La Mitrailleuse as muse

When your favourite band decide to pay tribute to your favourite war painting and produce a video to compliment the musique concrete on offer, well it would be rude not to include it in the blog!

omd-the-punishment-of-luxury

Punishment of Luxury

Giovanni Segantini – The Punishment of Luxury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released a track from their forthcoming album, The Punishment of Luxury (named after the Segantini painting of the same name) inspired by CRW Nevinson’s La Mitrailleuse.

With the haunting, futurist statement “Bend your body to the will of the machine” combining with the choral sounds so familiar to OMD fans, and the chilling sounds of warfare, the track alone is enough to send shivers, but combine it with a video that encompasses many of Nevinson’s other works (I recognise six others!)  along with the stunning ‘Flower of Death’ by American war artist, Claggett Wilson and this two minute track is a perfect education in the power of war art.

Watch and enjoy:

OMD La Mitrailleuse

 

For more on Nevinson’s war painting:

Rebel Visions – The War Art of CRW Nevinson

And for a little something on Segantini:

Painters of Light – Italian Journey

Claggett Wilson – War Artist

Reading this article in the New York Times revealed a large gap in my art history knowledge of America: 

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/arts/design/review-world-war-i-the-quick-the-dead-the-artists.html

I’ve been reading a lot about the Ashcan Group, the Precisionists, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art, but seemed to have totally missed the War art produced by a range of American artists. 

One, whose work has caught my eye, is Claggett Wilson (1887-1952). Classified as a ‘modernist’ painter, Wilson produced a number of paintings and sketches based on his war experience as a lieutenant in the US Army. The collection was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Museum in New York. 

This 1919 painting Flower of Death represents the moment a shell explodes.

The full title: Flower of Death–The Bursting of a Heavy Shell–Not as It Looks, but as It Feels and Sounds and Smells  is perfect, as this painting screams ‘terror’ at you. Look at the soldier cowering in the bottom left and you can see just how terrifying the experience must have been. 

The movement lines and debris fly out of the canvas towards us at great speed; you would have little chance of escaping. The iron sheet that is projected through the air is riddled with shrapnel. The sheer ferocity of the explosion is palpable. The colours are cacophonous- Wilson wanted us to hear it and hear it we can. 

It is reminiscent of CRW Nevinson’s Bursting Shell (currently in Tate Liverpool):


Here, too, Nevinson wants us to experience the full sensory experience of the catastrophic moment. 

Browsing Wilson’s work gave up this watercolour: Symphony of Terror. 

The more muted palette here does not detract from the power of the explosion. The sickly yellow glow at the centre, at first, disguise the gasmask faces rising up on the horizon; a choir invisible, bringers of death. 

To calm the nerves, this allegorical work is simply sublime: Saviours of France-Jeanne d’Arc, At Louis, Clovis and the Hands of the Common Soldier. The upward movement of the figures draws your eye centrally but you have to look at the horizontal to see all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. 

Their spirits are just as important, just as vital as the patron saints. Wilson certainly captured the spirit of remembrance here. 

For more on Claggett Wilson’s war art:  

Smithsonian Institute of Art

Nevinson’s ‘Broken Reeds’

Studying this work by CRW Nevinson, ‘Rain and Mud After the Battle’ brought to mind a poem by Edward Thomas from 1916, called ‘Rain’:

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain 
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me 
Remembering again that I shall die 
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks 
For washing me cleaner than I have been 
Since I was born into this solitude. 
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon: 
But here I pray that none whom once I loved 
Is dying tonight or lying still awake 
Solitary, listening to the rain, 
Either in pain or thus in sympathy 
Helpless among the living and the dead, 
Like a cold water among broken reeds, 
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff, 
Like me who have no love which this wild rain 
Has not dissolved except the love of death, 
If love it be for what is perfect and 
Cannot, the tempest tells me,  
disappoint.

7 January, 1916 

 While we can interpret Thomas’s words ‘myriads of broken reeds all stiff and still’ to refer to the loss of so many men, it was Nevinson’s use of a palette knife to create the slanted, sharp lines of the rain that brought those lines to mind: 

You can almost hear the sounds of the rain against all that mud; the unrelenting, icy touch as it hits the ground, churned up by the battle that has now ended. 

Although the scene is devoid of the human element, you cannot fail to be moved by the bleakness of this scene with the images of the blasted trees illuminated against the graduated grey sky. As a metaphor for the loss of life that took place, this is a powerful work. 

Gino Severini, Cannoni in azione 1915

Anyone who knows me will know how much I love the period 1910-1920 and I am bowled over by this wonderful work by Severini that I found in Rovereto.

Immediately, I knew it had to be the companion to one of my most favourite paintings of all…drum roll… CRW Nevinson’s La Mitrailleuse.  Wouldn’t you agree?

La Mitrailleuse 1915 by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson 1889-1946

La Mitrailleuse 1915 Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson 1889-1946 Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03177

 

My 100th Post: The 1910 Room at The Tate

To celebrate my 100th post, I thought a quick look at my favourite art period was called for. These two photographs epitomise what it is I love about the 1910 room at The Tate. I hadn’t considered the way in which the pieces are placed together before so decided to photograph the statues alongside the paintings yesterday.

The Arrival -CRW Nevinson

Workshop -Percy Wyndham Lewis

Singer -Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Nevinson and Wyndham Lewis are in parallel here with their vorticist style. Together, they are a powerful example of how the movement sought to eliminate the notion of decorative art and instead, to depict modern life through a form of abstraction.

From The Tate:

This work, typical of Nevinson’s Futurist period, aroused much comment when it was exhibited in 1915 as ‘My Arrival in Dunkirk’ (that it was this work is confirmed by the contemporary reproductions in the Daily Express, 25 February 1915, and the Daily Graphic, 5 March 1915). It was probably the work already exhibited as ‘The Arrival’ the year before, when a review in the Star said of it: ‘It resembles a Channel steamer after a violent collision with a pier. You detect funnels, smoke, gangplanks, distant hotels, numbers, posters all thrown into the melting-pot, so to speak. Mr Nevinson acted as interpreter, explaining that it represented a “state of simultaneous mind”.’

Lewis’s painting Workshop epitomises Vorticism’s aims, using sharp angles and shifting diagonals to suggest the geometry of modern buildings. Its harsh colours and lines echo the discordant vitality of the modern city in an ‘attack on traditional harmony’. The group’s aggressive rhetoric, angular style and focus on the energy of modern life linked it to Italian Futurism, though it did not share the latter’s emphasis on speed and dynamism.”

Dancer -Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

La Miltrallieuse -CRW Nevinson

I love the sensuous fluidity of Gaudier’s dancer. It was influenced by theories of creative energy and of the world in a state of constant flux, proposed by the philosopher Henri Bergson. This is in stark contrast to the dark palette, sharp angles and fixed expressions and rigidity of the men who are in tune with their machines in Nevinson’s work.

 

 

 

 

Some you win, some you lose

In addition to the exhibitions, I’m also looking to visit smaller galleries in search of a certain number of artists I am interested in: Christopher Nevinson, David Bomberg, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer.Leamington Spa Gallery was my first attempt – they have a Spencer and a Nevinson in their collection. It would be easy to call them to find out if they are on display, but that takes the fun out of this odyssey. So, on the way back from Bedford, I stopped off at the Royal Pump Rooms.

STRIKE 1-no Nevinson or Spencer, which was a shame…

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Bicyclettes, Paris -Christopher Nevinson

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Cookham Rise-Stanley Spencer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but there was a lovely Vanessa Bell called ‘A Venetian Window’ from 1926:

imageThis was sumptuous in terms of colouring but it was hidden away a little. The card said “her paintings tend to be beautifully composed and often contemplative” and I think this is a perfect example of that. There is something about a window that gives so many artists the opportunity to reveal a perect world and this is no exception.

 

 

 

 

STRIKE 2: New Walk Art Gallery, Leicester.

Decided to contact this gallery prior to a visit I have planned for next week.  There are two Nevinsons in their collection, Oxford on the Cherwell and One Summer’s Day:

Oxford, On the Cherwell

One Summer's Day

Alas, They are not on display either, so today was a make or break situation in Coventry.

STRIKE 3?

Herbert Museum and Art Gallery has a number of paintings that I would love to see, so would today be more successful…?

One room-and several moments of smiles, sighs and ‘yes!’ moments. Amongst others, there was a lovely Nevinson, a fabulous Nash, a melancholic Lowry and the most gorgeous Bomberg that will get its own post shortly!

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Summer in the Downs -Christopher Nevinson

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Northleach Church -LS Lowry

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The Stackyard -Paul Nash

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Evening, Cornwall, Towards St Ives -David Bomberg

The joy of going along with uncertainty of whether or not I will see a certain work of art outweighs the disappointment of the work not being out. Think the next few weeks will be a lot of fun -will she, won’t she?

Now you see him…now you don’t!

My favourite section of Tate Britain has to be the moment I turn into the 1910 and 1915 rooms. Everyone I love is there: Nevison, Epstein, Gertler, Bomberg, Wyndham Lewis to name but a few.

There has been a rehang and the two rooms are now combined. Bomberg’s Mud Bath is now pride of place:

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imageimagewpid-img_20150712_111439864_hdr.jpgThese three Nevinsons are now in the room: The Soul of the Soulless City (‘New York -an Abstraction’), The Arrival and, to my great joy, just back from a tour, was La Mitrallieuse. If I was allowed to clap for joy, that would have been the moment.

However, the joy was short-lived as there was someone rather special missing from the gathering: my very own Rock Drill!

Where on earth was the rascally torso? He was there a couple of weeks ago. He could hardly go waltzing off, so a quick tweet to the Tate revealed that he is away on tour and will be appearing at a venue close to me from the 1st September:The New Art Gallery in Walsall-home of a large Epstein Archive. The fact I can pop down the road to check he’s behaving himself will be quite a pleasure and I’ll be interested to see what they will do with him given that the reconstructed Rock Drill sits majestically in nearby Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

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With some new pieces, such as Henry Lamb’s stupendous portrait of the lugubrious Lytton Strachey, it is always worth revisiting the different galleries just to see what treasures have now been snuck in.

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BREAKING NEWS: Rock Drill is coming to take part in a rather exciting exhibition, exploring the importance of the dismantling of the statue in context and how this is as vital as its original construction.

http://www.thenewartgallerywalsall.org.uk/whats-on/exhibition/epsteins-rock-drill-l-transformed-by-war

Expressionism, Cubism and Vorticism at Higgins Bedford

I have developed a real love of Vorticism and the artists associated with that movement.  When this exhibition popped up, I had to make a decision whether a 90 minute drive was worth the chance that I would see some of the works of my favourite artists… it was!

This exhibition was beautifully lit and the curation had the right balance between the three movements.  The catalyst for change with these three groups of artists was the Great War and with the artists themselves playing a role in the fighting, their return from the trenches altered the way in which they perceived their art.

The German Expressionists were well represented with the woodcuts of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Eric Heckel; as well as Edvard Munch’s haunting lithographs: Jealousy II and Woman with a Brooch (Madonna)

Munch - Jealousy II Munch - Woman with a Brooch

http://gundersencollection.com/index.php/gundersen-collection-munch-articles/16-munch-jealousy-1

 

 

Jealousy II was particularly powerful.  The lover looks out at us with no sense of regret for what he has done.  The question is asked whether the woman is covering her nakedness, having been caught, or whether she too is blatently demonstrating her illicit relationship to her husband.  Based on Munch’s own love affair with a poet’s wife.

Centauress - PWL

The Centauress

The Vorticists started with Wyndham Lewis’s The Centauress .  Lewis’s time in France had bought him to this change in his painting, embracing expressionism, cubism and futurism in one.

Bomberg The Dancer

The Dancer

David Bomberg’s 1913 work, The Dancer was worth the journey on its own.  The colour pallette was so vibrant and what I am loving about his early work is the way in which the image emerges the longer you gaze at it.  Although he did not sign up as a Vorticist, Bomberg did exhibit his work in the only Vorticist Exhibition held in 1915.

First_Vorticist_Exhibition_Doré_Gallery_London_June_1915Upon his return from the First World War, Bomberg rejected the mechanised age within his work and returned to a more representational style.

Two sketches by Christopher Nevinson were also on show: Study for ‘Column on the March and Loading Timber at Southampton Docks.

Then we moved to the Cubists with a fabulous Georges Braque – The Fox.  This I had seen in books, so it was good to get a look at this in detail.

 

The final section was entitled, ‘A Return to Order and a New Objectivity.  The horrors of the war clearly made its mark on the artists in this section, none more so that Otto Dix.

There were four etchings from his series ‘Der Kriege’ and one in particular was striking.  Called ‘Dead in the Sludge’, Dix did not want to hide the reality of trench warfare and it was very reminiscent of this one by Gilbert Rogers:

Dead in Sludge

Dead in Sludge

Gassed 'Arduis Fidelis'

Gassed ‘Arduis Fidelis’

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exhibition ends today and I am delighted that I took a chance on seeing this.  Just goes to show that you should go with your gut instincts.

Government Art Collection

Ever wondered where all the art we own is stored? Had a great opportunity to have a tour of the Government Art Collection last week with a terrific trio -you know who you are!

It is a fascinating place to go to -hidden down a yard off the Tottenham Court Road. We were shown round by the fab Clive who tested our historical and social knowledge to give us a background into how the collection started and how it has expanded over the years.

Clive told us that around 70% of the collection is out in Embassies across the world and in other civic buildings. Given my new found pash on Richard Nevinson, I couldn’t wait to ask if any of his work was in the archive. Part of me wanted the answer to be no, as it would mean that it is on display somewhere but I was really hoping to see something I know I wouldn’t usually get the chance to see. Having travelled to Southport to see a newly discovered painting, ‘Limehouse 1913’, I had my fingers crossed and was not disappointed. They have ‘La Vieux Port, also from 1913 there, along with Tiller Girls:
http://www.gac.culture.gov.uk/work.aspx?obj=16732

It was a wonderful piece, and I think I like it just a little bit more than ‘The Arrival’ which I always go to visit in the Tate. Nevinson knew this area of Marseilles well, and he was there on August 4th, 1914 when he heard that war had been declared.

http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en/europeana/record/2022326/98E5511573835BE483B39D25D3E8217456221B67

There are monthly tours that require prebooking, and I can completely recommend visiting.

http://www.gac.culture.gov.uk/about.html

Truth and Memory at the IWM

If I thought Manchester’s Sensory War was an excellent exploration of the impact of war on all areas of society, IWM’s two-part exhibition, Truth and Memory genuinely blew it out of the water. The opening painting ‘Defeat of the Prussian Guard’, depicting a victory by the 2nd Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry*, was a perfect example of the end of stylised and sanitised record of war and a fantastic way to start an exhibition of artists who were ‘exposed to a new realm of human experience’.

Defeat of the Prussian Guard

Was thrilled to see yet another room full of Nevinson paintings.The more I see of his work, the more fascinated I become.  ‘A Bursting Shell’ needs no description as Nevinson creates the sound of the shell through his futurist leanings. The catherine wheel effect draws everything into the path of the shell, including us!Bursting Shell

There were so many outstanding paintings but two contrasting ones tell their own story: Nevinson’s ‘Paths of Glory’ was originally banned due to its depiction of the British Dead, yet it was acceptable to show the putrefying ‘Dead German Soldiers in a Trench’ by William Orpen as clearly, ‘only Germans died in this war’.  With Nevinson’s painting, the glinting of the barbed wire was almost too much to bear. You could just see the sun rising behind you, signalling the start of another day of atrocities.

                           Dead Germans in a Trench - Orpen

The other standout was the seven piece set of drypoint images by Percy Delf Smith, The Dance of Death’. It may be cliched to have the skeletal image of death stalking the earth, picking out its victims, but one of the images completely summarised the horror of the ‘war to end all wars’ -Death Awed. For Death to be amazed by the destructive qualities of man is beyond belief.

Death Awed

*Edit* Was looking through an old book on Bruegel’s paintings and his allegorical work ‘The Triumph of Death’ seems to go so well with Smith’s work that I though I would add it to this:

DSCN2706DSCN2707

This is an incredible exhibition and well worth a trip -first visit to the IWM, and it won’t be the last!

http://www.apollo-magazine.com/gallery-truth-memory-imperial-war-museum-london/

*Sometimes even shock myself at ‘spooky connections’. One of my ancestors fought for the 2nd battalion and was killed in 1917 therefore is likely to have been involved in this particular battle!