Friday, June 03, 2016

We all agreed a good No 5 session and Red 151

So around halfway through the National Gallery course run by City Lit  with course leader Leslie Primo and I think we were all (including some folks just listening in) were pretty unanimous that it was a particularly good session.

Ahead of the paintings a brief chance to reflect on what we've already gained, for me one of the key things is  less is more (and the inverse too) - it's not about squeezing in many pictures but more about squeezing more out from a lesser number - of course a lot is interpretation but the business of 'decoding' actually  means you're engaging.
Poor cupid

So to the first artist and one I'm slightly embarrassed to say I'm not very familiar with - Lucas Cranach, The Elder (his son to became an artist and was inevitably labelled 'The Younger' .

There's so much that can be gleaned from something as simple as the size of the picture (this was smallish so for personal enjoyment) , as  we looked at 'Cupid complaining to Venus' Leslie asked our first not  over considered comment - mine was about how Venus's eyes met ours (the viewers )- 'the male gaze' but lots of other interesting points that we shared as a group and considered.

The fact that the nude and un-hairy Venus had a hat (which looked a little like a personal part of the body), the fact that nearly 500 years after the painting was completed London Transport had been uncomfortable with the use of the picture to publicise an exhibition.
Johann Friedrich and son by Cranach

Adjacent to Cupid complaining to Venus were pictures that reflected Cranach's position in society and how changes were reverberating in the established church .

The church was beginning to look at how images of a religious nature  were perhaps becoming overly concerned with 'craven images'.
Skill -only viewable at some angles

The next artist to be considered was Hans Holbein and his endlessly fascinating  'The Ambassadors' - first it's significance is marked by the fact that the gallery has a projected  'false' wall and skirting addition so that the skill of the artist can be seen in his rendition of the skull.
The brilliance of the work is almost matched by the intellectual skill shown in loading the painting with so many coded messages.

Leslie pointed out that the work probably commissioned by one of the French ambassadors shown was about humility, the skull showing despite riches and intelligence mortality was ever present (Leslie pointed out a connection with the more current work  Damien Hurst's 'Skull)'.

The fact that the music displayed can be played and other details of the artefacts shown can be extracted.

Ambassadors - endlessly fascinating
A familiar face

We also looked at Quinten Massys' the picture commonly known as The Ugly Duchess  (which inspired the illustrator of Alice in Wonderland. This painting says much about how women of a certain age were viewed in the 1500's although beyond the satire on 'Mutton dressed as Lamb' there's a possibility that the subject was suffering from Paget's Disease.

It has not been possible to identify many artists and when it is clear that  several works were created by the same artist a generic sort of name is attached to the painter - such is 'The Master of Delft'  who is the named creator for The Crucifixion - here  is a painting that puts to bed the lie that early work is not 'sophisticated' , this painting uses identifiers (colours here) to pull together a narrative that does not read from left to right across the Triptych but the story of Jesus on the cross and his defilement can be clearly seen. 

A big and complex work that tells a biblical story

Red 151

When I was a child there were many confections that would be considered questionable now - things like Candy cigarettes - we still have wine gums and they've still got things like Port' written on them - children be warned Port is not as good as Wine Gum 'Port'

Down to a 'Wine Art'

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