Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Georgie BJ as a doll

MARINA MADE ME  has posted a new sequence featuring GBJ,  though I'm sorry to see that her famous coral necklace does not appear...

A self-image by Georgie appears in the cartoon-strip she created in 1859 as a Valentine for five-year-old Mabel Maclaren, promising a visit

And a newly-discovered drawing by Georgie from the same period  [signed with the monogram 'GM' for Georgiana Macdonald, therefore before her wedding]  illustrates Thomas Hood's then-famous poem 'The Bridge of Sighs', and is so identified on the back.  

It is thus becoming possible to reconstruct the creative ambitions that emerged when Georgie joined the Pre-Raphaelite circle and studied with Madox Brown, until they were decisively quashed by motherhood and her husband's decision to keep Georgie out of his studio. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

for HMD 2019

SIX PRAYERS by Anni Albers  

  art textiles created  1966-7 for the Jewish Museum. NYC
 Referencing Torah scrolls, she said: ‘I used the threads themselves as a sculptor or painter uses his medium to produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts.’  

Of Jewish heritage, Albers  considered herself Jewish ‘only in the Hitler sense’, but wrote: ‘We are alone and responsible for our actions. Our solitariness takes on religious character:  this is a matter of my conscience and me’. A key teacher in the Bauhaus art school, she left Germany with her husband in 1933 and taught at Black Mountain College.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Bonnard's Animals

Partly owing to the ubiquitous reproduction of glimpses through doorways and bodies in baths, I’ve never really looked at or thought about Bonnard’s work,  so the Tate’s new show proved a visual and intellectual delight, with beguiling pieces on every wall.   

The depth of visual pleasure lies in the double or triple level of colour and form, with details and shapes emerging and submerging as the eye advances and retreats.    It isn’t new, but I was especially struck by the several animals in the scenes portrayed,  starting with the popular dachshund in Coffee (1915)  who dominates the postcards, prints and merchandise, eclipsing the human figures.

The same dog, I presume, anchors the lower edge of the large landscape Summer (1917).   

Cats appears in The Bowl of Milk (more conventionally)  and The Dining Room (1913)  where their small size suggests a pair of kittens eagerly eyeing the plates of food.

I was rather puzzled by the orange beast in Paysage du Cannet (1928) whose figure firmly faces the  shadowy reclining male on the composition's opposite side, but which I take to be a  calf?  I see the picture sold for $5m in 2005.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Joanna Boyce Wells

The Boyce Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Joanna

Boyce, Henry Wells and George P. Boyce
The first full edition of the correspondence, between three artists Joanna Boyce, her
brother George P. Boyce and Henry Wells, whom she eventually married, will be published in April 2019. Edited by Sue Bradbury with Richard Barber, it spans the period 1845 to 1861, and covers artistic life in both Paris and London.

This correspondence, between three artists Joanna Boyce, her brother George P.
Boyce and Henry Wells, whom she eventually married, dates from the period 1845 to
1861. They were all friends of Rossetti and his circle, but in addition Henry and
Joanna both studied in Paris, and Joanna wrote extensively about her time there,

training with Thomas Couture. She wrote for The Saturday Review as well as painting a number of very interesting and much admired pictures.

Her brother George established himself as a successful watercolourist and member of
the Old Watercolour Society, having been encouraged both by David Cox on his Welsh
sketching expeditions, and by Ruskin, whose letters advising him what to paint in
Venice are included here.
Henry Wells was primarily a portrait painter. At first he specialised in miniatures, and was commissioned to paint Mary, princess of Cambridge by Queen Victoria. There are vivid accounts of visits to country houses to carry out commissions from their owners.

The three wrote constantly about techniques of painting and about the new colours
that became available at this period, and about their visits to exhibitions both in Paris
and London. They all contributed to the Royal Academy and other exhibitions. In
addition, there is the fascinating  story of Joanna's and Henry's courtship and
marriage, at first encouraged and then viciously opposed by Joanna's recently
widowed mother.

The correspondence survives only in an unpublished transcript made in the 1940s, as
the originals were all destroyed in a bombing raid on Bath during the second world
war. Excerpts from George P. Boyce's diaries were published in the 1930s, but the
present edition contains a considerable amount of new material.
General Introduction
Memoir by Alice Street, including diaries and letters to 1855
Letters and diaries 1855
Letters and diaries 1856
Letters and diaries 1857
Letters and diaries 1858
Letters and diaries 1859
Letters and diaries 1860
Letters and diaries 1861
Epilogue: 1862 onwards
Essays by Alice Street
G. P. Boyce's Diaries, 1848-1875
Appendix I: The Short Memoir

Appendix 2: List of entries not in The Diaries of George Price Boyce


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Black Models from Manet to Matisse and beyond

Manet’s Olympia is one of the most notorious paintings of the past two centuries, and the attendant maid carrying a huge flower bouquet to the naked courtesan/whore is a now-famous accessory figure [along with the hissing black cat].   

Traditionally, the maidservant received minimal critical attention.  As T.J.Clarke confessed in his revised edition The Painting of Modern Life,  ‘blackness’ was  conventionally a ‘natural’ pictorial sign of servitude, not worth investigation.   This is largely because earlier depictions of female nudes in European art often included dark-skinned attendants, to set off the admired whiteness of the higher-ranking (in this context) naked woman. Or, worse, as visual metaphors for dark female sensuality.  

Posing Modernity: the Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, an exhibition curated by Denise Murrell at Columbia University, offers a thorough examination of Olympia, its creator, the model for its maidservant and its pictorial legacy. 

The model was ‘Laure, très belle négresse’ painted by Manet  three times in 1862-3.  Her features are seen more clearly in Manet’s untitled painting now in Turin [possibly one obtained by the Nazis but that’s another story.] and in a genre scene by Jacques-Eugene Feyen, where she is portrayed as a smiling nanny. 

Despite deep searches into late-nineteenth century images of Black women in Paris – including a glass negative of portrait of Bertha Archer, whose husband became a local politician in Lambeth and was a professional photographer - no further details of Laure have emerged  beyond her third-floor address off the rue de Clichy recorded by Manet.  Griselda Pollock found a birth record from 1839, but no surname has been proposed.  Like so many people of colour, a first name is all that history gives her. 

In the catalogue to Posing Modernity (Yale UP 2018) Murrell writes: Only when Olympia is seen as an emphatically bi-figural work, representing issues of both gender and race as central to modern life [can] the extent of Manet’s radical modernity be most fully understood’. She does not interrogate the cat equally, but its pose is quite alarming, as it appears to hiss at the spectator.

The exhibition opens at the Musée d’Orsay in March, as Le Modèle noir de Géricault à Matisse, which suggests that it will be re-configured to include more mainstream French pictures, perhaps by Gérôme and Delacroix (Géricault’s black models were mostly male) and fewer by US artists like Romare Bearden and Faith Ringgold, whose pictorial responses to Manet are a key element in the catalogue.    A whole load of lovely images in  this podcast which has interview with Denise Murrell 

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Burne-Jones at Tate

a somewhat delayed but warm welcome for the exhibition currently at Tate Britain,  which includes two of the finest of EBJ's works, Circe with her big cats and Perseus stealing the eye from the Graiae.   Hung at eye level  so one can really look.