Friday, 23 August 2013

Caravaggio-Whats All The Fuss About?

 Oh Mr Caravaggio 500 years later you knock the stuffing out of me.

I deal in modern art right, 20thcentury stuff and although I have always respected the old masters. I do see the workmanship and the skills that some of the masters had, as a dying art.
I was amazed by Frederic Lord Leighton’s exhibition at the RA some years ago. His Athlete Wrestling a Python at the Walker Art Gallery here in Liverpool has to be one of my all time favourite sculptures, despite it being late 19th century.The Leighton exhibition was viewed the same day as the Cézanne expo, at; perhaps if my memory serves me right, the Tate, it was a long time ago. There was no comparism in my opinion. One was a master the other was an experimentalist. The way the master made a piece of velvet feel as if it was soft to touch, whereas a terracotta urn had a dryness, his painted marble had a feel that you could walk your feet over to cool them down. Such skill comes along only so often.
I understand all of the articles written about Cézanne but I don’t feel it.
A rolling stone really does gather moss. Though I do respect the opinions of people who are employed to write about art, most of them are too clever to be able to really understand. How can someone who can’t even emulsion a wall talk about real skill.
I always think, ‘what are the qualifications needed to paragraph art, and what do some of those entrusted with the purveyors of the pleasures of art really know’.
I blame some writers for building up bad workmanship and calling it modern art, when really it is just poor workmanship.
I often recall, watching an Open University programme late one night when I was a kid, I must have been 11. It was about the painting of a religious icon. I was fascinated with Lapis Lazuli and how it was more expensive than gold and how it was used to adorn religious art in medieval times. How it came from Afghanistan and how it was coveted as a piece of mercurial magic that was the symbol of the robe of the Virgin Mary. I am not that religious but some small slither of symbolism planted a seed in my mind. Why do we worship art?
The questions keep coming and have never stopped asking, and now I find myself with more questions, and the more I answer the more are asked.

I had been on a boat trip that left Liverpool Ireland. The first port of call was Cobh (pronounced Cove).Cobh was the last stopping place of the Titanic and its tourism was based around that fact. There was a Titanic bar that had closed, apparently it hadn’t gone down too well…….it went bust.

Cobh has a monument that had been erected to another maritime disaster, the sinking of the Lusitania, that sunk on its way to Liverpool.
A German U-Boat torpedoed it. It was one of the most tragic losses of life on the sea. It was claimed that the event is said to have shocked America to its core.
It is also said to have brought them into the First World War as allies against the Bosch.
 A passenger on the mini cruise had left a memento, to a relative who drowned in the disaster. A picture and a rose were laid on foot of the statue.

Up atop the hill amongst the candy coloured houses from the Cathedral the views were magnificent.
It is the closest port to Cork and I got a train into the town. There were lots of old Irish pubs and shops that look like they are in the living room of a house. I went in the art gallery to see a Paul Henry or two. There may have been a Sonia Delauney.
As usual when visiting a place I do not know I am drawn to bookshops. These are the sort of shops that feed my inquisitive mind, that allow me to explore the answers to the questions that I keep asking myself.

Here in all the hundreds of yards of shelves, sat a massive volume, beautifully photographed, a cut above the usual Taschen publications. Buy me! It seemed to be shouting to me, Buy me! The pages folded out, I love books where the photographs are not punctuated by staples.

It was the complete works of Caravaggio, in one book. It was amazing.

I had a 100 Euro note on me but it was130 and it was an expense I had not expected.

I had seen the Graham Dixon-Smith programme about one of the most captivating of characters in art history.

I had been shocked by, how someone with such talent, and raw emotion, could be tinged with a gentle temperament.

How could such a fiery character, who, it was said, would fight duals, with swords and daggers and who could thrust a stiletto as finely as he could paint a peach, be as controversial today as when he was alive?

I had let Derek Jarman’s celluloid images cloud my judgement. But still a man whose legacy lingered all these centuries later fascinated me. I knew the work of art that he created had been passed amongst kings and had survived revolutions and wars.

How could creations made with a mixture of ground up pigments, of tempura and oxides mixed with oil look so real? Like a photograph. How can I be thrown the raw emotion through a modern picture taken with a camera? Why hadn’t the paint faded? Why was the imagery so real? How could the message be as real today?

I had to buy the book and offered the shop my 100 Euro note and no more and they accepted my offer. It was a heavy book and would need a lot of time to read. I have a lot of books that I need to read. It had its own case that came with it with a handle. It is the sort of book that posers will delicately place on a coffee table to make them look clever I thought. It was a beautiful book. Should I ever read it and have I wasted 80 quid on a whim?

Sailing out of Cobh at Dusk was a remarkable event. However much you study art there is no equivalent that can beat a beautiful sunset. The town of Cobh is situated in a natural harbour the pretty houses on the hill were lit up as if by magic and the term Emerald Isle slipped into my mind as the boat slipped out of sight of the harbour.

It was a beautiful event. Not even the famous Irish painter Paul Henry would be able to capture that memory for me.

I looked around the stern of the boat at the silver surfers I thought about another night of naff entertainment on board. But there was a swell developing a gale-force wind was predicted. Though the day was calm, you could feel it building up the further out of the protection of the Harbour, to deep water, you got.

Today had been my Birthday, Thanks Mr sunset for the lovely present.

The boat was like the Mary Celeste that night it was too rocky for most of the pensioners to walk around there was the noise of glasses breaking. Worryingly the ships crew came in to the cabin to bolt down the portholes. An announcement came over the tannoy that the ship was to be diverted to Dublin, which wasn’t half bad I had been there before so I had a mental map.

Armed only with 20 euros I decided that the best place for a rainy Sunday would be the National gallery and then I realised, there within its walls, there is a Caravaggio a real one.

So I will be able to see for myself what all the fuss is about I may be disappointed and wonder what all the fuss is about. Well let’s have a look.

Part II to follow.

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