history

Mondrian in neo-Calvinist view

There’s been a lot of looking back over 100 years, to the just-post World War 1 in this blog – Paul Nash, Russian Revolutionary Art, and although I haven’t written it up yet, I’ve been pondering on 1917 poetry with Wilfred Owen meeting Siegfried Sassoon).

The painter Piet Mondrian, key to development of abstract art – also goes through changes in his artwork around the same time.  Recently, I went to a lecture by Edinburgh University on “Classic Mondrian in Neo-Calvinist View” by Joseph Masheck, art historian.  (If I began describing his titles, publications and positions held, it would take too long – google him).

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Paul Nash – war artist

Appropriately, at this time of remembering the world wars – Armistice Day – the BBC has rereleased an excellent documentary of the war artist Paul Nash, viewable here.  This reminds me of my personal view of a retrospective of his life and work, earlier in the year.

The BBC one hour programme, presented by the great TV art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, provides depth as well as breadth, surveying the artist’s life.

Screen shot 2017-11-12 at 17.25.23Here are summary notes on the BBC programme –

Paul Nash: The Ghosts of War

On 25th May 1917, war artist Paul Nash climbed out of his trench to sketch the battlefields of Flanders near Ypres. So focused was he on his work he tripped and fell back into the trench, breaking his ribs. Stretchered back to England, Nash missed his regiment going over the top at the Battle of Passchendaele. His regiment was wiped out.

Above all Nash painted war-torn landscapes: the mortar-scarred mud of Flanders, festooned with barbed wire and awash with pools of viscous, oily water. He left out the dead and the injured, partly because their wounds were so horrific that he believed it would have been disrespectful to depict their mutilated faces and bodies: instead, he anthropomorphised the landscapes of war, depicted scorched earth and churned up soil with a violence that implied the disfigurement of flesh.

Nash was scarred by the war and the ghosts of those experiences haunted his work throughout his life. A lover of nature, Nash became one of Britain’s most original landscape artists, embracing modern Surrealism and ancient British history, though always tainted by his experiences during two world wars. A private yet charismatic man, he brought British landscape painting into the 20th century with his mixture of the personal and visionary, the beautiful and the shocking. An artist who saw the landscape as not just a world to paint, but a way into his heart and mind.

After the war, Nash turned to Surrealism, an art of enigmatic forms and mysterious, nightmarish juxtapositions which seemed, to many, the perfect reflection of a world gone mad. His lungs had been damaged by mustard gas and his life would be sadly cut short while he was still in middle age. But Nash lived long enough to see the Second World War and become one of its greatest chroniclers in paint. Totes Meer, or Dead Sea, his depiction of a great wave of downed German fighter planes, is one of the most haunting British paintings of the twentieth century. It was also, sadly, one of Nash’s last creations.

 

Earlier in 2017, I visited the large Nash retrospective at Tate Britain and was suitably blown away by the experience.  See previous, substantial blog post on that here.

This exhibition was running at the same time, and overshadowed by, the blockbuster restrospective of the better-known artist, David Hockney.  I’ve had people who visited it saying to me “Did you see the David Hockney show?”  And I tend to reply “Yes – did you see the Paul Nash one?” Because I happen to have books by Hockney and he is well-covered by documentaries and of course, his work still appears in large shows like the RA Summer Exhibition, as he is a living, practising artist.  However, to see so much work by Paul Nash was a more unusual treat.

 

 

Iconic Photo: 1957 Milk drop – Harold Edgerton

An engineer who yet had an eye for a beautiful photo – Harold Edgerton pushed the boundaries of super fast photography, so we could see the motions of liquids and other natural things in beautiful, slow motion.

With today’s extremely fast shutter cameras, we can try and set goals of taking photographs in motion – something which happens faster than the human eye can register – because they are compelling, unusual.  They also help us consider that we live in a wondrous environment which is constantly growing, changing, even in the light falling upon it – all of which is part of slowing down and becoming aware of the now and the beauty of natural physical events.

*Worth Viewing TV: Wimbledon begins!

So the annual tennis fest which is Wimbledon Tournament begins today – in the UK, TV coverage starts at 11.30 am.

But if you’ve got interest in the history of the tournament or fond memories of watching it over the years – then do make space to catch up with a BBC i-player documentary.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08xdgvx/sue-barker-our-wimbledon

This programme aired yesterday, as a runup to the event, and includes footage of and sometimes interviews with former winnners of the matches: Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chrissie Evert, Rod Laver, John “You canNOT be serious!” McEnroe, Pete Sampras, as well as the President of the England Lawn Tennis Association who gets to present the award most years.  Also, the cameras are allowed to go into the Royal Box and other areas normally shut off from TV cameras.

Screen shot 2017-07-02 at 23.12.27.png

We see the triumphs, near misses, failures and a heartening number of people who don’t quite get there but come back and win in following years.  And of course the passion, tension and ecstasy of the fans.  I know I’m one.  Some matches will remain in my memory.Screen shot 2017-07-02 at 23.11.55

 

Iconic Photo 1885: the Hand of Mrs Wilhelm Rontgen

Screen shot 2017-06-29 at 20.25.11.png Dr Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen didn’t just ask his wife for her hand in marriage…. he photographed it as an x-ray.  This is the first medical x-ray photograph.  His work won him the first Nobel Physics prize.

His wife saw it in a more philosophical light:

“I have seen my death”, she said.

From the series Times 100 Photos: the most influential images of all time.

See more at

at http://100photos.time.com/