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Posts tagged ‘Francisco Goya’

Printmaking Progress IV – La Flamenca (copper etching)

Regular readers of The Daily Norm will know that I have been dabbling in printmaking in recent months, and in particular etching, inspired by the superb results achieved in the medium by the likes of Goya, Picasso and Lucian Freud. Well having dappled a little in zinc plates (I hesitate to say “mastered” – as my recent disaster when aquatinting a zinc plate was to prove), I decided to move onto a copper plate, which, because of its durability, is the optimum plate to use for a bigger print edition.

Departing from the Norms who feature on my previous etchings, I decided to follow my familiar passion for Spain, and flamenco, recycling the idea I had for a fragmented dancer in Composition No. 8, and this time etching a flamenco dancer with a free-flowing fluid dress making for the major attraction of the plate. In terms of process, the image itself did not involve a whole lot of etching. Rather, the detail came with the aquatinting and soft-ground applied thereafter. Once the initial dancer image was etched into the plate, I then took a benday dot stencil, the likes of which would have been used by Roy Lichtenstein, and applied a series of polka dots across the background of my plate, emulating the popular pattern of flamenco dresses, and adding variety of tone by dipping in acid for different lengths of time.

La Flamenca (copper etching on paper) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2013

La Flamenca (copper etching on paper) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2013

In the lighter areas of the background (kept light through giving them less exposure to acid) I applied an intricate lace pattern using the soft-ground technique. This basically involves painting the plate with a protective liquid ground which is left wet. A piece of lace is then applied on top and the plate sent through the print press. This presses the lace into the soft ground, lifting it off the plate and leaving an impression of the lace in the ground, which is then etched into the metal when exposed to acid. I adore the result, creating a background which now includes both the lace and polka dots so characteristic of flamenco.

The final step then was to print my plate – I did so with a black ink mixed with a warming red to give a real flamenco flavour. I’m really very pleased with the result, so much so that I have decided to make this print a larger edition of 50.

The initial line etching

The initial line etching

Applying the dots onto aquatint

Applying the dots onto aquatint

Applying a lace softground

Applying a lace softground

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Stopping out the figure before final acid dip

Stopping out the figure before final acid dip

The finished plate

The finished plate

The finished print

The finished print

If you would like to buy one of my limited edition prints, they’re available now – in my Etsy store. See you there!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. 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. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Wellcome Death: A Self-Portrait

When one of my favourite friends, fellow blogger Celia, told me that she was going to spend her honeymoon in Mexico during “Dia de los Muertos” I got almost as excited as if I were going myself. Ever since developing an early obsession with the art of Frida Kahlo, and in turn the film Frida starring Salma Hayek, I have been fascinated by the Mexican celebration of the dead, in which they make and paint brightly coloured papier mache skulls, masks and skeletons, often adorned with hearts and flowers and all number of patterns, and parade them out in the streets. I even painted a Muertos skull in my recent painting of the city of Salamanca in Spain (below). Having never been to Mexico, I half-heartedly asked Celia to bring be back a “Muertos doll” never actually expecting that on her honeymoon, she would give me a second thought.

Salamanca (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas, 105 cm x 90 cm)

Salamanca (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas, 105 cm x 90 cm)

DSC08541But last week, amazing as she is, and freshly returned from the tropics of that South American paradise, she presented to me what must be the ultimate in double whammy presents – a Frida Kahlo doll with a Muertos skeleton face (pictured)! The doll is frankly amazing, combining all the fun and spirit of Kahlo’s works, including the occasional morbidity which creeps into her often pain-expressing paintings. No sooner had I lovingly placed said doll alongside my Frida Kahlo art catalogue on my book shelves (from the Tate Modern expo some years back), I then heard about another exhibition which has recently hit the streets of London – not of Kahlo, but of Death.

My Frida doll!

My Frida doll!

I know what you’re thinking, death, as the subject of an exhibition? Isn’t that likely to be morbid, or heartwrenching, or just plain scary? Well if you’re thinking those things, you probably don’t know the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road in London, a superb gallery adjunct of the Wellcome Trust, who regularly organises fascinating exhibitions of art and curiosities with a decidedly medical theme. The latest exhibition explores the theme of death and our preoccupation both with death, and combating death, in society.

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The exhibition comprises the vast and varied collection of Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer from Chicago and explores the subject in a brilliantly diverse array of mediums, themes and expressions. Upon entering the gallery, we were met by Jodie Carey’s 2009 work, In the Eyes of Others (2009), a giant chandelier made entirely of bones. Sadly, the bones were not real bones, but rather plastic reproductions, and therefore this did not have quite the same effect as a chapel I once visited in Rome, the Capuchin Crypt, made entirely from human bones (very morbid, but unusually architecturally beautiful). However, it set us up for a show which ranged from the oldest of 15th century art, to ambitious contemporary pieces.

In the Eyes of Others by Jodie Carey (2009)

In the Eyes of Others by Jodie Carey (2009)

The Capuchin Crypt, Rome

The Capuchin Crypt, Rome

The first room explored the theme, Contemplating Death, comprising examples from throughout history of memento mori (Latin for “remember you will die”), the well-advised reminder to us all that we should seize the day because all of us, inevitably, will be dead one day. This ranged from the classically painted Vanitas still life from 16th century Belgium, the skull sat amongst the clutter of Saint Jerome’s cell by Dürer.

Vanitas still life

Vanitas still life

Up next was the Dance of Death, a room which focused on the universal certainty of death, regardless of status in life. This included many a depiction of the Danse Macabre, in which feverish revelry united humans with skeletons, works intended to dissuade people from self-indulgence and vanity in life. I loved the beautiful, almost introspective solace of the dead skeleton sat upon a table in June Leaf’s sculpture, Gentleman on Green Table (1999-2000), as well as the Mondongo Collective’s The Skull Series, in which a huge sculpted scull made from plasticine was, upon closer inspection, a detailed exploration of the influence of the US and Europe upon the world.

June Leaf, Gentleman on Green Table

June Leaf, Gentleman on Green Table

 

Mondongo Collective, The Skull Series. Number eight from a series of 12. Plasticine

Mondongo Collective, The Skull Series. Number eight from a series of 12. Plasticine

For me, the third room, which explored the representation of death in its most violent form, was by far the most powerful and engaging works of the lot. Featuring some examples of the series The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra) by Francisco Goya, this room gave us confrontational and often hard-to-view representations of war and death agony. Goya’s etchings are a brilliant and deeply moving representation of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain at the beginning of the 19th Century. Seeing these images gives some indication of why Goya, having experienced the horrors of war, went from being sycophantic portrait painter of polite society, to creator of the stunning and deeply disturbing Black Paintings held within Madrid’s Prado gallery.

Goya, Tampoco (1810-20)

Goya, Tampoco (1810-20)

Detail from one of Goya's Black Paintings

Detail from one of Goya’s Black Paintings

Goya’s etchings have since influenced a number of artists, including Picasso and the Chapman Brothers, but perhaps none more so than German artist Otto Dix, whose series of 51 etchings entitled Der Krieg (War) based on his gruesome experiences in the trenches during WW1, were also on display alongside the Goya works which inspired them. Dix’s etchings were incredibly moving, and unapologetic in their gruesome and violent portrayal of war, death, and devastating injury. All in black and white, these works didn’t need the vivid red of blood to convey the horror of the WW1 deathtol. Rather, in their monochromatic greys and blacks, they perfectly portrayed the grim horror of those times.

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Dix, Wounded Soldier

Dix, Wounded Soldier

Dix, Machine Gunners Advancing

Dix, Machine Gunners Advancing

It was perhaps with some relief that the fourth gallery showed us a lighter view of death – in fact, rather unusually, death’s relationship with eroticism as representations of death were shown intertwined with the nude and appearing to infiltrate the embrace of lovers. In this room, I loved the little optical illusion postcards which reminded me a bit of Dali. The skull appears in each to be the most prominent symbol, but look again and you can see a perfectly innocent domestic scene, which bears no relation at all to the skull which it at first appears to represent.

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La Vie et la Mort, Leben und Tod (Postcard c.1900-10)

The final room was a representation of the Dia de los muertos festival which has so fascinated me, along with other cultural representations of death in society around the world. I was particularly drawn towards Dan Salvo’s photos of shrines and elaborate altars (known as ofrendas) which are designed to welcome the spirits of those who have departed. I also loved the wall of Muertos dolls straight out of Mexico.

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So with some greater sense of joy, we left the exhibition, full of joys of the Mexican carnival, that was at least until we saw the last wall of the show which gave statistics about the causes of death around the world. Then our joy turned to slightly less jovial stark realism mixed with scientific curiosity as, captivated, we spent a good 5 minutes fascinated by the statistics which show that, far from the horrors of war, the greatest killer of mankind is the role of disease, illness and other irreparable physical conditions. Now if that isn’t a reminder to seize the day, I don’t know what is.

Death: A Self-Portrait is on at the Wellcome Collection until 24 February 2013

 

Norms do…Goya – The Third of May 1808

When people think about paintings of conflict, the first name to pop into their head is generally Guernica. The painting, by Picasso, has become a worldwide antiwar symbol, and as if proving the fact, a large tapestry of the painting hangs outside the UN’s Security Council HQ in  New York (you know, the same one that they covered up with curtains when making the decision to go to war against Iraq). But in actual fact, there was painted, some 120 years earlier, an equally striking image of conflict, sacrifice and war, an image so resonant, in fact, that Picasso  cited it as an inspiration to his Guernica. The painting is The Third of May 1808, by Francisco Goya.

As my regular readers will have twigged, I’m a big fan of Spanish art, and therefore it is no surprise that somewhere in the dark depths of my imagination, a Norm version of Goya’s magnum opus would take its form, emerging as a brief watercolour sketch the other night. Here it is, with Goya’s original masterpiece.

Norms on 3rd May 1808 (after Goya) (Watercolour, 2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814), courtesy of the Prado, Madrid

To give a brief background, Goya’s work represents an uprising of Madrid residents in response to the French invasion of Spain under Napoleon I. Having tricked the Spanish into an alliance with the French armies with a view to conquering Portugal and splitting it between then, Napoleon entered Spain with his armies in November 1807 under the guise of strengthening Spanish troops. However, having entered Spain, Napoleon’s true intentions were unveiled, and the French troops moved in to take control of the country, facing very little resistance. It was only on 2 May 1808, when the people of Madrid learnt that the Spanish royals were to be exiled to France, that many of them rose up in rebellion against the French troops. The French army ultimately prevailed, but not without great bloodshed, and Marshal Murat, head of the French army in Spain declared: “The population of Madrid, led astray, has given itself to revolt and murder. French blood has flowed. It demands vengeance. All those arrested in the uprising, arms in hand, will be shot.”. Goya’s painting depicts the moment, early the next morning, when hundreds of Spaniards were led from the monastery where they had been imprisoned overnight (probably the buildings shown in the background) to the surrounding barren lands where they faced point-blank execution before a firing-squad.

The Second of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814), courtesy of the Prado, Madrid - partner of the Third of May, this painting depicts the uprising itself.

Goya’s painting is a stunning symbol of slaughter and sacrifice. It works so well on so many levels. There is, for example, the haphazard grouping of sacrificial victims on the left, a monk-like figure shown bending to meet his fate, others turning away in despair, the blood of innocents all over the floor, bloody corpses foreshortened as though falling into the space of the audience. The group of victims shows a human, unorganised element which compares effectively with the group of gunmen on the right who are rigid, dark, sinister, grouped together like a killing machine showing no remorse or sway in their murderous resolve. This contrast of dark and light creates a wonderful tension – good versus evil. Of course the most striking character is the central victim, dressed in a glowing white, his colours matching those of the lantern which casts light upon the scene. Shown with his arms outstretched, he is a christ like figure – he even appears to have the marks of stigmata upon his hands – all suggesting that he represents those Spaniards who stood up to the French invaders, sacrificing their lives for the sake of ultimate Spanish victory. It’s a work which portrays bloody human waste – a waste of life, the destruction of the innocents – and this is why it still stands today as such a powerful anti-war symbol.

Unsurprisingly the painting has inspired countless artists since it went on display in a rather pokey corner of the Prado (after it lay in storage for 40 years – the King of the time, Ferdinand VII, didn’t like it as it glorified people rather than him). One of the first interpretations of the image was this one, by Édouard Manet, which depicts the execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico.

Édouard Manet's Execution of the Emperor Maximilian (1868-1869)

Maximilian, a member of the Hapsburg family of Austria, had been installed in power in Mexico by Napoleon III of France in an attempt to recover unpaid debts and establish a European presence there. This endeavor failed, ending with the execution of Maximilian and two of his generals by firing squad on 19th June 1867. Here, the emphasis is reversed, as Manet, ever anti-Napoleon, makes the executors the heroes of the piece, dressed in their smart livery, whereas Maximilian and his generals are, by contrast, depicted with dark, undefined, sinister brushstrokes.

The second most significant use of Goya’s composition is Massacre in Korea by Picasso which depicts the Sinchon Massacre, an act of mass killing carried out by the South Korean and/or American forces in 1950.

Pablo Picasso, Massacre in Korea (1951)

Here the firing squad are once again the aggressors, and Picasso has taken the idea of the killing machine to a new level, depicting the squad as a fantastical group of sinister, mechanical automatons, killing without emotion of any kind. By contrast, the victims are as emotive as could be depicted – women and children, one seemingly pregnant, another’s face crippled with despair.

A final, lesser-known depiction, is the pop art homage painted by Irish artist, Robert Ballagh.

The Third of May - After Goya, 1970, by Robert Ballagh

Entitled The Third of May 1970, the painting makes a direct reference to Goya’s work, making no changes to the composition whatsoever, but converting the work into a pop-art creation using black outlines and block colours. The 1970 title of the work is intended to reflect another time of great conflict – this time in Northern Ireland – when British troops entered to enforce some semblance of control.

All three depictions serve demonstrate the continuing relevance of The Third of May 1808 in times of conflict. Like Picasso with his Guernica, Goya created a work for all times, a stark reminder of the brutality and savagery which comes so easily in times of conflict, a brutality which has continued to erupt intermittently around the world, and which, only 120 years after the Third of May, savaged Goya’s homeland, once again.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.