Monday, 30 April 2018

Fernand Léger

Fig. 1 Fernand Léger, Les Loisirs-Hommage à Louis David, 1948 – 1949, Huile sur toile, 154 x 185 cm, Achat de l’Etat, 1950, Attribution, 1950, numéro d’inventaire : AM 2992 BIS P, Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris - Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de création industrielle, © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Jean-François Tomasian/Dist. RMN-GP, © SABAM Belgium 2018

BOZAR in Brussels, Belgium is hosting a major retrospective of the early 20th century French painter Fernand Léger. Displaying some 100 works and a wide array of archival documents, the exhibition offers a broad examination of the artist whose ambitious and experimental achievements in art and design left a diverse collection of not just paintings, but also prints, pottery, stage sets, films and architecture.

Beyond Cubism

Alongside Picasso and Braque, Léger is regarded as a cubist painter but once he departed from cubist style, he developed his own form characterized by thick contour lines, simple forms, and clear-cut colors. Les Loisirs-Hommage à Louis David (fig. 1) seems prescient of pop art with its use of just a few primary colors and clear-cut outlines. It depicts ordinary people cycling and picking flowers, enjoying the countryside.

The Harmony of Machine Civilization and Humanity
An architectural draftsman before becoming a painter, Léger was well-versed in architecture and had close ties with his contemporary architects such as Le Corbusier. He painted murals on their structures and also incorporated buildings and construction materials such as steel and pipes into his works. His paintings of heavy machinery used to build skyscrapers, and the workers were expressions of Léger’s ideals of the harmony between modern machine civilization and humanity. The exhibition showcases Léger’s consistent view of his ideal world with works ranging from the early 1924 experimental Ballet Mécanique, which portrays dancing machines through a collage of people and machinery, to his late masterpiece painting Les Constructeurs – definitive which depicts the inhuman steel and the workers.

Fernand Léger Until 3 June 2018

BOZAR – Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravensteinstraat 23
1000 Brussels
+32 (0)2 507 82 00
Opening times:
Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun 10:00-18:00
Thur 10:00—22:00
Closed Monday, 25 December, 1 January

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Charles I: King and Collector

Charles I, the 17th century King of England, was also a world famous art collector of the times. His collection comprised some 1,500 paintings and 500 sculptures, including many pieces by Titian, Holbein, Dürer, Rubens and Van Dyck. The collection was sold following the execution of Charles during the Puritan revolution. Some works were bought back during the Restoration, but many remain dispersed around the world including those in the Musée du Louvre and the Museo Nacional del Prado. Charles I: King and Collector, currently on view at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, will exhibit 150 items from the original collection, including many that will be making a “homecoming” for the first time.

Charles I Portrayed by Van Dyck
At the core of the exhibition are portraits by Anthony van Dyck. Van Dyck excelled in capturing a sense of refinement in his paintings. He formulated a new style of portraits of aristocrats, depicting them with elegance and ease in a relaxed atmosphere. Van Dyck spent the latter part of his life employed in the court of Charles I and painted forty portraits of the king. This exhibition includes Charles I and Henrietta Maria with Prince Charles and Princess Mary, the two equestrian portraits Charles I on Horseback with M. de St. Antoine and Charles I on Horseback. The most impressive portrait is Charles I (fig. 1). Just dismounted from his horse for a break after strolling the countryside, Charles appears relaxed as he gazes toward us. He comes across as an amicable character with an expression that suggests both refinement and ease rather than as a king replete with dignity.

The Fostering of Art in England by the Royal Collection
The works of Mantegna, Titian and Rubens that were coveted and collected by Charles I sparked the creative aspirations of their contemporary artists in England and inspired them to create their own many masterpieces. A survey of the collection of Charles I provides an opportunity to see the spirited art scene of 17th century England.

Charles I: King and Collector Until 15 April 2018

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly,
London, W1J 0BD
The United Kingdom
+44 (0) 20 7300 8090
Opening times:
Mon-Thur, Sat, Sun 10:00-18:00
Fri       10:00—22:00
Open daily

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Masked Warriors. Battle State of the Samurai

The exhibition “Masked Warriors. Battle State of the Samurai” will be on view at the Japan Museum SieboldHuis in Leiden, the Netherlands, until May 27. The show examines Nō masks as a key to reveal the ties between Nō and the samurai culture.

Upon entering the exhibition room, a resplendent karaori brocade Nō costume and male and female Nō masks come into view. On the right wall are two gorgeous women’s kimonos and a mask of a smiling young female. Across the way is a kimono of indigo material and gold thread with a lightning and crane design, a Nō mask with a powerful crescent moon design that extolls a god of war, and a mask of an old man characterized by deep wrinkles with transplanted hair and a mustache. Beyond the wall of the Nō costumes is a majestic display of two sets of armor. Fabric from kimono are used in the thigh guards of the armor, while the mask portions embedded into the helmets exude the strength of the crescent moon design of a samurai helmet. One can almost hear a brazen, bold call from the open mouths.

Fig.2 Helm en masker, Ressei-men (suji kabuto),
Nō and the Samurai Culture
In the 14th century Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, began patronizing the Nō actors Kan’ami and Zeami, and a strong bond between Nō and the samurai culture developed. The ties were further strengthened with the succession of powerful leaders all of whom favored Nō; Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa,. Facial armor (ventails and cheek guards) were created in such an environment. The facial armor protected the face, especially the cheeks and chin, but also had the frightening expressions of the tormented female Nō mask.

The Overwhelming Popularity of Resseimen Masks among the Samurai
In the latter half of the 16th century, the resseimen, masks with fierce expressions, became popular among the samurai. They were characterized by finely carved furrows and often had transplanted beards and brows (fig. 2). They were influenced by the akujo masks of Nō plays. Akujo were the powerful and fearsome masks of old men that expressed overwhelming offensive power and supernatural strength, and were used to represent old gods and vengeful spirits. The resseimen with intense expressions such as those of the Nio guardian gods threatened their enemies with such expressions and also had the function of rousing the fighting spirit of their wear.

Masked Warriors. Battle Stage of the Samurai: Until May 27 2018

Japanmuseum SieboldHuis
Rapenburg 19
2311 GE Leiden
The Netherlands

Opening times:
Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-17:00
Closed on Mondays and public holidays


Fig.1 Amedeo Modigliani, Nude, 1917, Private Collection
After a decadent life seeped in drugs and alcohol, the painter Modigliani died at the young age of 35. The Tate Modern is holding a retrospective that includes 100 of his works until April 2, 2018.

A Sculptor’s Approach
The most famous work by Modigliani is his nudes (fig. 1). In a simplified form, the women exude a sad and sultry beauty. Modigliani cultivated this style when he worked in sculpture before he gave up that art form due to poor health arising from poverty. From 1909 to 1916, Modigliani intermittently created pieces influenced by Greek sculptures from the Archaic Period and African masks. When his focus returned to painting, he incorporated lines that looked like they had been carved with a chisel.

Fig.2 Amedeo Modigliani, The Little Peasant,
c.1918 ©Tate
The Avant-garde Painter Modigliani
Modigliani’s 1916 to 1917 nude women series can be viewed as his ambitious endeavor of this period. He joined exhibitions alongside artists such as Pablo Picasso, Moise Kisling and Giorgio de Chirico, at the same time garnering attention as one of the avant-garde painters of the era. He held the only solo exhibition during his lifetime “Paintings and Drawings of Modigliani” at the Galerie Berthe Weill. But on the opening day, police demanded the removal of a nude displayed in the window on grounds that it was obscene. There was virtually no response from critics.

Amid the Gentle Light of the Southern France
In 1918, fleeing World War I battles and the Spanish flu, Modigliani followed the art dealer Zborowski to Nice. The farmers he met in Southern France depicted in The Little Peasant (fig. 2) reveal a sense of simplicity and peace unseen before in his works. The harmony of beautiful lines and translucent bright colors brought a unique spirituality to his paintings. The longing for tranquility and tradition was a stance shared widely by Picasso and other avant-garde artists, but for Modigliani, it was due to the Sienese School and 13th and 14th century Italian art that had captured his heart as a youth.

MODIGLIANI : Until 2 April 2018

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening times:
Sunday to Thursday 10.00–18.00
Friday to Saturday 10.00–22.00
Open daily