Isbister paints St John Clarke

A television program celebrating the life of St. John Clarke starts and ends with “St. John Clarke’s portrait (butterfly collar, floppy bow tie) painted by his old friend, Horace Isbister, R.A.” [HSH 39/40 ].

Isbister, whom Powell introduced in QU, has a number of appearances in Dance [The Walpole-Wilson Portraits (BM), Isbister, The British Frans Hals (AW), At the Isbister Memorial Exhibition (AW), Isbister According to St. John Clarke (CCR), and  Outside the Army Council Room (MP)] prior to HSH. Later in HSH, Jenkins mentions a final Isbister portrait, that of Sir Horrocks Rusby in wig and gown, presumably similar to the portrait of Lord Aberavon [HSH 62-3/65]

 

John Galsworthy Sauter, Rudolf Helmut; University of Birmingham; © the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Birmingham from ArtUK.org

John Galsworthy
Rudolf Helmut Sauter, 1923
oil on canvas
University of Birmingham;
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Birmingham
from ArtUK.org

John Galsworthy is often mentioned as a model for Clarke, so we offer a portrait of Galsworthy, collar, bowtie , and all. Rudolf Sauter’s (1895-1977) biography does not match Isbister’s:  Sauter showed at the Royal Academy but was never elected to membership; he was Galsworthy’s nephew and illustrated the definitive edition of his works.  The portrait is worthy of Isbister, competently flattering the sitter, but leaving the viewer minimally informed and unexcited. Other portraits of Galsworthy  with collar and bowtie, including those by William Strang  R.A. (1859-1921) (lithograph), the caricaturist Sir David Low (1891-1963) (pencil), and various photographers shown at the National Portrait Gallery, do not provide other clues to models for Isbister.

After Jenkins and his friends watched the program, “Members then let off a mild bombshell. He suggested that the friendship with Isbister had been a homosexual one. The contention of Members was that the central figure in an early genre pictures of Isbister’s — Clergyman eating an Apple — was not at all unlike Clarke as a young man, Members advancing the theory that Isbister could have possessed a fetishist taste for male lovers dressed in ecclesiastical costume.” [HSH 40/]

Even with this new clue, we have not been able to find a facsimile of the Clergyman.   Like Jenkins and his friends, we will leave Horace Isbister, R.A.  still a subject for amused speculation.

 

 

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The Statue of Boadicea

Walking near Westminster bridge, Jenkins pauses by the statue of Boadicea to watch the passing vintage cars:

The chariot horses recalled what a squalid part the philosopher Seneca, with his shady horse-dealing, had played in that affair. Below was inscribed the pay-off for the Romans.

Regions Caesar never knew

Thy posterity shall sway. [TK 281/277]

Statue of Boadicea Thomas Thornycroft, executed 1853-1886 , erected 1902 bronze NW end of Westminster Bridge, London photo by Carole Radatto, available in Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons license

Statue of Boadicea
Thomas Thornycroft, executed 1853-1885 , erected 1902
bronze
NW end of Westminster Bridge, London
photo by Carole Radatto, available in Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons license

The statue of Boadicea was commisioned by Prince Albert as a tribute to Queen Victoria. The sculptor, Thomas Thornycroft (1815-1885), was known for monuments, including an equestrian statute of Queen Victoria shown at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, and memorials to Prince Albert, including the Commerce group on the Albert Memorial.

Boadicea was queen of the Iceni tribe of Britons. Her name means victory, but she failed in her rebellion against the Romans. (For more history, including the role of Seneca in the story, see www.historynet.com.) The inscription at the base, extolling the British empire, is from Boadicea. An Ode. by Thomas Cowper (1731-1800).

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Van Gogh’s Eternity

Jenkins visits Moreland, now terminally ill, in his hospital bed. Moreland recalls a time when Sir Magnus had been erroneously told that he had a year to live. Moreland said, “I now find myself in a stronger position than in those days for vividly imagining what it felt like to be the man in the van Gogh picture, so to speak Donners-on-the-brink-of-Eternity.” [TK 275/271]

Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate) Vincent Van Gogh, 1890 oil on canvas, 32 x 26 in Kroller-Muller Museum photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commns

Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate)
Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
oil on canvas, 32 x 26 in
Kroller-Muller Museum
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commns

Van Gogh painted At Eternity’s Gate in May, 1890, just as he was recovering from a two month illness, caused by or at least accompanied by severe depression, and two months before his apparent suicide.

Worn Out Vincent Van Gogh, 1880 pencil on watercolor paper, 20 x 12 in Van Gogh Museum, Amdsterdam photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Worn Out
Vincent Van Gogh, 1882
pencil on watercolor paper, 20 x 12 in
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Old Man with His Head in His Hands Vincent Van Gogh, 1882 ransfer lithography, printed in black ink, crayon, brush and autographic ink, 22 x 15 in The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (and elsewhere) photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Old Man with His Head in His Hands
Vincent Van Gogh, 1882
transfer lithography, printed in black ink, crayon, brush and autographic ink, 22 x 15 in
The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (and elsewhere)
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Moreland, nearing death, was looking back to others’ response to our universal mortality and thinking how the approach of death changed the view. Van Gogh was also looking back, referencing his own earlier works, which started as a pencil drawing of a resident of an almshouse and evolved to a lithograph. At the lower left of the lithograph, reportedly in Van Gogh’s own hand, is the inscription “At Eternity’s Gate.”

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Mrs. Erdleigh compared to a Whistlerian Nocturne

Jenkins describes Mrs. Erdleigh in her old age: “Lighter than air, disembodied from a material  world, the swirl of capes, hoods, stoles, scarves, veils, as usual encompassed her from head to foot, all seeming of so light a texture that, far from bringing an impression of accretion, their blurring of hard outlines produced a positively spectral effect, a Whistlerian nocturne in portraiture, sage greens, somber blues, almost frivolous greys, sprinkled with gold.” (TK 246/241)

"Harmony

Nocturne in Pink and Gray. (Portrait of Lady Meux.)
James McNeill Whistler, 1881
oil on canvas, 76 x 37 in
The Frick Collection, New York
photo in public domain from the Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons

The harmonious colors of Whistler’s portraits could be wonderful. We have seen the Portrait of Lady Meux, (shown left) alternatively titled as a Harmony or as a Nocturne. It is only one of many of Whistler’s sumptuous portraits of Victorian women that evoke Mrs. Erdleigh’s other- worldly elegance and, as far as we know, the only one sometimes called a Nocturne.

Mrs. Erdleigh always has dimensions beyond the mere corporeal; in this description of a disembodied Mrs. Erdleigh nearing the end of her life, Jenkins is also recalling the almost abstract quality of Whistler’s nightscapes. About 1871,  he began to paint scenes of the Thames, which he called Nocturnes, works with veiled light and carefully blended muted colors, set at dusk or in the night; see Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea 1871, now in the Tate.  (American Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts Vol. 3).  Whistler took the name  from the music of Chopin, according to a note he wrote in 1872 to Frederick Leyland, a Chopin devotee:

“I say I can’t thank you too much for the name ‘Nocturne’ as a title for my moonlights! You have no idea what an irritation it proves to the critics and consequent pleasure to me—besides it is really so charming and does so poetically say all that I want to say and no more than I wish.”

The chief among those critics was Ruskin, who wrote that with Nocturne in Black and  Gold (shown below) Whistler was “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.”   Whistler sued Ruskin for libel and won the suit but was awarded a trivial damage payment, much less than his share of the court costs. Later Whistler got more substantial satisfaction, selling the picture for 800 guineas.

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket James McNeill Whistler, 1875 oil on panel The Detroit Institute of Art photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
James McNeill Whistler, 1875
oil on panel
The Detroit Institute of Art
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

In additon to Nocturne, Whistler often used other musical terms, like Symphony or Harmony, to title his paintings. We recall Jenkin’s description of Pamela Fitton’s crimson and peacock blue blouse  contrasting with Tiepolo’s colors with “dissonance as much as harmony” [TK 88] and wonder if Powell was thinking of Whistler when he wrote this description. Of course, harmony has shades of meaning, which Powell explores in the last volumes of Dance.

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Landscapes at the Soviet Embassy

Jenkins describes the dining room of the Soviet embassy: “Here again was a faint sense of austerity, an impression of off-white walls sparsely decorated with pictures, landscapes light in tone — the steppe —  birch tress — sunset on the snow — nothing in the least reminiscent of Tokenhouse  and his school ” [TK 221/~215]

Russian landscape painting evolved in the nineteenth century, influenced by European landscape traditions exemplified by Corot and other painters of the Barbizon school.

Sunset on the Steppe Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, 1900 photo © Romuald Le Peru, available by Creative Commons License

Steppe
Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, 1890-1895
oil on canvas, 33 x 61
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
photo © Romuald Le Peru, available by Creative Commons License

Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzi (1842-1910) showed the vastness of the steppe in a number of canvases that catch the play of light across the land.

mart_levitan

March
Isaac Levitan, 1895
oil on canvas
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons (see website for details of copyright dispute)

There is no shortage of snow or birch trees in the portfolio of Isaac Levitan (1860-1900), another master of Russian landscape painting.

Birch Grove Alexey Gritsay oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in photo from artlib.ru

Birch Grove
Aleksei Mikhailovich Gritsai
oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in
photo from artlib.ru

Soviet era landscape painting at times included Socialist Realist themes, glorifying agricultural workers or war heroes; however, scenes showing love of the Motherland were allowed by authorities, so painters like Aleksei Mikhailovich Gritsai (1914-1998) could paint birches without political overtones, scenes not “reminiscent of Tokenhouse and his school.”  Gritsai was one of the artists shown at the Soviet pavilion at the 1958 Biennale (Italian transliteration Alessio Grizai); among his honors were two Stalin prizes and election to the USSR Academy of Arts.

 

 

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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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