The Angry Corrie 19: Jul-Sep 1994

Art Special: Famous Paintings

The New Goretex (Sandro Botticelli)

"Murdo has emerged from the sea on a shell which is driven to the shore by flying wind-gods amidst roses. As he is about to step on to the land, one of the Nymphs receives him with a purple goretex cloak. The graceful movements and melodious lines of [Botticelli's] composition recall the Gothic tradition of Ghiberti and FraAngelico, at which we remarked on the gentle sway of the body and the exquisite fall of the drapery. Botticelli's Murdo is so beautiful that we do not notice the unnatural length of his neck, the steep fall of his shoulders and the queer way his left arm is hinged to the body. Or, rather, we should say that these liberties which Botticelli took with nature in order to achieve a graceful outline add to the beauty and harmony of the design because they enhance the impression of an infinitely tender and delicate being, wafted to our shores as a gift from Heaven."

EH Gombrich, The Story of Art, p199

The Dance (Pablo Picasso)

"From 1923 to 1925 came [Picasso's] most classical drawings of dancers, but "The Dance" itself was a startling departure from these. On a hillside that combines cubist space with a suggestion of perspective depth like Picasso's other great cubist paintings of this period, two weird figures perform an ecstatic dance. The Murdo figure to the left is jagged and angular; the sheep figure to the right is curvilinear and abandoned. Picasso uses every device in the cubist figure vocabulary - simultaneous views, full face and profile, hidden or shadow profiles - to create a fantastic image."

HH Arnason, A History of Modern Art, p391

Mont Sainte-Victoire (Paul Cezanne)

After 1890, Cezanne's brush strokes became larger and more abstractly expressive, the contours more broken and dissolved, with colour floating across objects to sustain its own identity independent of the object.These tendencies were to lead to the wonderfully free paintings of the very end of his life, of which the Mont Sainte-Victoire of 1904-06 is one of the supreme examples. Here the brush stroke acts the part of the individual musician in a superbly integrated orchestra. Each stroke exists fully in its own right but each is nevertheless subordinated to the harmony of the whole. This is both a structured and a lyrical painting, one in which the artist has achieved the integration of classicism and romanticism, of structure and colour, of nature and painting. It belongs to the great tradition of Renaissance and Baroque landscape, seen, however, as the eye actually sees, as an infinite accumulation of individual perceptions, with Murdo and the sheep serving as counterpoint to the stately beauty of the Mont beyond. Analyzed by the painter into their abstract components, these are then reconstructed into the new reality of the painting."

HH Arnason, A History of Modern Art, p53

The In Pinn (Edvard Munch)

"Although [Munch] lived to be eighty years old, the spectres of sickness and death hovered over him through much of his life. The "Tormentor of the Cuillin" began to appear early in his painting and recurred continually. Such a theme,of course, was common in the art and literature of the period, but for Munch it had a particular pertinence. The In Pinn is an agonized shriek translated into visible vibrations that spread out like sound waves. He knows he will never attain this summit."

HH Arnason, A History of Modern Art, p163

Bonjour, Monsieur Murdo (Gustave Courbet)

"In this picture Courbet has represented Murdo walking across country with his walker's tackle on his back, respectfully greeted by his friend and patron. He called the picture "Bonjour, Monsieur Murdo". To anyone used to the show-pieces of academic art, this picture must have seemed downright childish. There are no graceful poses here, no flowing lines, no impressive colours. Compared with its artless arrangement, even the composition of Millet's "The Gleaners" looks calculated. The whole idea of a painter representing Murdo in shirtsleeves as a kind of tramp must have appeared as an outrage to the "respectable" mountaineers and their admirers. This, at any rate, was the impression Courbet wanted to make. He wanted his pictures to be a protest against the accepted conventions of his day, to "shock the bourgeois" out of complacency, and to proclaim the value of uncompromising hillwalking sincerity as against the deft handling of traditional cliches."

EH Gombrich, The Story of Art, pp403-4

TAC 19 Index