Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Matisse the Cutouts.

At last today we got to this exhibition at Tate Modern. Are we glad that we did not miss it. This must be one of the most exciting and eye opening exhibitions we have ever been too.

I knew a bit about "The Cutouts" but did not know that Matisse worked on them for such a long period. I thought that they were only done in his last few years, not for seventeen years.

Exhibits ranged from the small ones that he started with, particularly the ones that he did for his book "Jazz" and progressed to the enormous ones that he did towards the end of his life. These included the ones that he did for the Church in Vence and other designs for stained glass windows and even carpets.

What a prodigous worker he was. His output was much larger than I thought it was. What an influence he was to the whole art world. If ever there was an artist to whom the word 2genius" applies, Matisse  fils the bill.

All I can say is that even if you only go to one exhibition this year, this is the one to go to !.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A Rather Dissapointing Exhibition

 I have just returned from viewing the latest exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery  entitled "Art and Life".

This exhibition traces the work of five artists who were closely connected over a period of ten years, from 1920 -1931.

The artists covered are Ben and Winifred Nicholson, their friend Christopher Wood, the naive painter Alfred Wallis and the potter William Staite Murray.

The connection with Murray seems rather tenuous, and though he produced some interesting work, their seems little connection other than their friendship.

It would appear that the Nicholson's were looking for inspiration at this period, and though Winifred found it in her quite nice flower still life's , Ben Nicholson was trying to find inspiration but not very successfully. His paintings vary from rather poor semi-cubist still lifes, obviously inspired  by Picasso, to rather insipid landscapes. His early abstracts, show the way he would eventually develop, but are rather weak. He also looked to the naive paintings of Alfred Wallis for inspiration, but in my opinion his work is again rather weak, and does not compare with the lively naive paintings of Wallace.

Christopher Wood again is obviously looking for inspiration in the same way, and to my eye has more success then Ben Nicholson. It would appear that he was getting there with one of his last paintings before committing suicide, which shows how he was experimenting with surrealism. This in my view is his best painting in the exhibition.

The exhibition ends with Winifred's rather unsuccessful flirtation with abstraction, and Ben's very much more successful early white abstraction. It would appear that Winifred was at her best doing flower still lifes, which seemed to give inspiration to Mary Fedden, Elisabeth Blackadder and other contemporary painters, whilst Ben found his way to fame and fortune with his much more exciting abstracts.

In all I found this a rather disappointing exhibition, particularly as it was one that I was very much looking forward to. However I must say that I found Alfred Wallis's paintings much more exciting, colorful and full of life, than his perhaps more noted companions.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Reworking with oil pastels.

Continuing experimenting with oil pastels, I thought that I would see how they worked in touching up an oil painting that had not worked.

This was a painting that I started after last years river cruise on the River Rhone. It just did not seem to work and I had virtually abandoned it. However I have spent some time in the last two days re-examining the source photos and sketches and this is how it has turned out. I feel that this is a worthwhile effort, and will now have a look at some other old work and see if they can be "improved".

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Amaryllis in oil pastel

Continuing my experiments with oil pastels, here is my latest effort.

This is based on some that I took of a very pale pink Amaryllis we had just after Christmas.

I decided to make it much redder than the actual example, as unless  I put it against a very dark background or painted it on a black support it would not show up.

What do you think of this one ?

Now do I do another flower oil pastel, or try another subject. I do have a pot of Hyacinth's drawn, so I might have a go at that.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Tulips in Oil Pastels

Continuing with my experiments in using oil pastels, I painted this picture of a bunch of tulips in a vase.

I am quite pleased with this painting, which I did using Caran D'Ache and Sennelier pastels on Fabriano 5 watercolour paper.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Three or Four Schooners ?

The other day I did a small watercolour of four schooners racing, based on an old photo from around 1900.

On completion I thought that the fourth boat with a red sail did not look quite right, so I am not sure which is the better version. The one with three boats or the one with four.

 What is your opinion. I feel the one with three boats is better balanced.

Spring in Holland

A few years ago we had a holiday cruising on the Zuidersee in Holland. I took many photos on this trip, and whilst sorting through them the other day, I thought that a few would make good subjects for paintings.

Here are my first two from what will eventually be a small collection.

The first one is of three windmills at  Kinderijk.

I did this composition from a combination of two photos. The boat is a Dutch barge  and the windmill is based on one from the previous photo.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Some thoughts on Linux.

I have been using Linux operating system for many years. I started using it whilst still working, dual booting Mandrake distro with Windows XP.

After retiring and when I messed up my Windows XP system, I returned to Linux, and have tried many distros. As my machine is a bit ancient, it will not run a KDE based distro very well, as this interface needs more RAM than I have, though I have been using Kubuntu with varying success. I had settled on using Mint XFCE as this worked well and did not take up to much systems resources. However I have recently read a lot of reviews praising Elementary Linux, so I thought I would give it a try.

In all I am very impressed. It has a rather MAC like interface, is fairly customisable and does not use to much resources. Based on Ubuntu 12.04 it is very stable. So at present I am using it asmy base system, though I stilll have Mint XFCE as a fallback.

If any of my readers use Linux, I would be pleased to read their comments.

Two new watercolours

Having sold a few small watercolours recently I thought I had better turn out a few more. Going by the precept that boat paintings always sell, and because I enjoy doing them, I turned out these two this morning.

This one is entitled "Sail and Steam" and is  on a piece of 10" x 8" Khadi paper. It is based partly on n old photo that I took many years ago on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. At least the paddle steamer is.
It is priced at £45.00

I'm not sure where I got this side view from, but I copied it from a drawing in my notebook. Colours are pure invention. Price is £25.00

I hope someone likes them and might even purchase them.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Romance of the River

I recently attended a course at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, tutored by artist in residence  Liz Charsley-Jory, which was inspired by the current exhibition of paintings , drawings and prints by Whistler of the river Thames.

On the first day, after a short talk regarding how Whistler was inspired, we drew in ink pen from the large collection of photos of the river taken by Liz. I found this very worthwhile, but my rather rapidly done sketch was far from one of the best with some exquisite drawings from other participants.

The following week, were introduced to oil pastels by Liz. This is a medium which though I have tried, I have never had much success. However Liz gave us a very thorough explanation of the various techniques to be used with this medium, and then again either choosing one of Liz's photos or a reproduction from the Whistler's on show we got down to producing our own works. 

This time I found the medium very interesting a nd exciting to work with. My first attempt used one of Liz's photos as a base, and I was quite pleased with the result.

The third week  we could either work on the same painting if not finished, or start a new work. I chose to work from a photo in the exhibition, which Liz kindly obtained and blew up to a workable size. This larger painting took much longer, and I continued with it for the third week.

On the fourth week, I decided to experiment a bit more. Firstly I chose a night shot of the river with Canary wharf, which I tried in a semi-abstract manner.

 I also started another painting from Liz's collection, which I originally conceived as another semi-abstract , concentrating on the water effect only, however this expanded to cover the whole painting, which ended up as a very bright semi-expressionist style painting. Quite honestly I am not very pleased with these two paintings.

As well as the work done at the gallery, I also did a couple of watercolour and ink paintings based on similar sources. i am fairly pleased with these,  and have another one drawn out and ready to paint.

I enjoyed this course very much, and hope to get more practise with oil pastels, which I found very workable, and rather less messy than regular pastels. Liz advised me not to use Sennelier, which she said were rather greasy, but to concentrate on Caran D'Ache, which is the make we used on the course.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Whistler and the Thames at Dulwich Gallery.

I have been looking forward to this exhibition at Dulwich Gallery  for some time, as I  consider Whistler an extremely good and very influential painter, particularly on British art.

Whistler was an American, but spent a considerable amount of his life in London, usually living close to the river, which he painted, etched and engraved for a good part of his career.

The first room was dedicated to his early etchings and dry points of the river. many of these were highly detailed and won Whistler a very high reputation. It was a bit distracting to find that these etchings showed a reverse image of the actual view.

We then moved onto views of Battersea Reach including the bridge, which  was eventually to feature in one of his most famous paintings. As well as a few paintings and etchings, there were quite a lot of early photos, which did help to place the the area in context.

This was followed by paintings and etchings which showed how Japanese prints influenced his painting.

 These included his wonderful painting called "Wapping",
 which he himself praised extravagantly in a letter to Fantin-Latour. Whistler was not exactly a modest man, and had a very high opinion of himself. This was accompanied by the lovely painting of his mistress "Symphony in White", who was featured in "Wapping".

His Nocturnes followed, these are paintings and etchings, giving  evening and night views of the river. At the time these were very progressive works, as the subject is only secondary to the subdued colours used in these very evocative paintings. One can see how these must have been an influence on early abstract paintings.

Finally we come to a room devoted to his famous painting of Battersea Bridge, and showing the great influence of Japanes e painting on his work.

Overall I enjoyed the exhibition, but I did think that it was rather lacking in content, with to much emphasis on his prints, and filled in with rather a lot of interesting  early photos, which helped show the conditions and locations in which he painted, but I felt were put in to bulk out the show.

If you went expecting to see a good selection of his paintings, I am afraid you would be rather disappointed, but if you went to see how he saw the river and expressed his view in paint and prints, you will come away contented.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A slightly new approach to still life paintings.

I have painted these three still life flower paintings recently, trying a slightly new approach. Using a plain background and  no shadows . The top two  are oils on paper and the last one is acrylic on paper.

The Blue Vase

 The White Vase


This last one was done , as my reaction to a project put up by our tutor to do a painting influenced by street furniture. Most of those taking part produced abstract works, but I went for this painting, showing red,orange and green  plants in a striped vase influenced by a zebra crossing.

Any comments are welcome.

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Picasso Museum in Malaga

On holiday in Estepona in Andalucia , we went on a day trip to Malaga, and whilst there took the opportunity to visit the Picasso Museum.

The museum is housed in a beautiful building, the Palacio de los Condes de  Buenavista, quite near the Cathedral.

After going through the usual security precautions, the first gallery was dedicated to a special exhibitions of family paintings , prints and photographs. This was the only gallery in which the paintings were exhibited in genealogical order, which I greatly prefer to themed collections. The earlier paintings seemed to me to be very influenced by Matisse's work of the same period. The works shown included some very fine paintings  of his son Paulo,

and various wives and mistresses. It was however  obvious to me that as he became older his work became more repetitious, with many of the paintings  being very similar to earlier works. one room was dedicated to drawings and etchings, and these showed what a very fine draughtsman Picasso was. To me these were the best exhibits in the whole museum.

We then moved into the remainder of the museum, where the works were shown thematically. I do not like this way of exhibiting paintings as it gives little idea of how a painter has developed over his career.
Frankly this part of the museum was rather disappointing, as most of the exhibits were drawn from the family collections. It could be said that these were works which Picasso did not sell. The other point is that these works mainly represented very early paintings from when he was a student and works from much later in his life, when he was drawing from his earlier styles, and not really producing anything new.  There were some exceptions such as a cubist painting "Composition" from 1920, "Acrobat" from 1930

and "Woman with Raised Arms" from 1936. 

There was also a very fine portrait of Olga Khokhlova in a Mantilla. 

However there were no examples from his blue period, and very little from when he was developing Cubism. There were some examples of his ceramics, but none of them were amongst the fine works that he produced at various stages in his career.

To sum up , I was rather disappointed in this museum, but still think it is worth a visit if your in Malaga.

Picasso in his studio.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Painting Exhibition in Dulwich Park.

I am exhibiting some of my paintings in The Pavilion Cafe , Dulwich Park, Dulwich, London SE21 7BQ from Monday 26 August 2013 until Sunday 8 September 2013..

They will be primarily some of my flower paintings and all will be on sale.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Patrick Caulfield and Garry Hume at Tate Britain.

This morning I went with my 18 year old grandson to see the Patrick Caulfield exhibition at Tate Britain.

Avoiding the crowds flocking to see the Lowry exhibition we found ourselves in a nice fairly empty gallery .

Patrick Caulfield is regarded as a member of the POP art school, which is apparent as soon as you enter the exhibition. His work is quite influenced by the cubist paintings of Juan Gris, who is featured in one of the first painting on view.

However it is his reworking of the still life genre that makes this exhibition so interesting. His earlier works are pure pop art. Flat paintings with the main objects picked out with heavy black lines, His use of colour to highlight objects is very clever.

Later in his work he introduced "trompe d'oeil" paintings integrated into his flat pop art paintings. These do show that however simple his Pop art paintings appear to be, he was actually a first class painter with considerable technique.

He was to my eye a painter who enjoyed his food as many of his paintings include food in their composition, often painted with great virtuosity.

We thoroughly enjoyed this quite small exhibition, particularly as it included some of his most important works.

I was not familiar with the works of Gary Hume, who paints mainly in household paints on aluminium panels. We found his work quite stimulating in making you look very closely to the works to get some understanding of what he is trying to do.

 His clever use of colour is quite exciting, but on initial  impact looks quite crude, but when you look more deeply is more satisfying. One can see that he was influenced to some extant by Patrick Caulfield as some of his paintings show Pop art influences.

We also took a look at the modern British section of the re-hung collection, and in our opinion they have made a real mess of things.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Collecting Gauguin at the Courtauld Gallery

This is a very small exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery  illustrating how Samuel Courtauld started collecting Gauguin paintings.

 Samuel Courtauld was a wealthy industrialist  who was introduced to the new wave of French painting, the impressionists and their followers by the exhibition that Roger Fry put on in London in the early 1920's. This was the first time that these recent advances in painting were shown in London in any depth, and this exhibition was a huge influence on British painting and collecting.

Courtauld bought five Gauguin paintings in the early 1920's, but sold two of them fairly quickly. However all five paintings have been re-united for this show.

The earliest is a Martinique Landscape painted in 1887. It shows how Gauguin was using very thinned down oil paint on his first trip to the Pacific.  The next painting is one of those painted by Gauguin when he took up residence in Brittany, called The Haystacks it is very typical of Gauguin's work at this period. It shows his use of black outlines, which was a practise that he used for the rest of his painting career.

We then move onto three paintings done in Tahiti, on his two visits to the island. They are "Evermore" and "Te Crisa ( The Dream)". These are both very representative of the work that Gauguin did in Tahiti, showing Tahitian woman in poses which draw on traditional paintings, but are done with his very loose style of painting with much use of traditional Tahitian emblems.

The final painting called "Bathers at Tahiti"  was done on rough burlap sacking, which Gauguin thought gave a better, and cheaper, surface than conventional canvas.

The exhibition also shows a series of woodblock engravings that Gauguin did in Tahiti, but were not printed till long after he died . They were intended for a book, but it was never published. There are a also a few sketches and a sculpture of his wife that he did very early in his career.

The exhibition is quite interesting particularly if you like Gauguin, but does not cover his work in much depth. It is accompanied by a room showing some works by Roger Fry and other members of the Omega Workshops which shows how they were very influenced by the paintings shown by Roger Fry at his exhibition of Impresssionist and Post-Impressionist painters.

Friday, 14 June 2013

In the steps of Van Gogh.

We have just returned from a river cruise on the Rhone in France. One of the high points for me was a visit to Arles, where Van Gogh lived for about 18 months in 1887/1888.

Though the town acknowledges Van Gogh time there, it would appear to be more proud of it's Roman ruins. There are plaques and reproductions of some of the works that he painted there at approximately the places where he painted them., which is a common practise in France, but no museum or any of his paintings there. I understand that this will be rectified in the near future.

The first site I visited was just near where our boat was moored. This was where "Starry Night" was painted from. The location  is near where his yellow house was, and is a night view of Arles painted from the riverbank.

River bank at Arles

Starlit Night on the Rhone
Poster on site
I next walked through the town till I came to the main square, the location of his painting of the Night Cafe.

The Night Cafe

The Night Cafe today

THis site has been painted in approximately the colours of the painting and is now called "The Van Gogh Restaurant".

I now moved onto the hospital, where Van Gogh was taken after cutting off his ear. This remains very much the same as when van Gogh was there and painted this work.

Finally I made my way back to where the Yellow House was, before it was destroyed by a bomb in the 2nd World war.

The site of the Yellow House.

 As you can see the buildings behind the Yellow House are still there.

Further along the road, towards the station is the cafe where Van Gogh spent many nights, and painted the interior. This looks as if it is still similar to when he painted it, but I was not able to take a photo as it was closed. No billiard table though.

This was the end of my exploration of the van Gogh sites in Arles. Unfortunately the weather was not at all as one would expect, as it rained heavily in the afternoon. The bright light as praised by van Gogh was not at all apparent. More like a damp day in Manchester. However it brightened up the next day in Avignon and we were able to get more idea of the conditions under which Van Gogh painted.

Sur Le Pont D'Avignon.