WAHG Newsletter June 2017
Edited by Chris Humphreys
Welcome to this edition of the Newsletter. We have reviews of various exhibitions, Hockney, Rex Whistler, and America After the Fall. We have an essay which introduces philosophical ideas on Art and Beth Taylor provides us with a review of two books on art, one fact, one fiction and comments on two local exhibitons (Salisbury and Southampton) worth seeing. We have Three Works of Art and Me in which a notable Russophile (in terms of that Nation’s art) explains her choices, and we have a review on a book whose author is connected to the WAHG. All in all, a ‘bumper’ edition, the use of which adjective takes me back to the long awaited Christmas annuals I used to receive as a child.
At the AGM, you’ll be aware, if you attended, that I reminded members that this is your Newsletter and therefore I am always willing to publish anything that you might want to contribute, be it short, long or in true Goldilocks fashion, just middlin’. My email address is email@example.com so if you have anything, (can be your version of Three Works of Art and Me, a suggestion for the WAHG Virtual Gallery, a review, essay etc.), please do not hesitate to get in touch. Editorial advice and help is willingly at hand in terms of production of pieces so please feel free to submit your contribution.
- Review of the David Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain by Chris Humphreys
- Can Art Heal – Beth Taylor reviews two books and recommends two local exhibitions
- Review of the Rex Whistler exhibition at Mottisfont by Chris Humphreys
- Review of America After the Fall – Painting in the 1930s at the RA by Chris Humphreys
- Three works of Art and Me by Daphne Winning
- Review of How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards by Chris Humphreys
- Philosophy of Art: an essay by Rodger Hake
- WAHG’s Virtual Gallery
- Postscript – On Manchester
David Hockney (Exhibition ended on 29 May 2017 at The Tate Britain)
‘In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.’ T.S.Eliot’s couplet in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ seems to sum up for me in its sing-song rhythm the banality of how we sometimes experience culture and high art. Visiting exhibitions can be testing, one’s mood might not be right, the way the exhibition is structured could be faulty, too many people, or too many exhibits.
But joy can be found. Whether it be in an individual piece of work or an overall sense of satisfaction in having one’s senses and mind stimulated by the totality of the experience.
This was one exhibition I enjoyed. And what did I enjoy the most? Hockney’s use of light and colour. A simple enough pleasure but one that conveyed me through the various rooms where I alighted at various canvasses to soak myself in the reflective glow and hues of a tree-lined avenue in Spring, a Californian backdrop by a blue pool, or an Ipad sketch of a vase of flowers.
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures) 1972 acrylic on canvas
The above painting is one that the catalogue takes time to explore the technique of how Hockney uses various gradations of ‘washes’ to depict the pool and the fading mountains in the distance. I was captivated by the play of light as it touches the soles of the feet of the swimmer and the way he uses a pointillist technique in painting varied flecks of colour in one of the hillsides. Shadows, light, colour combinations and contrasts, they all add a playfulness and vivacity to the work. Which, funnily enough contrasts with the static nature of the human figures.
Hockney’s portraits in this exhibition involve his parents, friends he knew or associated with, and yet they seem to show people locked into a world in which they seem to be slightly at odds, or even more, uncomfortable in. This is not true of the totality of portraits which he painted but it is a characteristic of some of the larger portraits chosen for the exhibition. Here are two of them.
Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy My Parents 1977 oil on canvas
1968 acyrilic on canvas
In the painting on the left there is some animation in the figure of Don (white shirt) as he turns to look at Isherwood who seems fixed in a rigid pose, ramrod straight (a characteristic of quite a few figures in Hockney’s paintings, and reminiscent of the figures in Magritte’s works) and this rigidness is exacerbated by the symmetry of the chairs’ positioning, and the still life in the foreground of the painting in which the books and the bowl of fruit delineate symptoms of an obsessive compulsive personality disorder in their positioning and the space between them.
The portrait of Hockney’s parents shows his mother sitting upright as if facing a difficult interview, whilst his father is absorbed in reading and seemingly oblivious to the needs of the artist. However given that this painting is set in a studio, (no one from Hockney’s parents’ generation would be sitting in such chairs if in their home) then one can only surmise that the positioning is part of the artist’s plan.
But, and it’s important to note, you can enjoy these two pictures, simply for their use of colour, the muted pastels and harmonisation of hues in the Isherwood canvas and the exuberant blues and greens in the other.
In his most well-know painting; the portrait of Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clarke with Percy the white cat; what would seem to be a homage to their life-style and taste, turns into something else. Look carefully at their facial expressions and posture, there is a sense of angst and again a rigidity to their poses. Perhaps, using a literary term, there’s a Brechtian sense of alienation being explored by the artist? Or indeed a personal and intuitive response to the relationships he is painting in these double portraits. You could argue that the series of pool paintings in which Hockey often depicts his male lovers; while being explorations of light and colour; show a detachment, an isolation of the male body, and a fragmentation of the image as seen through water, which seems to convey a dispassionate objectivity.
But perhaps, along with a certain humour, this is Hockney’s subversive self; after all his early paintings reveal a desire to poke his tongue at the art establishment and throughout his career there is a characteristic challenge to the the viewer’s conceptions of what art is and does in his various paintings, photo-montages, Ipad sketches.
The idea of fragmentation can be seen in the exhibits where Hockney uses a series of photographs to form a collage. Portraits, interiors and landscapes are all exampled in using this form. Take this example:-
But oddly enough, there is in these fragmented photographic collages, an intimacy with the subject(s), whether it is a landscape or a collective portrait as shown above, the isolating nature of a single image is shattered by the plethora of viewpoints and opportunities for the viewer to engage with the muti-angled aspects of the images and the people portrayed. And I would lack objectivity if I did not accept that there are examples enough, both in the exhibition and in his work, of portraits which show a straightforward, conventional form of portaiture which, indeed, show a more direct intimacy and warmth in his portrayals.
Given the size and scope of the exhibition this article is but a snapshot (forgive the metaphor and pun) of what is available. There were exquisite charcoal drawings of landscapes that for me would justify the entrance fee alone. He is a chameleon perhaps, a master of different media, but above all a brilliant artist, creative, challenging, engaging and absorbing.
Can Art Heal? By Beth Taylor
Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong* discusses art works and how they evoke a range of feelings in their viewers. The writers argue that because of this effect, art could be used to help us deal with some big issues, including political questions. Art, they argue, could be used to improve our understanding of and commitment to love, to learn to look for beauty in nature, to work for a more enlightened form of capitalism, and to think about how art could be used to change the world. Interesting and very well illustrated, definitely worth reading, if only to raise your spirits in the difficult times we are in.
A second book that looks at the healing power of art is Sara Baume’s A Line Made by Walking.* In this, the central character retreats to her late grandmother’s home to recover from a breakdown. She is an artist who has been working in a gallery and has yet to find the way of making art that might advance her career. Her grandmother’s death has had a major impact and she has chosen to stay alone in her house, seeking a way to heal herself. She tries to keep herself grounded by recalling and describing important works of late 20th century art – like Richard Long’s A Line Made By Walking. (So if you want a guide to important works of this period, they are discussed and listed in this text.) She also works at her grief by photographing dead animals. Yes, you do descend to the depths of depression with her, but it is her art making and her recalling of significant art works that help her to heal and make her re-entry into the world.
So art can be therapeutic and a good exhibition especially so! I recently visited the exhibition showing in the gallery at Salisbury Museum*. This shows the response of artists to archaeological sites from the 1700s, the early 19th century – when Constable and Turner were painting Stonehenge – the 1930s – think Nash, Ravilious, Piper, Moore and Hepworth, and the 1970s when Land art made this theme important. There are some wonderful exhibits in the exhibition, and I took especial joy in being able to get up close to Henry Moore’s lithographs of Stonehenge. Nothing like antiquity to put the present world into perspective, so my spirits were lifted and I am sure yours would be too.
On a similar theme, in terms of our historic past, look out too for the exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery* on artists’ depictions of castles – again worth viewing.
Part of the pleasure of my visit to Salisbury Museum was being taken round by Professor Sam Smiles who had curated the show. I am delighted that Professor Smiles has agreed to give a talk to us on Turner to coincide with the exhibition at the Discovery Centre. This talk will be on Monday September 4th and an application form is included with the mail out of the September to December programme. We hope to have a good audience for this.
*Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong is published by Phaidon, the hardback issue is listed at £24.95, but check other issuers and retail booksellers.
*A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume (Fiction) published by William Heinemann (Penguin) published 15 February 2017 at £12.99 but check other issuers and retail booksellers.
* ‘British Art: Ancient Landscapes’ at the Salisbury Museum – ends on 3 September 2017 more details available on their website.
* ‘Capture the Castle’ at Southampton City Gallery – ends 2 September 2017 more details available on their website.
Rex Whistler at Mottisfont ended 23 April 2017
Excuse the digression, but the word ‘trumpery’ has been in my mind of late. I’ll leave you to guess why. It has a relationship to the Old French word ‘tromper’ meaning to deceive, and the root word occurs in the art expression ‘trompe-l’eoil’. My visit to Mottisfont, encouraged by the positive reports of some WAHG members who had already visited, resulted in seeing an example of trompe-l’eoil art by Whistler in Maud Russel’s drawing room. But it also introduced me to an exhibition of Whistler’s art.
There’s a certain irony in that the day before I visited Mottisfont I had been dining in the restaurant at Tate Britain surrounded by Whistler’s mural but oblivious to its creator as I tucked into my meal. In my defence I had just been to the Hockney exhibition and the visit to Mottisfont was only decided on the following morning.
It occurred to me, as I looked at Whistler’s juvenalia and later work hanging in the exhibition and then his later murals (admittedly via a dvd documentary being shown in the exhibition), that part of his charm lies in that strange mixture of the whimsical and the serious. I was reminded of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, which has in it a chapter ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ in which the jovial barbarity of Toad and the steadfast Edwardian and overtly masculine virtues of Ratty, Mole and Badger (apart from the Washer-woman and the tender-hearted jailer’s daughter there is little evidence of a feminine world in the book) is supplanted, briefly, by the profundity of a religious experience. Admittedly Grahame and Whistler were a generation apart but in this part of Whistler’s mural, (shown below),
Part of Whistler’s Claudian Fantasy at Plas Newydd
where he depicts a worker brushing the stone flags suddenly stopping to gaze at the viewer there is a wistfulness, a feeling of pathos, that undercuts the playfulness inherent in the artificiality of the work.
Presumably, Whistler’s individual sense of the zeitgeist was sharpened by the period in which he lived, the horrors and aftermath of the Great War followed by the era of the ‘bright young things’. Perhaps too, by the strictures of class, his own position within the class he mixed with, and his sensibility as an artist. Perhaps also by his desires. And given his ability as a decorative artist, his clear and evident playfulness, combined with an evident talent in draughtmanship, there must have been an awareness, a sense of division, a dichotomy between the nature and purpose of his art that mirrored the many divisions that existed in the world in which he lived.
Detail from Edith Oliver 1939 (friend and confidante of Rex Whistler)
There’s a poignancy in the manner of his death; he was killed serving in a tank engagement in Normandy, in July 1944 in his first battle. He was 39.
(Mottisfont is a lovely place to visit and the gallery will be showing posters from the Shell Collection from the 6 May to 2 July. For those interested in textiles there is from the 16 September this year until 14 January 2018 an exhibition of Kaffe Fasett’s textile works. Another master of colour in my opinion!)
America After the Fall – Painting in the 1930s at the RA (exhibition ended on the 4 June 2017)
The poster advertising this exhibition used Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’ as enticement; given its world-wide popularity, a wise choice. It was a small exhibition, three rooms only, fifty paintings in total. Essentially the exhibition tried to encapsulate the various aspects of; social history, art movements, and significant examples of the work of American artists, alongside emigre artists escaping the turmoil of Europe in the period. I’m not sure if this approach worked and I can’t make up my mind whether this was due to my unfamiliarity with quite a few of the artists involved or whether in fact the quality of the art was not always that good.
W.H.Auden described the thirties as a ‘low dishonest decade’ in one of his poems and the sense of disillusionment, financial breakdown and the destabilisation caused, coupled with the corrupting growth of totalitarian regimes, resonated in my mind during my time at the exhibition. America’s ‘fall’ was of course the Wall Street Crash and it’s aftermath. The recent seminar on American landscapes and the idea of ‘manifold destiny’ that developed in the 19th century, a myth which clearly was blown away by the ‘dust bowl’ of the thirties, and which for the African-American population had no hold in any case, also had its impact on me.
Grant Wood American Gothic 1930 Oil on wood
Grant Wood’s intentions in terms of this painting were not unpatriotic, indeed some of his landscapes in the exhibition seem to convey an ideal pastoral image of America, which is ironic given the ravages to the landscape taking place in the dust bowl area, but taking Julian Barnes’ advice to ‘Trust the art, not the artist’, to my mind the sense of apprehension and isolation in the expressions of the people in the portrait (the pitchfork seems to be both a form of defence and a barrier) seems to be a harbinger of what was to come in America’s destiny. It was, after all, only a year on from the financial crash.
Coupled with Wood’s painting Daughters of Revolution, which he did admit was satirical in intention, the impact is one that seems to suggest a further disillusionment. The painting depicted in the background is a recreation of ‘Washington crossing the Delaware’, in itself a celebration of the heady days of the birth of a nation. The ‘daughters’, the subjects of Wood’s satire, are portrayed as citizens upright in defence of their heritage and ancestry and the overall effect, i.e. the juxtaposition of the teacup-wielding heroines with their slightly masculine and smug, unwelcoming features with the heroism of a former age suggests the values of patriotism and identity are being directly challenged.
Grant Wood Daughters of Revolution 1932 oil on masonite
It was salutary to remind myself that one of my favourite American artists does not embody an overall vision of that place. Hopper’s world is thinly populated, even in the cities, but other artists in this exhibition remind us of the crowded flesh-pots of the cities where people carouse and flirt, or labour on building projects, and in the rural areas and the cotton fields where labourers toil and snatch a drink ladled out to them.
Paul Cadmus The Fleet’s in! 1934 oil on canvas
This painting struck me, not necessarily for its artistic quality, but for its comic brio, (the catalogue itself makes the comparison with Jan Steen’s paintings of the riotous behaviour of ordinary Dutch citizens). It attracted the attention of the then Assistant Secretary of the Navy for its focus on the sexual mores of sailors ashore, something which the artist commented on as being a restrained version of what he witnessed, ‘I used to live out there and if I had painted what I really saw, they would have hung me instead of the canvas’. The element of homosexuality was at the time ignored or not commented on but it’s clear enough in the painting. There’s an element in this painting, the swaying almost rhythmical counterpoising of the human figures, which reminds me of the bustling, crowded nature of Hollywood dance musicals of the time.
And finally, the art of the period did not ignore the lives of African Americans. As a part of society they suffered more than most in terms of mass unemployment and their minority status encouraged persecution. This is the era of lynchings and the Klu Klux Klan. There are several paintings in the exhibition where their lives are depicted, whether as labourers in the field, or city dwellers preparing for a night out on the town. Joe Jones was from Missouri, a contemporary of Thomas Hart Benton, self-taught as an artist, who in his early life depicted how brutal life for the African American could be, none more so than in this painting.
Joe Jones American Justice 1933 oil on canvas
Jones himself drew a parallel between the artistic representation of the crucifixion, a person killed by a mob, and the many lynchings that were carried out at the time of painting this picture. In this case elements of the ‘pieta’ are present but the sole mourning figure is the dog, snout pointed at the noose above it, while the ‘Klan’ members witness their own brutality and destruction.
Three works of Art and Me by Daphne Winning
The three works of art chosen all happen to have permanent homes in Russia although only one was painted by a Russian artist.
Our Lady of Vladimir 1100-1130’s Constantinople Tempera on wood 104 x 69cm The Church Museum of St Nicholas in Tolmachi – an annexe of The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
I am embarrassed to recall that when I first had the opportunity of seeing this painting in 2009 at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg I hurried past, dismissing it, and the vast array of other icons on display, as a low form of art. My viewpoint was changed subsequently by such speakers as Jane Angelini (The Glories of Bysantium WAHG Seminar 2014) and a memorable visit to a local icon painter in Easton, courtesy of the WAHG ‘Meet the Maker’ series. It is a favourite now, partly because of its huge significance in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church and partly because it feels so quintessentially Russian in style. Although painted by a Byzantine artist, it was wholeheartedly adopted by the early Russian state and became the ‘blueprint’ for all subsequent Russian iconography.Last year I had the opportunity to see the original in the Church- museum of St Nicholas in Tolmachi. I was not disappointed. To me the icon speaks of love and tenderness with an intense spirituality which feels very Russian. Gazing at the icon I feel drawn into a mood of quiet contemplation, which is exactly what the painter intended.
The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks Ilya Repin 1880-1891 Oil on canvas 203 x 358 c The Russian Museum St Petersburg
My second painting presents a sharp contrast from the Vladimir Icon (although there is a religious element to the back story). The subject is rooted in Russian folklore. The Cossacks are seen composing a response to a letter from Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire in which he issues an ultimatum, demanding the immediate surrender of the Cossacks following their defeat of his troops in a recent battle. The Sultan’s letter, a master-class in pomposity, waxes lyrical on his religious credentials and prestige. In contrast, the Cossacks’ colourful reply is vulgar and insolent and leaves one in no doubt that the Christian Cossacks would not be subjugate to an Ottoman Muslim. I find myself irresistibly drawn into the roguish merriment of the motley band of Cossacks. This is a large, colourful work and through the varied facial expressions, attitudes and dress of the Cossacks, Repin has captured their mood of rough ribaldry. Do look up the correspondence and you’ll see why they are having so much fun!
The Dance Henri Matisse 1910 Oil on canvas 260 x 391 cms The Hermitage Museum St Petersburg
Matisse is one of my favourite artists. I love his use of vibrant colours and the deceptive simplicity of his compositions. I first saw the painting in an art book many years ago but pictures in an art book don’t do justice to this massive canvas. I have now seen the original twice. First in its permanent home in the Hermitage Museum and then in December last year at the special exhibition, ‘Icons of Modern Art’ at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. The Dance was commissioned by Sergei Shchukin, a wealthy Russian industrialist and a great admirer of Matisse, for his palace in Moscow. What I like about this painting, apart from the strong earth colours, is the sense of rhythm and gay abandon in the naked dancers. The circular nature of the dance conjures up ideas of a ritualistic act and can be seen to symbolise fundamental ideas about human life on earth. It stirs up memories of my childhood when I used to join in Maypole dancing, albeit nudity is not part of the Maypole dance tradition in England, thankfully !
Review of How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards* – published by Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc March 2017 (further details including a public talk and book signing on the 11 July in the UK, can be seen at the Bloomsbury website (www.bloomsbury.com).
Lydia Edwards’ book is subtitled ‘A guide to Changing Fashions from the 16th to the 20th Century’ and a very well-produced book it is.
Chapters are dictated by the periods of change in fashions, and each section contains an introductory essay which comments on socio-historic aspects, with due reference to source materials, and provides key points about aspects of dress and shifts in fashion. That’s followed in each chapter by a series of pictorial analyses of illustrated dresses with annotations, using art works, historical illustrations and contemporary photographs.
It is written in a clear, communicative non-academic style, for which, this male reader, is grateful, in that I now have a working knowledge of the purpose of the ‘bustle’, ‘farthingale’ and the ‘mantua’ which I did not have before. I don’t see this as a trivial thing, the aspect of dress and what it communicates is important in historical, sociological and cultural terms and our understanding of art can only be improved and expanded by it.
As Lydia writes in her Introduction, ‘The study of dress is an invaluable methodology when attempting to understand and deconstruct the past…it can shed light on gender relations and the ways in which society perceived women but also, crucially, the way women perceived themselves and presented their bodies to the world.’ She carries on to comment on that it’s also vital to understand ‘the development of dress and the changing ways that women used fashion to express, to conceal, to rebel, to protest, and to forge identity within – for the most part – a fiercely patriarchal world.’
Renior – La Promenade 1870 David (or his circle) – Portrait of a young
woman in white c1798
Two of the illustrations used in the book depict fashions used in the periods 1790-1837 and 1870-1889; David’s portrait shows the use of the early empire-line style and Renoir’s picture illustrates how a gradual focus on the back of the skirt was emphasised by the changing shape of the crinoline.
My favourite period must be the Jane Austen era, late 18th early 19th century. Perhaps influenced by television and film adaptations of her works and the literary connection, and if I’m truthful, to the actresses involved! But, I also like the streamlining effect of the empire-line and the bonnets.
*Lydia Edwards gained her PHD from the University of Bristol in Art and Theatre History. She moved to Perth, Australia in 2011 where she is a lecturer at the Edith Cowan University. She has always been interested in fashion history, particularly as it relates to art and as a methodology for enhancing a knowledge and understanding of culture. She is passionate about making fashion history accessible to a general audience. There is a connection with the WAHG, and a reason to celebrate her achievement in producing this work, in that she is the daughter of Julia Edwards, a member and former Committee member of WAHG.
Philosophy of Art: an essay by Rodger Hake
As soon as we start to talk about the philosophy of something-or-other things get complicated. Philosophy involves asking questions and starts with a definition of the subject matter. The subject of ‘art’ gives rise to particular difficulties when seeking its definition. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, gives seven reasons why it’s not possible to define art. In 1954 John Passmore(1) published “The Dreariness of Aesthetics” in recognition of these difficulties. Notwithstanding this formidable opposition we can usually get by if we rely on the maxim – We can’t define it but we know it when we see it!
Written work on the subject dates back at least to Plato(2) who argued that art is mimetic – it provides a representation of ‘idea’ which is ultimate reality. There is then a period during which not a lot was written on the subject but interest revived in the 18th century. Alexander Baumgarten(3) introduced the term ‘aesthetics’ in 1735 and other significant writers on the subject include David Hume(4), Immanuel Kant(5), Arthur Schopenhauer(6), Georg Hegel(7), Friedrich Nietzsche(8), the list goes on. It is important to remember that these thinkers – as are all with an interest in this topic – were talking about the art known to them at the time they lived. Plato did not have the benefit of experiencing Jackson Pollock’s paintings, for example. Their writing will be influenced accordingly.
A question which lies at the heart of the problem with definitions was studied by a recent philosopher of art, Arthur Danto (1924 – 2013). Danto wrote extensively on the subject and amongst many other matters drew attention to the difference between a work of art and the item it represented, especially when the two are essentially indistinguishable. An example he highlighted, arising from his personal experience, was the Andy Warhol work depicting a stack of Brillo pad boxes which appears to be identical to a stack of actual Brillo pad boxes. Why were Warhol’s boxes part of an artwork whereas the others are merely containers for soap pads? This example casts doubt on the statement above – ‘we can’t define it but we know it when we see it’. We have here a case where we don’t know it when we see it. And even if we did have a definition we wouldn’t be able to identify the work of art visually without further information. Such perplexing questions are not restricted to art, there are other areas where seemingly identical situations are fundamentally different at a philosophical level.
Wittgenstein pointed out that someone raising their arm and that person’s arm simply going up appear indistinguishable but philosophically involve difficult questions related to free will.
Input which might help in the Brillo boxes situation comes from Marcel Duchamp who proposed that the appearance of the work is not the only factor to be considered. He referred to his own work as ‘intellectual’. In Mary Acton’s words (9)“The legacy of Marcel Duchamp is most clearly seen in what is called Conceptual Art where the idea is paramount and so is the questioning participation of the spectator”.
Other writers on the subject attach little value to Duchamp’s contribution. Roger Scruton(10) has written that for modern thinkers the concentration in philosophy of art has been, “…in particular on puzzles created by boring imposters like Duchamp: is this signed urinal a work of art? etc. This makes for exceeding dull literature, devoted to questions which can be answered in any way while leaving everything important exactly as it is”.
Agreed positions on any area of philosophical investigation are difficult to come by. And by the time such agreement is found the topic has probably been moved to a different domain – frequently scientific. Might that happen with art?
Those who want to delve into more detailed discussion on the subject could try Noel Carroll’s book (11).
Rodger Hake April 2017
(1) John Passmore The dreariness of aesthetics Mind 60 (1951) (2) Plato Republic Part V Book X
(3) Alexander Baumgarten Aesthetica (1750) (4) David Hume Of the Standard of Taste (1741)
(5) Immanuel Kant Critique of Judgement (1790)
(6) Arthur Schopenhauer The World as Will and Representation (1818)
(7) Georg Hegel Lectures on Aesthetics (1820s) (8) Friedrich Nietzsche The Birth of Tragedy (1872)
(9) Mary Acton Learning to look at Modern Art page 76 Routledge (2004)
(10) Rodger Scruton Modern Philosophy A Survey; page 589 Sinclair-Stevenson (1994)
(11) Noel Carroll Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction Routledge (1999)
WAHG’s Virtual Gallery
I visited the exhibition Revolution Russian Art 1917-1932 at the RA in April, it ended on the 17th of that month. It’s scope was comprehensive, a plethora of exhibits in a variety of media. What I found particularly illuminating was the aspect of how artists and their art served the state, in the form of propaganda. Brodsky’s ‘Lenin in Smolny’ 1930 oil on canvas State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow is one of the exhibits. As propaganda it is restrained. It conveys a business-like appearance of Lenin and the location, was a replication of the actual room in the Smolny Institute, Petrograd, where the first months of the Soviet regime took place. The actual painting was done six years after Lenin’s death and was intended to canonise the image of the leader of the world proletariat.
What do we see now?
Postscript: The recent events in Manchester, as relayed on the news, moved me to tears. My visit to the city in 2016 (and for others it may have been in 2017) was really good and I remember thinking at the time part of the enjoyment was due to the friendliness of the various people of Manchester that one met during the visit. The virtues of friendliness, of inclusion and generosity are far stronger than the vices of hate and violence. ‘This is the place’, Manchester, where the spirit of the people proved it! Requiescat in pace.