Tuesday, 15 July 2014

James McNeill Whistler and The Peacock Room-Liverpool Biennial 2014

I trundled over to the Bluecoat in School Lane on a bright sunny afternoon, to sit in a darkened room with the sole purpose of attending the talk by Magaret MacDonald of the Department of Art History of Glasgow. Part of the Liverpool Biennial which is strangely entitled.
A Needle Walks Into A Haystack.
There is a school of thought that trying to find art in the Liverpool Biennial may be like finding a needle in a haystack, but I don't subscribe to that, do I? 
The talk was wonderfully illustrated by slides and I found it most informative. 
The speaker was well read and the talk was well worth attending.
I do think the link to Liverpool is very bizarre though.
I had been asked if I could provide some Chaise Lounge's or sofa's of the period of the expo so that people could sit down while viewing.
 They said the budget was zero so I declined, thinking why would I wish to have hundreds of people sitting on my couch, ruining it, that I would need to sell, when they at the Liverpool Biennial pay a fortune for some Johnny Foreigner to paint a Dazzle Ship in a Rasta design.

Frederick R Leyland was a Liverpool shipping magnate and the Peacock Room was erected in London?.........this link does not quite work for me.
It is as if they had an exhibition already done, and The Biennial was a bit strapped for cash so they somehow shoehorned it in.
Whistler spent a lot of time in Paris from 1858 having been thrown out of Westpoint and had various unsuccessful jobs, where he discovered the work of Valazquez. 
Whistler along with Henry Fantin Latour, it was said where on the Road to Holland, because they were followers of Rembrandt. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/james-abbott-mcneill-whistler
He moved to Greenwich before moving more upmarket to Chelsea. 
Liverpool Library holds a “Thames Set” of 1862 depicting his studies of the river and its characters.
Some of his paintings caused a bug fuss. 
The White Girl was called a Symphonie de Blanc by Paul Mantz and was exhibited alongside Manet in 1863.
White Girl No 2 was painted in 1864 and clearly shows the lady carrying a fan by Hiroshige showing a work known as The Banks of Sumida River.
La Princesse de la pays de la Porcelaine was bought by Leyland and was exhibited in a room designed by Thomas Jekyll.
This room was altered by Whistler and Leyland hit the roof when he saw it.
Whistler was a bad gun runner as the Civil War raged in his home of America. 
He returned to painting. The morning after the revolution Valparaiso was painted 1866.
Nocturne in Blue and Gold was produced and in 1872 he seemed to have a major breakthrough in his style.
He painted a portrait of Ms Leyland and a possible sketch of Speke Hall, Liverpool, though in reverse, as an etching is printed reverso. 
The speaker did not say how long he spent in Liverpool or at all if he actually visited.
He exhibited at The Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 and his work was criticised by Ruskin. Whistler sued.

He had commissioned the White House from Architect and designer E.W Godwin and then he went bankrupt and lost it along with his copper plates which were bought back for him.
He then got a commission to Venice.
He said he thought his work must not be of any quality as it sold in numbers.
At the RBA he hung a rather unusual Valarium, there is a sketch in the exhibition, and invited Monet and Stott of Oldham.
That did not go down too well and he was thrown out.
He sold his treasured painting “The Mother” shortly after he published The Art Of Making Enemies.
The ISSPG exhibition of 1898 showed his pictures hung in a line. He died 1903.
 I then viewed the exhibition in the main gallery of the Bluecoat. I thought it mostly of mostly inferior work by Whistler, minor sketches and etchings and a nice but strange painting that looks like a Harry Clarke.

I was  totally disappointed by the half hearted, but well intentioned recreation, of  The Peacock Room.

Or one wall of it. 

That looked, when viewed in detail, as if it was constructed of MDF and sprayed with a gold aerosol can....Oh hang on, it was. 
What was the point in that, and what was the links to Liverpool, I thought as i went out in the beautiful afternoon sun. 
All that was missing was the tea and cream scones and I could have really become an art tourist.

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