COLIN WIGGINS LECTURE AT RICHMOND ART SOCIETY


RESHAPING THE HUMAN FIGURE: FROM ANTIQUITY TO MAPPLETHORPE

What an excellent lecture last week at Richmond on Thames as part of a series of lectures organized by the Richmond Art Society.

NATIONAL GALLERY

Colin Wiggins started by telling us that he is now Curator of Special Projects at the National Gallery.

Until recently he was Head of Education there.

He gave a one hour lecture with the above title, showing the continuity which is evident in Western Europen art, depicting and sculpting the human figure from such sources as the sculpture of Antiquity.

During this lecture he made many witty comments about modern practices in art; he said that the Leonard da Vince exhibition was a thorn in his side at present and that they had had ‘turned David Hockey away this morning’.

He began by saying the central foundation stone of Western European art is ‘us’, in other words, the human figure. Of these works, the male figure is the most important. He commenced by showing slides of sculpture of the male from ancient Greece.

He showed immediate links to figures sculpted by Michaelangelo, and paintings by Velazquez and Lucien Freud.

This was demonstrated by a projected image of a Roman god next to a painting of the god Mars by Velazquez and a nude full-length portrait of Leigh Bowery, in an armchair, by Lucien Freud.

Colin had many slides demonstrating his points, all of them interesting and relevant, particularly the works of the Italian Renaissance artists, such Raphael, who, he said, was not able to work from the nude female figure, it being impossible for a young man to have access to a nude female model.

Also we were asked to look at the Joshua Reynolds portrait of Sir Banastre Tarleton, who fought in the American War of Independence. Reynold had a directory of poses, from his time in Rome, and used a pose of Cincinnatus from antiquity for the Tarleton portrait. Tarleton was apparently very ‘thick’ and Reynolds did not like him at all. He painted the figure in a battle scene with a cannon right behind his backside!

The interest in ancient art was widespread in the USA too, from Victorian times, and he told of a mail order facility to order art from Europe, which resulted in a copy of the Venus de Milo being sent by railroad to the mid-west, where it was found to be without arms. The purchasers sued the railroad company for the loss of her arms, and won their case!

There was a very amusing point made that maidens were painted and sculpted being very modest, and while nude, covered their ‘private parts’. This he demonstrated by showing us a sculpture of a Roman or Greek (not sure which) girl, then a nude by Renoir and then a still from the comedy Carry on Camping, when Barabara Windsor is bra-less and covering her bosom with her hands.

Colin admires the ‘passive and beautiful’ male nude early paintings of David Hockney and is looking forward to the exhibition later this year at the Royal Academy.

However he did not like the Gerhard Richter work at the London exhibition (now ended), and said he finds German contemporary art takes itself too seriously.

My understanding is Colin suggested he likes humour in art and showed us a Johann Zoffany painting of the Tribuna in the Uffizi, Florence, where a collection of Milords are admiring the bottom of the Venus de Milo.

I found a link to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge which shows Frank Auerbach standing beside a portrait etching of Colin Wiggins.

COLIN WIGGINS – HE IS A ‘NATIONAL (GALLERY) TREASURE’

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Trampoline competition London Prepares Series 2012

OLYMPICS LONDON PREPARES SERIES AT 02 ARENA


O2 ARENA,  NORTH GREENWICH, VISA INTERNATIONAL GYMNASTICS

We went to see the Trampoline competition at the O2 Arena last Friday.

I did these three sketches

We had a great difficulty in getting to the O2 Arena, at North Greenwich, as the Jubilee Line was ‘up the spout’ again, due to a signal failure at Stanmore.   The tube trains were few and very delayed, crushed full to bursting.  So we arrived late, and I was disappointed to find that we could not take cameras inside.

The Arena was almost full on one side, nearest the entrance, and no seats near the front. Nevertheless we could see quite well, as the Trampolines were in the centre of the arena, and the athletes were easy to follow, their jumps and twists quite spectacular.

It was very interesting because I have never seen top class gymnasts before and was not aware how spectacular their movements are.  Of course they compete one at a time, and not together as I have drawn them.  First was the men’s competition and then the women’s.

More details can be found at www.british-gymnastics.org

 

Here is a quote from the brochure: ‘At the 2011 Trampoline World Championships in Birmingham the top eight competitors claimed places for their country at London 2012. Those who missed qualifying at this event will battle for the five places up for grabs at this month’s test event. The FIG will aware a final three places at their discretion at a later date.’

LONDON MARATHON 2011 – NEW PAINTING STARTED


I went to see the London Marathon last April on a lovely sunny day.

Standing near the Winston Churchill statue at Westminster, I did some drawings and took photos.

Here are some of the sketches I have collected together to use in my new painting.

SPECTATORS LONDON MARATHON 2011

DRAWING 1 LONDON MARATHON

DRAWING 5 LONDON MARATHON SPECTATORS

DRAWING 5 LONDON MARATHON SPECTATORS

DRAWING 3 LONDON MARATHON SPECTATORS

DRAWING 3 LONDON MARATHON

THE FIRST ACTRESSES – AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY


THE FIRST ACTRESSES, AT NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

 It was good news, I found I had won two tickets for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, plus a copy of the exhibition catalogue.  If something costs nothing, it is even nicer, I find!

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

National Portrait Gallery poster for Late Shift

I love this gallery, and often go in.  To see most of the displays does not require an entrance fee, but donations are welcomed, of course.

 This particular exhibition is small, well of course it is limited by virtue of its title.  There are some brilliant portraits.

 Most of the paintings, prints, ceramics and engravings are of women.  There are themes in each room, for example:

 DIVAS AND DANCERS, which includes a lucious portrait by Gainsborough, entitled Elizabeth Linley (Elizabeth Ann Sheridan)

 I noted in my little book that it is a full-length portrait in a landscape, with loose flicky brush strokes.

 The Gainsborough portraits are the highlights for me, since they display the consumate technique that Gainsborough developed – the actresses’ faces, white and pink, shining, luminous, brilliant against the muted background.  The hands and neck are next in importance, then look at the fluid, sketchy dress and feet, then the greeny brown background.

Gainsborough portrait of Elizabeth Sheridan

 Also in this room are two pastel portraits by John Russell – pastel is not an easy medium – but this artist has demonstrated his mastery.

 WILLIAM HOGARTH

 Also here is a Hogarth oil painting of The Beggar’s Opera, from Birmingham Museum, one of several versions Hogarth produced, in a dramatic and narrative style.

William Hogarth, The Beggar’s Opera,

Throughout the exhibition there is mention that the women actresses were fighting prejudice and were careful to represent themselves as respectable, not being prostitutes (which was originally a profession that went hand in hand with acting).  Several of these well-known actresses married well, into the artistocracy or monied upper class.

 PLAYS AND NOVELS

 Quite a few were successful literary figures, writing plays and novels – not something that I have hear of, in respect of modern actresses.

Some actresses did their memoirs and benefitted from the interest in salacious gossip of their times; there was then, as there is now, the desire to read shocking tales of sex and success which we still find in our media.

 These women were the first in England in particular (not sure about Scotland, Ireland and Wales) who established themselves earning an income from their talents, setting out in a very competitive field, some of course with the support of men but later standing alone and managing to show independence.

 The first acresses emerged with the establishment of the court of Charles II, and at that time women could take female roles which had previously been played by boys and men.

 Later the actresses turned the tables by appearing in male dress, much like our own modern-day principal boys in panto.

 The main artists, Reynolds, Romney, Gainsborough are well represented and there are also excellent works by Zoffany, Hoppner and Lawrence, John Russell (pastels), Lely and Gilray.

MODERN ACTRESSES

 However, in another two galleries there is a display of images of modern actresses, from film, TV and theatre.  Only three of them are paintings.  There are two pencil drawings.  All the other images are photographs.  This is bad news for us painters!

Nell Gwyn by Simon Vereist

Come on,  actresses, support the arts and commission an artist to paint your portrait!  Like your predecessors did.