The Easel

3rd October 2023

In an unforgettable new show, Manet and Degas are much more than rivals

The best review by far of this “stupendous” show. The Monet-Degas friendship formed over a shared antipathy toward the “listless” art establishment. Degas was interested in “psychological interiority” while Manet focused on devastating painterly technique. Friends became frenemies as they strove to make “modern” imagery. In their relationship, “the dynamic of rivalry is never resolved. How much did they hate each other [becomes] how much did they love each other?”

The Art of the Great Depression

Facing the Depression, the US government funded employment creation. This included “art for the millions” as a way to promote American cultural identity. Male images predominated with few female workers or workers of colour. Small town imagery, evocative of American values, was promoted as was photojournalism and modern design. The end result was a familiar melange: “consumerism and moderation, tradition and innovation, and imperialism and cultural tolerance”.

26th September 2023

Very Veritas: Barkley L. Hendricks – Portraits At The Frick

Hendricks’ portraits are acclaimed because he painted black subjects in the grand style of the Old Masters that he so admired. This fell flat with late-1960’s American audiences, but times change. New York’s Frick, with its rather “white” collection, has hung Hendricks’ works amongst its own. Their portraits by Van Dyck communicate “a single idea, ‘attitude is armour’, and it’s precisely this idea Hendricks portraits appropriate”. Background to the show is here and images here.

Tetsuya Ishida: My weak self, my pitiful self, my anxious self

Japan’s dizzying postwar economic success abruptly stopped in 1991 and was followed by stagnation. Ishida belonged to that “lost generation” of young adults whose dreams were not met. Ignoring the cute aesthetic of mass culture, he adopted a surreal/realist style, depicting anonymous workers who convey “a sense of estrangement and rupture”. This is a “society of tiredness and fatigue … a world lost to reason”. More images are here