The National Gallery of London has just received this unique gift: a portrait from Van Gogh's early period when he worked in Nuenen, a small village Holland. I have always loved these early things which are earnest, and full of the struggle and strife of poverty.
And, remember on this sometimes difficult season when emotions are piqued by memories: Cloudsandsea loves you all.
As much as I hate graffiti (and I really really do) I confess that this piece has something extremely original about it, even a kind of poetic unity. It is by Justin Bieber the pop star and I have no idea about his other scribblings but this is a striking image with lots of life. It rivals Keith Haring.
And perhaps not in the obvious place, such as a museum or collector's living room; it may be on the wall of a restaurant or a hotel lobby.
But wherever we see it, we know what it is. We may not know which one. But we know, even from across the room who did it. In contrast to the painting of earlier eras, this is one of the regulating aspects of the experience - and making - of art in this century. Each artist is responsible for creating his or her unique "vision" - a signature style, of which each work is an example. A style is equivalent to a pictorial language of maximum distinctiveness: what declares itself as that artist's language, and nobody else's. To re-use again and again the same gestures and forms is not deemed a failure of imagination in a painter (or choreographer) as it might be in a writer. Repetitiveness seems like intensity. Like purity. Like strength.
Here is a trailer for a documentary film shot over several small years and released in 1973. It was made by Dominique Benicheti who filmed his cousin Jules with his wife at their farm in the region of Burgundy, France. I am impatient to see this film which was re-mastered digitally, and is now making the rounds in New York. It looks wonderful.
There is a man who sells melons at the market just in front of the Palais de Justice in Aix-en-Provence. He has been there for 40 years at least, and I remember him from so many years ago alongside his mother who has since passed on. He had hair then and was slim, (ditto for me). Now he is round, and alone, but still presides over large tables filled with melons during the summer months. He sang out a musical phrase which was belted out in his youth, and, which he still does because I heard it in August.
...'Toute les bonnes choses ont fin… les melons de Cavaillon!...venez vite, toute les bonne choses ont fin...les bons melons de Cavaillion...venez vite'
(All good things must end, the melons of Cavaillion, come quick, all good things must end, the melons of Cavaillion...come quick)
It was sung out in a thick provençial accent over the noisy din of the crowded market place, just one of many voices, but a beautiful one which has stayed in my imagination for all these years.
And today, I find out that Saul Leiter has died in New York. He was not just another great photographer in the vein of Henri-Cartier Bresson but an original himself. I love the painterly feel of 'messiness' in his images, and of course he painted as well. He was an unpretentious 'nuts-and-bolts' kind of craftsman (like Bresson) whose poetic images are simple, and fused with subtle color harmonies. He just went out with his camera everyday and shot what pleased him, no bullshit. But he wasn't just a craftsman, but an artist with a camera, and his wonderful eye. (check this link for an interesting interview with Tomas Leach, the Director of the film In No Great Hurry which was made recently)
I picked this book up many years ago and raced through it too quickly as I am often prone to do with many meaningful things in life. I gave away my copy years ago but while perusing Ebay recently I found another one and immediately bought it. Joyce Cary was a very interesting man. He painted, and he became a writer after a long career in the Diplomatic Corps of the British Empire in Africa. He created the infamous character of Gulley Jimson in his very funny novel "The Horse's Mouth written in 1944. It was made into that marvelous film starring Alec Guinness who wrote the screenplay.
I have been going through this book again, and still find it full of intriguing insights as he explores the delicate subjects of art, education and cultural meaning. I don't always agree with him, but I find his ideas are sharp and full of conviction. I wonder how he might confront the Post-Modern aesthetic of today's Academic world for instance?
He died in 1957 and this book of essays was published posthumously in 1958.
Chapter X, (Value and Meaning)
The growth of every soul is mysterious and full of chances. It is the dream of every Utopian to throw luck out of the world - the luck of birth, of brains, of fate - to make all destinies equal. That is a dream that can't be realized. The world is inescapably shot through with luck, because it is also shot through with freedom. It is in the field given over to luck, the field of the unconditioned, that the free soul operates, and one man's art is another's luck, one teacher's prejudice is the making or the ruin of a poet.
Luck remains and children will always have a different abilities, different kinds of home, different fates, in experience. But it is still the duty of government and parents to battle with luck, to try to give the equal chance. And the front of that battle is education. The education of the writer is necessarily the education offered to other children, and what I am arguing is that it can't be too good, too definite. You can't preserve his youthful intuition. The child poet and writer, in my own experience, loses his powers even more quickly than the child painter. For he starts his education in the arts of the word, he is getting ideas about life, while the other is still being allowed to amuse himself with a cloud box.
No one, in short, escapes a conceptual and technical education in the use of words and ideas, and the only question is, how good should it be. I'm saying that it should be as good as possible. For the chance of destroying an original genius by too much scholarship, too rigid a conceptual drill, is much less than that of leaving him, when at least he is ready to do mature work, with a muddled mind and a feeble grasp of elementary technique.
The most sensible critic of the artistic education agrees to the absolute necessity of factual and conceptual knowledge and a dogmatic framework to give these facts value and meaning. But he says the trouble is not there but in the bias of the teachers who convey their own prejudices, who try to form their pupils's tastes, to bring them to be little copies of their teachers. This, he says, is the real disaster in academic education, not only for artists, but musicians, writers, architects. The old men who have a grip on all the schools, on all the universities, hate the original mind. They can't understand it and, as pedants, they hate what they can't understand. Why not then get rid of bias and find teachers without it? let them teach without bias. let them teach the facts, suggest a meaning for the facts, offer a theory to explain them, but not as an irrefutable dogma. For instance, let them say of poetry, "This is Wordsworth's theory about good writing, but it was not the Pope's. Take your chance.' or of history , "this is how Marx explains the march of events, and this is the Cambridge history. Here are the arguments, make up your own mind.'
There is a lot of truth and sense in this argument. For most teaching, especially in the arts, has a good deal of bias. The fact that students catch their tastes as well as their ideas from their teachers, that the pupils of an art school copy the style of some dominant master, is a commonplace. And there is no doubt it is a pretty common cause why some of them never form an original idea or style. But can your teacher hides his bias? If he does, will he be any good as a teacher? Is not the good teacher precisely a man of strong convictions who can them over?
At first, artist Mica Angela Hendricks didn’t want her four-year-old daughter near her new sketchbook. She is serious about her art, and she knew little Myla would want to scribble all over the pages. Then, her daughter said the words that changed everything. “If you can’t share, we’ll have to take it away.”
She had used her own mother’s words against her, and now Mica had no choice but to indulge Myla. She let her daughter finish one of her sketches, and pretty soon, they had a whole collection of collaborations.
This may be cruel but I think the mother should be very, very grateful to her daughter. These drawings have been moved from mere illustration up to a whole other level of imagination.
This is a photograph taken by Mao Zedong’s fourth wife, Jiang Qing, and sold just recently for $64,000.
Entitled ”Fairy Cave on Lushan Mountain,” it was taken in 1961 during a trip that Mao and his wife took to Lushan, a mountainous region in the southeastern Chinese province of Jiangxi.
Regardless of who took it, or where it came from, I find it quite extraordinary. It makes one wonder about education in the end, because I don't think that a school can teach 'art': Its a gift located in that space separating a human being with the Natural world which encloses each of us here on earth. It can arrive at any moment, to anyone, and isn't that what makes it all so interesting?
Twice a year I make a pilgrimage to see this painting which hangs in an alcove in the Sainsbury Collection of the National Gallery in London. One sees it on approach from down the vast hallway. Just to its right hangs The Nativity which is also a rare beauty, but that's for another day. This wonderful painting is haunting, and I am just one of many lovers of Piero della Francesca who come to marvel at its strange beauty. And isn't all beauty strange? If it weren't; what would separate it from all which is essentially banal and vulgar? It comes to my mind that somehow Beauty is seen to be perfection, and this seems vulgar to me because I don't believe that perfection exists. What makes this so beautiful for me is that it is so realized, and so original. Realized because it completely unites an artist's personal expression with that of the visual world as he personally meets it each day. In a similar vein Baudelaire once famously said that all original works of art look ugly at first.
I am always amazed by the three women to the left, especially the one looking directly at the viewer (the painter).
And the color! The bright harmonies which seem to sing out after 500 years.
This panel was the central section of a polyptych. It may be one of Piero's earliest extant works. Side panels and a predella were painted in the early 1460s, by Matteo di Giovanni (active 1452; died 1495). The altarpiece was in the chapel of Saint John the Baptist in the Camaldolese abbey (now cathedral) of Piero's native town, Borgo Sansepolcro. The town, visible in the distance to the left of Christ, may be meant for Borgo Sansepolcro: the landscape certainly evokes the local area.
The dove symbolises the Holy Spirit. It is foreshortened to form a shape like the clouds. God the Father, the third member of the Trinity, may originally have been represented in a roundel above this panel.