My Arty Day Out

Those of you who have been reading my little ol' blog from the very beginning will know that from the start, I've loved sharing my days out with you all! One of my very first posts was about my day at the Norfolk County Agricultural Show, and since then I've also shared my trips to Blenheim Palace and Cheltenham Ladies Day! So, when I paid a visit to the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist writing about my tour of their current art exhibition, named 'Degas to Picasso, Creating Modernism in France'! Now, I'm not an art historian by any means, I mainly study Classical Art (i.e. that created by the ancient Greeks and Romans), but I thought that visiting this exhibition was a great opportunity to expand my horizons and learn something new.

The aim of this exhibition is to present the rise of modernism in arts and literature: that is, the rejection of previous artistic canons, instead placing emphasis on the innovative, experimental, and modern, and the creation of art which better reflects contemporary society. The exhibition plots the developments toward modernism from the 1800's to the mid twentieth century, featuring artwork from Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, and Picasso. At the start of the exhibition there is a full introduction to what one should expect when walking through the three rooms of art, meaning that little or no prior knowledge is required for you to take in and understand what you see! Below, I've picked out a few of my favourite pieces from the exhibition which will hopefully get you excited about them too!

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres - The Concubine

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The exhibiton started off in the era of Romanticism. One of the pieces that really caught my eye was a pencil and paper sketch of this oil painting by Ingres, showing a reclining nude woman, peering over her shoulder towards the viewer. Upon first glance, nothing may seem amiss in this painting, until you notice the exaggerated length of the woman's spine! This was supposedly one of the characteristic features of Ingres' work. An increased emphasis on emotions was evident in the Romantic period, and I found it interesting to try and identify the emotions that this woman is trying to express. I thought that at first she was perhaps shy, but then I wasn't sure whether she had a slight flirty smile on her lips or not? Tell me what you think!


Gris & Metzinger - Head of Germaine Raynal & The Yellow Feather

The next two pieces that intrigued me were displayed as part of the Cubism section of the exhibition. Cubism was one of the most influential movements in the early 20th century art world, and artists working in this style had a preoccupation with using abstract mathematical shapes and forms in their work. You have all probably heard of one of the most famous arists from the Cubist style - Pablo Picasso.

What I really liked about Jean Gris' head (on the right below) was that the beauty of the woman represented still shines through the geometric image. Although the face is shown from several different angles and viewpoints, she still connects with the viewer and almost holds your gaze. The second piece that I especially enjoyed came from  Jean Metzinger (on the left below). He is thought to have been influenced by Braque, Picasso and Gris. His 1912 painting, executed in pencil, shows a woman wearing a fashionable hat with a yellow plume. I was really intrigued by this piece because of the contrast between the hat, which is rendered from a single viewpoint, and the face, which is much more abstract and linear. To my eye, there are still some very "real" elements in the piece, however. I think that the play of light on the skin of the woman's neck is really beautiful.

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Pablo Picasso - Female Nude

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It is interesting to compare this drawing to the first nude female I showed in this post, from the Romantic era, to see just how much had changed! Picasso's nude woman is supposedly drawn from life, it represents one of his mistresses. Everything about her is so voluptuous, from her figure to her hair and eyelashes. She looks so relaxed and carefree, obviously totally comfortable in her surroundings! There is a definite focus on her face, with simple lines used for the rest of her body. It seems to me that a lot of love went into the creation of this art!

If you want to visit the exhibition yourself, it is open at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 7th May. You can find the full details and pricing on the Ashmolean's website.

Do you have a favourite artist? Please share in the comments below so that I can check them out!

Until next time,

A x