Hieronymus Bosch exhibition gets award


This 25 September 2015 video from the Prado museum in Spain is called Bosch. The Centenary exhibition.

The 2016 exhibition commemorating that Dutch visual artist Hieronymus Bosch had died 500 years ago has won the Global Fine Art Award in the category Best Renaissance, Baroque, Old Masters, Dynasties – solo artist.

The Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands and the Prado museum in Spain had organized this exhibition jointly.

Painter Kerry James Marshall, United States exhibition


This video from the USA says about itself:

2 May 2016

This video accompanies the exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The exhibition is cocurated by Dieter Roelstraete, former Manilow Senior Curator at the MCA; Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at MOCA; and Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator at The Met. At the MCA, the exhibition was realized with the assistance of former Curatorial Assistant Karsten Lund and former Research Associate Abigail Winograd.

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, April 23–September 25, 2016, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017, and at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12–July 2, 2017.

By Clare Hurley in the USA:

American painter Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective, Mastry

2 February 2017

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, an exhibition at the Met Breuer Museum in New York City, October 25, 2016 – January 29, 2017; subsequently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12 – July 2, 2017.

American artist Kerry James Marshall’s paintings of barbershops and beauty parlors, public housing projects and middle-class suburbia are vibrant renderings of quotidian twentieth century African-American life that are distinctly modern while embracing the canon of Western European art. This retrospective of 35 years of Marshall’s work, jointly organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is welcome and somewhat overdue.

In De Style (1993), two urbane young men are getting their “dos” done while others hang out in the seats along the wall. The young men’s deadpan gazes assert their self-confidence within the social hierarchy of an African-American barbershop. The painting explicitly references a sixteenth century Hans Holbein portrait, Two Ambassadors, of similarly confident and worldly young noblemen. At the same time, it alludes by its title and color scheme to the Dutch De Stijl movement (1922-1932), a form of pure abstraction that distilled the visual world into grids of black, white, yellow, red and blue.

De Style, 1993. Acrylic and collage on unstretched canvas

Such a mash-up between historical contexts and artistic styles is characteristic of postmodernism in its heyday in the early 1990s, a zeitgeist that influenced Marshall. Set apart from his contemporaries to some extent, however, by his attention to scenes of working class life and his continuation of a tradition of representational figurative painting, his work has perhaps received less attention than its due over the past 30 years.

Amid the present ramping up of identity politics, however, the fact that all of Marshall’s figures are exclusively and uniformly painted the darkest hue of black has won him attention. …

His most significant body of work is the Garden Project, a series of five large-scale paintings on canvas tarps affixed directly to the wall with grommets that takes its name from public housing projects in Chicago and Los Angeles. Built in connection with the Great Society programs in the 1960s in the US, these densely clustered high-rise complexes, often named “Gardens,” were attempts to alleviate the explosive social tensions building up in urban areas across the country.

Marshall himself lived in one such housing project when his family moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Watts in 1963. Two years later, police brutality provoked a five-day uprising in the Los Angeles neighborhood that resulted in 34 deaths, thousands of arrests and $40 million in property damage, and necessitated the calling out of 4,000 National Guard to suppress it.

The pall of such events, though not referred to explicitly, hangs over Marshall’s Garden Series despite their sunny blue skies. The painting Many Mansions (1994) shows three men tending flowerbeds, identically dressed in white shirts and black pants. The towers of Chicago’s Stateway Gardens form an imprisoning wall behind them. From their steely expressions and the cellophane-wrapped gift baskets of stuffed animals at their feet, they would seem to be digging graves, rather than gardening.

Many Mansions, 1994. Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas

Marshall has said he wanted to show life in these projects as something more than concentrated poverty ridden with drugs and crime. He focuses our attention on the figures, many of them children, who inhabit this world, stoically playing, running, camping out in these concrete-bound landscapes. Recurrent themes are the aspiration to a middle class life, the desire for leisure and romance, and the promise of equality often frustrated and betrayed. Other noteworthy paintings are Souvenir 1 (1997), of a golden-winged woman carefully tending to the memories of fallen civil rights and Black Panther leaders in her shrine-like living room, and The Lost Boys (1993), in memoriam to two young men who met an early death.

That being said, Marshall’s postmodernist-influenced outlook … has severely limited his ability to place these experiences in the broader context of political developments in the US over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. Likewise, his treatment of black working class life as a social universe entirely unto itself contributes to this disconnect and makes this life seem fixed in amber. …

Marshall’s difficulties are hardly his alone, but are shared by many of his generation, particularly those of the so-called “Pictures Generation,” a diverse group including John Baldessari, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, and Mark Tandy. United by their skepticism toward the authenticity of the image per se, these artists did not create but rather “appropriated” images, whether from advertising or Old Masters paintings, in order to comment upon their artificiality, their supposed lack of meaning. Marshall may have maintained his belief that visual art could still communicate something original about the objective world, but he shares other aspects of this postmodern outlook.

Souvenir 1, 1997. Acrylic, collage, silkscreen, and glitter on canvas

He came of age with the burgeoning of the California art scene in the1960s-early 1970s. As part of Los Angeles’s efforts to establish its credentials as “America’s Second Art City,” the Pasadena Art Museum mounted an influential retrospective of avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp in 1963 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened in 1965 with a focus on contemporary art. The early LA art scene embraced sleek European minimalism, the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, and the politically charged assemblage/installations of such artists as Edward and Nancy Kienholz.

As a high school senior, Marshall turned down a scholarship to the Chouinard Institute, where for decades many of Walt Disney’s illustrators honed their skills in technical drawing and animation. By the early 1970s, the newly founded California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) absorbed the Chouinard, replacing its traditional skills-based training, so essential for commercial work but considered “stifling” to visionary artists, in favor of more experimental conceptual work.

For Marshall, a working-class kid from Watts who wanted to paint like an Old Master, neither the Chouinard nor CalArts turned out to be the right place to study. After several years working and earning credits at Los Angeles City College, he enrolled in the BFA program at Otis, LA’s classical fine arts college. There he studied with his long-time mentor in figure drawing, the self-taught Charles White (1918-1979), an African-American artist best known for his WPA murals, as well as with artist Betye Saar, whose assemblages and collages incorporated ritual cosmologies from the Asian and African Diaspora.

… Many of his early pictures, such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980), address issues of his “invisibility” as a black man. Playing on “blackface” stereotypes and referring to Ralph Ellison’s searing 1952 novel of racial violence of the same title, in Invisible Man (1986) the naked black figure is barely distinguishable against the black background except for the gleaming whites of his eyes and toothy grin.

Untitled (Painter), 2008. Acrylic on PVC panel

This mask-like uniformity of the faces in almost all of Marshall’s paintings highlights his shortcomings. Mindful perhaps of artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), whose Migration Series paintings (1940-1941) chronicled the historical experience of African-Americans as they moved by the millions out of the South, Marshall similarly gives his faces the barest of detail.

But whereas Lawrence placed his blank-faced figures within a political and historical context to show them as representative of a movement not of individuals but of masses, in Marshall’s case such a broader, more developed consciousness is absent. Thus, the uniformity of the faces tends to blunt empathy, and undermine their “realism,” not just in a formal sense.

The relative strength of Marshall’s work remains its empathetic, concrete and imaginative depiction of working class life, which he attempts to situate artistically within the tradition of Western European figurative painting. For example, the Garden Series paintings allude, among other things, to the tradition of idyllic imagined landscapes in the manner of such painters as French Rococo muralist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), in order to comment on the illusory nature of these urban “gardens.”

Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam exhibition


This video from London, England says about itself:

24 December 2016

Art historian Julian Stallabrass visits the Wifredo Lam exhibition at Tate Modern and analyses the life, artistic influences, work, and legacy of the Cuban painter.

New Hieronymus Bosch film, review


This 2016 video is the trailer of the film EXHIBITION ON SCREEN – The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch.

It says about itself:

Who was Hieronymus Bosch? Why do his strange and fantastical paintings resonate with art lovers now more than ever? How does he bridge the medieval and Renaissance worlds? Where did his unconventional and timeless creations come from? Discover the answers to these questions and more with this remarkable new film from EXHIBITION ON SCREEN.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch features the critically acclaimed exhibition ‘Visions of a Genius’ at the Noordbrabants Museum in the southern Netherlands, which brought the majority of Bosch’s paintings and drawings together for the first time to his home town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and attracted almost half a million art lovers from all over the world.

With his fascinating life revealed plus the details and stories within his works seen like never before, don’t miss this cinematic exploration of a great creative genius.

I went to see this film on 17 December 2016.

An earlier film, Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the devil, had as its main theme the complex preparations for having the exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter in the North Brabant Museum in Den Bosch, the city where he was born and worked.

The new film was finished after the exhibition in Den Bosch. It shows images of the paintings, drawings and spectators in the museum. And images of Bosch’s works, sometimes zooming in on details. Or scans, showing that Bosch sometimes painted over parts of earlier versions.

Art experts explain in the film what, according to them, Bosch meant to say in his works. He must have been an avid reader, as some of his work is based on texts and pictures from books. The interviewees point out allusions to Biblical stories or medieval traditions which are not obvious to 21st century spectators. However, what Bosch really meant is a more complex issue than becomes apparent in the film.

We know more or less which art is by Bosch. We know something about his life from Den Bosch city records. However, we don’t really know about the connections between his life and his work.

There are not any writings by Bosch about how he saw his work.

Well, maybe there is one: a sentence in Latin above a drawing, about innovating oneself being better than relying on other people’s innovations. Is that Latin sentence by Bosch? We don’t know. We don’t know Hieronymus Bosch’s handwriting.

The film says that Bosch was an innovator compared to the late medieval artistic status quo, as he introduced phantasy into his work. They might have said as well that he was one of the first artists to depict common people; not just Jesus, angels and people at the top of political or church hierarchies.

The film does say that Bosch lived in turbulent times, but does not dwell extensively upon that.

Alan Woods points out that Bosch’s turbulent times reflect in his art. One year after Bosch died, Martin Luther started the religious Reformation. Already before that, the stability of feudal society had been undermined: by the Black Death plague, by wars, by persecution of ‘witches’, by the rise of the urban bourgeoisie which eventually became rivals of the nobility and Roman Catholic clergy ruling classes.

Woods writes that Bosch sharply criticized the powers that be. Bosch’s art says that in choosing between good, leading to paradise, and evil, leading to hell, also many religious and political authorities choose evil and should burn in hell. Among his many depictions of priests, monks and nuns, not one shows these religious people in a favourable light.

Jeroen Bosch, detail of the Garden of earthly delights

This detail of Bosch’s Garden of earthly delights shows a nun with a pig’s body. On the left of the detail is a being, half fantasy animal, half noble knight. A criticism on behalf of the urban bourgeoisie to which Bosch belonged, of the aristocratic and clerical ruling classes?

Bosch’s Hay Wain, as the film The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch says, depicts greedy people on the way to hell. It does mention that the pope, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and kings are among these sinners. But it does not say that Bosch may criticize the clerical and secular powers that be in that.

The film shows Bosch’s painting The Ship of Fools, and comments on it. The film says that people boarding the ship of fools will sail to hell. However, a monk and nuns are prominent passengers on the ship. The film does not comment on that.

Jheronimus Bosch, Ship of fools

The art experts in the film give the impression that Bosch was part of the social and religious establishment. That an art critic of Rupert Murdoch‘s daily The Times says so in the film could more or less be expected. It is a pity that other interviewees don’t examine arguments for the theory, unnamed in the film, that Bosch was a critic of the establishment.

Nevertheless, an interesting film, worth seeing.

Painter Vermeer was forged, new film


This video is called A Real Vermeer; Official Trailer, UK subs, 2016.

On 5 November 2016, I went to see the new Dutch film A Real Vermeer. The Internet Movie Database writes about it:

Young and talented Han van Meegeren is a rebel in the early 1920’s Amsterdam art scene.

This is incorrect. As the film shows correctly, Van Meegeren (1889-1947) was then in the The Hague art scene; not the Amsterdam one.

Van Meegeren was a technically able visual artist. He had a ‘reactionary’ dislike of avant garde artists like Picasso, much preferring art of long ago. He knew much about seventeenth century painters’ techniques, which would help him in forging ancient art. He was invited by quite some artistically conservative rich people to paint their portraits, making him well-off.

Because he paints in the style of his idols Rembrandt and Vermeer, critics find his work old-fashioned and they call him a copycat.

Just to prove a point, he produces a fake Vermeer and tries to pass it off as a real one. It works. Instead of revealing the truth and thereby embarrassing the art world, he continues to make money off his many forgeries. Soon he is caught in a web of lies and deceit, and his life spins out of control. Then one day, high-ranking Nazi Hermann Göring knocks on his door, looking for a Vermeer for his private collection.

Director Rudolf van den Berg has said that his movie ‘is not about the real Han van Meegeren’.

The film adds many fictional elements to the real story of Van Meegeren’s life. Eg, Van Meegeren did not meet Göring personally, as Van den Berg depicts; but sold his fake ‘Vermeer’ to the nazi bigwig via an intermediary.

When Van Meegeren was a teenager, his father did not want him to become an artist. As a punishment for his son’s artistic ambitions, the father made Han write again and again: ‘I am nothing, I know nothing, I am unable to do anything’. In the film, when bad things happen to Van Meegeren, he writes these self-humiliating lines all over his studio. Though it is improbable that the adult real Van Meegeren did that, the authoritarian education by his father probably did leave negative marks on Han’s personality.

The main theme of the film is a supposed conflict between Van Meegeren and prominent Dutch art expert Abraham Bredius (1855-1946) about Bredius‘ wife; and that Van Meegeren started counterfeiting Vermeer as a revenge on his rival in love. The only true part in the film here is that Van Meegeren hated Bredius. However, ancient art specialist Bredius never judged twentieth century artists like Van Meegeren, as far as we know. There is also no evidence of Bredius’ wife being a factor in Van Meegeren’s actions. Bredius, in fact, never married; he was gay. Jólanka Lakatos, Bredius’ wife in the film, is fictional.

Van Meegeren and Jólanka Lakatos, film poster

This film poster shows Van Meegeren and Jólanka Lakatos. The caption at the top of the poster says, translated: ‘Only his love for her is real’. However, as Ms Lakatos is fiction, that would make everything about Van Meegeren in this film not real.

Christ at Emmaus, by van Meegeren

The real Bredius was really fooled by a Van Meegeren forgery, Christ at Emmaus, in 1937; and claimed it was a real Vermeer. On the authority of Bredius and other art experts, the famous Rotterdam museum Boijmans Van Beuningen bought the painting for much money. Ironically, much earlier, in 1883, Bredius had established his fame as a Vermeer expert by pointing out that another ‘Vermeer’ painting was not really by the Delft artist. And he established his reputation as a Rembrandt scholar by claiming scores of ‘Rembrandts’ were not really by Rembrandt.

Then, the issue of Van Meegeren’s extreme right sympathies. In the film, the lead character is in Italy; without commenting on a Mussolini propaganda poster there. Later, he speaks to his financial adviser in a room with an Adolf Hitler portrait on the wall. Again, without commenting on that.

Still later, during the nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Van Meegeren uses the nazi term ‘degenerate art‘ for avant-garde artists like Picasso whom he hates.

During the real nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the real Van Meegeren joined the pro-nazi art organisation Kultuurkamer and became very rich.

In the film, the master forger dedicates (this seems to have happened really) a drawing to ‘my beloved Fuehrer’ Hitler. Hitler is now disliked as an artistically conservative artist by many people; like Van Meegeren was disliked by pro-avant garde critics.

In Dutch movie magazine De Filmkrant, November 2016, reviewer Erik Spaans wrote (translated):

In Rudolf van den Berg’s A Real Vermeer art forger Han van Meegeren is depicted as a tormented artist and a rascal hungry for revenge. In reality, Van Meegeren’s motives were rather profit and opportunism.

Spaans bases this view on what he calls the best biography of Van Meegeren: The Man Who Made Vermeers, by Jonathan Lopez. An English producer has bought the film rights to Lopez’ book. Spaans hopes this will result in a more historically correct film about Van Meegeren.

This 2009 video from the USA is called Jonathan Lopez on “The Man Who Made Vermeers” at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

After the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich, Dutch authorities arrested Van Meegeren, as they suspected him of selling real ancient Dutch art to nazi enemies; which meant treason. As penalties for forging art were much lower than for treason, Van Meegeren then confessed that his ‘Vermeers’ and other ‘ancient Dutch masters’ were really by himself. He confessed that first to police; not in a public session of a court of justice, as the film depicts it. It turned out that the confession was true, and Van Meegeren was sentenced to one year in prison for forgery, not to a much harsher penalty for treason.

In 1947, just before the prison sentence would begin, Han van Meegeren died of a heart attack in a hospital (so, not ‘in prison’ as Spaans writes).

Many people started to see Van Meegeren as a sort of anti-nazi hero, someone who had managed to fool the hated Hermann Göring. According to Spaans, that is undeserved; and Van den Berg’s film does not say much against that.

Lost Alma-Tadema painting found again


The lost Alma Tadema painting, being hanged at the Fries Museum exhibition, photo by Marchje Andringa

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

A lost painting by Dutch-British painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema has surfaced in the BBC television program Antiques Roadshow.

Alma-Tadema was in the 19th century one of the most successful painters in the world. He was born in the Frisian village Dronryp, and later moved to London and became a naturalized Englishman. Alma-Tadema, who died in 1913, is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Bewilderment

The painting shows the engraver Leopold Löwenstein. Alma-Tadema gave it to Löwenstein’s wife. She was the nanny of the painter’s daughters. In 1913 the painting was last seen in public. A great-grandson of the engraver took it to the Antiques Roadshow, where the discovery caused bewilderment.

The episode of Antiques Roadshow will be broadcast tomorrow night on BBC One. Then the value of the painting will also be disclosed. The painting was restored after the discovery and added by the Fries Museum to their exhibition about Alma-Tadema which opens on 1 October.

This 20 September 2016 video is about that Alma Tadema exhibition, and the inspiration by that painter on Hollywood films about antiquity.