Dear Cleo

It was good to catch up yesterday, Lunch at Celicias’ is always quite delightful and yesterdays was especially so.

I went on one of my favourite study visits today, the trip to the British Museum Drawing room, I have been before, but it is the trip that never ceases to amaze me. You get to see drawings by absolute masters real close up and see how they were created. Apologies to the masters I copied and in fairness, my copies include a link to the original.

Figure 1 (17 05 09 01) after John Napper, Dried plants 1958

Figure 2 (17 05 09 02) after Jan Van Breughel the elder,

Figure 3 (17 05 09 03) after Paul Signac, Still life with a bowl of fruit 1926

Figure 4 (17 05 09 04) after Frank Auerbach, Study for another tree in Mornington Crescent 2007

Figure 5 (17 05 09 05) after Frank Auerbach, Study for Camden Palace Spring Morning 2000

Figure 6 (17 05 09 06) after Henry Moore, five studies of figures in the underground, and after Boudin, Groups of figures near Planches, Trouville. 1866

Drawing in a Museum or gallery is always problematical even one as  private as the Drawing Room at the British Museum Art as performance kicks in and everybody likes to see a performance, the curious and in the case of galleries and museums the lurking expert. All art is a performance, the only factor is the size of the audience during the performance. Stand on the street corner at Leicester Square and for every portrait drawn there is a crowd of onlookers, only in the studio can an artist have solitude and peace and perhaps the solo performance is the zenith of art, as it is of music think Leonardo and his Giaconda, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, no spectators there then, and who could be bothered to watch Vincent perform?

So why the big modern idea of art as performance, “Can you see what it is yet”, it could be the influence of television or the speed of modern life. Even performance art must prepare the costumes or location although it is possible to go with the flow once the performance starts as almost every artist to a greater or lesser degree goes with the flow as he paints or sculpts even in his studio. I think art  as performance is overrated or about ratings, my blog on Word press makes an enormous play of how many views and visitors I have, I don’t really care, I just hope they come to see the  drawings, “Build it and they will come” (Costner), and not the words, the style, the affectations or my histrionics.

Rant over, one of the hard things about drawing in museums and galleries is that for the most part you are working in a different medium than the original work because of the institution’s rules. With drawings, however, copying seems to induce you to make strokes and marks at the same speed as the original because marks have their own tempo, you can’t drive at six miles an hour on a motorway and so you get an understanding of the way the original work was produced and hopefully that in some way feeds back into your own process.

These are the ones I didn’t copy, but probably will from the computer screen or print outs, having seen the originals should hopefully provide further inspiration, in the privacy of my own studio I can work in whatever materials are appropriate.

Figure 7 (17 05 09 07) Vincent La Crau from Montmajour May 1888

Figure 8 (17 05 09 08) Henry Moore, three figures in front of a bombed out building

Figure 9 (17 05 09 09) Barbara Hepworth, St Remy mountains and trees 1, 1933

Figure 10 (17 05 09 10) Thomas Girtin Blackfriars Bridge and St Pauls 1800-1

Figure 11 (17 05 09 11) Gabriel de Saint Aubin, Interior of the artist’s studio 1780

Figure 12 (17 05 09 12) Frans Snyders, Game and fruit

There was one other drawing on show by Margaret Stones for which there is no image on the web but you will get an idea of the style of this drawing from following the link.

All in all, if you are at all interested in drawings, it is a once in a lifetime experience and well worth the effort.

Another good thing about going to the British Museum, is that if you get off at Tottenham Court Road you have to walk past Cornelissen’s which is a pure treat, I bought some red chalk and some black chalk, the black was reconstituted and a little greasy, but with the red I drew this sketch when I got home I think it is the best sketch of Freya I have ever done.

Figure 13 (17 05 09 13) Freya, Red Chalk, graphite and white pastel on A4 cartridge

On the way home I went to see The American Dream pop to present and Howard Hodgkin Absent Friends, but those reviews will have to wait for another day as I am tired now and I am sure that you, my dear, must be exhausted from reading all this. Sleep tight.

Love as always

Mickos x