Been reading Edward Sackville-West’s book on Sutherland in the Penguin Modern Painter’s series (1943)- that’s Sutherland’s portrait of him, above. Studied a number of paintings: the “Small Boulder” (1940); delight of the closely observed form in nature; colour not expressive, but structural- a component of the composition rather than an additional value.
Appropriate for Easter: “Christ Carrying the Cross” (1955): odd scene of Calvary set in a Mediterranean villa with dappled background of greens and blues. Figures Henry Moore-ish- steatopygous, semi-comic, thoroughly original. Wonder if the Vatican would accept this kind of religious modern art? They do have a collection of religious modern art that includes Sutherland.
Agree with Sackville-West that Sutherland was least successful in his pictures of English war life, not to be confused with his famous religious images with war links, some of the finest religious modern art ever produced. His “Devastation” (1941) which I saw at Oxford Modern Art last year betrays an unresolved conflict between the engineer and the painter; these scenes of monolithic urban despair can’t compete with his lunar landscapes, or organic forms of his later career. Excellent commentary by ESW, with interesting literary parallels (Shakespeare and Gerard Manley Hopkins).
Why Sutherland? I’ve been doing some teaching at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry. The artist most connected with Coventry is Graham Sutherland of course, and I have been showing students some of his art- check out the slide show on the PCP website. By the way, I’ve got a course coming up “A Short History of Oil Painting” for anybody who lives in the area.
There's an important new book just come out on lesser-known French art historians, theorists of the visual who are usually under the radar. Details on Manchester University Press's web site
I've got an essay on Hubert Damisch, mainly in relation to dreams in renaissance artists like Bellini and Raphael. Now I know there's a lot of hostility towards this kind of art history; but whatever you think of their style, ideas, the guff factor etc, these scholars deserve a hearing. Besides, obscurantism in art history writing is the fault of the profession, the "new" art history of the 70s- not the French.
I will cheerfully use these theorists in my teaching, because frankly, not many new ideas are coming from art history in the U.K at the moment.There was a conference last year on the future of art history at the Barber Institute- but nothing on French art history.
Many of these French thinkers like Damisch, Marin and Didi-Hubermann read canonical authors like Gombrich, Panofsky, Warburg and Wind- and they learnt from them. Not only that, but right now some renaissance authors in the US are producing books influenced by such thinkers. A recent book on Raphael that used Damisch's ideas on the visual was a case in point. If the discipline is to move on we need to engage with the ideas coming out of France, and that means reading both Warburg and French thinkers influenced by him. I'm told there are plans for a French trnslation so, hopefully we can expect some cross-fertilisation in the future.