Posts Tagged ‘painting with light

24
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Bill Henson’ as part of the NGV Festival of Photography, NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 27th August 2017

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #5' 2011/2012

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #5
2011/2012
archival inkjet pigment print
180 × 127cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #5' 2011/2012 (detail)

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #5 (detail)
2011/2012
archival inkjet pigment print
180 × 127cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Masterclass

There is nothing that I need to add about the themes, re-sources and beauty of the photographs in this exhibition, than has not been commented on in Christopher Allen’s erudite piece of writing “Bill Henson images reflect the dark past at NGV” posted on The Australian website. It is all there for the reader:

“Figurative works like these, which invite an intense engagement because of our imaginative and affective response to beauty, are punctuated with landscapes that offer intervals of another kind of contemplation, a distant rather than close focus, an impersonal rather than a personal response, a meditation on time and space. …

Henson’s pictorial world is an intensely, almost hypnotically imaginative one, whose secret lies in a unique combination of closeness and distance. He draws on the deep affective power of physical beauty, and particularly the sexually ambiguous, often almost androgynous beauty of the young body, filled with a kind of potential energy, but not yet fully actualised. Yet these bodies are distanced and abstracted by their sculptural, nearly monochrome treatment, and transformed by a kind of alchemical synthesis with the ideal, poetic bodies of art. …

The figures are bewitching but withdraw like mirages, disembodied at the sensual level, only to be merged with the images of memory, the echoes of great works of the past, and to be reborn from the imagination as if some ancient sculpture were arising from darkness into the light of a new life.”

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What I can add are some further observations. Henson is not so serious as to miss sharing a joke with his audience, as when the elbow of the classical statue in Untitled 2008/09 is mimicked in the background by the elbow of a figure. Henson is also a masterful storyteller, something that is rarely mentioned in comment upon his work. When you physically see this exhibition – the flow of the images, the juxtaposition of landscape and figurative works, the lighting of the work as the photographs emerge out of the darkness – all this produces such a sensation in the viewer that you are taken upon a journey into your soul. I was intensely moved by this work, by the bruised and battered bodies so much in love, that they almost took my breath away.

Another point of interest is the relationship between the philanthropist, the artist and the gallery. Due to the extraordinary generosity of Bill Bowness, whose gift of twenty-one photographs by Henson makes the NGV’s collection of his work the most significant of any public institution, the gallery was able to stage this exhibition. This is how art philanthropy should work: a private collector passionate about an artist’s work donating to an important institution to benefit both the artist, the institution and the art viewing public.

But then all this good work is undone in the promotion of the exhibition. I was supplied with the media images: five landscape images supplemented by five installation images of the same photographs. Despite requests for images of the figurative works they were not forthcoming. So I took my own.

We all know of the sensitivity around the work of Henson after his brush with the law in 2008, but if you are going to welcome 21 photographs into your collection, and stage a major exhibition of the donated work… then please have the courage of your convictions and provide media images of the ALL the work for people to see. For fear of offending the prurient right, the obsequiousness of the gallery belittles the whole enterprise.

If this artist was living in New York, London or Paris he would be having major retrospectives of his work, for I believe that Bill Henson is one of the greatest living photographers of his generation.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the images in the posting and supplying the media images (the images after the press release). All other images are © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria with at left, Untitled #35 2009/2010 and at right, Untitled #8 2008/2009
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #35' 2009/2010

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #35
2009/2010
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #8' 2008/2009

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #8
2008/2009
archival inkjet pigment print
180 × 127cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #1' 2010/2011

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #1
2010/2011
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria with at left, Untitled 2010/2011 and at right, Untitled #9 2008/2009
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled' 2010/2011

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled
2010/2011
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #9' 2008/2009

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #9
2008/2009
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled' 2010/2011

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled
2010/2011
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria with at left, Untitled #2 2010/2011 and at right, Untitled #10 2011/2012
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #2' 2010/2011

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #2
2010/2011
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #10' 2011/2012 (detail)

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #10 (detail)
2011/2012
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #3' 2008/2009

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #3
2008/2009
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria with at left, Untitled #16 2009/10 and at right, Untitled #10 2008/2009
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #10' 2008/2009

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #10
2008/2009
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #5' 2011/2012

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #5
2011/2012
archival inkjet pigment print
180 × 127cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled #15' 2008/2009

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #15
2008/2009
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled' 2012/13

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled
2012/13
archival inkjet pigment print
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled' 2012/13 (detail)

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled (detail)
2012/13
archival inkjet pigment print
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled' 2012/13 (detail)

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled (detail)
2012/13
archival inkjet pigment print
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled #2' 2009/2010 (detail)

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untitled #2 (detail)
2009/2010
archival inkjet pigment print
127 × 180cm
Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2016
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Bill Henson and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan in front of Bill Henson's 'Untitled' 2009/10

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan in front of Bill Henson’s Untitled 2009/10 which features Rembrandt’s The return of the prodigal son c. 1662 which is in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Photo: Jeff Whitehead

 

 

The solo exhibition, Bill Henson, will showcase recent works by the Australian photographer, who is celebrated for his powerful images that sensitively explore the complexities of the human condition.

The exhibition brings together twenty-three photographs selected by the artist, traversing the key themes in the artist’s oeuvre, including sublime landscapes, portraiture, as well as classical sculpture captured in museum settings.

Inviting contemplation, Henson’s works present open-ended narratives and capture an intriguing sense of the transitory. Henson’s portraits show his subjects as introspective, focused on internal thoughts and dreams; his landscapes are photographed during the transitional moment of twilight; and the images shot on location inside museums juxtapose graceful marble statues against the transfixed visitors observing them.

Henson’s work is renowned for creating a powerful sense of mystery and ambiguity through the use of velvet-like blackness in the shadows. This is achieved through the striking use of chiaroscuro, an effect of contrasting light and shadow, which is used to selectively obscure and reveal the form of the human body, sculptures and the landscape itself.

“Henson’s photographs have a palpable sense of the cinematic and together they form a powerful and enigmatic visual statement,” said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV. “The NGV mounted Bill Henson’s first solo exhibition in 1975 when Henson was only 19. Over forty years later, audiences to the NGV will be captivated by the beauty of Henson’s images once more,” said Ellwood.

On display at the National Gallery of Victoria as part of the inaugural NGV Festival of Photography, the exhibition has been made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Bill Bowness, whose gift of twenty-one photographs by Henson makes the NGV’s collection of his work the most significant of any public institution.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled 2008/09'

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Untitled 2008/09
2008-2009
Inkjet print
127 x 180 cm
© Bill Henson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography Photo by Sean Fennessy

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography
Photo: Sean Fennessy

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled 2008/09'

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Untitled 2008/09
2008-2009
Inkjet print
127 x 180 cm
© Bill Henson

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untiled 2009/10'

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Untiled 2009/10
2009-2010
Inkjet print
102.1 x 152.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australia Artist, 2012
© Bill Henson

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untiled 2009/10'

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Untiled 2009/10
2009-2010
Inkjet print
102.1 x 152.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australia Artist, 2011
© Bill Henson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography Photo by Wayne Taylor

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Installation view of Untiled 2009/10
2009-2010
Inkjet print
102.1 x 152.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australia Artist, 2011
© Bill Henson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955) 'Untitled 2008/09'

 

Bill Henson (Australian born 1955)
Untitled 2008/09
2008-2009
Inkjet print
127 x 180 cm
© Bill Henson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Henson' at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Henson at the National Gallery of Victoria. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography
Photo: Sean Fennessy

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm, closed Tuesdays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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20
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age’ at Tate Britain, London

Exhibition dates: 11th May – 25th September 2016

Curators: Dr Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art 1850-1915 at Tate Britain, and Dr Hope Kingsley, Curator, Education and Collections, Wilson Centre for Photography, with Tim Batchelor, Assistant Curator at Tate Britain

 

 

An interesting concept for an exhibition. I would have liked to have seen the exhibition to make a more informed comment. Parallels can be drawn, but how much import you put on the connection is up to you vis-à-vis the aesthetic feeling and formal construction of each medium. It is fascinating to note how many of the original art works are photographs with the painting following at a later date, or vice versa. Photographically, Julia Margaret Cameron and John Cimon Warburg are the stars.

Photographs have always been used by artists as aide-mémoire since the birth of photograph. Eugené Atget called his photographs of Paris “Documents pour artistes”, declaring his modest ambition to create images for other artists to use as source material … but I take that statement with a pinch of salt. Perhaps a salt print from a calotype paper negative!

Marcus

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

 

Tate Britain presents the first major exhibition to celebrate the spirited conversation between early photography and British art. It brings together photographs and paintings including Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic and British impressionist works. Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition opens with the experimental beginnings of photography in dialogue with painters such as J.M.W. Turner and concludes with its flowering as an independent international art form.

Stunning works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, JAM Whistler, John Singer Sargent and others will for the first time be shown alongside ravishing photographs by pivotal early photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, which they inspired and which inspired them.

 

 

Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936) 'Haymaker with Rake' c. 1888, published 1890

 

Peter Henry Emerson< (1856-1936)
Haymaker with Rake
c. 1888, published 1890
From Pictures of East Anglian Life portfolio
Photogravure on paperImage: 277 x 196 mm
Victoria and Albert Museum
Gift from the photographer

 

John Everett Millais. 'The Woodman's Daughter' 1850-51

 

John Everett Millais (1829-1896)
The Woodman’s Daughter
1850-51
Oil paint on canvas
889 x 648 mm
Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London

 

Minna Keene. 'Decorative Study' c. 1906

 

Minna Keene
Decorative Study
c. 1906.
© Royal Photographic Society / National Media Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 'Proserpine' 1874

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Proserpine
1874
Oil on canvas
support: 1251 x 610 mm
frame: 1605 x 930 x 85 mm
Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940

 

Zaida Ben-Yusuf. 'The Odor of Pomegranates' 1899

 

Zaida Ben-Yusuf
The Odor of Pomegranates
1899, published 1901
Photogravure on paper
Tate

 

 

Zaida Ben-Yusuf (21 November 1869 – 27 September 1933) was a New York-based portrait photographer noted for her artistic portraits of wealthy, fashionable, and famous Americans of the turn of the 19th-20th century. She was born in London to a German mother and an Algerian father, but became a naturalised American citizen later in life. In 1901 the Ladies Home Journal featured her in a group of six photographers that it dubbed, “The Foremost Women Photographers in America.” In 2008, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery mounted an exhibition dedicated solely to Ben-Yusuf’s work, re-establishing her as a key figure in the early development of fine art photography…

In 1896, Ben-Yusuf began to be known as a photographer. In April 1896, two of her pictures were reproduced in The Cosmopolitan Magazine, and another study was exhibited in London as part of an exhibition put on by The Linked Ring. She travelled to Europe later that year, where she met with George Davison, one of the co-founders of The Linked Ring, who encouraged her to continue her photography. She exhibited at their annual exhibitions until 1902.

In the spring of 1897, Ben-Yusuf opened her portrait photography studio at 124 Fifth Avenue, New York. On 7 November 1897, the New York Daily Tribune ran an article on Ben-Yusuf’s studio and her work creating advertising posters, which was followed by another profile in Frank Leslie’s Weekly on 30 December. Through 1898, she became increasingly visible as a photographer, with ten of her works in the National Academy of Design-hosted 67th Annual Fair of the American Institute, where her portrait of actress Virginia Earle won her third place in the Portraits and Groups class. During November 1898, Ben-Yusuf and Frances Benjamin Johnston held a two-woman show of their work at the Camera Club of New York.

In 1899, Ben-Yusuf met with F. Holland Day in Boston, and was photographed by him. She relocated her studio to 578 Fifth Avenue, and exhibited in a number of exhibitions, including the second Philadelphia Photographic Salon. She was also profiled in a number of publications, including an article on female photographers in The American Amateur Photographer, and a long piece in The Photographic Times in which Sadakichi Hartmann described her as an “interesting exponent of portrait photography”.

1900 saw Ben-Yusuf and Johnston assemble an exhibition on American women photographers for the Universal Exposition in Paris. Ben-Yusuf had five portraits in the exhibition, which travelled to Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. She was also exhibited in Holland Day’s exhibition, The New School of American Photography, for the Royal Photographic Society in London, and had four photographs selected by Alfred Stieglitz for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, Scotland.

In 1901, Ben-Yusuf wrote an article, “Celebrities Under the Camera”, for the Sunday Evening Post, where she described her experiences with her sitters. By this stage she had photographed Grover Cleveland, Franklin Roosevelt, and Leonard Wood, amongst others. For the September issue of Metropolitan Magazine she wrote another article, “The New Photography – What It Has Done and Is Doing for Modern Portraiture”, where she described her work as being more artistic than most commercial photographers, but less radical than some of the better-known art photographers. The Ladies Home Journal that November declared her to be one of the “foremost women photographers in America”, as she began the first of a series of six illustrated articles on “Advanced Photography for Amateurs” in the Saturday Evening Post.

Ben-Yusuf was listed as a member of the first American Photographic Salon when it opened in December 1904, although her participation in exhibitions was beginning to drop off. In 1906, she showed one portrait in the third annual exhibition of photographs at Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, the last known exhibition of her work in her lifetime.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

In the Studio

Many photographers trained as painters. They set up studios and employed artists’ models, skilled at holding poses for the time it took to take a picture. Later in the century, improved photographic negatives required shorter exposure times and it became easier to stage and capture difficult positions and spontaneous gestures.

Painters and illustrators used photographs as preparatory studies and as substitutes for props, costumes and models, and art schools created photographic archives for their students. Photographs commissioned and sold by institutions such as the British Museum made classical sculpture and old master paintings more accessible, inspiring both painters and photographers.

 

Henry Wallis (1830-1916) 'Chatterton' 1856

 

Henry Wallis (1830-1916)
Chatterton
1856
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 622 x 933 mm
frame: 905 x 1205 x 132 mm
Tate
Bequeathed by Charles Gent Clement 1899

 

 

Chatterton is Wallis’s earliest and most famous work. The picture created a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856, accompanied by the following quotation from Marlowe:

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight

And burned is Apollo’s laurel bough.

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Ruskin described the work in his Academy Notes as ‘faultless and wonderful’.

Thomas Chatterton (1752-70) was an 18th Century poet, a Romantic figure whose melancholy temperament and early suicide captured the imagination of numerous artists and writers. He is best known for a collection of poems, written in the name of Thomas Rowley, a 15th Century monk, which he copied onto parchment and passed off as mediaeval manuscripts. Having abandoned his first job working in a scrivener’s office he struggled to earn a living as a poet. In June 1770 he moved to an attic room at 39 Brooke Street, where he lived on the verge of starvation until, in August of that year, at the age of only seventeen, he poisoned himself with arsenic. Condemned in his lifetime as a forger by influential figures such as the writer Horace Walpole (1717-97), he was later elevated to the status of tragic hero by the French poet Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863).

Wallis may have intended the picture as a criticism of society’s treatment of artists, since his next picture of note, The Stonebreaker (1858, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery), is one of the most forceful examples of social realism in Pre-Raphaelite art. The painting alludes to the idea of the artist as a martyr of society through the Christ-like pose and the torn sheets of poetry on the floor. The pale light of dawn shines through the casement window, illuminating the poet’s serene features and livid flesh. The harsh lighting, vibrant colours and lifeless hand and arm increase the emotional impact of the scene. A phial of poison on the floor indicates the method of suicide. Following the Pre-Raphaelite credo of truth to nature, Wallis has attempted to recreate the same attic room in Gray’s Inn where Chatterton had killed himself. The model for the figure was the novelist George Meredith (1828-1909), then aged about 28. Two years later Wallis eloped with Meredith’s wife, a daughter of the novelist Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866).

Text from the Tate website

 

James Robinson. 'The Death of Chatterton' 1859

 

James Robinson
The Death of Chatterton
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

James Robinson. 'The Death of Chatterton' 1859 (detail)

 

James Robinson
The Death of Chatterton (detail)
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

THIS STEREOCARD IS NOT IN THE EXHIBITION

 

 

One of the most famous paintings of Victorian times was Chatterton, 1856 (Tate) by the young Pre-Raphaelite-style artist, Henry Wallis (1830-1916). Again, the tale of the suicide of the poor poet, Thomas Chatterton, exposed as a fraud for faking medieval histories and poems to get by, had broad appeal. Chatterton was also an 18th-century figure, but Wallis set his picture in a bare attic overlooking the City of London which evoked the urban poverty of his own age. The picture toured the British Isles and hundreds of thousands flocked to pay a shilling to view it. One of these was James Robinson, who saw the painting when it was in Dublin. He immediately conceived a stereographic series of Chatterton’s life. Unfortunately Robinson started with Wallis’s scene (The Death of Chatterton, 1859). Within days of its publication, legal procedures began, claiming his picture threatened the income of the printmaker who had the lucrative copyright to publish engravings of the painting. The ensuing court battles were the first notorious copyright cases. Robinson lost, but strangely, in 1861, Birmingham photographer Michael Burr published variations of Death of Chatterton with no problems. No other photographer was ever prosecuted for staging a stereoscopic picture after a painting and the market continued to thrive…

Robinson’s The Death of Chatterton illustrates the way this uncanny quality [the ability to record reality in detail] distinguishes the stereograph from even the immaculate Pre-Raphaelite style of Wallis’s painting of the same subject. The stereograph represented a young man in 18th-century costume on a bed. The backdrop was painted, but the chest, discarded coat and candle were real. Again, the light and colour appear crude in comparison with the painting but the stereoscope records ‘every stick, straw, scratch’ in a manner that the painting cannot. The torn paper pieces, animated by their three-dimensionality, trace the poet’s recent agitation, while the candle smoke, representing his extinguished life, is different in each photograph due to their being taken at separate moments. The haphazard creases of the bed sheet are more suggestive of restless movement, now stilled, than Wallis’s elegant drapery. Even the individuality of the boy adds potency to his death.

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 'Beata Beatrix' c.1864-70

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Beata Beatrix
c. 1864-70
Oil on canvas
support: 864 x 660 mm
frame: 1212 x 1015 x 104 mm
Presented by Georgiana, Baroness Mount-Temple in memory of her husband, Francis, Baron Mount-Temple 1889

 

 

Rossetti draws a parallel in this picture between the Italian poet Dante’s despair at the death of his beloved Beatrice and his own grief at the death of his wife Elizabeth Siddal, who died on 11 February 1862. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) recounted the story of his unrequited love and subsequent mourning for Beatrice Portinari in the Vita Nuova. This was Rossetti’s first English translation and appeared in 1864 as part of his own publication, The Early Italian Poets.

The picture is a portrait of Elizabeth Siddall in the character of Beatrice. It has a hazy, transcendental quality, giving the sensation of a dream or vision, and is filled with symbolic references. Rossetti intended to represent her, not at the moment of death, but transformed by a ‘sudden spiritual transfiguration’ (Rossetti, in a letter of 1873, quoted in Wilson, p.86). She is posed in an attitude of ecstasy, with her hands before her and her lips parted, as if she is about to receive Communion. According to Rossetti’s friend F.G. Stephens, the grey and green of her dress signify ‘the colours of hope and sorrow as well as of love and life’ (‘Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti’, Portfolio, vol.22, 1891, p.46).

In the background of the picture the shadowy figure of Dante looks across at Love, portrayed as an angel and holding in her palm the flickering flame of Beatrice’s life. In the distance the Ponte Vecchio signifies the city of Florence, the setting for Dante’s story. Beatrice’s impending death is evoked by the dove – symbol of the holy spirit – which descends towards her, an opium poppy in its beak. This is also a reference to the death of Elizabeth Siddall, known affectionately by Rossetti as ‘The Dove’, and who took her own life with an overdose of laudanum. Both the dove and the figure of Love are red, the colour of passion, yet Rossetti envisaged the bird as a messenger, not of love, but of death. Beatrice’s death, which occurred at nine o’clock on 9th June 1290, is foreseen in the sundial which casts its shadow over the number nine. The picture frame, which was designed by Rossetti, has further references to death and mourning, including the date of Beatrice’s death and a phrase from Lamentations 1:1, quoted by Dante in the Vita Nuova: ‘Quomodo sedet sola civitas’ (‘how doth the city sit solitary’), referring to the mourning of Beatrice’s death throughout the city of Florence.

Text from the Tate website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Call, I Follow, I Follow, Let Me Die!' 1867

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Call, I Follow, I Follow, Let Me Die!' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Call, I Follow, I Follow, Let Me Die!
1867
© Royal Photographic Society / National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

 

 

In late 1865, Julia Margaret Cameron began using a larger camera. It held a 15 x 12 inch glass negative, rather than the 12 x 10 inch negative of her first camera. Early the next year she wrote to Henry Cole with great enthusiasm – but little modesty – about the new turn she had taken in her work. Cameron initiated a series of large-scale, closeup heads that fulfilled her photographic vision. She saw them as a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture. Cameron also continued to make narrative and allegorical tableaux, which were larger and bolder than her previous efforts.

In this image, Cameron concentrates upon the head of her maid Mary Hillier by using a darkened background and draping her in simple dark cloth. The lack of surrounding detail or context obscures references to narrative, identity or historical context. The flowing hair, lightly parted lips and exposed neck suggest sensuality. The title, taken from a line in the poem ‘Lancelot and Elaine’ from Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’, transforms the subject into a tragic heroine.

Text from the Victoria & Albert Museum website

 

New truths

Mid-nineteenth century innovations in science and the arts became part of intense debates about ‘truth’ – variously defined as objective observation and as individual artistic vision. Inspired by artist and critic John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelite circle took a new approach to nature, discovering meaning in details previously overlooked, ‘rejecting nothing, selecting nothing’.

As the quality of paints and lenses improved, painters and photographers tested the bounds of perception and representation. They moved out of the studio, to explore light and other atmospheric effects as well as geological subjects, landscape and architecture. New photographic materials like glass plate negatives and coated printed papers offered greater accuracy and photography became a valuable aid for painters.

 

John Brett (1831-1902) 'Glacier of Rosenlaui' 1856

 

John Brett (1831-1902)
Glacier of Rosenlaui
1856
Oil on canvas
Height: 445 mm (17.52 in). Width: 419 mm (16.5 in).
Tate Britain
Purchased 1946
Photo: Tate, London, 2011

 

Thomas Ogle. 'The Bowder Stone in Our English Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls as seen by William Wordsworth by A.W. Bennett' Published 1864

 

Thomas Ogle
The Bowder Stone in Our English Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls as seen by William Wordsworth by A.W. Bennett
Published 1864
Tate

 

 

View taken by Thomas Ogle of the Bowder Stone in Borrowdale, Cumbria, illustrating ‘Our English Lakes, Mountains, And Waterfalls, as seen by William Wordsworth’ (1864). The book juxtaposes photographs of the Lake District with poems by the English Romantic poet. The Bowder Stone, an enormous boulder, was probably deposited by glaciation during the last Ice Age. It rests in Borrowdale, a valley of woods and crags in the Lake District whose scenic beauty inspired artists, writers and poets of the Romantic Movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Wordsworth (1770-1850) was among them, and the photograph of the Bowder Stone accompanies his poem, ‘Yew-Trees’ (1803), from which the following passage is taken:

“…But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! – and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwined fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved, –
Nor uninformed with phantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane; – a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perenially – beneath whole sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked
With unrejoicing berries, ghostly shapes
May meet at noontide – Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight – Death the skeleton
And Time the shadow…”

Text from the British Library website

 

Atkinson Grimshaw. 'Bowder Stone, Borrowdale' c. 1863-8

 

Atkinson Grimshaw
Bowder Stone, Borrowdale
c. 1863-8
Oil on canvas
support: 400 x 536 mm
frame: 662 x 709 x 100 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1983

 

 

“Tate Britain uncovers the dynamic dialogue between British painters and photographers; from the birth of the modern medium to the blossoming of art photography. Spanning over 70 years, the exhibition brings together nearly 200 works – many for the first time – to reveal their mutual influences. From the first explorations of movement and illumination by David Octavius Hill (1802-70) and Robert Adamson (1821-48) to artful compositions at the turn-of-the-century, the show discovers how painters and photographers redefined notions of beauty and art itself.

The dawn of photography coincided with a tide of revolutionary ideas in the arts, which questioned how pictures should be created and seen. Photography adapted the Old Master traditions within which many photographers had been trained, and engaged with the radical naturalism of JMW Turner (1775-1851), the Pre-Raphaelites, and their Realist and Impressionist successors. Turner inspired the first photographic panoramic views, and, in the years that followed his death, photographers and painters followed in his footsteps and composed novel landscapes evoking meaning and emotion. The exhibition includes examples such as John Everett Millais’s (1829-96) nostalgic The Woodman’s Daughter and John Brett’s (1831-1902) awe inspiring Glacier Rosenlaui. Later in the century, PH Emerson (1856-1936) and TF Goodall’s (c1856-1944) images of rural river life allied photography to Impressionist painting, while JAM Whistler (1834-1903) and Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) created smoky Thames nocturnes in both media.

The exhibition celebrates the role of women photographers, such as Zaida Ben-Yusuf (1869-1933) and the renowned Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79). Cameron’s artistic friendships with George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1830-94) are recognised in a room devoted to their beautiful, enigmatic portraits of each other and shared models, where works including Cameron’s Call, I Follow, I Follow, Let Me Die and Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix are on display.

Highlights of the show include examples of three-dimensional photography, which incorporated the use of models and props to stage dramatic tableaux from popular works of the time, re-envisioning well-known pictures such as Henry Wallis’s (1830-1916) Chatterton. Such stereographs were widely disseminated and made art more accessible to the public, often being used as a form of after-dinner entertainment for middle class Victorian families. A previously unseen private album in which the Royal family painstakingly re-enacted famous paintings is also exhibited, as well as rare examples of early colour photography.

Carol Jacobi, Curator British Art 1850-1915, Tate Britain says: “Painting with Light offers new insights into Britain’s most popular artists and reveals just how vital painting and photography were to one another. Their conversations were at the heart of the artistic achievements of the Victorian and Edwardian era.”

Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age is curated by Dr Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art 1850-1915 at Tate Britain, and Dr Hope Kingsley, Curator, Education and Collections, Wilson Centre for Photography, with Tim Batchelor, Assistant Curator at Tate Britain. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.”

Press release from Tate Britain

 

‘Whisper of the Muse’

As the nineteenth century progressed, some artists moved away from the clarity and detail that had been the aim of earlier Pre-Raphaelite art, turning instead to a search for pure beauty. The aesthetic movement, as this tendency came to be known, emphasised the sensual qualities of art and design and explored imaginative themes and effects.

In London and on the Isle of Wight, a community of artists forged closer links between the visual arts, music and literature. This circle included the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, painters George Frederic Watts and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the poet Alfred Tennyson. Rossetti and Cameron worked with similar subjects, many inspired by Tennyson’s poetry. Together with Watts they developed a newly-intimate form of portraiture, exploring emotional and psychological states. They also shared models, whose striking looks introduced new types of modern beauty.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) 'Whisper of the Muse' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)
Whisper of the Muse
1865
Photograph, albumen print on paper
325 x 238 mm
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 'Mariana' 1870

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Mariana
1870
Oil on canvas
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum Collection

 

 

Into Light and Colour

In the second half of the nineteenth century Japanese culture became an important influence in Britain. Japanese goods were sold in London in new department stores such as Liberty, while the Japanese Village, established in Knightsbridge in 1885, attracted more than a million visitors.

Japanese props and motifs appeared in art and design and the vogue for Japanese prints inspired painters and photographers. Painters experimented with new colour palettes, flattened picture planes and condensed, cropped formats, innovations also important to later British impressionist works. Such experiments in light and colour were paralleled in photography with the 1907 introduction of the autochrome, the first practical colour photographic process.

 

John Cimon Warburg (1867-1931) 'Peggy in the Garden' 1909, printed 2016

 

John Cimon Warburg (1867-1931)
Peggy in the Garden
1909, printed 2016
Photograph, transparency on lightbox from autochrome
Royal Photographic Society / National Media Museum / Science and Society Picture Library

 

 

John Cimon Warburg (1867-1931) British photographer born to a wealthy family dedicated his whole life to photography. In 1897, he joined the Royal Photographic Society. During his photographic career, John Cimon Warburg used a wide range of photographic processes, but excelled especially in autochromes. Best known for his atmospheric landscapes and its fascinating studies of his children, Warburg lectured and written about the process and explained his autochromes the annual exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society. (Text from the Autochrome website)

Patented by the Lumière brothers in 1903, Autochrome produced a color transparency using a layer of potato starch grains dyed red, green and blue, along with a complex development process. Autochromes required longer exposure times than traditional black-and-white photos, resulting in images with a hazy, blurred atmosphere filled with pointillist dots of color. (See some fantastic images on the Mashable website)

 

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose' 1885-86

 

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
1885-86
Oil paint on canvas
1740 x 1537 mm
Tate. Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey
Bequest 1887

 

 

The inspiration for Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose came during a boating expedition Sargent took on the Thames at Pangbourne in September 1885, with the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey, during which he saw Chinese lanterns hanging among trees and lilies. He began the picture while staying at the home of the painter F.D. Millet at Broadway, Worcestershire, shortly after his move to Britain from Paris. At first he used the Millets’s five-year-old daughter Katharine as his model, but she was soon replaced by Polly and Dorothy (Dolly) Barnard, the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard, because they had the exact hair-colour Sargent was seeking.

He worked on the picture, one of the few figure compositions he ever made out of doors in the impressionist manner, from September to early November 1885, and again at the Millets’s new home, Russell House, Broadway, during the summer of 1886, completing it some time in October. Sargent was able to work for only a few minutes each evening when the light was exactly right. He would place his easel and paints beforehand, and pose his models in anticipation of the few moments when he could paint the mauvish light of dusk.

As autumn came and the flowers died, he was forced to replace the blossoms with artificial flowers. The picture was both acclaimed and decried at the 1887 Royal Academy exhibition. The title comes from the song The Wreath, by the eighteenth-century composer of operas Joseph Mazzinghi, which was popular in the 1880s. Sargent and his circle frequently sang around the piano at Broadway. The refrain of the song asks the question ‘Have you seen my Flora pass this way?’ to which the answer is ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’.

Text from the Tate website

 

Unknown photographer. 'H.R.H. Princess Alexandra, H.R.H. Princess Victoria & Mr. Savile, “Two’s company and three’s none” in Tableaux Vivants Devonport' c. 1892-1893

 

Unknown photographer
H.R.H. Princess Alexandra, H.R.H. Princess Victoria & Mr. Savile, “Two’s company and three’s none” in Tableaux Vivants Devonport
c. 1892-1893
Bound volume. Displayed open at Marcus C. Stone’s ‘Two’s Company, Three’s None”
Photograph, albumen print on paper
360 x 480 x 58 mm – book closed
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Unknown photographer. 'H.R.H. Princess Alexandra, H.R.H. Princess Victoria & Mr. Savile, “Two’s company and three’s none” in Tableaux Vivants Devonport' c. 1892-1893 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
H.R.H. Princess Alexandra, H.R.H. Princess Victoria & Mr. Savile, “Two’s company and three’s none” in Tableaux Vivants Devonport (detail)
c. 1892-1893
Bound volume. Displayed open at Marcus C. Stone’s ‘Two’s Company, Three’s None”
Photograph, albumen print on paper
360 x 480 x 58 mm – book closed
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Thomas Armstrong (1832-1911) 'The Hay Field' 1869

 

Thomas Armstrong
The Hay Field
1869
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Atmosphere and Effect

The relationship between landscape painting and photography continued to develop into the twentieth century. The etchings and nocturnes of James Abbott McNeill Whistler inspired photographers, who adopted his atmospheric subjects and aesthetics. While photography had achieved a technical sophistication that allowed photographers to produce highly resolved, realistic images, many chose to pursue soft-focus effects rather than detail and precision. Such photographs paralleled the unpeopled landscapes of painters like John Everett Millais and the gas-lit cityscapes of John Atkinson Grimshaw.

 

James Abbott McNeill Whistler. 'Three Figures Pink and Grey' 1868-78

 

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Three Figures Pink and Grey
1868-78
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1391 x 1854 mm
frame: 1701 x 2158 x 75 mm
Tate
Purchased with the aid of contributions from the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers as a Memorial to Whistler, and from Francis Howard 1950

 

 

This picture derives from one of six oil sketches that Whistler produced in 1868 as part of a plan for a frieze, commissioned by the businessman F.R. Leyland (1831-92), founder of the Leyland shipping line. Known as the ‘Six Projects’, the sketches (now in the Freer Art Gallery, Washington) were all scenes with women and flowers, and all six were strongly influenced by his admiration for Japanese art. Another precedent for these works was The Story of St George, a frieze that Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98) executed for the artist and illustrator Myles Birket Foster (1825-99) in 1865-7. The series of large pictures was destined for Leyland’s house at Prince’s Gate, but never produced, and only one – The White Symphony: Three Girls (1867) was finished, but was later lost. Whistler embarked on a new version, Three Figures: Pink and Grey, but was never satisfied with this later painting, and described it as, ‘a picture in no way representative, and in its actual condition absolutely worthless’ (quoted in Wilton and Upstone, p.117). He followed the original sketch closely, but made a number of pentimenti which suggest that the picture is not simply a copy of the lost work. In spite of Whistler’s dissatisfaction, it has some brilliant touches and a startlingly original composition.

Although the three figures are clearly engaged in tending a flowering cherry tree, Whistler’s aim in this picture is to create a mood or atmosphere, rather than to suggest any kind of theme. Parallels have been drawn with the work of Albert Moore, whose work of this period is equally devoid of narrative meaning. The design is economical and the picture space is partitioned like a Japanese interior. The shallow, frieze-like arrangement, the blossoming plant and the right-hand figure’s parasol are also signs of deliberate Japonisme. Whistler has suppressed some of the details in the oil sketch, effectively disrobing the young girls by depicting them in diaphanous robes. The painting is characterised by pastel shades, a ‘harmony’ of pink and grey, punctuated by the brighter reds of the flower pot and the girls’ bandannas, and the turquoise wall behind. It has been suggested that Whistler derived his colour schemes, and even the figures themselves, in their rhythmically flowing drapery, from polychrome Tanagra figures in the British Museum, which was opposite his studio in Great Russell Street.

Text from the Tate website

 

John Cimon Warburg (1867-1931) 'The Japanese Parasol' c. 1906

 

John Cimon Warburg (1867-1931)
The Japanese Parasol
c. 1906
Autochrome
711 x 559 mm
© Royal Photographic Society / National Media
Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

 

 

Life and Landscape

The 1880s brought a renewed interest in landscape. Rural scenes provided common ground for British painters and photographers. Their distinctive style derived from French realism and impressionism, which had been introduced by independent galleries, and by artists such as George Clausen and Henry La Thangue who studied in Paris. This new approach was shared by their friend and fellow painter Thomas Goodall, and influenced his collaboration with the photographer Peter Henry Emerson. Emerson and Goodall’s first project, a photographic series on the Norfolk Broads, focused on the life of working people, as described in their album Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, published in 1887.

 

Sir George Clausen. 'Winter Work' 1883-4

 

Sir George Clausen
Winter Work
1883-4
Oil on canvas
frame: 1075 x 1212 x 115 mm
support: 775 x 921 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1983
© The estate of Sir George Clausen

 

 

In the 1880s Clausen devoted himself to painting realistic scenes of rural work after seeing such pictures by the French artist Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-84). In this picture he shows a family of field workers topping and tailing swedes for sheep fodder. It was painted at Chilwick Green near St Albans, where the artist had moved in 1881. He uses subdued colouring to capture the dull light and cold of winter, and manages to convey the hard reality of country work. Such unromanticised scenes of country life were often rejected by the selectors of the Royal Academy annual exhibitions.

 

Thomas Frederick Goodall (1856-1944) and Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936) 'Setting the Bow-Net, in Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads' 1885, published 1887

 

Thomas Frederick Goodall (1856-1944) and Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936)
Setting the Bow-Net, in Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads
1885, published 1887
Book – open at The Bow Net
Photograph, platinum print on paper
300 x 420 mm (book closed)
Private collection

 

Thomas Frederick Goodall (1856-1944) 'The Bow Net' 1886

 

Thomas Frederick Goodall (1856-1944)
The Bow Net
1886
Oil paint on canvas
838 x 1270 mm
National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery

 

Roger Fenton. 'The Water Carrier' 1858

 

Roger Fenton
The Water Carrier
1858
Albumen Print, Wilson Center for Photography

 

Frederick Goodall, R.A. 'The Song of the Nubian Slave' 1863

 

Frederick Goodall, R.A.
The Song of the Nubian Slave
1863
Diploma Work, accepted 1863
71.20 x 92.0 x 2.30 cm
Oil on canvas
Photo credit: © Royal Academy of Arts, London; Photographer: John Hammond

 

 

Out of the Shadows

In the late nineteenth century, painters and photographers pursued the representation of an idealised beauty, inspired by Italian Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Themes of allegory and myth were widely explored in the arts at this time, particularly in Britain in the writings of Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde.

At the turn of the century painting and photography were part of a wider artistic search for harmony between subject matter and expression. Artists found inspiration in each other’s practice and continued to share ideas through illustrated books and journals. This spirit of collaboration and interchange led photographer Fred Holland Day to claim that ‘the photographer no longer speaks the language of chemistry, but that of poetry’.

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'Regent's Canal' c. 1904-1905, published 1909

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn
Regent’s Canal
c. 1904-1905, published 1909
Photogravure on paper
Image: 206 x 161 mm
frame: 508 x 406 mm

Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Arthur Hacker (1858-1919) 'A Wet Night at Piccadilly Circus' 1910

 

Arthur Hacker (1858-1919)
A Wet Night at Piccadilly Circus
1910
Oil on canvas
710 x 915 mm
Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'Leicester Square (The Old Empire Theatre)' 1908, published 1909

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn
Leicester Square (The Old Empire Theatre)
1908, published 1909
Photogravure on paper
Image: 206 x 172 mm
Frame: 508 x 406 mm
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Edward Linley Sambourne (1844–1910) 'Ethel Warwick, Camera Club, 2 August 1900'

 

Edward Linley Sambourne (1844–1910)
Ethel Warwick, Camera Club, 2 August 1900
Photograph, cyanotype on paper
Dimensions
Image: 165 x 120 mm
Frame: 507 x 855 mm
18 Stafford Terrace, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

 

 

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

Opening hours:
10.00 am – 18.00 pm daily

Tate Britain website

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13
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Oscar Muñoz: Protographies’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 3rd June – 21st September 2014

Curated by José Roca and María Wills Londoño (adjunct curator)

 

Another artist investigating the medium of photography in totally fascinating ways… breaking the glass, deconstructing the support, fragmenting the image, questioning the imprint of photography – in memory, in the photographs physicality, in what leaves an impression, in what remains. The un/stable image, in flux, in sediment, investigated through “work [that] defies systematic classification because he works in so many different media: photography, printmaking, drawing, installations, video and sculpture.” Such inventiveness over such a long period of time “developing special techniques to produce images that reveal themselves as a kind of counterpoint to photography and the “decisive moment” it once claimed to capture.” Ephemeral photography that is truly remarkable.

Marcus

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

 

This summer, the Jeu de Paume, which is celebrating 10 years devoted to the image, will be inviting the public to discover Oscar Muñoz (born in 1951), Colombia’s most emblematic artist, who has been producing a body of work for nearly forty years that centres on the capacity of images to preserve memory.

 

CALI-DOSCOPE: CITY FRAGMENTS

Oscar Muñoz. 'Ambulatorio [Ambulatory]' 1994

 

Oscar Muñoz
Ambulatorio [Ambulatory]
1994
Aerial photograph enclosed in security glass, wood and aluminium, 36 units
100 x 100 cm each
Courtesy O.K. Centrum, Linz

 

Muñoz emerged on the Colombian art scene with his series of large-format hyperrealist drawings in charcoal on paper that revealed his interest in the social implications of empty or deteriorating spaces. This group includes drawings from the series entitled Inquilinatos [Tenement Houses] (1979) and Interiores [Interiors] (1980-1981). Also on display are works referring to Cali’s urban life, such as Ambulatorio [Ambulatory] (1994), El Puente [The Bridge] (2004), Archivo Porcontacto [Bycontact Archive] (2004-2008), which are images of a specific period and specific places in the city, and A través del cristal [Through the Glass] (2008-2009), the latter a way of introducing an absent cultural reference through sound.

Cali recurs in Muñoz’s work as a contextual reference or a support. This is literally the case with Ambulatorio, an aerial photograph of the city blown up to a monumental scale and laid out in a regular grid. Each segment of the photograph is fixed to a piece of security glass, which breaks into pieces when the viewer walks on the work. Each break creates another random mesh of lines over the urban image of a chaotic city in which rational planning and the unstructured coexist in a way typical of all modern South American cities.

 

THE SUPPORT RECONSIDERED

Oscar Muñoz. 'Cortinas de Baño [Shower curtains]' 1985-1986

 

Oscar Muñoz
Cortinas de Baño [Shower curtains]
1985-1986
Acrylic on plastic, 5 elements
190 x 140 cm and 190 x 70 cm each, dimensions variable
Banco de la República collection, Bogotá

 

Having achieved international renown as an exceptional draughtsman, in the 1980s Muñoz gradually abandoned paper as a support and experimented with new techniques of drawing and printmaking, using unconventional materials and supports such as acrylic applied to damp plastic and charcoal dust on water. This group includes the series Cortinas de Baño [Shower Curtains] (1985-1986), Tiznados [Tainted] (1990), Narcisos secos [Dry Narcissi] (1994-1995) and Simulacros [Simulacra] (1999).

In Cortinas de baño Muñoz experimented for the first time with an unconventional support, in this case an everyday plastic shower curtain, in order to construct an image from a photograph transferred onto a silkscreen mesh. In the printing process, executed with an airbrush through previously prepared silkscreen, the image was transferred onto an unstable surface, with the artist preventing the pigment from being totally fixed by sprinkling water on it.

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Narcisos (en proceso)' [Narcissi (in process)] 1995-2011

 

Oscar Muñoz
Narcisos (en proceso) [Narcissi (in process)]
1995-2011
Charcoal dust and paper on water, Plexiglas, 6 elements
10 x 50 x 50 cm each, overall dimensions: 10 x 70 x 400 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Narcisos was a key series in the artist’s quest to dematerialise the support of the photographic image. Muñoz developed a new technique unprecedented in the history of art and probably never to be encountered again – that of printing on water. The earliest photographic images emerged from water, from the chemical baths that fixed the silver salts in different gradations of intensity produced by the action of light. The support was an incidental necessity. Muñoz has referred to the three phases in the process of Narcissi as allegories of an individual’s progress through life: creation, at the moment when the charcoal dust touches the surface of the water; the changes that come about during evaporation; and death, at the moment when the dried out dust finally settles at the bottom of the container. The result, which the artist has called Narcisos secos, is both the final image and the death of the process: the remains of a photograph that possessed a life after it was fixed for posterity. In this sense, Dry Narcissi are the record of a double death of the image.

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Narciso [Narcissus]' 2001

 

Oscar Muñoz
Narciso [Narcissus]
2001
Single-channel video 4:3, colour, sound, 3 min
Courtesy of the artist

 

Muñoz’s first work in video was Narciso, in which he dramatically presented the processes developed in his Narcissi of the 1990s (in which the evaporation was invisible to the naked eye) by making the water disappear in a few minutes. As in those earlier works, a self-portrait floats on the surface of the water but the drain in the sink and the sound of running water foretell for the viewer what the image’s final fate will be. In reality, there are two images here: that of the subject and that of its shadow on the white bottom of the basin. The images gradually come closer together, as if to suggest that life is a constant quest for self-understanding. However, at the moment when the two images are about to coincide, it is already too late: they fuse into a single distorted stain that disappears down the drain.

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Re/trato [Portrait/I Try Again]' 2004

 

Oscar Muñoz
Re/t
rato [Portrait/I Try Again]
2004
Single-channel video projection 4:3, colour, no sound, 28 min
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

About the exhibition

“Through a multifaceted body of work that moves freely between photography, printmaking, drawing, installation, video and sculpture, eliminating the borderlines between these disciplines through innovative practices, Oscar Muñoz (Popayán, Colombia, 1951) explores the capacity of images to retain memory.

In 1826, for the first time in history the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce succeeded in fixing the elusive image produced by the camera obscura, a device known since antiquity. In contrast to painting or drawing, the camera obscura was able to obtain an image from life without the assistance of the human hand and in real time: what it could not do was freeze it or fix it onto a support in order to extract it from the passing of time. It could thus be said that the essence of the photographic act does not lie in taking the image but in permanently fixing it. What, then, is the status of the image in the instant prior to the moment when it is fixed for posterity?

If the ontology of photography lies in fixing a moving image for all time, extracting it from life, we might say that Oscar Muñoz’s work is located in the temporal space prior (or subsequent) to the true decisive moment when the image is fixed: that proto-moment when the image is finally about to become photography. In that sense, it could be said that Muñoz’s work is protographic.

 

The exhibition

Born in 1951 in Popayán (Colombia), Oscar Muñoz is regarded as one of the country’s most important contemporary artists, whilst also garnering attention on the international art scene. A graduate of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Cali, he has built up over a period of four decades a body of work whose images deal with the realm of memory, loss and the precarious nature of human life. Muñoz’s work defies systematic classification because he works in so many different media: photography, printmaking, drawing, installations, video and sculpture.

“Protographs” (a term coined to evoke the instant just before or just after that split-second when the photographic image is captured and frozen for ever) presents his major series grouped by theme. These themes poetically and metaphorically juxtapose Muñoz’s own past and the different material states of the image. For example, he combines the dissolution, deterioration or disintegration of the image with the inherent fragility of memory and the impossibility of making time stand still; or the image’s evaporation and transformation with the tension between rationality and chaos in our urban societies. Finally, in the main part of his work, he creates ephemeral images that, as they disappear, invite the spectator to share in an experience that is simultaneously rational and sensual.

Oscar Muñoz began his career in the 1970s in Cali in a period when a whirlwind of cultural and cross-disciplinary activity saw the emergence of a generation of writers, photographers and filmmakers who today play a leading role in the contemporary art scene (with Carlos Mayolo, Luis Ospina, Fernell Franco and Andrés Caicedo to name but a few). At that time, Muñoz was drawing with charcoal on large-format supports presenting a cast of sad and sometimes sordid characters with a deep emotional charge. The main characteristics of his work emerged at an early stage. These include a profound and tireless interest in social questions, an original approach to materials, the use of photography as an aid to memory and the exploiting of the dramatic possibilities afforded by the play of shadow and light in defining the image. Moreover, the artist developed a phenomenological approach to minimalism by insisting on the relationship between the artwork, the spectator and the surrounding exhibition space.

In the mid-1980s, Oscar Muñoz moved away from traditional artistic methods and began to experiment with innovative processes that created a real interactive exchange with the spectator. This was the time of a radical reassessment of his artistic practices, whether drawing, printmaking, or photography, and a questioning of the relationship between the artwork and its surroundings. He abandoned traditional formats and techniques, whilst preserving something of their roots and wellsprings, to investigate ephemerality, highlighting the very essence of the materials themselves and their poetic associations. His use of the fundamental elements – water, air and fire – refers to the processes, the cycles and the transcendental manifestations of life, our very existence and death itself. “My work attempts to understand why the past and the present are so full of violent acts,” says the artist. By choosing to use a diverse selection of media and to apply innovative and unique processes, Oscar Muñoz blurs the boundaries between artistic disciplines.

The “Protographs” exhibition showcases a career that has lasted nearly forty years. It presents series of works grouped around the artist’s major themes, starting with his works on paper and his series of large format hyperrealist drawings in charcoal (1976-1981) – bearing witness to his deep interest in social context – and the drawings and engravings that he started making in the 1980s, which marked the relinquishing of paper for an exploration of unconventional materials and processes (printing on damp plastic, the use of sugar and coffee, etc.); continuing with his experiments in the 1990s and 2000s on the stability of the image and its relationship to the processes of memory; and including his latest works (2009-2014), characterised by a continual process of appearance and disappearance, including a new work produced specifically for the exhibition.”

Text by José Roca and María Wills Londoño

 

IMPRINTS

Over the last decade, Muñoz has created a series of works on the indicative relationship between the object and its image, making use of contact printing, a characteristic printmaking process. This was the case with La mirada del Cíclope [The Cyclops’ Gaze] (2001-2002), Intervalos (mientras respiro) [Intervals (While I Breathe)] (2004) and Paístiempo [Countrytime] (2007), as well as series from a number of other periods.

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Aliento [Breath]' 1995

 

Oscar Muñoz
Aliento [Breath]

1995
Metal mirrors, screen-printed with grease, 7 mirrors
Diameter: 20 cm each
Courtesy of the artist

 

The series Aliento comprises portraits printed in photo-silkscreen with grease on small round metal mirrors located at eye level. The mirrors initially seem blank and the printed image only reveals itself when the viewer, having recognised himself/herself, breathes onto the circular mirror. During this brief moment the reflected image is replaced by the printed image (photographs taken from obituaries) of a deceased person who fleetingly returns through the viewer’s breath.

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'La mirada del cíclope [The Cyclops' Gaze]' 2002

 

Oscar Muñoz
La mirada del cíclope [The Cyclops’ Gaze]
2002
Digital print on paper, 6 photographs
50 x 50 cm each one
Courtesy of the artist

 

La mirada del cíclope, in which the subject is considered in relation to death, uses one of the oldest techniques of portraiture and printmaking: a mould made by direct contact, in this case of the artist’s own face. This sculptural object (inspired by the ancient Roman tradition of funerary masks) becomes two-dimensional when it is captured by the camera’s single eye (hence the title). Lacking references to volume, the viewer’s eye cannot decide if the object represented is concave or convex, in a play of perceptual opposites: negative/positive, presence/absence, reality or illusions. Quoting Pierre Bourdieu, Muñoz has noted that “the imagines of ancient Rome are exactly equivalent to the social nature of some modern photographs; they play an important role in the tortuous act of mourning: we accept a reality by ‘becoming accustomed to the unreality of its images’.”

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Horizonte [Horizon]' 2011

 

Oscar Muñoz
Horizonte [Horizon]
2011
From the series Impresiones débiles [Weak Impressions]
Charcoal dust print on methacrylate
4 elements, 85 x 73.5 cm each
Galerie mor. charpentier, Paris

 

The earliest successful images taken by Niépce were proto-photographs that did not survive intact as images because the light that had created them continued to affect them until they eventually succumbed to darkness in an inexorable fade to black. This is what happens in film photography when a photograph is not properly rinsed and the developing agent continues to act, or when the photographic paper is directly exposed to the action of light. However, the image can also move towards clarity. In Impresiones débiles, Muñoz employs photographs of great historical and political significance for Colombia and subjects them to a process that makes them seem like “washed out” photos in which over-exposure to light has made the image deteriorate to the point of near invisibility. The works that make up this series are in fact prints rather than photographs, given that they are silkscreens made with charcoal dust on acrylic. The variable distance between the silkscreen mesh and the support allows the artist to single out a different element from the original photograph in each print, making it more highly defined than the rest. The “variable focus” in this series questions another of the supposedly essential characteristics of photography, namely the camera’s systematic, technical objectivity in relation to its subjects.

 

THE IMAGE IN FLUX

In his most recent works, Muñoz depicts images in a process of continual appearance and disappearance. These are subtle impressions with varying emphases on the different parts of the image that are literally in flux and cannot be fixed, such as those produced by a camera obscura. This section includes the video Cíclope [Cyclops] (2011), the installation Editor solitario [Solitary Editor] and the work Sedimentaciones [Sedimentations] (2011), the latter comprising three tables with projections of documents that are constantly created and destroyed. The exhibition ends with the highly personal Fundido al blanco [Fade to White] (2010).

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Fundido a blanco (dos retratos)' [Fade to White (Two Portraits)] 2010

 

Oscar Muñoz
Fundido a blanco (dos retratos) [Fade to White (Two Portraits)]
2010
HD Video, colour, sound, 7 min 40 s
Courtesy of the artist

 

Fundido a blanco (dos retratos) is an autobiographical work: a family portrait with Muñoz behind the camera, constituting the third side of a temporal triangle that includes his mother and father. It is, in other words, a memorial. Rather than making their features more clear, the strong light that bathes the scene makes them imprecise and ethereal. Muñoz has referred to the intense light in Cali at a certain time of day, when people seem to “disintegrate”, and also to the blinding brilliance of the sun when the artist came out after seeing a film at the city’s film club. The central figure in Fundido a blanco momentarily falls asleep now and then, entering into the light. Rather than fixing that figure at a precise moment of its existence, in the manner of a photographic portrait or snapshot, Muñoz creates a portrait that develops in time. Fundido a blanco is one of the artist’s most moving works, an image that touches the viewer. Its power may perhaps lie in the fact that for the first time in his extensive output, we are here seeing a specific subject rather than the generic representation of one.

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Sedimentaciones' [Sedimentations] 2011

 

Oscar Muñoz
Sedimentaciones [Sedimentations]
2011
2 HD video projections, colour, sound, 42 min 27 s, 41 min 42 s, on wooden tables
Courtesy of the artist

 

The strategy of dissolving the image reappears in Sedimentaciones, a photographic development table on which there are numerous photographs arranged in lines, with various blank sheets between them. The photos are extremely varied in nature, ranging from universally known images to others that are very specific to a Colombian context, personal portraits by the artist and anonymous, generic images. There are two developing trays at opposite corners. A hand takes a photograph from the table and puts it in a plastic tray filled with liquid in which the image dissolves. The paper emerges white and is then randomly placed in one of the lines. On the other side of the table another hand takes up one of the empty sheets and slides it into another tray. On taking out the sheet, the image has magically re-formed on it and the hand places it in the line of photographs. The process starts again in the other corner. Through this alternation we thus witness the ceaseless life and death of the image (see video below).

 

MORE WORK

Oscar Muñoz. 'El juego de las probabilidades' [The Game of Probabilities] 2007

 

Oscar Muñoz
El juego de las probabilidades [The Game of Probabilities]
2007
12 colour photographs
47 x 40 cm each with frame
Courtesy of the artist and Sicardi Gallery, Houston

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Línea del destino' [Line of Destiny] 2006

Oscar Muñoz. 'Línea del destino' [Line of Destiny] 2006

Oscar Muñoz. 'Línea del destino' [Line of Destiny] 2006

 

Oscar Muñoz
Línea del destino [Line of Destiny]
2006
Single-channel video 4:3, black and white, no sound,
1 min 54 s
Courtesy of the artist

 

Oscar Muñoz. 'Pixeles' [Pixels] 1999-2000

 

Oscar Muñoz
Pixeles [Pixels]
1999-2000
Coffee stains on sugar cubes, Plexiglas
9 panels 35 x 35 x 3 cm each
Courtesy of the artist and Sicardi Gallery, Houston

 

OSCAR MUÑOZ: “Protographs” in progress from Jeu de Paume / magazine on Vimeo.

 

The magazine’s camera has gone behind the scenes of Oscar Muñoz’ exhibition Protographs at the Jeu de Paume. It attempts to show how the artist and his assistant, Juliana Guevara, produce unstable images, using unconventional materials and supports such as water, charcoal dust, grease on metal, the spectator’s breath, and shower curtains. Since the early 80s, Muñoz has been developing special techniques to produce images that reveal themselves as a kind of counterpoint to photography and the “decisive moment” it once claimed to capture.

Narcissi (1995), Breath (1995), Simulacra (1999), The Collector (2014): all these works question the fragile status of images and the way they live - and die – in our memory.

 

 

 

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

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

Jeu de Paume website

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02
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 23rd September 2012

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“To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”

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“Art Byting the Dust” Tony Fry 1990

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They said that photography would be the death of painting. It never happened. Recently they thought that digital photography would be the death of analogue photography. It hasn’t happened for there are people who care enough about analogue photography to keep it going, no matter what. As the quotation astutely observes, the digital age has changed the conditions of production updating the techniques of montage and collage for the 21st century. Now through assemblage the composition may be prefigured but that does not mean that there are not echoes, traces and deposits of other technologies, other processes that are not evidenced in contemporary photography.

As photography influenced painting when it first appeared and vice versa (photography went through a period known as Pictorialism where where it imitated Impressionist painting), this exhibition highlights the influence of painting on later photography. Whatever process it takes photography has always been about painting with light – through a pinhole, through a microscope, through a camera lens; using light directly onto photographic paper, using the light of the scanner or the computer screen. As Paul Virilio observes, no longer is there a horizon line but the horizon square of the computer screen, still a picture plane that evidences the history of art and life. Vestiges of time and technology are somehow always present not matter what medium an artist chooses. They always have a complex afterlife and afterimage.

PS. I really don’t think it is a decomposition, more like a re/composition or reanimation.
PPS. Notice how Otto Steinert’s Luminogramm (1952, below), is eerily similar to some of Pierre Soulages paintings.

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

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Installation views of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

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Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28,5 x 39 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
ca.1923-25
Unique photogram, toned printing-out paper
12,6 x 17,6 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
10-80-C-17 (NYC)
1980
From the series: In + Out of City Limits: New York / Boston
Gelatin silver print on fibre-based paper
58 x 73 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Substrat 10
2002
C-type print
186 x 238 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5 cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

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Wolfgang Tillmans (*1968)
paper drop (window)
2006
C-type print in artists frame, 145 x 200 cm
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert

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Otto Steinert (1915–1978)
Luminogramm
1952
Gelatin silver print, printed ca. 1952
41,5 x 60 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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“From 27 June to 23 September 2012, the Städel Museum will show the exhibition “Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation.” The comprehensive presentation will highlight the influence of painting on the imagery produced by contemporary photographic art. Based on the museum’s own collection and including important loans from the DZ Bank Kunstsammlung as well as international private collections and galleries, the exhibition at the Städel will center on about 60 examples, among them major works by László Moholy-Nagy, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall, and Amelie von Wulffen. Whereas the influence of the medium of photography on the “classic genres of art” has already been the subject of analysis in numerous exhibitions and publications, less attention has been paid to the impact of painting on contemporary photography to date. The show at the Städel explores the reflection of painting in the photographic image by pursuing various artistic strategies of appropriation which have one thing in common: they reject the general expectation held about photography that it will document reality in an authentic way.

The key significance of photography within contemporary art and its incorporation into the collection of the Städel Museum offer an occasion to fathom the relationship between painting and photography in an exhibition. While painting dealt with the use of photography in the mass media in the 1960s, today’s photographic art shows itself seriously concerned with the conditions of painting. Again and again, photography reflects, thematizes, or represents the traditional pictorial medium, maintaining an ambivalent relationship between appropriation and detachment.

Numerous works presented in the Städel’s exhibition return to the painterly abstractions of the prewar and postwar avant-gardes, translate them into the medium of photography, and thus avoid a reproduction of reality. Early examples for the adaption of techniques of painting in photography are László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) photograms dating from the 1920s. For his photographs shot without a camera, the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus teacher arranged objects on a sensitized paper; these objects left concrete marks as supposedly abstract forms under the influence of direct sunlight. In Otto Steinert’s (1915-1978) nonrepresentational light drawings or “luminigrams,” the photographer’s movement inscribed itself directly into the sensitized film. The pictures correlate with the gestural painting of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism. A product of random operations during the exposure and development of the photographic paper, Wolfgang Tillmans’ (*1968) work “Freischwimmer 54” (2004) is equally far from representing the external world. It is the pictures’ fictitious depth, transparency, and dynamics that lend Thomas Ruff’s photographic series “Substrat” its extraordinary painterly quality recalling color field paintings or Informel works. For his series “Seascapes” the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948) seems to have “emptied” the motif through a long exposure time: the sublime pictures of the surface of the sea and the sky – which either blur or are set off against each other – seem to transcend time and space.

In addition to the photographs mentioned, the exhibition “Painting in Photography” includes works by artists who directly draw on the history of painting in their choice of motifs. The mise-en-scène piece “Picture for Women” (1979) by the Canadian photo artist Jeff Wall (born in 1946), which relates to Édouard Manet’s famous painting “Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère” from 1882, may be cited as an example for this approach. The camera positioned in the center of the picture reveals the mirrored scene and turns into the eye of the beholder. The fictitious landscape pictures by Beate Gütschow (born in 1970), which consist of digitally assembled fragments, recall ideal Arcadian sceneries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The photographs taken by Italian Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) in the studio of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) “copy” Morandi’s still lifes by representing the real objects in the painter’s studio instead of his paintings.

Another appropriative strategy sees the artist actually becoming active as a painter, transforming either the object he has photographed or its photographic representation. Oliver Boberg’s, Richard Hamilton’s, Georges Rousse’s and Amelie von Wulffen’s works rank in this category. For her series “Stadtcollagen” (1998-1999) Amelie von Wulffen (born in 1966) assembled drawing, photography, and painting to arrive at the montage of a new reality. The artist’s recollections merge with imaginary spaces offering the viewer’s fantasy an opportunity for his or her own associations.

The exhibition also encompasses positions of photography for which painting is the object represented in the picture. The most prominent examples in this section come from Sherrie Levine (born in 1947) and Louise Lawler (born in 1947), both representatives of US Appropriation Art. From the late 1970s on, Levine and Lawler have photographically appropriated originals from art history. Levine uses reproductions of paintings from a catalogue published in the 1920s: she photographs them and makes lithographs of her pictures. Lawler photographs works of art in private rooms, museums, and galleries and thus rather elucidates the works’ artworld context than the works as such.”

Press release from the Städel Museum website

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Sherrie Levine (*1947)
After Edgar Degas (detail)
1987
5 lithographs on hand-made paper
69 x 56 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Frankfurt
© Sherrie Levine / Courtesy Jablonka Galerie, Köln

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Louise Lawler (*1947)
It Could Be Elvis
1994
Cibachrome, varnished with shellac
74.5 x 91 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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Oliver Boberg (*1965)
Unterführung [Underpass]
1997
C-type print, 75 x 84 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© Oliver Boberg / Courtesy L.A. Galerie – Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

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Richard Hamilton (1922–2011)
Eight-Self-Portraits (detail)
1994
Thermal dye sublimation prints
40 x 35 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Wolfgang Tillmans (*1968)
Freischwimmer 54
2004
C-type in artists frame
237 x 181 x 6 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

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1. Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp.169-170.

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Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10 am – 9 pm

Städel Museum website

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15
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Robyn Stacey: Tall Tales and True’ at Stills Gallery, Paddington, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 18th May – 25th June 2011

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Many thankx to Jessica Howard for her help and to Stills Gallery and Peter Timms for allowing me to publish the text and the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ozymandias

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I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
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Percy Bysshe Shelley 1818

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Robyn Stacey
Come unto me
2011
84 x 120cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Robyn Stacey
Help yourself
2011
90 x 120cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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“Working extensively with historic collections since 2000, Robyn Stacey’s early projects dealt with Australian flora and fauna, exploring the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and the Macleay collection at the University of Sydney. Over the last three years she has worked closely the NSW Historic Houses Trust to produce a series of artworks and a book focusing on three of their properties, Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House, and Rouse Hill estate as well as the Caroline Simpson Research Collection and Library. In these works Stacey reveals her fascination with the still life tradition but also speaks about the Australian notion of home and what it means to our national psyche.

Stacey’s transformation of these historic spaces and objects allows us not only to glance into earlier worlds but also to consider hierarchies of taste, culture and knowledge. By using the still life to re-work and re-view the Trust’s collection she aims to deconstruct the traditional museum display. The objects are returned to an approximate albeit fictional reality, creating a sense that the settings have been left only momentarily and that people are never far away.

In this latest exhibition Stacey looks at the traces of inhabitation. Chatelaine for example, features a sumptuous collection of objects including Wisteria spilling out of an ornate vase on top of a beautifully carved side table. The objects are from the collection of Vaucluse House having belonged to its inhabitant Sarah Wentworth. Her convict past prevented easy entry into high society at the time. In this accumulation of tasteful things we see evidence of Sarah Wentworth’s attempts to assert her social position within a society that spurned her. In other works, which draw from the collection at Rouse Hill estate we bear witness to the varying fortunes of the Rouse family.

As well as being a reflection upon the nature and minutiae of nineteenth century domesticity these still lives also reflect our colonial history; the desire for betterment and the need to re-create what has been left behind through the transport of taste and knowledge systems.”

Text from the Stills Gallery website

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Robyn Stacey
Presentation (Apple)
2011
90 x 74cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Robyn Stacey
Presentation (Pear)
2011
90 x 74cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Playing a double game

We all have a penchant for hidden essences. They spur our desires. Sometimes, of course, a thing is just a thing: a cup merely a convenient way of getting coffee to our mouths; a car no more than a machine to get around in. Often, however, (surprisingly often in fact) we choose to invest such apparently lifeless objects with little souls, or what the psychologist Paul Bloom calls ‘realities that are not present to the senses’. Almost everything, it seems, is capable of leading a double life.

And where better to seek out these double lives than in the historic house museum? Here the Regency candlesticks, the ormolu clocks, even the gardening tools and saucepans, come already imbued with a special significance, for here the domestic has been raised to the level of theatre.

The choices Robyn Stacey has made from the wealth of objects at Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House and Rouse Hill Estate are by no means the obvious ones. They are not necessarily things of high status or great beauty. She is equally attracted to the rusted sickle, the well-thumbed book, the peeling painting and the old postcard: everyday things that bear the traces of long usage. Through judicious juxtaposition, dramatic lighting, and the addition of her own evocative flourishes, she dramatises these humble items, teasing out their souls and revealing their double lives.

What Robyn is doing is transforming inanimate objects into surrogate people. In the absence of their corporeal selves, those who made their lives in these houses are reborn through what they owned, loved, used and made. And, in the process, their stories are expanded into the realm of cultural history.

Chatelaine, for example, enlists flowers, a silk shawl, a richly decorated Staffordshire jar and the titular chatelaine itself (a sort of female version of the Swiss army knife) to reconstruct nineteenth-century ideals of femininity. Only when we discover that it is intended, in part, as a homage to Sarah Wentworth, the mistress of Vaucluse House, does its gentle irony morph into poignant masquerade. For, despite being married to one of early Sydney’s richest and most powerful men, Sarah’s impoverished and morally compromised background led to her rejection by polite society. So these outwardly vivacious mementos also serve as emblems of one woman’s tragedy and, by extension, the tragedy of many women’s lives at the time.

What could be more richly evocative than the cornucopia of flowers, fruits, grains and agricultural implements assembled for Rouse and the Cumberland Plain? What, indeed, could be more shamelessly calculated to provoke astonishment? This virtuosic picture is at once a homage to and a respectful parody of the European still-life tradition. Ostensibly it sets out, in almost forensic detail, what was once grown in the gardens and fields around Rouse Hill House, every leaf and petal historically accurate as to species and type. In that sense, it can be appreciated as an authentic record of nineteenth-century colonial gardening and agriculture. But of course it is much more than that.

We don’t have to be au fait with seventeenth-century Dutch iconography to be able to tease out the allusions in those overturned baskets, those pomegranates spilling their seeds, those provocative little asparagus spears, the decaying timber and the butterflies, nor to be touched by the pathos of that hand-made house-brick in the foreground, impressed with a heart. These symbolic clues qualify and complicate our initial response of unguarded optimism. Here and there, melancholy and loss begin to intrude. And the longer we look, the more enveloped we become by a stifling air of artificiality, as if everything has been stilled and embalmed. Initial delight slowly morphs into an eerie silence. It is in their delicate balance of abundance and ruin that all these photographs find their moral core. They are awe-inspiring, in the eighteenth-century meaning of the term.

This is true even of apparently simple works such as, for example, Presentation (Pear). While its reticence seems a world away from the fecundity of Rouse and the Cumberland Plain or Chatelaine, the underlying themes correspond. In fact, Presentation (Pear) is a composition of such elegant straightforwardness that we might suspect a trap. And indeed we might be right.

On a substantial marble pedestal sits, somewhat incongruously, a ripe pear with a fly on it. A butterfly has come to rest nearby. There are just these four individual components, each with its own tale to tell. Combined, however, into a Joseph-Cornell-like assemblage, they assume an almost mythical dimension. The massive plinth, its pomposity worthy of an Ozymandias, can be seen as representing the vanity of human ambition. The pear has long been a symbol of birth and fecundity, the fly represents decay, and the butterfly the brevity of life. Yet such pat interpretations will probably strike a modern sensibility as overdetermined or too reductive. These days we are not inclined to take this sort of thing too seriously, and the very transparency of the symbolism in Presentation (Pear) is perhaps a warning that we should not. There is a good deal of self-referentiality here. The symbols keep turning in on themselves.

What these photographs are, in fact, inviting us to do is to momentarily assume a double life, to surrender to the romantic perceptions of past generations without abandoning our modern scepticism, to experience a pre-scientific world through a post-scientific consciousness so as to understand not just the material world of past generations but also to enter into their way of thinking. As in the cinema (and these photographs are nothing if not cinematic) we are being invited to suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves in another time, not for nostalgia’s sake, but for the opposite – to strip away sentiment and to see ourselves more clearly.

Thus, beneath their apparent sumptuousness, Robyn’s artfully contrived tableaux are playing a crafty double game of de-familiarisation.

Peter Timms

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Robyn Stacey
Early morning Rouse
2010
110 x 75.6cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Robyn Stacey
Chatelaine
2010
110 x 82.5cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Robyn Stacey
The Royal Guard
2011
90 x 76cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Robyn Stacey
Venetian Beauty
2011
120 x 107.7cm
type C print
edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

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Stills Gallery
36 Gosbell Street
Paddington NSW 2021
Australia
T: 61 2 9331 7775

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

Stills Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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