Wednesday, 4 July 2018

A CHILD FOR ALL SEASONS

Apologies to those readers who are Alice-phobes, but it is that day of the year again on which (in addition to saluting my American friends on their independence) I invariably draw attention to the fact that 4th of July is the day on which that rare and enchanted realm of Wonderland was discovered.

150 years ago today, on 4 July 1862, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known subsequently as Lewis Carroll) with his friend Robinson Duckworth rowed three young sisters up-river from Oxford for a summer picnic. As they rowed, Dodgson extemporised a fantasy about a young lady (called 'Alice', after one of the party) who followed a White Rabbit down a rabbit-hole into a land of wonders.

At the end of the outing, the real Alice (daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church) begged the storyteller to write out for her the story of her namesake's adventures. This Dodgson did in November 1864, entitling the story, Alice's Adventures Under Ground. A year later, expanded and embellished, it was published to the wider world as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The original handwritten manuscript, now in the British Library, contained illustrations by the author...


...but when it came to publication, Dodgson wisely engaged the services of a professional, the great illustrator and Punch cartoonist, Sir John Tenniel.

Despite Tenniel's consummate draughtmanship (and his ability to depict the characters in a way that has ever since been imprinted on our cultural psyche) Dodgson's efforts have their own charm as can be seen from his spirited visualisation of the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle demonstrating the Lobster Quadrille...


...which has a quality of excited abandonment not found in Sir John's immaculately drawn (but somewhat staid) perambulation...


Many subsequent illustrators have depicted this – and all the other curious moments from Alice's bizarre dream – and, of course, it has been featured in theatrical, balletic, operatic, musical and filmic versions of the book.

One of the most imaginative and haunting interpretations (and I make no apology whatsoever, for mentioning it – yet again – on this blog) is Jonathan Miller's iconic 1966 TV film, Alice in Wonderland.


The film featured a star-laden cast – among them Peter Sellers, Peter Cook, Leo McKern and (below) Michael Redgrave playing all the characters (human and talking-animals alike) as dotty Victorian ladies and gents.


One of the most memorable sequences (in a consistently unforgettable film) is Alice's encounter with the Gryphon (played by journalist, pundit and '60s TV celebrity, Malcolm Muggeridge) and the Mock Turtle (a world weary John Gielgud) that ends with the most enchanting Lobster Quadrille to ever be danced...


Happy 156th Birthday, Alice!



Monday, 2 July 2018

FOOTBALLED OUT?

Had enough of the World Cup?

If then why not head on over to Chris Beetles Gallery and savour Remembering Larry at the World Cup, a great selection World Cup cartoons by the late, great Larry (Terence Parkes) all of which are available at a tiny fraction of the price of an air ticket to Russia!



And while you are in the Gallery, or on its website, take a look at Chris' superlative Summer Exhibition 2018, filled with great landscapes and other subjects by these and many other artists...

Edward Lear – Bethany
 

Albert Goodwin – The Wharf at Arundel


Hercules Brabazon Brabaz – Philae, Egypt


Lesley Fotherby – Distant Poppies, Greenway


Keith Grant – Spring


Chris Beetles Gallery
8 & 10 Ryder Street
St James's
London SW1Y 6QB


Monday – Saturday
10:00-17:30


020 7839 7551

Sunday, 24 June 2018

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

A few avian inhabitants of the Zoological Society of London...



 




 

Photo: © David Weeks & Brian Sibley 2018

Saturday, 23 June 2018

HERE THERE BE TYGERS

A few tiger tales captured at the Zoological Society of London...





Paws for a nap...

 





You may have heard of Tiger Balm –– this is Tiger Bum!


"Would you like to sin
on a tiger skin
With Elinor Glyn?
Or would you rather
Err with her
On some other fur?"


Photo: © David Weeks & Brian Sibley 2018

Sunday, 17 June 2018

FATHER'S DAY

It is a good many years now since I needed to find a Father's Day card, but I stumbled on one I made for my Dad one year when I was a youngster with (as you can see) aspirations to be a cartoonist –– alas, unfulfilled!!



D'you know, I still have problems with "your" and "you're"!!


Saturday, 19 May 2018

TONDO


Photo: David Weeks © 2018

The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, ca. 1504-05
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 - 1564)

RA Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, London

The 'Taddei Tondo' is the only marble sculpture by Michelangelo in Great Britain. Commissioned by Taddeo Taddei, it remained in the Casa Taddei, Florence, until the early nineteenth-century when it was in the possession of Jean-Bapiste Wicar in Rome. Sir George Beaumont purchased the sculpture in 1822 and bequeathed it to the Royal Academy.

At the left side of the tondo stands the infant figure of St. John the Baptist, with his attribute of a baptismal bowl. He presents what appears to be a goldfinch (representing the Passion) to the infant Christ, who momentarily turns away, towards his mother, symbolically anticipating his future destiny.

The relief is believed to have been executed ca.1504-1505 during Michelangelo's first Florentine period (1501-1505). At this time he executed two other circular compositions, a painting, the 'Doni Tondo' (Uffizi, Florence) and a marble relief, the 'Pitti Tondo' (Bargello, Florence).

The 'Taddei Tondo' is one of several unfinished sculptural works by Michelangelo, which, since the sixteenth-century, have been the focus of much scholarly debate. It is likely that Michelangelo abandoned some of his sculptures on account of his being over-committed to too many projects. Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) suggested that he did not complete certain compositions out of creative frustration, an idea, which has crystallised into the notion of the artist as troubled genius.

C.R. Cockerell described seeing the tondo at Beaumont's estate in 1823 as a "great treat." The unfinished state of the sculpture with its contrasting rough and smooth surfaces did not deter, but enhanced his visual enjoyment of it. He insightfully noted in his diary that:

'the subject seems growing from the marble & emerging into life. it assumes by degrees its shape, features from an unformed mass. as it were you trace & watch its birth from the sculptor's mind as you would an animal from its birth, the chicken breaking thro' its shell. I have seen nothing but this that conveys the idea in the Greek epigram of a sculptor who says I have no merit but discovering the form which lies within the marble. one feels in beholding it to desire still to go on discovering, still to disclose more.'

BOTTOMS UP!


Photo: David Weeks © 2018 

The Wrestlers
Attributed to Pergamene school and Follower of Lysippus

RA Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Two men engage in the pankration style of wrestling, a sporting event introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC.

This is a plaster cast of a marble sculpture which was discovered in Rome in 1583 and is now in the Uffizi collection. It was discovered with another sculpture, the ‘Niobe Group', and initially the two groups were thought to have belonged together. Soon after the discovery of the two groups they were bought by Cardinal Ferdinando de’Medici, and they were installed in the Villa Medici in Rome by 1594. The Wrestlers was sent to Florence in August 1677, and was positioned in the Tribuna of the Uffizi by 1688.

The Wrestlers is itself thought to be a copy of a bronze group, perhaps related to the Pergamene school or the Lysippus school. The heads of both wrestlers and right arm of the upper figure in the original marble statue are restorations—although the head of the lower wrestler is antique, neither is original. The statue was cast many times in different media including bronze, lead and plaster. In the 18th century it was much admired in Britain: Sir Joshua Reynolds in his 'Tenth Discourse' discussed The Wrestlers, explaining that 'the group of the Boxers is a remarkable instance; they are engaged in the most animated action with the greatest serenity of countenance. This is not recommended for imitation, (for there can be no reason why the countenance should not correspond with the attitude and expression of the figure,) but is mentioned in order to infer from hence, that this frequent deficiency in ancient Sculpture could proceed from nothing but a habit of inattention to what was considered as comparatively immaterial.'

Another Academician, sculptor John Flaxman, discussed the group at length in his Lectures on Sculpture. He felt that 'the group of boxers … exhibit the greatest muscular display in violent action. The forced action of the boxers renders the muscular configuration of their shoulders so different in appearance from moderate action and states of rest, that we may derive a double advantage from the anatomical consideration of their forms: first, we shall learn the cause of each particular form, and, secondly, we shall be convinced how rationally and justly the ancients copied nature.'

The date of this cast is not entirely certain as there was mention of a cast of The Wrestlers in Joseph Baretti’s A guide through the Royal Academy of 1781 and a cast of the work is visible in the painting attributed to Johann Zoffany RA, The Antique School of the Royal Academy at New Somerset House, c. 1780-83. However, as Council Minutes record, another cast was given by the Prince Regent in 1816.

CONVERSATION-PIECE


Photo: Brian Sibley © 2018

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

ART ENCOUNTERS

Weeks meets Pollock...


Monochromatic study...



Looking at Picasso...



Photos at Tate Modern by Brian Sibley © 2018

Saturday, 28 April 2018

AN OLD FRIEND COMES HOME


Every now and again, I spot one of my signed books on ebay and am chuffed to see what the bookseller is asking for it while, at the same time, being utterly disconsolate that I earned so little from it first time around!

That said, of course, there are just as many times (or more) when I find one of my titles going for 1p plus postage!

Sometimes – very rarely – I decided to "reclaim the goods".  For several months I've been havering over purchasing a particular volume: a copy of MICKEY MOUSE - HIS LIFE AND TIMES (1986) written with my friend and fellow Disney historian, Richard Holliss,

The copy in question was originally inscribed for the legendary Disney animator and Imagineer, John Hench (1908-2004) among whose many accomplishments were his designs for Disneyland, Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center, his collaboration with Salvador Dali on the film DESTINO, and a series of 'official portraits' of Mickey, marking the Mouse's 25th, 50th, 60, 70th and 75th birthdays.

I loved and admired John very much and I am particularly pleased to now be able to look after this book, linking him, Mickey and Disney with Richard and myself.





PLEASE NOTE: I no longer live at the address on my letter to John.

To read more about John and his associations with Disney and Dali –– and to see examples of his personal Christmas cards that I revived over many years, CLICK HERE