The Mysterious Ambassadors

The Ambassadors - the history behind the painting of Holbein's The Ambassadors.The Ambassadors At The National Gallery

It is just amazing. You can see them casually standing, waiting for you, on an end wall through several linking rooms. Two friends, in all their brilliant finery. They are very patient. Don’t appear to be in a hurry. But I suppose when you are at the king’s disposal, time is not your own. And Jean de Dinteville was the unhappy representative of King Francis I of France at Henry VIII’s turbulent court. He seemed to have spent much of this visit, in 1533, waiting for the coronation of Anne Boleyn on 1st June. An intriguing time as they had already married in secret in January before Henry divorced Catherine. As well as ordering thirty tons of Gascon wine to shield de Dinteville against the best of England’s cold and damp, he would no doubt have been instrumental in the negotiations that led to Francis I being godfather to their new born child, Elizabeth.

His friend, Georges de Selve, a bishop of Lavaur in southwest France, apparently made a secret appearance at this time. And how better to celebrate a secret meeting, “which was no small pleasure” to de Dinteville, than to have one of the most iconic images of the time painted in its memory – that which we now call The Ambassadors.

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Don’t Miss This Opportunity… Oh, go on then…

Have decided to take the plunge back into murky academic waters again, It’s a bit scary, I have to say. Although the reason I chose this course was because it seemed totally self-indulgent and not in the least wordy. Creative Teacher – what an excellent way to reflect the creative curriculum, (how many boxes does that tick? –oh, and the brownie points…) and be completely selfish at the same time, thought I.
The paper, Postgraduate Professional Development: Creative Teacher, was shown to me in the staff room – my friend often does this to me – very casually – you could do that – and, yes, it did look interesting. But, as I’m sure so many other teachers will agree, It’s just another bloody piece of paper to file away or make a momentary decision about, in the course of a decision riddled day. Most of the time I leave these pieces of paper to fester in some pile until their sell buy date has well and truly expired, allowing me the privilege of no decision. But this piece of paper just kept bobbing up to the surface and winking at me.

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Degrees aren’t worth anything – You think?

I love listening to inspirational speakers. They imbue such a feeling of warmth and endless possibilities that I just want to run with or shout out there ideas. I remember listening to an inspirational speaker, Sir John Jones. His plea was very similar to Sir Ken Robinson’s (see below) – a review of our perceptions about education, creativity and how we learn.

One anecdote made me swallow back tears. He talked about how we can be trained into conditions, like flees. Flees can jump extraordinarily high considering their mass. But if you trap one in a cup and put a lid on it, it will eventually learn to jump to the height of the cup. And if you take away the lid it will still only jump as high as the cup – so never jumping out.

Admittedly, that’s not the part that made me tearful.

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Sculpture Remixed

Untitled by George Baselitz
Untitled by George Baselitz
Sir Joshua Reynolds by John Henry Foley
Sir Joshua Reynolds by John Henry Foley

Sculpture Remixed is one the rooms in the DLA Piper Series : This is Sculpture at the Tate Liverpool. Was my favourite. Very cleverly mixed pieces contrasting each other. Take the John Henry Foley sculpture of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Amazing marble detail, glorious stuff to see up close.

And next to it an untitled piece by George Baselitz.

One made by one of the hardest stones and looking so soft and delicate I wanted to pull his cloak back to keep it out of the way of his palette. The other with no aspirations of deceit. It’s a figure coarsely made of wood, no disguising the material.

You had to enter through blackout curtains. It made me feel this was a private place – not yet ready for the public. Lots of contradictions. This was the first of the rooms that had a dark purple background, and pieces more noticeably lit with spot lights.

We were greeted by two machine workers, scared to death by two Redeemers and entertained by Degas’s beautiful Little Dancer.

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Oak Tree

Now seen at the Tate of the North – Liverpool. I first saw this ****, many years ago and it stuck in my mind so vividly as a glorious piece of **** that when I spotted it from across the gallery, I called out to Dan, “Look! Oak Tree!!” And, of course, he had no idea what I was talking about. Nor would he. Does it look like an Oak Tree to you?

This is what irritated me so many years before. Conceptual art that was up its own arse. And I was about to fly off into a deluge of abuse when we were accosted by an incredibly polite and chatty gallery attendant who said…” Oh yes. You’ve seen this one before? It’s all about faith…” I get a bit twitchy when people start discussing anything remotely religious – especially when we’ve not been formally introduced. But he continued on, “Yes, well I think so. It’s about how people take things on faith and will look up to anything that’s set above them…”

Oak Tree is a glass of water on a glass shelf about seven feet high. So you do have to look up to it. Both of us had our interest piqued, so we Continue reading Oak Tree

Klimt at the Tate – Liverpool

1890 Gustav Klimt
1890 Gustav Klimt

Went to see the Klimt at the Tate of the North at the Albert Docks during the summer holidays. Very confusing choosing the correct queue to go brandish my tickets. It was our cultural day out. I’d dragged along both offspring. Kate happy to go, Danny not sure what he’s let himself in for. For that matter, neither did I. I love the famous pieces but wasn’t sure what was on display.
1st stop the Beethoven frieze. It was a shock. Nothing like what I had expected. With that title I thought there would be some obvious musical references. But of course, more subtle than that. Three enormous panels taking up the room. Beautiful, serene figures floating or drifting across the space. All symbolic either driving on the heroic or displaying the worst human traits. Very classical. Horizontal/vertical. Reminded me of a mixture of Burn-Jones and Mackintosh. Just Beautiful. I loved it.

The Three Ages of Woman, Klimt
The Three Ages of Woman, Klimt

Upstairs was a more general exhibition. Wiener Werkstatte, a Hoffman, Moser, Werkstatte collaboration which, inspired by the British Arts and Craft Movement, wanted to incorporate design objects into everyday items – architecture, furniture etc. I’m not a fan of a asylum designs so I darted threw the throngs to find the 2D stuff. There was a room with early Klimts. Here was all his classically trained early works. Amazing in detail. Very tranquil in mood.
In a darkened room with a warning to those with faint heart, were the most surprising nude sketches. Practically all of masturbating women. Very revealing. Noticeably, very quickly drawn. These gave rise to an interesting conversation with amongst some incredible landscapes where the patterns just take over the canvas was my favourite, The Three ages of Woman. Everything just fitted together- there wasn’t any sense of perspective, the figures just overlap each other in a floating space – that sparkles.

We later visited the other exhibitions down stairs, and the most heated talk was on the flimsy nature of modern art when compared with something as beautiful as the Klimt works.
As the one trained in art, I was having difficulties defending much of the other exhibits. In fact Kate was really angry at the blank canvases. And I think she is probably right.