Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Picasso at the Lapin Agile – coincidence strikes again


This morning I saw the new Woody Allen film, Magic in the Moonlight, which, incidentally is well worth seeing. The main character, played by imgres-3Colin Firth, is described as a man of reason who has no time for there being a supreme mind which decides what happens to us and explain how strange things happen, it’s just coincidence, as he states at one point in the film. When reading the book my last post was about, on the rise to Prime Minister of Australia of Bob Hawke, which featured the previous Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, as the start of the narrative. Whilst reading the book Mr Whitlam died.

Three years ago I played a part in the Steve Martin play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile for imgres-4the Council of Europe linked, Tagora theatre group. It is set in Paris in 1904 and wonders what might have happened had Picasso and Einstein met at a bar in Paris, the Lapin Agile, and talked Physics and Art whilst trying to bed an attractive woman. Picasso is also supposed to be stuck in his blue period and a traveller from the future (in the guise of Elvis Presley just before images-4he went into the army) visits the bar and helps Picasso see the future, more specifically . Incidentally, having reached middle age most male friends have at one time or another had a phase of copying Elvis, usually they do the later years white jumpsuit period, I got to do an Elvis copycat act, on stage and when he was still good looking!

I wrote here about being in Leeds for the summer working. One of the dangers being back in the UK holds for me is that I have ready and easy access to newspapers, more exactly, the weekend newspapers with reviews of books. I know I could access the same things over the internet from here in France, but I don’t I only read the physical product. Reading the reviews leads me to buy books I otherwise wouldn’t have bought. My interest in the period Picasso was in Paris at the start of the last century, ignited by being in the play above,  meant that when I saw a review for the book, “9781905490868In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900 – 1910” I just knew I had to read it. The argument put forward by the book is that it was the first 10 years of the 20th Century where modernism developed rather than in the jazz influenced 1920’s which the book says is when modernism is traditionally claimed to have started. I have written previously about an interest in Modern Art and from what I have learnt from my trips to galleries this year, it is certainly before the first world war that Mondrian’s and Malevich’s ideas and style had been formed before the first world war.

So I’ve just started reading the book and there’s another coincidence. The Picasso museum (They’re French they put it round the other way) in Paris reopens after being shut for five years. Four years ago I visited Paris en passant to a visit to Bristol as I wrote about here. The Picasso museum was mentioned as one of the things to visit in the Marais area of Paris. But I couldn’t visit it. I could, however, visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales in November 2011, when on a visit to Australia, where there was a fantastic exhibition “Picasso masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris” where I got the hideously expensive coffee table top book as programme and fridge magnet.(Incidentally I only took it out of it’s plastic shrink wrap to find out the details for this post.)

Two books, two coincidences. which might of itself be something of a coincidence. What am I going to read next and will anything coincidental happen? Watch this space.



I’m not a regular visitor to art galleries, if I go once a year that is unusual. Unless I go somewhere like Amsterdam when I go and see the  Van Goghs. 14127_425053509347_4360261_nThis year I have been to three different galleries. What changed?

I don’t know how long I have been a fan of the paintings of Mondrian. I fell for the simplicity of three primary colours, three non colours, blocks and lines. It was seeing one, in the flesh to speak, in the 1980’s that showed me that the real ones have so much more, the intention, vivacity and life, totally the opposite to the cold austere painting you would expect. I went specially to find a studio in west London to get the T-Shirt, using the design, I am pictured wearing in 1986. I have written in the past about Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’ and Springtime for Mondrian.

It just so happened that this year there were two Mondrian exhibitions. None for ages, remarks about buses etc.
mill-in-the-evening-1905The first was an exhibition of Mondrian and Colour at the Turner Gallery in Margate in early August. It went back way before the abstract works he’s best known for to the time when he was a landscape painter in Holland painting pictures of the river near to his house like the one on the right. Trees, farms windmills and other normal landscape subjects. Then, he was influenced by the-red-millcubism and pointillism after spending time in Paris and the impact of painters like Braque and Picasso on his style. Stuck in Holland by the outbreak of the First World War during a visit home his style developed to what we know today. It was fascinating to follow the development from standard Dutch landscape painter through to the painter of the abstract grid shaped blocks of colours he is known for.

The second exhibition was at the Tate Liverpool and was ‘Mondrian and his Studios’ complete with the recreation of one of his studios in Paris. The exhibition had photos from various of his studios showing that he tended to convert the places he lived in into his art, painting them the same colours and having his paintings on the walls. It was possible to walk around in the recreated studio to get an impression of what it would be like for him to be working, in amongst his art works and big blocks of colour. mondriansparisstudioI’ve taken the picture from the Tate website showing people looking around in the studio. What I learnt from this exhibition was that he worked on variations to the lines, the blocks of colour and edge of the painting so that the variation in different paintings is not just about the different arrangement of the blocks of colour. It’s interesting to speculate on the impact the place he lived had upon his broadway-boogie-woogiedevelopment with the cityscape of Paris, with the buildings giving the straight lines and block shapes. He was always a fan of music and in his last painting we can see the impact the move to New York had upon him, as the Mondrian sites says, “boogie-woogie obviously had a profound impact on him. Nevertheless, the most important factor in the origin of this painting, and of the “mutation” in his art, must have been the experience of the daily rhythm of New York itself, the pulsating movement that animates Broadway, especially at night, and, in thorough keeping with the old principles of De Stijl, creates a harmony out of the opposition of contraries.”

images-1Two Mondrian exhibitions but I thought you said you had been three times this year? Yes and the third was to a Tate gallery too but this time to the Tate Modern for the exhibition of Malevich. I didn’t really know anything about Kazimir Malevich before and it was not my intention to visit the exhibition before my 11 week visit to the UK. However the Margate exhibition had said that he was a big influence on Mondrian so after that I had to go. I went on my last day in the UK before returning to Strasbourg

He too started off painting landscapes but then influenced by what was happening in Paris with cubism and futurism in Italy his painting developed into a more abstract form like ‘the Scyther’ pictured. He developed further and in 1913 painted the imgresBlack Square which was what gained him fame. This time too there was a recreation (pictured) but this time it was of an exhibition from December 1915, ‘The Last exhibit of Futurist Painting 0.10’ of which only a photo remains. The original exhibit contained pictures from other members of the group Malevich was working with at the time although the recreation focused solely on his work. As in the original exhibit the Black Square is positioned in the corner high up. This is the position of an icon in Orthodox homes which has imagesbeen suggested emphasising the ‘spiritual qualities’ of the painting or that it might have been a ‘provocative blasphemy’. He went on to paint other Suprematist works but  returned to figurative painting although the influence of the abstraction and Suprematism were still obvious in them as can be seen in the painting.

images-2The title for this piece comes from a musical reference as so many do. It is from the Brazilian group CSS and is the title of one of their songs. I saw them play at the venue around the corner  and they were very good live. If you get the chance to see them then do.

Springtime for Mondrian


In the post I wrote about the visit to the Aubette I talked about how interesting I found it that there was somewhere  in Strasbourg designed by someone connected to De Stijl. I also talked about my attachment to the movement and the principle artist of the group, Mondrian.

One thing that attract me to the man’s art is the simplicity of the ideas behind it, the three primary colours within an upright grid or series of boxes with lines only at 90° angle to each other, the lines black and the only other colours allowed white and grey – two non-colours?

You can imagine my surprise just over a week ago when I was heading to rehearsal for Oh What a Lovely War and I passed the window of  one of Strasbourg’s two national chain department stores, Printemps, to discover that entirely by coincidence their window displays were clearly Mondrian inspired. The same use of a block of one of the three primary colours, the same grid shape and the same use of black and white. The headline for this piece is obviously a play on the fact that printemps is the French for Spring and ‘Springtime for Hitler‘, the title of the play at the heart of the Mel Brookes film, ‘The Producers.’

Whilst taking the pictures to illustrate this post JTO remembered that her father, who was an Art Director at an advertising agency in the 1960’s and 1970’s, had said that Mondrian was “not an artist but a typesetter and designer” as he was.

Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’?


Aubette 1928, featuring the Cabaret-Ciné-Bal is one of the names given to the space in the aubette 1928 building in Strasbourg. On Saturday afternoon, along with about 20 other people, of a mixture of nationalities, I had a guided tour around the building, courtesy of the Alsace chapter of the English Speaking Community. In an 18th century building that  dominates the central square, Place Kléber, in Strasbourg. It was built by the French architect Blondel on the site of a ruined church and was part of an original plan to build on all four sides of the Place Kléber to commemorate the move of Strasbourg into France at the end of the seventeenth century. In the 1920’s half the building was rented by the Horn brothers, an architect and pharmacist from Mulhouse, who had been asked to help construct and build the new opening, which became rue du 22 Novembre. The brothers wanted to create space for the public and they asked the artist who had decorated their  new hotel at 15 rue du 22 Novembre (Now known as the Hotel Hannong), Sophie Taeuber-Arp, to decorate the nine different public spaces in the building. Sophie was married to fellow Dadaist artist Jean Hans Arp, who had been born just around the corner in Strasbourg before his family moved to Switzerland. The two Arps. were joined by fellow Dadaist and member of the De Stilj movement, architect Théo Van Doesburg. The decoration that has been restored is very reminiscent of De Stijl‘s best known artist, Piet Mondrian. We were told that he and Van Doesburg had fallen out by the time the latter was decorating the building in Strasbourg. Mondrian is famous for his works of art featuring the primary colours and straight lines at 90° from each other. As you can see from the second picture in the dance-hall/cinema Van Doesburg had the 90 lines at the diagonal and used colours other than the primary colours. We were told this is the reason the two fell out. I am a big fan of Mondrian so seeing these rooms decorated by another member of the same group was fantastic and such a total surprise for me to find something so wonderful right here in Strasbourg. I have heard the work done to the Aubette has been described as the modern art equivalent of the Sistine Chapel.

The first photograph shows the entrance to this section of the building from the ground floor of the Aubette building where there are a lot of shops. As I said, the second shows the dance-hall cinema/and you can see the use of diagonal lines which we were told was done by Van Doesburg to give a feeling of movement to encourage people to be up and dancing. The third picture shows a room which was a transition from the dance-hall/cinema to the restaurant, which is the fourth picture. In the transition area you might get a drink or listen to a couple of musicians or a small band playing. The restaurant was more genuinely like the work of Mondrian although it had pale as well as strong versions of the colours. It would have been quite an impressive room to be sat eating in. The next two pictures are of the stairwell, back down to the entrance, featuring the striking stained glass window which is the main feature.

We then left for the Hotel Hannong where there is a whole wall taken up with a display showing what the Aubette looked like at the time. Only one floor of the building, featuring three rooms and the staircase, has been renovated there were nine rooms altogether. The other rooms featured further work by Van Doesburg as well as Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Hans Arp. A group of us stayed at the hotel for a coffee and a chat. On my return home I fished out a book I’ve had for a while on De Stijl and was surprised to find that it had 14 pages on the Aubette with further pictures of how it looked at the time.

Altogether one of the best and most enjoyable Saturday afternoons I have spent in Strasbourg. If you live in or visit the city make sure you visit this shrine to modern art. You will not be disappointed.

Strasbourg and Banksy? The last post?


OK.  As in all good soaps and other regular TV programmes, the story so far.

I posted here about a piece of outdoor art I had seen locally on the side of a florists and asked whether it might have anything to do with the renowned graffiti and outdoor artist known as Banksy. The verdict of the people I consulted via Facebook and Twitter was in accord with my view that this was not in fact an example of his work and that it was therefore not by him.

In response I received a comment from a fellow Strasbourg blogger about another piece of outdoor art that was close to the above item.  As a result I went out to walk around the area and discovered the piece of outdoor art in the second picture.  The response to my publishing this on Facebook and Twitter has been agreement that this is much more in the style of Banksy and therefore either is the man himself or a good copyist.  At the end of yesterday’s post I promised a revelation today.

Well here it is.  Across the river from the previous item was another piece that would also seem to be in the style of Banksy.  It doesn’t answer the question whether it is him or a copyist and is the sum total of the images or are there other examples out there? Have a good weekend.

Strolling in Strasbourg


Beautiful Summer like evening after not much of a day and I get to my last job of the day to find its cancelled.  Even better, I get paid but don’t have to work.  I walk some of the way home and come to the park shown above with blossom on the trees where a fortnight ago there was snow on the ground.The park contains a memorial to the French Forces of the Interior, the resistance, in Strasbourg during the Second World War.  It was good to see some people nearby enjoying the weather, playing instruments etc:The park is in the shadow of the aerial for the radio and TV centre, France 3 Alsace, the third and more regional TV channel, you can see it behind the trees in the top picture.  The aerial joins the Cathedral as a structure visible all over Strasbourg.  Built in 1961 the glass wall at the front of the reception hall of the auditorium veils a scene shaped like a giant screen introducing a mosaic representing the creation of the world, based upon a sketch by Jean Lurcat.The structure at the front is from 1990 by Bernar Venet described by the wonderful guide book ‘Strolling in Strasbourg’, “A monumental structure produced in square section painted steel, this work of art measures an impressive 11m in length and 7m in height.  Mathematically indeterminate, it coils upon itself with powerful twists and curves.  According to Venet, the line should speak for itself and have an identity of its own”, independent of any affective dimension.”  So now you know.

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