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Archive for April 2011

A new wave of South African Photography at the V&A Museum

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A new wave of South African Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Monday, 25th April 2011 – David Franchi

The exhibition “Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography”, at the V&A Museum, London, until 17th July 2011, is focused on the social aspects of the post- apartheid country.

The V&A has the oldest museum photography collection in the world and holds the UK’s national collection of photography. This is, in fact, the first UK exhibition of contemporary South African photography. It features over 150 works from seventeen photographers, taken during the last ten years by some of the most celebrated photographers in the world, together with others less famous, living and working in South Africa today.

All the photographers are focusing on the subject ‘what does it mean to be human at this time in South Africa. In the post-apartheid country, in fact, an interesting and refined photographic culture of photography has emerged. When the severe South African regime ended, the whole nation needed to reshape many of its beliefs. Photography was used to depict people for science purposes when it arrived in South Africa in 1840. After the white government established photography became the medium to portray the unkind life of the people. However, this group of photographers is looking for new ways of thinking the post-apartheid South Africa.

Co-curator Martin Barnes said: “This exhibition shows the range and variety of politically-engaged fine art photography arising from a captivating period in South Africa’s history. These photographers are at the forefront of photography emerging anywhere in the world today and it’s a wonderful opportunity to gather them together for this first major exhibition showcase of the contemporary South African scene.”

South Africa had a long time regime of separation of the races with people categorised in into ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘coloured’ that lasted nearly 50 years and collapsed in 1994. As a consequence of this fall, all aspects of life including sex, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, occupation and class have seen new laws regulations. Now there are middle-class black families who are able to settle down, buying properties and work in dignity, when white people are turning poor reversing the situation.

This exhibition gives a good picture of this condition. Photographers are doing a social reportage about South Africa that is leading a real revolution about all aspects of human life. Each photographer is represented by one or more series that imaginatively question the conventions of portraiture, ethnographic studies or documentary photography.

Works on display portrays people within their individual, family and community lives, practicing religious customs, observing social rituals, wearing street fashion or existing on the fringes of society. The artist array is quite comprehensive, but other important South African photographers could be included as partially has done in the catalogue. However, the exhibition is very interesting and it shed light on an emerging art wave and a transformed country focused on the future.

The photographers in the exhibition range from celebrities David Goldblatt and Santu Mofokeng to mid-career star Pieter Hugo, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Guy Tillim. There is a new generation, fresh to the international stage, including Zanele Muholi, Hasan and Husain Essop and Jodi Bieber. Also present are other interesting artists like, Kudzanai Chiurai, Terry Kurgan, Sabelo Mlangeni, Jo Ractliffe, Berni Searle, Mikhael Subotzky, Nontsikelelo ‘Lolo’ Veleko, Roelof Petrus Van Wyk and Graeme Williams.

The exhibition co-curators are Professor Tamar Garb from University College London and Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A. Sponsored by Standard Bank the V&A exhibition is not a come along in itself. Until the 31st July 2011 the V&A Photography Gallery will display ‘Lifetimes: Under Apartheid’ by David Goldblatt. Besides, there is a selection of short films featuring interviews with the artists available to view on the V&A Channel. Moreover, there are panel discussions with artists, museum night views, talks, late opening, courses and workshops.


Written by davidfranchi

April 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

The art of Joan Miró at the Tate Modern.

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Joan Miró: the Ladder of Escape” at the Tate Modern

Wednesday, 20th April 2011 – David Franchi

moroAfter 50 year a major Miró exhibition returns to London, at the Tate Modern, until the 11th September 2011. “Joan Miró: the Ladder of Escape” focuses on his political and social engagement, exploring his Catalan identity, the Spanish Civil war and his critical opposition to the Franco’s regime. The marvellous exhibition brings together over 150 paintings, works on paper and sculptures from collections around the world.

The celebrated master Joan Miró i Ferrà was born in Barcelona the 20th of April 1893 (died 25th December 1983) in a family of a goldsmith and watchmaker. He grew up in the Barri Gòtic in Barcelona. He began drawing classes aged seven and, in 1907, he enrolled at La Lonja School of Fine Art, in defiance of his father. In 1912, he was at the Galì School of Art. His first solo show (1918) at the Dalmau gallery was derided. He then moved to Paris in 1920 on the wake of the Cubist and Surrealist artists and he got involved in the Montparnasse community.

However, he continued to spend his summers in the family farm in Mont – roig in Catalonia, a key place for his production. At the Tate exhibition in the “Room 1: the farm and Mont-roig, 1917-23” on display his famous ‘La Ferme’ (The Farm, 1921-2), a step forward in his personal style, that was purchased by Ernest Hemingway. Other notably works are ‘The tilled field’ and ‘Catalan landscape (The hunter)’ both dated 1923-24.

The military coup of Primo de Rivera (1923) suppressed the Catalan autonomy hitting Miró, who developed the extraordinary series ‘The head of Catalan Peasant’ to celebrate the cultural identity under siege. The “Room 2: the head of Catalan peasant and Paris, 1924-6” deals also with the connections between Miró, the Surrealism, his interest in automatism and the use of sexual symbols. His style was influenced by Surrealism and Dada,yet he rejected membership to any artistic movement to remain free to experiment. André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, described him as “the most Surrealist of us all.”


In the series ‘Animated landscape’ Miró returns to the depiction of Mont- roig through the lens of the Surrealism. This is the theme of “Room 3: the Animated landscape, 1926-27” showing the more radicalised language of the artist. Here remarkably also ‘Dog barking at the moon’ (1926). Miró was also part of the Generation of ’27, a collective made up of Spanish poets, writers, painters and film makers that included Miguel Hernández, José María Hinojosa and García Lorca who were murdered by General Franco. Miró, Buñuel and a few others of the group were able to flee for France and the US.

The falling of the Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (1931) brought to the Catalan Republic, later bloodily suppressed. This is the focus of the “Room 4: Metamorphosis and the Republic, 1934- 36” where outstandingly series the ‘Savage Paintings’ and the ‘Metamorphosis’ are on display. Miró put in them the anxiously atmosphere and the political turmoil of this period.

From July 1936 the Civil War shaken the country when Generals took the power of the South Spain, but Anarchists and Communists were controlling Barcelona. Miró went to exile in France. In the “Room 5: Still Life with Old Shoe and the Spanish Civil war, 1936-38” on display the Miró series of furious abstract paintings. Besides, he exposed at the “Exposition Internationale” in Paris a mural ‘The Reaper’, aside of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, but it got lost. Miró also exposed ‘Aidez l’Espagne’ (Help Spain), both work were intended to be sold to support the Catalan Republic during the war. ‘Still Life with Old Shoe’ is the key work of this period.


In 1939, General Franco was controlling the whole Spain and the Second World War started. This is the theme of the “Room 6: the Barcelona Series and the Phoney War, 1939-40” and around this period Miró conceived the fifty lithograph ‘Barcelona Series’. The works of Miró reflect this atmosphere of concern and desperation.

In the “Room 7: The Constellations, 1940-1” on display one of the most famous series of Miró. He started ‘The Constellations’ in spite of the pre- war situation in France. When the German army invaded the Low Countries Miró decided to go back to Spain in Mallorca to live in ‘internal exile’.

In 1947 Miró and his family travelled to New York. This trip represented a reconnection with the international art world. He revisited the imagery of ‘The Constellations’ on a larger scale. This can be seen in the “Room 8: Figures and Constellations, 1948-9”.

Then Miró started to work with ceramics for a decade. But in 1960s painting and sculpture returned to be central in his art. In the “Room 9: Sculpture and message from a friend, 1960s” are on show double dated paintings that have been put in storage in Paris since Miró left the city and then elaborated again in this period.

In the “Room 10: Triptychs, 1961-2” are two works Miró made in his studio in Mallorca. To make the triptychs he inspired himself to the American Abstract Expressionism.

In 1968 student’s demonstrations arrived also in Spain. “Room 11: May 1968 and the burnt canvases, 1968-73” deals with this period. In 1968 Barcelona celebrated the “Miró Year” for his seventy-fifth birthday. He painted directly the windows of the Association of the Architect and, despite the regime, on exhibition there were works of his Republican period. Here notably the ‘Burnt canvases’ (1973) a challenge to orthodox ideas.

 Triptychs painted in the eighteenth century house Miró bought as an additional studio are on display in the “Room 12: triptychs, 1968-73”. It was a concentrated space that inspired the titles of these works: ‘Painting on white background for the cell of a recluse’ (1968) and ‘The hope of a condemned man’. Miró linked the latter to the execution of the Catalan anarchist Salvador Puig Antich (1974).

The last gallery “Room 13: Fireworks, 1973-5” reflects the experimentation Miró made in his career. The triptych ‘Fireworks’, together with the other works on display, reveal his energy in opposing to the Franco’s regime that will end in 1975 and mirror the political mood of his work.

“Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape” is co-organised by Tate Modern and the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, where it will be seen in October 2011, before travelling to the National Gallery of Art, Washington in May 2012. The exhibition is conceived by Tate Modern curators Matthew Gale, Marko Daniel and Kerryn Greenberg in collaboration with Teresa Montaner, curator at Fundació Joan Miró. Rosa Maria Malet, Director, Fundació Joan Miró, and Vicente Todolí, former Director, Tate Modern, are consultants.

“Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape” is not a coming in itself but it is coordinated with many events, such as film programme, talks, courses. The exhibition marks the beginning of ‘Miró & Catalan Culture’, a season of art, dance, music and theatre taking place throughout London from April to September 2011. This series of events has been supported and coordinated by the Institut Ramon Llull, created by the Government of Catalonia and The Government of the Balearic Islands to promote Catalan culture abroad.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/the-art-of-joan-mir%c3%b3-at-the-tate-modern./

Written by davidfranchi

April 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm

National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts.

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Saturday, 16th April 2011 – David Franchi

cut The 14th of April was the third National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts for the UK. In between many other cities, of course London plays an important part being the capital where all the powers are concentrated.

The day of protests affected the French multinational Atos Origin which runs the new work assessment, the right wing Daily Mail newspaper and some local targets. Protests were particularly addressed to Atos Origin, which is running the government’s new fitness for work test for incapacity benefits (IB) that is affecting 1.5 million people across the country, according to the number of letters that has been sent just in the last week. According to the government the Work Capability Assessment will target the people who are fit for work, ending long term unemployment and, above all, spare government money.

A part have been heavily criticised by CAB, the Child Poverty Action Group and others as being ‘unfair’ and ‘not based on medical opinion’, the new assessment at the moment has lost the 70% of the appeals, according to CAB figures, and others are on the same way. However, it is not a real surprise. Though having a good reputation in healthcare technology, Atos previous experiences in managing primary health and care services has been disastrous.

After just three years, the bid was won in 2007, the last 31st of March, Atos had to sign out from a 10 year contract, for unsuccessfully running the St. Paul’s Way surgery in Tower Hamlets. Another target of the 14th April protest was the Daily Mail. According to protesters “The Daily Mail has a long history of abusing and defaming benefit claimants.” In Glasgow the offices of the newspaper have been occupied by a number of activists who told to the journalists to stop telling lies about disabled people. Despite some of the journalists opposed to them, the protesters left peacefully having made their point. Metro journalists in the aside office distinguished themselves from the Daily Mail. The demonstration continued outside supported by some members of the public. The police were called but no one was taken into custody.

 Another target was the Westminster Council in London. As part of the third National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts people gathered outside Westminster City Hall for a protest and mass free food to give away. The Council is planning to stop the soup runs, the places where free food is given to those who are homeless. It will be a criminal offence with a fine of 500 pounds, to sleep on the street or hand out free food to the homeless. The problem with soup runs in the borough has a long history. Particularly in Victoria, are blamed to be source of anti-social behaviour and making of litter and mess. However, according to a London School of Economics research, soup runs provide a safety net by making available food and social contact to those who are unable or unwilling to access other services. There are known gaps and failures in the current support services.

According to protesters the real ‘big issue’ is the coming Olympic Games in 2012, for which the Westminster Council wants to ‘clean’ the streets. The demo was peaceful with no people arrested, despite strong accuses were directed to council members. The ‘French homeopathic treatment’ used to chase ‘foreigners (scroungers) who steal benefits and work’ – according to Mr. Cameron speeches – seems to be not working well and to waste a lot of public money.

Besides, the Prime Minister seems confused accusing the same group (or maybe should say race?), of people to steal work and benefits at the same time, using a language sounding more sensible for the Norman invasions of a thousand years ago. Protests seems to be the unavoidable means for disgruntle people to show their unhappiness with the government policies. It seems demos will not stop and the scenario will worsen in the next months. Demos are planned to be held during the Royal Wedding.

photo[ David Franchi italoeuropeo]

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/global-questions/social/national-day-of-protest-against-benefit-cuts-/

Written by davidfranchi

April 17, 2011 at 1:32 am

The Watercolour exhibition at the Tate Britain.

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Thursday, 14th April 2011 – David Franchi

4_-_23554w_blakeriverorlife_-_Copia“Watercolour” is an attractive exhibition loaded with visitors, at the Tate Britain, London, until the 21st of August 2011. It presents a history of watercolour in Britain from Middle Ages through the present days, spanning over 800 years with over 250 works. “Watercolour” also offers the chance to see rarely displayed works, for example of artists like J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Girtin, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin. Before the advent of photography watercolour was used primarily for recording eye-witness accounts. Artists used it because it was so versatile and portable.

A watercolour is the medium or the resulting artwork in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water soluble vehicle. The tradition of painting in watercolour is thousands of years old. British artists have been among the greatest exponents. The Tate Britain exhibition presents fresh views on watercolourchallenging common ideas. 

         [photo] William Blake, The River of Life c. 1805, © Tate

 The medium has long been regarded as a distinctive part of British cultural heritage. However, the exhibition also challenges the national concept that watercolour is especially British by showing some key pieces from continental Europe, such as Jacques Le Moyne, Anthony van Dyck and Wenceslaus Hollar. Moreover, in China, Korea, and Japan watercolour has been the dominant painting medium, often in monochrome black or browns. India, Ethiopia and other countries also have long traditions.

The Tate exhibition is chronologically set up. The first room, “Intimate knowledge”, explains that the method originated from a variety of practices including cartography, miniatures painting and manuscript illumination. Watercolour became a medium for its delicacy and precision, and was utilised for recording and retaining information even in difficult, or fast changing situations. It was through the work of itinerant artists, like Anthony Van Dyck and Wenceslaus Hollar, that watercolour acquired the status of art.



[photo]  Samuel Palmer, A Dream in the Apennine exhibited 1864, Tate


 Watercolour facilitated the dissemination of knowledge, according to the second gallery, “Natural World”. Many illustrators of the natural world were also technically gifted watercolourists. They developed a visual language which has remained standard up to the present day. Voyages of discovery, together with travel and trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries brought images of flora and fauna unknown to Western Europe. Illustrators had a vital role in the increasing of the usability of the new knowledge, propping up the development of science and helping those, like Carl Linnaeus, who created new scientific approaches.

During the eighteenth century the portability of watercolour encouraged artists to travel overseas. “Travel and Topography”, the third gallery, shows the importance of this employ. Some of the most famous British landscapes have been painted with watercolour the ideal technique for evoking the atmosphere, climate and picturesque effects of these sceneries.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century watercolour started to be used as a real form of art in itself. The fourth gallery, “The Exhibition Watercolour”, deals with the birth of the exhibiting watercolourists societies. In 1804, the Society of Painters in Water Colours was formed in a London coffee house. A year later dedicated watercolour exhibitions began. A rival New Society began in 1807. As the Royal Watercolour Society and Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, these organisations still flourish today. Watercolourists challenged history painters or explored popular narrative and genre subjects.

2_-_23533w_t12336_-_CopiaThe fifth gallery, “Water + Colour: Exploring the Medium”, is more a didactical space. This room presents a history of changes in materials and processes from the sixteenth century to the present day, many of which were innovations from British artists and manufacturer. Here on show the many techniques established with a conventional set of apparatuses materials (brushes, paints and paper) to use and control its two most distinctive qualities: liquidity (or wateriness) and transparency (the way that light is reflected through it).  

 [photo] Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Blue Rigi, Sunrise, 1842

Watercolour was used to depict war scenes, shows the sixth room, “Watercolour and War”. In extreme situations the medium is really handy and flexible to employ. Before the advent of photography it allowed for fast painting on the battlefield and it was also employed to document trauma and injury to the body. Most of the works in this section were produced during the First and Second World Wars. The use of watercolour in war situations disappeared because of the employ of new technologies such as photography and film.

The particular seventh gallery, “Inner Vision”, focus on such artists who have used watercolour on imagination or memory from the eighteenth century to the present. Personal, interiorised subjects were often employed by artists at that time to challenge conventional art. Today, it is accepted that any view of the world is subjective and the emotional or the psychological side is a key aspect of contemporary art.


The employ of thoughts in art is usually considered to be a twentieth-century fact. However, the last room, “Abstraction and Improvisation”, brings together works from across three centuries. The creative process is sometimes unpredictable, in other occasions there is more control on the materials or there is a combination of watercolour with unusual materials. Today, the use of watercolour for innovative practice is very common.

Some critics pointed out watercolour as ‘dead’ at the beginning of the twentieth century. Despite this consideration, several different modern artworks have been made using watercolour, unless denying the dignity of art to movies (e.g. Disney), cartoons (e.g. Warner Bros) and comics (e.g. Hugo Pratt). This exhibition missed opportunity is to not display -at least say something- about these kind of artworks, though maybe in Britain this production is reduced.

Moreover, today watercolour is still used by an uncountable number of amateur and artist groups around the world. The exhibition, in fact, is packed with these kinds of people staring at the walls, watching from a ‘nose-distance’ into the frame and trying to catch the ‘secret-of-the-artist’.

“Watercolour” is part of the Great British Art Debate supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The exhibition is curated by a group of Tate curators headed by Alison Smith, Head of British Art to 1900. 

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/the-watercolour-exhibition-at-the-tate-britain./

Written by davidfranchi

April 15, 2011 at 1:26 am

Amar & Pascali exhibition at the new Brancolini Grimaldi art gallery.

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Wednesday, 13th April 2011 – David Franchi

002_2_-_CopiaThe inaugural exhibition at the Brancolini Grimaldi Gallery, the last 8th of April, was a real success, the place packed with people. The opening of a new art gallery is always a good event. It means that artistic production is well active and the interest of buyers is high. For their opening exhibition Brancolini Grimaldi had chosen to display an exchange of conceptual and visual ideas between the latest body of work of contemporary French photographer Marie Amar and ‘Arte Povera’ sculpture from 1960s by Italian artist Pino Pascali.

The exhibition brings together innovative art forms and connects different generations of artists. In spite of the different medium used, Amar and Pascali are linked through the alternative suggestion of the employ of everyday materials produced by industrial processes.

Born in 1962, Marie Amar is a French artist based in Paris. She is largely influenced by land art, Arte Povera, minimalism and Richard Avedon. She already has had solo exhibitions in Paris, Moscow and Cologne, but this is her first time in London. On display her latest series of ten unique photographs, entitled “La Poussiére” (nt. “The dust”), an internal point of view of our technological cleaning systems. Amar collects thin layers of lint from washing machines or tumble dryer, which are a combination of bits of dust, dirt, human hair, fibres of cotton, wool and synthetic materials. She assembles them giving a rectangular form, producing a sort of dust sculptures. She then takes pictures of these vibrantly coloured substances and creates large scale prints. The resulting images on first impact might be taken for an abstract work; these are the dross of our society, what we need anymore, what we throw away after use to achieve our lifestyle targeting an ideal perfection. Examine the waste allows us to understand the hidden processes of our lifes.

Using atypical items is also the basic of ‘Arte Povera’ by Italian artist Pino Pascali (1967). He used to work with brightly coloured acrylic brushes, using a diverse range of unusual industrial products such as water pipes, bitumen, various dusts, leather and camping equipment in the construction of his sculptures. Born in Bari, Italy, in 1936, Pascali impressive career culminated in a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennial (1968), shortly before a tragic motorcycle accident killed him at the young age of thirty-two. Bracolini Grimaldi gallery displays the Pascali series “Bachi da Setola” (literally translated as “bristle worms”, but with a play on the Italian word for silk, “seta”) represented the artist’s interest in using objects and materials available due to an industrial boom in Italy in the 1960s. The installation plays on converting everyday materials into art, enquiring on the differences between the high culture and the popular one, as well as between the natural and the man made.

DSC_0257_-_CopiaCurated by Paul Wombell, the exhibition marks the curatorial direction of Bracolini Grimaldi. Wombell is an independent curator and writer on photography. He has worked as the director of Impressions Gallery, York, and of The Photographers Gallery, London and also festival director of the Hereford Photography Festival. He writes extensively on the subject of photography and has curated exhibitions for the annual Madrid photographic festival ‘Photoespana’ as well as ‘FotoGrafia Festival Internazionale di Roma’. His most recent work has been for the exhibition ‘Calves and Thighs: Juergen Teller’.

This is the third gallery for Brancolini Grimaldi; they already run one in Rome and another in Florence. Their London gallery is an impressive space on Albemarle Street in the heart of Mayfair. With ten years of experience and their fresh ideas on photography, Italian dealers Isabella Brancolini and Camilla Grimaldi bring a major enhancement to the London art scene.

Camilla Grimaldi holds a degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage and a Masters in Modern and Contemporary Art Studies at Christie’s through Cambridge University. She worked at Christie’s (New York), at White Cube Gallery (London) and at Claudia Gian Ferrari Gallery (Milan).

Isabella Brancolini is an art dealer, a curator and art consultant. She holds a degree in History of Ancient and Modern Art and she also has undertaken studies on paintings and antiques at the Spinelli Institute for Art and Restoration. In 1997, Brancolini opened Art Personae gallery. She was one of the first to open a contemporary art gallery in Florence in 2002, showing a mixed program of photography, painting, installation and video art.

When Camilla Grimaldi came on board in 2005, the gallery became known as Brancolini Grimaldi Arte Contemporanea. They actively encourage artists to realise new and experimental projects, fostering various successful collaborations with organisations such as the Sundance Film Festival, the Vatican Museums and Steidl publishing. Their artist have already entered the prestigious collections of the most important international museums.

 “Marie Amar & Pino Pascali”, until the 21st May 2011, at Bracolini Grimaldi, 43-44 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JJ.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/amar-%26-pascali-exhibition-at-the-new-brancolini-grimaldi-art-gallery./

Written by davidfranchi

April 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Art exhibition: The Cult of Beauty – Victoria & Albert Museum London

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The exhibition on the art of the Aestheticism in London.

Saturday, 9th April 2011 – David Franchi

12._The_Cult_of_Beauty_2011_-_Copia“The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900” is a marvellous exhibition with many visitors, at the V&A Museum, London, ongoing until the next 17th July.

The V&A exhibition is the most wide-ranging ever organised on the Aesthetic Movement in Britain. Amazingly nothing was made before, being the Aesthetic Movement a real British epitome, incarnating the quintessence of the country. It traces the Aestheticism development from the romantic bohemianism of a small avant-garde circle in the 1860s to a cultural phenomenon, finishing with the final Decadent phase at the end of the 19th century.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900” assembles over 250 objects and for the first time many of the greatest masterpieces in painting together with sculpture, design, furniture and architecture as well as fashion and literature.

The exhibition is organised in a chronological order crossing over the decades from 1860-1900. It is structured in five galleries, opening with the room “Introduction”, which explains the general frame of the British culture in the middle years of the 19th century. The Aestheticism, in fact, was born in the late 19th century in the UK as a reaction to the art and ideas of the Victorian establishment. It was part of the anti-19th century reaction. It had post-Romantic origins, and as such anticipates modernism.

Usually, Aestheticism is associated to the French Symbolism and Decadence, or the Italian Decadentismo, for it represents the same tendencies and may be considered the British version of the same style.

Additionally, the philosophy of Aestheticism formed as a cultural answer to the one of Positivism, another movement born at the beginning of the 19th century determined on science only. The new style mitigated the weight of the rationality and science, emphasising aesthetic values more than socio-political themes. Aestheticism was focused on life experiences; so much as that a certain moment a number of pundits claimed that science was inferior to intuition. Art was considered especially prestigious, but the movement was believed slightly elitist.

5._Alma_Tadema_Chair_-_Copia The second exhibition gallery, “The search for a New Beauty 1860s”, deals with the early ideas of the movement. Between all the styles of the mid- 19th -century, the unambiguous artistic ideal that emerged was the ‘cult of beauty’. Aestheticism brought together the Pre-Raphaelite bohemians like Rossetti, nonconformist figures such as Whistler and the neo –classical painters like Leighton and G. F. Watts. The guru of the style was Oscar Wilde.

An alternative kind of beauty was also created where temper, colour and harmony were more important than the subject. The style spread into all areas of life and many leading producers of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, wallpaper and textiles commissioned prominent designers including Walter Crane and Christopher Dresser. The style was characterised by a widespread use of motifs such as the lily, the sunflower and the peacock feather, drawing on sources as diverse as Ancient Greek art and modern day Japan.

The third gallery, “Art for Art’s Sake 1860s-80s”, deals with the adulthood of the movement. The slogan ‘Art for Art’s Sake’, coming from the French ‘L’art pour l’art’, is still famous today. Aestheticism created an unprecedented public fascination in the lives of artists. The V&A exhibition explores the stunning selection of artists in the group such as William Morris, James McNeill Whistler, Frederic Leighton, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde.

However, for Aestheticism the pleasure of beautiful items and art were above any other thing. Therefore, it was the first artistic movement to inspire a whole lifestyle. Besides, it affected many kind of themes including design, literature, fine art, the decorative arts, and interior design.

Sir Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, said: “Art as important for its own sake, beauty to be valued for itself alone – the ideas proposed by the Aesthetic Movement are current again today. This exhibition, drawn from a wide range of public and private collections, is the richest and most complete picture of this extraordinary movement yet.”

2._Leighton_Sluggard_-_CopiaIn the fourth gallery, “Beautiful people & Aesthetic houses 1870s- 90s”, the focus is on interior design, architecture and clothes. The immense success of the Grosvenor Gallery, opened in 1877 by Sir Coutts Lindsay to show the work of his Aesthetic friends, revealed the movement was fashionable and much requested both by the elite and the common people. As well as commissioning Aesthetic paintings and portraits, its followers approached in the same way the adornment of their homes and even the design of their clothes.

The last room, “Late- flowering beauty, 1880s-90s”, focus on the last period of the movement. Many artists were still active in those years, even if it was thought the opposite. Satire and parody were made about Aestheticism and Britain was caught by the style.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900” has been organised in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. After London, it will travel to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris in September 2011 before travelling to the Young Museum (part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco), opening in February 2012.

The exhibition has been sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with further support from Liberty. Curators, Stephen Calloway, lead curator for the V&A and Dr. Lynn Federle Orr, lead curator for the Fine arts Museum of San Francisco.

 This exhibition has a real British taste. It is unmissable and it couldn’t be different because Aestheticism involved the whole society and its culture and art.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/the-exhibition-on-the-art-of-the-aestheticism-in-london./

Written by davidfranchi

April 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Gossaert Renaissance art at the National Gallery.

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Sunday, 3rd April 2011 – David Franchi


It is an amazing exhibition with many visitors “Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance”, at the National Gallery, London, until the next 30th of May. He was one of the most influent artists of the Northern Renaissance. The National Gallery has one of the largest and finest collections of the Gossaert artworks in the world. A key Old Master, he changed the course of Flemish art. This is the first major exhibition dedicated to him in more than 45 years and it includes more than 80 works, bringing together many of his most important paintings with drawings, prints and contemporaneous sculptures. Artworks by contemporaries such as Albrecht Dürer, Jacopo de’ Barbari and Lucas van Leyden are included.

The Flemish painter Jan Gossaert born in 1478 and died the 1st October 1532. Not much is known from his early life. He was used to sign his works as Jan Mabuse (sometimes Jan Malbodius) the name he adopted from his birthplace, Maubeuge (nowadays in France). However, when he matriculated in the guild of St. Luke, at Antwerp, in 1503, he called himself Jennyn van Hennegouwe (Hainaut, in French).

 Today the heterogeneous territory of the Low Countries is distributed between the modern states of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and The Netherlands. The Flemish cities of Bruges and Ghent were major centres of international economy and art. Therefore, Flemish and Netherlandish (which means “of the Low Countries”) became interchangeable terms. Moreover, art historians often include within the same context the artistic traditions of the Lower Rhine, especially Cologne, and the painters with French origins.

The Northern Renaissance begins around the 1420s and ends around 1520s. Painters active during that period in the Low Countries are named ‘Early Netherlandish’, also known in a variety of ways, e.g. ‘Late Gothic’ or ‘Flemish Primitives’.

The new style emerged in Flanders almost simultaneously with the Italian Renaissance; Italians working in the Low Countries connected the two areas. However, changes in Italy were in architecture, sculpture and philosophy, in Netherlandish were restricted to painting.

Gossaert_X6424.prLike in Florence and other Italian cities, the presence of the Burgundian court allowed artists to flourish. From 1507 to 1530 the Low Countries were ruled by Margaret of Austria (daughter of Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor), Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands, and guardian of her young nephew Charles (the future Emperor, Charles V). Her reign was a period of relative peace and prosperity. Margaret was a keen patroness of the arts and an artist herself. She died at her court in Mechelen.

After a residence of a few years at Antwerp, Gossaert took service with Philip of Burgundy, bastard of Philip the Good, who was Lord of Somerdyk, Admiral of the Netherlands and Bishop of Utrecht. In 1508–9 Gossaert went to the Vatican following his patron on a diplomatic mission. There he met the Italian Renaissance. He firstly introduced it into the Low Countries, making an important art revolution. However, this stupendous exhibition at the National Gallery shows not only the Italianate elements but also Gossaert’s terrific creativity.

In 1509, Philip of Burgundy retired in his castle of Souburg (Zeeland), dedicating to decorate it with works of Jacopo de’ Barbari and Gossaert. In 1509-17 Gossaert is registered in Middelburg. In 1517-24 he is at Duurstede Castle. From 1524 onwards, he returned to Middelburg as court painter to Adolf of Burgundy.


“Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance”, through outlining the key themes of this artist, narrates a piece of history. It is not simply related to Gossaert himself but it describes that historical period, the birth of the Northern Renaissance, the connection with Italy, the history of a territory, its economy, and its culture.

The exhibition contextualise Gossaert in his time and through the artworks illustrates that period. The first room, in fact, is titled “Gossaert and the Renaissance in the Low Countries” here notably ‘Sheet with a study after the Spinario and other sculptures’ (1509).

The second room is titled “Gossaert the painter: new approaches to traditional subjects”. The story of Adam and Eve fascinated Gossaert, as well as the Gothic tradition and architectural motifs. Therefore, here remarkably are ‘Adam and Eve’ (about 1510), the unequalled ‘Adam and Eve’ (about 1520) and the famous ‘The adoration of the kings’ (1510-15). Another highlight of the exhibition is the reuniting of the triptych for the first time since it was painted in 1509–10 with centre panel ‘Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane’ and its exterior wings ‘Saint Jerome Penitent’.

A particular room is the third, “The erotic nude”, where there are Gossaert’s most persuasive paintings of mythological nudes, like ‘Hercules and Deianeira’ (1530). Philip of Burgundy commissioned mythological paintings such as ‘Salmacis and Hermaphrodite’ (about 1517) and ‘Venus’ (about 1521).

Gossaert was one of the greatest portraitists of the Renaissance. The fourth room, “Portraits”, will showcase his amazing ability to represent the lifelike appearance and psychology of individuals. Here outstandingly are ‘Portrait of a man (Jan Jacobsz Snoek?)’ (1530) and ‘The three children of Christian II of Denmark’ (1526). His ‘Portrait of Henry III of Nassau’ (about 1520–25) highlights even further the ‘trompe l’oeil’ effect another ability of Gossaert.

“Gossaert as painter and designer: devotional subjects” is the title of the fifth gallery. He painted devotional subject throughout his career, making them distinctive through his mastery. Here is notably ‘Saint Luke painting the Virgin’ (1520-2).

The last room “The Virgin and Child” explores a series of paintings with this very common subject. Featured works include ‘Virgin and Child’ (about 1527), and the exquisite and fine ‘Virgin and Child’ (about 1525).

The exhibition celebrates Gossaert’s decisive role as an artistic pioneer, bridging the gap between the Northern and Southern Renaissances.

“Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance” is organised by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Gallery, London. The exhibition in London is curated by Dr. Susan Foister, Deputy Director and Director of Collections at the National Gallery and it is supported by the Flemish Government.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/gossaert-renaissance-art-at-the-national-gallery./

Written by davidfranchi

April 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm