Dearest Cleo

Sorry to have missed you this weekend, but I really did have to pay a short visit to my mum’s before I went to France. Mum was fine as always and was asking about you and Auburn.

I have been researching Manet who is acknowledged as “The First of the Moderns” but maybe that title belongs to Courbet or Millet or even Delacroix. Manet was, however, the first to break with the old Academy painting style of layering and glazing and paint alla prima, painting wet into wet in oils, paving the way for the impressionists.

Manet style emphasised the two dimensional aspect of the canvas, with high key lighting, generally from the front with minimal modelling of his forms giving an almost photographic modelling to his forms. His compositions were influenced by the old masters but he updated them into contemporary Parisian life, following the exhortations of his friend Baudelaire that a painter can only paint representations of Contemporary society.

Manet achieved depth in his paintings by emphasising the main subject and painting the parts of the painting that were in peripheral vision sketchily, he often used a tight background to give his composition a narrow depth of field.

His use of the wet in wet technique encouraged the ebauche or bravado brushstroke, prefiguring the work of Sargent and Whistler.

While Manet was at the front end of Impressionism, Seurat was at the back end, and while he painted many impressionist works he is perhaps most famous for inventing pointillism painting in dots of colour and allowing the optical mixing of the dots to take place in the eye of the viewer.

It was a technique that prefigured the early colour printing of the American comics and the paintings of Roy Lichtenstein, whose process was a development of this printing technique.

Seurat was an avid follower of the Renaissance technique of the Golden Ratio and applied this technique in many of his paintings consciously. There is an excellent site by Gary Meisner (cited below) exploring Seurat’s use of the golden Ratio in his compositions.

Gary is of course the proprietor of I have one of his tools and find it an invaluable compositional aide, interestingly Dongwei Di applies it to Starry Night but perhaps the most surprising is this drawing by Van Gogh with the golden section applied.

Figure 1 Van Gogh drawing with Golden section superimposed

I will write more when I get back from France,

My love as always

Mickos xx

Gallery visits and Exhibitions

Courtauld Gallery, Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat

Musee D’Orsay

National Gallery

National Gallery, Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne

Royal Academy, Manet: Portraying life.


Grabsky, P. and Harding B. (2013) Manet: Portraying life. Brighton: Seventh Arts.


Courtauld Gallery, The. (2015) Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat. London: Ridinghouse and The Courtauld Gallery.

Neret, G. (2016) Edouard Manet: The First of the Moderns. Koln: Taschen.

Robbins, A. (2018) Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne. London: National Gallery Co. Ltd.

Royal Academy, The. (2013) Manet: Portraying life. London: The Royal Academy of Arts.

Internet research

Artable (s.d.) Edward Manet. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

Dongwei Di (2016) When Golden Spiral applies to Starry Night. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

Hamilton, A. (2011) The colour of Manet. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

Marder, L.(2014) Painting Techniques and style of Edouard Manet. At:

Meisner, G. (2014) Seurat and the Golden Ratio in Art Composition. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

The Art World (s.d) Manet painting methods. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

The Khan academy (s.d.) A beginners guide to Realism. At: (accessed 9/11/18)


Dear Cleo 18 11 05

Dearest Cleo

I hope you had a good day at school and I hope you managed to get a look at my Seated Figure painting that I posted on the blog yesterday. You know me by now, when I first do something new, I think it is the bees knees, but as usual I have been carrying a folded copy in my back jeans pocket all day and I now have a bit more of an balanced view on the work.

The life drawing is more Cubist than the painting and like I said yesterday I was amazed when I was doing it, I was not trying to do a cubist drawing, it just arrived. I was in Patrick’s life class and I decided to have a go with the hard pastels and I was just measuring the figure as I normally do in charcoal but in the earlier drawings I had done in this way the marks were less easy to get rid of than when using charcoal. When I paused to stand back from the easel to judge the proportions of the drawing to the pose I became fascinated by the marks I had made with the edge on the pastel that seemed so broken and disjointed and cubist I just had to carry on and do the shading because it was there and I had 20 minutes of the pose to carry on drawing, so really I was just finishing the drawing in the way the drawing dictated.

I wish I had stopped when I noticed or at least have taken a progress photograph before I started the shading, because maybe this is one of the missing links of the cubist process. By extending and emphasising the measurement marks I arrived at a cubist composition. I may be a hundred and odd years behind the times but I do feel that the discovery was significant and when I go to see the Cubism Exhibition in Paris next week I will have a theory I can test out whilst standing next to the original paintings, hopefully it may bear fruit.

It seemed intuitive to go from the measurement marks to the Cubist drawing, it happened so seamlessly, that I was shocked that Cubist drawing, real unconscious cubist drawing was so accessible.

The painting is more futurism, having assimilated the lessons from cubist drawing, it is simple to convert to futurism, assume the lessons of Cubist drawing, less abstraction, more visible forms and an element of decoration.

I like to think that Mickos is a bit of an artist, as such he is able to write with a sense of wonderment and attempts to explain his true feelings about the production of the work itself, rather than to link the meaning of the work to some obscure philosophical or religious ideal.

I have learned more from reading Alberti, Leonardo, Vincent, Monet, Ruskin, Kandinsky and Speed than I could ever hope to learn from reading Greenberg, Clement and Hal Foster. However, I am not totally against the critics, I think Gombrich has a wonderful sense of humour and having read a couple of his books, I think Elkins tries to demystify the critical process in much the same way as the artist authors try to demystify the painting process.

My biggest problem with critics is that they fail to include my wonderful works in their shows, I have made a very careful list of these in the hope that one day they can be named and shamed.

So there you go my dear, a personal criticism of my latest work and an explanation of my hatred for critics. Do you think I was mean? I don‘t think so, but I will be when Seated Figure is denied a place in a show.

Just to cheer you up after all that reading I have attached the other drawings I did yesterday at life class, after reading last week’s exercise I think He looks a bit more mobile and ready to move.

Figure 1 life drawing Hard pastel on A2 sugar paper

Figure 2 life drawing Hard pastel on A2 sugar paper

Figure 3 life drawing charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Be gentle

My love as always

Mickos xx


Dear Cleo 18 11 04

Dearest Cleo

Great to see you again today, was glad to be able to show you the life drawing I did today. Since you left to go swimming I made a painting of my drawing, I think it is a pretty good painting, what do you think.

Figure 1 Life drawing hard pastel on A2 sugar paper

Figure 2 Seated figure, Acrylic on Acrylic paper 40 x 40 cm

It felt good to be painting, I have been doing a lot of reading and research and not enough painting. As you know I am going to Paris next weekend to see the cubism exhibition, it must have been on my mind when I was at life class this morning and the drawing just appeared of its own accord. I don’t often paint from my life drawings, perhaps I should do so more because I am pleased with the result, I like how the figure jumps from the ground and the sculptural effect of it.

Like I said I won’t see you next weekend but I am sure I will find you a nice little souvenir while I am in Paris.

My Love as always

Mickos xx

P.S. I found this while I was in Paris, it was painted by Miro. If I had known that Miro had done this, I wouldn’t have painted mine, the scariest bit is that Miro’s is titled Standing Nude whilst mine is titled Seated Figure, you couldn’t make it up.

Figure 3 Standing nude by Miro

Dear Cleo 18 11 03

Dearest Cleo

It was good to catch up this morning, brunch was excellent, and congratulations again on the 100% no doubt Waterstones wish you did that every week. I have been thinking about Classicism and Romanticism and these are my thoughts following a visit to room 15 at the National Gallery

As a young man, Turner saw Claude’s Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba later he painted his response The Dido Building Carthage, they hang together in Room 15 of the National Gallery in accordance with the terms of Turners will.

The paintings are of similar size and both are very imposing in the small room in which they hang but there is one very big difference between them, one is a classical painting and the other a romantic painting. It is good that they hang in such close proximity because it is easy to see the differences in style by carrying out a “spot the difference” exercise between the two paintings

Figure 1 Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba Claude

Figure 2 The Dido Building Carthage by Turner

Lets start with the skies, Classicism is famous for its order and structure and you can see this in Claude’s painting. Look at the structure of the cloud formations, the smooth graduation from blue to gold down the sky, and the lack of brush marks.

Figure 3 Claude’s Sky

Compare this with Turners Romantic sky less graduation, painterly realistic loose clouds and brush marks

Figure 4 Turner’s sky

Both pictures are sunsets but Turner’s use of darks in the painting  accentuates the lights in a sublime manner giving more glow to his sunset, Turner was particularly adept at expressive sunsets, I have included another one which gives a better indication of his loose Romantic brushwork in the sky and how he contrasts the lightness of the sky with dark objects

Figure 5 Another Turner sunset

Figure 6 Claude’s figures

In Claude’s classical painting the figures are carefully arranged and are much flatter than Turner’s because he does not fully sculpt his figures according to the light source. The Romantic Turner is fully aware of his light source and exploits the darkness of his figures to fully sculpt them even though he was probably using a much larger brush than Claude to paint the figures but Turners looser brushwork produces much more lifelike and realistic figures

Figure 5 Turner’s figures

Looking at both pictures as a whole compare the tidiness of Claude’s harbour which has almost been swept clean and the trees pruned prior to the picture being painted, whereas Turners harbour is much more untidy and rugged, the tree is much more naturalistic.

I am not sure that this is going to a good place, bedrooms should be tidy and Classical, with the Romantic and the untidiness displayed in the classically hung Romantic images on the wall, as in Room 15 at the National Gallery. An unmade bed is not Romantic, despite what Ms Emin may say.

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 10 29


Dearest Cleo

I hope you enjoyed your first day back at school after the half term, my studies are revolving around figure painting at the minute and looking at the work of Van Dyke and Vermeer. The good bit is I got to draw some so it was not all reading and writing.

There are ten Van Dyke Portraits in the National gallery and they all live in Room 20, the casual visitor would classify Van Dyke as a supreme portrait painter and they would be right, but tucked away in a corner of room 21 with other Dutch painters is Van Dyke’s Charity

Figure 1 Charity by Anthony Van Dyke

It is a painting from Van Dyke’s early years when his fame revolved around history and religious paintings and he was a pupil of Rubens before he found fame as a portrait painter.

Charity is a highly finished painting with no visible brush marks whereas the portraits in the next room do have visible brush marks in the back grounds that contrast with the faces this could be intentional but from my research it would seem that Van Dyke only painted the faces in the portraits, leaving the backgrounds to his assistants.

Moving on to room 16, the most striking thing about the Vermeer’s is their size they are tiny in comparison to many of the paintings in the galleries but perhaps all the more jewel like for that. Vermeer must have used very tiny brushes to achieve the detail and fall of light in the paintings.

Young woman standing at a virginal By Vermeer

I have seen Tim’s Vermeer and read Hockney’s theories of lenses but seeing the paintings close up, none of that seemed to matter, the genius is in the craftsmanship of these quiet interior scenes. The funniest review I have read on Tim’s Vermeer was by the Guardian art critic Johnathon James and is cited in the bibliography.

There are not that many surviving Vermeer’s, and I think that I have seen the most of them if not all, and I never cease to be amazed when I see one. I would love to paint on the scale of the old masters but I only live in a small house so Vermeer is an inspiration to pack so much into such a small frame.

I looked at Henry Raeburn and I also looked at the drawings of Van Dyke, I think from experience of doing the drawing courses it would take about 2 hours to do a portrait drawing as detailed and good enough to paint a portrait from. I have done the drawings so maybe this course is my chance to paint one. My life drawings are beginning to come alive and I have attached some below.

Figure 3 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 4 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 5 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 6 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 7 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

Figure 8 Life drawing Charcoal on A2 sugar paper

I find though I get a greater sense of movement in the sketches of people in my A5 sketchbook. There the people are moving, mostly they have moved on before the sketch is complete so although they are quick sketches they are informed by my studies in the life room.

Figure 9 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A5 cartridge

Figure 10 Sketchbook 02 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 11 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 12 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge


Figure 13 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 14 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 15 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge


Figure 16 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 17 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 18 Sketchbook 01 Ink on A6 cartridge

I am looking forward to catching up again at the weekend, hope you enjoyed the ghost biscuits.

My love as always

Mickos xx



Gallery Visits

The National Gallery

Charles 1: King and collector (2018) Royal Accademy

Vermeer and Music. (2013) National Gallery

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry (2017) National Gallery of Ireland.

Masters of the Everday: Dutch artists in the age of Vermeer. (2016) The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace.


Exhibition on screen (2013) Vermeer and Music

Tim’s Vermeer


Hockney, D. (2006) Secret Knowledge. Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters. London: Thames and Hudson

Schneider, N. (1993) Vermeer. Koln: Taschen.

Steadman, P. (2002) Vermeer’s Camera. London: Oxford University Press.

Wheelock, A.K. jnr. (1998) Vermeer: The Complete Works. New York: Abrams


Internet research

Faroult, G. (2012) Van Dyck and France under the Ancien Régime 1641–1793, At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Hearn,K. (2004) Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s Portraits of Sir William and Lady Killigrew, 1638. At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Howard, H. (2013) Vermeer and technique. At: (accessed 28/10/18)

Jones, J. (2014) DIY Vermeer documentary utterly misses the point about Old Masters. At: (accessed 29/10/18)


Liedtke,W.(1984) Anthony Van Dyke.At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Tate Britain (s.d.) Sir Anthony Van Dyke At:  (accessed 27/10/18)

Wood , J. (2011) The man who would be British. At: (accessed 27/10/18)

Dear Cleo 18 10 24

Dearest Cleo

There is no need for me to hope you are well, I know you are at Granny C’s and are being spoiled rotten, give your brother a kiss from me, and I will catch up with the two of you at the weekend. For me today was a special day, I got to paint as well as of all the reading and research and writing.

I spent some time looking at Australian cave and rock art, what I did find was a remarkable similarity to European cave painting and some “aliens” that reminded me of figures in Egyptian art. What I didn’t find was anything remotely resembling the illustration in the course workbook. It was obviously far too colourful to be cave art and is in fact an example of Aborigine dot painting.

Figure 1 Aborigine dot painting

The cave paintings are the last recorded aboriginal art, aboriginal art evolved into a style of Performance art involving shaman and drawings in the sand and on human bodies, an art that had little permanence.

The dot paintings evolved in the mid twentieth century when the aborigines were introduced the western pigments by missionaries and encouraged to reproduce the sand drawings of the shaman as art on canvas. It is a similar story to that of Dame Kiri Te Kanawha and her tribe, in fact it is a story as old as art itself, the artistically minded individuals of a tribe or nation of are introduced to a new medium and a radical new art movement is born. Does the fact that the aborigines were one of the last magical tribes and the fact that they actively promote dreamtime increase the surreal aspect of their work? The whole of Pre-Modern art concerns itself with visions and dreams and spirituality.

Following the instructions in the course book, I stuck with the cave painting and produced this.

Figure 2 Self Portrait on a man cave wall in Edmonton early twenty first century. Mouth blown sepia ink on acrylic paper 40 x 40cm

See you at the weekend when you get back

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 10 23

Dearest Cleo

I hope the weather in Dorset is fine for you, It was lovely here in London today. I have been looking at the Mannerists, the latter works of Michelangelo were Mannerist but here are three Mannerists that you probably don’t know about.

Of the three Mannerists chosen, two of them are Correggio and Parmigianino, who fit quite well together, as they were contemporaries. Both practised in Italy in the first part of the Sixteenth Century both were highly adept in Renaissance painting techniques and both used distortion of the figure to make their paintings more expressive.

Parmigianino did this famously in the Madonna with the long neck,

Figure 1 Madonna with the long neck

Look at the distortion of the Christ child to enormous proportions to suit the flow of the design. The angels who appear undistorted are crammed in one side of the picture to unbalance the work in opposition to Renaissance harmony. All this adds movement and expression to the image in an attempt to add something more than the mere depiction of life.

Figure 2 Ecce Homo

Correggio does much the same in Ecce Homo, look at the size of Jesus’ hands and arms compared to those of the people in front of him, it it a return to hierarchies of scale, but this time for the effect of the composition, the elongation of the form to suit the composition was a key concept of mannerism, again the unbalanced composition introduces movement into the piece.

Mannerism introduced a greater sense of air and space surrounding the figures into what was then contemporary art.

The difference or the odd man out was El Greco Who worked at the latter end of the sixteenth Century when Mannerism was in full flow. His distortions of the figure for pictorial effect are legend, so much so that they, four hundred years later influenced Cezanne, Picasso and the abstract expressionists. I think the best way to understand this is to look at perhaps his finest work The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. The lower half of this painting shows the earthly realm and the top half of the painting shows the heavenly realm. In the lower half, El Greco uses the Renaissance techniques he had learned in Italy, the imaginary upper half cam only be described as pure El Greco.

Figure 3 The Burial of the Count of Orgaz

It is a pure expression of El Greco’s imagination combining his icon and Renaissance training into his own style of expressive imaginative painting. He developed this style further in such works as Christ with the cross and of course Purification of the Temple and perhaps reached the zenith with The vision of St John which could have almost been painted by Cezanne.

Figure 4 The vision of St John

Have fun on your holiday.

My love as always


Mickos xx



Gallery visits

The National Gallery rooms 8 and 9


Bender, N.(s.d.) Parmigianino: 160 Paintings and Drawings. Kindle Edition: Icon-m.

Ankele, D. and D. (2011) Correggio. California: Ankele Publishing LLC.

Internet Research

National Gallery (s.d.) Christ presented to the people. At: (accessed 22/10/18)

Wikipedia. (s.d.) Parmigianino. At: (accessed 22/10/18)

National Gallery (s.d.) Christ driving the traders from the temple. At: (accessed 22/10/18)

Present (2011) El Greco: Paintings Biography and quotes. At: (accessed 22/10/18)







Dear Cleo 18 10 21

Dear Cleo

It was great to catch up yesterday and congratulations again on the hundred percent you got. My researches have taken me back to the National Gallery. I used to classify the pre modern artists like he was alive in the late sixteenth century, now I have a simpler system relating to the National Gallery, Leonardo room 60, Raphael room 63, Vermeer room 16 and Velasquez room 30, art is not about history, or only accidentally so, it is about the here and now.

This week’s visit was to Room 4 of the National Gallery to look at the work of Holbein, of the three works on view my favourite was Erasmus this was an early portrait by Holbein on an oak panel and it is as lively as his chalk drawings in the Royal Collection.

Figure 1 Erasmus

It is surprisingly realistic close up and in the Renaissance tradition it has no brush strokes that you can see, Holbein’s process of working was to start with a highly finished sketch which he would transfer to the painting surface and working with thin liquid paint carry out a grisaille which is a tonal image of the finished painting working in shades of grey. He would then introduce white into the grisaille, again using thin liquid paint, so that the lighting scheme of the painting was fixed.

At this stage, to all intents and purposes the painting was complete but in black and white and all that remained was to introduce colour, which was done with an endless series of thin coloured glazes working with even more dilute paint, as many as sixty glazes to produce the vivid colours seen in the final painting. Each glaze had to dry, which could take up to a week, before the next glaze could be applied, which is why paintings could take two years or more to complete. Leonardo kept the Mona Lisa with him for forty years so you can only imagine how many glazes he applied in that time.

The skill and time involved in the creating of the old master paintings is what is being celebrated here not the money they are worth.

A photograph could accomplish the same end result in a fraction of a second, but the reason a photograph is less realistic is that it is from one perspective, the lens, rather like looking at the world with one eye closed. Coming face to face with Erasmus almost 500 years after he died is an experience that you can only have in room 4 at the National Gallery neither the photograph nor the internet can do it, you have to be there and it is well worth the cost of the trip.

Have a good week at school and get more hundred percents.

My love as always

Mickos xx



Gallery visits

The Northern Renaissance Durer to Holbein 2013 Queens Gallery

The Encounter: Drawing From Leonardo to Rembrandt National Portrait Gallery

The National Gallery Room 4


Wolf, N.( 2004)  lbein the Younger The German Raphael Koln:Taschen

Internet research


Dear Cleo 18 10 10

Dear Cleo

On Sunday I went to the National Gallery and the V&A to look at the Raphael’s, I suppose to really study Raphael’s work you have to go to Rome. I am hatching a plan to go there in the spring. I would have gone in November but Paris beckoned.

I am quite familiar with Raphael’s drawings from my previous studies and it seems from reading, that the drawings are more Raphael than the later paintings as he had a large workshop who completed the painting paintings from his original designs probably in a similar way to Warhol’s factory.

Figure 1 St Catherine of Alexandria

My favourite in the National Gallery was St Catherine of Alexandria, it is about A1 in size and painted in oils on a wooden panel she looks so natural and relaxed standing there leaning on her wheel and the red of her cloak contrasts so well with the greens in the picture. The wheel is a symbol of the miracle and it is almost a comic book frame from the life of St Catherine.

I was so taken by it I bought a small poster of it in the shop, I will bring it with me at the weekend to show you. See you then.

My love as always


Mickos xx



Gallery Visits

The National Gallery Room 61

The Victoria and Albert Museum Raphael Court



Petherbridge, D. (2010) The Primacy of Drawing, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Pouncey, P. and Gere, J.A. (1962) Italian Drawings in the BM: Raphael and his Circle, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thoenes, C. (2007) Raphael The Invention of the High Renaissance.Koln: Taschen.

Whistler, C., Thomas, B., Gnann A. and Aceto A. (2017) Raphael the Drawings, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Internet research

Ashmolean. (s.d.) Study of the heads of two apostles and their hands. At: (Accessed on 23.10.17)

British Museum, The. (s.d.) Collection online. At: (Accessed on 23.10.17)

Butterfield, A (2017) Raphael up close. At: (Accessed on 13. 10.17)

James, J. (2017) Raphael: The Drawings Review-a magnificent, mind-opening exhibition. At: Johnathan James (Accessed on 23.10.17)

Kennedy, M. (2017)’Extraordinary’ Raphael show to be a big draw at Ashmolean in Oxford. At: (Accessed on 23.10.17)

Leigh C. (2012) Could Picasso draw better than Raphael. At:  (Accessed on 21.10.17)

Neuendorf, H. (2017) Forget His Paintings, Raphael’s Drawings Reveal His True Genius. At: (Accessed on 23.10.17)

Virtual Study Visit

Lee Miller

The Website listing for the exhibition was enlightening, I was not aware that surrealism existed in Britain I thought it was a continental thing and I was surprised to find Henry Moore listed as a Surrealist I had always considered him to be one of those unique British artists like Bacon or Turner that did not really fit into a movement.

So I was intrigued, not enough to hot foot it up to Wakefield, but enough to buy the catalogue from Amazon. This is the usual way I deal with an exhibition, I find pre-reading the catalogue serves two purposes, it helps you decide if you really need to visit the exhibition and if you do decide to go it saves you reading the walls when you get there so you have more time to look at the works on display.

Figure 1 Clip from Cocteau’s The Blood of the poet

I spent some time following the timeline and spent a happy hour watching Cocteau’s film The blood of the poet, which was all the more surreal for being in French, but enjoyable none the less.

In the reviews several pieces are highlighted, Christian House chooses David E. Scherman, dressed for war and Nude bent forward, Hanna Clugston settles on Woman as perceiver while Laura Freeman picked Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub, the title of which is far more surreal than the actual photograph. All of the reviews manage to highlight the surreal aspect of the exhibition which is in high contrast to Miller’s other job as a war photographer.

Breton Defined Surrealism as Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner-the Actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.(Breton cited in Danchev).

Millers photographs are a good fit with this definition except that control must be exercised by reason to perform the actual photography but this appears to be so of any surrealist work that control must be exercised in the making, certainly Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub is bereft of moral concerns.

The representation of past surrealist exhibition material in the exhibition only serves to cement Miller with the actual happening of surrealism in Britain in a historical sense, that she created an artwork, The Kiss for exhibition by instructions contained in a letter from Egypt is in itself pretty surreal.


Figure 2  Eileen Agar and Golden tooth Sculpture

The frontispiece of the catalogue features the Photograph Eileen Agar and Golden tooth Sculpture a masterpiece of surrealism. That a group of surrealists should visit the surreal setting of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton is surreal in itself, Miller’s playful composition of dreamlike shadows includes her own shadow almost as a disembodied eye to further puzzle the viewer.

Disembodied body parts are a feature of surrealist art and with Hands for the job Miller continues this trend contrasting the feminine hands with the potential violence of the armaments being made

Figure 3  Hands for the job


Figure 4 Corsetry (solarised photograph)

Solarisation was a technique invented by Miller, it gives a surreal unearthly feeling to a conventional photograph, I wonder if this is a technique included in Photoshop as it is a technique specific to developing film in the traditional method with chemicals and everything.

Figure 5 David E Scherman dressed for war

The poster for the exhibition is testament to the attention paid by the curators of the exhibition, they had something to say, and they said it very well. It may be an early 21st reading, but to capture a Jewish sounding name with a gas mask, a camera and an umbrella is a surreal prophecy of what Miller was to photograph later in her career as a war photographer. Scherman’s watch strap is also prophetic of machine guns ammunition.

My favourite picture from the exhibition is Lee Millar in Hitler’s bathtub, as surrealism goes this is beyond compare and although the photograph was taken by David E Scherman, it perfectly depicts Miller as artist and muse. It is a perfect title for the piece.

Figure 6 Lee Millar in Hitler’s bathtubBottom of Form

Viviane Sassen

There are strange parallels between the careers of Sasson and Miller, both their fathers were keen photographers, they both began their careers as models before becoming photographers and the both practiced art and fashion photography. Both have a keen sense of the surreal, until now I thought that surrealists were men with funny moustaches but having studied these two artists I am somehow convinced, as Eileen Agar said,  Women are or should be the real Surrealists because of the metamorphic changes in the womb when they are pregnant. (Sassen 2018, surrealistically the book has no page numbers)

From watching the videos, it would seem that it was no coincidence that the gallery chose to pair these two exhibitions Sassen has the disembodied body parts, the shadows the quirky unusual details, the solarisation and the surrealist desert, just as Miller has. The use of colour by Sassen is glorious but is a technological advancement in the medium rather than a deliberate ploy.

Figure 1 HGG

This image appears to show the shadow cast by the photographer as part of the composition in a similar way as in Millers work Eileen Agar and Golden tooth Sculpture. There is effective contrast using the complimentaries red and green even though both are in a high key they are of approximately the same chroma. The subject of the work is headless and pregnant this alludes to both Freud’s fetish theories and the quote above by Eileen Agar. The texture of the figure is reminiscent of Bomberg or Auerbach the lurid pink reminds me of Francis Bacon’s work or it could be a latter day ecorche.

Figure 2 Yellow Vlie

Vlie is the Dutch for estuary which is the subject of the work, but somehow the subject of the work is not the estuary the yellow plane. The image has a flat quality relieved only but the yellow plane, which by its perspective adds depth to the work and the yellow dominates the colour scheme of the work. From the research sources available Sassen was attempting to create a photographic version of Malevich’s black square, she probably succeeded at this because the work can be read by the viewer in any way that they please. Maybe this has something to do with the Hot Mirror I am seeking.

Figure 3 Marte #02

This work is a classic example of surrealist disembodiment, it works in such a way as to confuse the male gaze, again there is good contrast between the flesh tones and the green of the ground. The use of the mirror reminds me of the work of Francesca Woodman, until now i had not considered the surrealistic aspect of Woodman’s work.


Figure 4 Belladonna

There is a lot of abstract space in this work which is somehow reminiscent of Sergeants’ paintings of boats there could even be a boat beneath the fabric this sends the imagination racing as to what the narrative of the piece might be, Is Belladonna the sleeping or dead figure or the name of the boat beneath the sheet.

The sheet has strong diagonals that lead the eye to the subject of the work and the wrinkles in the sheet add texture to the large areas of space.

Figure 5 Inhale

Again the diagonal folds in the textile lead the eye around the picture, giving it a certain dynamism. The head looks peaceful or dead, almost like it has pennies over the eyes. The leaf over the mouth replaces the lips, but I can’t help seeing Salvador Dali in there but then that would be just too surreal for words.

Figure 6 Ra

Ra is of course the Egyptian sun god which could probably account for the heat of the red background and there is an Egyptian feel to the gesture of the disembodied hand. The hand is Childish and playful and the colouring reminds me of a handful of sky. I am mimicking the pose and imagining the shadow under the forearm and on the ground to be that of the photographer. Shadows are somehow magical and dreamlike and important in surrealist images

Sassen obviously had a great deal of input into the exhibition, she can be seen in the promotional video experimenting with a scale model of the gallery. Between her and the curators, they have presented us with a wide view of her work which would certainly bear closer examination.

One of the best things I can take away from this research is Sassen’s quote, You need to photograph every day, make stuff every day and not be precious about it (Fletcher 2018)

The research material that Helen provided was excellent and thorough and I had a great time interacting with it and there were quite a few research alleys I drifted down , while not strictly relevant to the matter at hand were interesting none the less.

The hangout had a few technical problems at the start but once the discussion got going it was quite lively. I only made a couple of notes with the Sharpie because I had researched everything that was being talked about so only the odd point came up that I didn’t know something about.

While I learned a great deal about the two photographers in question I have also developed a working knowledge of Surrealism as a thing. So that I am now able to think surreally, I probably thought surreally before, without recognising I was thinking surreally and just put it down to the voices in my head.

Surrealism was an art movement invented by Andre Breton. Lee Miller was a member of a group of surrealist artists and therefore produced surrealist works, there doesn’t seem anything odd about that.

Viviane Sassen is an artist whose work is classed as surrealist, presumably, from my research so far, by experts and curators. She claims some of her work to be influenced by Malevich’s Black Square, Malevich was not a surrealist. So could Sassen be a natural surrealist? And rather than being influenced by Breton’s writings could the original surrealists be natural surrealists who just grouped under a convenient banner?

Maybe some the answer lies in the Sassen interview, which, in the light of the above I will re-watch to look for clues.

Having re-watched the video looking for clues and after reading the below internet article that Stefan found. I have come to the conclusion that Sassen is a natural surrealist and only the surreal aspect of her work was highlighted in the recent show.

Whilst in the video Sassen expresses an interest in childlike themes, shadows and dreams, she is also conscious that once her work is out there, people will make of it what they will she doesn’t go so far as to say it but the selection of her work, by the curators and herself highlights the similarities between the part of her own work that corresponds with the surrealism of Miller.

It is pretty surreal in this day and age or even in any age to take up brushes and paints to depict your vision, does that mean all artists are in some sense surreal?

There are too many unanswerable questions in this line of thought, no doubt this train of thought will resurface as answers become available.




Sassen, V. (2018) Hot Mirror. London: Prestel Publishing Ltd.

Clayton, E. (2018) Lee Millerand Surrealism in Britain. London: Lund Humphiries.

Danchev, A. (2011) 100 Artists’ Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists. London: Penguin

Prodger, P. (2011) Man Ray and Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism. ondon: MerrelolPublishers Lts.

Internet Research

Cocteau, J. (1930 The Blood of the poet. At: on 07/10/18)

Clugston, H. (2018) Lee Miller and Viviane Sassen review- photography and the female gaze. At: (Accessed on 07/10/18)

Cocteau, J. (1930 The Blood of the poet. At: on 07/10/18)

Freeman, L. (2018) Grim and Glorious: Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain reviewed. At: (Accessed on 07/10/18)

Fletcher, G. (2018) Viviane Sassen on Creativity and experimentation At:  (Accessed on 09.10.18)

Hepworth Gallery. (2018) Lee Miller and Surealism in Britain At:  (Accessed on 07/10/18)

House , C. (2018) Lee Miller/Viviane Sassen, The Hepworth Wakefield, review: a dazzling pairing of the first ladies of surrealism. (Accessed on 07/10/18)


Muraben, B. (2018) An eye for the uncanny: Viviane Sassen on her concurrent exhitition with Lee Miller. At: (Accessed 15/10/18)

Sassen, V. (2018) Hot Mirror At: (Accessed on 09.10.18)

Sassen, V. (2018) in Conversation At: (Accessed on 09.10.18)

Sassen, V. (2014) Totem At: (Accessed on 09.10.18)