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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

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

Remembrance of things current (No.2): À la table de Mme Verdurin

Marcel Proust continues to ensnare me with the mellifluous poetry of his prose. Having struggled through the first 50 pages of his epic first novel, Swann’s Way, I found that what had at first been like an exercise in chipping away at solid ice had become the easier removal of slushy semi-melted layers, before the watery manifestation of his literary masterpiece washed over me without any effort on my part. I am now what could be termed Prousted, so easily accustomed to bathing languidly in my daily dose of Proust’s world that it has become less an escape from reality as a natural reacquaintance with a perfected present, from whose elegant embrace I depart unwittingly whenever I happen to put down the book.

Happily, when the time comes to place to one side the irresistible pages of In Search of Lost Time, my departure from Proust’s reality is rarely complete, for now the work is inspiring my artwork too. Just before Christmas, I introduced La Madeleine de Proust, the first instalment of my Remembrance of things current series of paintings. I have now completed the second: À la table de Madame Verdurin.

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Remembrance of times current (No.2): À la table de Madame Verdurin (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Anyone who has read Proust will know Madame Verdurin as the monarchical matriarch of her own exclusive, carefully selected carve out of Parisian society. Gathering together those people who she considered to be sufficiently witty to contribute to what she termed her collection of The Faithful, this little congregation importantly included Odette de Crécy who was later to become the infamous Mme Swann, wife of one of the book’s major protagonists, Charles Swann. The gatherings which Proust describes, ruled over by Mme Verdurin and her obedient husband, and playing host to the witticisms of guests, musical recitals, and even its own in-house artist, make for some of the most enjoyable passages of Swann’s Way. Providing an enthralling insight into the self-imposed societal norms practised by those who are not quite high society but form their own exclusive club in lieu of the better connections to which they secretly aspire, the Verdurin salon says so much of the social climbing and inter-class backbiting which was rife in Paris in the belle epoch.

Importantly for the novel, the house of Mme Verdurin provids the backdrop for Swann’s first encounters with Odette, and the frictions which thereafter developed when the couple dared to live a life beyond the congregation of The Faithful. In my painting, I have tried to capture the friction between Swann and Mme Verdurin in the two figures which dominate the bottom half of the piece. There, Mme Verdurin’s hairstyle is almost halo-like in her self-imposed status as a kind of deity in her home, while the red bar above her head is like the sentencing hat worn by a judge who makes severe judgement on the society around her. Above and below, the chandelier and the black and white floor represent the decorative embellishments which ensured that visitors to the Verdurin household were fully aware of their burgeoning social status, but the black and white also represents the keys of the piano which played out Vinteuil’s musical refrain which was to underpin the force of Swann’s passion for Odette. Yet for all this pomp and ostentation, the table of Madame Verdurin, around which the diners sit, is notably empty. Vacuous and without depth, like the true nature of the party’s rather frivolous conversation.

Now I am on the third novel of Proust, and with 4 still to go, I know that my collection of paintings will grow accordingly.

© 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 work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

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.

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.

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

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

Las Meninas: Fourth Interpretative Exercise

It’s been almost 10 months since I last created a work in my collection of painted interpretations of Velazquez´s famous masterpiece, Las Meninas, and in fact, after I had completed the third of the set, I thought that the group was pretty much complete. It was a collection which was significant not just in itself, but because it launched for me an entire new way of seeing both famous masterpieces and reinterpreting them (something which went on to inspire my new redevelopment of works by Rubens, Van Gogh and Courbet amongst others), but also instigated a new collection of more simplified quasi-cubist works developing flattened colour panes and using acrylic as a primary medium. However, at the time of painting the third Las Meninas, I also started a fourth, but as I remember it, a little while after starting, my interpretation of a Titian got me all carried away, and I left the canvas unfinished.

Thus it may have remained were it not for a spring (well autumn…) clean on which I embarked a couple of weeks ago. Discovering the canvas in its unfinished state I was 50:50 whether to bin it, or finish it. Opting to finish what I had started, I am now happy to present the final interpretation of Velazquez´s renowned masterpiece.

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Las Meninas: Fourth Interpretative Exercise (©2016 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Taking the abstracted character shapes from both the second and third interpretations and reusing them in yet another composition, this work is more of a satyrical take on the modern day clinical art gallery in which works such as Velazquez’s can be seen today… seen but certainly not touched. With their security guards, their roped off works, their cameras and alarms and pristine white walls, galleries are not always the most welcome of places, especially when compared with the abundantly filled, cosy interiors depicted in the likes of the original Las Meninas. But at the same time, this vacuous white gallery setting has become the staple of art institutions the world over, a space which allows the masterpieces themselves to shine in relative safety, free to inspire future generations with their majesty, just as Las Meninas did me.

© 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

Cubism’s hidden depth: The Crystal in the Flame

Any artist will tell you that paintings flowing from instinct will always work better. Those forced, because of instruction or a self-imposed target, will often miss the mark. When I paint from the heart, it always works better, and the style to which I always find myself returning in those unencumbered, free-flowing moments is a form of cubism.

I have always shied away from over-categorising my work. I rarely find such labels to be helpful, as indeed can be said of pigeonholing people. But I am the first to admit that there is something decidedly cubist about my recent work, especially when I design straight from the heart. This tendency arises, I believe, from my perfectionist attitude when it comes to composition and line, since there is nothing quite like the geometric delineation of cubism to satisfy that inherent need for order within me. However, it is also a tendency which arises directly out of my adoration for the genre in general.

Cubist works have always held an enduring fascination for me. In a gallery of plenty, they are always the works which later I will proclaim to have been my favourites. And last weekend, when I was lucky enough to attend an entire exhibition of cubism at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, I realised quite how innately inspired I am by the cubist age.

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Juan Gris, Portrait of Josette, 1916

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Gino Severini, Still-life with Bottle of Marsala, 1917

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Juan Gris, La Guitarra, 1918

The museum’s fascinating new exhibition, Cubism and War: the Crystal in the Flame, sets out to explore another face of the artistic masterpieces produced during the time of the First World War. When WW1 broke out, cubism as an artistic genre, was considered to be a fully-established school, with the likes of Picasso and Braque, Diego Rivera and Juan Gris its leading proponents. Rather than break with this new innovation when the war made images of blood-soaked trenches and destroyed landscapes a reality, those same artists and their followers were determined to keep the style alive. However, whether it be as a direct response to the horrors of war or a reflection of the modern, mass-machine, emotionless reality of the age, the time of war did bring about a distinctive sub-class of cubism, and it is this period on which this exciting new exhibition focuses.

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Juan Gris, Still Life before an Open Window, Place Ravignan, 1915

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Pablo Picasso, Still-Life with Compote and Glass, 1914-15

Known as “crystal” cubism in reference to the tightening compositions, enhanced clarity and sense of order reflected in the works, this new modification of cubism has been likewise linked to a much broader ideological transformation towards conservatism in both French society and culture (the crystal movement was largely painted out of Paris). It was certainly a purification of the style, moving from a complex analytical form of cubism, in which cubism was used to decompose a particular image or person after study, to a synthetic process whereby the cubist composition was built on the basis of geometric construction without the need for prior study. The “crystal” period took synthetic cubism one step further with works inherently characterised by a strong emphasis on flat surface activity and large overlapping geometric planes controlled by the primacy of the image’s underlying geometric structure, rooted in the abstract.

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Juan Gris, Pierrot, 1919

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Juan Gris, Still Life with Newspaper, 1916

The exhibition brings together an incredible away of works from the crystal period, and such was the perfection of the works on display that the show got my little perfectionist heart all in a flutter. Moving between a kind of infatuated admiration of the works and a despair at my own failure to produce masterpieces of the kind, I left the exhibition full of inspiration and a determination to continue along my own road of crystallised composition. I have already started work on my own painting inspired by the show. But in the meantime I am happy to recommend the exhibition to you all and to share some of its masterpieces on this post (most of which are Juan Gris, by far my favourite of the lot!).

Cubism and War. The Crystal in the Flame, runs at the Picasso Museum, Barcelona, until 29 January 2017.