William Eggleston at The NPG

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I wish I could say I had known all about and studied ‘legendary Memphis photographer’ William Eggleston before I read about the current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. But, I don’t think I had ever heard of him. And that’s a big omission because his work is extraordinary. An education for the eye.

The pin sharp focus and vivd colour of his portraits give them a stunning presence, combined with a certain mystery and, in some cases, dread. Like the shot of his friend, the strange Memphis dentist TC Boring (though on this evidence boring he most certainly wasn’t; except perhaps in his day job), standing nude in his graffitied, black and red bedroom; it’s as if the image prefigures the violent death of its subject – Boring was later murdered by locals and his house set on fire.

And this strange picture (above) of Marcia Hare in Memphis, lying on the grass and yet almost floating above the surface – an effect created by the sharp focus on just the small area of the buttons on her dress, her outstretched arm and the camera. Hanging alongside this image is another portrait of Marcia, this time dancing (as if no one’s watching) – with a very similar body configuration, as this photo of the exhibition shows, taken before I discovered no photography was allowed:

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The portraits are not portraits in the traditional sense; frozen moments in time but not character studies. Most are ‘Untitled’, the name of the subject in some of the photos revealed for the first time in this exhibition.

Another stand out image, printed in grand scale, of the artist’s uncle with his assistant who unconsciously mimics his employer’s pose; the one open door lends a strange, uneasy air to the image.

eggleston 3Whatever your knowledge or interest in photography, if you possibly can do go see this exhibition. It’s a glimpse of the work of a master.

William Eggleston, Portraits. National Portrait Gallery, 21 July – 23 October 2016.

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Vogue at Burlington Arcade

There’s an exhibition of Vogue covers along Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly at the moment that’s worth catching if you are in the area.

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My favourite (of course) is the black and white Irving Penn cover for June 1950. Look at those eyes. Fantastic.

 

Picasso Ceramics at Sotheby’s

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By chance on Bond Street because I needed to take a photo of the Atkinsons building for my nearly finished book on Mrs Dalloway and caught the last day of the exhibition of ceramics by Picasso at Sotheby’s.

The extraordinary vigour and certainty of his line, his playfulness and use of colour never fail to enthral. And always that feeling of excitement being in the presence of work imagined, moulded, touched by that ferociously creative genius.

With ceramics and prints there is also the temptation towards recklessness that you could actually buy one; take away a work bearing that iconic signature.

Being sensible was helped by the fact the ones I really liked (inevitably) still retained a hefty guide price. In any case, ownership is not the key issue; it’s the capacity to enjoy the work that really matters. (Nonetheless …).

The work dates largely from the 1950s when, aged 65, Picasso moved back to the south of France after the war –

While staying with the printer Louis Fort in Golfe-Juan, the two came across Madoura and this led quite simply to the artist’s engagement with the pottery traditions of the area. There was also an influence on a personal level as the artist met his second wife, Jacqueline, when she was working in the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris. She began to live with Picasso in Paris in late 1954 and they together moved to the villa La Californie in 1955. (Lucy Rosenburgh)

And of course it was one of the ‘Jacqueline’ earthenware dishes I wanted most.

Jacqueline Dish

Jacqueline’s strong features, her prominent profile, and her dark hair and eyes are readily found in much of the art Picasso made during these joyful years. Earlier portrayals often depict Jacqueline with her abundant hair covered by a headscarf, as seen in these two red and white earthenware empreinte. In the empreinte, the artist’s carved and modelled plaster mould would be pressed into the clay, leaving the unpainted impression as the only decoration. Picasso developed the method at the Madoura studio, inspired by the process of print making. (Lucy Rosenburgh)

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And more, just because…

Picasso ceramics

 

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