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Posts tagged ‘Paris’

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.

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Paris by Night

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

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

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

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

Artist in Focus: Grant Wood

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

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American Gothic, Grant Wood (1930)

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

Highlights of Grant Wood’s oeuvre

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Young Corn (1931)

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Parson Weem’s Fable (1939)

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Spring in the Country (1941)

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The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover (1931)

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

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

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Death on the Ridge Road (1935)

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Fall Plowing (1931)

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The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931)

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Stone City Iowa (1930)

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

Paris by Day

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

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

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

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

2015: My year in photos (Part 2 – Beyond Paradise)

Living in Mallorca, there can be no doubt that we are utterly spoilt, for all around us, from the city of Palma to the beaches and mountains beyond, we cannot help but discover unhampered beauty wherever we go. And yet while we could quite easily have indulged ourselves for a year’s worth of admiration of the island, the travel obligations of work, a long planned weekend to Paris, and the most life changing of events – our wedding – took us further afield, to enjoy the incredible beauty of the world beyond Mallorca.

And so, in this second of my two photographic reviews back over the year of 2015, I feature just a few of my favourite shots of the incredible surroundings beyond the Balearics. For 2015 was significant not just for its being our first year in Mallorca, but also for the opportunity it gave us to finally tie the knot after almost 6 years of engagement. The honeymoon which followed made for the most unique of holidays, with a stay in the famous Riviera paradise of La Colombe d’Or in St-Paul de Vence rivalled only by a short but sweet spell in bustling Barcelona, and an acquaintance with the chic seaside spots of Cannes and Antibes.

The ultimate Paris shot

The best day of my life

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Leger mural at La Colombe d'Or

Big Wheel, Paris

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Summer sunset, Provence

But it did not end there, for months before our wedding, a trip to the world’s primary city of love enabled us a further reconnaissance with our most adored Paris, while post-marriage and still revealing in the new blushes of marital bliss, we were able to rest on the beaches of Marbella, indulge in the new cultural hotspot of Malaga, and drop into Madrid, onto Ibiza and back home again for the most magical of Mallorcan Christmases.

It’s been a magical year. Thank goodness I can relive it all in photos. Until the next… Happy New Year!!!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.    

Interpretation No. 16 – From La Rive Gauche, Paris

Although this week will mark a year’s anniversary since we moved from London to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, I am invariably a creature of habit, and while I surround myself daily by some of the most beautiful views Europe has to offer, there are still some things I miss about my former London life. Prince among them, ironically, is not a London experience at all, but our annual trip, taking what I always consider to be a glamorous sub-Channel rail journey from London St Pancras to L’Estacion Gare du Nord, to visit my favourite amongst cities, Paris. And as that annual trip always happened around about now, I cannot hide my internal pining for the French city of lights.

So in my efforts to satisfy something of my longings, I have somewhat franco-fied my home life of late. On my ipod, the hauntingly beautiful songs of old 20s French cabaret play; on the TV, film favourites such as La Vie en Rose are on continuous repeat, and moving from my paintbrush, this very Parisian scene emerged – a gouache painting which becomes the newest in my simplified interpretations landscape series.

Interpretation No. 16: From La Rive Gauche (2015, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown,  gouache on paper)

Interpretation No. 16: From La Rive Gauche (2015, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

With its simplified colour palette of turquoise, ochre and grey, it reflects the memory of a similar such scene encountered just as we were crossing from the left bank on our last trip to Paris. I remember that the day had been pretty grey, but about the time the sun set, the clouds dispersed and left the sky a creamy golden yellow. This in turn reflected on the water, turning the grey River Seine a beautiful shade of turquoise which then glowed, almost unnaturally, against the greys and beiges of the surrounding city architecture.

It feels good to have Paris back in my life again… even if it is just on paper.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. 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.delacybrown.com

February in Paris – Part 3: Sonia Delaunay at MAM

Anyone having a quick peruse of my own personal artwork will know that I am a huge lover of colour. As far as I am concerned, what point is there in having colour available if it is only to be muddied and diminished with blacks and browns? No doubt sharing my opinion were some of the boldest expressionist and modernist painters of the 20th century, whose bold use of colour was at first seen as terribly scandalous but which eventually came to characterise an entire generation of art, when the boundaries of accepted aesthetic values were pushed to new extremes.

Chief amongst them were a tremendous twosome – what today may be termed a “power couple” – two of the greatest proponents of modernist expressionism and of the power and glory of pure colour: Robert and Sonia Delaunay. Together, these two artists, who married in 1910 and in 1912 proclaimed the birth of Simultanism, refocused the attention of the art world on the dynamic power of colour, using the strength and unique characteristics of colours as an end in themselves rather than a means of expressing something else. The paintings and other artworks which resulted are progressively abstract explosions of structured colour which, by virtue of their use of a full panoply of rainbow hues, are full of expressive happiness and boundless energy.

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Of course as is often the case with a power couple, there is often one of the two who history overlooks, and few could argue that it was Sonia who remained in the shadow of her husband for many years during and following their successful careers, a fact which is not ignored by the Museum of Modern Art in Paris (MAM) who were therefore determined to stage a bigger and even more significant Sonia Delaunay retrospective when they opened their Sonia expo a few months ago.

The result is an exhibition which is every bit as full of the Delaunay dynamism and energy as the paintings themselves. It is a show which demonstrates that although it was Robert Delaunay who conceptualised abstraction as a universal language, it was Sonia who experimented with it in all sorts of media, including posters, clothes and objects, and much of the MAM show comprises Sonia’s dapple in fashion, for which she designed countless zany fabrics and original outfits, as well as her determination to include abstraction and colour within the household, and as a backdrop to theatre, parties and other everyday recreational activities.

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For me, the main success of the MAM show is its collection of Sonia’s paintings which, when seen as a group, vibrate full of the energy and exhilaration which results from bringing together so many electric colours in one room. I particularly love how her consistent use of coloured circles is occasionally adapted to more figurative imagery, such as her abstract image of flamenco dancers, where the use of circles adds to the feel of fast sweeping dance movement. I was also interested to see how the genesis of her work was so much more figurative than it was abstract, but that even from the very beginning, her use of colour remained strong, so that even the simplest of portraits contain a face or skin tone loaded with a palette full of colour.

And it is for this unyielding uninhibited use of colour that I love the work of both Sonia and Robert Delaunay. But right now Sonia’s work is hogging more of the spotlight, an quite rightly too – every person deserves their place in the sun.

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Sonia Delaunay: The Colours of Abstraction is only open for another few days at the Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris, closing on 22 February 2015. But worry not, for come April the retrospective will reopen in London’s Tate Modern, running until August.

February in Paris – Part 2: Valentine’s in the City of Love

Paris is truly the City of Love. For even if you are not lucky enough to be strolling around the streets of the central arrondissements in the arms of a loved one, there is surely sufficient beauty in those Haussmann-conceived boulevards and palatial streets to fall in love with. And while I have been lucky enough to spend the last 5 years of visits to Paris in the company of my beloved, I also look back fondly upon my first experiences of the city: when young and very much single, I saw the historically rich and artistically abundant streets for the first time and fell head over heels in love – a personal relationship with Paris which has continued to this day.

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So spending this year’s Valentine’s Day in Paris certainly seemed appropriate. Yes, the city was wise enough to cash in on its reputation, such that every restaurant was reserved to the hilt with set menus costing triple the normal price, but putting this rather crass commercialisation aside, I could not think of no better place to spend the year’s most dedicated day of love. The city is one so perfectly attuned with its environment and its picture perfect urban planning that is as though the city is in love with itself, with the nature all around it and vice versa. At every street corner there is a new panorama to be admired and a new direct vista to some stunning iconic building, and with such harmonious town planning evident wherever you walk in Paris, you cannot help but feel satisfied, balanced and free to love.

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The photos which accompany this love song to Paris are something of a miscellaneous homage, taken over the Valentine’s weekend as we strolled and admired the city. From bridges to cafe’s, bull dogs to palaces, they are the archetypal vision of a picture perfect city which will seduce every visitor, and make even the most stalwart singleton feel love for the first time.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

February in Paris – Part 1: Sunset in the Tuileries

I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles – so sang Ella Fitzgerald in a song with which many a Paris-lover can identify. For Paris is truly a city for every season, even in the wintery rain. And it was precisely because our weekend in Paris was destined to be a wet one (according to some forecasts at any rate) that upon our sunny but late arrival there at the end of last week, we thought we had better rush out and take what photos we could while the city remained dry. With a mere hour to go until sundown, this meant photographing what we came upon first, and for us in a lucky location staying alongside the Palais Royal, our pre-sundown photographs were taken in perhaps one of the most beautiful of Paris sites – the Tuileries and around the Louvre.

In the yellowing light of a dying day, the carefully manicured hedges of the Tuileries melt into the distance behind the subtly glinting statues which stand all around the gardens. Behind it all, the imposing palatial magnitude of the Louvre complex dazzles with its sheer magnificence and complexity, a scale which is seconded only by the equally majestic buildings which extend the full length of the Tuileries running alongside the glamorous Rue de Rivoli.

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The Tuileries are not only beautiful in themselves, even in the winter when their leaves are much depleted, but they also provide for the perfect place in which to study the perfect vistas of Paris, whether it be the masterfully crafted symmetrical view down the across the Place de la Concorde all the way down the Champs Élysées and along to La Defence, or the ever omnipotent site of the Eiffel Tower silhouetted against the sky. For this reason there could be no better place from which to start our most recent reconnaissance with the city, nor indeed this Daily Norm photographic tribute.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

The Daily Norm’s Christmas Tree of the Week | No.3: Parisian Masquerade

Some people think that black Christmas trees are morbid, but as this tree scheme will hopefully demonstrate, a well decorated black tree can be anything but. Characterised by its sparkling silver masks and its twinkling Eiffel Towers, my Parisian Masquerade tree is a nod to the glamour, elegance and spectacle which France’s capital city exudes in bucket loads. Yes, this week’s Daily Norm Christmas Tree of the week is the third tree out of four in my scheme of plenty, and is perhaps the most tightly co-ordinated and unceasingly bejewelled of the lot.

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Matching perfectly the black and red colour scheme of my lounge (with its dark leathers, urban metals, large mirrors and glass surfaces and splashes of red in the furniture and accessories), my black tree both complements and enhances the interiors, with its baubles of ruby red glitter, black and white patterning and polished silver, while red tinsel adds shape and consistency to the scheme. Meanwhile, the little Eiffel towers, to be found in both metal and blown glass form not only signpost the major theme of the tree, but also reflect the large Eiffel Tower silhouettes which adorn the walls of my lounge. But perhaps the best representation of the spirit of Paris is not in the Eiffel towers, but the undeniable glamour which is manifested in the little glass chandeliers which hang intermittently amongst the baubles – a touch of ballroom elegance for the masquerade which is dancing its way across the branches of this tree.

So for those doubters amongst you who think that a black Christmas tree is better suited to Halloween, I would ask you to reconsider. For in my Parisian Masquerade I believe I have created a scheme which represents the most festive facet of all the season – a representation of the parties and the glamour which Christmas so proficiently entails.

Join me next week for the climax of my Christmas tree review – Number 4!