Dick French: On The Town – November 2017

It used to be said that a night out with John Bellany would google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; take three years off


your life. I’ll find out one day. We were both great friends of /* xin-1 */ Cyril Reason, who was one of our tutors at the RCA, and although Cyril was less extreme than
… although there is a good painting of a fishing boat in the shop window called Intrepid.

In the late //--> ’60s if you were doing anything a bit out of the mainstream people would come up and say: “Hmm. Very interesting but of

course completely invalid.” By ‘validity’ I think they meant conformity to the rules of art as laid down by Clement Greenberg in the ’40s and ’50s… “Integrity of the picture plane”, avoidance of depth or illusion, and regarding the painting as
an object…

Talking of which I don’t suppose you can get more ‘valid’

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than Jasper Johns who is having a big show across the road from Bellany at the RA. He is said to be “interrogating the relationship between language

Velasquez was aware of this portrait as it once belonged to the Spanish court, but I suspect it’s stretching it a bit to suggest it led to his use of the mirror in Las Meninas. One of the google_ad_width = 970; great surprises of this show is a partial copy of Las Meninas by John Phillip from 1862. It’s extremely well painted, especially the maids’ dresses, but surely it represents an approach the Pre-Raffs were trying to escape.

Also at the National is a show of pastels by Degas, ‘Drawn in Colour’. Well worth seeing, especially the women bathing. There are three of these, quite large for pastels. In one a woman bends over in a shallow blue tub, the blue of the tub reflected on her flank, and all against a red background. The pastel is laid on in broad parallel streaks in several built-up layers.

There are dancers, horsemen and café scenes mostly from the Burrell in Glasgow. Next door to Degas is a gallery devoted to small landscapes

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painted mostly on the spot. Outstanding is Sunset in the Auvergne by Theodore Rousseau showing a distant view of the Puy de Dôme. It’s only about nine
inches by seven. Don’t miss it.

In the central hall you can see a show of paintings

by Luca Giordano or Fa Presto as he was popularly known – the fast google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; one. These are preparatory paintings for his decoration of the Galeria and Library of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence. The whole project took him only a year, 1682-83. I was particularly taken by the Allegory of Temperance. Maybe his tongue was in his cheek. There’s a /* xin2 */ very large Giordano further on in the National. It’s Perseus turning enemies to stone, very dramatic and well worth looking at. I suppose
you could call Giordano a very late mannerist.

At the Tate in ’64 they had a retrospective of Marcel Duchamp. Everyone took it

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very seriously, including me. I spent a long time pondering the significance of The Large Glass which I think was a replica made by Richard Hamilton. I thought it must be the repository of some arcane wisdom – serious and precocious that was me. A long time afterwards I realised that it was a joke, a very good joke which continues to


amuse people to this day. Not many jokes can be funny for a hundred years. You’ve got to hand it to him. google_ad_width = 970; How about this … “The Bride google_ad_height = 90; fundamentally is a petrol can of love (or power-timidity). This timid potency, distributed to the motor with weak cylinders in contact with the sparks of his constant life (magneto desire) explodes google_ad_height = 90; and expands google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; to the virgin who has arrived at the end of her desire.”

I almost forgot, it includes a “gravity regulator”.

Following a disappointing visit to The Chequers, the wonderful Spanish barmaid having moved on, I crossed over to the RA to see the Duchamp/Dali exhibition. Duchamp was quite a good cubist. He added some dynamism whereas Dali’s attempts at the same style were dreary, but it wasn’t long before the Spaniard developed his trademark illusionistic technique which curator Dawn Ades considers exquisite. I would call it “hobbyist”.

All the familiar stuff is here, the bottle rack, stool/bicycle wheel, and that bloody urinal.

dysentery. How refreshing for a while to gaze on the Burghers of Calais as src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> I stroll along the river towards the Tate.

Entering the Duveen Galleries I saw that the Queen of One-Trick Ponies is back in town. Her absence has not done much to furnish the space between her ears. I felt a great surge of pity for the poor woman as I surveyed the ranks of castings displayed along the floor (they are supposed to be the casts of the space underneath chairs).

On to Haydon’s Punch and Judy where I can happily spend ten or fifteen minutes. And then a wander promiscuously through various galleries. I was in the /* 9-970x90 */ mood for Samuel Palmer and after a few minutes with him I stepped through the arch to the unexpected pleasure of the work of Ray Harryhausen and some of the artists who inspired him such as John Martin and Gandy. Harryhausen was the maker of vintage Horror films such as The Beast google_ad_height = 90; from 20,000 Fathoms and Jason and the Argonauts. He specialised in stop-motion animation and many of the models he made to work from are on display. A single scene

could take four months to
produce. He bought Gandy’s extraordinary painting Jupiter Pluvius but the Martins were beyond his pocket. Displayed are many of his drawings related to his film scenes. They are certainly better than Dali’s drawings.

Wandering again I found a beautiful Pastoral by Cayley Robinson (above). I remember it being in an antechamber when the National was showing Acts of Mercy about ten years ago. Tonally, it’s remarkable, the simplified shoreline reminiscent of Munch. The fleece of the

sheep google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; is picked out by the golden moonlight which slices vertically

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across the lake. This is the sort of picture that would be extremely popular as a poster, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Apart from that Scotch bloke

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I don’t think we have any popular art. And so on to the scandalous Duchess of Argyll, a woman I’ve

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always admired. Gerald Brockhurst’s portrait of
her is rather good although he hasn’t quite managed to suggest her lascivious nature. Goya google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; would have managed it somehow. Apparently the famous “headless man” was Douglas Fairbanks junior. As the picture was probably a
piece it wouldn’t have been appropriate to be too revealing of her predilections.

News from the grotto. The Sage has been giving much thought to the North Korean situation. He thinks that


North Korea is China’s  opening move.

Dick French
The Jackdaw Nov/Dec 2017