This week we studied surrealism in our art course, there arrived the catalogue of Christie’s for their modern art sale on March 1st and the series on Sky Arts Artists in Love featured Amedeo Modigliani and his lover Jeanne Hebuterne.
Surrealism in a sentence is the artistic expression of the subconscious.
It’s founder Andre Breton claimed to work with Sigismund Freud.
As Breton was a doctor this is possible. Certainly it helps to be conversant with Freud’s theories.
The greatest early exponent was Rene Magritte who changed the way we view art.
In some ways your archetypal Boring Belgian with his bowler hat and business suit both he and his paintings have an interior complexity.
Some say he was influenced by the early death of his mother by drowning and being found in her nightdress and putrefied body. It was probably self-inflicted as she was having an affaire.
Take The Human Condition.
It seems initially a view from a room but on closer examination the window frame is an easel.
Magritte is playing with the viewer as he often did.
Andy Warhol was a huge admirer but Magritte’s intentional flatness reminds me of another talent the realist Edward Hopper.
Salvador Dali, who was rejected by Breton for his mercenary motivation, was the one who introduced dreams into the artistic equation.
Dominated by his wife Gala who was his manager he never spurned a financial offering and spent many years in America in advertising.
He was spurned by Picasso for his admiration of Franco. It’s difficult to assess his personality as I doubt if he was truthful. As I have said before his paintings do not do it for me.
I enjoy spending time poring over an art catalogue previewing a sale.
The one from Christie’s featured Henry Moore, Leon Kossoff and Winston Churchill.
Churchill is one of the few artists who was more celebrated in another field who could paint.
Christie’s were auctioning his paintings of his beloved Marrakech, two of which he gave to President Roosevelt and Field Marshal Montgomery.
Orator, statesman, journalist, historical writer, soldier and indefatigable opponent of Hitler – he could paint too.
Finally the programme on Modigliani.
He died young aged 25 and unappreciated in his lifetime.
He was perhaps the first with his depiction of a long neck and almond shaped eyes to introduce naive and tribal art.
Sadly he did not live to enjoy the fruits of his talent. He suffered from tuberculosis and the poor conditions in which he lived did not help.
The programme concentrated more on his relationship with Jeanne Hebuterne who had his child but committed suicide before its birth after Modigliani’s death.
As with Egon Schiele who similarly died in his twenties we will never know how his art would have evolved.