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Posts tagged ‘Art History’

Compendium // Rome > Moses, the other great Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s David is one of the most cited, famous and admired sculptures in the history of art. Its image graces tea towels and teapots, erotic aprons and nodding-head dolls. And it’s no wonder. When I revisited the great marble man over Christmas, my emotions raised the nearer I got to the splendid stone musculature. We have been left with few Michelangelo sculptures in a truly finished state. Much of the works of his sculptural oeuvre have only just started emerging from their cacophony of natural stone. But in Rome there is another Michelangelo in the ecstatic state of splendid finesse, which is every bit the equal of David for its brilliance of anatomy, and for the emotions captured in marble. I am not talking of the Vatican’s La Pieta, but Moses, a mere stone’s throw from the Colosseum.

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Without a recommendation, you could easily miss San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains), the church in central Rome where Moses is held (and which also hosts the chains purported to have held said St Peter in captivity). There, in one corner, the sole direction of the tourist gaze will soon demarcate where Michelangelo’s masterpiece is waiting. Had Moses sat within the mammoth marble tomb structure of Pope Julius II for which he was originally intended, there would have been no missing him. Commissioned by the Pope in 1505, the tomb was designed to hold 40 like-sized sculptures and fill a central apse of the new St Peter’s Basilica. As it was, Michelangelo soon became embroiled in the Pope’s other great commission: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and when his tomb was eventually installed at its current location, Moses took centre stage, his being the only one of the major sculptures for the tomb completed.

Perhaps it was a twist of fate which made things that way. For it would be a crying shame indeed if this truly exquisite statue had been lost in a crowd of 39 others, relegated to a tier some 4 metres of the ground in its intended positioning. Today, by contrast, the relative accessibility of San Pietro in Vincoli means you can get to almost touching distance of the great man, and the effect is ravishing.

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How can I describe an encounter with Moses? Emotional for sure, awestruck most certainly. The way in which Michelangelo so adeptly sculpts the flowing beard of Moses, twisted around his fingers in what appears to be both a moment of contemplation and rage at the idolatry of the Israelites who he finds to be worshiping a golden cow upon his descent from Mount Sinai. There is a beautiful, throbbing intensity about his musculature and his domineering presence. This Moses is both godlike to behold, and intimidating to witness.

Above all things he is a true icon of art history, and what is Michelangelo’s perhaps more overlooked masterpiece, available for all to see (for free) in the very centre of Rome.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 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, Land of the Medici (Part 2): Michelangelo’s David

It is one of the most famous icons in all the history of Art, and one of the world’s undisputed masterpieces of sculpture. Michelangelo’s David must have been reproduced more than any other statue across the globe: You’d be hard pushed to find a garden centre which didn’t contain a moss-covered replica, or an Italian souvernir shop which didn’t have a panoply of aprons focusing on David’s genitals, keyrings of the same, and your own personal desktop David in every size and colour variation. Yet despite it’s high visibility, nothing can prepare you for seeing the real thing. Nothing.

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I remember the moment of my first acquaintance with David when I studied art history in 2001. It was the day I was least looking forward to, since I thought David was too well-known and obvious to excite. But when I saw the original, the huge vast scale of it, the sheer perfection of his exquisitely sculpted flesh in marble, it made me cry. I stood before that masterpiece completely enraptured. And I have looked forward to making a second acquaintance ever since. Some 16 years passed before I could see David up close again, but as these photos show, he inspired me every bit as much on this second visit, and I took a long and happy pause to revel in every details of Michelangelo’s impossibly perfected magnum opus.

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Created between 1501 and 1504, David is the work not of an experienced sculptor at the height of his game, but of a junior Michelangelo in the early years of his career. Much nurtured by his patron, Lorenzo (the Magnificent) di Medici, Michelangelo enjoyed a swift rise to fame, but his talent was the true driver, something which was never so brilliantly exhibited as in the creation of this perfect nude. The work is yet more incredible when you consider that Michelangelo first had to sculpt around the previous abandoned attempts made by two other sculptors on the same block of marble. He also had to make the best of this mammoth hunk of stone which had suffered notable deterioration during the 26 years when it had lain abandoned in a sculptural workshop, exposed to the elements. But as Michelangelo always said, he did not create sculptures, but simply freed them from the marble. And with David, he gave liberty to the most perfectly formed being ever seen in the history of art.

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Of course David is not the only gem to be discovered in the Accademia Gallery where he can now be found. There reside a number of the unfinished Michelangelo’s sculptures commenced in anticipation of the great Pope Julius II tomb of which the sculptor’s famous Moses was also intended to be part. Likewise there is a room loaded full of plaster casts, all of which were used to give instructions to fellow scuptors who, like Michelangelo, would come to emerge from this indubitable city of the rebirth of Art. All of it makes a visit to the Accademia gallery a must, but book online to avoid the queues – it’s well worth the not waiting :-).

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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 1): The Loggia dei Lanzi

I was in Florence in my imaginings, long before I set foot there on the eve of Christmas Eve. In the weeks preceding our trip, I had been variously transported to the great city of the Renaissance by Mary Hollingsworth, whose new revealing narrative of the Medici family enchanted me before I even turned to the first page. Charting the multiple highs and lows of a family who came to dominate the city of Florence and shape the very fabric of the city to their taste and fancy, the book reminded me that love them or hate them, without the Medici, Florence would never have become the gem which catapulted it to international fame and admiration.

So when I returned to Florence for Christmas, my first visit in over six years, I did so with a mind filled to the brim with tales of the Cosimos and the Lorenzos, of the audacious Grand Dukes and their self-made apotheosis. And in such a state, I could not help but notice their stamp wherever I turned in the city. Barely a metre would pass without their family crest of the 6 balls appearing like an apparition on every stone and surface of Florence. And in striving to fill my trip with some of the city’s greatest masterpieces of art, I was of course undertaking an inadvertent journey along the road of great Medici patronage which, most will agree, underpinned the birth of the Renaissance and promoted artistic excellence to new heights.

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No place quite smacks of Medici prowess as the Piazza della Signoria where our trip began. Not only does it play host to the Palazzo Vecchio, once Medici palace and seat of the Florentine government with its sturdy fortress-like walls ensuring all knew of the powerhouse within; it also contains some of the finest works of sculpture ever commissioned during the thriving Florentine Renaissance. Yes, there’s a copy of Michelangelo’s ravishing David (more about him another day), and a rather magnificent bronze statue of Cosimo I, mounted on a horse, but the very best works are contained within the Loggia del Lanzi, the great gallery of public proclamation and official ceremonies. Named after the Lansquenets guards posted there by Cosimo I de’ Medici, today it contains some of the most recognisable masterpieces of the Medici patronage (as well as a good number of ancient treasures collected by the family in Rome).

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You can spend a fortune on buying entry tickets for Florence’s many art museums, and a even greater amount of time in queuing, but spend an hour in the Loggia del Lanzi, and you will feast upon true treasure of art history and all for free. Thus we passed a wonderfully calm morning on Christmas Day, drinking in the drama, the emotion and the sheer artistic skill of these incredible works; of Pio Fedi’s ravishing but deeply traumatic Rape of Polyxena, and the equally dramatic, soaring masterpiece of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women; gazing at the sheer muscle and brawn of Hercules and the Centaur, and admiring the dexterity of antiquity as we enjoyed an equal number of early Roman lions and graceful Trajan women.

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Firenze is a city with much to offer. You could spend your time focusing on its famous gelaterias, its bustling leather markets or ambling from one glittering church to another. But one thing which you cannot fail to miss is the influence of the Medici. In many ways, their output will provide the visitor with the most enchanting treat of them all.

© 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.

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.

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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

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.

From Illyria to Italy, Part 6: The Treasures of the Vatican

The treasures of the Vatican undoubtedly represent collectively the most famous art historical hoard in the world. Containing works such as Raphael’s School of Athens, Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ, the incredibly preserved pre-Roman sculpture Laocoön and his Sons, the Belvedere Torso, and of course Michelangelo’s most famous masterpiece, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, there are few in the world who would enter without feeling as though they had seen something of its contents before. Indeed I had seen it all before, having first visited the museum during my art history studies, a period of absolute enlightenment which opened my eyes to the aesthetic possibilities of the present via the past. But since that trip, unbelievably some 15 years ago, I have routinely put off reentering this temple of art, for fear of the crowds who regularly collect there.

On this year’s trip to Rome, we decided to break the stalemate. Dominik had never been in, and my last trip was too confined into distant memory to be of proper value. Besides, as far as the Sistine Chapel stakes went, I was no longer satisfied to content myself with the (albeit rather good) replica in Goring-by-Sea, nor the probably computer generated scenes in Angels and Demons. While we found the entrance to be a good 20 minutes walk in the merciless heat around the enormous outer perimeter of the Vatican City, upon our arrival at the museum, we were surprised to find our pre-bought ticket entitled us to immediate entrance without so much of a hint of a queue…That was until we got inside.

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To say that there were crowds inside the museum would be suggest a beach is endowed with a few grains of sand. It was packed, rammed! There were so many coach parties, each plugged into headphones bearing the monotonous tone of their flag-bearing guide, that at times we felt as though we might be forcefully parted by the tidal wave of tourists, rather like that traumatic scene in Empire of the Sun. Just as one wave was swept along the corridors in search of the predetermined scheduled “highlights” another would sweep into the vacuum left in its wake. Moments of reflexion and breathing space were few. Once we got up to the corridor of maps, the bottle necking effect was so intense that we had no choice but to continue with the flow of the coach tours. Turning back was no longer an option. Finally we shuffled into the Sistine Chapel. So too did the coaches. And any attempt to enjoy the serenity of Michelangelo’s masterpiece was resolutely destroyed, not so much by the crowd´s chatting, but by the screaming guards shouting into the microphone “SILENCE!!!!”, the words booming out of the speakers so loudly they practically cracked the great work. Lord, I think the shock of it shaved at least 5 years off my life.

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Despite all of this, the Vatican museum remained an immense treat to behold. There are elements of the collection so arrestingly beautiful, and so incredibly well known, that one can’t help but get lost in the historical aura given off before them. However, knowing already what famous pieces lay in store, I actually found myself more happily drawn to the lesser known objects… the gallery of over 1000 marble busts was disarmingly beautiful, as well as some of the frescos painted in the Galleria deli candelabra for example, or in the long corridor of maps. And even better, since the works weren’t marked on the tourist trail, most of the hoards left them alone!

Somewhat surprisingly, we were allowed to take photos, so the images featured on this post were taken by yours truly. Don’t expect to see the Sistine Chapel though. Photo (and indeed bare knees and shoulders) were strictly banned there… so it looks as though you may need to rely on the Goring-by-Sea replica after all.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and 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. 

From Illyria to Italy, Part 5: The Colours of Rome

Campo dè Fiori, Piazza della Rotonda, the Via del Corso and the Lungotevere. The names of Rome’s russet coloured streets resonate with the same romantic euphony which make the city unique. Uniquely ancient, with the potency of history bleeding from every crack and cobble; uniquely passionate, its tempers flared by the heat and its vivacity for living played out in its food, its art, and in its attitude. Roma. Even the name’s mellifluous voyage across the tongue recalls a thousand stories of Emperors and Popes, Michelangelo and Bernini, pomp and glory, ascent and fall.

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Rome has an energy which infects and conquers. It’s tiring for sure, manic in places, rammed full of tourists and trying to cross its roads is frankly a deathly pursuit. But who cannot be seduced by the smell of freshly ground coffee wafting through the streets; by the fashionista ragazzi slowly wafting through the strada of Spagna with their newest accessories on show; by the slowly melting gelati, the magnificent marble fountains and the restaurants spilling out onto Piazzas with their red Vichy tablecloths and mountains of spaghetti.

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But perhaps above all things, Rome is a city of art. On every corner, at the centre of every square, and in even the smallest of chapels, there sits a masterpiece whose magnitude marks out an entire chapter in the pages of art history. Rome is for art what Manhattan is for skyscrapers. A living museum with an astonishing collection at every turn.

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So when we eventually made it from Croatia to Italy, from Split to Rome, we drunk in the infectious atmosphere of Rome like someone devoid of water after a week in the desert. We went to galleries, we went to cafes, we even endured the coach-party crush of the Vatican Museum. But our favourite pursuit was simply to be in Rome. To wander the streets and let the city wash over us, tantalising each of the senses in turn. Smell: a rich creamy coffee propped up at the bar of the Tazza d’Oro or outside the illustrious Caffe Greco. Taste: dinner by candlelight on the Via Condotti. And for our eyes, the simple feast of colour which adorns every street and building. It is this palette of colour, the terracottas and ochres, deep sanguine red and golden custard, which is the focus of this post. A collection of photos which need say nothing more than narrate the story of a city whose heart is worn so explicitly on its multi-coloured sleeve.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and 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.