Friday, 25 March 2016

Maurice de Sausmarez: An Eclectic British painter

Maurice de Sausmarez (1915-1969) had a retrospective at the Stanley and Audrey Burton gallery at Leeds University, from 20th October 2015 to 20th February 2016. The exhibition marked the centenary of De Sausmarez's birthday and was curated by Dr. Hilary Diaper. 

Exhibition's Posters of Maurice de Sausmarez

Maurice de Sausmarez was born in 1915 in Australia, but trained at the Royal College of Art before the Second World War. In 1947, he was appointed as the Head of the School of Drawing and Painting at Leeds College of Art.  He was the first Head of Department of Fine Arts from 1951 to 1959. Then he became the first Head of Fine Art at Hornsey College of Art (1959 - 1962) and then Principal of the independent Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting until his death in 1969.

Pictures of Maurice de Sausmarez
Maurice de Sausmarez in his painting studio, Leeds, 1950s

Pictures of Maurice de Sausmarez
Pictures of Maurice de Sausmarez

The main interest of the exhibition is how a 20th-painter embodied so many different styles and aspirations, and how he adapted his art. De Sausmarez's first paintings were Impressionist with a play of colour with his beautiful portraits of women, in a Cezanne-esque style. 

Self-Portrait at a table with glasses and flowers, Maurice de Sausmarez, 1949, Private Collection, London.
Self-Portrait at a table with glasses and flowers, Maurice de Sausmarez, 1949, Private Collection, London.  

The scenography takes the visitor to another era, the 60's, with a shift in the artist's style. The exhibition introduces the Fauve de Sausmarez, which moves towards Cubism and plays with colours. The landscapes of this periods are particularly striking with their strong forms and soft pastel colours. 

Still Life (unfinished), Maurice De Sausmarez, c.1966, Private Collection.
Still Life (unfinished), Maurice de Sausmarez, c.1966, Private Collection. 

De Sausmarez's experiment with Cubism and Fauvism lead him to Op Art and his collaboration with Bridget Riley. This prolific cooperation between the two artist led De Sausmarez to write a book about Riley and to promote her work across Britain. His own works moved towards Abstract painting. 

Farm on the Road to Mantaione, Maurice De Sausmarez, 1965, Private Collection.
Farm on the Road to Mantaione, Maurice de Sausmarez, 1965, Private Collection.  

Maurice de Sausmarez's eclecticism was what made him unique. Throughout his life he played with several technique, from charcoal to oil painting,  but always made it his own. This exhibition is a discovery of a painter who always looked forward while knowing his masters and predecessors. 

Stricklands Ltd, Maurice De Sausmrez, 1944, Martin Bloomfield Collection.
Stricklands Ltd, Maurice de Sausmrez, 1944, Martin Bloomfield Collection. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

An American artist in Paris: Kuehne Beveridge and Auguste Rodin

In 1897, Kuehne Beveridge arrives in Paris to study sculpture with Auguste Rodin. At the time, Rodin is already recognised as the greatest sculptor of his time and American artists, mainly female, come in numbers to study with him. They come to Paris to improve their technique and find new benefactors. Rodin is the obvious choice thanks to its reputations and its Academy, Institut Rodin created by Antoine Bourdelle, Jules Desbois and Rossi, which opens in 1899 and closes in April 1900, despite its success. 

Thanks to the letters kept at the Musée Rodin in Paris, which I acceded through The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, we can learn about their master-pupil relationship.

The first letter dates from 1897, so we can assume that she starts her training around that time, or even earlier. Her letters are a mixture of praise to Rodin and stories of her travels around Europe.

Kuehne Beveridge, Anonymous
Kuehne Beveridge, Anonymous  

Beveridge seems to be in utter admiration towards Rodin, which is not surprising knowing the celebrity status of Rodin especially in America. She addresses her letter to “dear master” or “dear Monsieur Rodin”. Her letters show the respect she has for him and for his work. She refers to his sculpture in London, probably the subscription of 1898 by James Whistles for a sculpture of Saint John the Baptist. She also talks about Rodin’s idea to have her pose for a sculpture.
Saint John The Baptist, Auguste Rodin, 1879-1880, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Saint John The Baptist, Auguste Rodin, 1879-1880, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The second theme of her letters is about her work and her artist life. She travels a lot in Europe, to see her mother who lives in Germany, but also in London where rents a studio for three months. An interesting aspect of these letters are the advice or help she asks to Rodin. She often mentions his authority and asks him if he could talk about her work to different salons and institutions. One letter seems to refer to her will to exhibit, at the Salon des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1898, two busts. Beveridge clearly knows how influential Rodin is and tries to “take advantage” of his prestige and connections in the art world. She is not only a devoted pupil, she is also an artist who wants be recognised. 

M. Auguste Rodin, Edward Stein, 1911, Brooklyn Museum, New York
M. Auguste Rodin, Edward Stein, 1911, Brooklyn Museum, New York 

Her last letters, around 1907, revolve around her project for an exhibition as a curator.  She wants to set up an exhibition with Rodin, along with other international artists. She talks about a museum Switzerland which might accept or she might do it in New York. This shift in her career is rarely documented and we do not know if she has ever done this exhibition.

This short overview of Kuehne Beveridge and Auguste Rodin’s letters allows us to understand the complex relationship between a master and his pupil, a female pupil. Unfortunately, we only have around twenty seven letters, only from Kuehne Beveridge to Rodin and none of Rodin’s responses.

More info on Kuehne Beveridge here.  

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Nao Matsunaga: Beyond Ceramics

Volunteering is an amazing opportunity not only to share your passion with others but also to discover artists. The Anthony Shaw space at York Art Gallery is full of interesting artists including Colin Pearson, Jim Malone and Kerrie Jameson but one of my favourites is Nao Matsunaga.

Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012) 2
Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012) 
Nao Matsunaga was born in Osaka, Japan and now lives and works in London. He studied ceramics at the University of Brighton and at the Royal College of Art in London. His work changes our perception of ceramic and uses other natural elements such as wood or paper. In an article about his residence at the V&A, he talks about his interest in ceremonial objects and the natural world.

Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012)
Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012) 
The Anthony Shaw collection is a mix of ceramics and natural elements. Matsunaga fits in the second phase of Shaw’s collection, when he started to interact with sculptural ceramics, moving away from traditional pots. Matsunaga translates natural elements into totems and ceremonial objects. His Totem is a good example of how to use clay with a sensual touch, you could almost see Matsunaga’s fingerprints on the artwork, yet with an end result that is almost frightening, a massive totem which seems to look down at you. Ceramic is now a “strange” material, not the domestic material that we are used to.   

Totem Nao Matsunaga
Totem Nao Matsunaga 

The other pieces exhibited in the space are related to each other; a drawing and a sculpture, Duality (2010). The sculpture was bought by Anthony who then acquired the drawing, without realising the links between the two. The two pieces are now exhibited together and interact with one another. The drawing shows the mental process of Matsunaga, an almost calligraphic drawing in black ink. However, the sculpture itself is a challenging and intriguing piece, closer to the artist’s interest in ceremonial objects. The piece seems to be part of a ritual and as a viewer you want to understand how this form made of clay can “float” on its wooden structure. The mystery surrounding the artwork is what strikes the eye, along with the reinterpretation of clay as a light material.  

uality Nao Matsunaga (2010) & Study on Duality Nao Matsunaga (2012)
Duality Nao Matsunaga (2010) & Study on Duality Nao Matsunaga (2012)