='data:blog.isMobile ? "width=device-width,initial-scale=1.0,minimum-scale=1.0,maximum-scale=1.0" : "width=1100"' name='viewport'/> The Crawford Arts Review

Monday, 20 August 2018

Chance occurrences? They happen. Life-changing chance occurrences? They happen too. Listening to a performance of Bach's Chaconne and later seeing Lucas Cranach the Elder's Cupid complaining to Venus in Room 4 of the National Gallery quite possibly did it for me last Friday.

Music first: It was the video* of members of the New York based Limón Dance Company** dancing to the Bach Chaconne played live in their studio by violinist Johnny Gandelsman that seized my ears. Apologies if I have not managed to upload it here in a playable form: I will go on trying. Or go direct to @stradmag on Twitter and scroll down to Friday 17. I wonder if you can imagine this music before your ears open to it, this highest of high art. 

Bach was writing the Partita of which the Chaconne is the final part between 1717-20. Cranach was painting Cupid and Venus, the painting that seized my eyes, around 1526-7, two centuries earlier. Yet the sources seem similar, at least in artistic terms, the solemn, celebratory or seasonal dances dating from before the Renaissance: gigues, gavottes, sarabandes, allemandes, all of them gradually becoming formalised and standardised through the Baroque period and beyond and taken to the highest state of art by Bach in his Suites. What melodies Cranach had heard while he painted we know not. But the way he depicts Venus is dance-like in her graceful, balletically attenuated descent, called to earth by her lovable little imp, her face a study of maternal forbearance.

Cupid has stolen a honeycomb and been well stung by the angry bees. Cranach painted the subject many times. The inspiration was a poem by Theocritus. The version in the National Gallery (acquired by purchase in 1963) is for my money the best of the lot. In it Venus wears the kind of a-la-mode hat with ostrich plumes that Cranach had earlier used for his depictions of royal hunting parties. Sheer painterly panache.

In the poem, Cupid does have a question for his mother. Look at these tiny insects he exclaims. How can they make these great big painful wounds? Well, look at you she says, ask yourself how can such a little boy make such a big, painful wound every time you shoot one of your arrows. Room 4, German works, is filled with such wonders. Have a look at them before your visit at this link.

*   From WQXR via Twitter
** Choreography by José Limón

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London WC2

Friday, 3 August 2018

Until Saturday 18 August

At Sadie Coles, 62 Kingly Street W1
Urs Fischer 'soft'

The artist and their gallerist represent a productive dyad, the latter providing motivation and the former earning a regular pay cheque and reputation boost for work sold. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

When a workplace resembles an atelier . . .

I imagine people are happy to work
here, a street-facing creative space. 
I hope so anyway. The builders by
the way, by a trick of light, are sitting 
across the street. This is Wells Street,
more and more becoming its very own

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

I love the way Soho continues to reinvent itself.

This is the entrance to Soho Parish Primary School - an extension (with larger, particularly inventive and safe play areas) built by Erect Architecture that opened a few years ago. Walk down Great Windmill Street, turn right into Ham Yard, retrace your steps, cross Brewer Street and walk up Lexington Street to discover the glam that high quality design can contribute while preserving the original street pattern and the useful local shops that people living in or near the area rely on.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The British Museum's blockbuster

Is one visit to an exhibition ever enough? Well, not if it's Rodin and the art of ancient Greece. For £64 for a year's membership (one adult only, by Direct Debit) you can go as many times as you like. Each time you will discover more.

I've shot this Parthenon sculpture (Ilissos, the river god (about 438432BC), figure A from the corner of the west pediment), from the back to show the way the sculptor has transformed a massive chunk of marble into rippling water eddies at the base, then flesh as Ilissos rises from the watery depths to rest on the river bank.
     The British Museum, scholarly to a fault, does not give a sculptor's name to any of these figures. They were carved 'in the time of' Pheidias.

Pheidias is thought to have designed both the Parthenon itself, as its architect, as well as its sculptures. The matter of who did the carving is not resolved. Sculptors, in ancient and modern times, often made sculptural drawings, clay casts or small models. Their assistants then did the actual carving. Rodin did this; Pheidias almost certainly did this. The image left is of a 'flying' sculpture, always on the move. It's Iris, messenger of the gods (about 438432BC, figure N from the corner of the west pediment). As the legend will tell you, the sculptor not only shows her in flight but captures the air rushing against her diaphanous tunic.

Iris' right side showing some of the flowing drapery carved in marble. Over the 2500 years she has been in existence, her head, arms and lower legs have disappeared. As will be made plain by the rest of this exhibition, the energy, power and emotion invested in even such incomplete figures are what captivated and inspired Rodin when he first saw them during his visit to the British Museum in 1881.

Iris from the backthis view shows the drilled out slots where once her bronze wings (which she needed to give her the power of flight) would have fitted. The wings are missing, plunder being an ancient practice.
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
London WC1
Enquiries about Membership+44 (0)20 7323 8195friends@britishmuseum.orgMembership pageaMembership FAQs

Friday, 15 June 2018

Until Sunday 29 July

Rodin and the art of ancient Greece
The best exhibition of sculpture I have ever seen
First, allow this new building to work upon you.*  The minimalist aesthetic of the anteroom is there precisely to allow your mind to declutter and let go.

Then enter the great room. Stand near the entrance (not blocking the entrance obviously). Pause. Still your phone perhaps. And you might like to take advantage of the long bench running to your left and sit down.  

Your eyes may never see a greater piece of dramatic sculptural art than this: Rodin's 1st millennium AD genius partnered with that of Pheidias, in the 1st millennium BC. It's certainly the best exhibition of sculpture I have ever seen.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Art of the Netherlands: Mauritshuis: Rembrandt and Vermeer

In The Hague's Mauritshuis, the hushed atmosphere that builds up in front of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is akin to that in one of the world's great concert halls when they're playing Beethoven. We know we're in the presence of greatness.

As any reader of this blog should know, I am neither art historian nor much more than part-time artist. I'm a journalist, possessed of a good eye, a lifelong appreciation of fine art and design, and, after a recent visit to the Mauritshuis, an intriguing new theory.