Tokenhouse VI: Orozco, Rivera

Glober looks at Tokenhouse’s paintings and asks” “Do I detect the influence of Diego Rivera, Mr. Tokenhouse? … Or is it José Clemente Orozco, who did those frescoes at Dartmouth?” [TK 148/141]

Liberation of the Peon Diego Rivera, 1923, 1931 fresco, 73 x 94 in The Philadelphia Museum of Art © 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York photo courtesy of www.diegorivera.org

Liberation of the Peon
Diego Rivera, 1923, 1931
fresco, 73 x 94 in
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
© 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
photo courtesy of http://www.diegorivera.org

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) is the best known of the Mexican muralists who covered walls in Mexico and elsewhere with a sophisticated blend of Social Realism and European high Modernism, showing the life of the downtrodden and poor. Tokenhouse was “in ecstasies” when Glober made the connection, because Rivera was a Marxist and champion of peasants and other workers. His fresco Man at the Crossroads was commissioned for Rockefeller Center in New York but was chiseled off the wall because of its controversial political themes including an image of Lenin.  Liberation of the Peon (above) shows Rivera’s depiction of Mexican revolutionaries trying to help a tortured peon.

Gods of the Modern World Jose Clemente Orozco, 1932-4 fresco from The Epic of American Civilization Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons by GNU Free Documentation License

Gods of the Modern World
José Clemente Orozco, 1932-4
fresco from The Epic of American Civilization
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons by GNU Free Documentation License

José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), was another of the Mexican muralists;  his work often illustrated the lives of the poor and oppressed.  Between 1932 and 1934 he painted a series of frescoes at Dartmouth college, showing the history of the Western Hemisphere from before the Aztecs through industrialization.  Powell might have seen these frescoes when he lectured at Dartmouth in 1962; today, the Dartmouth Digital Orozco allows you to explore all 360 degrees of the room full of frescoes.

Powell has drawn a comic caricature of Tokenhouse in Venice, quite different from Tokenhouse before the war.  Despite his intellect, he is naive, easily flattered, easily duped, with a political monomania that distorts his artistry.

 

 

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Tokenhouse V: Socialist Realism — Svatogh? Gaponenko? Toidze?

Tokenhouse and Ada Leintwardine discuss Socialist Realism. [TK143/136]  Ada mentions “Svatogh? Gaponenko? Toidze? [TK 144/136-7 ],” citing an article in Fission by Len Pugsley.

We have already examined Socialist Realist work at the Soviet pavilion. Socialist Realism is the name given realistic art that, from the 1920s until the early 1960s, was the state-approved look of art allowed in the Soviet Union. The aim of the works was to show proletarian life, with works relevant to workers, and supporting the aims of the Communist Party and the State. Now that the movement is mentioned, we see that it has been the standard against which Tokenhouse has been judging others, as when he accuses the  Surrealists of being “Pseudo-Realists.” [TK 129/122]

I.V. Stalin and members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) among children in the M. Gorky Central Park of Culture and Rest in Moscow V.S. Svarog, 1939 oil on canvas 80 x 120 in The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow copyright status unknown

I.V. Stalin and members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) among children in the M. Gorky Central Park of Culture and Rest in Moscow

V.S. Svarog, 1939

oil on canvas 80 x 120 in

The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

copyright status unknown

Svatogh is probably a misspelled or misremembered reference to Svarogh or Svarog (Spurling, p. 587).  Svarog  was the Slavic counterpart of Vulcan, the blacksmith god, but here it is the pseudonym taken by a Russian painter and graphic artist, Vassily Semeonovich Korcihkin (1883-1946).  His Socialist Realist credentials include membership in the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia and founding the Mitrofan Grekov Studio of War Art.

After the Liberation T.A. Gaponenko

After the Liberation
T.A. Gaponenko picture available at http://www.allworldwars.com/Soviet%20War%20Paintings.html; copyright status unknown.

Taras Gur’evich Gaponenko (1906-1993 ) was a well recognized Soviet artist, best known for his genre scenes of village life and later for his canvases showing the glories and sufferings of World War II.

The Motherland Calls Irakli Toizde, 1941 poster

The Motherland Calls
Irakli Toizde, 1941
poster

The painter and graphic artist Irakli Moiseevitch Toidze (1902-1985) is best known for his World War II poster, The Motherland Calls (1941).  He won numerous Soviet appointments and awards. He said that the expression of Mother Russia was inspired by the look on his wife’s face when she ran into his studio to tell him that Germany had attacked the Soviet Union. Outlined against the bright red of the revolution is the Soviet Army oath.

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The French Pavilion at the Biennale

In the French pavilion at the Biennale, Jenkins sees “a massive work, seven of eight feet high, chiefly constructed from tin or zinc, horsehair, patent leather and cardboard.” Ada Leintwardine is discussing the work with Louis Glober: “Mr. Glober sees African overtones, influenced by Ernst. To me the work is much more redolent of Samurai armour designed by Schwitters.” [TK 134-135/132]

The Elephant Celebes Max Ernst, 1921 oil on canvas, 50 x 43 in The Tate Gallery, London photo from Wikipedia via Olga's gallery, possibly in US public domain but under copyright in country of origin

The Elephant Celebes
Max Ernst, 1921
oil on canvas, 50 x 43 in
The Tate Gallery, London
photo from Wikipedia via Olga’s gallery, possibly in US public domain but under copyright in country of origin

The King Playing with the Queen Max Ernst, 1945 bronze 38 x 33 x 20 in photo of original plaster cast by Robert Bayer Fondation Beyeler, Basel ,Switzerland © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The King Playing with the Queen
Max Ernst, 1945
bronze 38 x 33 x 20 in
photo of original plaster cast by Robert Bayer
Fondation Beyeler, Basel ,Switzerland
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Max Ernst (1891-1976) was a German born artist who had a long career in Germany, France, and the United States.  In 1954 he won the Grand Prize for painting at the Biennale. Early on, he was entranced with Dada and Surrealism. The Elephant Celebes (1921) from this period shows Ernst’s whimsy; it’s African connection is that the torso of the elephant is based on a photo,  which Ernst saw in an anthopology journal, of a corn bin used by Konkombwa tribe of the southern Sudan.  He turned to sculpture in 1934; we show The King Playing with the Queen (1945).  The double entendre of that title and the connection of The Elephant Celebes to a bawdy German children’s song show that Ernst’s sense of humor was both visual and verbal.

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), like Ernst, was born in Germany, worked in multiple media, and was an early Dadist.  Exiled from Germany, he spent time in Norway but by 1941 was part of the London art scene, so his work would likely be known to Jenkins, Leintwardine, and their ilk. Schwitters’ sculpture tends toward abstract organic forms, but his collages included multiple diverse media, like the work that Jenkins sees. Schwitters work, priced at a few guineas, did not sell well in London during the Second War, but Ja — Was? Bild sold for nearly 14 million pounds sterling at auction in 2014.

Ja-was Bild? Kurt Schwitters, 1920 oil, paper, corrugated card, cardboard, fabric, wood and nails on board, 43 x 32 in. framed sold at Christie, London, 2014

Ja — Was? Bild
Kurt Schwitters, 1920
oil, paper, corrugated card, cardboard, fabric, wood and nails on board, 43 x 32 in. framed
sold at Christies, London, 2014

 

Suit of Samurai Armor The Tokyo National Museum photo in public domain courtesy of PHG via Wikimedia Commons

Suit of Samurai Armor
The Tokyo National Museum
photo in public domain courtesy of PHG via Wikimedia Commons

Torso Antoine Pevsner, 1924-6 bronze and plastic, 30 x 12 x 15 in Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2016 Antoine Pevsner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Sculptural works in the French pavilion at the 1958 Biennale included 14 pieces by Antoine Pevsner (1884-1962). He was born in Russia, first visited France in 1911, and became a French citizen in 1930. Like Ernst, Schwitters, and many other members of the School of Paris, he was adept at many visual arts, including painting, graphics, and sculpture.  In 1920 he and his brother Naum Gabo (who later was a contemporary of Schwitters in London) wrote the Realistic Manifesto, advocating Constructivism or an art based on space and time, quite unlike the helter skelter of Dada and Surrealism.

Many of the pieces that Pevsner showed at the 1958 Biennale were quite abstract. Although his earlier Torso, which we show above left, might remind some of samurai armor, Pevsner’s work is  clearly not what Jenkins describes in this passage. Powell’s intent is not to report factually on the contents of the pavilion but to present an imaginary straw man or, perhaps, straight man, to set up Ada Leintwardine’s tongue-in-cheek commentary on the craziness of some avant-garde art. In this setting the playful incoherence of Dada and the Surrealists is particularly apt.

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Tokenhouse IV : At the Venice Biennale — The Soviet Pavillion

At the Venice Biennale with Jenkins, Tokenhouse says:

“I guarantee that the only sanctuary from subjectless bric-à-brac here will be in the national pavilions of what you no doubt term the Iron Curtain countries. We will visit the USSR first.”

The white pinnacled kiosk-like architecture of a small building, no doubt dating from pre-Revolutionary times, seemed by its outward church-like style to renew the ecclesiological atmosphere that pursued Tokenhouse throughout life. Within, total embargo on aesthetic abstraction proved his forecast correct. We loitered for a while over Black Sea mutineers and tractor-driving peasants….. [TK 134/127]

The Soviet pavilion for the 29th Biennale in 1958 showed works by Sergio Gherassimov, Alessio Grizai, Kukryniksy, Giorgio Nisski, Juri Pimie Vladinov, Arcadio Plastov, Eugenio Samsonov, Vladimiro Serov, Michele Trufanov, Oganes Zardaian, Alessandra Briedis, Nicola Tomski , Vucetic, Michele Deregus, Alfredo Oia, Alessio Pachomov, and Leonida Soifertis. (These are the Italian transliterations of their names from the Catalogue: 29th Biennale Internationale dArte; for example, Gherassimov in Italian becomes Gerasimov in English)

The artists are not limited to painters. For example, Kukryniksy was a collective of poster artists; a collection of their anti-Nazi posters has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. Nikolai Tomsky did monumental sculpture of Soviet heroes.

Elections of the Committee of Poor Peasants Arkady Plastov, 1940 photo listed as public domain in Wikimedia Commons, but copyright status unclear since Plastov died in 1970

Elections of the Committee of Poor Peasants
Arkady Plastov, 1940
photo listed as public domain in Wikimedia Commons, but copyright status unclear since Plastov died in 1972

 

Supper of the Tractor Drivers Arkady Plastov, 1951 postage stamp photo from Wikimedia Commons

Supper of the Tractor Drivers
Arkady Plastov, 1951
postage stamp
photo from Wikimedia Commons

Arkady Alexandrovich Plastov (1893-1972) was known for his paintings of the peasants from the village of Prislonikha where he was born. His painting of tractor drivers (see Supper of the Tractor Drivers) was made into a Soviet postage stamp, but we have chosen to show the painting above because the woman with the red kerchief reminds one of Gypsy Jones, who appeared at Erridge’s funeral with “her hair tied up in a red hankerchief, somehow calling to mind Soviet posters celebrating the Five Year Plan.” [BDFR  /45] Other women with red kerchiefs are common in Plastov’s work.  Plastov was awarded two Orders of Lenin, the Stalin Prize, and the Lenin Prize for his painting.

Tokenhouse, despite his politics, could not completely escape his intellectual bourgeois roots: “Never able wholly to control a taste for antagonism, even against his own recently voiced opinions, Tokenhouse shook his head more than once over these images of a way of life he approved, here found wanting in executive ability.” [TK 134/127]

 

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Tokenhouse III: Plein Air, Formalism, Political Symbolsim

Tokenhouse, ever the intellectual, describes the evolution of his painting style. “I began taking the bus over the bridge to Mestre, and attempting some plein air studies.” [TK 129/ 122] His plan to paint a hydroelectric plant was stymied when he was accused of industrial espionage.

Luncheon of the Boating Party Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880-81 oil on canvas, 51 x 69 in The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons via the Google Art Project

Luncheon of the Boating Party
Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880-81
oil on canvas, 51 x 69 in
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons via the Google Art Project

Painting outside, or as the French say en plein air, was not invented by or limited to the Impressionists, but they were plein air enthusiasts.  We could show any number of Impressionist landscapes, especially the series, like those of Monet, that emphasize the constant fluidity of outdoor scenes. Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party recalls the sociality of the Impressionists, who would gather to paint in the summer along the Seine outside Paris.  Tokenhouse is a loner and much more interested in politics than in beauty. He says, “Much more important that the interfering attitudes of the authorities  [who accused him of spying] was my own fear that Impressionist errors were creeping back, just as fallaciously as if I was one of the old ladies sitting on a camp-stool in front of the Salute.” [TK 129-130/122]

The Gardener Vallier c.1906 Paul C?zanne 1839-1906 Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04724

The Gardener Vallier Paul Cezanne c. 1906 oil on canvas, 26 x 22 in The Tate Liverpool shown here by Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) permission

Tokenhouse describes his efforts to avoid Formalism. Jenkins cannot tell if a canvas is Formalist or Reformed: “This latest canvas, vermillion and light cobalt, showed origins of the fresco technique in representing what were evidently factory workers, stripped to the waist, pushing over a precipice a disordered groups of kings and bishops, easily recognizable by their crowns and mitres.” [TK 131/124] Formalism emphasizes color, techniques, and composition over content.  The style of Cezanne, whose work is conducive to Formalist analysis, might not have caught the terror on the faces of the deposed that Tokenhouse showed.

Symbolism refers to work that emphasizes ideas rather than realistic depictions; figures are often icongraphic. The work of Gauguin is often cited as an example. Not all Symbolist work is political. Tokenhouse’s “wooden” figures were more symbolic than realistic, but he told Jenkins that he found “Politico-Symbolism, for a person of my imaginative faculties, a cul de sac.” [TK 131/124]

 

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Tokenhouse II: Four Priests Rigging a Miracle

Tokenhouse shows Jenkins three of his canvases, a series on “Four Priests Rigging a Miracle.”  Jenkins saw the paintings as a “sort of neo-primitivism” and  “felt compelled to make a pronouncement, however insipid.

“The garage scene has considerable force. Its colour emotive too, limiting yourself in that way to an almost regular monotone, picked out with passages of flat heavy black.”

Jenkins adds a bit later:

“The browns, greys, and blacks seem to create an effective recession.” [TK 128/ ]

Recession is the illusion of three dimensionality created by the painter. Tokenhouse objected to Jenkins’ analysis: “I am no longer interested in such purely technical achievements as correct recession …”  His goal was the political message of the painting, recalling a quote: “A painting is an act of Socialism.”

Primitivism is sometimes used to refer to art that references non-European indigenous artists, like those of Africa, Oceania, or Australia. This type of primitivism grew from the late nineteenth century; a prime example is the work of Paul Gauguin. Primitivism can also refer to “outsider” art, done by those who are self taught or who do not use traditional techniques, exemplified by the work of The Douanier, Henri Rousseau.

Khorovod Natalia Goncharova, 2010 Oil on canvas. 40 × 5 in Serpukhov Museum of Art and History photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Khorovod
Natalia Goncharova, 2010
Oil on canvas. 40 × 5 in
Serpukhov Museum of Art and History
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Neo-primitivism was a pre-revolutionary Russian art movement led by Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), her lover Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964), and Alexsandr Shevchenko (1883-1948), described in his book ‘Neo-primitivizm’ (1910). The artists often paid homage Russian folk art and Russian Orthodox icons. A khorodov, as shown in Goncharova’s canvas, is a Russian folk dance.

Tokenhouse’s neo-primitivism (no caps) does not identify him with a specific art movement but indicates his desire to be his own kind of outsider.  Nick’s description of Tokenhouse’s painting as an example of “neo-primitivism” is apparently the least damning epithet he can come up with in the face of its muddy-colored incompetence.  Naturally, we have not been able to find the image of a celebrated neo-primitive painting that would do justice to the source of Nick’s dismay in this droll scene, so once again Powell has left plenty of room for our imaginations

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Tokenhouse I: Before the Second War

Chapter three of TK finds Jenkins visiting Daniel Tokenhouse, his former employer in publishing, now an expatriate in Venice, devoting himself to art.  “The Camden Town Group had been wholly superceded, utterly swept away, so far as the art of Daniel Tokenhouse was concerned.” [TK 128/121]

Thomas Balston Gertler, 1921 oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Oxford

Thomas Balston
Mark Gertler, 1921
oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Oxford

Daniel Tokenhouse’s life prior to the Second War is based strongly to the life of Thomas Balston (1883-1967), a friend of Powell’s father since their days together at Sandhurst and Powell’s employer at Gerald Duckworth & Co. [”Maisky” Compare the Markists. 1. Daniel Tokenhouse, Anthony Powell Society Newsletter #57, Winter, 2014] . Powell mentions Balston frequently in TKBR but does not introduce his alter ego Tokenhouse into Dance until TK, published after Balston’s death. When Jenkins visits Tokenhouse in Venice, he still has some of the military bearing that we see in the portrait of Balston at left, painted when he was more than 30 years younger: “His body seemed made of gristle rather than flesh … He peered alertly, rather peevishly through gold rimmed spectacles set well forward on a long redish nose. An all enveloping chilliness of manner hung about him …” [TK 127/120].  Like Tokenhouse, Balston was an amateur painter, who retired from publishing in the 1930s to paint full time, including landscapes. [TK 62-63/56] Their histories diverged at the start of the war years, when Balston rejoined the army, whereas, Tokenhouse spent the early years of the war as a patient in a psychiatric clinic.

The Reservoir Thomas Balston, 1938 The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-reservoir-141655

The Reservoir
Thomas Balston, 1938
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-reservoir-141655

The Camden Town Group was a group of 16 artists, including Lucien Pisarro, Augustus John, Spencer Gore, Robert Bevan, Harold Gilman, and Malcolm Drummond, who coalesced about 1911 around Walter Sickert. They were bound more by friendship and physical proximity than by a unifying style; some Camden Town landscapes showed a Post Impressionist pastel version of realistic scenes that might have influenced Balston and Tokenhouse.

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