figures are painted on three different canvases’ … The figures never fully become characters, while the figural events are never explained by being embedded in a sequence of events. The figures interact neither with each other nor with their environment. Although Bacon’s paintings display many signs which traditionally signify narrativity, by the same token any attempt to postulate narratives based on the paintings is countered.”2

In these paintings, Quilty does not turn away from the evidence of the soldiers before him who express through their bodies that life is violent. He does not attempt to save the viewer from such unpleasantries. As Bacon comments, “The feelings of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.” Quilty stretches his sensibility as an artist and as a human being by getting down and dirty with his subject matter, both physically and emotionally. In fact, I would say Quilty becomes his subject, so close does the artist get to the object of his attention (after all, this is also Quilty’s experience of Afghanistan, as much as it is the soldiers who he is painting. The artist is always present in the work). The closer you get to one of his paintings, the more the detail vanishes and the more the paint becomes like blood and guts. The artist presses up against his subject which dissolves into abstraction. A bravura tour de force of painting that it so confident in its intent… [that there are] huge stretches of bare white canvas as flesh, with these striking gestures for throat and nipple executed without fear in one stroke of the brush. The black hole appearing out of the side of the soldiers head reminds me of Carl Jung’s ambivalent feelings toward his unconscious shadow; and at one end of the gallery you have a black hole (Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot, 2012, below) and at the other a white hole (Trooper Luke Korman, 2012, below), such are the energies of yin yang that flow through the lighter of the gallery spaces.

Using what the photographer Imogen Cunningham termed the ‘paradox of expansion via reduction’ – closing in on subject (either physically and/or mentally), the intensity and focus attendant to a clear way of seeing – allows Quilty’s work to be flooded with sensuality and reductive power. The horror of the body, of how fragile we are (Damien Hirst) is expressed through the visceral paint. The viewer’s mind tells the story, creates the horror, the closer you get to the work. As I said earlier, there is no transferable message, no actual interpretation but universal triggers that impinge on the viewer’s mind. Quilty plays with the flow of time and space, memory and war by disassociating himself from traditional narrative. As the quotation below from Peter Handke’s novel Across eloquently expresses it, it is a sense of “being-empty” (Zen), an empty form that is also full at the same time. Every object in Quilty’s opus moves into place and we pass over, quietly, into a place we have never been before, through paintings that picture the unknowable. Something we have never seen or felt before. In painting, I don’t think there are many artists that could have achieved what Quilty has with this body of work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,125

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

 

  1. Ernst Van Alphen. Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self, 1992 quoted in “Francis Bacon and ‘Narrative’, the Natural Enemy of Vision,” on the ASX website, June 27 2013 [Online] Cited 29/03/2016.
  2. Ibid.,

 

 

“With the light of that moment, silence fell. The warming emptiness that I need so badly spread. My forehead no longer needed a supporting hand. It wasn’t exactly a warmth, but a radiance; it welled up rather than spread; not an emptiness, but a being-empty; not so much my being-empty as an empty form. And the empty form meant: story. But it also meant that nothing happened. When the story began, my trail was lost. Blurred. This emptiness was no mystery; but what made it effective remained a mystery. It was as tyrannical as it was appeasing; and its peace meant: I must not speak. Under its implosion, everything (every object) moved into place. “Emptiness!” The word was equivalent to the invocation of the Muse at the beginning of an epic. It provoked not a shudder but lightness and joy, and presented itself as a law: As it is now, so shall it be. In terms of image, it was a shallow river crossing.”

.
Peter Handke. Across. Ralph Manheim (translator). Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000, p. 5.

 

“I do not want to avoid telling a story, but I want very, very much to do the thing that Valery said – to give the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance. And the moment the story enters, the boredom comes upon you.”

.
Francis Bacon

 

 

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Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, from left to right, Sergeant P, after Afghanistan (2012); Trooper Daniel Westcott, after Afghanistan (2012); and Troy Park, after Afghanistan (2012)

 

 

Sergeant P, a Special Operations Task Group soldier, is a survivor of a Black Hawk helicopter crash that claimed the lives of three Australians. Some of the soldiers depicted in the other portraits witnessed the crash and were first on the scene to provide assistance. The memory of this experience, and the friends who did not make it, will stay with these men for a long time.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Daniel Westcott, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Daniel Westcott, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Troy Park, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Troy Park, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, from left to right, Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (2012); Trooper M, after Afghanistan (2012); and Trooper M, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (2012)

 

Ben Quilty. 'Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

Quilty asked the soldiers to suggest a post that encapsulated some of the emotions that surrounded their experience in Afghanistan. Often the pose is quite contorted, as it reflects an actual event, such as taking cover to engage insurgents.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper M, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“You can’t really stop out there. You have to keep doing your job and keep moving forward … There is no time, until you get home, to stop and think about it.”

Trooper M

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper M, after Afghanistan, no. 2' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“Sitting for Ben is therapeutic; it does get a lot of stuff off your chest. And actually seeing your portrait on canvas, I think for me it’s definitely a chapter that I can close and leave there.”

Trooper M

 

Ben Quilty. 'Bushmaster' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Bushmaster
2012
Aerosol and oil on linen
Donated by Ben Quilty through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program in 2013

 

 

Portraiture for Quilty can also take a vehicle as its subject. This destroyed Bushmaster reflects the soldiers’ identity and is a vestige of their physical experience. They risk their lives while carrying out their duties in these versatile military vehicles.

“I met a young man who’d been in the back of a Bushmaster that had blown up. The Bushmaster is the big armoured four-wheel-drive vehicle that’s saving a lot of Australian lives, but even so the explosion caused every single you man inside that vehicle to suffer from concussion and one of them was blown out of the gun turret and landed in front of the vehicle among possibly more hidden explosive devices.”

Ben Quilty

 

Ben Quilty. 'Captain S, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Captain S, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

“I think when Ben paints, he’s not looking for what’s on the outside … He’s more after what they’re feeling o what they’ve been through … He’s looking at the inner instead of just the outer.”

Captain S

 

Ben Quilty. 'Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

The naked portraits have a sensuousness and vulnerability in their solitary, contorted poses. The rough surface signifies the uniform and body armour that have been stripped away in front of us, and them. We and they recognise what they have endured and achieved.

“I wanted [this soldier] to be naked, showing not only his physical strength but also the frailty of human skin and the darkness of the emotional weight of the war.”

Ben Quilty

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of drawings from the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery including, at bottom left, Captain M II, Tarin Kot (October 2011, below) and third from left top, Waiting, Tarin Kot (October 2011, below)

 

 

“This very wild place”

Sitting and talking with the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, Quilty became intrigued by their experiences. He came to feel responsible for telling the stories of these young men and women.

“I started doing drawings of the soldiers, and hearing their stories about their experiences of being in this very wild place. I realised that I needed to just sit with them … making portraits of these guys in Tarin Kot or wherever I was … getting them to sit still and talk to me about their experience. Those little drawings are a reminder to me of the time that I spent with those people. I hoped that there’d be some remnant of that experience that I could then draw out … to put into the paintings when I returned to Australia.”

Ben Quilty

The trust that Quilty developed with these soldiers in Afghanistan was strong enough to continue at home in Quilty’s studio, where he invited some to sit for larger portraits.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

(top row, first three from left)

Ben Quilty
Private C, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, Special Forces, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen, pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

Ben Quilty
Captain Kate Porter
27 October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured pencil and ink wash on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

(bottom row, first three from left)

Ben Quilty
Sergeant M II, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

Ben Quilty
Chinook pilot, Kandahar Airfield
October 2011
Drawn at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar province, Afghanistan
Pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

Ben Quilty
Brigadier General Noorullah, Afghan National Army, Tarin Kot
22 October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

While in Tarin Kot, Quilty attended a marching out parade of 400 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers who had completed training under the Australian Mentoring Task Fore. There he met a senior ANA commander, Brigadier General Noorullah. Just days later, three Australian soldiers were killed at a similar training parade being held at Forward Operating Base Sorkh Bed (aka Pacemaker). Quilty learnt of the incident the day after he left Afghanistan, giving him an even greater sense of the dangers that the soldiers he met face daily.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Captain Kate Porter' 27 October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Captain Kate Porter
27 October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured pencil and ink wash on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

Quilty wanted to meet a cross-section of people serving in Afghanistan – soldiers driving Bushmasters, Chinook pilots, Special Forces soldiers, and both men and women of all ranks – to try to understand who makes up the Australian Defence Force. He met Captain Kate Porter at Tarin Kot. There he spoke to her about her experiences as female in the very masculine community of the Special Operations Task Group, as well as her general experience as a soldier in Afghanistan.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper M, Special Forces, Tarin Kot' October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, Special Forces, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen, pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Waiting, Tarin Kot' October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Waiting, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

Ben Quilty. 'Captain M II, Tarin Kot' October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Captain M II, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

 

 

“Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan is an extraordinary Australian War Memorial Touring Exhibition by one of the nation’s most incisive artists, and is of great relevance to all Australians. The exhibition officially opens at Castlemaine Art Gallery on Friday 15 January 2016.

The exhibition itself was the result of the Archibald Prize-winning artist’s three-week tour across Afghanistan in October 2011. Engaged as an Official War Artist, his purpose was to record and interpret the experiences of Australians deployed as part of Operation Slipper in Kabul, Kandahar, and Tarin Kot in Afghanistan and at Al Minhad Airbase in the United Arab Emirates. In fulfilling his brief, Quilty spoke with many Australian servicemen and women, gaining an insight into their experiences whilst serving in the region, and ultimately leaving with an overwhelming need to tell their stories.

Quilty recently spoke on ANZAC Day 2015 and paid tribute not only to those who did not return from Afghanistan and their grieving families, but also to “the young men and women who live amongst us who have paid so dearly and will quietly wear the thick cloak of trauma for many years to come, after Afghanistan.”

The exhibition is a must see as Quilty is arguably one of Australia’s greatest living painters, and this exhibition, with its intense and emotional subject matter is particularly important to Castlemaine, a town with a history of young men and women serving their country far from home. The exhibition has been very well received across the country with over 70,000 visitors attending the works when on display most recently in Darwin. Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial believes Quilty should be considered one of Australia’s great official war artists.

“Ben Quilty’s works follows a truly great tradition at the Australian War Memorial of appointing artists to record and interpret the Australian experience of war.”

“Ben brought to this task all his brilliance, sensitivity and compassion. The works he produced will leave Australians a legacy which informs them not only about the impact of war on our country, but even more importantly, about the effects on the men and women he has depicted,” said Dr Nelson.

Dr Jan Savage, President of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum Committee of Management said the exhibition, “was significant in understanding the impact of war on serving members of the Australian armed forces and I encourage visitors to attend this most important exhibition.”

Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan is on display at Castlemaine Art Gallery from 15 January until 15 April 2016.

An Australian War Memorial Touring Exhibition, proudly sponsored by Thales.”

Text from the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum website

 

Ben Quilty. 'Tarin Kot, Hilux' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Tarin Kot, Hilux
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Kandahar' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Kandahar
2012
Oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

Ben Quilty. 'Kandahar' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Kandahar (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

Kandahar Airfield is a multinational vase with approximately 35,000 people from the International Security Assistance Fore, aid organisations, and a pool of local civilian staff. Weapons are carried at all times by both military and civilian personnel, creating a tense atmosphere with a violent undercurrent. Quilty described Kandahar as being a cross between the worlds of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Catch 22, a surreal, dusty, and violent place. “For the first week in Kandahar, I basically felt like I was dodging rockets. The first night we landed there, two or three rockets landed inside the compound.”

This painting was Quilty’s first visceral response on his return from Afghanistan and i sums up his emotions, particularly his personal experience of Kandahar and being a part of the maelstrom of war.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, at centre, Tarin Kot, Hilux (2012) and, at right, Kandahar (2012)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

 

Returning from war

“You can’t take the experiences out of your head.
You can’t take the damages out of your head.”

John Oddie

 

On his return to Australia, Ben Quilty contacted Air Commodore John Oddie (Ret’d), whom he had met during his Afghanistan deployment, to invite him to sit for a portrait in his studio. From February to October 2011, Oddie had been the Deputy Commander of Australian forces in the Middle east, a position of immense responsibility.

Quilty eventually produced three portraits over five months. These works reveal a man returning from war and its burden of responsibility, exhausted emotionally and mentally, and his progress towards a more positive view of life and of himself as a survivor.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3 (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“I don’t necessarily see beauty, I see insight in what Ben does. That’s reflected in the way he paints … I think his later portraits, done after he’s got to know us better, are different from the raw emotion of the first ones.”

John Oddie

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 1' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 1
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“With through a lack of insight or through an unwillingness … I wasn’t always admitting the truth to myself about my life. Ben really took that out and put it on a table in front of me like a three-course dinner and said, well, how about that? And you know, I sort of thought well, I’m not going to come to this restaurant again in a hurry!”

John Oddie

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 2' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 2
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“He’s got this one little gash of paint and it brings out this wry smile that I didn’t even know I had … When I stood back and had a look, I was just stunned at the honesty of the painting – until then I hadn’t really been fully honest with myself about what I was feeling.”

John Oddie

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Introductory text from the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Introductory titles and text for the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Daniel Spain, Tarin Kot' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Daniel Spain, Tarin Kot
2012
Oil on linen diptych
Collection of the artist

 

 

In some of the works, Quilty has used dramatic symbols to represent the emotional weight and the sense of emptiness he felt some soldiers brought home with them after Afghanistan. The black hole motif also reflects his own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty during his time there.

“I had such extreme feelings about the smell, sound, emotions of being in Afghanistan … I wanted to convey this.”

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Luke Korman' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Luke Korman
2012
Aerosol and oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, on the far wall, Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot (2012, left) and SOTG, after Afghanistan (2011, right)

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot
2012
Aerosol and oil on linen diptych
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'SOTG, after Afghanistan' 2011

 

Ben Quilty
SOTG, after Afghanistan
2011
Oil on linen diptych
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

As part of his initial idea for the war artist commission, Quilty photographed soldiers of the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan in the same pose. He asked each of them to face the sun with their eyes closed, then open them and stare into the blinding light. At that instant Quilty would take the photograph. “To me, this symbolises what they’re facing, something immense, overwhelming.”

Back in Australia, Quilty attempted to work from these photographs, and created a handful of portraits. He was dissatisfied with the results. Determined to re-establish a personal connection with his subjects, he invited some of them to sit for portraits in his studio.

 

 

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17
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto

Exhibition dates: 5th April – 20th July 2014

 

Like the my earlier posting on the exhibition ‘Caravaggio – Bacon’ at Gallery Borghese, Rome, what an inspired curatorial decision this is. I would have never have thought to have brought Bacon and Moore together, but the synergy between the two artists work is undeniable.

Personally, I don’t think that Moore is as immobile and measurable as Radoslaw Kudlinski states in the quotation below: while rooted in anthropological concerns his anthropomorphic “nightmares” have a heft and gravitas that move you, not physically, but in the pit of your stomach. Look at the open mouth of Reclining Figure (1951, below) and tell me you are not drawn down into the bowls of the soul through the pointed tit of mother earth. Tactile, yes. Immobile and measurable, NO!

Moore moves you from within. His roots are from an ancient and emotional landscape, one of decay, time and change. His works are like embryonic sacs, pushing out at you from different points. The holes in his work are like looking into a black hole. The spaces he creates with his sculptures DENY a perfect formal economy, for they are really awkward images that impinge on a space. Never stationary, his sculptures move you from within in the most powerful way. A perfect counterbalance to the external, cinematic rambunctiousness of Bacon.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“While Moore’s figures are sustaining themselves entirely from within, Bacon’s are disengaged fugitives from history. Bacon is already “after” when Moore is still “before.”

And while Moore’s nightmares are still rooted in anthropological concerns – corporeal and measurable – Bacon’s subject is a phantom without a name, without a past, because a collectivized subject is only and always an abstract fragment of a person.

But we need Moore’s confrontation with Bacon. Moore is a guardian of our sanity. His forms are stationary – despite the refined movement of all their structural lines, and their impeccable pronunciation of architectural tempo, as well as their perfect formal economy, they are going nowhere.

And because of Moore’s immobility, tactility and measurability, I welcome his presence with relief. He defends us from Bacon’s radical, cinematic mobility, forever escaping our grasp.

Bacon’s state of convulsive stasis is an illusion, because looking at his canvas you have an impression that between the two or three takes, there are more frames, as in a movie, trapped in the same space. There is also a sense that this trapping of multiplicity is not a conscious choice, but the consequence of there being nowhere else to go.

Bacon is the scandal of the flesh, the existential strip-tease – even a post-flesh, post-body concept of a person. He is a fugitive, and his natural state is motion, appearance and disappearance. He belongs to non-materiality, to cyberspace – and this is his paradox, because together with the sensuality of his pictorial matter, the materiality of subject is gone. That’s why Bacon is so relevant today.”

Radoslaw Kudlinski. “Serious Scary: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore in Toronto,” on the Canadian Art website, May 7, 2014 [Online] Cited 05/07/2014

 

 

Francis Bacon. 'Second Version of Triptych 1944' 1988

 

Francis Bacon 
Second Version of Triptych 1944
1988
Oil and alkyds on canvas
Each panel 198 x 147.5 cm (each panel)
Tate Modern, London
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Second Version of Triptych 1944' (detail) 1988

 

Francis Bacon 
Second Version of Triptych 1944 (detail)
1988
Oil and alkyds on canvas
Each panel 198 x 147.5 cm (each panel)
Tate Modern, London
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Second Version of Triptych 1944' (detail) 1988

 

Francis Bacon 
Second Version of Triptych 1944 (detail)
1988
Oil and alkyds on canvas
Each panel 198 x 147.5 cm (each panel)
Tate Modern, London
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Lying Figure in a Mirror' 1971

 

Francis Bacon
Lying Figure in a Mirror
1971
Oil on canvas
198.5 x 147.5 cm
Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Unitled ( Kneeling Figure)' 1982

 

Francis Bacon 
Unitled ( Kneeling Figure)
1982
Oil on canvas
212 x 161 cm
The Estate of Francis Bacon
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Study for Portrait on Folding Bed' 1963

 

Francis Bacon 
Study for Portrait on Folding Bed
1963
Oil on canvas
198.1 x 147.3 cm
Tate Britian, London
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Three Figures and a Portrait, 1975' 1975

 

Francis Bacon 
Three Figures and a Portrait, 1975
1975
Oil and acrylic on canvas
198.1 x 147.3 cm
Tate Britian, London
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Two Figures in a Room' 1959

 

Francis Bacon 
Two Figures in a Room 
1959
Oil on canvas
198 x 140.5 cm
Robert & Lisa Sainsbury Collection, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, UK.
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Bill Brandt. 'Francis Bacon' Nd

 

Bill Brandt 
Francis Bacon
Nd
Gelatin Silver Print
20.9 x 18.7 cm
© The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich

 

Francis Bacon. 'Study for Portrait II (After the life mask of William Blake)' 1955

 

Francis Bacon
Study for Portrait II (After the life mask of William Blake)
1955
Oil on canvas
61 x 51 cm
Tate Modern, London © Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne' 1966

 

Francis Bacon
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne
1966
Oil on canvas
81 x 69 cm
Tate Modern, London
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Study for Portrait VI' 1953

 

Francis Bacon 
Study for Portrait VI
1953 
Oil on canvas
152 x 117 cm
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts,
The Miscellaneous Works of Art Purchase Fund © Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

 

 

“The tortured British painter Francis Bacon, whose triptych recently set a new record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, makes his Canadian debut this spring at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) alongside rarely-seen works by the British sculptor Henry Moore in the exhibition Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty. Featuring more than 130 artworks, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and archival materials, the exhibition explores the two artists’ shared fascination with the human form in relation to the violence of the Second World War and other key events of the 20th century.

Although they were neither friends nor collaborators, Bacon (b. 1909) and Moore (b. 1898) were contemporaries who shared an obsession with expressing themes of violence, trauma and conflict, both social and personal. Drawing on the artists’ personal experiences during the London Blitz and other conflicts, the exhibition examines how confinement and angst fostered their extraordinary creativity and unique visions. Bacon, whose dark depictions of human torment have inspired several characters in popular culture, including the appearance of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, was a sado-masochist who sought to process the trials of humanity through his canvases. Moore, a British war artist, was one of the most renowned sculptors of his time. His works evoke endurance and stability, but when considered in light of his wartime experience, they read as an effort to rebuild and redeem the fragile human psyche and body.

Curated for the AGO by Dan Adler, associate professor of art history at York University, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty is the first Canadian exhibition of Bacon’s work and includes rarely seen Moore pieces, from both the AGO collection and elsewhere. Moore’s works are a cornerstone of the AGO collection, and pairing them with those by Francis Bacon sets them in a new light. The exhibition also presents more than 30 archival photographs by acclaimed German-born British photographer Bill Brandt. Loans for the exhibition have also been secured from several institutions, including MoMA, Tate Britain and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.”

Press release from the AGO website

 

Henry Moore. 'Mother and Child' 1953

 

Henry Moore 
Mother and Child
1953
Plaster
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Henry Moore. 'Helmet Head and Shoulders' 1952

 

Henry Moore 
Helmet Head and Shoulders
1952 
Bronze
19 x 20.5 x 15 cm
Tate Modern, London
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Bill Brandt. 'Henry Moore in his Studio at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire' 1940

 

Bill Brandt 
Henry Moore in his Studio at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire
1940
Gelatin Silver Print
22.8 x 19.6 cm
© The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich

 

Henry Moore. 'Falling Warrior' 1956-57

 

Henry Moore 
Falling Warrior
1956-57
Bronze
65 x 154 x 85 cm
Tate Modern, London
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Henry Moore. 'Reclining Figure' 1951

 

Henry Moore 
Reclining Figure
1951
Plaster cast
L: 228.5 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Courtesy Craig Boyko, AGO
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Henry Moore. 'Three Fates' 1941

 

Henry Moore 
Three Fates
1941
Watercolour
29.7 x 19.9 cm
Royal Pavillion and Museums, Brighton & Hove
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Henry Moore. 'Maquette for Strapwork Head' 1950

 

Henry Moore 
Maquette for Strapwork Head
1950
Bronze edition of 9
10 cm high (excluding base)
The Henry Moore Foundation
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Henry Moore. 'Spanish Prisoner' 1939

 

Henry Moore
Spanish Prisoner
1939
Lithograph on paper
36.5 x 30.5 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

Henry Moore. 'Sleeping Positions' 1940-41

 

Henry Moore 
Sleeping Positions
1940-41
Mixed media on wove paper
20.4 x 16.5 cm
The Henry Moore Foundation
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013)

 

 

Art Gallery of Ontario
Musée des beaux-arts de l’Ontario

317 Dundas Street West
Toronto Ontario Canada M5T 1G4

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Closed Mondays

Art Gallery of Ontario website

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14
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the present day’ at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2013 – 2nd January 2014

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The von Gloeden is stunning and some of the paintings are glorious: the muscularity / blood red colour in Falguière by Lutteurs d’Alexandre (1875, below); the beauty of Ángel Zárraga’s Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian) (1912, below); the sheer nakedness and earthiness of the Freud; and the colour, form and (homo)eroticism of The Bath by Paul Cadmus (1951, below), with their pert buttocks and hands washing suggestively.

But there is nothing too outrageous here. Heaven forbid!

After all, this is the male nude as curatorial commodity.

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Many thankx to the Musée d’Orsay for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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“The high brow peep show is divided thematically into depictions of religion, mythology, athleticism, homosexuality, and shifting notions of manliness. Wandering the Musee’s grand halls you will see rippling Greco-Roman Apollonian gods, Egon Schiele’s finely rendered, debauched self portraits and David LaChapelle’s 90s macho-kitsch celebs. Edward Munch’s hazy, pastel bathers mingle with Lucian Freud’s grossly erotic fleshy animals and reverent depictions of Christ and Saint Sebastian, showing the many ways to interpret a body sans outerwear.”

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Priscilla Frank. “‘Masculine/Masculine’ Explores Male Nude Throughout Art History And We Couldn’t Be Happier (NSFW),” on the Huffpost Arts and Culture website, 26/09/2013

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Jean Delville (1867-1953) 'École de Platon' (School of Plato) 1898

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Jean Delville (1867-1953)
École de Platon (School of Plato)
1898
Oil on canvas
H. 260; W. 605 cm
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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In the late 19th century, Belgium was one of the great centres of European symbolism. Jean Delville’s paintings and writings expressed the most esoteric side of the movement. In the mid-1880s, Delville’s discovery of the symbolist milieu in Paris and the friendships he made there led him to break with the naturalism inherited from his academic training. Thus his friendship with the Sâr Péladan and his regular attendance at the Salon of the Rose+Croix, testified to his belief in an intellectual art which focused on evocation more than description.

School of Plato, a decoration intended for the Sorbonne but never installed there, is a striking work in many respects. Its monumental size and its ambitious message – an interpretation of classical philosophy seen through the prism of the symbolist ideal – set it apart. The manifesto makes no secret of its references, from Raphael to Puvis de Chavannes, but envelops them in the strange charm of a deliberately unreal colour range. The ambiguity emanating from this fin de siècle Mannerism knowingly blurs the borderline between purity and sensuality.

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Jules Elie Delaunay. 'Ixion Thrown Into the Flames' 1876

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Jules Elie Delaunay
Ixion Thrown Into the Flames
1876
© RMN-Grand Palais / Gérard Blot

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Camille Félix Bellanger. 'Abel' 1874-75

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Camille Félix Bellanger
Abel
1874-75
© Musée d’Orsay

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Eadweard Muybridge. 'Animal Locomotion' 1887

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Eadweard Muybridge
Animal Locomotion
1887
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN / Alexis Brandt

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Kehinde Wiley. 'Death of Abel Study' 2008

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Kehinde Wiley
Death of Abel Study
2008
© Kehinde Wiley, Courtesy Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA & Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

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Paul Cézanne. 'Baigneurs' (Bathers) 1890

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Paul Cézanne
Baigneurs (Bathers)
1890
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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“While it has been quite natural for the female nude to be regularly exhibited, the male nude has not been accorded the same treatment. It is highly significant that until the show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in the autumn of 2012, no exhibition had opted to take a fresh approach, over a long historical perspective, to the representation of the male nude. However, male nudity was for a long time, from the 17th to 19th centuries, the basis of traditional Academic art training and a key element in Western creative art. Therefore when presenting the exhibition Masculine / Masculine, the Musée d’Orsay, drawing on the wealth of its own collections (with several hitherto unknown sculptures) and on other French public collections, aims to take an interpretive, playful, sociological and philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the male nude in art. Given that the 19th century took its inspiration from 18th century classical art, and that this influence still resonates today, the Musée d’Orsay is extending its traditional historical range in order to draw a continuous arc of creation through two centuries down to the present day. The exhibition will include the whole range of techniques: painting, sculpture, graphic arts and, of course, photography, which will have an equal place in the exhibition.

To convey the specifically masculine nature of the body, the exhibition, in preference to a dull chronological presentation, takes the visitor on a journey through a succession of thematic focuses, including the aesthetic canons inherited from Antiquity, their reinterpretation in the Neo-Classical, Symbolist and contemporary eras where the hero is increasingly glorified, the Realist fascination for truthful representation of the body, nudity as the body’s natural state, the suffering of the body and the expression of pain, and finally its eroticisation. The aim is to establish a genuine dialogue between different eras in order to reveal how certain artists have been prompted to reinterpret earlier works. In the mid 18th century, Winckelmann examined the legacy of the divine proporzioni of the body inherited from Antiquity, which, in spite of radical challenges, still apply today having mysteriously come down through the history of art as the accepted definition of beauty. From Jacques-Louis David to George Platt-Lynes, LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles, and including Gustave Moreau, a whole series of connections is revealed, based around issues of power, censorship, modesty, the boundaries of public expectation and changes in social mores.

Winckelmann’s glorification of Greek beauty reveals an implicit carnal desire, relating to men as well as women, which certainly comes down through two centuries from the “Barbus” group and from David’s studio, to David Hockney and the film director James Bidgood. This sensibility also permeates the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries as it questions its own identity, as we see in the extraordinary painting École de Platon [School of Plato], inexplicably purchased by the French state in 1912 from the Belgian artist Delville. Similarly, the exhibition will reveal other visual and intellectual relationships through the works of artists as renowned as Georges de La Tour, Pierre Puget, Abilgaard, Paul Flandrin, Bouguereau, Hodler, Schiele, Munch, Picasso, Bacon, Mapplethorpe, Freud and Mueck, while lining up some surprises like the Mexican Angel Zarraga’s Saint Sébastien (Saint Sebastian), De Chirico’s Les Bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths) and the erotica of Americans Charles Demuth and Paul Cadmus.

This autumn therefore, the Musée d’Orsay will invite the visitor to an exhibition that challenges the continuity of a theme that has always interested artists, through unexpected yet productive confrontations between the various revivals of the nude man in art.”

Press release from the Musée d’Orsay website

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Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) 'Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu' 1778

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Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)
Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu
1778
Oil on canvas
H. 122; W. 170 cm
Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry
© Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry

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Masculine / Masculine

Why had there never been an exhibition dedicated to the male nude until Nackte Männer at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last year? In order to answer this question, the exhibition sets out to compare works of different eras and techniques, around great themes that have shaped the image of the male body for over two centuries.

We must distinguish above all between nudity and the nude: a body simply without clothes, that causes embarrassment with its lack of modesty, is different from the radiant vision of a body restructured and idealised by the artist. Although this distinction can be qualified, it highlights the positive, uninhibited approach to the nude in western art since the Classical Period.

Today, the nude essentially brings to mind a female body, the legacy of a 19th century that established it as an absolute and as the accepted object of male desire. Prior to this, however, the female body was regarded less favourably than its more structured, more muscular male counterpart. Since the Renaissance, the male nude had been accorded more importance: the man as a universal being became a synonym for Mankind, and his body was established as the ideal human form, as was already the case in Greco-Roman art. Examples of this interpretation abound in the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage: Adam existed before Eve, who was no more than his copy and the origin of sin. Most artists being male, they found an “ideal me” in the male nude, a magnified, narcissistic reflection of themselves. And yet, until the middle of the 20th century, the sexual organ was the source of a certain embarrassment, whether shrunken or well hidden beneath strategically placed drapery, thong or scabbard.

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Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (1756-1813) 'Le Berger Pâris' (The Shepherd, Paris) 1787

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Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (1756-1813)
Le Berger Pâris (The Shepherd, Paris)
1787
Oil on canvas
H. 177 ; L. 118 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa
© Photo: MBAC

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The Classic Ideal

From the 17th century, training of the highest standard was organised for the most privileged artists. In sculpture and in history painting, the ultimate aim of this teaching was to master the representation of the male nude: this was central to the creative process, as the preparatory studies had to capture the articulation of the body as closely as possible, whether clothed or not, in the finished composition.

In France, pupils studied at the Académie Royale then at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, working from drawings, engravings, sculptures “in the round” and life models. Right up until the late 20th century, these models were exclusively male, for reasons of social morality, but also because the man was considered to have the archetypal human form. In order to be noble and worthy of artistic representation, and to appeal to all, this could not be the body of an ordinary man: the distinctive features of the model had to be tempered in order to elevate the subject.

Above all, the artists of Antiquity and of the Renaissance were considered to have established an ideal synthesis of the human body without being distracted by individual characteristics. For Winckelmann, the German 18th century aesthete, the ideal beauty of Greek statues could only be embodied by the male nude. But although it inspired numerous artists, the “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of Winckelmann’s gods was undermined by other interpretations of Classical art: the torment of Laocoon, a work from late Antiquity, can be seen in the work of the Danish painter Abildgaard, while David advocated a much more Roman masculinity. Even when challenged, reinterpreted and renewed by the 20th century avant-garde, the Classical male nude and its rich legacy remains an object of fascination right up to the inter-war years and up to the present day.

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George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968) 'Horst P. Horst, Photographie' 1932

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George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968)
Horst P. Horst, Photographie
1932
Tirage argentique
H. 19 ; L. 22,7 cm
Hambourg, FC Gundlach
© Droits réservés

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The Heroic Nude

The concept and the word “hero” itself come from ancient Greece: whether a demigod or simply a mortal transcending his human condition to become an exemplum virtutis, he embodies an ideal. The admiration for Classical art and culture explains the ubiquity of the hero in Academic painting, particularly in subjects given to candidates of the Prix de Rome: great history painting thrived on the exploits of supermen in the most perfect bodies.

This connection between anatomy and heroic virtue, conveying noble and universal values, goes back to the Neo-Platonic concept linking beauty and goodness. The hero’s nudity has been so self-evident that the “heroic nude” has become the subject of a recurrent debate about the representation of great men, past or present, no matter how incongruous the result may appear.

Heroism is not a state, rather a means by which the strength of character of an exceptional being man is revealed: although Hercules’ strength is inseparable from his exploits, it was David’s cunning that overcame the powerful Goliath. In both cases they are endowed with a warrior’s strength, which was particularly valued by a 19th century thirsting for virility and patriotic assertion: more than ever, this was the ideal to be attained. We had to wait for the 20th century crisis of masculinity before we could see the renewal of the status of the increasingly contemporary hero, and the diversification of his physical characteristics. However, whether a star or a designer like Yves Saint-Laurent, or even the young men on the streets of Harlem painted by the American Kehinde Wiley, the evocative power of nudity remains.

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Vive la France' 2006

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953)
Vive la France
2006
(models: Serge, Moussa and Robert)
Painted photograph, unique piece
H. 125; W. 101 cm
© Pierre et Gilles

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The Gods of the Stadium

The 20th century witnessed the start of a new way of looking at the human body where the focus was on medical aspects and hygiene, and this had a considerable impact on the concept of the artistic nude. Numerous physical education movements and gymnasia appeared. People were captivated by the figure of the “sportsman” and, as in the work of the painter Eugene Jansson, came to admire and covet the virile power of his body in action. This concept is realised in culturalism, the narcissistic admiration of a body that has become an object to be fashioned like an artwork in its own right. Modern man with his athletic morphology has become a new potential ideal: he embodies a beauty that invites comparison with Greco-Roman art.

Linked with the affirmation of national identity, the athlete has come to personify the brute force of the nation and an ability to defend the country in times of war. During the 1930s in the United States, the image of the athlete evolved in a distinctive way, highlighting the ordinary man as a mixture of physical strength and bravery. Totalitarian regimes, however, perverted the cult of the athlete in order to promote their own ideology: Germany linked it in a demiurgic way with the made-up concept of the “Aryan” race, while Mussolini’s government erected marble idols on the Stadio dei Marmi.

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Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (1808-1866) 'Orlando Furioso' 1867

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Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (1808-1866)
Orlando Furioso
1867
Cast in bronze
H. 130; W. 146; D. 90 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier

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It’s tough being a Hero

As he moves outside the established order, the mythological hero risks the anger of the gods and the jealousy of men. Although his passions, his moral shortcomings and occasionally his frailties stem from his human condition, he is happy to possess the perfect form of the gods: thus the artist and the spectator find expression of a perfect self. The great dramatic destinies thus give character to the compositions, and enable them to interpret a whole range of emotions from determination to despair, from hostility to eternal rest.

Although it is a platitude to say that feelings are expressed most accurately in the face – from the theorised and institutional drawings of Charles Le Brun to the “tête d’expression” competition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts – one must not underestimate the key role of the body and the anatomy as vehicles for expressing emotion: certain formal choices even led to generally accepted conventions.

Mythology and the Homeric epic abound with stories of the ill-fated destinies and destructive passions of heroes, whose nudity is justified by its origins in ancient Greece: Joseph-Désiré Court displays the broken body of the ill-fated Hippolytus, a premonition of the transposition in the ancient world of Mort pour la patrie [Dying for The Fatherland] of Lecomte du Nouÿ.

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Nude Veritas

The Realist aesthetic, which came to the fore in western art during the 19th century, had a dramatic effect on the representation of male nudity. The human body, represented as nature intended, was no longer seen from the decorous distance that characterised the idealised image of the nude, a goal to be achieved through Academic drawing exercises. In this context, where revealing the body was an affront to modesty – in the male-dominated society of the 19th century, the unclothed male appeared even more obscene and shocking than the unclothed female – the male nude gradually became less common as female figures proliferated.

This reversal did not mean, however, that naked men disappeared altogether: scientific study of the male nude, aided by new techniques such as the decomposition of movement through a series of photographs taken in rapid succession – chronophotography – brought advances in the study of anatomy and transformed the teaching of art students. From then on, it was less a case, for the most avant-garde artists, of striving to reproduce a canon of beauty inherited from the past, than of representing a body that retained the harmony of the model’s true characteristics.

The evocative power of the nude inspired artists like the Austrian Schiele to produce nude self portraits that revealed the existential torments of the artist. Invested at times with a Christ-like dimension, these depictions, moving beyond realism into introspection, continued to be produced right up to the 21st century, especially in photography.

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William Bouguereau (1825-1905) 'Equality before Death' 1848

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William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Equality before Death
1848
Oil on Canvas
H. 141; W. 269 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

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Without compromise

The fascination for reality established in artistic circles in the mid 19th century prompted a thorough renewal of religious painting. Although resorting to the classical idealisation of the body seemed to be consistent with religious dogma, artists like Bonnat breathed fresh life into the genre by depicting the harsh truth of the physical condition of biblical figures.

This principle was already at work in Egalité devant la mort [Equality before Death], by Bouguereau, who, in his early work, in the final days of Romanticism, exploited the power of the image of an ordinary corpse. Rodin, far from enhancing the appearance of the novelist that he was invited to celebrate, sought to render Balzac’s corpulent physique with implacable accuracy, without diminishing his grandeur in any way.

The question is thus raised of art’s relationship to reality, a question Ron Mueck tackles in his work. And the strange effect brought about by a change of scale gives an intensity to the dead body of his father that echoes the dead figure in Bouguereau’s painting.

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Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) 'Fisherman with a Net' 1868

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Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870)
Fisherman with a Net
1868
Oil on canvas
H. 134; W. 83 cm
Zurich, Rau Foundation for the Third World
© Lylho / Leemage

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Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) 'Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study' 1836

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Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864)
Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study
1836
Oil on canvas
H. 98; W. 124 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

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Gloeden,_Wilhem_von_(1856-1931)-Cain-WEB

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Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931)
Cain, Taormine, Sicile
1911
© Westlicht, Musée de la Photographie, Vienna

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In Nature

Including the naked body in a landscape was not a new challenge for 19th century artists. In many aspects, this was recurrent in large-scale history painting, and a demanding artistic exercise by which a painter’s technical mastery was judged. It was about making the relationship between the naked body and its setting as accurate as possible in terms of proportion, depth and light. Although Bazille’s Pêcheur à l’épervier [Fisherman with a Net] is one of the most successful attempts – in a contemporary context – at depicting a naked man in an atmospheric light that the Impressionists later took for their own, he nevertheless observed the principles of academic construction.

Masculine nudity in nature took another meaning as society was transformed through technical advances and urbanisation. Man was now seeking a communion with nature, that could reconcile him with the excesses and the sense of dislocation created by the modern world, while still conforming to the theories of good health advocating physical exercise and fresh air.

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In pain

In allowing themselves to deviate from the classical norms, artists opened up new possibilities for a more expressive representation of a body in the throes of torment or pain. The decline of the Academic nude and of classical restraint explains this predilection for ordeals: Ixion’s for example, condemned by Zeus to be bound to an eternally spinning wheel of fire.

The writhing body can also express torment of a more psychological nature. The pain experienced by the male body naturally relates to the issues of power between men and women in contemporary society: the naked body can be demeaning and, in certain circumstances, likely to call into question virility and male domination. In this respect, Louise Bourgeois’ choice of a male figure for her Arch of Hysteria was not a random one.

The martyr can, nevertheless, inspire compositions other than the tortured body: the death of Abel, killed by his brother Cain in the Book of Genesis, seems, on the contrary, to have inspired the pose of a totally relaxed body at the point of death. This abandon, however, conveyed a certain ambivalence that artists were determined to exploit: the body, often magnified and in state of morbid ecstasy, was in fact there for the spectator to relish. In these cases, suffering was merely a device to justify fetishising the body once again. In contrast with this seductive treatment, photographers engaged in experiments to divide the body into individual parts, in an aesthetic or even playful approach.

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François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837) 'The Dying Saint Sebastian' 1789

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François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837)
The Dying Saint Sebastian
1789
Oil on canvas
H. 196; W. 147 cm
Montpellier, Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération – cliché Frédéric Jaulmes

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Ángel_Zárraga-Votive_Offering_(Saint_Sebastian)-1912-WEB

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Ángel Zárraga
Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian)
1912
Oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico

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The Glorious body

Judeo-Christian culture has undeniably influenced the representation of the naked man since the beginning of modern art. However, the Catholic concept of the body has been at variance with nudity since Paleochristian times: the body is merely the corporeal envelope from which the soul is freed on death. Influenced by theologians advocating the union of the sensory and the spiritual, nudity gradually became accepted for important figures such as Christ and Saint Sebastian. Their martyred bodies, transcended by suffering endured through faith, paradoxically allowed the human soul to come close to God.

For the Catholic church, the vulnerability of Christ’s body, subjected to suffering and bearing the stigmata, is evidence of his humanity, while his divinity is revealed in his inspired expression and his idealised body, a legacy of the underlying classical models. The figure of Saint Sebastian is especially complex: this popular saint, the epitome of the martyr who survives his first ordeal, embodies the victory of life over death. This life force is no doubt related to his youthful beauty and his naked body, both of which made their appearance in the 17th century. This being the case, his representation gradually moves away from Catholic dogma, and acquires an unprecedented freedom and life of its own: his sensuality is more and more obvious, whereas his suffering is at times impossible to detect. In this quest for sensual pleasure, and until the 20th century, the only taboo was to reveal the penis.

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Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) 'The Bath' 1951

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Paul Cadmus (1904-1999)
The Bath
1951
Tempera on card
H. 36.4; W. 41.4 cm
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art
Anonymous gift
© Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – Art
© Jon F. Anderson, Estate of Paul Cadmus / ADAGP, Paris 2013

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Alexendre Alexandrovitch Deineka (Russian, 1899-1969) 'La douche. Après la bataille' (Shower, After the Battle) 1937-42

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Alexendre Alexandrovitch Deineka (Russian, 1899-1969)
La douche. Après la bataille (Shower, After the Battle)
1937-42
Oil on canvas

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“This male homoeroticism maintains close ties with the revolutionary project to destroy the family and traditional marriage and the construction of new types of social relations based on collective values ​​above all, with the idea that the bonds of friendship and camaraderie between men (homosociality, “male bonding”) are equally or more important than heterosexual bonding. It is mainly in the period from the Revolution to the 1930s the values ​​of friendship and camaraderie seem particularly highlighted the detriment of the bonds of love, very devalued as “petty-bourgeois”, but even more later, with the Stalinist project of “restoration” of the family, it can be assumed that the emotional and romantic in the heterosexual couple have never been a pervasive and rewarding cultural representation of magnitude of that which may be known in the West. [11] The researcher Lilya Kaganovsky, analyzing the Soviet visual culture (especially cult films of the 1930s and 1940s), speaks of “heterosexual panic” in response to the concept of “homosexual panic” coined by Eve K. Segdwick: according Kaganovsky, Soviet cultural works largely reflects the idea that the relations of friendship, especially homosocial, particularly between men, is a moral value than heterosexual relationships. [12] In such a cosmology, heterosexual relationships could be perceived from within oneself and risk jeopardizing the homosocial relationships of camaraderie and friendship, and the same social and national cohesion, thought to be based on collective values that conflicts with the value of exclusivity in the couple, “cozy comforts of home” [13].”

Mona. “Représenter le corps socialiste : l’exemple du peintre A. Deïneka (1899-1969),” on the Genre, politique et sexualités website, 16th April 2012 (translation by Google translate)

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Douche.-1932.-(Boris-Ignatovitch)-WEB

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Boris Ignatovitch
Douche (Shower)
1932
Silver gelatin photograph

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The Temptation of the male

An acknowledged desire for the male body, and the liberalisation of social conventions gave rise to some daring works from the mid 20th century onwards. In the United States, in spite of its puritan outlook since the Second World War, Paul Cadmus did not balk at depicting a pick up scene between men in a most unlikely Finistère. While the physical attraction of the body remained confined for a long time to the secrecy of private interiors, it was increasingly evident in public, in exclusively masculine social situations like communal showers or in the guise of a reconstructed Platonic Antiquity.

Eroticism is even presented quite crudely by Cocteau, whose influence on the young Warhol is undeniable. Beauty and seduction part company when the ideal transmitted by references to the past takes root in idiosyncratic practices and contemporary culture, as Hockney has expressed so accurately in his painting.

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Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) 'The Sleep of Endymion' 1791

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Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824)
The Sleep of Endymion
1791
Oil on canvas
H. 90; W. 117.5 cm
Montargis, Musée Girodet
© Cliché J. Faujour/musée Girodet, Montargis

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Mercury' 2001

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953)
Mercury
2001
© Pierre et Gilles

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The Object of desire

For many years, the male body in art had been the subject of “objectification”. The unrestrained admiration for the perfection of the Greco-Roman nudes, a purely intellectual reconstruction of a body that had become the canon of beauty, meant that no interpretation of the nude was considered improper, even Winckelmann’s, with its powerful erotic charge.

Although Academic circles naturally encouraged the nude in great history paintings, certain subjects retained elements of sensuality and ambiguity. At the turn of the 19th century, discussion of the characteristics of the two sexes and their respective boundaries aroused interest in the bisexual amours of Jupiter and Apollo, while the formula of the young hero dying in the arms of his male lover was met with particular interest.

Girodet’s Endymion is depicted as an ephebe, his body caressed sensuously by the rays of the moon goddess, inspiring numerous homoerotic interpretations. With the Symbolists, as with Gustave Moreau, the difference between the sexes results in the downfall of a vulnerable man overcome by an inexorable and destructive force that is seen as feminine. However, at the other extreme, and in a less dramatic way, Hodler depicts the awakening of adolescent love between a self-obsessed young man and a girl who is captivated by his charm.

The sensuality and acknowledged eroticisation considered to be appropriate to the female body during the 19th century struck a serious blow against the traditional virility of the male nude: this blow was not fatal however, as the male nude was still very visible in the 20th century. Sexual liberation expressed, loud and clear, a feeling of voluptuousness and, often with few reservations, endowed the male body with a sexual charge. The model was usually identified, an assertive sign as a statement of the individuality: with Pierre and Gilles, where mythology and the contemporary portrait become one.

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website

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Antonin Mercié. 'David' 1872

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Antonin Mercié
David
1872
Bronze
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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David LaChapelle. 'Eminem - About to Blow' 1999

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David LaChapelle
Eminem – About to Blow
1999
Chromogenic Print

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Giorgio de Chirico (1883-1966) 'Les bains mystérieux' (Mysterious Baths) c. 1934-36

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Giorgio de Chirico (1883-1966)
Les bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths)
c. 1934-36
Tempera on card
39 x 31 cm
© Musei Civici Fiorentini – Raccolta Alberto Della Ragione

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Egon Schiele. 'Self-Portrait, Kneeling' 1910

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Egon Schiele
Self-Portrait, Kneeling
1910
© Leopold Museum / Manfred Thumberger

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Henri-Camille-Danger.-Fléau!,-1901. Paris, musée d'Orsay-WEB

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Henri-Camille-Danger
Fléau! (Scourge!)
1901
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Koloman Moser. 'Le Printemps' (Spring) c. 1900

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Koloman Moser
Le Printemps (Spring)
c. 1900

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Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) 'Grand Guerrier avec Jambe' 1893-1902

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Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929)
Grand Guerrier avec Jambe
1893-1902
Bronze

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George Platt Lynes. 'Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)' 1935

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George Platt Lynes
Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)
1935
© Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg

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Lutteurs d'Alexandre. 'Falguière' 1875

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Lutteurs d’Alexandre
Falguière
1875
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Lucian Freud. 'Naked Man on Bed' 1989

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Lucian Freud
Naked Man on Bed
1989
Oil on canvas

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Lucian Freud. 'David and Eli' 2004

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Lucian Freud
David and Eli
2004
Oil on canvas

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Masculin / Masculin – La video on YouTube

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Musée d’Orsay
62, rue de Lille
75343 Paris Cedex 07
France

Opening hours:
9.30am – 6pm
9.30am – 9.45pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays

Musée d’Orsay website

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24
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘Hauntology’ at Berkeley Museum of Art, University of California, Berkeley

Exhibition dates: 14th July – 5th December, 2010

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Like the word, love the concept – the proposition that the present is simultaneously haunted by the past and the future: “the persistence of a present past.” Many thankx to the Berkeley 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.

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Carrie Mae Weems
‘The Capture of Angela’
2008
archival pigment print
40 x 40 in.
purchase made possible through a bequest from Phoebe Apperson Hearst
photo courtesy Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco.

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Francis Bacon
‘Study for Figure V’
1956
oil on canvas
60 x 46-1/2”
gift of Joachim Jean Aberbach.

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Paul Schiek
‘Similar to a Baptism’
2007
chromogenic print
30 x 40”
Collector’s Circle purchase: bequest of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, by exchange.

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Hauntology, essentially the logic of the ghost, is a concept as ephemeral and abstract as the term implies. Since it was first used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in a 1993 lecture delivered at UC Riverside concerning the state of Marxist thought in the post-Communist era, the term hauntology has been widely discussed in philosophical and political circles, as well as becoming a major influence in the development of various sub-genres of electronic music.

This exhibition focuses primarily on the museum’s recent contemporary acquisitions, mixing these with a number of other works representing a wide range of periods and styles. Although the artists included in Hauntology do not necessarily see themselves as part of a larger movement, when viewed collectively a number of resonances appear, not unrelated to the musical interpretations of the theme. Works in Hauntology frequently incorporate archaic imagery, styles, or techniques and evoke uncertainty, mystery, inexpressible fears, and unsatisfied longing.

For Derrida himself, hauntology is a philosophy of history that upsets the easy progression of time by proposing that the present is simultaneously haunted by the past and the future. Specifically, Derrida suggests that the specter of Marxist utopianism haunts the present, capitalist society, in what he describes as “the persistence of a present past.” The notion of hauntology also can be seen as describing the fluidity of identity among individuals, marking the dynamic and inevitable shades of influence that link one person’s experience to another’s, both in the present and over time.

In the fifteen years since Derrida first used this term, hauntology, and the related term, hauntological, have been adopted by the British music critic Simon Reynolds to describe a recurring influence in electronic music created primarily by artists in the United Kingdom who use and manipulate samples culled from the past (mostly old wax-cylinder recordings, classical records, library music, or postwar popular music) to invoke either a euphoric or unsettling view of an imagined future. The music has an anachronistic quality hinting at an unrecognizable familiarity that is often dreamlike, blurry, and melancholic – what Reynolds describes as “an uneasy mixture of the ancient and the modern.”

This exhibition marks the first time that a museum has presented works of visual art within the framework of hauntology. Works by Luc Tuymans, Paul Sietsema, Carrie Mae Weems, Bruce Conner, Robert Gutierrez, Diane Arbus, Travis Collinson, Paul Schiek, Arnold Kemp, and others form loose groups in which one can discern various thematic concentrations: the enigma of place and placelessness, memorial and longing, transitional beings, displacement and disappearance, demonic manifestations, auras, elegies of nature, and the translucency of the psyche.

Scott Hewicker, artist and musician
Lawrence Rinder, director, BAM/PFA
Curators”

Press release from the Berkeley Museum of Art website

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Bernard Maybeck
‘Frontispiece for “Circe, A Dramatic Fantasy” by Isaac Flagg’
1910
watercolor
17-7/8 x 22-3/4”
Gift of Estate of Mabel H. Dillinger.

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Unknown Artist
‘View of Providence, Rhode Island’
1820
28 x 29 in.
oil on wood panel
Gift of W.B. Carnochan.

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Paul Sietsema
‘Ship drawing’ (detail)
2009
ink on paper
diptych, ea: 50 3/4 x 70 in.
museum purcchase: bequest of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, exchange
photo © Paul Sietsema/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

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Berkeley Museum of Art
2626 Bancroft Way
2621 Durant Avenue
University of California, Berkeley

Opening Hours (Galleries, Museum Store)
Wednesday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Berkeley Museum of Art website

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18
Dec
09

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio – Bacon’ at Gallery Borghese, Rome

2nd October 2009 – 24th January 2010

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Two of my favourite artists together for the first time!

Individually they are dazzling but the curatorial nous to bring these two great painters together – fantastic.
Imagine going back to the time of Caravaggio – his paintings in the churches of the powerful (not the rich, see, because the rich can never enter the kingdom of heaven) –  lit by candlelight, all huge thrusting buttocks at eye level as you enter, the rich velvety colours, the drama, the dirty feet, the voluptuous forms stretched across the canvas.

Now imagine taking Bacon back to the same period. His sinuous, tortured bodies lit by candlelight – no a single electric light bulb (remember!) – innards spreading effusively, effluently along the floor. Can you imagine the gloomy interiors with Bacon’s figures looming out of the darkness? His ‘Head VI’ screaming in the darkness …

Instinctively, intellectually we know how the paintings of a Baroque artist of the early 17th century affect how we look at the paintings of Bacon. This exhibition offers the reverse, in fact it rewrites how we look at Caravaggio – through the benediction of Bacon. Those rough house homosexuals sure knew a thing or two about painting, flesh, desire and the eroticism of the human body. God bless em!

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PS. I have arranged the paintings below to illustrate some of the confluences and divergences between the two great artists, hopefully much as the actual exhibition will have done.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
‘The Conversion of Saint Paul’
c.1600/01

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Francis Bacon
‘Study of George Dyer’
1969

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Francis Bacon
Central panel of the ‘Triptych of George Dyer’
1973

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
‘Saint John the Baptist’
1604

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“I have always aspired to express myself in the most direct and crudest way possible, and maybe, if something is transmitted directly, people find it horrifying. Because, if you say something in the most direct way to a person, the latter sometimes takes offence, even if what you said is a fact. Because people tend to take offence at facts, or at what was once called truth.”

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This is how the Irish genius Francis Bacon justified his modus operandi, his propensity for a disquieting and sometimes grotesque distortion of the form. His works, placed next to those of another “damned” painter of the history of art, the great Caravaggio, will be exhibited from 1st October 2009 to 24th January 2010 at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. On the occasion of the fourth centenary of Caravaggio’s death, and of the centenary of Bacon’s birth, the figures of these eccentric artists, who are considered excessive – each one in their own way in their own period – are interweaved and narrated for the first time at the Galleria Borghese, which will also have prestigious loans from the most important museums in the world. By Caravaggio, already familiar with the Galleria Borghese thanks to his relation with cardinal Scipione Borghese, six masterpieces will be on view, synthesising his entire production: Boy with basket of fruit, Sick little Bacchus, Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri), David with the head of Goliath, Saint Jerome writing and Saint John the Baptist. Other key works of his artistic career will be added to these pieces of the permanent collection: Peter’s denial (Metropolitan in New York), Saul’s fall (Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome), The Martyrdom of St. Orsola (Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples) and the Portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta (Palazzo Pitti). About twenty works by Bacon, loaned by the most prestigious museums, will be placed next to Caravaggio’s masterpieces.

The exhibition has the objective, with an unusual style and combining for the first time the two authors, not so much to immerse visitors in a historical-critical reconstruction, as much as to suggest an alternative aesthetic experience generated by the confrontation between the two expressive idioms which are so far yet so close. To tell the truth, the comparison between the two artists betrays Bacon’s grammar, as he did not love to be measured against the great masters of the past, even with those he esteemed the most: he ingeniously looked at the great “pillars” of the history of art filtering them through photography, which convulsively stimulated his perception and guided his creativity, until he conceived works that were very far from their original source of inspiration. Yet Caravaggio and Francis Bacon have something in common: in their linguistic, formal and temporal diversity they are both undisputed paladins of the human figure, they were able to seize the arcane undertones of life and art, and translate them into representations of ruthless frankness. Through the truth of flesh, what emerges are existential anxieties and a careful analysis of the human soul. In Caravaggio it happens thanks to his realism taken to obsession, in which the rigorous plasticity of bodies and theatrical illumination do not reveal only pleasant and harmonious shapes, they do not spare the spectators’ eyes from the crudeness of the distressing and deformed aspect of a subject. For Bacon physical deformation is enslaved to the ferocious narration of the human condition. Therefore, the password of this “strange couple” of artists is “truth,” of purposes and/or of means …

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Francis Bacon
‘Triptyph’
August 1972

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Francis Bacon
‘Triptych of George Dyer’
1973

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Francis Bacon
‘Triptych in Memory of George Dyer’
1971

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Therefore, the true stars of the exhibition are the spectators, it is up to them to contemplate the works and find links and discrepancies between the two artists, according to their own sensibility and regardless of the conditions originally foreseen by the painters for their creations. Those pieces live, in the museum context of Villa Borghese, an autonomous existence, free from their first generated status.  The exhibition “Caravaggio – Bacon” is curated by Anna Coliva, Director of the Galleria Borghese, Claudio Strinati, Special Superintendent for the PSAE and for the Museum Pole of the city of Rome and by Michael Peppiatt, biographer and close friend who knew very well Francis Bacon, organised by MondoMostre and made possible thanks to the support of BG Italia, ENEL and Vodafone.”

Press release from the Gallery Borghese website

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Francis Bacon
‘Head VI’
1949

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
‘Boy with a Basket of Fruit’
c.1593-1594

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
‘Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri)’
1606

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Francis Bacon
Central panel of the ‘Triptych in Memory of George Dyer’
1971

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Francis Bacon
Right panel of the ‘Triptych in Memory of George Dyer’
1971

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
‘The portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta’
1608-09

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Galleria Borghese
Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5

Opening hours:
Monday 13:00 – 19:00
from Tuesday to the Saturday 9:00 – 21:00
Sunday 9,00 – 19:00

Caravaggio – Bacon website

Gallery Borghese website

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07
Aug
09

Exhibition: ‘Cecil Beaton: Portraits’ at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 31st August, 2009

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Until you are reminded by the photographs you sometimes forget what a fantastic auteur Cecil Beaton was.

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Cecil Beaton. 'Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946' 1946

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Cecil Beaton
‘Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946’
1946

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Cecil Beaton. 'Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946' 1946

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Cecil Beaton
‘Greta Garbo, Plaza Hotel, New York, April 1946’
1946

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Cecil Beaton. 'Audrey Hepburn' 1960

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Cecil Beaton
‘Audrey Hepburn’
1960

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Cecil Beaton. 'Barbara Hutton in Tangier, Morocco' 1961

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Cecil Beaton
‘Barbara Hutton in Tangier, Morocco’
1961

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Cecil Beaton. 'Charles James Gowns by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, June 1948' 1948

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Cecil Beaton
‘Charles James Gowns by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, June 1948’
1948

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“A stunning exhibition of nearly 50 portraits by Cecil Beaton, one of the most famous photographers of the 20th century, captures the glamour and excitement of some of the world’s greatest celebrities.

‘Cecil Beaton: Portraits’ 26 June – 31 August 2009 brilliantly reflects the astonishing talents of the photographer who was also a writer, artist, designer, actor, caricaturist, illustrator and diarist.

He photographed a dazzling array of superstars and leading personalities ranging from the Queen to Mick Jagger, Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn and Winston Churchill to Lucian Freud.

Beaton (1904 – 1980) was himself a charismatic character who could charm and cajole, amuse and flirt, electrify and calm. He was known for his elegant sartorial style which exactly matched and reflected the circles he moved in.
His long career covered an era of great change from the Roaring Twenties to the dawn of the New Romantics.

Jessica Feather, Walker curator, says:

“Cecil Beaton had a remarkable gift of bringing out the personalities and flair of his sitters so that he created some of the great iconic images of the age. The portraits still cast a spell with their timeless appeal, giving deep insights into the extraordinary people who came before his camera.”

Beaton’s career as a photographer began with his earliest portraits of his sister Baba taken in 1922, when he was a teenager.

After Cambridge, his early photographs were published in society magazines The Sketch, Tatler and Eve from 1925 onwards. In 1927, 23-year-old Beaton secured a contract with Vogue to provide portraits, caricatures and social commentary. His career – with the exception of two short breaks – continued with Vogue for the rest of his life.

In the 1930s he published books packed with glamorous portraits and artwork and photographed the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Wallis Simpson. Beaton also took a striking series of romantic studies of Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).

His work took on a grittier aspect during the war and post-war years when he worked for the Ministry of Information and as an official war photographer.

Beaton reached the height of his powers in the 1950s and 60s when he became a household name. As well as creating great portraits of a new generation of film actresses such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, he won Oscars for his design work in the blockbuster films Gigi and My Fair Lady.

Knighted in 1972, Beaton had a stroke in 1974 but returned to photography three years later. Among his subjects in his final years were fashion designers and international celebrities.”

Press release from the Walker Art Gallery website

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Cecil Beaton. 'Francis Bacon' 1951

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Cecil Beaton
‘Francis Bacon’
1951

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Cecil Beaton. 'Marilyn Monroe, New York, Febraury 22, 1956' 1956

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Cecil Beaton
‘Marilyn Monroe, New York, Febraury 22, 1956’
1956

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Cecil Beaton. 'Maria Callas' 1957

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Cecil Beaton
‘Maria Callas’
1957

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Cecil Beaton. 'Kyra Nijinsky' 1935

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Cecil Beaton
‘Kyra Nijinsky’
1935

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Cecil Beaton, 'Marilyn Monroe' 1956

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Cecil Beaton
‘Marilyn Monroe’
1956

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Cecil Beaton. 'Mick Jagger, Marrakesh' 1967

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Cecil Beaton
‘Mick Jagger, Marrakesh’
1967

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“This major restrospective exhibition brings together captivating images from Cecil Beaton, one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century. Renowned for his images of elegance, glamour and style, Beaton’s work has inspired many famous photographers including David Bailey and Mario Testino.

The exhibition reflects the astonishing talents of the photographer who was also a writer, artist, designer, actor, caricaturist, illustrator and diarist. There are four sections in the exhibition covering Beaton’s career and capturing 50 years of fashion, art and celebrity:

The Early Years: London to Hollywood, 1920s and 1930s

Photographs of Hollywood stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Fred Astaire and artists including John (Rex) Whistler, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

The Years Between: The War and Post-War Arts, 1940s

Featuring Greta Garbo, Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier as well as Princess Elizabeth and Sir Winston Churchill.

The Strenuous Years: Picturing the Arts, 1950s

Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, Francis Bacon, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Lucian Freud and Marilyn Monroe.

Partying and the Partying Years: Apotheosis and Retrospection, 1960s and 1970s

Includes images of Audrey Hepburn, Prince Charles, Harold Pinter, Katherine Hepburn, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand
and Elizabeth Taylor.”

Text from the Walker Art Gallery website

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Walker Art Gallery
William Brown Street
Liverpool L3 8EL

Open 10am-5pm daily

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26
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Francis Bacon’ at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Exhibition dates: February 3rd – April 19th 2009

 

Looks like an amazing exhibition of Francis Bacon’s work, one of my favourite artists –  I wish I could see it!

There is a very interesting 14 minute description of the exhibition by curator Manuela Mena on the Prado website. It features a section on Bacon’s use of photographs and reference to work from all his major periods.
I can’t embed the video so click on the image below or link below to take you to the page.

 

Description of exhibition of the work of Francis Bacon at the Prado Museum, Madrid by curator Manuela Mena

 

Layout of the exhibition with comments by Manuela Mena (video)

 

The exhibition is constructed in different sections

  • Animal
  • Zone
  • Apprehension
  • Crucifixion
  • Crisis
  • Archive
  • Portrait
  • Memorial
  • Epic
  • Late

 

“Bacon’s work demonstrates marked similarities to that of many of the Spanish artists he admired. (Manuela Mena, co-curator of the exhibition at the Prado, has written an excellent essay on this topic that can be found in the exhibition’s catalog.) The retrospective at the Prado provides a rare opportunity to compare Bacon to some of the Spanish masters that influenced him. 

Start by meandering through the vast Bacon exhibition. Spread between two floors of the new wing of the Prado, the exhibition has brought together Bacon’s most important works from nearly his entire artistic production. It begins with the work that put Bacon on the map, “Three Studies for Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion” (1944), and follows his work through the interpretations of Velázquez, crucifixion triptychs, his unique portraits and the late works through the years shortly before his death.”

 

Francis Bacon. 'Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X' 1953

 

Francis Bacon
‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X’
1953

 

Francis Bacon. 'Chimpanzee' 1955

 

Francis Bacon
‘Chimpanzee’
1955


Francis Bacon. 'Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge)' 1961

 

Francis Bacon
‘Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge)’
1961


fFrancis Bacon. 'Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho' 1967

 

Francis Bacon
‘Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho’
1967


Francis Bacon. 'Portrait of John Edwards' 1988

 

Francis Bacon
‘Portrait of John Edwards’
1988

 

Museo Nacional del Prado website




Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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