Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Three Landscape Paintings

On Facebook artist friends are nominating each other to do a "Landscape Challenge." When Marguerite Horner asked me to pick three landscape paintings I initially thought of various paintings of nice trees, streams and clouds by Constable, and nice paintings of horses by Stubbs etc but they were all things I liked rather than loved. Here are three paintings whose width is greater than their height, that have always meant a lot to me. I appreciate none of my choices are "pure landscapes" because they all feature people in them but they'll have to do... 1) The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1869)by Édouard Manet (You can see this painting at The National Gallery in London)
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square has always been my favourite gallery. I love all the Piero della Francessca's they have there and I nearly picked his painting The Nativity. But in the end I decided on The Execution of Maximilian. I was surprised when I first saw this painting. I've looked at it many times over the years and it's never stopped being interesting to me. One of my art heroes Jean Dubuffet once said: "Art must make you laugh a little and make you a little afraid. Anything as long as it doesn't bore" I've selected this painting because it's so curious and unboring. 2) Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso (To see this in the flesh you'd have to go all the way to Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid)
Jim Davidson once quipped: "Picasso was a great painter but he didn't half know some ugly women." Most people I know don't actually think that Picasso was a 'great' painter and they see him as rather overrated. My friend Ed Ward's dad went to see the big blockbuster Matisse/Picasso at Tate Modern years ago and when he came out he said: "Huh, that Picasso fella liked painting black lines round everything didn't he?" At another exhibition of his work by friend Julian concluded "There was absolutely nothing I liked about that show." And there are many other people I've asked about Pablo over the years who've just responded by pulling a face but I really rate this painting. Guernica was his response to the fascists bombing Spain. I think the reason it's good is because it rings true. It seems from the heart. Some of the expressions on the faces are quite chilling. In my opinion, there is a touch of genius about this painting. It was made by someone who has really studied painting for many years and yet aspects of the painting have an almost child like simplicity to them. Was there ever a good war or a bad peace? 3) Coffee (1915) by Pierre Bonnard (You can see this painting at Tate Modern)
I don't love everything Bonnard painted but the ones I do love, I love a lot. He was a painter of feelings and I think the paintings the Tate owns of his are some of the best in their collection. There's a scene in the film Stardust Memories in which Woody Allen's character is listening to a Louis Armstrong song he's loved since he was a child and his girlfriend whose been eating a yogurt looks up and smiles at him and he realizes that this is actually one of the happiest moments of his entire existence. I think in our youth we believe big achievements and big events will make us happy but it's probably not the case. I went to see the Matisse show at Tate Modern about 6 times and every time I went I felt lifted. The colours in this painting do something to me in a similar way. I can't explain why I love the colous he uses. 100 years a go a Frenchman decided to make a painting of his wife drinking coffee and his dog sitting at the table. Probably a few seconds after this moment happened, someone else sat down and the dog moved away and everything changed. But little things mean a lot and so I'm glad Pierre captured that moment. Another reason I think it's a good painting is because it makes me want to make a painting myself.
(Above: "Have a Biscuit" painted by Harry Pye & Marcus Cope 2007)

No comments:

Post a comment