Friday, 21 November 2014

Big Daisy Painting Sells for Surprising Amount Considering It's By A Woman

A new world record auction price for a painting by a woman was set yesterday.  

£28.8 million was paid for this top-notch floral piece by Georgia O'Keeffe.  Originally estimated to fetch around £9.5 million, two keen bidders fought it out, smashing her previous record of a mere £3.9 million set in 2001.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1 (1932)

You may think this is a lot of money for a painting - and it is, although Jimson Weed has been to market twice before, achieving nowhere near the new record price – it sold for £620,000 in 1987 and £625,000 in 1994.

But in the art market, being a woman artist is bad news - the plain fact is men sell for more.  The art auction record is £90.8m for a Francis Bacon piece.   

Now, there are simply more artists who are male.  Lots of competition.  You could argue that that might make women's art more desirable, being rarer.  But no.  So why the discrepancy?  Is it sexism, and the market just values female art less?  Or that women don't have enough relevant things to say?  Or they say them in ways that male purchasers (because it's mainly men buying) can't identify with, ie. big daisies?  Women's art tends to be smaller, more emotional, less  in-your-face.  That would tend to suggest that market forces are telling women that their sort of art is less appealing, less marketable, less sellable.  Women - know your place.  Or is it that women just don't make good art?  Daisies are just a bit rubbish.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this painting is that it's being flogged off not by a private seller, but by the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The 17-year-old museum decided to sell three paintings from its collection of 1,149 works by the artist. Before the sale, its director, Robert A Kret, told the New York Times: “The museum holds half the artist’s output throughout her life. But still there are gaps that need to be filled.”

Selling your best exhibits when there's a finite supply is a bit odd.  O'Keeffe died aged 98, but a lifetimes output of around 2,500 artworks over such a long career is tiny.  Artists don't retire, so I make that around 3 paintings a year.  What on earth was she doing the rest of the time??

But by selling three of their stock, the museum is not only trading up, but is increasing the profile and kudos of O'Keeffe in the art market.  Smart.

Or maybe they've decided to invest in some decent stuff by men...?

Read more on women painters in my blog HERE.

Rhossili Bay Painting in Christmas Show

Here's one of my paintings that's currently in the Lime Tree Gallery Christmas show in Long Melford, Suffolk.


Rhossili Bay (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

This is a painting of the Gower Peninsula in Wales, with the beautiful long stretch of sand stretching into the distance, washed by the sea.  Apparently there's an old shipwreck on the beach, and when the sands and tides are right, you can see some of the timbers.  

You can read more about the wreck of the Helvetia HERE.

For further information about the Christmas exhibition, click HERE and scroll through to see my paintings.


Thursday, 20 November 2014


Mr Turner and his Queen Anne Street Gallery

Following on from my blog on the new Mr Turner film, I thought you might like to have a look at this really interesting little behind-the-scenes film. 


In it, director Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall (who plays Turner) show how they painstakingly brought Turner to life for the big screen.  In this short video, they focus on how they recreated Turner’s Queen Street Gallery, and I really recommend it if you have 15 minutes to spare.

It's an accompaniment both to the film, and to the major Tate Britain exhibition Late Turner, as well as an interesting look at Turner's techniques in action.

Friday, 14 November 2014

A Couple of Norfolk Paintings

Back in the summer, I travelled round Norfolk to get material for my forthcoming solo show in London (which I'm thinking of calling Journeys Through Landscape - always good to have a title in mind when preparing the show).  You can take a look at some of the photographs in my blog HERE.

Now here are a couple of the paintings which I've produced as a result of that trip - thought you might like to have a look. 

Cattle by Windmill, Norfolk (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

Windmill at Cley Next the Sea (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Version #1

Earlier this week, this watercolour of mine went under the hammer at McTears Auction House in Glasgow.

Today I came, quite by chance, across the first version of this.  It was done the during the same class, with the same model in the same pose...

 


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Mr Turner

I was at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield on Saturday, to see the new Mike Leigh film Mr Turner.  It's had fantastic reviews, so I was really looking forward to it.  It stars Timothy Spall as legendary artist Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Here's the man himself.
JMW Turner, Self Portrait (Oil on canvas, 1799)

and here's Timothy Spall as JMW.

The audience at this showing were all 'couples of a certain age', and during the two and a half hours of the film, the husbands fidgeted and rustled interminable quantities of toffees before falling into Werther-induced slumbers.

Now, Turner was famous for wild, impressionistic avant-garde forces-of-nature-painted-by-a-force-of-nature pictures such as these

 JMW Turner, Snow Storm - Steam Boat Off a Harbour's Mouth

He is shown striding through a sun-soaked landscape, sketching en plein air, or tied to the mast of a ship in a possessed manner, and spitting upon, rubbing, smudging, and throwing paint onto canvas in paroxysms of creativity.  He is also, early on, shown scrubbing yellow paint into his watercolour paper - which made me sit up in my seat, as I thought that Turner in fact dipped his papers into buckets of various pigments in order to dye the sheets and work on several at once (on his death, he left over 20,000 drawings and watercolours to the nation).  This surprised me, considering that there was such incredible minute attention to the detail of the film (dead bluebottles were hand-made, a pigs head had the bristles painstakingly replaced, as you can't buy pigs heads from butchers with the bristles any more - this was for a scene where the pig was shaved to take the bristles off again for brushes...).  

It's quite an odd film, the antithesis of a Hollywood special effects blockbuster (in fact, it was budgetary constraints which meant that two of the films key scenes in Turner's artistic life could not be filmed - the burning of the Houses of Parliament and his trip to Venice).  

It's a film which dares to take its time in order to tell a tale of duality and multiplicity.  Even Turner himself goes by a number of different names depending on who he's with and what version of the story he is telling about himself.  

It's a film about one of the world's most extraordinary genius's (one who is simultaneously lionised and ridiculed by society), but it's also about grindingly ordinary people.  It's about the problem of making external the internal, both in terms of art and life. There's no plot.  Stuff just happens.  Nothing is overtly explained.  Things are hinted at.  Emotions are withheld, or explode.  It's like the paintings themselves, where objects are indistinct, the sense of the piece is suggested by a swirling fury of mark-making or suffused in a calm glow.  Nothing in either film or painting is spelt out, but it's there to be found.  Perhaps. 

Timothy Spall's is a totally convincing performance, as gravy-boat faced harrumphing sex-pest genius, selfishly at the centre of his own drama, stomping through the film refusing to be conventional or to compromise, painting eternity on the brink of modernity, and leaving an everyday trail of women washed up in his wake, like so many Fighting Temeraires being dragged to their last berth to be broken up. 

His housemaid, whom he sexually exploits and takes for granted, ends up a lonely spinster entombed in a crumbling house and a broken body, having devoted her life to him;

his shrewish wife is abandoned, his daughters are ignored (although there is a brilliant scene when he is told of the death of his daughter, and the only signal of his internal conflict is shown by Spall's hands).  

He lives at a secret address with widow Mrs Booth, a surrogate mother figure, but it is all cloak and dagger.  
It's difficult to see the attractiveness of a man so emotionally juvenile, retentive and selfish in his relationships, but who pours all his heightened inner perceptions into his work.  He communicates through paint rather than words.  

Spall convinces totally as the painter, but I'd have liked to have seen more of the work, more of his relationship with the prudish Constable, and perhaps more of just how exactly he came to be such so convention-defying. What was the catalyst for his anti-authoritarian mould-breaking attitude?  Just sheer bloody-mindedness?

And what are his final words as he lies on his deathbed with the ever-attentive Mrs Booth?  I love you?  Nope.  "The Sun is God!" he shrieks. Which sort of sums it up.  In Turner's world the heirarchy is Sun, Interpretor of Sun (Turner), then everyone else.

In many ways, it's a stunning film.  Everyone is totally convincing and spot-on.  It sums up a stifling society of a certain class at a certain era, full of dirt and dust and ennui and trivial inconsequential conversation.  It's a brave film which doesn't spoon-feed the audience.  But it's also a film which is, ultimately,  curiously unengaging and indistinct.  

Although as Turner himself famously said , 'Indistinctness is my forte'.