Kabuki, the art of Japanese Theater

#Kabuki is the traditional dance-drama theatre of Japan known mostly for it’s elaborate make-up worn by the performers. Kabuki began in 1603 as a new form of entertainment performed by an all female cast portraying both men and women in short comic plays about ordinary life. It became very popular due to it’s ribald and suggestive themes added to the fact that many of the performers were working prostitutes. In 1629 female kabuki was banned as being to erotic and thus began the all male kabuki which we know today.

The lead actor in kabuki must be able to convey a wide range of emotions. These emotions are also expressed through the colours of their costumes. Gaudy and vivid hues convey foolishness or joy while harsh or muted colours convey seriousness and focus.

The dramatic stage makeup emphasises the actors emotions. Red for passion, heroism, and other positive traits. Blue or black eschew villainy, jealousy, and other bad traits while green is the colour of the supernatural and purple the colour of royalty.

Every kabuki actor takes a stage name. They are usually handed down from father to son and to following generations. These names hold great honour and are associated with certain roles or acting styles. Each new inheritor of the name must live up to the expectations embodied within that name. An actor might have three different names during his career.

The four woodcuts show kabuki actors in their dramatic makeup and poses which they became reknowned for.

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Xu Beihong painter

We visit a man who has become one of the great Chinese painters of the 20th century. #XuBeihong (1895-1953) is known mostly for his portrayals of horses and birds but he was at the forefront of Chinese artists which felt a need for a new artistic expression not only for themselves but for the new modern China.

Xu began his tutelage under his father at the age of six. Learning from classic works and calligraphy before moving on to painting after a few years. Xu studied in Tokyo and Paris but he always returned to China to teach and paint.

Xu was a master of both oils and ink, even so, most of his works are in the Chinese traditional style. In his endeavour to create a modern national art form, Xu combined Western perspective and compositional techniques with his loved traditional Chinese style. In his teach, Xu emphasised that artistic technique should be subject to the artist concept and life experience.

The above work #gallopinghorse is a #wallscroll from my collection. Whether it is an authentic Beihong or a fake is up to the professionals but it does have the correct signature and seals.

Wall scrolls were/are treasured pieces and due to their delicateness were/are only hung in the home on special occasions.

Copies of his works are plentiful and authentication should be done by professionals. Below is a piece which is certainly influenced by Beihong (I don’t think the seal is correct). Both are beautiful pieces and a tribute to a great artist.

       

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William Brassey Hole artist

This week I purchased a four volume set of books entitled ‘The Poetry of Robert Burns’. There is nothing overly special about the set and I have several other books regarding Burns’ poetry. The thing that these volumes had which peaked my interest was that within each were engravings done by #WilliamBrasseyHole. Not facsimiles but real plate impressions. William Hole (1846-1917) was an English illustrator, etcher and engraver. He was born in Salisbury but after the death of his father, his family moved to Edinburgh. He was educated in Edinburgh and served a 5 year apprenticeship as a civil engineer but truly wanted to be an artist. He was a successful painter and around 1878 he tried his hand at etching and engraving.Hole specialised in industrial, historical, and biblical scenes. Although he was an Englishman, his artwork was focused on Scottish story and events. His work as an etcher and engraver was/is highly regarded. His translation of one art-form into another was considered wonderful and should rank him among the greats of that art.

Hole is able to imbue his etchings with depth and emotion. One can feel the despondency of the farmer, the cold of the winter’s night and even death exudes an aura of other worldliness.

A great talent using only the tonality of line and ink.

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JMW Turner engravings

This past week, I came across two engravings after #JMWTurner. That is not too extraordinary for I have other etchings after Turner but these are notable for both bear the Turner Studio blind stamp.Both line engravings are ‘first state’. The first displayed is #Stamford, Lincolnshire. A line engraving by William Miller. It bears the citations ‘ painted by JMW Turner’ (bl) and ‘engraved by William Miller’ (br) and the Turner Studio blind stamp just off the bottom edge of the image – but no title – even though there is room for it on the sheet.

Turner used the best engravers to copy his works. These two engravings come from #PicturesqueViewofEnglandandWales – a set of 96 engravings (120 intended engravings of which only 96 were published). Possibly the most ambitious project which Turner came to be involved with. Unfortunately it was not a success. Financial and editorial problems ended with Turner buying back the plates to his drawings at the last moment (just prior to them being auctioned off to the public). The plates remained in Turners possession until his death. They were later destroyed. The second image is of the magnificent #ShipoftheFens #ElyCathedral. Again a first state. There is lettering at all – no credits or title – but again has the blind stamp of the Turner Studio just below the image. This plate was engraved by Thomas Higham and certainly displays Turner’s expertise as an architectural draughtsman.

Two beautiful works by talented artists. Experts in their own rights and fields.

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Federico Barocci, Mary with the Christ Child

We revisit an artwork , today, to add clarification. #Barocci (1533-1612) was an Italian painter and print maker. He was highly respected and influential in the Renaissance art world of the time. His work certainly influenced many artists who came after him, such as Rubens (Baroque era).

The work in my collection (shown) is a superb monochrome watercolour displaying a mother and child in a desert scene. I took the title from other etchings displaying almost the same image. They were all titled #HagarandIshmael, so I trusted the information. But as with numerous original artworks and their offspring via various artistic fields, they are renamed. The finished oil painting of this image hangs in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden. The title of the oil painting is #MarywiththeChristChild. Why or how the title was changed, we might never know. Certainly the image might represent either of the known titles.

Either way, both are superb artworks.

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Dean Wolstenholme, the Elder, painter

Because I collect in the manner I do, I find items which are considered valueless. Often times they are damaged and imperfect and in need of love and attention. Such is the case with today’s artwork.

I picked up this piece earlier this week. It was close to being thrown in the trash. Damaged and dirty, it was considered unwanted. It, in fact, is an artwork (approx. 220 years old) by a known artist and it has not been seen for over 100 year or more.

#DeanWolstenholme (1757-1837), the Elder, was a Yorkshireman by birth but lived most of his life in Essex and Hertfordshire – Cheshunt, Turnford, and Waltham Abbey. His early working life was centred around the sporting and hunting pastimes of the rich. He was at this point an amateur artist. Due to financial problems, Wolstenholme turned to painting professionally around 1800. At this point he also moved to London (East Street, Red Lion Square). In 1803, he began to exhibit (picture entitled – Coursing) at the Royal Academy and there after annually until 1824. His speciality was animal pictures, hunting/sporting scenes. After 1826, Wolstenholme painted little. He died in 1837 at a good age of 80 and is buried in Old St. Pancras churchyard. His son Dean Wolstenholme, the Younger, was to follow in his fathers artistic footprints to become a very famous painter of country sporting life, in his own right.

The painting I acquired is called #TomMoody’sFuneral. You can see the damage and it will soon be off to the restorer for cleaning, mending, and reframing. This is what many years of neglect can do to a fine piece of art.

The scene depicts the moment when, Tom Moody’s body (d. 1796) was consigned to the grave. It was his wish that the gathered give vent to the ‘view-halloo’ and ‘tally-ho’ as he was laid to earth. Moody was long time whipper-in to Mr George Forester’s hunt in Shropshire. His odd request led to a ballad being composed about him which was performed at Drury Lane.

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Isaac Beckett mezzotints

Today, we travel to the beginning of an art form. It was a privilege to add a piece by #IsaacBeckett (1653-1719) to my collection this week. Born in Kent, Beckett was apprenticed to a London based printer. While working there, he met Edward Luttrell who convinced him to learn the new art of mezzotint. Beckett began to work with John Lloyd. Troubles plagued his private life and the partnership was dissolved. Luttrell came to his aid again. At this point his circumstance changed. Beckett wed. His new wife was a woman of means which enabled Beckett to publish his own prints. Beckett collaborated with Luttrell on many pieces. Luttrell being adept at drawing and the execution of heads and portraits started many prints which Beckett would then fine tune before publishing.Beckett and an artist by name of Robert Wilson were the first two artists in England who specialised in mezzotint. Beckett was mainly a portraitist although he did engrave biblical and allegorical subjects. All his plates can be dated between 1681 to 1688.

The mezzotint shown bears the title ‘#TheDutchSchool’ and is after artist Egbert van Heemskerck the Elder. Mezzotint became popular due to the fact that great and fine variation in shading could be produced allowing for very subtle details to be brought forth.

From my research there exists at present 2 states of this print. Three copies of the second state and four of the first state are known. All of these previously known prints have been altered making the print in my collection the only unaltered first state.

The hand of a master.

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Battle of Anzio

In one month we will see the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Anzio, Italy. And today , I came across a drawing related to that event. The #BattleofAnzio was a part of the Italian Campaign and occurred between January 22nd and June 5th, 1944. It began with #OperationShingle – the amphibious landing of Allied troops which would hopefully allow the Allied troops to outflank the German forces and lead to an attack on Rome. The surprise landing went unexpectedly well with very few casualties. Those casualties came over the next 5 months of struggle (7000 killed, 36,000 wounded or missing). The image shown is an ink drawing by Sergeant K Moss (4697586 – his military ID number) in 1944. Sergeant Moss was a member of the #FieldSecurityService. Their main aim was to gather intelligence/information from prisoners of war and civilians friendly to the Allies. The data collected would then hopefully assist the Allied troops to overcome the Germans. After the war the FSS immediately took to investigating Nazi war crimes and those who perpetrated them.

The drawing shows the Head Quarters of the British FSS near Anzio.

I have found little about Sergeant K. Moss. He may not have survived to the end of the war but hopefully the information which he and his compatriots gathered would have led to Allied victories and many U.S., British and Canadian lives saved at the Battle of Anzio and after.

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Sgraffito

A technique not always associated with painting but it has been used by some fine artists. One might not even realise that one is looking at this technique. #Sgraffito is the scratching away of one layer to reveal another. In painting, one coat of paint is applied and left to dry. When dry a second layer of a varying colour is applied. The artist then uses a palette knife or a scraping tool ( even the non-bristled end of the paint brush) to scrape away the top coat to reveal an image displayed in the original colour. The piece displayed here is one I picked up a few days ago. It does not use multiple layers of paint. It begins with a layer of grey watercolour on artist paper. The artist has then rubbed and etched/cut into the paper (thus allowing shadows to appear in the deeper cuts) to reveal the scene he has chosen. Here a ship is seen floundering close to a pier and the sgraffito is well used in the portrayal of the waves and the outlining of the ship and pier.

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Henry Perronet Briggs portraitist

As I acquire pieces for my collection, I find myself leaning towards original works. Even works from artists that I may not have heard of. Certainly, #HenryPerronetBriggs (1793-1844) was one of those artists. Briggs was born in the town of Walworth, County Durham. He exhibited talent early on and by 1811 he was a student at the Royal Academy in London. He exhibited at the Academy in 1814 and every year after till his death as well as at the British Institution. Briggs was elected a member of the Royal Academician (RA) in 1832. From this point on he devoted his artistic life to portraiture even though his historical scenes were quite fine.

I acquired a small graphite sketch showing a woman’s portrait. It still amazes me that through so little so much can be expressed. I think he captures something in her face. The eyes and lips – finely done – with a bit of high-light on the nose and there is beauty shown. The capturing of an essence and displaying it with such ease. He certainly was a talented man.

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