Gayford writes: "Although the works in the exhibition are ostensibly portraits, they have little sense of individual personality, psychology or even appearance. The people seem more like everyman and everywoman, staring out. The subject is more, as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, ‘pure presence’: another human being looking back at you. That, and the sheer impossibility of adequately fixing that experience in paint or clay. The result is that the exhibition is simultaneously repetitive and compelling. Giacometti was saying more or less the same thing, again and again, but with an intensity that never flags."
Lampert writes: "With a portrait his aim is not exactly to convey likeness, more an experience: how the person looks (including under the skin); what’s going on in their life (and his); the conditions of that evening. Like an apparition, something totally unforeseen, possibly lasting for just seconds, may spring from making a few brush strokes, establishing an area of truth which ‘might actually expand into a whole truth’. The goal is a set of connections between the masses, the space, the sensations and a picture with a tense surface character."
Martin Oldham reviews Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery London, on view through January 10, 2016.
Oldham writes: "If there is a disruptive element here, it is Francisco de Goya y Lucientes himself. He may have been the servant of the Spanish elite, but his frank and often unflattering portraits betray a human vulnerability behind his sitters’ social performances. By focusing solely on the portraiture, the curators successfully show just how diverse and unconventional Goya’s approach was, revealing the artist’s restless innovation and commitment to creating unique images that play off the tensions between personality and public persona. Few of them are pretty, some are decidedly peculiar, but viewed within the continuum of his career each work can be appreciated as an individual expression of Goya’s wilful defiance of artistic norms."
Malone writes that the show "is an opportunity to reassess the relationship between Sargent’s skill and his decision to retain a fidelity to nature that was in the last decades of the 19th century becoming understandably discredited by the sentimentality of official Salon painting. And it comes at just the right moment, because we have reached a point in our postmodern tangles where an unprecedented lack of skill, particularly among painters, is severely limiting the possibilities of a medium that ought to be as alive and as fluid as contemporary music. What’s needed is a fresh look at the work of painters like Sargent, who embody that crucial moment in art history just before things began to change so rapidly."
Peter Schjeldahl considers James Abbott McNeill Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist's Mother), 1871, currently on loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris to the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA.
Schjeldahl writes: "The painting represents the peak of Whistler’s radical method of modulating tones of single colors. The paint looks soft, almost fuzzy—as if it were exhaled onto the surface. There is some bravura brushwork, where Anna’s lace-cuffed hands clutch a handkerchief, with unprimed canvas peeking through, and daubed hints of Japanese-style floral patterning on a curtain that commands the left side of the picture. A few of the daubs faintly echo the pink of Anna’s flesh. She wears a gold wedding ring: a spark of harmony with the muted gilding of the frame that Whistler designed for the picture. Practically subliminal whispers of reds and blues underlie areas of the silver-gray wall behind her, and a dark purple smolders in the curtain, where the artist’s signature emblem—a butterfly—hovers."
Yaniv observes: "Each of Burg’s portraits evokes a distinct sense of staged theatrical drama, in which both the artist and her animate or inanimate models co-inhabit. She affirms that her models have to be people who are close to her, preferably women, and adds that dressing them up becomes like 'a bond of two kids enraptured in a make-believe game.'"
From the poscast post intrduction: "In his own words, Auerbach is suspicious of too much thinking: 'thinking about thinking', he says, 'isn’t true thinking…If one’s really thinking, one’s not aware of it'. Doing, for the artist, is everything."
Johnson writes that Neel's images of "parks, beaches, political rallies, and even illustrations for the Brothers Karmazov (1938)—that offer some respite from a show otherwise defined by portraits that expose the sitter in some way. Take, for example, her portraits of Kenneth Doolittle, a drug-addicted sailor who was also her lover. In one watercolor rendering, he sits in a rocking chair, smug, with his legs split open. He looks like the actor Sean Penn. In another piece, he sits hunched over, his eyes half open and his body withered. He’s pathetic, and Neel’s pen is unsparing. For me, those portraits were amongst the best in the show because they show people exactly as Neel sees them. And Neel is unusually perceptive—sensitive to both her own feelings and those of others."
Keane writes that "the show offers uninitiated visitors a chance to discover an American artist who redirected techniques of twentieth-century vanguard painting into a form of portraiture that is as much about the rhythms and processes of human recognition as it is about the diverse characters who were her subjects... her ability to paint this glimpse may explain her paintings’ intentional 'absences,' as discussed by critic Ann Eden Gibson. Gibson claims, in her penetrating essay, that Elaine de Kooning deliberately and variously integrated into her portraits incomplete features and implicit cognitive gaps. According to Gibson, she did so to generate an invisible, evocative vortex of sorts in each portrait, within which (as Roland Barthes claims happens in portrait photography) three human subjectivities can merge in a visual continuum – that of painter, sitter and viewer."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.