Posts Tagged 'UWA-P4-exercise'

UA1-WA:P4-p3-Exercise: Visit a cast gallery

At this point I am meant to visit a cast gallery. The notes mention “cast galleries are not highly valued at the present time” and suggest that if not able to visit one I should extend my knowledge “of the ways in which these classical ‘prototypes’ have been assimilated into the art of later centuries”. This seems to have a lot of overlap to the last exercise, especially given I wasn’t able to visit a classical sculpture for that (23-May-2014), so I have decided to change the question to ask – what has changed to make cast galleries and classical prototypes unpopular?

Charles Nettleton Gallery of casts from the studio of Brucciani, London 1869

Charles Nettleton
Gallery of casts from the studio of Brucciani, London
1869
State Library of Victoria
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/127359

There have been such galleries in Australia. This photo is from the State Library of Victoria. I found mention of its gallery when researching portrait sculpture (13-Mar-2014), together with the comment “It is remarkable that the bust [of G. A. Robinson] survived to the present day. In the 1850s and 1860s, the National Gallery purchased hundreds of plaster reproductions and casts from European museums and art galleries. Deemed not worthy of a respected art gallery, many of these casts and reproductions were sold in the 1940s” (Knapman, 2010).

griffen03The occasional cast may be used in art classes today – the photograph is from a class I did with Peter Griffen in 2012, with a cast head included in the selection of inspiration items on the table (2-Mar-2012).

Some good reasons for cast galleries, from a recent post in the Harvard Art Museums blog: “Looking closely at the plaster casts lets students explore their size, materiality, texture, and three-dimensionality”; “use the plaster casts to help students understand how to discriminate between originals and copies”; “the deep understanding that comes from experiencing an object in person” and in an example “the figures’ positions and postures are meant to direct the viewer’s line of sight and set a particular mood” and finally “this plaster cast collection allows students to escape from the flat lands of the virtual world and begin to get some sense of what it is like for actual human bodies to interact with three-dimensional reproductions of the human body”. (Harvard Art Museums, 2014).

Detail of Margaret Olley Portrait in the mirror 1948

Detail of Margaret Olley
Portrait in the mirror
1948
http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/454.2001/

For art historians, there is also the opportunity to see hints of influence in later artists’ work. A slightly different example is given by the postcards in Margaret Olley’s self-portrait (20-Apr-2014) – not three dimensional or in scale, but hints to her training, interests and inspiration.

Paul Cezanne Still life with plaster cupid

Paul Cezanne
Still life with plaster cupid

The still-life by Cézanne that I annotated (30-Jan-2014) had a plaster cupid as its subject, and another sculpture can be seen in a canvas at the top – and can be viewed as linking to ideas of the erotic.

Drawing from plaster casts was for many years a standard part of an artist’s training, but it didn’t appeal to everyone. I found a lovely passage in a letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo: “First and foremost, I had to draw from plaster casts. I utterly detest drawing from plaster casts – yet I had a couple of hands and feet hanging in the studio, though not for drawing. Once he [Mauve] spoke to me about drawing from plaster casts in a tone that even the worst teacher at the academy wouldn’t have used, and I held my peace, but at home I got so angry about it that I threw the poor plaster mouldings into the coal-scuttle, broken. And I thought: I’ll draw from plaster casts when you lot become whole and white again and there are no longer any hands and feet of living people to draw.” (van Gogh, 1882)

So apart from not suiting particular students, why would cast galleries be not highly valued, or “deemed not worthy”?

Having a copy means you haven’t got the original. It’s second rate. As an ex-colony on the other side of the world there could still be cultural cringe (can we mix it with the big boys?) and perhaps want to have the best, or at least something real, or nothing – we don’t accept others’ crumbs. This would be reversing a previous desire to retain links and to bring as much as possible from “home”.

However the trend away from cast galleries is more widespread. A page on the Victoria and Albert Museum website suggests that cast collections were uncommon before the 18th century. By the 19th century casts were “an essential part” of the initial collection of what was to become the V&A, and in the 1860s there was “an extensive campaign to acquire Italian casts”, but by the 1930s the enthusiasm was “long past”.(Baker, 1982)

Twentieth century art movements such as cubism and abstraction could make classical sculptures appear less relevant.

Traditional teaching of drawing based on casts is outmoded.

It is now much easier to travel – why accept a substitute when if you want you can see the original? There is also generally easy access to good quality two-dimensional images of sculptures. It’s not the same as experiencing a three-dimensional work in full scale, but for many people may be seen as an acceptable substitute.

There are so many sources of inspiration, why hang on to copies of one particular heritage? So much work has been created since the heyday of cast galleries of the mid to late 1800s, so many different concepts developed, that it is hard to justify the cost and space of dedicating galleries to copies of works no matter how seminal.

I’m glad to be reaching the end of this section of work. Unable to put much of a local spin on classical sculpture or casts or to see them in person I’ve found it hard to generate enthusiasm. However in the last couple of days I’ve discovered that Discobolus, together with other works from the Greek and Roman collection of the British Museum, is due to be in Bendigo later this year (http://www.bendigoartgallery.com.au/Exhibitions/Forthcoming_Exhibitions/The_Body_Beautiful_in_Ancient_Greece). That’s less than 900 km from here…

References

Baker, M (1982) The History of the Cast Courts Victoria and Albert Museum [online] Available from http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-cast-courts/ (Accessed 25-May-2014)

Harvard Art Museums (2014) “A Lesson in Looking” Harvard Art Museums blog 22-Apr-2014 [online] Available at http://magazine.harvardartmuseums.org/article/2014/04/22/lesson-looking (Accessed 24-May-2014)

Knapman, G. (2010) “The Pacificator: discovering the lost bust of George Augustus Robinson” The La Trobe Journal No 86 December 2010 [online] Available from http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-86/t1-g-t4.html (Accessed 24-May-2014)

van Gogh, V (1882) To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Friday, 21 April 1882. [online] Available from http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let219/letter.html (Accessed 24-May-2014)

UA1-WA:P4-p3-Exercise: Visit a cast gallery
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art
Part 4: Portraiture and figure painting
Project three: The human figure
Exercise: Visit a cast gallery

UA1-WA:P4-p2-Exercise: Commission a portrait

This exercise asks for a personal memorandum for the commissioning of a portrait. The subject can be any person in history and possible portraitists likewise.

20120601_mumI would like a portrait of my mother. This photo was taken at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) a couple of years ago, and in the background is Ben Quilty’s portrait of Margaret Olley which has been mentioned in a couple of posts recently. I would like to celebrate mum and her life, and I think she would find the experience of having her portrait painted interesting and enjoyable, although possibly uncomfortable on a number of levels.

My first choice of possible portraitists would be Grace Cossington Smith (reiterating that there are no restrictions of space or time in the exercise).

Grace Cossington Smith The sock knitter

Grace Cossington Smith
The sock knitter
1915

Grace Cossington Smith Interior with wardrobe mirror (1955)

Grace Cossington Smith
Interior with wardrobe mirror
(1955)

To give a general idea of her work I’ve included thumbnails from some paintings at AGNSW – see www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/
collection/works/OA18.1960/
and www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
/collection/works/OA11.1967/
. Although less common in her work, examples of portraits are Portrait of Mrs McGann (1944 http://www.charlesnodrumgallery.com.au/artwork.asp?id=43383) and Self portrait (1948 http://www.portrait.gov.au/site/collection_info.php?&irn=460&acno=2002.65). Grace Cossington Smith painted some of mum’s favourite works. There is also a slight personal connection – Cossington Smith lived in Turramurra and worshiped at St James’ Anglican Church, whose interior she painted a number of times. For years members of my family have rung the bells at St James, and when mum was spearheading the drive to raise funds for additional bells Cossington Smith gave her a sizeable donation. Finally I am attracted to Cossington Smith’s use of colour and light to describe form, the deep affection shown in her portraits and sketches of family, and the sense of space, peace and home in her interiors.

For this exercise I don’t suppose I should stop with a short list of one, although I think the fit of subject and painter is very good. Another choice could be Jenny Sages. There are a lot of images and a lot of information about Sages on the National Portrait Gallery website, including a video at http://www.portrait.gov.au/site/exhibition_subsite_jenny_2.php. Sages portraits are about relationships, making connections. She has to know the person, care about them, have rapport with them. In the video Sales talks about her relationship with her mother, which also drew me to her. Like my mother Sages was born elsewhere and has developed a relationship with this land. Sages has painted strong women, courageous and brave women, and I think she could show the strength and courage I see in my mother.

The portrait is intended for a domestic setting, so should not be larger than around 125 cm in height or width. It should be suitable to hang on a wall. Those are really the only absolutes. Oil on canvas on board is suggested, or the pigment and encaustic wax Sages often uses.

I have chosen artists who work with connections and relationships. The only potential sticking point to accepting the final work would be if a rapport and mutual respect did not develop between sitter and painter. I also believe it’s important to be able to trust the artist in their judgement of what makes a good picture. While my notes below suggest a possible focus and items that could be included, they are a starting point not a shopping list. The work should develop in the relationship.

Like all of us mum is a complex person with different aspects of her personality more apparent at different times. I would like the portrait to focus on her loves of travel, people, and history. I’m very fond of the story that as a young woman in the early 1950s, coming from a very conservative family, she spent her first pay cheque on a suitcase. She has been expedition cook on a dig in western NSW and general helper on a dig in Turkmenistan. For her 70th birthday she wanted to walk on the Great Wall of China and to visit a series of historical and archaeological sites not on a standard tour route – so she organised her own tour and gathered her own group. That zest for life and exploration and openness to adventure is still very apparent in today’s woman of 85. My idea for the portrait is of mum sitting comfortably in her home, surrounded by “treasures” (emotional, not necessarily monetary value) that connect her to places and people from the past. At the same time she should look ready to get up and launch into her next travels.

Some items that could link into this: mum_01jcj_map

  • Maps – mum has a large collection of old maps
  • Some antique furniture handed down through the family, including this corner cabinet filled with curiosities
  • jcj_samplermum_02

  • A sampler stitched by a great, great aunt
  • A small rug she commissioned when travelling in Turkey
  • mum_03

  • textiles and nick nacks picked up from here, there and everywhere.

In the past few years mum and I have stood on the beaches of Flinders Island off Tasmania, walked through the tree canopy in Western Australia and gazed out across Fogg Dam in the Northern Territory. I would like a portrait that celebrates her spirit and that wide streak of stubborn.
mum_04mum_05mum_06

UA1-WA:P4-p2-Exercise: Commission a portrait
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art
Part 4: Portraiture and figure painting
Project two: The artist’s self-portrait portrait
Exercise: Commission a portrait

UA1-WA:P4-p1-Exercise: Visit a portrait gallery

npg_01For this exercise I visited the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Canberra – http://www.portrait.gov.au/. This is a fairly new institution in a new building. NPG’s first exhibition was held in 1994, but it was under the management of the National Library of Australia. It became an institution in its own right in 1998 and was housed in Old Parliament House until the purpose-built gallery was opened in 2008.

npg_02In the entranceway to the gallery is this work, Geo Face Distributor by James Angus (2009, enamel paint on cast aluminium) (NPG link). The Gallery website catalogue entry refers to “our innate capacity to recognise and respond to the faces of others”, and I think this work fits the location very well.

I have already written about two works in the NPG – the busts of Trucaninny and Woureddy by Benjamin Law (see 13-Mar-2014). The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is about 200 metres away and also has casts of the busts. The NGA pair are on plinths of equal height, set at either end of a Regency period double-end sofa (NGA link). In my eyes the formal setting combined with the distance between the two busts turned these significant works into decorative items. Probably this is reflective of their original use, but the arrangement at the NPG – the busts on unequal plinths, the closer space between them – create hugely greater emotion and meaning. This could be in keeping with the purpose of the two Galleries, NGA presenting art, and NPG telling a story about people, their identity and culture.

I chose three focus paintings at NPG. The first is Portrait of Captain James Cook RN by John Webber (1782; oil on canvas) (http://www.portrait.gov.au/site/collection_info.php?irn=143&acno=2000.25) (unfortunately photography is not permitted and the Gallery declined my request for photographs to use). Cook died in 1779, so this work was posthumous, however Webber had travelled with Cook and painted at least two other portraits of him, so knew the subject well. Cook of course was a great navigator, and in 1770 as a lieutenant took formal possession of the east coast of Australia on behalf of England. A biography can be found at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cook-james-1917, and includes the information Cook “was also severe on uncompliant natives whom he met on his voyages, and his readiness to use force contributed to his untimely death” at the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).

Cook is seen in uniform, including a sword. He has signet (seal), suggesting the official documents he wrote. His right hand is gloved, showing the personal knowledge of Webber (Cook’s hand had been injured by an exploding horn of gunpowder). He looks confident and relaxed, at home and in control in any environment.

The sea, so long Cook’s home, is in the background on the left. An overgrown hillside is on the right, symbolic of the lands he “discovered”, explored, and in some cases claimed. The sky is dark, with pinks and grays in the clouds and glimpses of lighter blue, including one to the right of the face which provides contrast the the modelling shadow.

The OCA course notes ask about where the portrait was originally displayed and who would have seen it. Strangely enough it seems it may have remained in Webber’s possession until his death, then possibly passed through the hands of William Segieur (first Keeper of London’s National Gallery), spent 150 years or so in Hull Trinity House (for infirm seamen), before a complex sequence involving failed high-flying business men and a mysterious stint in Switzerland. An odd history, but certainly this formal portrait of a famous seaman would have been very appropriate at Trinity House. (Information from Huda, 2008).

My second focus work is Dame Mary Gilmore by Lyall Trindall (c. 1938; oil on canvas) (http://www.portrait.gov.au/site/collection_info.php?searchtype=basic&irn=196&acno=2001.42). Gilmore (1865 – 1962) was an Australian writer and a social crusader. She campaigned on “a wide range of social and economic reforms, such as votes for women, old-age and invalid pensions, child endowment and improved treatment of returned servicemen, the poor and deprived and, above all, of Aboriginals” and wrote about “such diverse subjects as the English language, the Prayer Book, earthquakes, Gaelic and the immigration laws, the waratah as a national emblem, the national anthem and Spanish Australia” (Wilde, 1983). She is featured on the Australian $10 note and there is an annual poetry prize in her name, among many other legacies of her contribution to the country.

The portait shows a woman of keen intelligence, one willing and able to speak her mind, with a direct gaze and a firm mouth. Gilmore is seated and appears relaxed but alert. The clothes suggest the period and that she was neither greatly wealthy nor poor. There is a wedding ring but no other jewellery. There is a sense of authority and a no-nonsense approach. However there are few other details provided, unlike for example Gilmore’s 1943 portrait by Joshua Smith (http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/7619/), which includes books, Gilmore writing, native flowers and that same direct gaze. Another portrait of Gilmore painted by Tindall is held at the State Library of New South Wales (see http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemLarge.aspx?itemID=433038) and shows the same alert stance, steady gaze and firm mouth, but this time holding a book, perhaps (patiently?) dealing with an interruption before she returns to her reading. I haven’t been able to find any detail on the painting’s provenance, but it seems the sort of work that could be hung in a school to inspire students (a number of schools have a “Gilmore” house).

The final focus work is Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley’s ‘Booth’s Puddle’ 1985, from Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s profile) by Gordon Bennett (1996; synthetic polymer paint on canvas) (www.portrait.gov.au/site/collection_info.php?&irn=67&acno=1999.27). Information from the NPG website: “Koiki (Eddie) Mabo (1937-1992) was a leader of the indigenous population of Townsville, where he established a pioneering Black Community School, before he initiated a legal case for native title against the State of Queensland in 1982. Along with his fellow Meriam people, Mabo was convinced that he owned his family’s land on Murray Island (Mer) in Torres Strait. By contrast, Queensland Crown lawyers argued that on annexation in 1879, all the land had become the property of the Crown. In 1992, the High Court found 6-1 in favour of Mabo and his co-plaintiffs, overturning the accepted view that Australia had been terra nullius (empty land) before white settlement. Mabo died before the historic decision, which was permanently to alter the way Australians think about Aboriginal land ownership.”

Unlike Trindall’s portrait of Gilmore, Bennett’s portrayal of Mabo is dense with symbols and indicators. Frustratingly I haven’t been able to learn much about Kelley’s work in the time available – such a specific subtitle would surely help me to understand quite what Bennett is telling us. The NPG website has “Gordon Bennett said ‘To me the image of Eddie Mabo stood like the eye of a storm, calmly asserting his rights while all around him the storm, a war of words and rhetoric, raged.'”, but that seems only a part of what is being shown.

Hinkson (2010) suggests “Simultaneously, a transformative set of events and an ongoing unresolved tension at the heart of Australian identity are galvanised in this picture. Rather than portraying Mabo the man heroically, Bennett’s picture is a powerful statement about the nature of our mediated public culture and the processes through which we grasp and indeed produce images of persons, the events with which they are associated and the ideas they come to stand for in the present… [The work] conveys a sense of the myth making we, the nation, undertake when we turn a person and his achievements into an element of public imagination.” It’s not a portrait of a man, but a wish or dream?

To be honest, I feel overwhelmed in writing this report. There is so much I don’t know or understand, of art and art history of course, but much more importantly of Australia’s history and place and people – and possible future(s).

I have a developing theory, heavily influenced by recent viewing of Hannah Gadsby’s Oz (see 14-Mar-2014), that Australia as a nation, Australians collectively and individually, are struggling with identity. It’s a theme many artists around the world explore in their work, but it seems to be a particular obsession here. To test this sweeping generalisation I went looking at Mission Statements of various national portrait galleries – surely they show the level of comfort of a people with their national stories. I’m throwing in a couple of basic statistics for support.

Under Corporate Policies and Operational Information on the NPG website I found “The purpose of the National Portrait Gallery is to increase the understanding and appreciation of the Australian people – their identity, history, creativity and culture – through portraiture” (National Portrait Gallery, [n.d.]). Searching for a more formal charter I found in their Corporate Plan: “The purpose of the National Portrait Gallery is to increase the understanding and appreciation of the Australian people – their identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity – through portraiture” (National Portrait Gallery, 2012, p.2). How significant is the extra word?

Both versions seem to give possible support to my theory. Based on recent data, 27% of the Australian population were born overseas and 2.5% are indigenous.

To test the theory further I checked National Portrait Galleries in other countries. In the UK the National Portrait Gallery (established 1856): “The Gallery’s overall aim (derived from the provisions of the 1992 Museums and Galleries Act) is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the
men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and … to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’.”(National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 1) (their ellipsis, not mine). The UK has 13% of the population born overseas.

In the USA “The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through individuals who have shaped its culture” (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, [n.d.]). While there is no single succinct statement in their Strategic Plan the Introduction includes its “purpose is to illuminate the American experience and help people understand it” and in more general text there is reference to “important questions about our shared identity, our individual place within it, and about what it means to be an American” (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, 2011. [not paginated]). 13% of the USA population were born overseas while American Indian and Alaskan Natives make up 1.6% of the population.

The New Zealand Portrait Gallery te pukenga whakaata (established 1990) website includes “Our Vision: Portraying New Zealanders and our cultural heritage to all New Zealanders”, and in later text “Our aim is to present portraits of our peoples who, from various cultural or political standpoints, have shaped our country’s development or influenced the way we think about ourselves” (New Zealand Portrait Gallery, [n.d.]). 17% of NZ population were born overseas, 15% are Maori.

Possibly suggestive, certainly not conclusive.

When I had written most of this post I came across an article quite critical of aspects of the NPG and its effectiveness in telling the Australian story. Given the timing I haven’t integrated the information here – so see At the National Portrait Gallery: Art or history? by John Thompson http://recollections.nma.gov.au/issues/vol_5_no_1/notes_and_comments/at_the_national_portrait_gallery_art_or_history (2010).

Resources

‘Cook, James (1728–1779)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cook-james-1917/text2279, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 10 April 2014.

Hinkson, M (2010) “Seeing More than Black and White: Picturing Aboriginality at Australia’s National Portrait Gallery” In Australian Humanities Review (49) [online] Available from http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-November-2010/hinkson.html (Accessed 11-Apr-2014).

Huda, S. (2008) Pedigree and Panache: A History of the Art Auction in Australia Canberra: ANU E Press [online] Available from http://press.anu.edu.au/?p=75451 (Accessed 10-Apr-2014)

National Portrait Gallery (Australia), [n.d.] Corporate Policies and Operational Information [online] Available from http://www.portrait.gov.au/site/corporate_info.php (Accessed 6-Apr-2014).

National Portrait Gallery (Australia) (2012) Corporate Plan 2011-2014 [online] Available from http://www.portrait.gov.au/UserFiles/file/CorporatePlan2011-2014-2012-07-24.pdf (Accessed 6-Apr-2014).

National Portrait Gallery (UK) (2009) Strategic Plan 2009 – 2015 [online] Available from http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/strategic-plan/NPGStrategicPlan2009-2015.pdf (Accessed 6-Apr-2014).

New Zealand Portrait Gallery, ([n.d.]) About New Zealand Portrait Gallery [online] Available from http://www.nzportraitgallery.org.nz/about-us/about-new-zealand-portrait-gallery (Accessed 6-Apr-2014).

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, [n.d.] Visiting the Museum [online] Available from http://www.npg.si.edu/inform/visit.html (Accessed 6-Apr-2014).

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, (2011) Beyond the frame: National Portrait Gallery Smithsonian – Strategic Plan 2011 – 2016 [online] Available from http://www.npg.si.edu/docs/npgsp2.pdf (Accessed 6-Apr-2014).

Wilde, W.H. (1983) ‘Gilmore, Dame Mary Jean (1865–1962)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gilmore-dame-mary-jean-6391/text10923, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 10 April 2014.

UA1-WA:P4-p1-Exercise: Visit a portrait gallery
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art
Project one: The portrait
Exercise: Visit a portrait gallery

UA1-WA:P4-p1-Exercise: Looking at cartoons

This Part of the course starts with a challenge to assumptions by examining newspaper political cartoons. Two points in the course notes attracted my attention – ‘tabs of identity’ (quick and clear ways to identify the person) and a tendency to be coarse in line due to printing constraints. Is the quality of newsprint still an issue given modern printing technology and online distribution?

In Canberra last month I visited two relevant exhibitions at the Museum of Australian Democracy – Behind the Lines 2013 (moadoph.gov.au/exhibitions/behind-the-lines-2013/) and About Face: the art of caricature (moadoph.gov.au/exhibitions/about-face-the-art-of-caricature/). Relevant to the topic – but perhaps difficult for my British tutor and assessors. This led me to wonder about how ‘international’ cartoons can be. I searched on the internet for cartoons from different countries on a common topic – the current ongoing Russian incursion into Crimea.

http://www.kudelka.com.au/2014/03/sympathy-for-the-devil/: An Australian take is given by Jon Kudelka in a cartoon published in The Australian 4 March 2014. On the left is the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, identified by his red speedos (lycra swimming trunks – he is / was a volunteer surf lifesaver) which can’t actually be seen (an invisible but clearly present tag of identity!), sharp features and large ears. Abbott is on the phone to Vladimir Putin who is identified by his bare chest and muscular arms, large nose and short fair hair. There is a sparse economy of line – for example a puff of exhaust smoke, a single loopy line and a few brief marks behind the ear show the movement of Putin’s tank across the landscape. Colour shading takes advantage of new technology to a minimal extent. The men are clearly distant – Abbott in a small boat defending our borders, Putin in his tank – but the two sides are linked with a common horizon and blue sky. The politics are mainly local, referencing the Australian government’s responses to questions about people-smugglers / asylum boats, and a cheeky quote of an infamous phrase from a past Australian politician.

www.cagle.com/2013/09/putin-and-obama-2/: The first American cartoon I found, drawn by Nate Beeler, turned out on investigation to be related to a different, earlier crisis. Both line and colour here are more complex, but still clearly within the cartoon genre. Barack Obama can be recognised by his elongated head and exaggerated ears, nose and mouth. Vladimir Putin is once more shirtless and muscular, enormous as the school bully giving the scrawny kid a noogie. The politics are locally focused, but in the context of international relations. While searching for a stable link (I hope!) I came across two other cartoons by Beeler with art history links – www.cagle.com/2014/03/obamacare-changes/ and www.cagle.com/2013/09/syria-policy/. Whether the policy relates to healthcare or Syria, Obama remains the failed abstract expressionist painter, recognisable by long head, prominent nose, mouth and ears combined with a stick thin body.

www.independent.co.uk/incoming/dailycartoon20140303jpg-9164083.html: A European perspective is given by Brian Adcock’s cartoon published in The Independent 6 March 2014. The lines and shading maintain the cartoon appearance, but the use of white writing on shaded backgrounds could make it difficult to read if converted to black and white or gray-scale. Putin remains muscular, shirtless, fair haired with a large nose, large and controlling. His confident power play on the map of Europe is watched by Barack Obama (elongated head, prominent nose, mouth and ears) and two others. The middle aged woman with bobbed fair hair and a hint of double chin is clearly Angela Merkle. I was fairly sure the middle figure was British, given the location of both newspaper and cartoonist, but being unfamiliar with British politics I had difficulty with identification. The identity tags – short, almost bald, pug nose – don’t fit UK Prime Minister David Cameron. I found the same figure in another Adcock cartoon showing signatories to the Iran nuclear deal (www.cagle.com/2013/11/iran-nuclear-deal-3/), leading me to UK foreign secretary William Hague who appears to match the tags nicely.

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/russian-papers-cartoon-takes-aim-putin-over-crimea-crisis-n40876: Moving to a different alphabet was difficult – I was not successful. This link shows a cartoon from the Moscow Times. I’m fairly sure the artist is Sergei Elkin. The hard black line of the other cartoons has largely disappeared here, and even more so in some of the other work on Elkin’s blog. Putin’s fair hair and large nose remain, but the figure is dressed in a neat gray suit. The cartoon refers to a problem at the Sochi games, now overtaken by the Crimea story. International politics are certainly relevant to both the Olympic Games and the military movements, but the focus appears to be internal.

http://www.kyivpost.com/multimedia/cartoon/cartoon-285-338659.html: This cartoon in the KvivPost newspaper doesn’t have a signature or any helpful meta-data so I haven’t been able to identify the cartoonist. It uses a black to gray line like a marker pen, a softer effect. I find the colour selection and shading unsettling, adding expressively to the mood of the cartoon more than the examples above which are roughly life-like. Based on cartoon text and caption I gather overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych is shivering under a table. Although all the identity tags have changed I believe the second man, seated at the table, is Putin. He is dressed in a gray suit. The short hair is now brown. The headshape, ears and cleft chin are different but recognisable. In the country directly affect by the incursion the focus is on their previous leader and his relationship with the Russian President.

While each artist brings a different style to their cartoons, the general approach of tabs of identity, clear and simplified line, and shading in a limited colour range is common to all.

Back home, a very direct reference to art history can be seen in Alan Moir’s cartoon Raft of the ALP published in Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 2013 – http://behindthelines.moadoph.gov.au/2013/a-broken-budget-promise/cartoons/210. Moir appropriates Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa to illustrate the dire situation of the ALP government, inserting political identities such as then-Prime-Minister Julia Gillard (identity tags red hair, long pointed nose and glasses).

UA1-WA:P4-p1-Exercise: Looking at cartoons
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part four: Portraiture and figure painting
Project one: The portrait
Exercise: Looking at cartoons


Calendar of Posts

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Categories