Outrenoir: Ultra-Black


“Brou de noix” (1946) Credit…Archives Soulages/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NewYork/ADAGP, Paris.

French painter Pierre Soulages turns 100 this December, 2019. He is being accorded an exhibit at the Louvre. The only other painters given an exhibit there during their lifetimes were Picasso and Chagall. Since 1979, Soulages has worked exclusively in black, creating a series of works he calls “outrenoir,” or “beyond black.”


“Painting” (2008) Credit…Archives Soulages/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

“Black is never the same because light changes it,” he said, in French, through an interpreter. “There are nuances between the blacks. I paint with black but I’m working with light. I’m really working with the light more than with the paint.”


“Painting” (1955) Credit…Archives Soulages/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Prehistoric art was his primary source of inspiration, Mr. Soulages said. “I always ask myself one question,” he said. “Who was this big ape who one day painted on the wall?”

(Nina Siegal, “Black Is Still the Only Color for Pierre Soulages,” NYTimes, 11-29-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Quotations | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Slip, Ma’am


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at the state opening of Parliament in London in October. Credit…Pool photo by Toby Melville.

Americans watch the royals, rapt, for signs of slippage and failure, but also out of a kind of awe at how long they’ve sustained the illusion of honor. Yes, they’re mooches and hypocrites, but—…

(Lili Loofbourow, “The Mesmerizing Disgrace of Prince Andrew,” Slate, 11-30-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Quotations | Tagged | 1 Comment

‘Your Painting Is Your Best Friend’


Cecily Brown at her studio in New York City. Credit…Danna Singer for The New York Times.

Cecily Brown, age 50, is the daughter of British writer Shena Mackay and David Sylvester, the art critic and curator. When Brown was 18 and struggling financially, the painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling let her paint in her garage.

“Maggi was the first real painter I knew,” she says. “Having the garage to paint in made the hugest difference. The work that eventually got me into the Slade was all made there. Maggi was also the person who told me I had to show up every day to paint or it wasn’t worth it. Your painting is your best friend — there when you’re down as well as up, she’d say….”

After finishing at the Slade, Brown moved to New York’s “friendlier” art world.

“In London, it was called a private view… In New York, it was called an opening… Desire itself was my driving force. Desire drives painting too. Sex was the closest thing to painting in the real world.”

Brown made a series of paintings based on “Ladyland,” a 1968 studio shot of 19 naked young women used for a Jimi Hendrix album cover. She realized reluctantly they “wouldn’t be simple positive depictions of women…”


“Untitled,” 2012, by Cecily Brown. Credit…Rob McKeever.

“Eventually I decided it couldn’t matter, and that in fact the true subject might be my conflicted and complicated feelings about… women and womanhood, being gazed upon, being a gazer oneself… thinking about women’s culpability, and women of our time who have helped set us all back decades, like the Kardashians.”

(Rachel Cusk, “Can a Woman Who Is an Artist Ever Just Be an Artist?” NYTimes, 11-7-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Quotations | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celia Paul

Celia Paul was one of five daughters of Christian missionaries. She spent her early childhood in India, then in Exmoor, southwest England. Her father became bishop of Bradford. “Why, she wonders, did he have all these children he didn’t have time for, daughter after daughter, one after the other dispatched to boarding school?”

In her second year at the Slade, at 18, Celia Paul was seduced by the 55-year-old Lucian Freud, who was there as a visiting professor.

The strangeness of her clerical childhood had left her with a number of qualities fatal to the situation: extreme innocence, an iron will, a hatred of her own body and an unusual capacity for both suffering and devotion… Socially odd and unconfident, rawly sensitive and isolated yet unusually committed and determined, she was a kind of modern-day Jane Eyre…

celia paul

“Family Group, 1980,” by Celia Paul. Credit…from Victoria Miro Gallery.

Celia rarely painted her father. It was her mother and sisters who became — and remain — her subject. Her breakthrough as a young art student was to draw intimate aspects of them in which her personal knowledge of them could be crystallized. At the Slade, the emphasis was on life drawing from a nude model: Celia did not see what she could be expected to learn from drawing someone she didn’t know.

(Rachel Cusk, “Can a Woman Who Is an Artist Ever Just Be an Artist?” NYTimes, 11-7-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Quotations | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Exquisite Vapors

Adverbs Ahead

Banal Triangulations Ahead

These are voices echoed by Spencer Bokat-Lindell recently in the NYTimes.

Some of [Buttigieg’s] ideas… don’t fall neatly on the ideological spectrum… Mr. Buttigieg’s triangulations are more banal… Displays a facility with rhetoric … His appeal, in aesthetic terms, is antithetical to… He carries no populist resentment and can easily speak the language of the coastal elite… His image as a “verbally adept” moderate… His allure may be smaller than it appears… With his air of decency and grab bag of gifted-and-talented party tricks… For all his overdetermined virtuosity — an accomplished pianist! a Rhodes scholar! a polyglot! — he has demonstrated no political artistry…

(Spencer Bokat-Lindell, “Pete Buttigieg 2020?” NYTimes, 11-21-19)

The tone is that of a clubby commentariat hoist on its own effluvia trading lofty quips amongst itself.

I hope the party of Will Rogers will grasp the urgency of speaking plainly to citizens whose vote is needed to revive representative government from its coma.

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Commentary | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Glitter Jitters

bacons pope

Francis Bacon’s “Pope,” from about 1958, at Sotheby’s. Credit…The Estate of Francis Bacon/DACS, London/ARS, NY; via Sotheby’s.

Here are nuggets tweezered from a story about heartburn in the high-dollar art market.

This time around, there are few museum-quality works by the most famous artists to tempt billionaires — no painting or sculpture is estimated to sell for more than $45 million…

The auction… includes a full-length Francis Bacon “Pope” painting from about 1958… It is certain to sell for at least $6 million… The painting was made in Tangier during his violent love affair with the ex-fighter pilot, Peter Lacy… This was one of six given by the artist to his friend Nicolas Brusilowski, on the understanding that the canvas would be reused… “It was a throw-out and it depresses me he did not destroy the image…,” wrote Bacon.

sur la terrasse

David Hockney’s rediscovered “Sur la Terrasse,” acrylic on canvas, 1971. Credit…via Christie’s.

For many, the one out-and-out trophy of the season is David Hockney’s rediscovered acrylic on canvas, “Sur la Terrasse”… The $25 million to $45 million estimate makes it the most highly valued lot of the week… The… composition… depicts Mr. Hockney’s then-lover, Peter Schlesinger, on the balcony of the couple’s room at the Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakesh in 1971…

(Scott Reyburn, “Will Global Jitters Dull the Glitter of New York’s Art Gigaweek?” NYTimes, 11-11-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Commentary | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mouth of the Gun


On 10-1-17 a killer shot dead 58 people in a Las Vegas concert venue and injured 500. An ammo dealer sold the killer hundreds of incendiary tracer rounds which he didn’t use in the spree.

The dealer’s lawyer says the casualty toll would have been lower if the killer had used the tracer rounds “because victims would have seen the trajectory of the gunfire in the dark and been able to take cover more easily.”

(Steve Gorman, “Seller of bullets to Las Vegas gunman pleads guilty to ammo licensing offense,” Reuters, 11-19-19)

The arguments put forth in favor of the hardware available for mass murder come from a bottomless fudge tub. But the grubby lawyer has a point: It’s easier to duck at a concert when you can see where you’re being ambushed from.

I made the same argument once against the greater availability of silencers advocated by lobbyists to protect the hearing of gun sport enthusiasts: It’s easier to locate the sniper at a concert and take cover if you can hear the report of his weapon.

Neither flash nor report guarantee sniper event survival at a concert or elsewhere, but they increase the odds of it slightly.

(c) 2019 JMN

Posted in Quotations | Tagged , , | Leave a comment