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Artist in Focus: Frédéric Bazille

Impressionism was not just an artistic movement. It was a way of seeing which radically changed the path of art, paving the way to practically every contemporary creative vision which followed whether it be abstract expressionism or visceral photorealism, or even works of sculpture and photography. Accordingly, as an artistic epoch, its works have become so well known that even the most unknowledgeable could probably associate Monet’s Japaenese bride or a watery vision of waterlilies with the movement. But for all the fuzzy edged Renoir portraits, and the softly lit Monet landscapes, few people ever refer to one of Impressionism’s earliest pioneers: Frédéric Bazille.

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Bazille’s Studio; 9 Rue de la Condamine, 1870

Born in Montpellier in 1841, Bazille was both a contemporary and working companion of  Monet and Renoir whom he met while studying fine art in Paris having given up his parents’ preferred discipline of medicine. Coming from a wealthy family, Bazille was more than just a friend to his budding co-artists, providing them with shared studio space and much needed income during their crucial early years of creation. It was as a trio that the zealous three began to paint en plein air, rejecting the studio-based historical compositions that were in fashion and favouring the recreation of reality, or at least an impression thereof.

However Bazille was not just an early Impressionist. In fact his works were not even included in the first renowned Impressionist exhibitions in which the most iconic artists of the movement were hung. His work was stylistically unique, with a finessed confident line and clear figurative composition which eschewed the feathery brush work of his colleagues and endowed his work with a potent but still poetic atmosphere.

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Family Reunion, 1867

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Aigues-Mortes, 1867

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View of the Village, 1868

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The Pink Dress (View of Castelnau-le-Lez, Hérault), 1864

When the opportunity to see the works of Bazille enmassed arose this winter in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I rushed to the show as quickly as I could get through the enormous queues outside. There, I cherished an encounter with the majority of Bazille’s most famous works, such as his captivating Family Reunion, and his highly homo erotic works, Fisherman with a Net, and Summer Scene. For capturing the male was another way in which Bazille differed from his contemporaries. For unlike the womaniser Renoir and the almost married Monet, Bazille was more of a loaner, said to be drawn to his own sex, and in these beautiful languid portrayals of the male, you can feel both a passionate admiration for the masculine form, and what must have been his frustration at not being able to openly explore it otherwise than in paint.

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Scène d’été, 1869

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Fisherman with a Net, 1868

Sadly for us, the show at the d’Orsay was a short one, for the oeuvre of Bazille was cut tragically short by his early death at the age of only 28 while fighting during the Franco-Prussian war. Thus a needless bullet ended what might have been one of the most prolific careers of the Impressionist age, and who should always be remembered as one of its most promising young stars.

Paris by Night

Having last week commenced the review of my recent Paris trip with a set of photos showcasing the city by day, it is only natural that an accompanying forage into the city by night should follow. For a city widely known by the epithet “The City of Light”, Paris is surprisingly enthralling as darkness falls, not least because it is a city which never truly stops, and which is never ever dark as the city metamorphoses from the romance of its day time elegance to evenings filled with the resonance of haunting jazz and old fashioned cabaret, dazzled by the sparkling lights of the Tour Eiffel, warmed by the glow of cosy brasseries, and bearing the racy red reflection of the turning sails of the Moulin Rouge.

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Paris by night is, in fact, a particularly special time for me, as it was after dark that I was first introduced to the charms of Paris when, her hands covering my eyes, my English teacher led me up the stairs of Montmartre and uncovered them only when the magical Place du Tertre was before me. It is a moment I will forever remember, when darkness offset the glowing interiors of brasseries and gift shops, and in the Square, a string of lanterns illuminated the trees under which artists painted.

But let’s face it, there are few times when Paris is not at its beautiful best, and as the sun descends and the skies fill with red and rose-coloured hues, the stunning sunsets are like a premonition of the beautiful nights that are to come. Nights which were no less wonderful at this time of winter, when Christmas lights still twinkled in the streets and a frosty biting atmosphere lent sharp clarity to the air.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Artist in Focus: Grant Wood

Two weeks over the Christmas period in London and Paris provided the perfect opportunity to play catch-up on some of the incredible exhibitions which have been popping up in both cities, and for which I have been pining from afar. Whether it be Picasso Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London or Bazille at the d’Orsay in Paris, I have been literally itching to get inside the galleries to discover artists both familiar and new, set within the context of a new curatorial manifestation. Out of these exhibitions, I walked away struck by certain paintings and by certain artists whose work I am keen to share on The Daily Norm. For life is a continuing learning curb, and even behind the most famous work lies an entire portfolio of unknown paintings coming from a relatively un-talked of artist.

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American Gothic, Grant Wood (1930)

This is the case with Grant Wood, who is far more famous for his emblematic 1930 painting, American Gothic, than he is for fame in his own name. Usually housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, which recognised the piece for its iconic depiction of life in the rural American midwest in the pre-Depression age and bought the work, American Gothic is one of the most iconic paintings of the 20th Century, and is currently making its first European visit. For me, it was clearly the highlight of the exhibition currently running at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, American Painting in the 1930s (although I gather that the work, and the show built around it, will soon make its way to London’s Royal Academy too).

Highlights of Grant Wood’s oeuvre

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Young Corn (1931)

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Parson Weem’s Fable (1939)

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Spring in the Country (1941)

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The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover (1931)

However, having swooned over my first face-to-face encounter with this iconic work and taken note of the name of its artist, what I wasn’t expecting was to find how prolific an artist lay behind the painting. For as we made our way around the exhibition, exploring its historically captivating theme of art before, during and immediately after the great American Depression, the name Grant Wood kept on popping up under all of the paintings to which I was instantaneously attracted upon entering each exhibition space.

Born in 1891 and painting until his death in the 40s, Wood’s early work shows the clear influence of impressionism and post-impressionism with more hesitant lines and a play on depicting realistic light. However, by the time he reached the 1930s, the artist had fallen upon a truly unique form of naive reality, depicting in beautifully bold colours and sharp, well rounded lines and figurative forms, the rolling rural landscape around his Cedar Rapids home.

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Death on the Ridge Road (1935)

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Fall Plowing (1931)

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The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931)

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Stone City Iowa (1930)

Without a doubt, my favourites of his works are his exquisite landscapes, painted so idyllically as to be charged with a kind of fantasy-land quality, albeit recognising in their carefully executed details the depiction of agriculture and industry. Reducing trees into rounded, wooly forms, and using idealised shadow to round-off the land like the  voluptuous flesh of a Rubens nude, these landscapes are pure works of genius, and why the artist Grant Wood will now remain lodged in my artist consciousness for all time.

Paris by Day

How time flies… it’s something on which I comment often. But who can help but do otherwise when already we find ourselves 10 days into a New Year with not a single post on The Daily Norm to bid you all welcome to a brand new year! So in doing so now, I am choosing to start the year as I mean to carry on… by featuring photos of what must easily be the most elegant city in the world, not to mention one of history’s most important cultural bedrocks. Just one glimpse below this text, and the familiar geometric lattice work of the Tour Eiffel will reveal that I can only be talking about one city…my beloved Paris.

Ever since my first encounter with Paris at the age of 14 I was inspired to an extent never repeated by any other city. It was as though cupid’s arrow unfurled itself from the bronze casting of one of the city’s many streaming fountains and lodged its way firmly into my heart. Since that first trip, I have made it my intention to visit Paris as often as I can, recharging my batteries in the Rues of the countless arrondissements in the way that a mobile telephone needs a frequent reconnection with an electricity socket. When, a few days after Christmas, I made my most recent voyage to the City of Lights, almost two years had passed since the last. Too long a separation for this Francophile, but oh how absence made the heart grow fonder, as on this most recent reacquaintance, the cobbled streets, palatial apartment blocks, flowing fountains and grand tree-lined boulevards inspired me like never before.

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Splitting up my photos from this recent trip into both day and night, we start with those shots taken during my three December days in the city. While we spent much of our time inside some of the best art exhibitions of the moment, these photos were captured during our strolls from place to place. For as the odd glimpse of myself and my partner thoroughly wrapped up clearly suggest, the temperatures were crisp and low, and did not lend themselves to prolonged perambulations. But in those moments when a sun trap was found, whether it be on the vast steps of the Madeleine church, or alongside the riverbank where the sun bounced across the gentle ripples of the River Seine, there were some spectacular winter moments to be had.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

2016: My Year in Photos

It’s beyond crazy that a year has passed since I last compiled a photographic review of my photos. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I last did it, the rush I felt at writing the post before jetting off the following day to Venice…I practically remember what I was drinking (gingerbread green tea surely… it comes highly recommended). Short of remembering the clothes I was wearing, it seems so ridiculously proximate in time that I feel almost in a state of dreamlike disorientation as I engage on the annual tradition of writing this post. Even filing through my many thousand of photos does not convince me that enough time can have passed for a year to be up already. And there was I thinking that leap year 2016 had one more day to its number.

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And yet my calendar tells me that we are once again here again, coming to the end of another year, and one which for me has been very, very busy but full of light, sunshine and happiness. All of these things have mainly been the result of my location which, for another full year, was based on the paradise island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean sea, a backdrop which provided a daily life rich in sensual pleasures, and from which other fantastic locations such as Barcelona and Granada were only a short plane’s hop away.

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Yet asides from the visual riches so inherent in Spain, 2016 was a year which provided us with the opportunity to explore old favourites such as the enduringly attractive city of Rome, and also to embrace the new: the island of Menorca, Split in Croatia and Vienna in Austria were just three of those exciting new destinations which we were lucky enough to discover in 2016. It was also a year of discovery for my young family too…One of my highlights has to be the visit to Mallorca of my sister and young nephews, and experiencing their joy as they dipped into the warm sea for the first time.

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When I look back over 2016, I remember a year of stark contrasts. Because for all of the beautiful experiences which manifest in these photos shared today, I cannot deny a feeling of trepidation as I leave a year which presented so many new dangers. As if Brexit in June was not bad enough, the Trump election in the US just 5 months later was like rubbing salt into a still unhealed wound. And in my personal sphere, the news that I will soon be leaving to Mallorca to take up life again in London likewise will come with its share of challenges. Only time will tell how this cocktail of external and personal factors will play out, and the experiences which will result. However I am confident that in 12 months time, another year will have quickly passed. I look forward to sharing with you the photographic gallery which will surely result.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Merry Christmas from The Daily Norm!

Christmas always brings out the nostalgia in me, and as I thought of the best way to relay my festive wishes you all, faithful followers and new readers  of The Daily Norm alike, I decided to head back in time, some 5 years in fact, to when this blog first emerged from the depths of cyberspace, and when this Santa Norm painting was born. As jolly and red as ever, and with his sack of presents filled to the brim and ready to distribute to good little baby Norms all over the globe, this Santa Norm is as iconically Christmassy as ever. So with this red jolly fellow at my side, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best of Christmases this year, from me, the Norms, and of course from Santa Norm too. May your Christmas be simply magical, and thank you all for your incredible support, comments and readership during 2016.

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Santa Norm (2011 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Norms: The Saints Collection | Saint Ramon Llull of Mallorca

There is a spiritual kind of sensibility in the air which is very tangible for me at Christmas time. It has much to do with my childhood experiences of singing Christmas carols by candlelight in cold churches, the orangey smell of the Christingle mixed with candle wax, and my life changing art history course in Italy when the Catholic churches of Florence and Rome in December really came alive in my imagination. All of this means that I am at my most spiritually receptive at this time of year, particularly when it comes to admiring Renaissance and pre-renaissance gilded altar pieces and religious masterpieces. And it is for that same reason that when it comes to my own creativity, I love creating Saint Norms.

First inspired by an altarpiece I saw in the Accademia in Venice, my Saint Norms was a collection of illustrations started in early 2014. The last two I made were later that year, following our move to Mallorca. With Santa Lucia and Saint Nicholas, I laid the collection to rest…that was at least until now. For following a recent visit to the magnificent Cathedral of Palma, I became inspired by the island’s own patron saint, Ramon Llull.

Born in 1232 in the turbulent period following the reconquest of Mallorca from islamic rule, Ramon Llull was a writer, philosopher and Franciscan tertiary famous for creating what is quite possibly the first major work of Catalan literature, and for his prominent work on elections theory and computation. While he may just have been a happy-go-like writer of salacious poems, he turned towards saintliness following a continued apparition of Christ on the Cross, the likes of which first came to him as he sat writing in his Mallorquín home.

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Saint Ramon Llull Norm (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

Such is the scene now imagined here in this latest Saint Norm sketch, which also includes all of the traditional trademarks of Mallorca craftsmanship, from the ancient zig zag frescoed ceilings, to the Mallorquín lenguas fabric cushions on his chair.

Now my latest Saint Norm is completed, I finally feel fully ready for Christmas.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Norms Palma Series: Christmas Shopping at La Pajarita

While there is no doubt that the island of Mallorca truly comes alive when the summertime descends, its capital city of Palma is often uncomfortable when packed with tourists and baked under a relentless sun. But come Christmas, when the tourist hoards are back at home and the city becomes once again the realm of its locals, Palma metamorphoses into a festive delight of late night shopping, Christmas carols and streets filled with lights. As the local Palma Norms prepare for this most favourite of their annual celebrations, they delight in the sparkling manifestation of Christmas in the streets of their city, bouncing from shop to shop as they stock up on presents, food and of course a treat or five for themselves.

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Norms Christmas Shopping at La Pajarita (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

But of all the shops in the little maze-like streets of Palma, the Norms’ absolute favourite at Christmas time has to be La Pajarita. Not only is it one of the oldest shops in the city, but the one which sells all of the Norms’ greatest temptations: marzipan fruits, chocolate langues du chats, unctuous turrones, glacier cherries, and boiled sweets of every shape and size. Resembling Norms in both texture and colour, marzipan is probably the Norms’ ultimate delight, and here we join the Norms as they gaze in wonder through the window at the marzipan treats on show, while others bounce away joyfully with their sweet selection wrapped, bagged and ready to go home.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Revealing my Festive Wonderland

A few weeks ago, the three photos I posted signified the official arrival of Christmas in my home, even though back then it was still November. Now, some 30 Christmas trees later (most of which were for work I should add), time has galloped onwards and as only ten days remain until the full celebration of Christmas truly begins, there can be no doubt that we have well and truly arrived at the festive season. What better time then to share with you the very Festive Wonderland which is this year’s Christmas manifestation of my home.

Christmas decoration is very much part of my annual creative calendar. I relish the opportunity to transform my home with seasonal touches which have the power to add insuperable cosiness and magic in every corner. Thus, over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of baubles and trees which, while changing slightly throughout the years, retains the same core of cherished pieces, each involuntarily launching their own sentimental tale of memories past. However, the rather open-plan layout of my apartment in Mallorca means that my various trees, which in London would have each graced separate rooms, are here seen together in more of a unified space. The effect is quite magical, as tree is reflected in tree, and different coloured light sparkles across the entire living space.

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So here I present a miscellaneously mixed magical gallery of decorating touches, featuring bauble details, whole tree portraits, and my favourite photos of all – those blurred out of focus light landscapes which in themselves seem to carry the festive magic which is the effect given by such a mixed scheme of light and glitter.

Merry Christmas everyone!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Remembrance of things current (No.1): La Madeleine de Proust

Memory is a powerful thing and there are times in life when it is triggered quite involuntarily. Such moments occur frequently during this season of Christmas for example, when the smell of tinsel upon opening a box of decorations may transport you directly back to a moment of your childhood, or when the sound of a carol may take you back to a chilly but magical evening in a carol concert. Such moments of involuntary remembrance were a principal preoccupation for the extraordinary French novelist, Marcel Proust, and the so called “Madeleine moment”, when the narrator is reminded of a whole raft of his childhood by the innocuous flavour of a madeleine dipped in tea, is one of the central most important moments of Proust’s seminal novel, In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu).

It has long been an ambition of mine to read Proust’s masterpiece of 7 volumes but I must admit that on previous attempts to start his epic, the scale, and the style of the work somewhat intimidated me. But I believe that there are good times and bad times to read such a substantial philosophical work, and from the moment I restarted the tome last month, I was hooked. As inevitably happens when I am engrossed in a book, Proust started to colour my present life and my imagination. The coincidence of reading his first volume with a visit to the Crystal Cubism exhibition in Barcelona made for a powerful motivation, and within days a painting, inspired by the very same Madeleine moment, was blossoming in my head.

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Remembrance of things current: La Madeleine de Proust (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

And here is the result. A work which combines both the Madeleine, the musings which result, and a reflection upon my own current life while reading the novel. Thus you have the knitting with which I have been engaging myself of late, the armchair and lamp in which I have taken to reading the work, and the use of arabesque-like patterns taken from Pakistani fabric. For my current tea of choice is not the tila (lime blossom) featured in the novel, but Pakistani tea – a so called black tea with festive spiced hints. These reflections upon my current environment also inform the title of this new collection “Remembrance on things current” which is a play on the original title of the book, “remembrance of things past”  originally adopted for the seminal english translation before the more literal “In search of lost time” was universally accepted.

Now I am well into volume 2 of Proust’s work, and as his poetical reflections and magnificent belle epoch atmosphere continues to ensnare me, I have no doubt that a second painting like this one will not be long in coming.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com