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.

Colours in painting, video


This is a September 2016 video in Dutch, with English subtitles.

In it, Dutch artist Monica Rotgans discusses paint and other material used by visual artists.

According to Ms Rotgans, the colours in many old paintings have deteriorated through the ages, as, eg, paint decayed.

Eg, the painting The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh now looks grimy and dark; while, just after Van Gogh had painted it, there was much more light in it.

The cause, Ms Rotgans says, is Van Gogh’s use of Prussian blue paint, which makes paintings darker as it decays eventually.

New Hercules Segers paintings discovered


This video shows the painting by Hercules Segers: View of Rhenen.

Music: Bach: Pastorale BWV 590.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Rijksmuseum discovers six new paintings by Hercules Segers

Today, 00:48

A team of specialists from the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum has discovered during the preparation of an exhibition on Hercules Segers six new paintings by the seventeenth-century artist. Segers’ work is very rare. Until this discovery art historians ascribed ten to twelve paintings to the painter and graphic artist. The total number of known works by Segers is now sixteen paintings and two oil sketches. …

Segers had his own technique for etching and printmaking. Art historians call him a pioneer of colour printing. Rembrandt owned eight of his paintings.

Between October 7 and January 8, 2017 a complete overview of Segers’ works will be in the Rijksmuseum. The exhibition consists of 18 paintings, 110 print outs and 54 prints. After January 8 the collection will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

See also here.