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Tony Grist

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Weekend Break [Feb. 12th, 2007|06:49 pm]
Tony Grist

Carl wanted us out of the house so he could paint the stairs, so we went to London for a long weekend. While we were gone he saw the ghost of an old man in a trilby hat in the hall. I get frustrated that I never see anything of the kind. Ailz says I could if I really wanted to. Maybe.

We met with family and went to a couple of exhibitions. 

At the R.A. Citizens and Kings. Portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830.

At the Tate. William Hogarth

The Hogarth was really, really popular and we had to push our way round like it was the January sales. This isn't the way to see art. Hogarth is fun- all those hundreds of little people doing reprehensible things- and you need time to pore over the surfaces. We didn't do him justice. 

I used to think of him as a novelty painter; now I think he's the most original artist of the 18th century. He was doing things in the 1740s- respectful portraits of working class subjects for example- which continental artists didn't get round to until after the French revolution.  Also he pretty much invented what we'd now call cartooning.

The other exhibition didn't draw such heavy crowds- which made it a much more relaxing experience. The late 18th century royals look ridiculous in their feudal finery and smile the smile of reason as if in on the joke;  no wonder they were most of them about to be swept away.  Napoleon, on the other hand- painted by Ingres as the new Charlemagne- is in deadly earnest. You want to laugh, just to preserve your self respect, but you can't because your breath has been taken away.

Image:Ingres, Napoleon on his Imperial throne.jpg

British 18th century artists put weather in their paintings and continental ones didn't. I've always been taught to see Reynolds and Raeburn and Lawrence as provincial; they're not.  And the same could be said of the German and Scandanavian artists on show here. Art history is so Francocentric. Take this amazing portrait by Gottlieb Schwick; it looks like he's absorbed Cezanne and Cubism and is moving onto his neo-classical phase. If it weren't for the costume-  which betrays the model as a contemporary of Jane Austen's-  it could have been painted in the 1930s.

Image:Christian Gottlieb Schick 003.jpg

Finally Houdon. He sculpted Voltaire and Franklin and Washington and I thought of him- if at all- as a kind of forerunner of Mme Tussaud. Oh, but he's brilliant! His people are caught in the moment- on the move- speaking, smiling, laughing at us. Here's his portrait of his wife. What fun she must have been and how much he seems to love her.
 


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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2007-02-12 11:18 pm (UTC)
I keep eyeing that Hogarth exposition but now that you've mentioned the crowds I´m not too sure. What day and time slot did you have?

And oh my...that Napoleon portrait is genius!

Houdon is magnificent, isn´t he? I remember thinking pretty much the same thoughts you express about his wife´s portrait. She looks like a woman I´d love to meet.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-13 09:05 am (UTC)
We went into the Hogarth at 2.30 on Sunday afternoon.

Ingres was in his early 20s when he painted that portrait of Napoleon. Talk about announcing one's talent! Apparently Boney himself hated it.

It's always great to discover an artist one knew nothing about. Houdon and Schick both fell into that category for me.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2007-02-13 12:22 am (UTC)
*boggle* That first painting is astonishing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-13 09:06 am (UTC)
Ain't it just.

It dominates the room it's in, making the royal portraits it's placed among long feeble and half-hearted.
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[User Picture]From: four_thorns
2007-02-13 01:38 am (UTC)
that sculpture is lovely. she looks so alive!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-13 09:15 am (UTC)
Like she's just breezed into the room...
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[User Picture]From: red_girl_42
2007-02-13 01:53 am (UTC)
The Houdon sculpture is wonderful. How does someone infuse so much personality into a heap of stone? It amazes me. I want to know her.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-13 09:16 am (UTC)
Houdon is amazing. He's one of the great portraitists of any age. I don't understand why he isn't enormously famous.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2007-02-13 05:02 am (UTC)
Thank you for these.

I love Houdon's portrait of his wife.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-13 09:17 am (UTC)
I love it too.

If I could have slipped it under my coat and smuggled it out of the gallery...
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