Thursday, March 02, 2006

Crassness and Cruelty

This was the latest lecture (on 1st March) by Deanna Petherbridge .in the Drawing towards Enquiry, Enquiry towards Drawing lecture series at the National Gallery.

Another fascinating lecture with lots of interesting slides - a slice of art history without it being an art history lecture. Her juxtaposition of slides by historical and modern artists was fascinating.

Here are some odd comments and conclusions from the event which gave me pause for thought

  • a caricature may be more like a person than a normal drawing
  • very sophisticated artists are quite capable of employing deliberate distortions in a child-like fashion - caricaturing with a "fun" pencil and "a rough charged infantilising line"
  • infantilism and coarseness are often put together and are often interchangeable
  • caricatures can flout all the normal "rules" of drawing, composition etc
  • artists often focus their drawing activities (caricature) on the edgy relationship between artist and dealer and artist and connoisseur - it's been a key theme of many artists over time and is investigated again and again
  • historically there has been a view that the painter who has done caricature has "let the side down"

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  1. Could you give some examples of artists/paintings where this kind of edgy, truthful, caricaturish work has been done? I can think of the obvious ones like Picasso, Van Gogh, Alice Neel, David Hockney(sometimes) but did the lecturer mean deliberate distortions such as those by Francis Bacon, too? Fascinating idea and I'd like to get a clearer sense of what he/she was talking about.

  2. Ok Laura - happy to help out - I have my notes beside me! I'm afraid I missed some of the early examples as this lady tends to speak rather fast and I didn't recognise some of the names.

    Examples included:
    Leonardo da Vinci - see examples in (my ref)
    Thomas Rowlandson - drawings in the J Paul Getty collection, famous political cartoonist who lampooned Royal Academicians having studied there)
    Victor Hugo (who apparently was an amazing draughtsman as well as author and who used to illustrate his own text)
    Toulouse Lautrec - good examples of his drawings in the Lautrec museum in Albi - which I've seen
    Daumier - see (my ref) - and the huge series of drawings caricaturing lawyers
    Sol Steinberg
    George Grosz
    Otto Dix
    She also referred to work by modern artists - although this was more in the context of the infantilism aspects - such as Paula Rego ("Nannies, small bears and bogeymen") and Jake and Dinos Chapman (the relationship between the Chapman etchings and Goya's series on "Disasters of War")

  3. Thanks, Katherine. I guess we should throw Daumier into the mix, too.


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