Friday, 25 March 2011

Cupid's Spell by Henry Woods RA

The scene of this painting is an old garden on the border of the lagoon at Venice. At one time it was doubtless the private preserve of some stately nobleman whose classic taste is represented by the sturdy Cupid with dart poised aloft. Here the pleasant corner is public property, and the Cupid is made to serve a utilitarian purpose, as a support for fishermen's nets hung up to dry in the sun. Yet the vigerous little piece of statuary is apposite enough to the modern idyll represented at the base of the pedestal. A young fisherman has come ashore, and sits gazing languorously at the pretty Venetian girl engaged in spinning. Apparently she has no thought save for her skeins of wool. But the little god above, who has probably assisted at many such meetings in the past, appears to know better, and is making ready to launch the fatal shaft at the potential lovers.
The artist, whose long connexion with Venice is referred to in the biographical note accompanying his picture, A Venetian Christening Party (Plate No. 78 in this collection), painted this work in 1885, and exhibited it the same year at the Royal Academy. It was acquired by Sir Henry Tate, and was in due course given to the nation. The technique of the work is in accordance with the academic traditions of both this country and nineteenth-century Italy. It is close, to the point of fastidiouusness, but it has the charm of its refinement, and there are power and grace in the beautiful drawing of the picturesquely clothed figures. The vista of the' stones of Venice ' seen across the grey - blue waters of the lagoon helps in the building-up of a natural composition, while the atmosphere of a bright day tempered by an almost impalp­able mist from the water has been cleverly caught.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Native American Indians

I think these old prints of Native American Indians are just wonderful, this print is titled "Discovery of the Mississippi".

Hill And Dale by Mark Fisher RA

This is a painting of great interest from more than one point of view. First of all a word may be said of Mark Fisher who was born in Boston USA in 1841 of English and Irish parentage. Trained in the Lowell Institute he went to Paris in 1841 and worked at Gleyre's studio.
Settling in England he became ARA in 1911 and was elected RA in 1919. Awarded medals at Paris, Chicago and St Louis , his work was exhibited in Johannesburg, Adelaide and Perth. He died in 1923.
Hill and Dale is a vivid transcription of landscape and one might say its a lively picture. It is not in any sense a sentimentalised landscape. The noble trees are faithfully full drawn and painted. They are not trimmed, idealised or made to look 'pretty'.
The effect of the work depends upon a faithful rendering of light and the artist as undoubtedly influenced by the French Impressionist School. It is not unlike an early Corot.
An interesting and important feature of this painting is the skilful manner in which so much colour has been introduced into the shadows without in any way impairing the sense of depth and atmosphere of sunlight which characterise the picture as a whole.
Here of course, we see the protest urged by the Impressionist against the conventional 'brown shadow'. God not only made light but He made shadow luminous. Turner grasped this principle and produced beautiful demonstrations in luminous shadow. So then, this picture is essentially an effort, a highly successful one, to represent shadow in open air sunlight.

Toilers Of The Sea by Sir WQ Orchardson RA

The title of this painting recalls that of a famous book by Victor Hugo but curiously enough the picture is not reminiscent of the accepted style of the gifted artist who painted it. Everyone knows his paintings of large open spaces or rooms, his Napoleon On Board The Bellerophon for example. So this almost intimate picture of a patch of the ocean, a dramatic little scene nevertheless, is a departure from his usual 'mise en scene' and perhaps all the more attractive for its novelty.
Two or three points may be noted in this picture, first and most important is the bold way in which the little boat is slung by the artist right corner from corner to corner of the canvas, a daring and successful executed design to begin with.
We then notice that the sail is close-reefed, the swirl of the waters and the wake thrown up by the boat complete the sense of the driving power of wind and wave. Lastly, the figures are cunningly grouped and are the life of the picture without dominating it. The design however, is the master-touch.
Sir William Orchardson was born at Edinburgh in 1835 and entered the Trustee Academy in 1850. He studied under Scott Lauder and become leader of a group of students including GP Chalmers, William McTaggart, John Pettie, Tom & Peter Graham and John McWhirter.
Coming to London in the 1860's he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1863 and was elected ARA in 1868, RA in 1877. He was knighted in 1907 and died in 1910.
Besides subject pictures he painted a number of portraits among them Master baby, the artist wife and child. Other well known portraits include that of Sir Walter Gilbey (1891) which ranks with the great portrait paintings of the century.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Cophetua and the Beggar Maid by Sir E Burne-Jones

Burne Jones paintings at the time he was working were not the usual style that would look fine decorating a drawing room and he found the thought of his work being displayed at the Royal Academy as hopelessly uncongenial.
His style was described as mystic and medieval spirit of symbolic decoration. He said, 'its a pity he was not born in the middle ages, people then would of known what to do with me'. He was referring particularly to the practical work of church decoration such as designing stained glass windows.
The painting was a result of years of thought and as early as 1862 he was working on a different version of the subject showing the king in red robes descending a white marble stairs. The idea lay fallow and in 1880 he began working on this painting and it was four years later before it was first exhibited in the Grosvenor Gallery.