As anticipated, Part 2 of the suggestive highlights is here. Now I will confess to you that I clear out all the photographs on my mobile every few weeks and had quite lost the ones from my January visit to the museum. So I took it upon myself to visit the museum anew and bring you fresh out of the oven insight into my other highlights from this museum & art gallery.
Autumn, Joos de Momper the Younger (1564–1635)
This series of paintings represented the four seasons, this one being Autumn, shock horror. This is featured as one of the Lost Masterpieces, a 2019 television programme. I think it is safe to say that at least one has been found now. As this painting depicts an autumnal scene in an idyllic village, during the time where cider is being made, it must feature here. Observe the slant in the thatched roof in the centre, the motion in the trees and the hustle and bustle among the people. It is also worth noting how lovely the water to the right has been rendered and the detail of the dead falling branches. Equally wonderful is the lighting in this piece, showing clearly which trees have been obscured by the surrounding forest. A true delight of a painting.
The Pont Boieldieu, Rouen, Sunset Camille Pissarro, 1896
Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist painter. His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Pissarro studied from great forerunners, including Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. He later studied and worked alongside Georges Seurat and Paul Signac when he took on the Neo-Impressionist style at the age of 54 (Wikipedia).
What struck me about this painting was that the further away you walk from it the more cohesive it seems. The closer you get the more you are able to see each individual brush stroke and their contribution to the painting as a whole. The vision Pissarro must have had when painting this astonishes me. To know how beautifully the sunset, the reflection on the water and the shade case from the bridge would come through in the finished product. Even the motion in the water and the hubbub of people is done beautifully. I was struck also by the complexity of the smoke and the simplicity of the sky above as contrasted with what is occurring below. This was really quite spectacular to witness in person and I highly recommend going to the venue itself just to see it.
An Athlete Wrestling with a Python, Frederic, Lord Leighton, 1877
Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), was one of the most famous British artists of the nineteenth century. The recipient of many national and international awards and honours, he was well acquainted with members of the royal family and with most of the great artists, writers and politicians of the late Victorian era. Frederic Leighton
I thought I would mix up my highlights with a sculpture. This is, as the name suggests, depicting an athlete fighting with a python. I’m sure we have all experienced this in our time. It was intended as a challenge to the story of Laocoön. His grisly fate was told by Quintus Smyrnaeus in Posthomerica, where the Goddess Athena (or in later versions Poseidon) sends two giant servants to punish Laocoön and his two sons. This sculpture is so masterfully rendered that it had to be a highlight. The photograph above and that below showcase some of the most sticking features of the sculpture, namely the extraordinary detail of the python’s scales, the vascularity of the protagonist’s arms and the protrusion of the knuckles against the skin where he is struggling against the python.
You can’t see it from these pictures, but the python’s tongue is actually on the athlete’s arm. Look at the veins in the neck bulging too! The anger in the eyes is so palpable. However, one criticism I would make is that if I were fighting a python, I should think to put on at least a pair of trousers before doing so.
The English Ship, Hampton Court in a Gale, Willem van de Velde II (1633-1707)
I have spoke previously, in my review of the Wallace Collection Highlights, of my admiration for the Van De Veldes. This is another masterpiece by the Van de Velde son. This is a piece in constant motion, everything here is moving and yet captured as a still in the most remarkable way. The ship is veering to the left, while fighting against the waves and , presumably, an imminent attack from the other ship in the distance. All the while, the wind has almost taken control of the sails. And finally, as represented by the close up photograph below, every crew member is in motion doing their bit to stabilise the ship. I was especially drawn to the three crew at the front of the ship wrestling with the ropes to get the sail under control. Look also at the way the flags move in the wind. This is a truly spectacular painting to see in person, where the colours are far more expressive.
This concludes Part 2 of my highlights from the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery but I do not think I am quite finished in extolling its virtues. Please do go and visit this free museum and enjoy its many treasures, you won’t be disappointed.