Posts Tagged ‘portraiture’

America the beautiful

Yesterday a buddy and I visited the Art Gallery of NSW to check out the Summer blockbuster America: painting a Nation.  The works were organised chronologically, following America’s development since white settlement. We were able to witness the changes in the way Americans have seen themselves.

Copley, John Singleton_Portrait of a Lady_1771.












John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Portrait of a lady, 1771, oil on canvas, 126.9 x 100.3cm

The 18th century portraits were similar in style to the European ones I’m more familiar with.  Idealised, ‘airbrushed’ images of perfect flesh and immaculate rendering of fabrics. This image by Copley is an example, with the addition of a marvellous capturing of character for which he was famous. I could have sat with this image all day.

The 19th century saw a relationship with the wild landscape which was being ‘conquered’ as people moved west. There was an undercurrent of conflation of principles of liberty, a noble principle, with the right to colonise and develop the land.

We did see some images that made reference to the plight of the First Peoples, including this beauty:









Frederic Remington (1861-1909) The herd boy, c. 1905, oil on canvas, 68.9 x 114.9cm


wyeth,nc_MOVING CAMP_1908












NC Wyeth (1882-1945) Moving Camp, 1908, oil on canvas, 92.1×66.4cm

This image was amazing. It was in fact darker than it looks here. It was dim, really. But the line of bright water, aligned with the chiefs’ headgear, was really interesting. you could not take your eyes off this one. It is worth considering in more detail in terms of its composition.

It was great to see a Mary Cassatt image in the flesh. The canvas is wonderfully active. She went off to join the French Impressionists and exhibited with them several times.













Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) Mother about to wash her sleepy child, 1880, oil on canvas, 100.3 x 65.8cm

I finally got to see a work by the father of Abstract Expressionism, Hans Hofmann. The show finished with the Ab Ex painters, more or less.

Blue Monolith, 1964 (oil on canvas)












Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) Blue monolith, 1964, oil on canvas, 183.5 x 152.7cm

I did enjoy the material presence of this, although I’m not sure I really received it as he intended…the scale was relevant, it’s pretty big and…unapologetic. I enjoyed the negative space. There was depth and movement to be sure. Maybe I needed to spend more time with it.



Our humanity through the lens – Richard Avedon at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra

Last week I got down to the Nation’s Capital and visited People, the current Richard Avedon show and the first exhibition of his work in Australia.

Avedon’s career spanned many decades and he photographed some  of the best known figures of the day. He worked for Harper’s Bazaar during the 1940s, and developed a minimalist aesthetic using a stark white featureless background. This was avant-garde for the day and became his signature.

There were some iconic images there – Twiggy in a back-revealing dress; Elizabeth Taylor, young and so voluptuous, surrounded by the curves of a cock -feather hat.


Avedon, Richard_Elizabeth Taylor_cock feathes by Anello of Emme_1964












Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Enello of Emme, 1964.

Avedon created technically marvelous portraits, so I’m told. They certainly looked  clear and interestingly composed. My favourites included four separate images of poignantly young and serious men who were known as the Beatles, and an image of Warhol with Candy Darling and Jay Johnson from 1969. He had several of people with their eyes closed, which seems to give the viewer a voyeuristic license somehow.

Avedon, Richard_Andy Warhol with Candy Darling and Jay Johnson_1969









Andy Warhol with Candy Darling and Jay Johnson, 1969


A magnificent Marian Anderson, the first Afro-American to sing at the New York Metropolitan Opera. She is all hair, lips, jewellery and he captured her whilst she was singing for him in 1955

Avedon, Richard_MARIAN ANDERSON_1955








Marian Anderson, 1955.


There was also a magnificent, and again painfully young Nureyev – lean, hard with an enormous cock.


Avedon, Richard_rudolph nureyev  1961