Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

This is the Industrial Gallery: ceramics, glass and stained glass but we concentrated on 19th and 20th century art.

Andre Derain, Landscape near Gagnes, 1910, (oil on canvas) 
Derain was part of the Les Fauves group of painters who rejected the naturalism of the Impressionists and moved towards a style in which colour and expressive form were supreme. In this painting the town of Haut de Cagnes is reduced to a framework of basic forms and earth colours, reflecting the Cubist theories developed by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

Albert Marquet, The Port of Cette, Marseilles, 1924, (oil on canvas)

Marquet was influenced by Matisse and the bold colours and brushwork of Les Fauves. Here, the forms of the harbour are reduced to simple shapes and bright, fresh colours.

Amadeo Modigliani, Madame Z, 1916 (oil on canvas) 
Modigliani typically extended the necks and noses of his sitters while retaining notions of beauty inspired by classical and African art.

Desmond Morris, The Jumping Tree, 1949 (oil on canvas)

As well as being a writer, Desmond Morris was also a Surrealist painter and was an associate of the Birmingham Surrealist Group. This painting was exhibited in Morris' first one-artist show alongside an exhibition of work by Juan Miro in 1950.

Georges Braque, Pichet et Fruits, 1927 (oil on canvas)

Dissimilar approaches contrasted in a single composition. The top of the jug is tipped to indicate a whitened interior. The cubist element contrasts but does not seem incongruous with the rounded belly of the jug and the generous shapes of the surrounding fruit.

Gwen John, Woman Holding a Flower, late 1910s-early 1920s, (oil on canvas)

A friend of the artist - there are three known paintings of the sitter and a series of drawings. Here, in her 40s, she appears withdrawn and expressionless, holding a single flower that seems to echo her own lack of physical weight.

Jacob Epstein, Rock Drill Reconstruction, 1974 (original 1913-15) (polyester resin, metals, wood)

Recognised as the masterpiece of the Vorticist movement, the sculpture comprises the life-size plaster figure of a visored robotic man seated upon an actual rock drill. It was shown briefly in 1915 and then dismantled. This is a reconstruction made in 1974 from Epstein's studio photographs. Conceived as Europe slid into the chaos of the First World War, this disturbing figure reduces the human form into a faceless robot, at one with the machine it straddles - an appropriate symbol for the first mechanised conflict.

Henry Moore, The Warrior, 1954 (bronze)

'This evolved from a pebble I found in the seashore in 1952 and which reminded me of the stump of a leg, amputated at the hip. Just as Leonardo says in his notebooks that a painter can find a battle scene in the lichen marks on a wall, so this gave me the start of the Warrior idea'.

Emmy Bridgewater, Night Work is About to Commence, 1940-43, (oil on board)

A raven perches on the edge of a bath tub that is also a boat, its sails made from a clothes-horse. The jagged forms add an air of menace.

Bridgewater trained at Birmingham School of Art. In 1936 she saw the Surrealist exhibition in London which she described as a transforming moment for her. She joined the British Surrealist Group in 1940.

Winifred Nicholson, Flowers at a Window, 1939, (oil on board)

In contrast with the bleak landscape beyond, a pot of hyacinth has begun to bloom. It's an image of hope and renewal. Nicholson often combined still life and landscape forms in a symbolic way. She believed that colour and tone could be used to reveal the spiritual truth behind everyday reality.

The image of spring flowers may represent her emotional re-awakening following her divorce from Ben Nicholson in 1938.

Patrick Heron, Porthmeor 1965, Rumbold, 1970 (oil on canvas)

This painting is named after Porthmeor beach in St Ives and Rumbold Street in London where Heron had a studio.

The artist described the paintings made at Rumbold Street as 'wobbly hard-edge' in which the white canvas is covered in flat, intense patches of colour. 'As long as there was a white piece still there the colours meant nothing. The moment you filled in the last bit of white the whole world would suddenly pulse, as if you'd turned on the electric current'.

Paul Feiler, Porthledden, 1958 (oil on hardboard) 
The title of this picture may suggest an incoming tide breaking on rocks. However, only the line across the upper section implies any link with a landscape format. The dark lines are the remnants of parts of the human figure which have been pared down until they are reduced to a series of expressive marks.

Barbara Hepworth, H Graft, 1948 (pencil and gouache on paper) 
Part of a series of drawings of the operating theatre, created during the time when Hepworth's daughter was in hospital being treated for a bone infection. The surgeons' preparatory routines and the careful, precise movements of their hands remind Hepworth of her own practice as a sculptor. She became fascinated by what she described as 'the extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination between human beings all dedicated to the saving of life'.

Ben Nicholson, Still Life (Dolomites), 1950, (oil on canvas) 

Jessica Dismorr, Superimposed Forms, 1938, (tempera on board)

Dismorr was one of the pioneers of Abstraction. In this work, the traces of the human figure are reduced to surface patterns united by cool, harmonised colour and sinuous line.

Ben Nicholson, Construction, 1945 (painted wood relief)


James Tower, Winged Vase, 1979 (earthenware, press-moulded, tin-glaze with manganese decoration)

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