Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Becoming Picasso Paris 1901

To the Courtauld, once again to see Becoming Picasso Paris 1901. A small but very interesting show focusing on the year and exhibition in which Picasso broke through to become a major force in the Parisian art scene at just 19 years of age. All of the paintings on display are from that year, and it is interesting to see the many stylistic changes that his art took in just that one single year. From the highly coloured pieces created with loose brushstrokes, which pay homage to his contemporaries of the time, (Lautrec, Degas, and Van Gogh), to the heavily outlined pieces with muted colours that mark the beginning of his Blue Period, brought on by the death of his poet friend Casagemas.

This was also the year that he started to sign his work with the recognisable Picasso signature. Some of the paintings are weak, as he was so prolific that he completed no less than 64 paintings, (sometimes as many as three in one day!), in preparation for the exhibition at the studio of Ambroise Vollard. Others though are now recognised as early masterpieces, where he began to develop his his own vision and a career of constant stylistic experimentation.

Although the exhibition at Vollard's was both a critical and commercial success, the stylistic shift to a blue palette and more profound, sombre subject matter was not what collectors wanted, so at the end of 1901 he was forced to return to his parents house in Barcelona virtually penniless.

This exhibition offers a great chance to get up close to some of his famous early paintings that are usually hidden in private collections, or exhibited in museums overseas. Really enjoyable exhibition, my favourites were the two powerful self-portraits, and the pensive harlequin paintings. Hope to return before it closes in May.

Becoming Picasso Paris 1901, The Courtauld Gallery,Somerset House, Strand, London

Monday, 18 March 2013

Murmurations II

Beautiful as Paolo Patrizi's photographs are, I think murmurations are are best appreciated when seen in motion as the starlings are constantly shifting shape to form new patterns. The following clip is taken from YouTube and shows the aerial acrobatics of the starlings to perfection. It is the work of wildlife photographer Dylan Winters. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


Came across these wonderful pictures recently - the work of photographer Paolo Patrizi. They are of the flocks of starlings that perform fantastic flights of fancy over Rome.

It is thought that they flock and shape shift in this spectacular way to protect themselves from predators such as hawks and falcons. 

Scientists studying these murmurations have discovered that the starlings switch place in the flock and share the duties of being at the front, sides and back where they are more vulnerable and prone to being picked off by their prey. 

Beautiful as the flight patterns they create are, many in Rome dislike the starlings because of the their droppings which are corrosive to buildings and cars. 

As a result The Lega Italiana Protezione (the anti-starling brigade), roam the city frightening off the birds with megaphones.

Harmful as their droppings may be, I am sure if they were to frighten the starlings off permanently then they would sorely miss this natural, beautiful phenomena.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ravilious Submarine

Finally recieved my copy of this book. I have seen original copies of this series of lithographs at various art fairs for years, and have coveted them because they are so beautifully drawn and coloured but they are well out of my price range. I now have the next best thing in the form of this well designed, affordable book. Followers of this blog will know that I have been a fan of the work of Bawden and Ravilious for the longest time, and this book charts Ravilious' second venture into the art of lithography, (his first being the book High Street, which was reprinted last year).

The Submarine Dream lithographs were made in the winter of 1940-1 whilst Ravilious was a war artist, and are ten images of submariners at work and rest aboard the submersibles. Rather than handing over the images to a master printer to produce, Ravilious made them himself, and the individual prints vary widely across the edition to show how he subtly altered each of the images. As a result of this altering whilst printing the lithographs, each print has the status of an original piece of art rather than a reproduction.

There was a an interest in auto-lithography among British artists in the mid 20th century, and it is a process that faithfully reproduces, and in some cases enhances the the line and texture of the original artwork. The auto-lithography process was used widely to good effect in children's illustrated books, the School Print and Shell advertising poster series,  as well as London Underground posters of the period. Other fine exponents of the process whose work I particularly admire are the artists/illustrators Barnett Freedman, Clarke Hutton and Kathleen Hale.

It's funny to think how when Ravilious' beautiful watercolours were exhibited at the National Gallery, he was criticised as a war artist as it was thought that he was more concerned with capturing the effects of the landscape and light, rather than the human drama of war. Ravilious was posted onto the submarine HMS Dolphin, which set sail from Gosport in the summer of 1940, and found in the confines of the submarine the perfect subject matter for his work.

The resulting lithographs were printed by Cowell's of Ipswich, as the Curwen Press in the east end of London had been bombed, and sold by the Leicester Gallery. It is not known how many sets of the edition were printed because of the difficulties of doing so during the war.

I think the images of Submarine Dream are beautifully designed and capture perfectly the claustrophobic conditions and boredom the submariners would have had to put up with on a daily basis. I also think that despite their age they still remain fresh and 'modern' looking. The book also contains reproductions of Ravilious' little seen original sketches for the series, many of which are in the National Maritime Museum archive.

 Ravilious Submarine is published by Mainstone Press