Category Archives: painting

Mother and malignant child

In 1865, writes Dalrymple, 'the asylum notes show Richard Dadd to have been painting almost every day. His thoughts were mad, but he continued to work until he became too weak physically to go on. His output was considerable, of high quality and deeply disturbing. A mother and child, painted in 1860, were clearly modelled on the religious motif, but the mother holds the child without tenderness, and the child, still a baby, stares straight ahead with an appraising look of concentrated malignity. On a ledge in the background sits a blackish bird with ruffled feathers that appears to be a vulture'.

In 1865, writes Dalrymple, ‘the asylum notes show Richard Dadd to have been painting almost every day. His thoughts were mad, but he continued to work until he became too weak physically to go on. His output was considerable, of high quality and deeply disturbing. A mother and child, painted in 1860, were clearly modelled on the religious motif, but the mother holds the child without tenderness, and the child, still a baby, stares straight ahead with an appraising look of concentrated malignity. On a ledge in the background sits a blackish bird with ruffled feathers that appears to be a vulture’.

Halt in the Desert

c. 1845. Richard Dadd, writes Dalrymple, was alive to 'the beauty of the world and (incidentally) to the dignity of the people through whose lands he had traveled. It would take an Edward Said to see anything other than admiration'

c. 1845. Richard Dadd, writes Dalrymple, was alive to ‘the beauty of the world and (incidentally) to the dignity of the people through whose lands he had travelled. It would take an Edward Said to see anything other than admiration’

The MTV of museums

Exhibits at the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, Leningrad

Exhibits, Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, Leningrad

Dalrymple pays a visit to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa,

a giant amusement arcade.

Wording on one of the exhibits invites Dalrymple to

hold a sound-shell to your ear, press the button and hear some freaky, weird stuff about nearby creations.

Exhibits

Exhibits, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

Here are some of the museum’s hectoring slogans:

  • Everyone has a place at our place
  • Where there are people there is art
  • Is it treasure or junk? Everyone has an opinion
  • Home is where the art is

These, says Dalrymple, are

a little reminiscent of the museums of religion and atheism in the Soviet Union.

If, he writes,

one has the mentality of a child of limited intelligence and curiosity, one might have been amused or kept out of trouble for a while, but nothing more.

Not a museum at all

What sort of person runs such a place?

Certainly not a curator, because no detailed knowledge of any subject is necessary. A casino owner, perhaps.

This travesty of a museum is

the institutional exemplar of the lowest common demoninator turned into official cultural policy.

As a small concession, on the third floor,

in a bare concrete gallery, ill-lit and unadvertised, there are two rows of paintings. There are no signs to say what they are, or who they are by. For a small and young nation, not entirely sure of its cultural identity, New Zealand has a considerable tradition of painting: but the visitors to this gallery are made to feel that, by visiting it, they are doing something almost illicit. There is a dirty-postcard feel to the gallery.

Integrity in art

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 09.10.30L.S. Lowry, Dalrymple explains,

ploughed his own artistic field for years, decades, before he achieved recognition: and when such recognition came, it did not change his simple mode of life. He had a day job until his retirement at the age of sixty-five of a most unromantic and unartistic kind: he worked as a rent-collector for a property company in the days when tenants of tiny workers’ houses paid their rent weekly and in cash. He painted between collecting rents.

Lowry saw

in the bleak townscapes of the Industrial Revolution, and in the inhabitants of those townscapes, a subject worthy of artistic representation, as nobody had before: finding a beauty in them without in the least prettifying them, or without resort to sentimentality.

The Tate Gallery had a fine collection of Lowry’s work, but

for long refused to display any of it, mainly from a kind of snobbery. Lowry was utterly a provincial, he was allied to and influenced by no current of modern art, theoretical or practical, and (in the end) he was widely loved by people who otherwise had no artistic tastes. He was original in an original way. For a certain kind of æsthete, for whom the main attraction of the appreciation of beauty is to mark him off from the philistines, Lowry was all wrong.

Even worse,

Lowry did not care what anyone thought: he did what inner necessity dictated.

Ancoats Hospital Outpatients' Hall, 1952. Whitworth Art Gallery, ManchesterAncoats Hospital Outpatients’ Hall, 1952. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

 

A powerful reminder of why modernism was an imperative

William C.T. Dobson, Christ as a Child, 1857. 'Garish and sickly,' says Dalrymple. 'The likes of Dobson not only painted bad pictures but did lasting damage to our artistic tradition, making the avoidance of their kitschy sentiment almost the first duty of any artist.'

William C.T. Dobson, Christ as a Child, 1857. ‘Garish and sickly,’ says Dalrymple. ‘The likes of Dobson not only painted bad pictures but did lasting damage to our artistic tradition, making the avoidance of their kitschy sentiment almost the first duty of any artist.’

The art of Jean-Joseph Weerts

France!! Ou l’Alsace et la Lorraine désespérées (1906), Musée lorrain. 'Taste becomes a distinguishing feature of the great artist,' writes Dalrymple. 'But taste is a collective as well as an individual matter.' Weerts, though gifted, 'had not the penetration to see'

France!! Ou l’Alsace et la Lorraine désespérées (1906), Musée lorrain. ‘Taste becomes a distinguishing feature of the great artist,’ writes Dalrymple. ‘But taste is a collective as well as an individual matter.’ Weerts, though gifted, ‘had not the penetration to see

Marat assassiné! 13 juillet 1793, 8h du soir (1880), Musée d'art et d'industrie de Roubaix. Dalrymple writes that pictures by Weerts 'horrify us' because of 'their kitschiness, their literal realism but emotional preposterousness, in short their bad taste'

Marat assassiné! 13 juillet 1793, 8h du soir (1880), Musée d’art et d’industrie de Roubaix. Pictures by Weerts ‘horrify us’ because of ‘their kitschiness, their literal realism but emotional preposterousness, in short their bad taste’

‘Contemplative and elevating’

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 12.55.42

Dalrymple on the work of Juan Fernández the Labrador. This is Bodegón con cuatro racimos de uvas (1630-35; Prado)