Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Modern Heads

Avigdor Arikha
Samuel Beckett
British Museum

Now he saw, advancing towards him over the grass, an indistinct mass. A moment later it was an old man, clothed in rags.
Who can this be, I wonder, said Arthur.
A penny for a poor old man, said the old man.
Arthur gave a penny.
God bless your honour, said the old man
Amen, said Arthur. Good-day.
I remember you when you was a boy, said the old man. I was a boy meself.
Then we were boys together, said Arthur.
You was a fine lovely boy, said the old man, and I was another.
Look at us now, said Arthur.
You was always wetting your trousers, said the old man.
I wets them still, said Arthur.
I cleaned the boots, said the old man.
If it hadn't been you, it would have been another, said Arthur.
Yer father was very good to me.
Like father like son, said Arthur. Good-day.
I helped to lay out this darling place, said the old man.
In that case, said Arthur, perhaps you can tell me the name of this extraordinary growth.
That's what we calls a hardy laurel, said the old man.
Arthur went back into the house and wrote, in his journal: Took a turn in the garden. Thanked God for a small mercy. Made merry with the hardy laurel. Bestowed alms on an old man formerly employed by the Knott family.
But this was not enough. So he came running to Watt.
This was the first time Watt had heard the words Knott family.
There had been a time when they would have pleased him, and the thought they tendered, that Mr. Knott too was serial, in a vermicular sense. But not now. For Watt was an old rose now, and indifferent to the gardener.

– Samuel Becket, from the Addenda to Watt (1953)

Henry Tonks
Head of a young woman in profile
before 1920
British Museum

Henry Tonks
Head of a young woman (artist's model)
before 1935
British Museum

Henry Tonks
Head of a soldier
before 1937
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

John Singer Sargent
Study of a Sicilian peasant
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

James Kerr-Lawson
Portrait of Paul Verlaine
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Portrait of Sir Herbert Thompson, Bart.
oil on panel
(painted onto the wooden cabin door of a ship)
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Henri Fantin-Latour
Head of a young girl
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Girl at a lattice
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

David Wilkie
Studies of heads
before 1841
Yale Center for British Art

John Flaxman
Portrait of the sculptor Thomas Banks
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

James Northcote
Portrait of the sculptor Joseph Nollekens
before 1823
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Charles Townley (collector)
Bronze head from an antique statue of an athlete wearing a leather cap
ca. 1788
drawing with watercolour
British Museum

Giuseppe Maria Crespi
Girl with a cat
before 1747
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Giuseppe Vittore Ghislandi
Boy in red
before 1743
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

"I have set out the foregoing briefly and, I believe, in a not altogether obscure fashion, but I realize the content is such that, while I can claim no praise for eloquence in exposition, the reader who does not understand at first acquaintance, will probably never grasp it however hard he tries.  To intelligent minds that are well disposed to painting, those things are simple and splendid, however presented, which are disagreeable to gross intellects little disposed to these noble arts, even if expounded by the most eloquent writers.  As they have been explained by me briefly and without eloquence, they will probably not be read without some distaste.  Yet I crave indulgence if, in my desire to be understood, I saw to it that my exposition should be clear rather than elegant and ornate.  What follows will, I hope, be less disagreeable to the reader."

– Leon Battista Albert, from De Pictura (On Painting), originally written in Latin in Florence in 1435, edited and translated by Cecil Grayson and published by Phaidon Press in 1972