He seem's not to have perfected the wipe, more Durer than Rembrandt. But then, there is Newbolt by a different master, William Rothenstein, an entirely different kettle.
Skilful, strong drawing, confident hand, Rothenstein's portrait portfolios are stunning. To confess I am Rothenstein reared, both in word and picture. Once upon a nearly forgotten time I tried to buy the ruinous old forge at Far Oakridge in Gloucestershire. I travelled the length and breadth trying to raise enough cash for an auction deposit, needless to say I failed. Rothenstein loved the Golden Valley. He stayed in a rented cottage in Oakridge Lynch before finding and buying Iles Farm in 1914. In retirement he had his second Oakridge home built, Far Oakridge House, he died there in 1945.
The countryside, it's buildings, it's inhabitants fed Rothenstein for most of his creative life. I fear William is going to appear and reappear in these little sagas, he has travelled with me for forty years and will see this innings out. Given the days we live through I have great news, on your bikes, in your motors, The Butchers Arms, The Daneway, The Crown, The Stirrup Cup and The Bear Inn are still pulling pints.
This is not so much a post as a post script. Before I leave the crumpled sheets alone we have to visit some really sagging matresses. One bed you will never forget once you have seen one is a James Pryde bed.
All of Pryde's paintings are truly memorable and almost unique in British painting for their eloquent brooding atmospheres. He embarked on a major series of twelve paintings, each painting is dominated by a huge four poster bed and seemingly illuminates a significant moment in life's story. Do seek out these bedchamber sagas, but don't overlook any Prydes that come your way, decaying tenements, ruinous monuments, scenes populated by Daumier, brilliant. Once seen...........
You have to love it, it's gloom is relentless, decay and an unspecified menace abound. His work is now attracting more interest, I suspect the paintings have taken on the air of fulfilled prophesy, watch the evening news and you will see Prydes world rolling by.
Well this is beginning to look like a rant or a crusade, it might be but I'm passing it off as serendipity. When I bumped into the Professor as it were, it was a racing certainty that I would tumble into her bed, or not! It is truly a celebrity piece, it made Tracy a celebrity overnight, it lived with Charles Saatchi for a while and it is now owned by a Count, that's not a euphemism, the Count paid 2.5 million for it! To really make the A-list it now needs Lenny Henry to sleep in it! To be honest I can usually cope with this kind of tosh, there is a lot of it swilling about and I have a good sense of humour. It's harmless, completely vacuous and really lazy art but it's good for the bankers, the trustees, the auctioneers, the arts editors, the late night review presenters, the tourists, the tabloids, sometimes it keeps a tattooed sportsman off the front page. But then the boat gets rocked, a 'curator' needy for attention has a bright idea! As a general rule I think that when most curatorial staff have these eureka moments they should be packed off for an enema before discussion takes place.
Last year the Professor of Drawing managed to give Egon Schiele's reputation a boost by exhibiting her 'drawings' next to his 'tracings' so this year she is going to add a little lustre to the work of that much unsung master Francis Bacon. That's good then.
Quote,'People will look at the Bacons around it and they will understand the connection with the bed and my other drawings. They will see the bed is Art and that with these incredible artworks around it it is in good company ' That's good then.
Goodness, the Prof's bed is a bit 'naughty' too, it's those dirty pants, isn't she a one! Now real sleaze takes some talent, I don't know if sleaze can be classy, yes it can, Walter Richard Sickert says so.
True his beds have bodies in them, dead or alive, but the bodies have to compete for our attention. No one has done rumpled, crumbled, used and soiled like Sickert. You can smell those sheets and counterpanes, they bear witness. Brilliant.
Leafing through this morning I had a shock, I came upon this picture of an exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last year. Egon Schiele, brilliant. But hanging on those auspicious walls next to the works of one of Europe's finest draughtsmen were sheets covered in banal scribble! My heart went out to Egon, I remembered what my mother used to say to me, "Be careful, you will be known by the company you keep". But then I realised I had no need to be upset or concerned, Egon's reputation was in safe hands, the person in the photograph was after all the Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy of Arts, that's good then!
Haarlem for a few days, visiting my daughter and family. Halfway through stay made a trip to the Kroller Muller Museum out towards Arnhem. I had no expectations and was thrilled by the scale and scope of the museum and sculpture park. Cool 70's architecture, beautiful parkland and not screaming with punters, brilliant.
The sculpture park is big, over 160 works sited in the woodland. My first port of call was the Rietveld pavilion, sophisticated space with a good Armitage and several Hepworths, it must have been buy one get four free. There is however one Hepworth standing a little away from the pavilion that reminds you how clever she could be at articulating light across simple forms, spotless. Throughout the park works wink at you through airy glades, some stunners, the Strobos Palissade, some stonkers too. A lurking torso, produced by someone who once saw a blurry image of an Elizabeth Frink, a poor Paolozzi that shouldn't be out on it's own, needs it's hand holding.
I got excited by a stone 'mausoleum', beautifully crafted and carved. A really intriguing work by a Dutch artist unknown to me, Pjotr Muller. I thought I had made a real find but with later research I was disappointed. I thought I had found a marksman, a sniper but it was just the usual guy with a scattergun. Like you see your first Cragg and then your second and then your third and then you know it's just alphabet soup.
The gallery was truly surprising, you can pass by the world's second biggest holding of Van Gogh and go straight for Lipchitz, Balla, Schlemmer, Lehmbruck, Unovis, you name it, then enjoy it. Brilliant day, just get there, you get to ride a bike too.
I believe the large lady was mooching about amongst the apple trees at the bottom of the garden, well nearby. It provoked me into looking for my pistol. In France they are marginally more relaxed about gun ownership than in the U.K., why I don't know or even why owning a gun would interest me, but it always has, and now that ownership has become a comfortable thing, a machined metal dou dou, morally reprehensible but comfort needs to be found. The great reprobate and man above moral reproach knew about gun ownership. Picasso owned a Browning. It would have been the Browning model 1900. It was the most popular semi-automatic in Europe at that time, three quarters of a million were produced. Picasso's Browning pistol has become a thing of legend, how exactly he came by it is unclear but it's pedigree is not.
The carrying of guns was not uncommon at the turn of the century. Europe was brimming with political turmoil, political refugees and activists, marxists, anarchists, all swelling the populations of the capital cities. Everywhere the old order was being challenged. I had an agitating antecedent, John Westley, who attended the International Socialist Workers Congress in Paris in 1889. He dallied with anarchists, and may not have toted a pistol but he had a penchant for a bomb. Artists, writers, playrights, politicos all were looking for a new way, and leading the charge in Paris on his bicycle was Alfred Jarry.
The young symbolist writer was a true romantic, one of the most influentional writers of his time, his work prefigured Dada and Surrealism. Controversy trailed him, an erratic lifestyle, fuelled by drugs and alcohol he became a legendary figure in his own short lifetime. He carried a Browning, sometimes a pair, and was given to discharging them to great and dramatic effect. Apollinaire, Salmon and Max Jacob were acolytes and Picasso was an ardent admirer.
One version of the story has Picasso at Jarry's death buying one of the pistols. The version according to Max Jacob is that Jarry made a gift of a pistol to Picasso. Jacob sees this as Jarry passing on the torch to Picasso, that's the version we want. Picasso carried on the pistol touting tradition, blasting away to great effect. I often find myself reflecting on the careers of obviously hugely talented artists who fail to make it out of the third, fourth, fifth divisions and wonder how their careers would have progressed, had they spent some time careering around the night time city with a Browning in one hand and their bits in the other. Oops, I suppose that could be classed as a Munning's moment!
AGED AND AWKWARD