Posts Tagged ‘madrid

24
Nov
15

Exhibition: ‘Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 10th September – 28th November 2015

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum in association with Fundación MAPFRE.

Curator: Matthew Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator Department of Photography of the Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

Without reminding myself every so often, you actually forget just what a master of photography Josef Koudelka is.

Looking at the installation photographs below, without knowing the names of the individual images, is instructive. Notice how graphically strong his organisation of the picture plane is. Usually one or two, three at the most, strong vertical or horizontal elements – dark on dark, light on dark; man and hovercraft; figures on pavement; women, tree and building; assemblages of objects and light.

I believe all of his work links back to his sense of the theatre of memory, whether it be the landscapes and sceneries of the outdoors taken in Prague, and on trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy or the psychological interior of the mind of his theatre characters as he portrays them through photography. From the mystery and exoticism of the Gypsies series, to the recording of history, time and conflict of the Invasion photographs (witness the Hand and wristwatch). From the metaphysical symbols of isolation (lost animals, lonely figures, scattered objects and displaced Gypsies) in Exiles, which is the core of the Koudelka vital experience, to the destruction of ancient archaeological sites and depictions of places that have been mined, swept away or marked by the scars of industrialisation, devastated by wars and altered by time in his panoramic format photographs.

These theatres of the divine, theatres of the mind are ‘Theatres of Memory’ in which the 16th century Italian philosopher Guilio Camillo asks the question: How is the motion of the memory connected with the motion of history? How is the personal political?

Koudleka’s probing of this question is present in every one of his images. Through his inquiry “he maintains a total unity through the photographer’s vision.” The artist forms mental and physical images of the things he wants to remember, that he wants us to remember, using theatrical spaces… and his subjective thoughts bind us, closely, to collective memories.

“History… is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

Marcus

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

 

 

“FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE presents the most complete retrospective exhibit up to this day dedicated to the Czech photographer of French nationality Josef Koudelka (n. 1938), member for the past forty years of Magnum Photos agency.

Engineer by profession, Koudelka became committed to the photographic medium in the middle of the sixties and became one of the most influential authors of his generation. Halfway between the artistic and documentary, Josef Koudelka is now a living legend. He has received prestigious awards in recognition of his work, among others, the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), the Grand prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the International Award in Photography of the Hasselblad Foundation (1992).

This exhibition goes through his entire trajectory that covers more than five decades of work. The extense selection with more than 150 works reflects his first experimental projects produced at the end of the fifties and during the sixties, as well as his historic series Gypsies, Invasion and Exiles and reaching the great panoramic landscapes produced in the last years. In addition the exhibition includes important documental material, the majority unpublished -layouts, pamphlets, magazines of the period among others-, that allows us to delve into the work as well as the creative process of this author.

The title of the exhibition is Uncertain Nationality, which describes the sense of not belonging to a place, a sense of disorientation so present in his work since his exile from Czechoslovakia after the invasion of Prague, and his permanent interest in territories in conflict.”

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

 

Entrance view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Entrance view of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation views of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Introduction

In the mid-1950s, when a new youth culture characterised by an open mindset was beginning to emerge in Czechoslovakia following the death of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and after two decades of brutal repression, Josef Koudelka (born in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and nationalised French) left his village in Moravia and moved to the capital, Prague. An aeronautical engineer by training, Koudelka became very actively involved in photography in the mid-1960s, contributing to the creative renaissance that took place in his native country.

Koudelka not only immortalised these years with his camera but also embodied them. He spent lengthy periods in gypsy encampments in Slovakia, he compulsively photographed actors during play rehearsals, and he mingled with demonstrators and soldiers in August 1968 in order to capture the invasion of Prague by the Soviet troops. When Koudelka went into exile shortly afterwardshe acquired the official status of “nationality doubtful”, becoming a stateless person as he was unable to produce documentation proving that he was born in Czechoslovakia. He refused to be intimidated by this situation, however, and continued to travel and take photographs, allowing gypsy communities and traditional and religious festivals to decide his destinations.

Koudelka settled in Paris in the 1980s and after the fall of Communism returned to Prague in 1990 where he now has a second home. Nonetheless, he continues to be a traveller, committed over the past twenty-five years to the creation of panoramic photographs that depict landscapes around the world which have been altered and often devastated by the hand of man.

This exhibition encompasses Josef Koudelka’s entire career, spanning more than five decades of work. The comprehensive selection of images on display includes his first experimental projects of the 1950s and 1960s and his historic series Gypsies, Invasion and Exiles, concluding with the great panoramic landscapes of recent years. In addition, visitors will see important documentary material, most of it previously unpublished and including layouts, leaflets and magazines of the period which contribute to a deeper understanding of this artist’s work and creative process.

 

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Early years + theatre

Early years and Experiments

Josef Koudelka was immersed in the ambiance of liberalization that occurred in Czechoslovakia after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 who had subjected the country to a brutal repression for two decades. Koudelka began to photograph professionally in 1958 and create a series of landscapes and sceneries of the outdoors taken in Prague, and on trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy. Right away, the camera accompanied him on all of his trips, which would herald his impulse to work as an independent photographer and nomad for more than forty years.

Koudelka dates his first serious photographic activity to 1958. Between that date and 1962 he produced a body of work which encompassed landscapes and outdoor views taken in Prague and during trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy. Travel and its associated discoveries were a permanent stimulus to his creativity as a photographer. During these early years Koudelka assiduously studied the possibilities of giving form to the photographic image before and after the actual shot was taken. Initially, he inclined to manipulation subsequent to exposure, such as cropping and the use of experimental techniques in the dark room.

The Theatre

In the 1960s Koudelka worked free-lance for the most important Czech theatrical companies, Divadloza Branou (Theatre behind the Door) and Divadlona Zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade). As such, he evolved a new way of photographing that involved the repetition and prior visualisation of the image. Working rapidly and close to the actors on the stage while they were rehearsing, Koudelka constantly moved around them until he had the desired image in his mind. The harsh, exaggerated theatrical lighting proved difficult to photograph, obliging him to force the development of his films with low exposures. Ultimately, a detail that interested him in an image might only occupy a small part of the negative and thus required significant blowing-up and laborious manipulation during the developing process in order to obtain a legible copy. Koudelka’s images of theatrical performances were used for promotional purposes and often appeared on the front cover and in the pages of the magazine Divadlo (Theatre).

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE Josef Koudelka website

 

Josef Koudelka. 'An Hour of Love by Josef Topol, Divadlo za branou [Theater behind the Door], Prague' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
An Hour of Lov
e by Josef Topol, Divadlo za branou [Theater behind the Door], Prague
1968
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Theatre on the Balustrade, King Ubu (by playwright Alfred Jarry), Prague' 1964

 

Josef Koudelka
Theatre on the Balustrade, King Ubu (by playwright Alfred Jarry), Prague
1964
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Alfred Jarry's Uburoi, Divadlo na zábradlí, Prague' 1964

 

Josef Koudelka
Alfred Jarry’s Uburoi, Divadlo na zábradlí, Prague
1964
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia' 1960

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia
1960
Gelatin silver, early print
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Gypsies

In 1961 Koudelka started to take photographs in villages and gypsy encampments. He initially continued with his habitual employment as an engineer but this photographic endeavour soon became a project that would define his artistic career and give rise to the series Gypsies. He returned again and again to around eighty different places in Slovakia and the Czech regions of Moravia and Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), principally between 1963 and 1970, taking thousands of photographs from which he selected various hundreds and finally a few dozen that he most preferred, entitling them with the name of the place where they were taken. The varied compositions – interiors, individual and group portraits, and landscapes – allow the subjects space to be themselves while maintaining a total unity through the photographer’s vision. These works also constitute views onto a world which seemed very exotic at that time, even for other Czechs and Slovaks, but which was nonetheless quite self-sufficient and as universally accessible as ancient myths.

The first exhibition of this series, held in the lobby of the Divadloza Branou (Theatre behind the Door) in Prague in March 1967, only included twenty-seven photographs. The twenty-two prints that have survived from that event are included in the present exhibition, mounted on their original panels and displayed as a group, as they were almost fifty years ago.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Bohemia' 1966

 

Josef Koudelka
Bohemia
1966
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Moravia (Strážnice)' 1966

 

Josef Koudelka
Moravia (Strážnice)
1966
Gelatin silver, print 1967
Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia' 1963

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia
1963
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Romania' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Romania
1968
Gelatin silver, print 1980s
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Robin and Sandy Stuart
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia' 1963

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia
1963
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, Amanda TaubVeazie Endowment and Photography Gala Fund
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Invasion section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Invasion section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Invasion

In August 1968, shortly after returning to Czechoslovakia after a trip to Rumania where he had gone to photograph gypsy encampments, Koudelka woke up early one morning to discover that the Warsaw Pact forces led by the Soviet Union had invaded Prague. He immediately loaded his Exakta Varex camera with East German film and went out onto the street, tirelessly photograph the devastating occupation between 21 and 27 August. Koudelka climbed on tanks, encountered soldiers armed with machine guns (as did the demonstrators alongside him), and photographed the innumerable slogans and posters which appeared every day on the city’s walls and were then removed by the invading forces every evening. Koudelka penetrated into the heart of the resistance. A new era was dawning and his photographs became a powerful reminder of how that change first began.

His images became a document of the conflict and symbol of the spirit of the resistance movement. The rolls of film that he used to photograph the Prague struggle ended up in Western Europe illegally and the Koudelka images appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. Koudelka spent that winter editing his photographs, selecting just a handful from among thousands of images. Finally, the negatives were smuggled out to the United States and with the help of the Magnum Photos agency were distributed to magazines and newspapers around the world on the occasion of the first anniversary of the invasion in 1969. Prior to 1984, when they were publicly exhibited for the first time in London with Koudelka’s name attached to them, these images were published anonymously and only attributed to “P.P”, standing for “Prague Photographer”, in order to avoid possible reprisals against Koudelka and his family.

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Czech citizen on sidewalk, wearing jacket with target)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Czech citizen on sidewalk, wearing jacket with target)
1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Czech citizen on tank)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Czech citizen on tank)
1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of a private collector
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Hand and wristwatch' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Hand and wristwatch
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver, print 1990
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'At the Czechoslovak Radio building, Vinohradská Avenue' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
At the Czechoslovak Radio building, Vinohradská Avenue
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Two Czech citizens with flag)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Two Czech citizens with flag)
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Near the Radio Headquarters. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Exiles

In 1970 Koudelka left Czechoslovakia for Great Britain, where he lived until he moved to France in 1980, obtaining French citizenship in 1987. During his years of exile he worked tirelessly, travelling during the spring and summer in order to photograph traditional festivals and gypsy events in various countries in Western Europe, principally the UK, Ireland, Italy and Spain, then retiring to his darkroom in the winter. During this period of his life Koudelka made numerous friends on his travels and through his association with Magnum Photos. He remained totally independent, however, refusing to rent an apartment or accept commissions in order to retain control of his artistic output and to be in complete charge of his agenda. His enigmatic photographs of these years evoke his own feelings of isolation through images of animals running free, lone figures, abandoned objects and displaced gypsies, although his work presents these feelings of solitude and distance in very broad terms.

Josef Koudelka left Czechoslovakia in 1970 and petitioned to exile to the United Kingdom. While he was in exile, he continued to work throughout Europe on those routes marked by Gypsy religious festivals and folklore that are held annually. The alienation that he felt for not belonging to a nation is reflected in his Exiles work that shows symbols of isolation (lost animals, lonely figures, scattered objects and displaced Gypsies) which is the core of the Koudelka vital experience. Unclear nationality refers to the legal status that appears in the author’s travel documents each time he returned to the United Kingdom, his home base during the first decade of exile, since he did not have a Czechoslovakian passport and could not prove his birthplace.

The subjects in the series Exiles are not limited to a specific group or period, and while they are based on Koudelka’s own everyday experiences during his stateless period, they are more metaphysical than physical. Here autobiography and reportage maintain a relationship of productive tension.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France' 1976

 

Josef Koudelka
Still Life (Newspaper), France
1976
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Parc de Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France' 1987

 

Josef Koudelka
Parc de Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France
1987
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia
1968
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Ireland' 1972

 

Josef Koudelka
Ireland
1972
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Panoramas

Since 1986 Koudelka has been taking photographs with panoramic cameras. His first project, commissioned by the Mission Photographique Transmanche, depicted the landscape of northern France affected by the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Since then he has used the broad panoramic format to depict places that have been mined, swept away or marked by the scars of industrialisation, devastated by wars and altered by time. The artist’s most recent panoramic photographs show important remains of past civilisations discovered on archaeological sites in twenty countries, particularly those bordering the Mediterranean.

Since 1986, Koudelka was using a panoramic camera. He uses this expanded format to show territories devastated by conflicts or altered with the passage of time. These images are the core of his impressive foldout publications such as Black Triangle or Chaos that shows scenery on the edge of ruins.

In 2007 Koudelka was invited along with eleven other photographers to take part in a project to explore the complex situation in Israel and Palestine. Despite his initial doubts, he accepted on the condition that he should be allowed to work as he wished and that he could focus on the wall in the West Bank and the area surrounding it on both sides. Having “grown up in Czechoslovakia, behind a wall”, Koudelka immediately pinpointed this barrier, with its physical, environmental and metaphorical connotations, as the subject that most interested him. This extensive system of concrete walls and barbed-wire fences allowed him to take full advantage of the broad panoramic format that he had been using since the 1980s, while the subject also gave him the opportunity to focus on the region’s landscape.

More recently, Josef Koudelka used this format to document the border of the West Bank and the territories that surround it such as the Negev desert or the Golan Heights. This work, Wall, urges the spectator to see the desolation of vast scenery dominated by walls, barbed-wire fences, access roads and borders. In the exhibition, there is a selection of copies from this work together with the book published in 2014. The panoramics are impressive objects that are between 1.2 and 1.8 m long. In these panoramics we perceive a scenery created by the man that tells his story, as well as the transformations that he has suffered due to human pillage, meaning: through his photographs we see man as creator and destroyer of the world.

Between 1991 and 2015, Josef Koudelka visited twenty countries bordering the Mediterranean, stopping at over two hundred Greek and Roman archaeological sites to create his series Archaeology. This was an unprecedented exploration which has not yet been completed – Koudelka keeps visiting archaeological sites in Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and other Mediterranean countries – searching not for the documents of the sites, but for the most perfect images of their existence.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France (Nord Pas-de-Calais)' From the series 'Chaos', 1989

 

Josef Koudelka
France (Nord Pas-de-Calais)
From the series Chaos, 1989
Inkjet, print 2013
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Lebanon (Beirut)' From the series 'Chaos', 1991

 

Josef Koudelka
Lebanon (Beirut)
From the series Chaos, 1991
Gelatin silver, print 1999
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Jordan (Amman)' from the series 'Archaeology', 2012

 

Josef Koudelka
Jordan (Amman)
from the series Archaeology, 2012
Inkjet print, 2013
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Israel-Palestine (Al 'Eizariya [Bethany])' From the series 'Wall', 2010

 

Josef Koudelka
Israel-Palestine (Al ‘Eizariya [Bethany])
From the series Wall, 2010
Inkjet, print 2014
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid, Spain
T: +34 915 81 61 00

Opening hours:
Sunday 11.00 am – 7.00 pm
Monday 2.00 – 8.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm

Fundación MAPFRE website

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10
May
15

Exhibition: ‘Nicolás Muller (1913-2000). Traces of exile’ at the Château de Tours

Exhibition dates: 22nd November 2014 – 31st May 2015

Curator: Chema Cones, a freelance curator

 

 

Another artist whom I knew very little about before researching for this posting. Another human being who survived the maelstrom of the Second World War by the skin of his teeth – obtaining a visa for Tangiers which, at the time, was the destination for thousands of Jews fleeing from Central Europe.

After seven years in Tangier – “Tangier, in December 1939, was an international city, almost a paradise in the middle of a world war-crazed … My stinging eyes, hands and my whole being to want to walk everywhere taking pictures” – he moved to Madrid, in order to go back to working as a photojournalist, to explore the regions of Spain, and to publish books of his work. This seems a strange country of choice to move to after the freedom of Tangiers, especially with the Fascist dictatorship of General Franco in full swing until 1975. I wonder what were his reasons behind this choice? Muller obviously loved the Spanish landscape and its people and you can track his journeys across the Iberian Peninsula by looking up the places of his photographs on a map of the region. He travelled everywhere, from North to South, from West to East. Apparently, he was an active member of Spain’s underground intelligentsia, but why would you go to a country if you had to be covert about your intelligence? Was he in exile from Hungary or France, or from himself?

The strongest photographs in this posting are the images from Tangiers, although I would love to see more of his portrait work (the image of Susana, 1937, below is a cracker). Unfortunately there are very few of his portrait photographs online. The best of his work has an elegant simplicity with a wonderful control of people, space and light.

 

Addendum November 2017

I received a wonderful and unexpected email from Dania Muller, whose grandfather was Nicolás Muller. Dania explains the “enigma” of Nicolás settling in Spain:

He was asked by the intellectuals who weren’t dismissed by Franco, Spains dictator at the time, to exhibit in Madrid. He was living in Tanger at the time. And so he went to Madrid to expose his work… only to encounter a beautiful lady who he felt a strong attraction too, and told his friend that he would marry her. She was my grandma, they fell in love and eventually he moved to Spain, had four kids and took in the Spanish way of life, where he lived peacefully and happily.”

Dania Muller email to Marcus Bunyan 25/11/2017.

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What a joyous, happy ending! Dania is sending me a book on her grandfather’s work and I hope to do another posting in the near future.

Marcus

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

 

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Carénage du navire. Canaries' 1964

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Carénage du navire. Canaries [Fairing the ship. Canary Islands]
1964
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Country House. Madrid' 1950

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Country House, Madrid
1950
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

“La fotografía en España en el año 47 ofrecía un aspecto bastante original: por un lado Ortiz Echagüe, el venerado maestro que hacía sus libros y sus fotografías como si fueran pinturas o grabados preciosos y por otra parte… Campúa, el fotógrafo del Caudillo, Jalón Ángel, Kaulak en la calle Alcalá y Geynes que junto Amer Ventosa copaban las fotografías de ata sociedad.

Por lo demás la fotografía no estaba valorada en nada o en casi nada, mostrando una perspectiva desoladora.”

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“Photography in Spain in 1947 offered a rather original appearance: first Ortiz Echague, the revered teacher who had his books and his photographs as if they were paintings or beautiful prints and elsewhere … Campúa, photographer of the Caudillo, Jalon Ángel, Kaulak in Alcala Street and Geynes and Amer Ventosa together photographs were permeating society.

Otherwise the picture was not worth anything or almost nothing, showing a bleak outlook.”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Marché de nattes de paille' Tanger, Maroc, 1944

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Marché de nattes de paille [Straw mats at the market]
Tangier, Morocco, 1944
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Danseuse' Larache, Maroc, 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Danseuse [Dancer]
Larache, Maroc, 1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Portrait of Susana' 1937

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Portrait of Susana
1937
© Nicolás Muller

 

“En mis retratos, si hubiera algo de interés, no será por el retratista, sino por parte del retratado. Me gustaba hacer retratos para conocer al personaje.”

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“In my portraits, there was something of interest, it is not for the portrait, but for the sitter. I liked doing portraits to know the character.”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Bajo la Lluvia' Portugal, 1939

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Bajo la Lluvia [In the Rain]
Portugal, 1939
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Descargando sal' Oporto, Portugal, 1939

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Descargando sal [Unloading salt]
Oporto, Portugal, 1939
© Nicolás Muller

 

“In Porto I liked the harbor full of bustle, with its vivid colors … women with heavy downloading caryatids necks baskets of salt and coal. Other women, always with baskets on their heads, downloading large bales of dried cod, and among both men lying or sitting in the sun, watching the clouds, playing cards …”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Chinchón II' Madrid, 1950

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Chinchón II
Madrid, 1950
Chinchón II

 

 

“Although little known in France, Nicolás Muller (Orosháza, Hungary, 1913 – Andrín, Spain, 2000) was one of the leading exponents of Hungarian social photography. Like many of his compatriots – Eva Besnyö, Brassaï, Robert Capa, André Kertész and Kati Horna – he spent much of his life in exile: born into a bourgeois Jewish family, he left Hungary shortly after the Anschluss in 1938, spending time in Paris, Portugal and Morocco before finally setting in Spain. This experience, and the situations and people he encountered along the way, did much to shape Muller’s work.

Like many of his fellow Hungarian photographers at the time, in the 1930s Muller worked in a humanist, documentary vein, evincing a strong sense of sympathy for the world of labour and the most modest members of society. His interest in the working man’s experience would remain a hallmark of his photographs. As the social and political contexts changed, he photographed agricultural labourers and dockers in the ports of Marseille and Porto, then children and street vendors in Tangiers, and life in the countryside. Later, he photographed cultural and social figures in Madrid.

The exhibition at the Château de Tours – the first show in France dedicated exclusively to this photographer – brings together a hundred images and documents from the archives kept by his daughter Ana Muller. This chronologically presented selection made by curator Chema Conesa follows the career and travels of this alert, curious photographer from 1935 to 1981.

Nicolás Muller was given his first camera at the age of thirteen, and immediately began to explore its capacity to express a certain idea of the world and of human beings. He maintained this passion for photography when studying law and politics at the Szeged University. His camera, and the feeling that he could use it to convey the adventure of living, were the formative constants of his life and art.

“I learned that photography can be a weapon, an authentic document of reality. […] I became an engaged person, an engaged photographer.”

During his four years at university he would also explore the Hungarian plains, whether on foot, by train or by bike, photographing men and women, the interiors of houses, scenes of rural life and the workers building the dykes on the River Tisza.

His early work is dominated by this rural aspect of Hungary – a country that had lost a significant fraction of its territory under the Treaty of Versailles (1920). It is also influenced by the avant-garde aesthetic of the day, with its diagonal perspectives and high- and low-angle shots.

When Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938 (the Anschluss), Hungary aligned itself with the fascist regime and Muller decided to continue his photographic career elsewhere. He came to Paris, where he was in touch with other Hungarian photographers such as Brassaï, Robert Capa and André Kertész. He found work with periodicals such as Match, France Magazine and Regards, which published his photographs of working life in Hungary and Marseille. This theme continued to occupy him during his short stay in General Salazar’s Portugal, until he was imprisoned and then expelled.

Through his father, who had stayed in Hungary and had close links with Rotary Club International, Muller managed to obtain a visa for Tangiers – which, at the time, was the destination for thousands of Jews fleeing from Central Europe. The city roused him to a state of almost febrile creativity. “My eyes, my hands and my whole being are itching to go everywhere, to take photographs wherever I can.” His tireless portrayal of Tangiers also shows him learning to deal with a new challenge: intense light.

In Tangiers Muller contributed photographs to a number of books, such as Tanger por el Jalifa and Estampas marroquis, and did reportage work on the towns of the “Spanish Zone” commissioned by the Spanish High Commission in Morocco. After seven years in Tangiers – “the happiest years of my life” – Muller decided to move to Madrid in order to go back to working as a photojournalist, to explore the regions of Spain, and to publish books of his work.

As the reputation of his studio grew, so he frequented the writers, philosophers and poets who met at the legendary Café Gijón and around the Revista d’Occidente. An active member of Spain’s underground intelligentsia, he also made portraits of artist and writer friends, including Pío Baroja, Camilo José Cela, Eugeni d’Ors and Ramón Pérez de Ayala, and of figures such as the pianist Ataúlfo Argenta and the torero Manolete (Muller’s photo captures him not long before his death).

Nicolás Muller retired at the age of 68 and moved to Andrín (Asturias), where he died in 2000.”

Press release from the Château de Tours website

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Castro Urdiales (Santander)' 1968

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Castro Urdiales (Santander)
1968
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Aiguisage de la faux. Hongrie' 1935

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Aiguisage de la faux. Hongrie [Sharpening the scythe. Hungary]
1935
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'San Cristóbal de Entreviñas' Zamora, 1957

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
San Cristóbal de Entreviñas
Zamora, 1957
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller

 

 

“And in Spain, Muller, he found the picture of the war, depressed by the legacy of the war and destroyed by repression and losses, a strange climate where lived traditions and religion country, big cities and the inland villages, children and widows of war. In our country, there were few references of the new documentary that took place in the rest of Europe, not to say that they are almost non-existent except in the case of Jose Ortiz Echague. You could say that with Catalá Roca, Muller is one of the most important photographers of the era in which he portrayed the society of Spain…

His social photography is part of this new documentary, from a very specific perspective, where the photographer has to be absent from the picture, it must be maintained as an external agent. Under this premise, Nicolas Muller, is a hunter of moments immortalized through his camera. He observed from the outside, does not seek to intervene in the context, it seeks to be faithful to the situation, the purity of the image and emotions. The artist is absent on the scene and that allows you to create a picture where the main protagonists are the people who participate in the moment. The exhibition held in 1947 for the West Magazine which expresses the new artistic concepts which would give photography in the context of modernity. For this exhibition portrayed famous people of Spanish society, mostly intellectuals and cultural figures as Azorín, Ortega y Gasset, Menendez Pidal, Marañón or John Doe … With this starting point, Nicolas Muller discovers the Spanish geography and unleashes the photographic socialism, traveling through villages and cities. In this series, the photographer welcomes environments, customs and influences of the inhabitants of the places where he spent days or months…

If a photographer wants to be the chronicler of the time in which he lives you have to convey reality and not an image that changes or imagines himself.”

Text translated from “Nicolás Muller, Social Photography in the War,” on the Madriz website, 15th January 2014

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Séville' 1951

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Séville
1951
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Semana Santa (Cuenca)' 1950

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Semana Santa (Cuenca) [Easter (Cuenca)]
1950
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Tatoo' Bordeaux, France, 1938

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Tatoo
Bordeaux, France, 1938
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz)' 1957

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz)
1957
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Three men' Marseilles, France, 1938

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Tres hombres [Three men]
Marseilles, France, 1938
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Le Lévrier et la modèle' Tanger, Maroc, 1940

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Le Lévrier et la modèle [The Greyhound and model]
Tangier, Morocco, 1940
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Fête du Mouloud I' Tanger, Maroc, 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Fête du Mouloud I – Al Mawlid I [Mouloud festival I]
Tangier, Morocco, 1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Fête du Mouloud II' Tanger, Maroc, 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Fête du Mouloud II [Mouloud festival II]
Tangier, Morocco, 1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Tangier, Morocco' 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Tánger, Marruecos [Tangier, Morocco]
1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

“Tangier, in December 1939, was an international city, almost a paradise in the middle of a world war-crazed … My stinging eyes, hands and my whole being to want to walk everywhere taking pictures.”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Casares' Malaga, 1967

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Casares
Malaga, 1967
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

Château de Tours
25 avenue André Malraux
37000 Tours

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 2pm – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: 2.15pm – 6pm

Château de Tours website

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27
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘photobooks. Spain 1905-1977’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 27th May 2014 – 5th January 2015

Artists: Francesc Català-Roca, Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández), Joan Colom, Salvador Costa, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas, Leopoldo Pomés, Alfonso Sánchez Portela

Curatorship: Horacio Fernández

 

 

This is one of those eclectic exhibitions that this site likes to promote. What a fascinating subject, something that I knew nothing about. The posting is especially for my colleague Professor Martinez Alfredo-Exposito, Head of the School of Languages and Linguistics at The University of Melbourne.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Álvaro Bartolomé, Joaquín del Palacio. Momentos. Madrid: edición del autor, 1944

 

Álvaro Bartolomé, Joaquín del Palacio
Momentos
Madrid: edición del autor
1944

 

Enrique Palazuelo. S/T. Nuevas escenas matritenses, ca. 1957 / copia póstuma, 2013. Copia de exposición

 

Enrique Palazuelo
Sans Titre. Nuevas escenas matritenses
c. 1957 / copia póstuma, 2013
Copia de exposición

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Llegada a Barcelona' (Arriving at Barcelona) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Llegada a Barcelona (Arriving at Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
34.8 x 47.5 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'La Vía Layetana entre las calles Junqueras y Condal' 1950 / copia póstuma, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
La Vía Layetana entre las calles Junqueras y Condal
1950 / copia póstuma, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
36.9 x 45.3 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'La Vía Layetana, Barcelona' (The Via Layetana, Barcelona), 1950

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
La Vía Layetana, Barcelona (The Via Layetana, Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Monumento a Colón' (Columbus Monument) 1949 / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Monumento a Colón (Columbus Monument)
1949 / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
With frame: 114 x 88 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Calle Muntaner' (Muntaner Street) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Calle Muntaner (Muntaner Street)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.5 x 32.8 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Las Ramblas con lluvia' (The Ramblas in the Rain) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Las Ramblas con lluvia (The Ramblas in the Rain)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.7 x 37.5 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Vestíbulo de la tienda, Barcelona' (Shop Vestibule, Barcelona) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Vestíbulo de la tienda, Barcelona (Shop Vestibule, Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'El hombre del saco' (The Bogeyman) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
El hombre del saco (The Bogeyman)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.8 x 35.7 cm

 

 

“The Exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 presents a journey through the history of the photobook in Spain, setting off at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in the mid seventies, via a selection from the Museo Reina Sofía Collection, contextualised and accompanied by an assortment of complementary material.

For a long time the aesthetic consideration of photography has been limited to individual images that are able to work in a similar way to paintings or etchings, a blueprint developed by historians and museum curators alike to assemble a canon of ‘masterpieces’ for studios or exhibitions. Yet this model is not the only one, and many photographers cannot synthesise their work in a single image, devising it instead in a series. Both models give rise to two coherent histories of photography: one comprised of photos to hang on walls, with a limited number of copies and on sale at art galleries; the other in book form, possibly with a reissue, available in bookstores. By and large, photographers prefer the last option: “pictures on walls and photos in books” (Cartier-Bresson).

A photobook is a publication made up of photographs ordered as a set of images, with plots and complex meanings, and the medium used by some of the most pre-eminent photographers to produce their greatest work; a tried-and-tested model to present, communicate and read photos. Photobooks are becoming more widely recognised as the best medium for presenting series of photographs.

As far as Spain is concerned, the history of photo books is determined by the avatars of its own national history, for instance the Civil War and the transition to democracy, the focus of some of the finest work produced. In addition to propaganda, changes to the image and social role of peasants and, above all, women, are also prominent issues that are explored. The relationship between literature and photography is another characteristic of Spanish photobooks, which also include works in closer proximity to the international history of the format, such as publications on urban matters.

The study of photobooks is leading to a reinterpretation of the history of photography in diverse countries, as well as in Spain. Along with well-known photographers (the likes of José Ortiz Echagüe, Alfonso, Francesc Català-Roca, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón and Colita), the exhibition features a considerable number of practically unknown frontline artists who in their day actually published first-rate photography collections, as is the case with photographers like Antonio Cánovas, the collective work of Misiones Pedagógicas (Teaching Missions), José Compte, Enrique Palazuelo, Luis Acosta Moro and Salvador Costa.

Curated by Horacio Fernández, the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 is in collaboration with Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) to present part of the line of investigation and acquisition carried out by the Museo Reina Sofía concerning photobooks. The exhibition, which coincides with the PHE2014 festival, is concluded with the publication of a catalogue raisonné, jointly published by the Museo Reina Sofía, AC/E and RM.”

Text from the Museo Reina Sofía website

 

Enrique Palazuelo (fotografías) y Camilo José Cela (texto). Nuevas escenas matritenses. Madrid, Alfaguara, 1965-66

 

Enrique Palazuelo (fotografías) y Camilo José Cela (texto)
Nuevas escenas matritenses
Madrid, Alfaguara
1965-66

 

Colita (fotografías) y Maria Aurèlia Capmany (texto). Antifémina. Madrid, Editorial Nacional, 1977

 

Colita (fotografías) y Maria Aurèlia Capmany (texto)
Antifémina
Madrid, Editorial Nacional
1977

 

Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández). 'Novios gitanos. Barcelona' (Gypsy Couple. Barcelona) 1962 / Later print, 2011

 

Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández)
Novios gitanos. Barcelona (Gypsy Couple. Barcelona)
1962 / Later print, 2011
Gold-toned chlorobromide print on paper
17.9 x 18 cm

 

Joan Colom. 'Raval' 1958 (circa) / Vintage print

 

Joan Colom
Raval
1958 (circa) / Vintage print
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.5 x 11 cm

 

Joan Colom published his series on Barcelona’s Chinatown in the magazine AFAL (1962) with an autobiography: “Age: 40. Profession: Accountant. Hobbies: Apart from photography, obviously, none.” Of his method, Colom said: “I have decided to only work with subjects that I have predetermined.” Oriol Maspons adds the technical details: “Everything was taken using a Leica M2, shot from the hip without framing or focusing. A real photographer’s work. More than a year on the same subject.” The series had been exhibited with some success (and controversy) at the Sala Aixelá in Barcelona the previous year, under the title El carrer (The Street). In 1964 it was finally published by Lumen in one of the finest photo-books in their Palabra e Imagen collection, “Izas, rabizas y colipoterras”, designed by Oscar Tusquets and Cristian Cirici. Camilo José Cela contributed a text based around Colom’s (surreptitious but captionless) photos that was full of broad, cruel humour, pitilessly mocking the women, photographed by Colom and judged by Cela. Somewhat ahead of her time, one of the women actually sued the photographer, the only result of which was the photo-book’s withdrawal from bookshops, and Colom’s retirement from photography for years. From the 1980s onwards public obscurity became public recognition, which has continued to grow.

Horacio Fernández

 

Joan Colom. 'No Title' 1958 / Vintage print

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
27 x 21 cm

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921) 'No Title' 1958

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.2 x 16.2 cm

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921) 'No Title' 1958

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.2 x 16.2 cm

 

 

photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 is a history of Spanish photography through a selection of its best photobooks, many of them little known. The exhibition, organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), is the result of a line of acquisitions and research undertaken by the Museum’s Department of Collections with the collaboration of Horacio Fernández, curator of the exhibition.

This exhibition offers a new perspective on Spanish photography during its most important period through the work of photographers like Luis Acosta Moro, AlfonsoJalón Ángel, Antonio Cánovas, Robert Capa, Francesc Català-Roca, Colita, Joan Colom, José Compte, Salvador Costa, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Misiones Pedagógicas, Fernando Nuño, Francisco Ontañón, José Ortiz Echagüe, Joaquín del Palacio, Enrique Palazuelo and Leopoldo Pomés.

photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 shows works published in Spain between 1905 and 1977 – in different styles, in limited or mass editions, printed using refined techniques or on inexpensive paper, for all audiences or for minorities. They are about people, things, behaviors, and ideas. photobooks were few and far between at the start of the twentieth century, increased in number during the war, and reached their height of development in the sixties. They subsequently grew scarce, only to make a triumphal comeback in the new century, represented in the Museum’s Library in the show Books that are Photos, Photos that are Books. Together they make up a specialized collection that is unique in its kind and embodies the Museo Reina Sofia’s commitment to all aspects of photographic images.

The works on display, most of which are little known, provide a fresh insight into Spanish photography. photobooks probes the broad and suggestive relationships between photography, publishing, design and literature, popular art and culture, history and politics, and public and private life. In the pages of these works is a plural history of the profound transformation of Spanish society. Thanks to the collective work of photographers, publishers, designers and writers, the themes presented in photobooks include the image of woman, seen from perspectives as different as the submission to patriarchal culture in the works of Cánovas and Compte and the militant feminism of Colita. Another major topic is the representation of the Spanish Civil War from both sides, with books like Madrid, which deals with the victims of the bombings during the siege of the capital, contrasting with Jalón Ángel’s portraits of soldiers on the side of the uprising. The war is followed by the sadness and harshness of the dictatorship, shown in photobooks by Joaquín del Palacio and Alfonso.

The relationship between photography and literature emerges throughout the exhibition, starting with the book by Cánovas mentioned above. From the period of the Civil War, special attention is merited by the photobooks of Antonio Machado, Miguel Hernández and Arturo Barea. In the sixties, the Lumen publishing house brought out the Palabra e Imagen (Word and Image) collection, designed by Oscar Tusquets, with extraordinary contributions by writers like Aldecoa, Cela, Delibes, Vargas Llosa and Caballero Bonald, and photographers like Masats, Maspons, Miserachs and Colita. One outstanding work in this section is Nuevas escenas matritenses (New Scenes of Madrid), with photos by Enrique Palazuelo.

Urban culture is also present in the photobooks of Alfonso, Català- Roca, Miserachs and Ontañón. Mention should be made too of the books on the end of the dictatorship by Nuño and the Diorama and Foto FAD teams, which show the gradual disappearance of the old identifying features of Spanish society under the influence of tourism and the global economy.

Apart from displaying some photographs autonomously, the show also features systems that allow visitors to view the plural content of each work exhibited, since it is in the work as a whole, as a coherent sequence of images, that the true entity of the photobook resides.

 

The first Spanish photobooks

“What a history painter would have painted I photographed,” wrote Antonio Cánovas of ¡Quién supiera escribir!… (If Only I Knew How to Write!…), his adaptation of a poem by Ramón de Campoamor about women’s dependence in a patriarchal world. Using actors and sets, Cánovas recreated a group of tableaux vivants or living pictures subtitled like films, which were as novel as photobooks in 1905. The photographic poem came out in two editions: one in postcards, which was a great commercial success; and a limited edition printed using the technique of the finest twentieth-century photobooks, photogravure.

José Ortiz Echagüe’s photobook Spanische Köpfe, later published as España, tipos y trajes (Spain: Types and Costumes), is the first instalment of an extensive photographic project to document folk culture by seeking out tradition. His aim was to preserve ways of life that were dying out; to show situations from the past: “In wandering through the little villages, I talk to the people, select models one by one, start the difficult task of dressing them in the typical garb.” The result was photographs that were chiefly aesthetic, close to the paintings of Sorolla or Zuloaga, but also political, as they visualized concepts (people, race, collective identity…) used by different ideologies.

With the Misiones Pedagógicas (Educational Missions), the Second Republic set out to bring urban life closer to the rural world through culture. The ‘missionaries’ were university students who took the theater, music, art, and the cinema to villages. Some of them, such as José Val del Omar and Guillermo Fernández, photographed the audiences, capturing shots that are devoid of local character. Instead of seeking references to the past, they hint at a better future represented by the people’s curious gazes: the photographs chosen for the photobook Patronato de Misiones Pedagógicas (Educational Missions Trust) are intended to disseminate democratic values and confidence in progress.

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas. 'Sermón en la aldea' (Village Sermon) 1903

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Sermón en la aldea (Village Sermon)
1903
Carbondir on laid paper
40.5 x 38.7 cm

 

One of José Ortiz Echagüe’s objectives is to achieve “the strange feeling of travelling to a different time.” He comes very close in one of his earliest photographs, Sermón en la aldea (Village Sermon), taken at the parish church of Viguera, a village in La Rioja, using a Photosphere 9 x 12 camera. With artistic photographs, what really matters is the quality of the copies, which in this case are numerous and have varying dates. Ortiz Echagüe made them himself in a laboratory using a personal variant on the technique known as direct carbon, developed under the name of “Carbondir”: a fine pigment print method which is complicated, slow and absolutely artisanal, that results in velvety blacks and clouds of pointillist faded half-colours. The specifics of the carbon direct method mean that Ortiz Echagüe’s prints approach the quality of chalcography, one of the aspirations of less imaginative artistic photography. However, these prints get further from photography the closer they get to engravings. As early as 1923 a review was criticising the disappearance of “what there originally may have been of photography” in his prints, and the artist’s excesses as he “scraped, eliminated, rubbed, smudged, lightened and darkened it.”

Horacio Fernández

 

José Ortiz Echagüe. 'Puertas Lagarteranas' (Women of Lagartera) 1920-1923 (circa)

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Puertas Lagarteranas (Women of Lagartera)
1920-1923 (circa)
Carbondir on laid paper
49.8 x 33.1 cm

 

In 1929 José Ortiz Echagüe’s first photo-book came out in Berlin, Spanische Köpfe (Spanish Heads), published in Madrid in 1930 as Tipos y Trajes de España (Characters and Costumes of Spain), a title which, by 1971, would reach twelve editions. The photos needed to be set up, as the author wrote in 1925: “As I walk around the little villages, I talk to the people, I choose the models and then, one by one, I start the job of dressing them in traditional costumes. Having overcome the models’ objections to dressing up in their ancestors’ clothes, I get them together in a setting that I have chosen beforehand, which might be a typical square, the little church or a nearby hillside, from which one can see the village with its majestic castle which is included to create a wonderful backdrop. The sun has just come out, or is about to go down: its rays light the characters perfectly.” Ortiz Echagüe’s references are paintings by Ignacio Zuloaga and Joaquín Sorolla, particularly the Visión de España (Vision of Spain) series from New York’s Hispanic Society of America. Sorolla’s aim was to observe “without symbolisms or literature, the psychology of every region.” Ortiz Echagüe, on the other hand, is content to “perpetuate in graphic documents unalterable by time’s passage, all that Spanish attire has been and continues to be.” Lagartera, a village in the province of Toledo famous for its crafts, was one of his favourite places for photography, particularly with its unusual festival clothing, which the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset does not believe to be native. In the prologue to Tipos y trajes, he writes: “Lagartera attire is common to almost all Europe: with slight differences, it can be found across the whole of the central and Northern part of the continent.”

Horacio Fernández

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 - Madrid, Spain, 1980) 'Lagarteranas en misa' (Women of Lagartera at Mass) 1920-1923 (circa)

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Lagarteranas en misa (Women of Lagartera at Mass)
1920-1923 (circa)
Carbondir on laid paper
46.9 x 33.4 cm

 

 

Both sides of the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War was photogenic. Dozens of photographers engaged in documenting it. Media all over the world published images of the war, which were used by the both sides to convey their own virtues and the atrocities committed by their opponents.

The collective photobook Madrid is a visual account of the consequences of a siege: destruction, homeless people, the exodus of refugees. The effects of the bombings on the civilian population are captured in montages and photographs by Luis Lladó, Robert Capa, Hans Namuth, Chim, and Margaret Michaelis, among others. The faces of the child victims should be stressed – some appalling forensic photographs that were widely used in Republican propaganda and have been mentioned by Arturo Barea, Virginia Woolf, and Susan Sontag, among other writers.

A type of cultural propaganda characteristic of the Republican side was the publication of books combining words and pictures. Several came out during the war, among them Madrid baluarte de nuestra guerra de independencia (Madrid Bulwark of Our War of Independence), with texts by Antonio Machado; Miguel Hernández’s book of poems Viento del pueblo (Winds of the People); and Arturo Barea’s collection of stories titled Valor y miedo (Courage and Fear). All three feature photographs whose authorship is not credited, though we now know that they were taken by photographers such as Walter Reuter or designers such as Mauricio Amster.

The cult of personality was a salient feature of the Nationalist side’s propaganda. In 1939 the rebel military were presented as serious and efficient technicians in Jalón Ángel’s Forjadores de imperio (Empire Builders), a triumphal parade by no means epically portrayed and much less generous with the defeated. This collection of portraits of the men who had won a war was published in a luxury version designed to hang in public offices and in a popular version in postcard form for mass distribution.

The conservative values of the new fascist regime were conveyed in photographs. In Mujeres de la Falange (Women of the Falange, a collection of photographs by José Compte published in luxury magazines and as humble postcards) woman as mother, subordinate to man and an outsider to society and employment, was a compulsory role model, the only exception being that dictated by war itself, which required her to perform “heavy work with feminine grace for when the men return…”

 

The postwar years

The hardship of the postwar years is conveyed in a few photobooks that managed to slip past the censors. Literature with photos continued to be published in books such as Momentos (Moments), whose poems would be less sad without the ruins, deserted villages, and bare trees found in the photographs of Joaquín del Palacio (Kindel). Rincones del Viejo Madrid (Corners of Old Madrid), a collection of night shots by Alfonso, is an expressionist photobook printed in the opaque tones of the finest photogravure work. Alfonso portrays the capital as yet another victim – a frozen and sinister backdrop as dead as its missing inhabitants.

The book of poems titled Les fenêtres (The Windows) features many closed windows that also resemble abstract paintings in Leopoldo Pomés’s photos, which bring to mind a confined, stifling place. But in spite of everything, life carries on, as shown by the photos in Barcelona, the city of Francesc Català-Roca, who believed that “what words describe photography places on view”: images found in the street, as alive as the people in the photos, in a pleasant urban photobook.

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1964 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1964 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper
21.4 x 30.3 cm

 

Costa Brava Show (1966) is a photo-book by the photographer Xavier Miserachs, also the author of Barcelona. Blanc i negre (1964), another urban photo-book that travels paths opened up by William Klein. Miserachs claims that in Costa Brava Show “the incorporation of Pop Art elements is obvious, because this is an aesthetic movement that absolutely fascinated me.” And it is true that the subject matter really could not be more perfect for Pop Art: firstly, there is what Manuel Vázquez Montalbán describes as “the paradise of leisure”, secondly “the party (that) is the most baroque display of that leisure time” and finally a “peculiar eroticism”, noted by Josep Pla, who wrote introduction and claims that the photographs are “the best ever taken of what is known as the Costa Brava.” Basically, this is mass tourism as experienced and presented by Miserachs with excellent humour in 155 colour and black and white photographs, covering all the clichés and presaging the globalisation awaiting us all.

Horacio Fernández

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1965 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1965 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1964 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1964 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper
17.9 x 21.4 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'La actual M-30 (Madrid)' (The M-30 Ring Road Today [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
La actual M-30 (Madrid) (The M-30 Ring Road Today [Madrid])
1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
24.7 x 37.1 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.6 x 38.4 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.4 x 38.2 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.7 x 38.4 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.6 x 38.5 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) '600 en Casa de Campo con familia (Madrid)' (Outing to Casa de Campo in the 600, with Family [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
600 en Casa de Campo con familia (Madrid) (Outing to Casa de Campo in the 600, with Family [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.5 x 37.7 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Parque Sindical (Madrid)' (Parque Sindical Sports Area [Madrid]) 1964 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Parque Sindical (Madrid) (Parque Sindical Sports Area [Madrid])
1964 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.5 x 38.1 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Entierro (Madrid)' (Burial [Madrid]) 1967 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Entierro (Madrid) (Burial [Madrid])
1967 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.5 x 38.1 cm

 

 

The 60’s: the golden decade of Spanish photography

Palabra e Imagen (Word and Image) was the creation of publisher Esther Tusquets and designer Oscar Tusquets. It was advertised by the Lumen publishing house as “a collection that is different from everything that has been done so far.” Its books “are not art books, they are not photography books, they are not literary works,” but “a new concept.” They all have a theme “and the writers, the photographer and those who plan and produce the book work on it as a team.” The aim was to present “an idea” using different means: “not just words but also the photography, the composition, the type of lettering, and the color of the paper can be used to express it.”

Palabra e Imagen was Spain’s main contribution to the history of photobooks. For fifteen years it was a laboratory for experimenting with different ways of publishing a collective work produced by writers, designers, photographers, and editors that attached equal importance to visual and textual readings – word and image.

The photographs are by Jaime Buesa, F. Català-Roca, Colita, Joan Colom, Julio Cortázar, Dick Frisell, Antonio Gálvez, Paolo Gasparini, Sergio Larrain, César Malet, Ramón Masats, Oriol Maspons, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, and Julio Ubiña. Prominent among the graphic designers, in addition to the collection’s creator Oscar Tusquets, are Mariona Aguirre, José Bonet, Lluís Clotet, Toni Miserachs, and Enric Satué. Finally, the authors of the texts include writers such as Rafael Alberti, Ignacio Aldecoa, Carlos Barral, Juan Benet, José María Caballero Bonald, Alejo Carpentier, Cavafis, Camilo José Cela, Julio Cortázar, Miguel Delibes, Federico García Lorca, Alfonso Grosso, Ana María Matute, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Julián Ríos, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Important photo-essays were published in the sixties, such as Los Sanfermines (The San Fermín Festivities) by Ramón Masats and Barcelona blanc i negre (Barcelona Black and White) by Xavier Miserachs, both of them masters of documentary photography. The first book was hailed as “the most personal photographic work that has been produced in Spain.” It is a “story told in pictures” that shows the expressive possibilities of the photobook and to what extent “a still photograph is not sufficient for a photographer who pursues a narration.” The second is a stroll through the streets of Barcelona in search of its inhabitants, and is more interested in life than in history. It is a “book to look at” that attempts a difficult combination of the subjective humanist photography of the previous decade and the new international urban photography based on the model established by William Klein, a “highly original way of hinting at cities” without succumbing to commonplaces or picturesqueness.

Also by Miserachs is Costa Brava Show, a photobook based on the mass phenomenon of tourism and featuring black-and-white photos on subjects such as young people enjoying themselves, sexual liberation, and the consequences of economic progress: chaotic town planning, corruption, and loss of authenticity. An equally critical intention underlies the photobook Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid), which is documentary in content and experimental in form – both the text and the pictures. Francisco Ontañón’s distant, stark photographs are kind to the common folk and critical of the privileged classes, but always humorous.

Nuevas escenas matritenses (New Scenes of Madrid) is a collection of 63 urban tales written by Camilo José Cela based on street photographs by Enrique Palazuelo that show an “incredible Madrid, where time stood still, oblivious and forgotten.” Published in several formats (from low to high culture: popular weekly and literary review; in normal and bibliophile editions), it tells stories invented from documentary photographs – a literary procedure that has been dubbed the ‘Celian picture-story.’ The photos make possible “hearing with new ears, seeing with different eyes what we believed to have been seen and heard forever.”

Luis Acosta Moro believed that the book of the future would be “a poem of short words and great pictures” of the kind embodied by his photobook Cabeza de muñeca (Doll’s Head), a symbolic work that alludes, among other themes, to the Civil War and the image of women. The publisher regarded it as a new type of book, a “film-novel-artistic essay.” The main subject is the model featured in all the pictures, sometimes dancing (or wrestling) with the photobook’s absolute author, who was responsible for everything: photographs, design, and text.

 

The 70’s: the last auteur photobooks

Los últimos días de Franco (The Last Days of Franco) is a photobook that is unique in both form and content: the funeral rites of the dictator. Live history is fleeting and the propaganda chiefs needed an official history capable of preserving “the living warmth of memories.” To achieve this, Fernando Nuño photographed videos. The result was a photobook consisting of television images that were second-hand but equally or more documentary than the original reports. “As they have been reproduced from video, [the photos] have the quality of a living document,” explains the book, a visual account that is completed with a second volume titled Los primeros días del Rey (The First Days of the King).

The second half of the seventies witnessed the transition to democracy, a highly politicized period in Spain. Two photobooks, Pintadas del referendum (Graffiti on the Referendum) and Pintades Pintadas (Graffiti), compile the propaganda of the day, in this case in the form of street graffiti – a subject also dealt with in French and Portuguese publications. The aim is to preserve the graffiti “as a necessary testament to and document of the vicissitudes of a people in pursuit of their future.” The authors are two short-lived groups of photographers, Equipo Diorama of Madrid and the Barcelona based Foto Fad.

The photobook Punk is pioneering in its portrayal of an international popular culture phenomenon. In Salvador Costa’s photographs taken from “close up and above the subject,” the scene is less important than the audience featured in the shots of ultramodern people, clothing, and rituals captured by the photographer, who was lucky enough to find a publisher capable of discovering more than just another short-lived fad in his photos.

Photographer Colita and writer Maria Aurèlia Capmany, collaborators on the Vindicación feminista magazine, are the authors of Antifémina (Antifemale), a photobook that set out to portray a type of woman “no one wants to look at” but who “is genuine and real, who is not twenty years old, who is not pretty.” To achieve this, Colita selected photos from her archives on themes such as old age, marriage, work, religion, prostitution, the body, marginalization, advertising, fashion, and the practice of making flirtatious remarks at women. Antifémina is a visual and political essay, a manifesto in favor of women but against ‘femininity,’ which is always “related to the passive role of women.”

 

CATALOGUE

A catalogue on this exhibition has been published by the Museo Reina Sofía, Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and RM. This books includes a text written by the curator and Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, photographies of all the artworks shown and complete and individual information about each photobook by different specialized authors (Horacio Fernández, Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, Concha Calvo, Rocío Robles, Mafalda Rodríguez, Angélica Soleiman and Laura Terré).”

Press release from the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia website

 

VV.AA. Madrid. Barcelona, Industries Graphiques Seix i Barral, 1937

 

VV.AA.
Madrid
Barcelona, Industries Graphiques Seix i Barral
1937

 

Ramón Masats Tartera. 'Neutral corner' / Esquina neutral 1962 / copia de época

 

Ramón Masats Tartera
Neutral corner / Esquina neutral
1962 / copia de época

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, Xavier Miserachs. 'Los cachorros' Barcelona: Lumen, colección Palabra e Imagen 1967

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, Xavier Miserachs
Los cachorros
Barcelona: Lumen, colección Palabra e Imagen
1967

 

Salvador Costa i Valls. 'Sans Titre' (from the series 'Punk') 1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls
Sans Titre (from the series Punk)
1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls. 'Punk' Barcelona: Producciones Editoriales, colección Especial Star Book 1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls
Punk
Barcelona: Producciones Editoriales, colección Especial Star Book
1977

 

 

Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia
Calle Santa Isabel, 52
28012 Madrid

Opening hours:
Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday Closed, including holidays
Wednesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday 10.00 am – 7.00 pm

Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia website

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28
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Vanessa Winship’ at Fundación Mapfre, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 27th May – 31st August 2014

 

“Young heart, old soul.” And then the vulnerability in those eyes…. that burn right through you.

Such sensitivity, such presence. Glorious. All of them!

Marcus

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

 

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey' 1999-2002

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey
1999-2002
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey' 1999-2002

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey
1999-2002
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey' 1999-2002

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey
1999-2002
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction' 2002-2010

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction
2002-2010
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction' 2002-2010

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction
2002-2010
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction' 2002-2010

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction
2002-2010
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'she dances on Jackson. United States' 2011-2012

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series she dances on Jackson. United States
2011-2012
© Vanessa Winship

 

 

“Fundación Mapfre opens its new photography gallery at Paseo de Recoletos 27 with the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of British photographer Vanessa Winship. Curated by Carlos Martín García, the show offers visitors a complete overview of Winship’s work, featuring a broad selection of photographs from all of her series, starting with her initial project in the Balkans and ending with her work in Almería this year, produced by Fundación Mapfre and due to receive its first public showing at this exhibition.

Vanessa Winship (Barton-upon-Humber, United Kingdom, 1960) studied at the Polytechnic of Central London during the 1980s at the time when postmodern theory was beginning to permeate the practice of photography and cultural studies. These ideas are reflected in the artist’s deliberate remove of all potential documentary content from her photography in order to concentrate instead on notions more related to identity, vulnerability and the body. Accordingly, since the 1990s Vanessa Winship has worked in regions which, in the collective imaginary, are associated with the instability and darkness of a recent past and with the volatile nature of borders and identities. Her images, in black and white, challenge the perception of photography’s immovable truth. Meanwhile, the formal choice of black and while reflects a deliberate shift from the photograph as narrative and constitutes, in the words of the artist herself, a “marvelous instrument of abstraction that enables us to move between time and memory.”

Vanessa Winship is one of the most renowned photographers on the contemporary international scene. In 2011 she was the first woman to win the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson (HCB) award. Her other distinctions include winning first prize in the Stories category of the World Press Photo awards in 1998 and 2008, the Descubrimientos award at PhotoEspaña in 2010, and the Godfrey Argent Prize in 2008, bestowed by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

 

A tour of the exhibition

I lived and worked in the region of the Balkans, Turkey and the Caucasus for more than a decade. My work focuses on the junction between chronicle and fiction, exploring ideas around concepts of borders, land, memory, desire, identity and history. I am interested in the telling of history, and in notions around periphery and edge. For me photography is a process of literacy, a journey of understanding.

Vanessa Winship

.
The Vanessa Winship exhibition adopts the form of a chronological journey through each of the series that make up her oeuvre, featuring a selection of 188 photographs.

Between 1999 and 2003 Vanessa Winship traveled through the regions of Albania, Serbia, Kosovo and Athens, coinciding with the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia and resulting in her series Imagined States and Desires. A Balkan Journey. This project was a fundamental step in defining her photographic vision and in her decision to break with contemporary reportage and the traditional concept of the photojournalist. The images that make up this series mostly center on the tragedy of the exodus of Kosovar Albanian refugees from Serbia to neighboring countries. They are a collection of snapshots that reflect the volatile nature of borders, ethnic groups and creeds while asserting that identity is not bestowed by territory but is ingrained in individuals, wherever they go. The fragmentary nature of the series, its condensation into micro-stories, lays the foundations for her future practice.

In 2002 Vanessa Winship moved to the Black Sea region and over the next eight years traveled through Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. Her work in this area gave rise to one of her most renowned series, Black Sea: Between Chronicle and Fiction. In this series, she presents her vision of the area and the residents of the regions around the shores of the Black Sea, which she presents as a natural border – challenging all notions of geopolitical or historically established limits – of the vital space of each nation, and even of the distinction between public and private space. Winship’s work therefore focuses on the aspects that endure beyond the action of politics: collective rituals, modes of transportation, recreational spaces, and the movement of human beings up and down the coastlines.

In Black Sea, portraits of Turkish wrestlers and Ukrainian wedding guests allow Winship to elaborate on her reflections and explore the concepts of sexual differentiation governing societies: on one hand, Turkish wrestling, a direct descendant of Greco-Roman wrestling and an icon of masculinity in the country; on the other, participation in a wedding ceremony as a means of self-presentation in society for young Ukrainian women.

In both of these series, the images are accompanied by brief notes written by the artist, either expressing a single thought or a short description, which create a deliberately incomplete narrative. For Winship, these notes are meant to remind us of the power of text to evoke an image.

Sweet Nothings: Schoolgirls of Eastern Anatolia (2007), produced during her travels through Eastern Europe, is a key project in Vanessa Winship’s evolution as a photographer. It is an almost serial collection of portraits of schoolgirls from the rural area of Eastern Anatolia, a region bordering with Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran where the plurality of ethnic groups is silenced by the proliferation of uniforms, of both schoolchildren and military personnel. On a certain level, the school uniforms recall the tools used by states to classify the population, to “mark” their territory and neutralize the plurality of areas, as in Eastern Anatolia where the ethnic and geographic borders are not as clearly defined as they are on maps. This fact – the presence of uniforms – represents a framework for action, a boundary for the project, and allows Winship to further develop her interest in faces, gestures, and the sense of belonging to a group or community.

Georgia, another region on the shores of the Black Sea, is the setting for the series produced by between 2008 and 2010, in which she mostly focuses on portraits. Georgia. Seeds Carried by the Wind is a detailed study of the faces the photographer came across. These are portraits of youths and children, mostly individuals who, when grouped together, appear almost without variation as same-sex pairs. The collection suggests an energetic, survivor country. These images are combined with a series of colored photographs (the only ones in Winship’s entire output) that accompany tombstones in a cemetery. The two collections establish an interesting dialogue between different generations of Georgians and, simultaneously, between the artist herself and the original anonymous photographer. Meanwhile, the landscapes and stones that complete the series evoke a premature death. By combining landscape and portrait as places where the traces of identity, history and present are imprinted, this series is a key project in Winship’s work as it prompts a debate about her practice and the issues posed by the two genres.

In 2011 Vanessa Winship received the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson (HCB) photography award. The project for she won the prize led to the series she Dances on Jackson. United States (2011-2012), produced in the United States, a country which she represents as of great uncertainty, where the weight of the recent past is manifested through public works and constructions which are either underused or have fallen into disuse, and where the faces of anonymous individuals and groups reveal their disillusionment with the promises of the American dream. This series also constitutes Winship’s definitive approach to landscape photography, a genre which has gained increasing prominence in her output. Short texts written by the author replace the gradual disappearance of the portrait, operating as narratives of the missing photographs. In she Dances on Jackson. United States the geographic leap to the other side of the Atlantic defines the characters that people Winship’s earlier photography.

Before embarking on her trip to the United States, Winship worked in her home town on the estuary of the Humber river (2010), for which this series is titled. In this project, we again witness the growing preeminence of landscape in her work. This process culminates masterfully in her most recent series, produced in Almería, which represents the reaffirmation of her work as a landscapist and the total absence of the human figure. In January 2014, for the purposes of this exhibition, the artist moved to Almería, a place marked by rootlessness and its border nature and geological diversity, to carry out her latest project. Winship has focused on photographing the geological formations along the coastline of Cabo de Gata and the devastation of the area following the proliferation of intensive agriculture based on greenhouse production. The land of gold, Spaghetti westerns and marble now appears as a land of plastic and, like all other places Winship has photographed, seems to be located in a place suspended in space and time. All of the images in this section of the show reflect the rapid transformation of the region following the introduction of greenhouses, a radical systemic change and altered coexistence brought about by the arrival of communities of immigrants and their access to consumer society customs. Almería, as Winship’s photographs clearly show, continues to be a fragmented landscape in which urban and rural collide and where the “non-place” that is the greenhouse acts as a metaphor for the area’s instability and vulnerability.

Catalogue

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring all the images on display and specially commissioned essays about the work of Vanessa Winship by Neil Ascherson, Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa and Carlos Martín García. The catalog will also include two excerpts from Campos de Níjar (Níjar Country) and Coto Vedado (Forbidden Territory) by Juan Goytisolo, as well as a biography-timeline, an updated bibliography, and a selection of the texts the photographer uses to complement her series, in the manner of a “travel diary”. To date there are only two monographs on Winship, one devoted to the Black Sea series and one to Sweet Nothings, which means that this catalog will be the first and most incisive historiographical approximation to her entire oeuvre.”

Press release from Fundación Mapfre

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Almería. Where Gold Was Found' 2014

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Almería. Where Gold Was Found
2014
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Almería. Where Gold Was Found' 2014

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Almería. Where Gold Was Found
2014
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction' 2002-2010 © Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Black Sea. Between Chronicle and Fiction
2002-2010
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Georgia. Seeds Carried by the Wind' 2008-2010 © Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Georgia. Seeds Carried by the Wind
2008-2010
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Sweet Nothings: Schoolgirls of Eastern Anatolia' 2007 © Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Sweet Nothings: Schoolgirls of Eastern Anatolia
2007
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Humber' 2010-2011 © Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Humber
2010-2011
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'she dances on Jackson. United States' 2011-2012 © Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series she dances on Jackson. United States
2011-2012
© Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship. 'Untitled' from the series 'Georgia. Seeds Carried by the Wind' 2008-2010 © Vanessa Winship

 

Vanessa Winship
Untitled from the series Georgia. Seeds Carried by the Wind
2008-2010
© Vanessa Winship

 

 

 

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid, Spain
T: +34 915 81 61 00

 

Opening hours:
Sunday 11.00 am – 7.00 pm
Monday 2.00 – 8.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm

 

Fundación Mapfre website

 

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18
May
14

Exhibition: ‘Wols: Cosmos and Street’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 14th February – 26th May 2014

 

How lucky we are!

Two consecutive postings on the German artist Wols (a pseudonym for Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze May 27, 1913, Berlin – September 1, 1951, Paris), who is today considered a pioneer of Lyrical Abstraction – a type of abstract painting related to Abstract Expressionism undertaken in the post-war years by mainly French artists. He is also considered to be one of the most influential artists of the Art Informel and Tachisme movements. Both movements were opposed not only to Cubist and Surrealist movements that preceded it, but also to geometric abstraction (or “cold abstraction”).

Lyrical abstraction represented an opening to personal expression: Wols was not only a painter and photographer but he also wrote poems and aphorisms and studied the philosophy of Lao Tzu. This fascinating exhibition connects Wols’s photography, drawing and painting, and argues that his art forms (in)formed each other. The number of artists that have successfully worked in both mediums is limited, but as Wols shows they are not, and never have been, mutually exclusive.

The great sadness is that Wols was another talented artist who died young, at the age of just 38 – collateral damage of the conflagration that was the Second World War. He was an army deserter when he moved to Paris and was interned for 14 months at the start of the war, only to be released to live near Marseilles in 1940. The occupation of Southern France by the Germans in 1942 forced him to flee and he spent most of the rest of the war trying unsuccessfully to escape to America. During this time his alcoholism developed, an addiction that caused poor health and which, along with food poisoning, was ultimately to cost him his life.

His photographs have a chthonic darkness. They inhabit a tenebrous reality, a shadowy underworld. Just look at Untitled (Cobblestone) (1932-1942, below) and observe how the dampness of the water seems to have the viscosity of congealed blood. During his internment he produced, as the press release states, “some of the strangest, most intricate and beautiful drawings of modern times.” They possess a certain, undefinable magic, filled as they are with amorphous animals and plants, filled with amour, a secret love. And finally his paintings – shattering, disturbing, bloody, hairy, earthbound and cerebral, homologous to wiring looms of the mind and/or the molecular structure of atoms – circling and popping and fizzing and scrapping their way into existence… creating an expanded conception of space and time that is both micro (cellular) and macro (celestial).

Wols has to be one of the most interesting artists of the 20th century and, elementally, one of its greatest. Such a pity that he died so young.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog
.
Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía for allowing me to publish the photographs and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image

 

 

Wols. 'Untitled' 1932-1941

 

Wols
Untitled
1932-1941
Silver gelatin print
14.9 x 18.2 cm
Kunsthaus Zurich

 

Wols. 'Untitled' Nd / 1976

 

Wols
Untitled
Nd / 1976
Silver gelatin print
18.7 x 24 cm
Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart

 

Wols. 'Pepona doll on the cobbles' 1938-39

 

Wols
Pepona doll on the cobbles
1938-39
Silver gelatin print
23 x 17 cm
Acquisition 2004
Centre Pompidou, Paris
National Museum of Modern Art/Centre for Industrial Creation

 

Wols. 'Untitled (Cobblestone)' 1932-1942 / 1976

 

Wols
Untitled (Cobblestone)
1932-1942 / 1976
Gelatin silver print
18.7 x 24 cm
Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart
© VEGAP, Madrid, 2014

 

 

“Wols is one of the most intriguing figures in 20th-century art. Born Otto Wolfgang Schulze into an upper middle class family in Berlin, he broke with Germany as the Nazis were coming to power, changed his name to Wols, and lived the rest of his life in France. During the 1930s he was best known as a photographer. The outbreak of the Second World War changed everything. As the citizen of a hostile country, Wols was continuously displaced from one French domicile, prison or internment camp to another. In these precarious conditions he started to draw in earnest, often by candlelight, lying on his bunk. In the harshness of the camps he developed the alcohol-dependency which contributed to his early death in 1951. At the same time he produced some of the strangest, most intricate and beautiful drawings of modern times.

Wols: Cosmos and Street does not attempt a survey of Wols’s work, nor a retrospective with a chronological structure. A significant aspect of Wols’s practice was that he did not title or date his works. Titles, somewhat over-poetic, were added later by his wife Gréty, and by friends such as the writer Henri-Pierre Roché. Instead, the exhibition presents his work in terms of two distinct kinds of ‘graphism’: one of the light (photography) and one of the line (drawing). It is true that in chronological terms photography came earlier in Wols’s life and was adopted partly for contingent reasons of making a living. He was intermittently a professional photographer but remained always a ‘poetic’ photographer with a inimitable eye.

In the exhibition title, “Street” stands for the everyday, earthbound, nitty-gritty human world revealed in Wols’s photographs. “Cosmos” stands for Wols’s exquisite drawings creating a vision of universal energy expressed in fluid constructs of biological and organic forms. The public is invited to come very close to Wols’s pictures, to peer into them and savour the details of their forms, the refined articulation of even the minutest mark.

During and after the Second World War Wols’s graphic work became increasingly abstract. Its difference from the crystalline and geometric end of the spectrum of abstraction, which is often identified with cosmological speculation, and informed much of kinetic art, could hardly be more marked. Wols’s creations are earthbound, biological, hairy and visceral, but they are no less a model of the universe. Tendencies in art which may have been mutually hostile at the time of their inception can now be seen to be two streams which converging in the desire to find a visual language which could encompass the hugely expanded conception of space and time that has come with the discoveries of modern science.

In its immediate context Wols’s work represents the turning of the Parisian surrealism of the 1930s towards the existentialism of the postwar years, towards l’art brut, l’art informel, and to artists like Fautrier, Dubuffet, Giacometti, and eventually Tinguely and Takis. A new conception of space is struggling to be born among those artists, which was in some ways foreseen in Wols’s works of the 1940s, where a gradual transformation takes place of a terrestrial into a cosmic space.

In 1945 the Parisian art dealer, René Drouin, proposed to Wols that he experiment with painting in oils on canvas. Drouin provided the necessary materials, encouraging Wols to work on a larger scale than he could achieve with watercolour on paper. Wols was philosophically and constitutionally against Drouin’s idea. Paintings in oil on canvas, he would say, “involve too much ambition and gymnastics. I am opposed to both.” Nevertheless, he began to produce oil paintings in 1947. It is as if Wols made paintings by attacking painting itself, an intensely individual position that artist Georges Mathieu at the time described as “shattering, disturbing and bloody.”

It is impossible to ignore the impression of ferocity that Wols’s oil paintings produce at their most audacious. Yet it was not through a simplistic ‘attack’ that Wols achieved this intensity since in these oil paintings passages of uncouth daubing alternate with passages of great delicacy.

Taking into account the contingencies that have helped shape it at distinct moments, and its abiding concerns and sensibilities, Wols’s work can be seen as a continuous play between abstraction and figuration. One of its special features is that it encompasses both photography and painting. In one sense, and allowing for the different technical procedures, the degree of abstraction in the ‘figurative’ photographs just about equals the degree of figuration in the ‘abstract’ drawings, watercolours and etchings. They take part in one another while remaining distinct. A fluid area is created, an area of transition conceived as something vast and tiny at the same time. It is in the creation of this uncertain, ‘unnamable’ but energized space that the insight and wit of Wols’s work really lies.”

Press release from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía website

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

 

Installation views of the exhibition Wols: Cosmos and Street at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

 

Wols. 'Untitled (Green Composition)' c. 1942

 

Wols
Untitled (Green Composition)

c. 1942
Pen and ink, watercolor, white zinc and scraping on paper
23.3 x 27 cm
Karin and Uwe Hollweg Stiftung, Bremen

 

Wols. 'Composition' 1941-1942

 

Wols
Composition
1941-1942
Pen, colored ink on paper
20 x 12.8 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston

 

Wols. 'Slice of liver-cello' c. 1944

 

Wols
Slice of liver-cello
c. 1944
Pen and ink, watercolor and zinc white
18.3 x 13.2 cm
Private collection

 

Wols. 'Untitle'; also known as 'It's All Over The City' 1946-47

 

Wols
Untitled; also known as It’s All Over The City
1946-47
Oil on canvas
81 x 81 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston

 

Wols. 'The bird' 1949

 

Wols
The bird
1949
Oil on canvas
92.1 x 65.1 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston

 

Wols. 'Untitled' 1946-47

 

Wols
Untitled
1946-47
Oil on canvas

 

 

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Sabatini Building
Santa Isabel, 52
Nouvel Building
Ronda de Atocha (with plaza del Emperador Carlos V)
28012 Madrid
T: (34) 91 774 10 00

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday and bank holidays from 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sundays from 10.00 a.m. to 2.15 p.m complete Museum visit, from 2.15 to 7.00 pm
Closed Tuesdays

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía website

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17
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘Imogen Cunningham’ at Fundación Mapfre, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 18th September 18 2012 – 20th January 2013

 

Imogen Cunningham exhibition poster

 

Imogen Cunningham exhibition poster

 

 

This is the first posting on one of my favourite photographers of all time: Imogen Cunningham. The sensuality of this artist, from the early Pictorialist studies (including her ground breaking depiction of the male nude, her husband artist Roi Partridge) to the later Modernist nudes, portraits, industrial landscapes and botanical photographs is of the highest order. Cunningham reminds me of a photographic version of Georgia O’Keeffe without the undoubted darkness that inhabits some of O’Keeffe’s work.

The portrait of Frida Kahlo Rivera (1931, below) is a magnificent study of a proud woman with delicate use of natural light framing the face and gently clasped hands. Note the textures within the photograph – the dress, the shawl, the wicker chair and the wall – and also notice the reflective light falling behind the sitter upper left to balance the frontal light coming from bottom right. Masterful. Cunningham’s famous Two Callas (1929, below) is an glorious study of form, light and texture, a sensual symphony for the eyes, the background a kind of mutable black that allows the viewer’s gaze to be immersed in the subject. The viewer’s voyeuristic gaze is further engaged by the voluptuous suggestiveness of the copious hair and out of focus breast of Phoenix Recumbent (1968, below) where, “the object of the gaze is not aware of the current viewer (though they may originally have been aware of being filmed, photographed, painted etc. and may sometimes have been aware that strangers could subsequently gaze at their image).” Daniel Chandler “Notes on ‘The Gaze'” on the Aberystwyth University website [Online] Cited 12/01/2013 no longer available online

Finally, the photograph of Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud by Judy Dater (1974, below) seems to me to capture the spirit of the human being Imogen Cunningham with indelible grace. Youth, beauty, age, wisdom. A constantly inquisitive mind, wanting to know, wanting to see things more clearly, taking photographs right up until her final years. There she is with her twin-lens Rollei dressed as if from another century, the quizzical nature of her left hand and the look that passes between Imogen and Twinka, the space between them seeming to shimmer with possibility. That space seems to wash away the years of Imogen’s life to when she was young, lying naked near some trees (Self-Portrait (1906, below). It is a truly memorable image. In the sensitivity of this image, Dater embodies everything that I admire in Cunningham’s work: light, texture, sensitivity to subject, an understanding of beauty and an irrepressible, joyous sensuality. A fitting tribute to one of the world’s great photographers.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a a larger version of the image.

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Self-Portrait' 1906

 

Imogen Cunningham
Self-Portrait
1906
Platinum print
©The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Magnolia Blossom' 1925

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Magnolia Blossom
1925
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Roi on the Dipsea trail 3' 1918

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Roi on the Dipsea trail 3
1918
Gelatin sliver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Unmade bed' 1957

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Unmade bed
1957
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Three Dancers, Mills College' 1929

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Three Dancers, Mills College
1929
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Five Eggs' 1951

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Five Eggs
1951
Cibachrome
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'The Wood Beyond the World' c. 1912

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
The Wood Beyond the World
c. 1912
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Agave Design 2' 1920s

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Agave Design 2
1920s
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust

 

 Imogen Cunningham. 'The dream' 1910

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
The dream
1910
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2011

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Frida Kahlo Rivera, Painter and Wife of Diego Rivera' 1931

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Frida Kahlo Rivera, Painter and Wife of Diego Rivera
1931
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Two Callas' 1929

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Two Callas
1929
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Cary Grant, Actor' 1932

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Cary Grant, Actor
1932
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Aloe' 1925

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Aloe
1925
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Nude' 1939

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Nude
1939
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather, Photographers I-II' 1922

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather, Photographers I-II
1922
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2011

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Hen and Chickens' 1929

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Hen and Chickens
1929
Gelatin silver print
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2011

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Phoenix Recumbent' 1968

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Phoenix Recumbent
1968
Gelatin silver print
Private Collection

 

Judy Dater. 'Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud' 1974

 

Judy Dater (American, b. 1941)
Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud
1974

 

 

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 915 81 61 00

Opening hours:
Monday (except Hollidays): From 2pm to 8pm
Tuesday to Saturday: From 11am to 8pm
Sundays and Hollidays: From 11am to 7pm

Fundación Mapfre website

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03
Jan
10

Exhibition: ‘Lisette Model’ at the Instituto de Cultura, Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 23rd September 2009 – 10th January 2010

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Riviera - elderly woman' c. 1934

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Riviera – elderly woman from the series Promenade des Anglais
Nice c. 1934
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

 

An interesting discussion of the life and work of Lisette Model (and her influence on Diane Arbus and vice versa) can be found on the AMERICANSUBURB X: THEORY website in an article by Elsa Dorfman titled “Ann Thomas on Lisette Model”. More photographs by Lisette Model can be found on the Masters of Photography website including some fabulous “Running Legs” images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“New images surround us everywhere. They are invisible only because of sterile routine convention and fear.”

“Photography starts with the projection of the photographer, his understanding of life and himself into the picture.”

“New images surround us everywhere. They are invisible only because of sterile routine convention and fear. To find these images is to dare to see, to be aware of what there is and how it is. The photographer not only gets information, he gives information about life.”

.
Lisette Model

 

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Running Legs, NYC, 42nd Street' c. 1940-41

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Running Legs, NYC, 42nd Street
c. 1940-41
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Running Legs, 5th Avenue' c. 1940-41

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Running Legs, 5th Avenue [Jambes de passants, 5e avenue]
New York
c. 1940-1941
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Sammy's' 1940-44

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Sammy’s
New York
1940-44
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Lower East Side' c. 1942

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Lower East Side
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
Collection Fundación MAPFRE
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Albert-Alberta, Hubert's 42nd St Flea Circus, New York' c. 1945

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Albert-Alberta, Hubert’s Forty-second Street Flea Circus
New York
1945
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Belmont Park' 1956

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Belmont Park
New York
1956
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

 

If Lisette Model took up photography as a way of earning a living, it is also true that she always fought for her own subjects, rather than simply carry out the assignments given by editors. She believed that for a photograph to be successful its subject had to be something that “hits you in the stomach.” This could be something familiar or something unfamiliar. For Model, the camera was an instrument for probing the world, a way of capturing aspects of a permanently changing reality that otherwise we would fail to see.

Model always said that she looked but did not judge. Yes, her photographs of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice were published by the left-wing journal Regards, in 1935, but she was not interested exclusively either in the rich or in the poor, and her images are much more about human relations. Her work evinces empathy, curiosity, compassion and admiration, and reflects the photographer’s attraction to voluminous forms, energy and liveliness, to emphatic gesture and expression: the world as stage. The critic Elizabeth McCausland has described Model’s camerawork as expressing “a subconscious revolt against the rules.”

This exhibition of some 120 of Lisette Model’s most representative photographs illustrates the very bold and direct approach to reality that made her one of the most singular proponents of street photography, the particular form of documentary photography that developed in New York during the 1940s, through the camerawork of such as Helen Levitt, Roy de Carava and Weegee.

Alongside the photographs, archive film and sound recordings of Lisette Model will evoke the photographer’s life, and there will be copies of magazines to which she contributed (Regards, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.).

Exhibition organised by Jeu de Paume and Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid.

Text from the Jue de Paume website [Online] Cited 01/01/2010 no longer available online

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Promenade des Anglais' Nice c. 1934

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Promenade des Anglais
Nice c. 1934
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Gambler, French Riviera' 1937

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Gambler, French Riviera
1937
Gelatin silver print
Collection Fundación MAPFRE
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Coney Island Bather, New York' [Baigneuse, Coney Island] c. 1939-1941

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Coney Island Bather [Baigneuse, Coney Island]
New York
c. 1939-1941
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Diana Vreeland, New York' c. 1945

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Diana Vreeland, New York
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Restaurant, New York' c. 1945

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Restaurant, New York
c. 1945
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Reflections' [Reflets]

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Reflections [Reflets]
New York
c. 1939-1945
Gelatin silver print
Collection Fundación MAPFRE
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Reflection' [Reflet] c. 1939-1945

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Reflection [Reflet]
New York
c. 1939-1945
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Sammy's, New York' 1940-44

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Sammy’s, New York
1940-44
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Las Vegas, on the bar' c. 1945

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Las Vegas, on the bar
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
Collection Fundación MAPFRE
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Cafe Metropole, New York City' c. 1946

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Metropole Cafe
New York
c. 1946
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Fashion show, Hotel Pierre, New York City' 1940-46

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Fashion show, Hotel Pierre, New York City
1940-46
Gelatin silver print
Collection Fundación MAPFRE
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'San Francisco' 1949

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
San Francisco
1949
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Woman with Veil, San Francisco' 1949

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Woman with Veil, San Francisco
1949
Gelatin silver print
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Opera, San Francisco' 1949

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Opera, San Francisco
1949
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983) 'Opera, San Francisco' 1949

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria 1901-1983)
Opera, San Francisco
1949
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© The Lisette Model Foundation

 

 

Fundacion MAPFRE
Avenida General Perón, 40
Madrid 28020
Phone:
91 581 16 28

Opening hours:
Monday 2.00 – 9.00pm
Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 9.00pm

Fundacion MAPFRE website

Lisette Model – Fundacion MAPFRE website

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26
Mar
09

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

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 19th April 2009

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Triptych inspired by T.S. Eliot's 'Sweeney Agonistes'' 1967

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Triptych inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’
1967
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm (each)
Washington, D.C. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1972

 

 

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

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Many thankx to the Museo Nacional del Prado for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The exhibition is constructed in different sections

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

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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.

Text from the Prado website

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' c. 1944

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion
c. 1944
Oil on board
94 x 73.7 cm
London, Tate, presented by Eric Hall 1953

 

 

Animal

A philosophical attitude to human nature first emerges in Francis Bacon’s works of the 1940s. They reflect his belief that, without God, humans are subject to the same natural urges of violence, lust and fear as any other animal. He showed Figure in a Landscape and Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in April 1945, and exhibited consistently thereafter. The bestial depiction of the human figure was combined with specific references to recent history and especially the devastating events of the Second World War. Bacon often drew his inspiration from reproductions, acquiring a large collection of books, catalogues and magazines. He repeatedly studied key images in order to probe beneath the surface appearance captured in photographs. Early concerns that would persist throughout his work include the male nude, which reveals the frailty of the human figure, and the scream or cry that expresses repressed and violent anxieties. These works are among the first in which he sought to balance psychological insights with the physical identity of flesh and paint.

 

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

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X
1953
Oil on canvas
153 x 118 cm
Des Moines, Nathan Emory Coffin Collection of the Des Moines Arts Center, purchased with funds from the Coffin Fine Arts Trust

 

 

Zone

In his paintings from the early 1950s, Bacon engaged in complex experiments with pictorial space. He started to depict specific details in the backgrounds of these works and created a nuanced interaction between subject and setting. Figures are boxed into cage-like structures, delineated ‘space-frames’ and hexagonal ground planes, confining them within a tense psychological zone. In 1952 he described this as “opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object”. Through his technique of ‘shuttering’ with vertical lines of paint that merge the foreground and background, Bacon held the figure and the setting together within the picture surface, with neither taking precedence in what he called “an attempt to lift the image outside of its natural environment”.

A theme that emerged in the 1950s was the extended series of variants of Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650 (Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj), a work Bacon knew only from illustrations. He used this source to expose the insecurities of the powerful – represented most often in the scream of the caged figure. Through the open mouth Bacon exposed the tension between the interior space of the body and the spaces of its location, which is explored more explicitly in the vulnerability of the ape-like nudes.

 

Francis Bacon. 'Chimpanzee' 1955

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Chimpanzee
1955
Oil on canvas
152.5 x 117 cm
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie

 

 

Apprehension

Implicit throughout Bacon’s work of the mid 1950s is a sense of dread pervading the brutality of everyday life. Not only a result of Cold War anxiety, this seems to have reflected a sense of menace at a personal level emanating from Bacon’s chaotic affair with Peter Lacy (who was prone to drunken violence) and the wider pressures associated with the continuing illegality of homosexuality. The Man in Blue series captures this atmosphere, concentrating on a single anonymous male figure in a dark suit sitting at a table or bar counter on a deep blue-black ground. Within their simple painted frames, these awkwardly posed figures appear pathetically isolated.

Bacon’s interest in situations that combine banality with acute apprehension was also evident in other contemporary works. From figures of anxious authority, his popes took on malevolent attributes and physical distortions that were directly echoed in the paintings of animals, whose actions are also both sinister and undignified. Some of these images derived from Bacon’s close scrutiny of the sequential photographs of animals and humans taken by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), which he called “a dictionary” of the body in motion.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Three Studies for a Crucifixion' 1962

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies for a Crucifixion
1962
Oil on canvas
198.2 x 144.8 cm
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

 

 

Crucifixion

Bacon made paintings related to the Crucifixion at pivotal moments in his career, which is why these key works are gathered here. The paradox of an atheist choosing a subject laden with Christian significance was not lost on Bacon, but he claimed, “as a non-believer, it was just an act of man’s behaviour”. Here the instincts of brutality and fear combine with a deep fascination with the ritual of sacrifice. Bacon had already made a very individual crucifixion image in 1933 before returning to the subject with his break-through triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1944. This is a key precursor to later themes and compositions, containing the bestial distortion of human figures within the triptych format. These monstrous creatures displace the traditional saints and Bacon later related them to the Eumenides – the vengeful furies in Greek mythology. In resuming the theme in the 1960s, especially in 1962 as the culmination of his first Tate exhibition, Bacon used references to Cimabue’s 1272-1274 Crucifixion to introduce a more explicitly violent vision. Speaking after completing the third triptych in 1965 he simply stated: “Well, of course, we are meat, we are potential carcasses”.

 

 

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

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge)
1961
Oil on canvas
198 x 142 cm
The Hague, Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

 

 

Crisis

Between 1956 and 1961, Bacon travelled widely. He spent time in places marginal to the art world, in Monaco, the South of France and Africa, and particularly with Peter Lacy in the ex-patriot community in Tangier. In this rather unsettled context, he explored new methods of production, shifting to thicker paint, violently applied and so strong in colour as to indicate an engagement with the light of North Africa. This was most extreme in his series based on a self-portrait of Van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888, destroyed), which became an emblem of the modern predicament. Despite initial acclaim, Bacon’s Van Gogh works were soon criticised for their “reckless energy” and came to be viewed as an aberration. They can now be recognised as pivotal to Bacon’s further development, however, and allow glimpses into his search for new ways of working. His innovations were perhaps in response to American Abstract Expressionism, of which he was publicly critical. Although he eventually returned to a more controlled approach to painting, the introduction of chance and the new vibrancy of colour at this moment would remain through out his career.

 

Archive

The posthumous investigation of Bacon’s studio confirmed the extent to which he used and manipulated photographic imagery. This practice was already known from montages recorded in 1950 by the critic Sam Hunter. Often united by a theme of violence, the material ranges between images of conflict, big game, athletes, film stills and works of art.

An important revelation that followed the artist’s death was the discovery of lists of potential subjects and preparatory drawings, which Bacon had denied making. Throughout his life, he asserted the spontaneous nature of his work, but these materials reveal that chance was underpinned by planning.

Photography offered Bacon a dictionary of poses. Though he most frequently referred to Eadweard Muybridge’s (1830-1904) survey of human and animal locomotion, images of which he combined with the figures of Michelangelo, he remained alert to photographs of the body in a variety of positions.

A further extension of Bacon’s preparatory practices can be seen in his commissioning of photographs of his circle of friends from the photographer John Deakin (1912-1972). The results – together with self-portraits, photo booth strips, and his own photographs – became important prompts in his shift from generic representations of the human body to portrayals of specific individuals.

 

A matrix of images

Bacon’s use of photographic sources has been known since 1950 when the critic Sam Hunter took three photographs of material he had selected from a table in Bacon’s studio in Cromwell Place, South Kensington. Hunter observed that the diverse imagery was linked by violence, and this fascination continued throughout Bacon’s life. Images of Nazis and the North African wars of the 1950s were prominent in his large collection of sources. Films stills and reproductions of works of art, including Bacon’s own, were also common. The dismantling of Bacon’s later studio, nearby at Reece Mews, after his death confirmed that the amassing of photographic material had remained an obsession. While some images were used to generate paintings, he also seems to have collected such an archive for its own sake.

 

The mediated image

From the 1960s, Bacon’s accumulation of chance images began to include a more deliberate strategy of using photographs of his close circle. They became key images for the development of the portraits that dominated his paintings at this time. Snap shots and photo booth strips were augmented by the unflinching photographs taken by his friend John Deakin. Bacon specifically commissioned some of these from Deakin as records of those close to him – notably his partner from 1962, George Dyer – and they served as sources for likenesses and for poses for the rest of his career.

 

The Physical Body

Bacon drew more from Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photographs of human and animal locomotion than from any other source. These isolated the naked figure in a way he clearly found stimulating. He also, however, spoke of projecting on to them Michelangelo’s figures which for him had more “ampleness” and “grandeur of form”.

His fascination in photography’s freezing of the body in motion led him to collect sports photographs, particularly boxing, cricket and bullfighting. It was not just movement but the physicality of the body that Bacon scrutinised, using found images to provoke new ways of picturing its strength and vulnerability.

 

 

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

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho
1967
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie

 

 

Portrait

During the 1960s, the larger part of Bacon’s work shifted focus to portraits and paintings of his close friends. These works centre on two broad concerns: the portrayal of the human condition and the struggle to reinvent portraiture. Bacon drew upon the lessons of Van Gogh and Velázquez, but attempted to rework their projects for a post-photographic world. His approach was to distort appearance in order to reach a deeper truth about his subjects. To this end, Bacon’s models can be seen performing different roles. In the Lying Figures series, Henrietta Moraes is naked and exposed. This unprecedented raw sexuality reinforces Bacon’s understanding of the human body simply as meat. By contrast Isabel Rawsthorne, a fellow painter, always appears in control of how she is presented. With a mixture of contempt and affection, Bacon depicted George Dyer, his lover and most frequent model, as fragile and pathetic. This is especially evident in Dyer’s first appearance in Bacon’s work, in Three Figures in a Room, in which he represents the absurdities, indignities and pathos of human existence. Everyday objects occasionally feature in these works, hollow props for lonely individuals which reinforce the sense of isolation that Bacon associated with the human condition.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Triptych - August 1972' 1972

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Triptych – August 1972
1972
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
London, Tate

 

 

Memorial

This room is dedicated to George Dyer who was Bacon’s most important and constant companion and model from the autumn of 1963. He committed suicide on 24 October 1971, two days before the opening of Bacon’s major exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. Influenced by loss and guilt, the painter made a number of pictures in memorial to Dyer. From this period onwards the large-scale triptych was his established means for major statements, having the advantage of simultaneously isolating and juxtaposing the participating figures, as well as guarding against narrative qualities that Bacon strove to avoid. But while evading narrative, Bacon drew more than ever from literary imagery; the first of the sequence, Triptych In Memory of George Dyer 1971, refers to a specific section of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). In addition to his own memory, for Triptych – August 1972 Bacon relied on photographs, taken by John Deakin, of Dyer in various poses on a chair. He confined his dense and energetic application of paint to the figures in these works. The dark openings consciously evoke the abyss of mortality that would become a recurring concern in Bacon’s later works.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Triptych' 1987

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Triptych
1987
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
London, The Estate of Francis Bacon, courtesy Faggionato Fine Art

 

 

Epic

References to poetry and drama became a central element in Bacon’s work from the second half of the 1960s. Alongside images of friends and single figures (often self-portraits), he produced a series of grand works that identified with great literature. Imbued with the inevitability and constant presence of death, the poetry of T.S. Eliot was a particular source of inspiration. The sentiments of the poet’s character Sweeney could be said to echo the painter’s perspective on life:

Birth, and copulation, and death.

That’s all the facts when you come to

brass tacks:

Birth, and copulation, and death.

The works in this room refer to and derive from literature. Some make direct references in their titles, others depict, sometimes abstractly, a certain scene or atmosphere within the narratives themselves. Bacon repeatedly stated that none of his paintings were intended as narratives, so rather than illustrations, these works should perhaps be understood as evoking the experience of reading of Eliot’s poetry or Aeschylus’s tragedies: their violence, threat or erotic charge. Thus, of the triptych created after reading Aeschylus, Bacon explained “I tried to create images of the sensations that some of the episodes created inside me”.

 

Francis Bacon. 'Portrait of John Edwards' 1988

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Portrait of John Edwards
1988
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
The Estate of Francis Bacon, courtesy of Faggionato Fine Arts, London, and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York

 

 

Late

When Bacon turned seventy in 1979, more than a decade of work lay ahead of him. Neither his legendarily hedonistic lifestyle nor his work pattern seemed to age him, but he was continually facing up to mortality through the deaths of those around him. This unswerving confrontation, however mitigated by youthful companions such as John Edwards, became the great theme of his late style. Constantly stimulated by new source material – for example the photographs and the poetry of Federico García Lorca which triggered his bullfight paintings – he was able to adapt them to his abiding concerns with the vulnerability of flesh. Exploring new techniques he also extended his fascination with how appropriate oil paint is for rendering the human body’s sensuality and sensitivity. A certain despairing energy may also be felt in the forceful throwing of paint that dominates some of these final works: the controlled chance as a defiant gesture. Ultimately, and appropriately, Bacon’s last triptych of 1991 returns to the key image of sexual struggle that had frequently recurred in his work. He faced death with a defiant concentration on the exquisiteness of the lived moment.

 

 

Museo Nacional Del Prado
Paseo del Prado, s/n,
28014 Madrid, Spain

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10am – 8pm
Sunday 10am – 7pm

Museo Nacional del Prado website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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