Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Photographs of Vincent van Gogh

Until recently, the only accepted photographs of the Dutch master Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) were two taken of the artist in his youth - at the ages of thirteen and nineteen respectively. 

More of these images in a moment.

Serge Plantureux, writer for the French magazine ‘L’Oeil de la Photographie’, believes that an 1887 photograph bought at an estate sale may well be an image of van Gogh as an adult.

The photograph (above) shows the painter (third from the left, pipe in hand) and group of friends including Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Félix Jobbé-Duval, and André Antoine. It is a melanotype, where a positive picture is produced with sensitised collodion on a smooth surface of black varnish, coating a thin plate of iron.

This newly discovered 1887 photograph was sold at auction on 19th June, 2015 in Brussels for an undisclosed figure, with pre-sale estimates being between €120,000 and €150,000 (~$136,000 to $170,000).

The Seton Gallery in New Haven has displayed what they believe to be another and second image of the mature van Gogh, an 1886 cabinet photograph bought by artist Tom Stanford in a Massachusetts antique dealer’s shop in the early 1990s for one dollar. 

Stanford said “I saw it and thought it was van Gogh right away, and the more I looked at it, the more I was sure”.

The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam disputes that this is an image of the artist (perhaps for the obvious reasons), though Albert Harper, director of the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven, believes otherwise.

Joseph Buberger, who has identified images of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, judged the imagine genuine, comparing it with a self-portrait sketch.

Albert Harper said "Even the most minute detail matched up, even the smallest hairs on the beards matched up”. This might suggest that the artist made the self-portrait from the photograph.

As circumstantial evidence, van Gogh is known to have spent much time in Brussels, where Victor Morin, whose name is inscribed on the 1886 image, had his photographic studio.

Now returning to the accepted two youthful images mentioned at the beginning. Mr Buberger claims that they are in fact of the artist’s brother Theo, as they do not match any of Van Gogh's self-portraits, thus taking these 1866 and 1873 images out of the authentication by comparison equation.

As an unhelpful but interesting footnote, there is another 1886 photograph supposedly showing van Gogh and his friend, Emile Bernard, at a table beside the Seine at the Paris suburb of Asnieres.

What you think of all these images, having seen as we all probably have numbers of self-portraits by Vincent van Gogh?

The Inevitable Srinagar-Poodle Connection

 Now that Gaston ...

... is past the puppy chewing-up-things stage, we decided to put out a silk carpet we bought in Srinagar, Kashmir when dinosaurs walked that earth, well, 35 years ago.

And, pooch with exquisitely refined tastes that he is, our little fellow immediately decided to put it to good and personal use as his new sleeping rug. Better, I'm sure he thinks, than that inferior mohair rug he has been forced to use up to now!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Antonio Nicolini - ‘A Pious Monk at Prayer’

And another trial post - an oil on copper we have from C17 Italian painter Antonio Nicolini - ‘A Pious Monk at Prayer’ …

The artist’s name can be faintly discerned etched into the exposed copper verso. It is below the late C18 or early C19 the label attached when the work was presumably re-framed.


Gaston Is Testing If My Blog Is Alive

This Gaston upload is just to test if my blog is alive - so here goes:

So let's post this and see!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Feast for the Eyes: 
A Worthy Descendant of Leon Bakst

As you'll all undoubtably know, British gay haute couture designer Alexander McQueen died at the young age of 41. A suicide by hanging. Having had a partner depart this life in a similar way, I was doubly drawn to post on this extraordinary artist.

I remember being impressed hearing someone once say that he'd be very sorry if, at his passing, people didn't joyfully celebrate his life.

So it's in this spirit I've put together a selection from the designer's somewhat Japonaise and bold geometric ready-to-wear collection for the Paris Fashion Week of 2009.

Even if you know Sweet F A about haute couture, it's hard to imagine anyone not responding to these startlingly innovative designs.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Étienne-Louis Boullée - Sliding Doors

Cénotaphe à Newton (1784, sphere of 150 m or 500 ft in diameter)

I was doing some serious time-travelling this morning, way way back into distant antiquity: my first degree in fine art.

I was browsing one of my trusty but now metaphorically yellowing course books for a unit I took on C20 architecture, naturally from the aesthetic rather than engineering perspective. As Isipped my coffee (I wonder why 'sipping' seems such a tea thing?), I was flicking through the tome in question, my Charles Jencks's 'Modern Movements in Architecture', and was put in mind of megalomaniac and a visionary C18 architect Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799).

Boullée's abstract geometric style, inspired by C17 and C18 French Classical architecture, took geometric forms to a giagantic and simplified scale. His proposed works that were devoid of ornament and used light and shadow and a sense of movement in highly innovative ways.

Cénotaphe à Newton: Interior

'Newton's cenotaph was designed to isolate, to reinvent, the huge movement of time and celestial phenomena. Inside, the viewer is isolated too, on a small viewing platform. Along the top half of the sphere's edges, apertures in the stone allow light in, in pins, creating starlight when there is daylight. During the night a huge and otherworldly light hangs, flooding the sphere, as sunlight. During the day, the "night effect." During the night, day.'

Entree du cimmetiere (c1780-90)

The French architect was interested in making architecture expressive of purpose, an approach his detractors termed 'architecture parlante' ('talking architecture').

Interior space is opened up to flow from one functional area to another rather than such areas being closed off in descrete separate 'rooms'.

By now you can see where this is heading!

Cénotaphe de Turenne

Cénotaphe égyptien (c1786)

Of course Boullée's work was re-discovered in the late C19 and early C20, influencing architecture, even as recently as that of Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) ...

... in his Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht ...

Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht

You'll also know Rossi from his designs for Alessi ...
'La Cupola' Espresso Maker

'Il conico', 1986

'La conica', 1982

However, apart from a number of private houses designed beween 1762 and 1778, none of Boullée's large scale works were ever built, though his designs in engravings were circulated widely in professional circles.

I can't help having a sliding doors moment, wondering about the course of C19 architeture had it moved forward on Boullée's ideas and not taken to its various backward-looking Gothic/Rennaissance/electic diversions.

PS: Boullée recently-ish popped up unexpectedly at the movies. In Peter Greenaway's film 'The Belly of an Architect' (1987), whose main character, Stourley Krackite, is obsessed with celebrating the C18 French architect's work.