Morning Sun, Autumn by Camille Pissarro (1897) described in A Legacy by Sybille Bedford.
The windows stood wide open to the long northern afternoon. A smell of lime came in from the garden. Sarah looked at her Pissarro - a wheelbarrow, a blue dress, insubstantial, in the fluffy grass below light fruit trees.
[Pissarro painted quite a number of pictures with wheelbarrows, this seems to fit the description best, it is in the Musée d’Orsay.]
More Impressionism from A Legacy can be seen at:
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (1503/4 perhaps continuing until 1517) discussed in City of Death the second story of Season 17 of Doctor Who.
[Ramona, an alien, is unimpressed by earthly art, the Doctor brings her to see The Mona Lisa]
Doctor: The Mona Lisa.
Romana: It’s quite good.
D: Quite good? That’s one of the great treasures of the universe and you say quite good?
R: The world, Doctor, the world.
D: What are you talking about?
R: Not the universe in public, Doctor. It only calls attention.
D: I don’t care. It’s one of the great treasures of the universe!
D: I don’t care. Let them gawp, let them gape. What do I care.
R: Why hasn’t she got any eyebrows?
D: What? Is that all you can say? No eyebrows? We’re talking about the Mona Lisa. It’s the Mona
D: Good heavens, you’re right. She hasn’t got any eyebrows. Do you know, I never noticed that before.
Guide: La Giaconda, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 1519. Ahem. Excuse me, Monsieur?
D: Yes? What is it?
G: Oh, could you please move along?
G: Other people wish to enjoy this picture.
and still from:
This Doctor Who story has another fine visual art moment where John Cleese and Eleanor Bron cameo as two gallery visitors who discuss the tardis in the belief that it is an art object
Yes, I see what you mean. Divorced from its function and seen purely as a piece of art, its structure of line and colour is curiously counterpointed by the redundant vestiges of its function.
It can be seen, in part, here:
There is another Doctor Who Art in Fiction here:
SOS Starification Object Series (1974-1979) and What Does This Represent / What Do you Represent and Exchange Value, self-portraits from the So Help Me Hannah series, by Hannah Wilke discussed in I Love Dick by Chris Kraus.
[The book has a long and broad discussion of Hannah Wilke and her art, this is only two short extracts.]
In SOS Starification Object Series (1974-1979) she [Hannah Wilke] turns to face the camera in 3/4 profile, bare tits and jeans unzipped with one hand on her crotch. Her eyes are bare and heavy. Her long hair’s set in housewife rollers, obviously a home job. Eight bits of chewed-up gum, shaped to simulate vaginas are stuck across her face like scars or pimples. “Gum has a shape before you chew it. But when it comes out, it comes out as real garbage,” she later said. “In this society we use people up the way we use up chewing gum.” In her presence, Hannah always was extremely beautiful.
In 1979, Claes Oldenburn, Hannah’s partner since the late 1960s, changed their door-locks while she was out one day and married someone else. she recreated the collection of 50 rayguns she’d collected for his work and posed naked with them in a series of ‘performalist self portraits’ called So Help Me Hannah in which she “demonstrates” and overturns her favorite classic citations of male philosophy and art.
Hannah Wilke on Ad Reinhart: sitting naked in a corner, feeling hopeless, head in hands, high-heeled legs apart. She’s surrounded by toy pistols and bazookas. “WHAT DOES THIS REPRESENT / WHAT DO YOU REPRESENT” that titles reads.
Hannah Wilke on Karl Marx: posed shakily on the pistons of a combustion engine in her strappy high-heeled sandals, naked body part of the machine, Hannah lunges forward in profile, toy guns in hand. EXCHANGE VALUES. (Exchange values? Whose?)
Car art: Cadillac Ranch by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm and Car Renovations by Suzanne Lacy with help from the Feminist Arts Program class at CalArts (1972) described in I Love Dick by Chris Kraus.
[The two descriptions occur at different places in the book, much of the book takes the form of letters to Dick, a literary critic with a cowboy persona with whom the narrator is in love.]
Dear Dick, today I drove across the panhandle of North Texas. I was incredibly excited when I hit the flatland west of Amarillo knowing that the Buried Cadillac piece would come up soon. Ten of them - a pop art monument to your car, fins flapping, heads buried in the dust. I passed it on the highway, turned back and took two photographs of it for you.
That spring everyone in Judy Chicago’s class collaborated on a 24 hour performance called Route 126. The curator Moira Roth recalls: “the group created a sequence of events throughout the day along the highway. The day began with Suzanne Lacy’s Car Renovation in which the group decorated an abandoned car … and ended with the women standing on a beach watching Nancy Youdelman, wrapped in yards of gossamer silk, slowly wade out to sea until she drowned, apparently …” There’s a fabulous photo taken by Faith Wilding of the car - a Kotex-pink jalopy washed up on desert rocks. The trunk’s flung open and underneath it’s painted cuntblood red. Stands of desert grass spill from the crumbled hood like Rapunzel’s fucked-up hair. According to Performance Art - Source Book For a Decade of California Art, this remarkable event received no critical coverage at the time though contemporaneous work by Baldessari, Burden, Terry Fox boasts bibliographies several pages long.
[The image for Cadillac Ranch is from:
and the one for Car Renovation was taken from
In Other Las Angeleses: Multicentric Performance Art by Meiling Chang, the photo is credited to Lacy rather than Faith Wilding, so it isn’t the photo referred to in the text. There are pictures at:
Palace at 4 A.M. by Alberto Giacometti (1932) described in So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Keepers Maxwell.
When wandering through the Museum of Modern Art, I come upon the piece of sculpture by Alberto Giacometti with the title “Palace at 4 A.M.,” I always stand and look at it - partly because it reminds me of my father’s house in its unfinished state and partly because it is beautiful. It is about thirty inches high and sufficiently well known that I probably don’t need to describe it. But anyway, it is made of wood, and there are no solid walls, only thin uprights and horizontal beams. There is the suggestion of a classic pediment and of a tower. Flying around in a room at the top of the palace there is a queer-looking creature with the head of a monkey wrench. A bird? a cross between a male ballet dancer and a pterodactyl? Below it, in a kind of freestanding closet, the backbone of some animal. To the left, backed by three off-white parallelograms, what could be an imposing female figure or one of the more important pieces of a chess set. And, in about the position a basketball ring would occupy, a vertical, hollowed-out spatulate shape with a ball in front of it.
It is all terribly spare and strange, but no stranger than the artist’s account of how it came into being.
The MoMA page may provide “artist’s account” alluded to in the last line, we are told that according to Giacometti, The Palace at 4 a.m. relates to
a period of six months passed in the presence of a woman who, concentrating all life in herself, transported my every moment into a state of enchantment. We constructed a fantastical palace in the night—a very fragile palace of matches. At the least false movement a whole section would collapse. We always began it again.
Thanks to my Dad for suggesting this one.]
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez (1656) discussed in The Order of Things by Michel Foucault, translated from French, but the translator is uncredited.
[The painting is discussed at length in the first chapter and is used to introduce the theme of what is seen, what is represented and what is hidden but present. This is only a short extract.]
One must say: there is where discourse ends, and perhaps labour begins again. Yet there are still a few more words to be said - words whose status it is probably difficult to justify since it is a matter of introducing at the last moment, rather like some deus ex machina, a character who has not yet appeared in the great Classical interplay of representations. And let us, if we may, look for the previous existing law of that interplay in the painting of Las Meninas, in which representation is represented at every point: the painter, the palette, the broad dark surface of the canvas with its back to us, the painting hanging on the wall, the spectators watching, who are framed, in turn, by those who are watching them; and lastly, in the centre, in the very heart of the representation, nearest to what is essential, the mirror, showing us what is represented, bus as a reflection so distant, so deeply buried in an unreal space, so foreign to all the gazes being directed elsewhere, that it is no more than the frailest duplication of representation. All the interior lines of the painting, and above all those that come from the central reflection, point towards the very thing that is represented, but absent. At once object - since it is what the artist represented is copying onto his canvas - and subject - since what the painter had in front of his eyes, as he represented himself in the course of his work, was himself, since the gazes portrayed in the picture are all directed towards the fictitious position occupied by the royal personage, which is also the painter’s real place, since the occupier of that ambiguous place in which the painter and sovereign alternate, in a never-ending flicker, as it were, is the spectator, whose gaze transforms the painting into an object, the pure representation of that essential absence. Even so, that absence is not a lacuna, except for the discourse laboriously decomposing the painting, for it never ceases to be inhabited, and really too, as is proved by the concentration on the painter thus represented, by the respect of the characters portrayed in the picture, by the presence of the great canvas with its back to us, and by our gaze, for which the painting exists and for which, in the depths of time, it was arranged.
Thanks to Daniel Rubinstein for the suggestion.]
Another Velázquez painting, The Surrender of Breda, is briefly mentioned here:
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt van Rijn (1632) described in The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald and translated by Michael Hulse.
If we stand today before the large canvas of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson in the Mauritshuis we are standing precisely where those who were present at the dissection in the Waagebouw stood, and we believe that we see what they saw then: in the foreground, the greenish, prone body of Aris Kindt, his neck broken and his chest risen terribly in rigor mortis. And yet it is debatable whether anyone ever really saw that body, since the art of anatomy, then in its infancy, was not least a way of making the reprobate body invisible. It is somehow odd that Dr Tulp’s colleagues are not looking at Kindt’s body, that their gaze is directed just past it to focus on the open anatomical atlas in which the appalling physical facts are reduced to a diagram, a schematic plan of the human being, such as envisaged by the enthusiastic amateur anatomist René Descartes, who was also, so it is said, present that January morning in Waagebouw. In his philosophical investigations, which form one of the principal chapters of the history of subjection, Descartes teaches that one should disregard the flesh, which is beyond our comprehension, and attend to the machine within, to what can fully be understood, be made wholly useful for work, and, in the event of any fault, either repaired or discarded. Though the body is open to contemplation, it is, in a sense, excluded, and in the same way the much-admired verisimilitude of Rembrandt’s picture proves on closer examination to be more apparent than real. Contrary to normal practice, the anatomist shown here has not begun his dissection by opening the abdomen and removing the intestines, which are most prone to putrefaction, bus has started (and this too may imply a punitive dimension to the act) by dissecting the offending hand. Now, this hand is most peculiar. It is not only grotesquely out of proportion compared with the hand closer to us, but it is also anatomically the wrong way round: the exposed tendons, which ought to be those of the left palm, given the position of the thumb, are in fact those of the back of the right hand. On other words, what we are faced with is a transposition taken from the anatomical atlas, evidently without further reflection, that turns this otherwise true-to-life painting (if one may so express it) into a crass misrepresentation at the exact centre point of its meaning, where the incisions are made. It seems inconceivable that we are faced here with an unfortunate blunder. Rather, I believe that there was a deliberate intent behind this flaw in the composition. That unshapely hand signifies the violence that has been done to Aris Kindt. It is with him, the victim, and not the Guild that gave Rembrandt his commission, that the painter identifies. his gaze alone is free of Cartesian rigidity. He alone sees that greenish annihilated body, and he alone sees the shadow in the half-open mouth and other the dead man’s eyes.
This painting has previously appeared:
though the piece copied here is earlier; some of the same points are made about the hand and the averted gaze of the anatomist’s colleagues, though the conclusion is different.
La Mariée by Marc Chagall (1950) discussed in Notting Hill.
[Anna, played by Julia Roberts, is a famous movie star who, though a series of chance encounters, ends up in the Notting Hill home of William, a book seller played by Hugh Grant. She spots a reproduction of the painting on his wall, it later turns out she owns the original.]
Anna: I can’t believe you have that picture on your wall.
William: You like Chagall?
Anna: I do. It feels like how being in love should be. Floating through a dark blue sky.
William: With a goat playing the violin.
Anna: Yes - happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat.
and still from
Another bride painting is featured at
The green in Annunciation (c. 1472–1475) and The Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci (c. 1474-1478) by Leonardo da Vinci described in The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse.
[A friend of the narrator is describing a fabulous fabulous seen in a dream.]
Higher still were clusters of mistletoe, mimosa and lobelia, and cascading down into them from the next level of this luxuriant forest realm, in clouds of snow-white or pink, were hundreds of flowering plants and lianas from branches that reached out like yard arms of great sailing ships, festooned with bromeliads and orchids. And above these, at a height the eye could hardly attain, the tops of palms swayed to and fro, their delicate, feathery, fan-shaped fronds that that unfathomable green which seems underlaid with burnished brass and which Leonardo used for the crowns of his trees, in the Annunciation, for instance, or the portrait of Gineva de Benci.
The Rings of Saturn also appears here:
where an academic in her office is compared to Durer's melancholic angel.
Attirement of the Bride by Max Ernst (1940) described in Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
[This is from a fictional essay by Daniel Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl; Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas (Journal of the American Ornithological Society, Fall 1983), in which he argues that ornithology should incorporate our visceral and atavistic response to any encounter with birds.]
When we stare into the catatonic black bead of a Parakeet’s eye we must teach ourselves to glimpse the cold, alien madness that Max Ernst perceived when he chose to robe his naked brides in confections of scarlet feather and the transplanted monstrous heads of exotic birds.