An interesting exhibition of Cézanne Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, though the best thing was that our daughter Jane, here for the weekend from Switzerland with her partner, was with us. And the coffee and scones in the basement café were good – certainly improved on the last time we had mid-morning snacks in the basement café.
Born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839, Cézanne enrolled in law school to please his father but left for Paris and a career in art in 1861. He was much influenced by Pisarro but developed a style of his own. His work was exhibited in the first exhibition of the Salon de Refusés in 1863.
I like his work but was disappointed by his portraits except those of the ‘ordinary’ people’ in the last two rooms of the exhibition. I know he said he didn’t want to obey the stereotypes of pretty simpering women and tough handsome men, but except for the portrait of Mme Cézanne sewing I thought his many portraits of his wife too bland and expressionless and the few men too alike.
His Boy in a Red Waistcoat 1888-1890 – a portrait of the professional model Michelangelo de Rosa and one of my favourite Cézanne paintings – has been used on the cover of the catalogue and there are prints on the wall of the downstairs café showing some of his more familiar and popular paintings.
In an interesting collection of portraits submitted for the BP portrait Award 2017 by contemporary artists I was surprised to find that only one portrait was abstract, all the rest were figurative representational images. Though I liked many of them most were too ‘photographic’ for my taste.
Everyone has been raving about the huge Vogue100 exhibition – a pictorial history of Vogue magazine since its birth in 1916. Several of my friends have been twice.
Yes, there are loads of fantastic portraits. though I liked best the long tables of black and white photographs. I particularly liked the hand-drawn and painted covers of the early years.
But the National Portrait Gallery curators elected to do something I really hate – group the captions to one side of the exhibits so that at times it was hard to tell which description went with which photo. The detailed descriptions were in a small thin font, difficult to read especially in the rooms where the light had been dimmed. My view is that the title of any artefact is important, especially if given by the author of the piece, and should be easy to find and read, even if the artist has elected to call the work Untitled .
A quotation from the Vogue of 1938 Primer of Art made my hackles rise:
‘A lady of quality should be able to walk into any drawing room, to look at the picture over the mantelpiece and to exclaim: “Oh what a charming Picasso of the early Blue Period”, or “I like your new Follower of Masaccio (circa 1420) immensely.” If she guesses right she is a gentleman and a scholar.” The cheek!!
I loved the Russia and the Arts exhibition – and not only because the titles were underneath each portrait!! Included were portraits of some of my best-loved Russian authors whose books I’d first pored over in my teenage years – Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – as well as musicians like Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, painters (mainly unfamiliar to me) and patrons – from the years 1867-1914.
My mother and grandmother were Russian so there was probably a bond there. Memoir extract from The Girl with a Threepenny Birth Certificate
I confess that my impression of Giacometti (1901-1966) was as a sculptor of long thin walking figures – mainly men – though I had seen the occasional drawn portrait.
The description ‘Pure Presence’ was given Alberto Giacometti by Jean-Paul Sartre who considered him an existentialist artist.
This exhibition not only shows his signature sculptures, together with a fascinating film showing his painstaking moulding of these figures, but a selection of portraits strongly influenced by his artist father’s post-impressionist style, as well as a collection of his later line portraits which are more familiar to us.
A large wonderful exhibition – I’d go again if there weren’t so much on in London this month.