what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's in a picture?

Regular readers will have noticed that my booklet on Bulgarian painters seems to be on the back burner. I have hit a wall – not being able to find the basic data which I feel I need on about 50 of the painters on my list (of whom I have a reasonable sample of images). I don’t know about you – but, whenever I see a painting which I like, I always want to know something about the painter. Where did (s)he grow up? Where were they trained? What were the defining inspirations and influences?
So I am trying to include in my booklet some text on such things as –
• Date and place of birth – and year of death
• Training; where (particularly if abroad) and with whom
• Genre – and how to identify
• Main places of work – and influences

But the time has not been wasted – I’ve been looking at some examples of painting books eg Modern art 1851-1929 by Richard Brettell in the superb Oxford History of Art series which is good on classifications, social context and the width of selection – as well as Art – a new history by Paul Johnson which is an easier and more personal read (as someone who does not profess to be an expert).
Paintings speak in different ways to each of us – although that doesn’t stop art critics and historians from imposing a lot of words and noise on us.

I realise that I have always put a visit to the municipal art gallery at the top of my list when visiting the various cities of Europe (and central Asia) – for example
• Berlin in the 1960s (to discover the 19th century realists such as Adolf Menzel; and the works of the first 3 decades of the 20th century of Georg Grosz; Max Liebermann and Kathe Kollwitz
• Brussels in the 1980s (to be moved by the 16th century Flemish art – and late 19th century realists);
- Venice also where I saw Caravaggio's incredible realism in all its glory
• Istanbul in the late 1980s (and the delight of their miniaturists and calligraphists)
• the stunning Hermitage in Leningrad in January 1991 (Repin and the Russian Itinerants); and
• Tashkent in the early 2000s (for the Asian side of Soviet art).

Only as I write this do I realise that most of these paintings are figurative whereas what I have fallen in love with here in Bulgaria are the paintings of their land- and sea- scape artists. Perhaps that it nostalgia for my home country, Scotland, which I left 20 years ago – and the glorious landscapes painted in Victorian times by people like John Knox and William MacTaggart and, in the early part of the 20th century by the Glasgow Boys and Colourists.
It was only in 2007/08 when I was living and working in Bulgaria that I stumbled on the landscapes and seascapes painted by the Bulgarian painters who were working in the early and middle of the 20th century.
I found them beautiful – and affordable – and have found myself an art collector!

And now that I have a reasonable number of land and sea-scapes, I am trying to find more figurative work – such as the R Ivanova painting which heads this post

- and this unknown

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