Art: Helene Schjerfbeck

Maria (1909)

Tomorrow is the last day for the exhibition of Helen Schjerfbeck at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), for those who will be in London for the weekend, it is worthwhile stopping by and also seeing the Antony Gormley exhibition as well (I will write this up another time, I think Schjerfbeck was better). As many of my readers know, I really enjoy seeing art created by women artists. I knew very little about Schjerfbeck but thought it was opportune since I was already going to be at the RA to see Gormley. I am so glad I did!

She is described by the RA as one of Finland’s best-kept secrets and the exhibition is the first in the UK. Though she is little known where I am from, she is a Finnish national icon and rightly so. I really enjoyed the exhibition, her naturalistic and abstract style was warming and uplifting. She was a pioneer of her time, whilst her peers painted in the traditional Finnish style, she broke away and developed her own modern/contemporary style.

At the age of four, she fell and broke her hip which left her with a life long limp.  With a similar story to Edvard Munch, art was introduced to Schjerfbeck to pass time when she was unable to go to school. At the extraordinarly young age of 11, her talent was recognised and was offered a full scholarship at the Finnish Art Society. As she forged her own path, she has been an artist that could never be categorised. She constantly experimented with her techniques and took inspiration from other artists of the time.

Schjerfbeck lived through some of the most seismic shifts in modern art, from Impressionism to Surrealism. But she was never one to follow the crowd and forged her own path

Paintings to look out for

  • The Bakery (1887) – This was painted during her time in St Ives. In this painting Schjerfbeck captures the atmosphere through colour, light and composition. With the beautifully painted baked goods, it makes a very warming and comforting piece of art.
  • Woman with a Child (1887) – What I love about Schjerfbeck’s paintings is that she manages to capture warmth in a very unique way. Her art is just a pleasure to see. This intimate painting between the woman and child, the painting filled my heart with joy.
  • The Convalescent (1888) – The child-like curiosity and emotion. Wide-eyed and ethereal, it captures such an innocent moment.
  • Maria (1909) – The picture in my header, it is so simple, but her naturalistic style is captured very elegantly in this piece
  • Self-portrait with Palette (1937) – An excellent example of her varied painting styles, this very modern self-portrait vastly differs from her initial style.
  • Madonna de la Charité, El Grecon mukaan (1941) – Another wonderful example of her modern naturalistic style.

A wonderful exhibition and just a small insight into this remarkable artist, I hope that I would be able to go to Finland to see her other works. For those who won’t be able to make the exhibition in London, the video on the RA website gives a great summary of her work if you don’t get a chance to see it in person!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

Art: Sorolla – The Master of Light

No painter before or since has painted Mediterranean sunlight like Joaquín Sorolla

In 1908, Sorolla was considered as one of the greatest living artists and his works has finally returned back to London a century after his exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in Mayfair. The National Gallery has curated 58 spectacular pieces of work, many of which are from private collections, spanning his whole career. It is a rare opportunity to see them all together in the beautiful Sainsbury Wing and I cannot recommend the exhibition enough!

Sorolla, The Master of Light

Sorolla was born in Valencia and his talent and determination to be an artist developed through his work retouching plates for a photographer. His talent led him to be admitted to the Academy of San Carlos in Valencia at aged 15. His further studies in master painting led him to Rome and Paris. Very early on, Sorolla’s strategy was to send large scale paintings on dark and troubling social themes to major exhibitions in Spain and abroad, where he sought and gained recognition. No subject seemed to restrict Sorolla’s paintings, he also painted his family, portraiture and landscapes, my favourite which are explored further below. 

Sorolla painted a variant of impressionism, which can be considered the first distinctly modern movement in painting. Developed in Paris in the 1860s, it spread throughout Europe. The style focuses on colour and light, which Sorolla was particularly infamous for. In 1906, Sorolla exhibited for the first time at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, one of the main impressionist galleries. The Master of Light, interestingly, did not capture the British audience at that time but his works were particularly revered in the US. In 1908, Sorolla met philanthropist and collector Archer Milton Huntington, who made him a member of The Hispanic Society of America in New York City. This led to one of his largest commissioned works, which took 7 years to complete the 14 paintings known as Vision of Spain which adorn the walls of the gallery of the Hispanic Society.

Sorolla suffered from a stroke in 1920 which meant that he was no longer able to paint and died three years later at home with his family by his side. Unfortunately, after his death, his work went out of fashion and Impressionism was replaced by personal expression and avant-garde movements such as Dada, Surrealism and Expressionism. It is only in recent years where there have been a series of exhibitions in Spain, Germany, France and the US has reignited his popularity.

Social Painting

Since 1884, Sorolla had set his sights on the coveted first-class medals in Madrid’s Expoicion Nacional de Bellas Artes that was held to stimulate national artistic production and it was an opportunity for Spanish young artists to be recognised. During this tumultuous time, there was a shift in paintings of classical subjects to the dramatic changes that Spain was undergoing. Sorolla’s most famous social paintings include Another Marguerite! (1892) and Sad Inheritance (1899). My favourite paintings were And They Still Say Fish is Expensive! (1894) and Sewing the Sail (1896). Though contrasting in mood, the thoughtful depiction of emotions and light is truly captivating; the size of the paintings and the use of colour and light can only be appreciated in person.

https://images.app.goo.gl/E1ksGw2An3iPPZXq9

https://images.app.goo.gl/xpB5DtwN3X6k1C2B7

Family

Evident through his paintings, Sorolla loved his family and the portraits of his children and his wife are some of his greatest works. Though the female model was not identified in Female Nude (1902) it has been suspected that it was wife, Clotilde. Inspired by Sorolla’s visit to London and seeing The Rokeby Venus displayed in the National Gallery, he captures the beauty of the female form and the luscious silk and lace fabric on which she laid. Other notable paintings include My Children (1904)Mother (1895-1900)Clotilde in a Black Dress (1906)Maria Painting at El Pardo (1907); and Joaquin Sorolla Garcia (1917)

https://images.app.goo.gl/cpyEZVoebmWmWSPm8

Beach & Landscapes

Sorolla grew up by the sea and after 1900 he created a large body of work outside capturing the pleasures of families and intimate scenes of the beach. These paintings brightened the exhibition as if capturing a sliver of the sun in each and was a breath of fresh air (it was also a stark contrast to the terrible summer we are having in London). Notable pieces included Young Fisherman, Valencia (1904); Running along the Beach, Valencia (1908)The Smugglers (1919) but my favourite was After the Bath, the Pink Robe (1916)

https://images.app.goo.gl/iAy31k5hbXGYZBfq6

Dynamic, vibrant and vivid; Sorolla was a true Master of Light. Obviously, this exhibition is awarded 5 out of 5 pineapples. I would love to hear your opinion of his work and whether any of you have seen any of it before? What are your favourite pieces? Have a sun-filled Sunday!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. For those are interested in learning more, the curator wrote a wonderful article here

Art: The Renaissance Nude

Happy Bank Holiday everyone! Did you all have a wonderful weekend so far?  I have switched up my usual long read on the weekend to cover the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (“RA”) – The Renaissance Nude which is due to finish on 2 June 2019. I want to ensure that for any of my readers who may be interested can still have time to do so after reading my review 🙂 Without further ado, let’s get straight to it!

Exhibition

Located on the top floor in The Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts, the exhibition explores the development of nudity in 15th and 16th-century art. It was a pivotal time for nude in Western art because of the renewed interest in the human body, both from a scientific and artistic perspective. In particular, nudity was transforming Christian Art, where the stories of the Bible from Adam and Eve to crucifixion were retold with exquisite works.  

For a Y generation like myself, nudity in art is not something that I have considered given its proliferation in contemporary art and just everyday life of having access to the internet. Scantily clad influencers and models in magazines do not even get a raised eyebrow in our modern age. Having said that, my workplace still feels that we need to be protected from such images. The firewall has blocked my blog because it contains “Adult Material” but it really is no surprise given it is an art and happiness blog after all! Yet this warning message clearly summarises the controversies of nudity, though it has become more widely accepted, there is a very fine line between acceptable, erotic or profane. I believe that the general consensus is the more covered up it is, the better!

Adult Material
The RA has intimately navigated nudity through the ages by displaying a wide range of mediums, from painting and prints to sculptures. Nudity is not discriminatory, from the beautiful to the shockingly horrible or cringe-worthy, “varied” summarises this exhibition. I found the flow of the exhibition difficult to follow but I would recommend the accompanying audio guide. It is worth the additional cost as it brings key paintings of the exhibition to life. Some of the excerpts were narrated by Stephen Fry, who was a pleasure to listen to as he elaborated the tales/history behind a piece. I recognise that this exhibition may upset some people’s sensibilities and nudity is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is well executed and thought out, as a result, I give it 3.5 out of 5 pineapples! 

Key Highlights

The Good: Titian, Venus Rising from the Sea (‘Venus Anadyomene’) (c. 1520)

One of the most beautiful pieces of artwork in the exhibition is Titian’s Venus. A private moment when she is born from the sea. It is a serene and quiet painting capturing a “candid” moment, wringing water from her hair. A small scallop shell to the left is the only tribute to the more famous Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It is an exemplary example of the beautiful Renaissance woman form.

Titian, Venus Rising from the Sea (‘Venus Anadyomene’) (c. 1520)

The Bad: Dieric Bouts, The Way to Paradise, The Fall of the Damned, 1468 – 1469

It goes without saying that Renaissance art transformed religious art during the 15th to 16th-century. From the depiction of Adam & Eve, Heaven & Hell through to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, nudity was used as a method to persuade devotion. Bouts’ panels made up a triptych devoted to the Last Judgement. The Way to Paradise, the individuals are beautifully and discretely covered up in white cloth. On the other hand, The Fall of the Damned, individuals are seen tumbling and tortured whilst entirely naked. The shame for the naked body, according to the curators, can be traced to the Fall of Man, when God forbade Adam & Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The Fall of the Damned will convince anyone not to be bad.

The Ugly: Hans Baldung Grien, Aristotle and Phyllis, 1513

This woodcut created by Hans Baldung Grien is shocking and cringe-worthy. It is not something I would have expected from this period of history as it is easy to remember the beauty of the Renaissance period and associate it with all things ethereal and graceful. Yet it is easy to forget that all humans have an ugly side. The tale of this painting is about the great teacher Aristotle warning his student, Alexander the Great, to stop having intimate affairs with his wife, Phyllis, but instead to concentrate on his studies. Understandably Phyllis was upset when her own husband shunned her sexual advances. To make a point and exact revenge, Phyllis seduces the old philosopher and humiliates him by riding him like a horse while Alexander hid and watched. Weird – is all I can say.

https://images.app.goo.gl/7ncLixFbHFGmgJUm7
Hans Baldung Grien, Aristotle and Phyllis, 1513

Other must-see pieces

  • Leonardo da Vinci, The Anatomy of the Shoulder and Neck (recto), 1510-11. No Renaissance exhibition can exclude the master of Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci. This understated piece of art is as if ripped from his personal notepad, but it showcases his amazing eye for detail and his extraordinary mirrored handwriting. Displayed in the middle of the exhibition, it is easy to walk past, but this double-sided drawing is worth spending a few minutes to admire.
  • Pisanello, Luxuria, 1426. This small and understated pen and brown ink painting is of a reclining female. She is sensual and powerful with self-confidence. It is in contrast to the usual demure female form in Renaissance Art. What a wonderful piece.

I would love to hear what you think of the pieces I have reviewed here, do you have a favourite? Have you been to the exhibition, I would love to hear what you thought about it as well!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x