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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

Post 1002 | Kissing Norms win top spot for Saint Valentine’s

Exactly 6 years ago to the day, I posted my latest painted Norm interpretation of a world-renowned masterpiece: The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt. The original is one of art history’s most enduring images of love, passion and even, it is suggested, an enigmatic forced passion, although in my Norm version, there is nothing but pure and tender affection to be seen between these two loved-up Norms. Indeed, my Norm version of Klimt’s masterpiece proved almost as popular as original. With well over 10,000 views, this painting is by far the most admired of my Norm paintings to have been posted on The Daily Norm. What a perfect coincidence then that it should be this iconic image of love which makes the top of the Norm greatest hit list on this, St Valentine’s Day, in what is also a week of celebration for the Daily Norm’s reaching 1000 posts.

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Klimt Norms (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2012, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas)

So while I go all loved up and celebratory over this much loved and far-reaching image of Norm passion, as well as for all the Norm images that have gone before and since, what more can be said than to thank all the readers of The Daily Norm who have given this, and other Norm images their love over the last 6 years, and the masterful, enigmatic Klimt of course, whose original image lay the foundation for this interpretation. Valentine’s love can manifest in many different ways. So whether you’re snuggled up to a loved one, a friend, or just loving doing you’re favourite things this Valentine’s Day, be sure to feel the love and enjoy it. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised 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.

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Magnificent Milano (Part 2): Da Vinci’s fading masterpiece

Despite its bustling, cosmopolitan centre, its soaring modern skyline and fashion boutiques paving the way of global style, Milan is a city with a rich historical heritage equal to any other city in Italy, and with an artistic treasure to rival the very best. Far less accessible than the Botticelli’s and the Michelangelo’s it may be, but Milan’s offering is considered by many to be one of the most significant and symbolically loaded works in all the history of art: I am of course talking about The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci.

Yet this work, renowned though it is, has had a troubled past. Fated to bad fortune from the outset when Da Vinci experimented unsuccessfully with a fresco technique which started to deteriorate away from the surface of the wall within years of its completion, the fresco has fallen swift victim to both the ravages of time, and the additional disasters of war, including a near miss bombing and exposure to the elements when the buildings around the fresco found themselves in the direct path of the same air raid.

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All this means that a visit to see Da Vinci’s fresco is a unique experience. First of all, getting your hands on a strictly time-controlled ticket is almost like seeking out the very same holy grail which author Dan Brown will tell you the painting is subliminally intended to represent. With ticket in hand, you and a small group of other ticket holders will then be taken through a series of air-controlled vacuum chambers, each set of doors opening successively upon another, incrementally purifying the elements to which the crumbling fresco is exposed. Finally, you enter the main refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie, where the first sight of Da Vinci’s Last Supper feels all the more surreal by virtue of the effort required to get there.

The visitor controls ultimately make the 15 minutes you get to spend with the painting a pleasurable experience, just because the numbers allowed into the refectory at any one time are small indeed. This makes for an intimate encounter with one of the world’s most recognisable images. Yet no matter how familiar the subject, little can prepare you for the impact which the full scale image will have, nor the shocking state that the fresco betrays upon closer inspection.

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What we see today really is a mere shadow of what once was. The fresco appears so badly flaked that a gust of wind could shake half of it away like fallen leaves in a first gust of autumn. In places, nothing but a mere outline of what was remain. In others, the retention of more detail, such as on the folds of the tablecloth, offer a tantilising glimpse of the wealth of colour and composition that the work would have once boasted.

For me, the fresco feels like an allegorical narrative of something beyond the simple depiction of the last supper. The reactions of the protagonists feel stilted, almost mannerist in their exaggerated expression, suggesting that Da Vinci has attempted to go beyond the simple story of the last supper and is hinting at meanings beyond the surface. Yet beyond this surface there is very little to behold but a crumbling wall, as we are forced to see one of art history’s most significant masterpieces slowly deteriorate to dust. It’s why this painting should be a must-see for any art history buff, and prioritised before its condition worsens yet further.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised 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.

Florence, Land of the Medici (Part 3): The Gozzoli Chapel

Attempting to highlight one work of art in the vast collection amassed by Italy’s most famous Renaissance patrons, the Medici dynasty, is rather like choosing one golden bean from a bag of thousands. The Medici family brought together such a hoard of masterpieces that one could choose a different highlight for each day of the year, and never run out during the course of an entire lifetime. But certainly one of the most enchanting of the works commissioned by the family is one which says Medici like none other, a masterpiece of colour and figuration which is unapologetic in its glorification of the entire Medici clan. I am, of course, talking about the fresco series painted by one Benozzo Gozzoli and depicting the journey of the Magi in all its magical splendour.

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Entirely covering the walls of the private chapel of the Palazzo Medici, close to Florence’s Duomo, the Gozzoli fresco must surely be one of the most magnificent examples of Renaissance decoration ever conceived. Its location deep within the mammoth fortress-like pietra-forte walls of the Medici’s palace makes the chapel conceivably missable by those unaware of its existence (I am lucky enough to enjoy the highly refined recommendations of my dear friend Charlotte, whose suggestions for art historical treasures always hit the spot), but has also been the source of its superb condition, protecting the inherently delicate surface of the fresco from the elements. Only structural changes to the chapel when a new owner, the Riccardi family, took over the palace in the 18th century, caused damage to the fresco when an entire corner was moved inwards to make way for a staircase, spoiling the perfect symmetry conceived for the original cycle. However, what remains today is nonetheless a feast for the eyes, and frankly my photos don’t do it justice.

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Gozzoli’s fresco is both a perfectly festive narrative of the Three Kings’ journey to visit the newly born Jesus, but also a wonderfully characterful portrait of the Medici family and their magnificent entourage. There you can find an idealised cherub-like portrait of what was, in reality, a rather ugly Lorenzo the Magnificent. The original father of the Medici tribe, Cosimo the Elder is also in the crowd, together with Pietro the Gouty and Lorenzo’s assassinated brother, Giuliano. Quite asides from the portraits, I adore the colours – unapologetic homage is paid to cadium reds and ultramarine blues, verdant green landscapes and cool grey rocky outcrops. The fresco is filled with little details – deer chased in a hunt, a pond surrounded by ducks and delicate birds, and hillsides rolling across valleys and peppered with trees of every shape and size.

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Moving across all four walls of the chapel, Gozzoli artfully steers the viewer along the course of the mountain road, encouraging your eye to follow the route of the Magi and so feel immersed in their same magical journey. The result is the sensation of being not in a tiny chapel, but out in the open air enjoying the Tuscan countryside with these magnificent looking Medieval monarchs, filled with the excitement of the birth of this new Messiah.

How many relics from the 1460s have such a transformative effect and contemporary feel? So often the age and condition of Renaissance works predicates against total engagement of the kind intended by the artist at that time. It’s too easy to be distracted by the signs of age, by the cracks and the mildew. But like the perfectly conceived David, Gozzoli’s work is another example of the immediacy and wonderful accessibility of Renaissance art when unimpeded by the deterioration of the years. It is a true gem of the Medici collection and an undisputed treasure perfectly preserved of the age. I can only thank Charlotte for recommending it, and suggest that all visitors to Florence make it an equal priority of their trip.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised 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.

Florence Nocturne

The inspirational capability of Florence is extreme. There is no doubting the city’s role in the rebirth of art in the western world and its transformation into the greatest proliferation of creativity seen since the age of antiquity. So there can be no surprise that it has inspired artists to paint, draw, sculpt and write ever since. I could paint the city endlessly. But time never stands to indulge me. I had time for just one small gouache, hastily designed on the train from Florence to Milan, but executed when time allowed me to reflect on the pastel shades and Renaissance brilliance of that impeccable city.

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Florence Nocturne (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

My work, Florence Nocturne, is like a musical homage to a city lost in the dream-world of sleep but whose elegant topography remains unchanged by the twilight. It mirrors the city with simple lines – it was after all a city known for the relative austerity of its grandeur compared with the later embellishments of baroque Rome and romantically Gothic Venice, and its palette reflects the pink and green marble of the ornamental Duomo.

It captures the moment when the tourists have gone home and the city sleeps, but its pearly white facades remain aglow against the dark night sky. It is my poetic dedication to Florence, the city which inspired the greatest lights of Art, and which has continued to ensnare new generations of creatives ever since.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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 artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

NG1 (after Sebastiano del Piombo)

Those eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that in the background of my freshly dressed kitchen Christmas tree (featured on Tuesday’s blog), a new painting lay in the shadows. Recently completed after some months of on and off work, the painting, NG1, is the latest in my series of interpretative abstracts which aim to reinterpret great masterpieces in an abstract form. This work is based on the great painting by Sebastiano del Piombo, a protégé of Michelangelo’s and who painted the work as a commission for Cardinal Giulio di Medici in around 1518.  Entitled The Raising of Lazarus, the original work shows the moment when Jesus performed the miracle in which Lazarus was raised from the bounds of death. My reinterpretation aims to follow the exact compositional and colour profile of the original, dramatic scene, while presenting the moment of this miracle in a far more modern light.

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NPG1 (after Sebastiano) ©2017 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas

It was important for me that I was able to present the background in an almost identical form to the original. But that is where the similarities end, and the figures which dominate Sebastiano’s original are henceforth reduced into purely abstract forms. The result loses nothing of the compositional force of the original, yet feels like an altogether more contemporary work.

As for the name – NG1 – this emanates, very simply, from the inventory code for the original painting relative to its place within the collection of the National Gallery in London. As the first major masterpiece purchased for the Gallery’s collection, it gained the code no.1, and is today unsurpassed in retaining its prominent position hanging gloriously amongst the Renaissance masterpieces displayed nearby.

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The original work, The Raising of Nazarus by Sebastiano del Piombo (1517-19)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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 artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Beyond the apples: Cézanne Portraits

I have never found an artist better able to reflect the earthy, softly glowing light of a landscape as well as Paul Cézanne captured his native Provence. Whether it be his landscapes of L’Estaque or his obsessive interpretations of the Mont St Victoire, Cézanne’s landscapes breathe and quiver with the the warmth and vivacity of Aix. With their strident, vibrating brushstrokes, Cézanne perfectly replicates the quavering undulations of heated air rising from the dusty ground. And in his palette of earthy tones, Cézanne immortalises the ochre glow which characterises the villages and Mediterranean habitat of his homeland. Even Cézanne’s famous still lives of oranges and apples are characterised by the same Provencal light, and his paintings of peasants playing cards are tinged with a sense of poverty but not without the hope which the light of the Mediterranean climate always provides.

However the one aspect of Cézanne’s oeuvre which often goes overlooked is his portraiture. It’s not a genre which is synonymous with the artist – the man charged with being the father of modern art – who is better known for his first dabbles into cubist forms and semi-abstract expressionism. Yet as the new exhibition just opened at London’s National Portrait Gallery shows to stunning effect, he was truly a master of the portrait.

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Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress, 1888-90

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Gustave Geffroy, 1895-6

Self Portrait Rose Ground 1875

Self Portrait Rose Ground, 1875

Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair 1877

Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair, 1877

His virtuosity of the medium is manifold. First it is the intensity of character which he captures in often coarsely applied brush strokes and thickly layered paint – the brilliant portraits of his Uncle Dominique painted with only a palette knife being one such example. Through a mastery of light and shadow, and a multi-tonal handling of colour to represent the contours of skin and the movement of fabric, Cézanne’s sitters have a depth not just of tone but personality too, as his portraits emerge from the canvas as wholly realised individuals. Secondly, Cézanne’s skill resides in that same innate understanding of composition which make all of his works – even the most simple still life – such works of brilliance. For in constructing his portraits, Cézanne’s sitter is but one part of a perfectly balanced whole. Every daub of colour, every angle of sitter and background is fantastically conceived to create a harmonious balance. The result is a portrait which is deeply satisfying to behold, and which touches its audience for reasons which many will be quite unaware.

Self Portrait in a white bonnet 1881-2

Self Portrait in a white bonnet, 1881-2

Boy in a Red Waistcoat 1888-9

Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888-9

Uncle Dominique in Smock and Blue Cap 1866-7

Uncle Dominique in Smock and Blue Cap,1866-7

Seated Woman in Blue 1904

Seated Woman in Blue, 1904

While my regular strolls into the wonderful Courtauld Gallery (happily located so close to my work) have introduced me to the world of Cézanne portraiture before, I had no idea of the scale and prolific mastery with which Cézanne meddled in the medium. With works spanning his entire career including some 26 portraits which demonstrate the same level of self-examinatory intensity as was previously mastered only by the likes of Rembrandt, the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition offers fans of Cézanne a truly unique opportunity to understand a crucial aspect of the artist’s genius. His mastery over fruit and landscapes is undisputed and well documented. But now, happily, this impossibly important third genre sees the light of day, and marks a further reason for attributing Cézanne as the true father of all modern art.

Cézanne Portraits is on at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 11 February 2018

Cassata Siciliana

Following hot on the heels of my last Sicilian sketch, today the final curtain falls upon my Sicily series with this, probably the best showstopper I could conceive in dedication to a holiday so rich in inspirational sources – my latest painting, Cassata Siciliana. 

Measuring some 100cm squared, it’s the largest painting I have completed in a long while and utterly dedicated to the joyful colours, textures and landscapes of South Eastern Sicily. Both its name and its central theme revolve around Sicilian desserts, more particular the Cassata which, in both its sponge-cake original and the ice cream alternative is a dish typical of the island comprising different layers of chocolate, pistachio, ricotta and candied fruit, all representing the wealth of Sicily’s locally available produce. Taking inspiration from that multi-layered dessert, I sought to paint a scene of Sicily made up of layers of squares and outlines, colours and textures, all of which combine to represent a jovial Sicilian scene, a town piazza at its centre, and the tables and chairs and striped awning of a gelateria dominating the scene.

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Cassata Siciliana (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Whether it be the little ice cream cart on wheels, or that other famous Sicilian treat – the cannolo – proudly sat upon a marine-striped building, this is a painting dedicated to the joy of sunny afternoons filled with chatter, happiness and above all things, dessert. But it is also a homage to the beauty of the Sicilian landscape, whether the baroque brilliance of its cathedrals – such as this reference to the yellow-stoned magnificnetly-domed cathedral in Noto – or the natural scenery which characterises the island, in particular the startling shadow of Etna which defines Sicily.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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 artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Green in Common

Sometimes it’s the simple things that are best in life: It’s a well known philosophy, and one which one does well to remember in this world of plenty, of multiple-distraction and rapid pace technology. Living in Mallorca it was a sensation I knew well, as my favourite moments would be sitting on a sunny bench besides the harbour side with a book and my beloved by my side. No music, no gimmicks, just the sound of water and the bobbing up and down of boats. Now I’m back in London, I feel the same when I’m enjoying the great expanses of green which we city dwellers are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. Right where I live I’m a mere stroll away from Clapham Common, Wandsworth Common, Battersea Park to name but a few. And in those spaces one can strip back the protective urban layer and enjoy the simple pleasures.

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Green in Common (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Such was my inspiration for this piece, my first completed work on canvas since I returned to this mammoth city, an urban conglomeration so large that perhaps this small painting speaks in protest. Inspired by the sight of a vast beautiful tree, I planned a work for which this simple landscape of trees and clouds would form the backdrop for a more dramatic tree portrait. But when I walked away from the canvas, with the protagonist still unstarted, I revelled in the simple beauty of this mere line of trees. So I declared this painting finished: my ode to verdant simplicity, and the moments I most cherish, wherever I happen to be.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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 artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

My Mallorca Gouache goes Bankside

I look at the date I last posted on this blog and blush with shame. But to be fair, my excuses are good. Very good. For I have just made an international move from Mallorca, back to London, and for almost 3 weeks I didn’t have a computer to write with, and for a further week beyond that, I had no office nor desk to place it on. However things are slowly getting there, and with only some 7 boxes out of around 107 left to unpack, and an entire home redecoration project more or less at its end, life is finally starting to settle, and my characteristic devotion to The Daily Norm will now, I hope, do likewise.

One of the escapes I was able to make during the course of this hectic  time was a series of visits to the Bankside Gallery on London’s South Bank (to be found directly next door to Tate Modern). For in a moment of perfect poetry, in my last days of Mallorca residence, I discovered that one of my paintings of Palma had been accepted by the jury of the Royal Watercolour Society Contemporary Watercolour Competition, and would be soon thereafter exhibited in London. So a painting of one home is exhibited at the very heart of another, and as I re-embrace London as my new home city, I was delighted and indeed honoured to be able to visit the Competition exhibition, both to see my own work displayed, and to admire the work of all the other successful competitors.

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My winning submission: Ocho Balcones No. 2: Old Town Cables, Palma (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

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All of the works currently on show in the exhibition can be seen here on the RWS website. What struck me from the show was just how versatile water-based mediums are in the creation of contemporary art. Often seen as a traditional method of painting, watercolour and other water-based mediums such as gouache can be used to create vivid, modern depictions of the world around us, or simply abstract or surreal images straight from the artist’s head. They are also great for really precise work on paper, as my winning work, Ocho Balcones No.2: Old Town Cables, demonstrates.

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Enjoying the packed private view …

My tardy publication of this article does not give you much time to enjoy these fine works in reality, for the exhibition will come to a close this Wednesday. But if you get a chance, go along…not just for my sunny glimpse of Mallorca, but for the wonderfully diverse work of the other participants whose art really proves that water-based mediums are as popular today as they ever were.

Inspired by my surroundings: Paseo Mallorca 4

Those who live on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca count themselves lucky. Winter temperatures rarely drop below 10 degrees, and on days of winter sunshine, when its rays are trapped in a corner away from occasional breezes, you might think that you are living a continuous summer. And in the Paseo Mallorca, the treelined waterway which I currently call my home, the graceful beauty of cypress trees, palms and ancient Arabic city walls continues to inspire, no matter the season. This is never more so than at the close of day, when the drama of winter sunsets add a new element of grace to this verdant avenue.

Having now painted the Paseo Mallorca three times, including views of the bridge of Jaume III and up river towards my apartment I was recently struck with renewed enthusiasm by the angle I originally painted, looking southwards towards the sea and past the Es Baluard museum of art, but this time with the changes brought about by the atmospheric light of dusk. So having previously considered my Paseo Mallorca collection to be complete, I set about embellishing it with this further, darker enhancement, whose sky and light effects add something of a more realistic feel to a collection characterised by flattened colour panes.

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Paseo Mallorca 4 (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

It feels appropriate that I should be presenting this painting now, at the time of dusk, as the sun sets over my time in Mallorca. For all around me, my life in Mallorca is being packed away in boxes as I prepare to leave this paradise, and my beloved Paseo Mallorca, behind. This adventure is now at an end, and London is calling me back into its fold. But long shall the memories of Mallorca prevail in my heart, especially my time spent living on this most inspirational of streets.

© 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