Picasso Exhibition

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Sydney Art Gallery)

I have to admit that the hanging I most appreciated said “EXIT” in illumined green and white…

Facts About "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," Picasso's Most Famous Painting


Wyndham Lewis had this to say of Picasso (1881-1973) in 1940:

“Cézanne is the great influence: that, and the arts of primitive man…Picasso is parasitic…he is at the same time original.  His originality is of a technical order…And were Picasso a musician, he would be able to play a dozen instruments, and be as adept with a kettledrum as with a harp.  But he would not be a Bach or a Beethoven…He is such a great, luxuriant, voracious, plant: and he is a little too much of the liana – the prolific, tropical creeper – rather than the solid giant of the forest – to which description Daumier, or Cézanne, or Goya answers, but he does not.”

Weeping Woman 1937 Pablo Picasso 1881-1973 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax with additional payment (Grant-in-Aid) made with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1987 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05010

Weeping Woman 1937 Pablo Picasso 1881-1973 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax with additional payment (Grant-in-Aid) made with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1987 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05010

The criminal genius who stole one of Pablo’s repellent series of “Weeping Woman” works had the right idea – he swiped it from the NGV and stowed it safely at Spencer Street Railway Station, in a locker, where nobody had to see it – but then it was recovered.  Picasso, the master showman / shaman of 20th century painting, would have approved.

We're "sure" Dora Maar just loved Pablo's 1939 rendering of her (NSW Gallery)

We’re “sure” Dora Maar just loved Pablo’s 1939 rendering of her (NSW Gallery)


Picasso in his studio, Villa la Californie by Arnold Newman on artnet

Continue Reading →

Parting the Waters

(by Taylor Branch)

This is the first of a trilogy re American civil rights politics under the stewardship of Martin Luther King Jnr, covering the years 1954 to 1963, ending with the march on Washington and the death of JFK. This giant work is bigger than a mere bio of King and its scholarship and sheer mass of detail is leavened with clear and eloquent prose and mature reflection.


No panegyric, this: King is treated as a human, remarkable though he was, and as the politician he surely was. A wonderful work that demands to be read and read again. The Varnished Culture admits with embarrassment to having not yet taken on the last 2 pieces of the jigsaw, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge.  Thumbnail reviews to come in due course.


Dare to dream

On August 28 1963 came a high point of the civil rights movement in America – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Taylor Branch has a brilliant chapter on this thrilling moment, carefully deconstructing the machinations that led to the culmination, where King addressed several hundred thousand people and millions more on television: “He recited his text verbatim until a short run near the end: “We will not be satisfied until justice runs down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”…[Then King abandoned some lame suggestions in the speech to advance the cause in various communities and instead he urged continued struggle to bring change ‘somehow.’] “There was no alternative but to preach. Knowing that he had wandered completely off his text, some of those behind him on the platform urged him on, and Mahalia Jackson piped up as though in church, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Whether her words reached him is not known.”  Courtesy of You Tube, here’s the concluding portion of the “I Have a Dream” speech, 28 August, 1963:



Continue Reading →

Pale Fire

(by Vladimir Nabokov)

Great post-modernism. With fake scholarship, confected verse and unreliable commentary (a triple Ephialtes). “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane…”

Continue Reading →

The Origins of the Inquisition

(by B Netanyahu)

Definitive, immense and profound work on the causes and motives of the Spanish Inquisition.




[Note that TVC recommends the following:

Torquemada himself would be impressed with Wakefield & Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (1991) and Lu Ann Homza’s The Spanish Inquisition 1478-1614; An Anthology of Sources (2006), which is a very valuable resource of primary documents.

The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (1998) by Henry Kamen, is a good general volume (TVC has a pretty Folio edition).

The Spanish Inquisition (1937) by Cecil Roth is a superior general academic treatment.

The Inquisition of the Middle Ages (1887) is a definitive work by an early expert (Henry Charles Lea); this is an expurgated version from the 3 volume work (1963); the Inquisitors “inevitably reached the practical conclusion that the sacrifice of a hundred innocent men were better than the escape of one guilty.”

Frontiers of Heresy (1990) by William Monter focuses on various aspects not usually covered in detail.

Good general non academic texts: The Growth of the Spanish Inquisition (1960) by Jean Plaidy; Inquisition and Society in Spain (1985) by Henry Kamen; The Italian Inquisition (2009) by C.F. Black; In the Shadow of the Virgin (2003) by Gretchen D. Starr-LeBeau; Inquisitorial Inquiries (2004) edited by Richard L. Kagan & Abigail Dyer scrutinizes specific cases.

Popular re-hashes, readable but hardly novel: The Inquisition (1999) by Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh; The Inquisition (1984) by Edward Burman; Inquisition (1999) by John Edwards; The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual (2009) by Jonathan Kirsch; The Spanish Inquisition (2002) by Joseph Pérez, and The Pope and the Heretic (2002) by Michael White.]

St Dominic presiding at an auto-da-fe ('act of faith') by Pedro Berruguete

St Dominic presiding at an auto-da-fe (‘act of faith’) by Pedro Berruguete


Continue Reading →


(by Joseph Conrad)

Conrad’s robust, sinewy and subtle story of silver madness is the best thing he ever did.

Continue Reading →

Nikolaus Pevsner – The Life

(by Susie Harries)

The rather ponderous biographical figure can make for a fascinating biography, when it is written and researched judiciously and with love.  Pevsner’s love for his adopted England is shown in the Teutonic thoroughness with which he trundled about every shire in the country, travelling and lodging uncomfortably with a hard cheese sandwich wedged in his coat pocket, to document every church, every manor, every public building, bridge and stile of consequence.  He accumulated a wall of architectural volumes for the intelligent layperson that still inspire the question: “Is it in Pevsner?”


Durham Cathedral


Continue Reading →

The Moon and Sixpence

(by W. Somerset Maugham)

W struggled to create a genuine primitive but he comes close with Charles Strickland, a nasty and tormented artist, based on Paul Gauguin (born 7 June 1848, died 8 May 1903 in Polynesia).  Strickland’s exchanges with the Maugham-like narrator are great fun.  “Don’t you care whether you paint well or badly?” “I don’t. I want only to paint what I see.”

Paint what you see.

Paint what you see.


Continue Reading →


(by George Eliot)

Honestly, you just want to smash Dorothea Brookes’ face in.

'I don't understand the "Key to all Mythologies"; he doesn't understand me...'

‘I don’t understand the “Key to all Mythologies”; he doesn’t understand me…’

Continue Reading →

Michelangelo: His Epic Life

(by Martin Gayford)

Straightfoward but intelligent and informed biography of the world’s greatest visual artist, well sourced and well imagined.

Even when he ran out of puff, money or interest, he still managed to do great things; e.g. his incomplete (although officially deemed finished after 45 years of tinkering) tomb of Julius II, with its magnificent centrepiece of Moses.


Ridiculously prolific even though he could be a right sod in negotiating and delivering his famous services, as multi-talented as his rival Leonardo, as contradictory as all men, Michelangelo is still “the one to beat”.

“And who is He that sculptured in huge stone, 
Sitteth a giant, where no works arrive 
Of straining Art, and hath so prompt and live 
The lips, I hasten to their very tone? 
Moses is He—Ay, that makes clearly known 
The chin’s thick boast, and brow’s prerogative 
Of double ray; so did the mountain give 
Back to the world that visage, God was grown 
Great part of! Such was he when he suspended 
Round him the sounding and vast waters; such 
When he shut sea on sea o’er Mizraim. 
And ye, his hordes, a vile calf raised, and bended 
The knee? This Image had ye raised, not much 
Had been your error in adoring Him.”

[Robert Browning, concerning Michelangelo’s “Moses” (above)] [Incidentally, it was reported in early 2015 that two bronzes of men riding on the backs of panthers have been attributed to M. Buonarroti by experts – whilst Michelangelo famously declined to sign his work with one or two equally famous exceptions, TVC doubts these pieces are his work – they look like something done by a 16th Century Jeff Koons.]
(Portrait of the author by David Hockney)

(Portrait of the author by David Hockney)


Continue Reading →

The Merry-go-Round in the Sea

(by Randolph Stow)

The great Australian family-at-war yarn. The scene of Rick and Jane on the beach is the literary high watermark of dates gone wrong.

Continue Reading →

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.