Friday, 3 February 2017

Did Picasso Invent The Blues?

Carlos Casagemas, Picasso's friend who was impotent, killed himself on February 17th 1901.
The approximate year of the birth, in a shack, in New Orleans of Louis Armstrong.
Devastated by his death, Picasso painted several portraits of him while he lay dead on his bed, the life draining out of him.
 Pain found the brushstrokes.
He had turned blue, the cold setting in, showing the fragility of existence.
Picasso entered this blue period, literally making precedence to the term, the blues.
He had left Barcelona and Gaudi behind, to go to Paris.

Decades later after this blue painting period of Picasso, Josephine Baker and Sydney Bechet brought the afro-american music called Jazz with them. Was it called the blues then?
Where did the term, the blues first enter the modern vocabulary, and why?
Did Picasso discover that blue for cold. Was blue for death.
The ancient Greeks in mythology related blue to rain and the tears of the God Zeus, who would make rain when he was sad and he cried.
James Audubon the the 19th century author in 1827 wrote in his journal, that he “had the blues.”
Did Picasso know this and relate the colour to the cold flesh he saw, or was he relating it to a term to describe how he felt. Speculation has gone before me.
He was in a state of self deprivation, he had the blues.
Two years later he would cap it off and start again, with a painting called life.
His mourning was over. He no longer had the blues. His blue period was finished.
At 22 he moved into the 'laundry boat' named by his poet friend Max Jacob Le Bateau Lavior.
This was the time of Madeleine and the Medrano circus.
He met acrobats and he painted himself as Harlequin and by doing so, announcing he had finished mourning.
Fernande Olivier was his next love who walked in during a thunderstorm.
He then began to paint, in competition with Matisse, as if he was primitive or copying primitive form. African masks and shapes from that great continent.
Learning his way as he went.
Did his search for feeling find him when he got the blues over the death of his best friend?
Edmund Portier had brought back photos of Africa to Paris.
Photography was tried and this led him into a different perspective.
He said “What was the point in painting now”. So he worked harder.
His photographs were cut and distorted in geometrical forms. The deconstruction.
Breaking up heads with sculpture he would feel his different experiences. Was it that simple?
Musical scales had been broken up and re-invented in New Orleans (named after the French city of Orlean) by the mixed race Creole. The Blues were born out of a re-invention of musical scales and the invention of The Blues Scale with its flattened third and its semi-tones.
So art would be remade and remodelled in Paris.

Then there was Eva.
Ma Jolie and the cubist musical instruments.
Braque enters the frame.
Picasso kept the portrait of Eva he did until his death. She died of Tuberculosis.
Jean Cocteau he met. In the village that was Montmartre.
Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe and Eric Satie and Olga, he followed on a tour.
He designed the curtain to, that, opera that did not go down too well.
Apollinaire said the new spirit was surrealism, a new spirit.

They would be inseparable. Olga Khokhlova.
Spanish flu took Apollonaire. Rozenburg financed his new glamorous life.
Ivor Stravinsky. High Society.
Bodies get bigger and giants appear in his work at this point, he is a father.
His work is his biography.
The roaring twenties. Dance Macabre is a change. Love is fatale his fears show anguish.
Paul Colin paints Jesephine Baker dancing in Le Revue Negre.
Marie-Therese Walter was 17. He disguises her even though she is seventeen.
He is 47 and takes photos and makes a flip book of images of her.
Obsessive repetition and the Minotaur.
The monster leaves Olga his wife, for Marie Therese.
Olga remained Madame Picasso because as a Spaniard he could not divorce.
A golden cage for Olga to live, and he wrote poetry to her.
Dora Maar spoke Spanish. Surrealism and Man Ray.
Hitler and Mussolini. Come into his life and play a part.
Andre Breton published his poems. Popular Front victory is Spain and Franco's civil war.
Spanish Pavilion asked for a painting. 27th April 1937.
It went on tour to Manchester as a fundraiser.
Fran├žoise Gilot.
1947 and a new child. He lived in La Galliose.
Madoura ceramic workshops. He had moved south and worked there.
The dove of Peace. Dove, or Paloma in Spanish, was born.
Bullfights at Arles and Nimes.
1951 another girlfriend sees a break up with Franciose.
Jacqueline Roque 1954.
Olga died and Jacqueline became Madame Picasso.                           Marie Therese
Creation day, after day, after day. Canvases piled up.
He died in his bed drawing.
Marie Therese ended her life. Wouldn't you if you had this portrait painted of you?
Jacqueline in 1986 spilled a revolver in her head on the date of his inaugural exhibition. (in Madrid).
She definatly had the blues. Picasso seemed to give his lovers depression. Was he blue.
Quite a lot of Picasso's work depresses me.
His pottery at Madoura is all but a joke in my opinion.
If it was not by he, some of it would be laughable.

So where did the term the blues come from?
There are references that could be linked to feeling blue. A coldness of spirit.
Picasso maybe picked up on these blue thoughts.
Maybe it goes back a bit further than the great man to an age gone by.
There was a tradition amongst deep water sailing ships in America.
That when they had lost their Captain or officers, during the voyage to return to port, they would fly blue flags and also they would paint a blue band along the entire hull as it came into port.
Thus signifying that all was not right.
The blue paint was a warning to those ashore to expect the worst, prepare for some bad news.
Coleridge wrote and felt it in, The Ancient Mariner picking up the spirit of the sea, as he infused his blood with opium.
Death of a sailor could mean poverty for his wife and family.
But for Picasso it gave him inspiration to paint.
Feeling blue made you famous.
Just how blue can you be.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Antiques Roadshow 2017 Valuation Dates.

Here is where Antiques Roadshows is going in 2017

There are some great venues for 2017.

 2016 was a very good year with an average of six million people watching the show.

I had a great time as part of the Roadshow team in 2016.  

2017 looks like being a very exciting year but we rely on the wonderful people who take the time to bring their treasured possessions along.

 Not forgetting the things that may not appear to have any value, that they may have found in a skip or that may have been in the loft for decades.  See you soon.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Utility Furniture.

During the Second World War it had become apparent, as early as 1941, that the German U-Boats patrolling the Atlantic were sinking so much of Britain's essential materials that it was difficult to supply the country.
 Even before the war, Britain was never self sufficient in its need for raw materials, such as timber and had a severe lack of indigenous timber suitable for furniture making.
Yet there was still increased demand for new furniture due to the losses caused by bombing and to the continuing establishment of new households after marriage. 
And of course increased war production.

The Utility Furniture Advisory Committee was set up in 1942, drawing on considerable expertise.

Gordon Russell, Ernest Clench, Herman Lebus and John Gloag were brought in because of their experience, to assure that these scarce available resources were used in a sensible way.

Rationing of new furniture was restricted to newly-weds and people who had been bombed out, under the "Domestic Furniture (Control of Manufacture and Supply (No 2)) Order 1942" which became operative from 1 November 1942.

The aim was to ensure the production of strong well-designed furniture making the most efficient use of the recsource of timber available.

The Committee were reconstituted as the Utility Design 

Panel in 1943 with Gordon Russell as Chairman.

The furniture, made during the war, featured a 'CC' 


The symbol was designed by Reginald Shipp. 

The motif is known as two cheeses. 

Along with the two cheeses there should also be 


indicating the year so CC41 stands for 'Controlled 

Commodity 1941'.

It appeared on all sorts of items, furniture, linen, 

clothes and many other domestic items.

The Committee produced a number of approved 

designs, many were published in the Utility Furniture 

Catalogue of 1943.  

Post War

After the second world war the Board of Trade 

took control of furniture production.

They regulated the industry and set out to control manufacture, by law, controlling the use and movement of all materials
Strict specifications were laid down and the Utility Furniture scheme was used to assist production. Or so it was claimed.
Licenses were issued and quite a lot of these were given to companies already in the manufacture of aircraft, and other war supplies.
These companies, it was thought, were able to make furniture in a form of construction that could make light furniture with the use of plywood.
The control of design through meticulous attention to production encompassing good design was laid down through a technical framework.

1945 saw the Directorate of Furniture production transformed.

This became the headquarters of the British Furniture Industry.
Five different sections were divided into the design section.
  1. The Technical section.
  2. A planning section.
  3. A licensing section.
  4. A material issue section.
  5. The design section.

The Utility stamp was brought in as the abolition of priority cases gave way to the needs of the entire community.
This administration of material was used to control the entire manufacturing process until 1948 when this was revoked and a licence was granted to enable the Utility marks to be used generally.
This in theory stopped the government control. 
But in practice raw materials were still given in precedence to those producing for the Utility scheme.
Gradually they would be able to place the mark on their own designs.
The categorisation of articles had to continue and goods sold under a appropriate maximun price.
In 1946, in conjunction with the important exhibition of post-war design, "Britain Can Make It", three new furniture ranges were unveiled (Cotswold, Chiltern and Cockaigne) intended to carry forward the best of their design ethos into the postwar period.

As the names suggests it was a style that was 

looking back to the past more in line with Arts 

and Crafts.

The general public had less money to spend so it became a buyers market. Slowly the furniture industry would return to a normal community.
The theory was that, if efficient companies were chosen to manufacture from the start there may have been less waste. 
But it was thought that this would have been market manipulation and stifle the fledgling industry.

It is hard to envisage today that it was a offence punishable by imprisonment for any company to make a single stick of furniture. This constriction continued for three or four years after the war.
Many with licenses were not the best of manufacturers.
And the old boy network surely came into play.
Buying of timber was forbidden, by law. There was a rationing of timber, and it was also an offence to consume pre-war stock. That's was if it was not requesitioned.
The government control in effect created a black market.
During the war there were only 137 licensed furniture manufacturers in 1943.
This rose to 450 in 1945 out of a total of 4000 companies. 
The remainder were treated as if they did not exist.
A license was required for the manufacture of a coffee table, and this may be given, provided the timber content did not exceed a fraction of a cubic foot. And all calculations were laid down.
Off cuts and stubs had to come from elsewhere as companies could not use their own. 
To make things worse the license could be refused to obtain these off cuts
Purchase tax rose from 33% to over 66% rendering the tables and other pieces virtually unsaleable.
Even if you were lucky enough to pull all the right strings and get it made you would have to be extremely lucky to sell the damn things.
As an example David Joel released from the Navy wanted to get going. His factory had been let for the production of aeroplanes and then sold to a cosmetics company but he had some land at the back of his old workshops that he acquired.
He then had a factory without labour. Then he acquired machinery and was given a list by the Board of Trade of what was needed. These amounted to Fancy goods and Domestic equipment in reality, Ironing boards, rolling pins, blinds, cards and trays.
When a lady from the government turned up he struck up a relationship with her.
She had been a milliner near his Knightsbridge showroom. “neighbourly feelings prevailed and I got my Timber” he was quoted as saying.
It's not what you know of course.
Stafford Cripps had set up a working party in 1945 for the furniture trade. They had constructed bodies for the nationalization but when the government imposed a purchase tax it killed it stone dead.

War kept its grip for a long time after cestation and it was said a malaise crept in.

To make things worse the national stock pile of timber was piled in the open air but still existed in huge quantities in 1951 but the deteriation due to the lack of care led to most of it being worthless.
The mositure content was left uncontrolled while bureaucracy took place and those in the scheme did alright but numerous craftsmen had to change trade through no fault of their own.
This would add another factor to the industry getting back on its feet.
Up until as late as 1948 the supply of Utility furniture was restricted to priority cases.
The intended 'setting free of design' came about but it still took three months of bureaucracy to be able to apply for a license to be able to apply the utility mark.

There was a market for reproduction style furniture and the Utility scheme seemed hardly worth its bulk through design.

The task of creating ingenious design hardly seemed worth it for many companies struggling enough and wanting to, just get on with honest work of giving the public what they wanted. 
There was a black market with carvings added making the design more appropriate and easier for the public to accept.

The cost of shipping and crating was prohibitive to its manufacture.
Still the Development council was engaged in performance tests. 
Chairs had to pass breaking tests along with others. It was all very well to design wear tests but if the timber used was not the right moisture content then it seems pointless.
A chair could withstand any test at manufacture but if it is not properly seasoned it may well fall to pieces in a couple of weeks. The quality it seems had been taken away from the people who understood the task in hand, the craftsmen.

Scandinavian design was held in regard and was possibly a major influence on the post war design. Though it now seems apparent that design was indeed led by cost and the Scandinavian style was not as thick and heavy as the Arts and Crafts inheritance that was prevalent before war broke out.

The scheme was officially closed in 1952, the same year that furniture rationing ceased.

Heals produced Utility furniture as did Gordon Russell.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Jean Bulio Bronze-Piece of the Week.

 Jean Bulio was born in Fabregues in 1827 in the Herault region, South of France.
 It was Montpellier where he died in 1911.
He left behind a good body of work including a bust of Napoleon.
His work had titles such as Venus and Cupid.

 His style was mainly classical which is hardly surprising when he had enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1859. He exhibited a plaster cast that year of Pandora.
 In 1882 and also 1886 he received honorable mentions.

This bronze is unsigned and is only small, being 17cm high but large enough to make it tactile and want to hold it in the hand as many have done before showing a little rubbing at the touch spots allowing a slightly more golden colour to bleed through.

The patina is nice though. It has that chocolate brown colour that almost makes it good enough to eat.

At first glance it looks slightly to one angle but to those with a detailed eye will see that is because the sculptor has made the piece that way. It is as if the player of the pan pipes is just about to leap on to his other foot.
That time where it is most difficult to see and ambitious to create.
He has puffed out his cheeks ready to blow.

 Jean Bulio has gone out of his way and decided to make his piece showing that he understands movement along with anatomy.
 The The Pan Pipe player is draped in a wrap around his torso just enough to give it the feel of plein air, a feeling that the subject being outside and taking part in some form of celebration or maybe even a procession.
He looks Greek and the pipes are often associated with classical Greece. His hair is blowing in the breeze.
He is not a Hercules or a strong man, just a simple musician.
This is a careful study.
I have the same piece in my own collection on a different coloured base. I have had him for fifteen years and have never been able to part with it. Mine is African red marble.
Here we see Belgium slate being used.

See my sculpture section of my website for this and others of a similar style and period.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Is The Liverpool Biennial A Load of Rubbish Or A Valuable Contribution To Liverpool Art.

Now let me think........
Art is supposed to provoke.
 But the work that I have seen this year at the Liverpool Biennial doesn't seem to provoke me, it just pokes me.
Not even right between the eyes it just strokes me into submission and yes, I give up. I surrender.
 It is spread out around the derelict spaces of Liverpool highlighting the disgraceful record that the City Council has on restoring the heritage places that are now rotting away lacking investment decades after the Toxteth riots.
The very same sites that the dodgy Liverpool Council spivs are now placing to their developer friends.
Yes I know they need regeneration.
There seems to be a pattern.
Put an art installation create a load of huff and then give a developer a grant to take it off the council books.
Now I am not saying there is annything wrong with the city council giving land to those lucky enough to know the right I.

There is a art installation around the Welsh streets that I admit I haven't been to. This is because I don't want to see it.
 I don't want to stop the car in Toxteth to see the disappointing workmanship, or whatever you call the installations that are there.
Its not worth my time. I only have to look down the Arcade of India Buildings to see how bad it is.
I just cant be bothered looking at silly things that instead of making me think, I just think, what's the point.
Now I know we need to incubate talent and allow it to grow but the principle is all wrong.
They all wanna be the new L'Enfant terrible with outrageous ideas, the new kids on the block, but there are hardly any of them with any skill at all.
Most of them cant even paint a straight line or even emulsion a wall.
And here they are let loose on the streets of Liverpool...........Really, What a waste of money.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Henry Moore-Or Less.

Henry Moore with his totemic sculptures across the world has been hailed as the greatest British Sculptor creating over 900 sculptures.
 He left thousands of drawings and had 40 exhibitions at the same time, when he was in his 80's.
It was said that he broke down traditions and moved barriers.
 Awards from all directions, honour after honour piled as high as the hills that showed off his work in landscapes near and far.
It was said that he followed the 19th Century sculptors.
 To this I disagree.
 He walked the walk and certainly could talk the talk and his theories were championed by academics and historians. 
The most famous being Kenneth Clark who was indeed a clever man. He understood the principles of design architecture and form and function, so it seems when you listen to his preachings on the subject.
Art is subjective and who would argue with the scholars who proclaimed that Henry Moore was leading us to the promised land of sculpture. 
But what if they were wrong?

He certainly, in my opinion created some rubbish. 
If work cant be questioned for every individual piece then it becomes a 'Henry Moore' or a 'Picasso'.
 He was later given the freedom of the city.
 Born in 1898 in Castleford in Yorkshire.  in a terrace house he was good at pottery and was encouraged by his art teacher. Sunday school morals.
 He said he was inspired at an early age by a story he heard about Michaelangelo (sic) who took advice from a passer by whilst carving in Florence.
I don't recall Michaelangelo creating sculpture theme parks, but there you go.
He had a strict routine starting at 8 with breakfast and then instructing his staff at nine. He would then read the Times. Lunch was important and everyone had a bottle of Guinness one commentator John Read who recorded six programmes about his life said it was a joy to watch him carving a sirloin of beef. “It was one of the small joys in life” he proclaimed in sycophantic admiration.
He had a team of men working for him.
In the court of balding middle aged men he was king. They would hang on his every word.
He taught and loved making films using the television as his medium. Most people who lapped up his words could not even paint a wall such was the lack of practical experience from those that wrote about him.
Most art of primitive form was at the time placed in ethnological sections in museums and was thought of as some crude form or function from the ancient past.
 Then with advent of modern art the likes of Moore with his interpretations of ethnic art it suddenly became clever to cross reference these old cultures and make the new art.

Was he the man who made sculptures with a hole in or did he really understand the figure?
His out of chaos drawings to me are poor at best. He was asked to be a war artist and he took the easy way out. His drawings are bereft of emotion in my opinion. They lack clarity and scale. He said “There stretched out in front of me the rows and rows of reclining figures.
Henry Moore reclining figures.” They are weak sketches at best and a cop out.

He may as well have just sketched a load of sacks in the dark. What credible artist sketches.....sheep. Where is the skill in that?

 John Read says
“It was something of a paradox......... and his greatest single contribution to the art of sculpture was the idea of being able to combine ones feeling of landscape and that of the figure not as two separate things but as one single image he saw the figure as landscape and the landscape as a figure.
Romantic ideas and a romantic tradition of English literature in English paintings combined now in one single body of work.”
Is this rubbish? Is this gobbledegook from a sycophant who could be sold anything?
Does it kid me? No.
I think his feeling of the figure and the landscape being inspired from a rock with a hole in it being turned into a mother and child in bronze now seems absurd. 
Some people will believe anything. And so they did students and tutors followed him. With his every twist and turn of the mallet they bestowed more accolades on him.
More commissions. He littered a remote valley in Scotland with poor quality work that was sucked up by the people to whom he could do no wrong.
I laugh at the King and Queen sitting atop a hill looking out to a Loch.
They lack detail and skill and emotion. The Emperor is not wearing any clothes.
 I would not walk 10 feet to look at these never mind travel hundreds of miles.
They are talked about by educated people in terms of tortured souls. He did a huge cruciform that looks like a giant leg bone.
In a BBC Moniter programme made in 1960 it is easy to see how his images beguiled the masses, well those that could afford a TV in the post war depression era where his sort of people.

Mrs Moore collected Aztec work and filled the house with art. He spoke about the sculptures from the collection with BBC English that made him an acceptable authority.
 He admits that he watched the Moniter programme about Lawrence Durrel.......and suddenly his books meant more to him. He became closer to him.
He shows shapes and bones that inspire the beginnings of his work. There are scores of Mother and Child sculptures some plaster maquettes others cast in bronze.
They are not Madonna and Child though he says there is a distinction. He talks about the Cezanne that kept him awake for three nights trying to decide whether to fork out the monumental amount to purchase it. 
There is a painting in his studio. Bathers Composition. “It gives me tremendous joy to have. Its not perfect it is a sketch but then I don't like absolute perfection, I believe one should make a struggle to something one cant do rather than do the thing you can do easily. It had my kind of figure in it.”

He spoke about dividing up his sculptures and seperating some of his work and how some have more variety than others and that they are a mixture between human form and landscape amalgamating both. He says talking about these reclining figures of 1928 whilst showing photographs. “It is a kind of metaphor, err like in poetry, you would say, err, the mountains skipped like lambs and here the figure is connected with the earth, with rocks mountains, metaphor.
He was given the Order of Merit.
 His sculpture Atom Piece, in my opinion, implodes so much on itself that it should be renamed Damp Squib. Yet he still kept up the charade and he went to quarry Carrera marble from the same place Michaelangelo got his.
He then ruined a good bit of rock with a carving that is so beneath any reference to the great man.
I am sure he would not have been allowed to carve a toenail of a work by the Michaelangelo. 
He would not even be allowed the job of polishing Michelangelo shoes he was not skilled enough.
He chose the marble and thought, wrongly, that he was fulfilling his destiny.

Yet the TV programmes kept on coming. Kenneth Clark was a collector of his work....hugely discounted for sure, so it was definitely in his interests to mention his in his epic series Civilization.
He was invited by the Mayor of Florence to display work. 400,000 people went to the outdoor exhibition and the faith of the Mayor was vindicated. 
No doubt tourism increased and it became the most talked about exhibition of the year. What would Vasari have said about his uneasy figures set against Brunellesci Dome. Florence with Museums full of works by Botticelli.
The Florentine public took it to their heart.
Oval with points now looks a childish gimmick and his bronze crucifiction form, a version of his Scottish mountain weighed heavily along side a King and Queen 1952, another version, or edition.

Square Form With Cut 1970 made from Carrera marble. Michaelangelo would be turning in his grave.
Retrospectives continued year after year.
Then he turned to drawing sheep. I tried reading a book illustrated with his sheep once .....….and I fell asleep.
 He talks about understanding the skeleton of a sheep.
Why did he not draw from life the human form the biggest test. 
You wouldn't want to draw a fat man with a woolly jumper on, would you?
I think he was a fashion item in a new age. 
But I don't think he has worn well and I fear to say what is wrong with his work after so many scholars and writers have poured praise on his creations without searching thier own souls..
Stolen and sold for scrap
The value of Moore’s Reclining Figure was also low in the eyes of the thieves who stole a different cast of the same sculpture in December 2005. When it was filched from the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, police initially feared that the sculpture had been stolen to order. Further investigations suggested, however, that it had been taken by a team of traveller who sold the work as scrap metal. The two-tonne Reclining Figure was worth £3 million, but melted down it would only have been worth £1,500.

The real legacy is that he helped create a new generation of sculptors such as Arthur Dooley that did not need to understand the anatomical form that had shaped the world of art for centuries.
 He gave an opportunity to a generation that did not require the talent or meticulous study of the human form.
 Anyone could now, get away with amateurism that claimed it provoked an emotion. 

Well, I hear you say, that is good. But not at the expense of craftsmanship I reply.

There are some works by Moore that I like. Sometimes it works. But really.