Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In passing - Omega

Omega Workshops Pamela (1913), printed linen. Made in France. Picture courtesy Manchester City Art Gallery

Exhibition: Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-1919, The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London, June 18 – September 20 2009.

Today, at the hurried end of our lecture on Cubisn and the Decorative: from Orphism to the Maison Cubiste, we touched on the Omega Workshop and this reminded me just how fond I am of the Charleston decorative style, and the wonder of the farmhouse at Firle.

The drive towards the farmhouse, passing ditches which no doubt housed the renowned Cezanne in the hedge, is a sublime experience. Having been fortunate enough to work with the administration on a voluntary basis, I realise that all is not peace and calm, and that they lead a precarious existence financially. But nonetheless, it is a magical place to visit and should be preserved because of its unique decorative qualities alone, not to mention its historic significance as the meeting place of the Bloomsbury Group.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dove Grey Reader - a like minded reader

This picture has nothing to do with dear Dove Grey Reader, but was taken from our bedroom window (before the cottage was rethatched) while recuperating, reading and watching wonderful skyscapes with a view to painting them later (as if...).

More to the point, I do highly recommend Dove Grey Reader's wonderful blog. She has become quite a phenomenon, and I heard her in discussion at the Oxford Literary Festival last year, defending literary blogs in the august company of John Carey (relatively pro) and John Mullan (very anti). I think the men missed the point somewhat. Literary blogs do not take the place of their erudite literary criticism, but they do give an insight into a fellow-booklover's take on a wide variety of books. Most are very much to my taste.

She is a delightfully self-effacing lady, who has become sufficiently influential that publishers rush to send her reading copies. Also, I like to think of her in a bucolic landscape (do look at her wonderful wood collected for the winter and ruminations on wood fires). As we are about to get a woodburning stove, this is particularly appropriate. This is the strength of the Web - that someone in deepest Devon can be read worldwide (even Outer Mongolia apparently), with her gentle, perceptive musings on life and books.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Viennese insights

Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, 1870-1956) for Wiener Werkstätte, Square Brooch, silver lattice, repoussé gold, and opal, c. 1905
Josef Hoffman was leading member of the Wiener Werkstatte founded in 1903 and was an architect and designer, following the Gersamtkuntswerke principles of a "total work of art". Not only did he design the building, but every detail including cutlery. His jewelry mostly follows the grid system, with these beautiful square brooches 5 x 5 cms.
This study is leading me into some wonderful art books (I am up to limit of Bodleian stack requests) but for sheer beauty of the images (including the drawings for designs) my favourite is the Winer Werstatte Jewelry exhibition catalogue from the Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art in New York in 2008, which I felt compelled to buy as even the Bod did not have it.
Now I must learn some German and go to Vienna, truly one of the foremost birthplaces of Modernism.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Art for art's sake

As one of the country's students, it is that time of year again, and despite my sub-standard health at present I am determined to get to my lecture today - Vienna: Modern Interiority. Knowing our dear course director as I do, "interiority" being her favourite term, this will probably mean interiority of the mind, as well as buildings. Fascinating fin de siecle period, with the Secession and the development of psychoanalysis, and one that I am finding more and more absorbing.

All of which is an excuse for easing off on any book that is not associated with the weekly topics. We are supposed to spend at least 6 to 8 hours a week in the Oxford libraries, which once I am fit I hope to do. This course is the Advance Diploma in History of Art, at Oxford University's Continuing Education Department. It lasts two years and it at the level of 3rd year undergraduate work. Having completed the 2nd year course, I know what to expect. Reading and researching is one of the keys, but even more importantly looking at art/buildings/objects/design of the 20th century.

Saturday should be our first study day which is based around Cubism, primitive art (visiting the Pitt Rivers) with Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 (image copyright MoMA, New York) as a case study. Arguably this was the first cubist painting, and the Pitt Rivers visit is to look at the tribal artefacts which may have influenced Picasso.

Next week we go on to Fauvist Arcadia.... and so on ... I love it.

So, back to The Problems of Philosophy and the Worringer essay on Abstraction and Empathy, not to mention erudite journal articles on the Pucksdorfer Sanitorium by Hoffman, and Klimt't Stoclet Frieze with its Egyption iconography. Anyone would think I was clever!