Posts Tagged ‘Norman Lindsay

04
Nov
12

Day 309: Adventure, by Norman Lindsay

Norman Lindsay Adventure

Day 309: Adventure, by Norman Lindsay

Adventure (1944) by Norman Lindsay (1879-1969) is remarkable inasmuch as it is one of the very few works to feature a male nude. Leaning over from a rearing horse towards a naked female with golden tresses, he is a phallic vortex around which the movement within the picture is created. Lindsay balanced our hero’s nudity against the prominent female nudes, for which the artist is better known. They display his aesthetic preference for ‘well-endowed’ and thick-thigh maidens that are at odds with the prevalent waif-like ideal of his era. When a model complained about her appearance in one of his sketches that was clearly at odds with her own bodily proportions, the artist is believed to have quipped: “You’ll grow into them, my dear.”

Lindsay first and foremost was a graphic and watercolour artist, and perhaps among the best practitioners of the medium to come out of Australia. Painting in oils only came to him much later in life, and by his own admission he did not believe he was as proficient in oils as he was in his preferred mediums on watercolour or ink. He expressed his own insecurities by releasing only a small portion of his oil paintings onto the market, bequeathing the remainder to family and friends, and leaving a number of large-scale canvasses to the University of Melbourne.

However, to us his handling of pigments and management of the complex yet balanced colour palette appear superb; and the total irreverence with which he mixes styles and fashions of various eras is rather admirable. In this painting alone, the classical nudity of the chivalrous hero and the maidens in the foreground sits at ease with Baroque, Victorian, and Edwardian dresses worn by the surrounding fully-clothed ladies.

Norman Lindsay’s Adventure features at Bonham’s forthcoming 53-lot auction of Important Australian Art, which takes place in Sydney on 19 November 2012, and also includes works by Donald Friend, John Perceval, Frederick McCubbin, Rupert Bunny, John Peter Russell, and numerous others.

http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20407/

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

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26
Jun
12

Controversy @ Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Max Dupain Doom of YouthTuesday, 26 June 2012

Controversy @ Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Controversy: The Power of Art at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery unites over a hundred works that reflect, inspire, or engage in a public debate and / or a controversial issue. The breadth and variety of works on display is quite astounding, and includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photography, installation, multimedia, and even fashion. Although by its very nature and the fact that most of the works come from Australian public and private collections, the exhibition is heavily weighted towards contemporary Australian art, it does encompass art from the sixteenth century to the present day, and includes works by Hans Baldung, Francisco Goya, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, William Dobell, Ron Robertson-Swann, Steve Cox, Kristin Headlam, Tom Alberts, Brook Andrew, Huan Zhang, Juan Davila, Patricia Piccinini, Damian Hirst, and many, many others.

Norman Lindsay Pollice VersoAmong the works that drew my attention was an unusual photograph by Max Dupain, Doom of Youth (1937) featuring a male nude. While nude males are quite rare in Dupain’s photographs, they are usually engaged in a sporting feat. This image features a crucified beefcake, a very prescient image for 1937. Next to it is a rarely seen Norman Lindsay’s Pollice Verso (1907), a pen drawing of extraordinary dexterity. It shows a group of Greek and Roman deities turning their thumbs down at a scene of Crucifixion. The drawing laconically illustrates Norman Lindsay’s criticism of the restrictions imposed by the Church and State on cultural and intellectual freedom. The section devoted to female nudes include another Norman Lindsay; the monumental La Cigale by Jules Lefebvre; Bertram MacKennal’s Circe; and a full-length studio nude by Freda Robertshaw, which I never knew was a self-portrait, a quite astounding and liberating act for the era.

Angela Ellsworth’s Seer BonnetThere is a startling and revealing photographic double-portrait of topless Mike Parr and his wife – his with amputated arm; hers with drastic mastectomy. Lisa Roet is represented with one of the most touching and original works I had seen by this artist, Mother and Child, that combines her characteristic sculpture of a baby chimp resting in palms of its mother’s hands, situated against a stained glass window decorated with chimps and traditional religious motives, inveighing onto the Creation versus Evolution debate.

The recent controversy over childhood nudity in art is addressed through works by Sandy Edwards, Polixeni Papapetrou, Peter Kingston, and the most effervescent and joyous painting by Amie Swynterton, and obscure but most fitting find for this exhibition. Trans / sexuality is examined through the works by Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe; the inclusion of Barry Humphries’ alter ego, Dame Edna Everage, complete with a full-size gladioli gown, is most fitting within the context of this exhibition.

Anne Zahalka Girls II Cronula BeachHauntingly evocative Angela Ellsworth’s Seer Bonnet, which is decorated with pearls on the outside and pins on the inside is a embodiment of the oppression faced by women not only within the Mormon community, which it directly addresses, but, to me, is also illustrative of women’s oppression throughout history. The though-provoking photograph by Anne Zahalka, The Girls II, Cronula Beach makes one rethink the changing face of Australia’s beach culture. It is interesting to juxtapose it with Emma Phillips’s most striking photograph of Pauline Hanson, imagined as a 1950s house wife, an Australian Marianne, a national icon, a tough country woman, hand-washing a load of Australian flags…

Ex de MediciLast but not least I was arrested by a most detailed drawing from the talented pen of ex de Medici, the details of which become apparent once the eye sight becomes accustomed to the intricacies of her design. The work represents the intertwined Swastika and the Star of David, bringing forth multifarious, uncomfortable, problematic, and emotionally conflicting connotations.

The strength of the exhibition lies in the fact that the curator, Vivien Gaston, did not go down an easy route and populate the gallery with images of pornography or gratuitous violence, but rather with works that much more strongly reflect the subtitle of the exhibition: THE POWER OF ART. The sheer breadth and variety of works on display show an almost omniscient approach, which bears evidence of Gaston’s long-standing interest in the subject, breadth of knowledge, and painstaking research. Despite the wide heterogeneity of works on display, the exhibition keeps the momentum going, for each image is a revelation that evokes a memory of the associated event and / or provokes a fresh reaction from the viewer. As the result, Controversy: The Power of Art is erudite, visually challenging, memorable, and thought-provoking.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

Emma Phillips Pauline Hanson

06
Mar
11

The Ewing Collection

Rupert Bunny New Step 1908Friday, 4 March 2011

The Ewing Collection, University of Melbourne

One of the pleasures of visiting the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art is the high likelihood of seeing highlights from their permanent collection, which includes works of Australian art from the late 18th Century to the present day (this, of course, not taking into account their International collection, that has artefacts dating back to the Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome). The Museum currently has on display works from the Collection of Dr Samuel Arthur Ewing, which includes paintings, watercolours and drawings by Australian artists from the 1860s to the 1940s.

E Philips Fox - Rocks and SeaThe first room focuses on paintings from the collection, and includes a romantic landscape of Mount Buffalo by Nicholas Chevalier (1862); an iridescent twilight scene by J.F. Paterson, Evening at Croydon (c.1890); clear and fresh Sir Hans Heysen of River Flats (1930); a panoramic Sir Arthur Streeton of Cremorne (1907) and the iconic St Mark’s of Venice (1908), remarkable for its dappled sunlight effects. There is a beautifully intimate Rupert Bunny, The New Step (1908), of two ladies in diaphanous white dressing gowns within a pinkish interior; most “impressionistic” E. Phillips Fox of Rocks and Sea (1911), almost Monet-like in its appearance; and a shimmering Fred McCubbin’s Frosty Morning of the Como House environs (1910), which I am certain was exhibited in the artist’s recent retrospective at the Bendigo Fine Art Gallery.

Norman Lindsay Dr DeathThe second room features an abundance of drawings and watercolours, including most unique fan designs by Sir Arthur Streeton, very much in the Art Nouveau taste; numerous classic red and brown gum tree landscapes by Sir Hans Heysen; a beautiful selection of predominantly nocturnal works by Blamire Young; a selection of works by the talented J.J. Hilder, who died at the age of 35, with so much regrettably unfulfilled promise; a few excellent sketches by Charles Conder; a delicate landscape by Penleigh Boyd; and a number of watercolours by Norman Lindsay, including a most unusual black and white illustration, Dr. Death, refreshingly devoid of his signature voluptuous ladies.

John Longstaff Dr Samuel EwingA portrait of Dr Ewing by John Longstaff greets the visitor to this exhibition, a sober composition in a sparse and sombre colour palette, enlivened only by the gleaming white scarf of the sitter. The wall text explains that Dr Ewing was a University of Melbourne graduate, who donated his collection to the University in 1938, with a touching sentiment that ‘our youth may be inspired with the beauty as well as a deeper love of their country by the works of our artists’. One may only wonder what the future generations would make of Australia based on the museum’s contemporary art collections in a fifty or a hundred years’ time…

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

22
Mar
10

Review of Portraits @ Menzies March 2010 Auction

Lot 26 - Brett Whiteley - John SingletonSunday, 21 March 2010

Dear Diary,

Given my interest in portraiture, I became more aware of portraits that appear in Australian auction rooms. Internationally, portraits by Old, Modern, and Contemporary masters at auctions form a very distinct group, and those by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Reynolds, Lawrence, Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani, van Gogh, Klimt (and my very own Winterhalter) have broken auction records and / or brought significant results.

The situation is dramatically different in Australia, where portraits at auctions are few and far between. This can be attributed in part to the fact, that the majority of portraits that appear in Australian auction rooms (but not all!!!) fail to progress from being a mere likeness of a person to that of a transcendent and sophisticated work of art of universal appeal. The former rarely make it to the market and largely continue lingering in artists’ studios or the homes of their sitters unless they are donated to public institutions or appear at lower-end art clearance sales. The latter however make their distinguished appearance at the upper end of the auction market, bringing good sales results, with some inspired bidding from both institutional and private collectors.

Lot 34 - Rupert Bunny - Portrait of Jeanne(Deutscher-)Menzies auction in December 2009 featured a number of interesting portraits. They had, for example, a striking in its originality portrait of John Singleton by Brett Whiteley (sold $55,000 hammer); a beautifully intimate portrait by Rupert Bunny of his wife, Jeanne (sold $396,000 hammer); a mask-like portrait of an African prince, Kininga Wunca, by Donald Friend (unsold); and William Dobell’s preparatory drawing for his celebrated portrait of Helena Rubenstein (sold $1,600 hammer).

The auction also had two remarkable self-portraits – a dark and brooding “Self-Portrait in a Country Town” by Rick Amor (unsold), and a rather irreverent in its larrikinism “Self Portrait (The Afternoon Walk, Dunmoochin)” by John Olsen (sold $70,000 hammer).

The portraits by Whiteley and Bunny, and the self-portrait by Olsen illustrate the point. All three are big-name artists; all three have produced portraits, which are very much in the style and manner these artists are famous and admired for; these works have brought accordingly good results. Admittedly, the paintings of female nudes by Whiteley and Bunny on a similar scale (or of frogs and giraffes by Olsen) would have brought more significant sums, but the universal appeal of these works speaks for itself and is reflected in their art market prices.

Lot 43 - Rick Amor - Self-PortraitHelena Rubenstein by William Dobell is a celebrated portrait in the annals of Australian art, so it is not surprising that it has found a buyer (not to mention at a very modest price). On the other hand, Donald Friend is perhaps more known for his watercolours of nude South-East Asian youths (and later still lifes which are also popular on the market). Hence a rather heavy, mask-like portrait failed to find a buyer.

Sadly, the same can be said of Rick Amor’s work. I deeply admire his self-portraits, which encapsulate the inner, psychological darkness that is so prevalent in his landscapes. However, it appears that the art buying public is able to take more easily to his landscapes, the physiological loading of which can be read ambiguously (or perhaps completely ignored by a certain cross-section of buyers). Not so with the self-portraits, which are more often than not direct, confronting, and uncompromising. It is sad – though not surprising – that this portrait did not find a buyer on the auction night.

Lot 142 - Artist Unknown - Portrait of a GirlI do acknowledge that the line-up of artworks is largely dependent on what an auction house is able to consign from its vendors, so chasing an impressive selection of portraits (or indeed any such “curatorial” agenda) would be far from the auctioneers’ mind – unless they strike a golden vein and develop the market and / or collectors’ following in this genre.

Therefore, I am saying the following as an observation rather than a recrimination or criticism – the representation of portraits in Menzies’ forthcoming auction is much thinner on the ground as compared to the previous auction of December 2009. In fact, it is limited to a charmingly naïve watercolour portrait of a girl by an unknown 19th-Century Australian artist (lot 142; est. $900-1,200). While the childish cherubic face is wonderfully, even sweetly resolved, the head is bizarrely out the proportion with the rest of the body. There is a beautiful lively glint in the girl’s eyes, but it does little to compensate for the inadequacy in the drawing of the rest of the figure.

Lot 35 - Norman Lindsay - Portrait of Rita(An argument can be raised that Norman Lindsay’s portrait of Rita (lot 35, est. $40,000-50,000), and Richard Larter’s innumerable depictions of his wife (for example, lot 110, est. $10,000-15,000) can be also treated and examined as portraits. However, the relationship between the artist and the model is quite different to that of the artist and the sitter. While the artists capture the general appearance, pose, and attitude of the models, their personalities and identities are more often than not sublimated (or even indeed sacrificed) in favour of the artists’ aesthetic approach and visual codification.)

[© Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]




Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

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