Thursday, 4 February 2016

2016 - Month One

The months fly by and suddenly a year has disappeared, and then another. Therefore, in an effort to get some kind of grip, in 2016 I'm going to round up each month for myself, before it completely vanishes from sight.

Back at home for a bit in Australia, I made the acquaintance of my daughter's cat, and now I wish he'd been able to come back with me to Brussels:

 He's highly intellectual, don't you know:

 I also reacquainted myself with my favourite mountain walk:
 and received a lovely bunch of flowers from a clever friend's garden:
But then I had to come back to the town of rain and bureaucrats and chips. To cheer myself up - and to give both daughters lifts to where they needed to be, I immediately leapt into my car and headed for the Eurotunnel and England.

Once there, I went to the Royal Academy and saw an exhibition of pictures by a man called Liotard. I liked his drawings best. As no pictures were allowed, I'll have to make do with this publicity one, which is of a very young Marie Antoinette: .

 Pastels were Liotard's speciality. Rather too many of his sitters seemed to have chosen clothes that were made of material dyed a dirty turqoise. Perhaps it was the fashion of the time. I became intrigued by a patron of Liotard called Lord Fawkener, who I think I will do some research on, with the view to a blog post at a later date, (if I don't forget).

I also dropped in at the National Portrait Gallery, where this caught my eye, because I hadn't thought about the men in the picture for years, (what a relief):
 Perhaps as a result, Cecil Parkinson promptly died.

I particularly liked this picture which, it turned out, was painted by an Australian, (Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oi, Oi, Oi). His name was Henry Lamb and I think he was really only 'Australian born', but that's good enough for me:

 I did not like the look of this sandwich creation, on offer at Bristol Airport, (after Eurotunnel, I also went back again, but this time by plane, to Bristol):

Back in Brussels, where blue skies are at a premium, I went to BRAFA, a kind of Belgian sub-Frieze Masters art and antiques fair. I saw a few things I quite liked, including these:

Adrieaen van Ostade, Harlem 1610-1685, Tavern Scene, Oil on Panel

I got a taste for painted wood reliefs in Warsaw in the summer - one day I'll post my pictures from the museum there of all the ones I saw. This, together with the next picture, is called: Two Writing Bishops, it is oak, 50cm high, 34 cm wide, and is from the Antwerp School, early 16th century 


David Teniers the Younger, Farmer Family picnicking during the Harvest, Oil on Canvas, Teniers was born in Antwerp in 1610 and died in Brussels in 1690

I think this is sheep dipping, just like they do at home, all these centuries later

I love the way Teniers does not idealise people, making me feel such a bond with these figures from the past

I love the ghostly quality to this landscape background

James Ensor intrigues me - he lived most of his life in Ostend

We went down there a while back to go to his museum

The museum was closed by the time we got there, because we got sidetracked by the wonderful unchanged cafe, where Joseph Roth and Stefan Zweig used to while away their time

I'm going to go back to Ostend and go to the museum and that lovely cafe. Another blog post may or may not emerge from the trip, depending on my organisational skills

This grisly sequence gives us five of the deadly sins, 'dominated by death'

The ones on sale were Laziness, Anger, Pride, Greed, Envy and one that I can't quite think how to translate: La Luxure - oh, looked it up: Lust, of course

This really is most unappetising. One reason I find Ensor intriguing is that his work predates the First World War. These were all made in 1904. I'd always thought his horrific vision had been provoked by the disastrous early years of the 20th century, but it is almost as if he prefigured what was to happen. The obsession with death and the lack of respect for humanity was typical of artists who came later - and fully understandable in a Europe ruined by WWI, but Ensor seems to have sensed something coming - or simply been a misanthrope.

This is the Rue du Bon Secours in Brussels. I must go to see if I can find it. I wonder if some EU grandee had the whole thing knocked down so that Jacque Delors House could be built - or Willy Brandt conference hall or whatever, eurgh

Typical Ensor - 'Skeletons Trying to Get Warm', 1895, signed and dated in pencil, the caption helpfully tells us in English, but only gives the medium in French: 'eau-forte', which, it turns out is 'etching'

This is 'The Soldiers', and so is the next one. Both are etchings, both made in 1888. I was intrigued by being able to make a comparisonbetween the black one and the hand-coloured one


This and the next two are of a building in a street called Anspacht in Brussels. I think it is a big hotel on the corner of what is at the moment, courtesy of the Green Party, a pedestrianised street. Ths is dry point engraving, made in 1888, and again I was interested by the varying colour treatments



This is titled simply The Cathedral and was made in 1886. It is startlingly detailed. Ensor must have had a very steady hand, if a rather peculiar imagination. It is very strange that these, which remind me of George Grosz a bit, were made so much earlier than his things. 

 I also went to a concert at Flagey. It was one of those rare concerts where they don't make you swallow something awful, like musical medicine, before you're allowed to hear the things you love. Instead, we had Haydn, followed by Mendelssohn and ending with Beethoven. We did have to endure the conductor explaining everything to us beforehand, but they did give us, amazingly, food and drink at interval - which, given the tickets were 26 Euro, was extremely good value, and meant I didn't have to cook a meal when we got home:
What an exciting month that was. These are, of course, but a few highlights - and I haven't even got on to films and plays and things. Enough, though, I think, is enough, for now.

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