Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Spotty Pony Pictures Rock My World

I love going to the cinema.  It's basically a two hour holiday from myself.  And I've got a thing about Pic'n'Mix, and since Woolworths folded the cinema is about the only place one can still buy it. (Aside from motorway service stations, of course.)   I've seen some great films this year, but I would not count Summer in February, which I saw sometime before we went to Wales, as one of them.  It wasn't terrible, exactly, it just wasn't brilliant either, despite Dominic Cooper and Dan Stevens in the two lead male roles, and its being set in Cornwall.  It tells the story of the artist A.J. Munnings's (he of the horses) first wife, Florence Carter-Wood, who was actually in love with the character played by Dan Stevens.  I'm not giving anything away, incidentally, all that is evident from watching the trailer.  While I did learn that Munnings had a dog called Dodger - which is a questionably useful fact to have stored, but you never know, I might find myself able to answer a Trivial Pursuits question about it one day -  I had two major gripes: 1.) I found Florence Carter-Wood immeasurably irritating and 2.) I wish it had focussed just a bit more on Laura Knight.  Dame Laura Knight that is, the first female Royal Academician.

There's an exhibition of Laura Knight's work at the National Portrait Gallery at the moment.  Andrew and I went today.  The Sunday Times critic, Waldemar Januszczuk (his reviews are hilarious.  It's worth buying The Sunday Times just to read them.  And for the Style supplement, obviously) was decidedly critical of her fluctuating style - and it's true, she did seem to try out a few - but I'm fractionally less critical than Januszczuk, and easily swayed by content.  I rate almost anything with a horse in it.

Well, there weren't many horses - just a sketch with a spotty pony (although that is the holy grail of horse paintings in my opinion, all due to Rainbow the wonder pony, my skewbald first love) - but there were plenty of others with subject matter that consistently attracts me.  Paintings of ballerinas from Diaghilev's Ballet Russes.  Paintings of gypsies.  Circus scenes.  An amazing canvas of the Nuremberg Trials.  Etc.

This is a portrait of a model known as Dolly, who featured heavily in the film, Summer In February.  I detect a heavy Scottish colourist influence.

  This is a portrait of a gypsy.  There are paintings of his mother in the exhibition, too.

Love this self-portrait.

Andrew loved all the war ones of women at work.  But notice the completely different style to the portrait of the gypsy and the self-portrait viewing a nude.

There are loads more, obviously.  And I rather wish that there had been loads and loads more, because I love her work, whatever style it is in - they could have had this one, for instance:

Gratuitous spotty pony picture, not in the exhibition.

But I also like her work because I think that she led a fascinating life.  There are diaries that I'd love to read of the three months that she spent covering the Nuremberg Trials, but as ever they're exhibited as a stack of paper, so one can only read the top, which is a bit irritating.  

So in summation, while there are many better films out there than Summer in February, you could do a lot worse in terms of exhibitions than the Laura Knight.  

(I feel I should mention that my sister Alexandra informs me that the book Summer in February is brilliant.  I mainly trust her judgement - certainly when it comes to literature, and always when it comes to health for she is a vet, and should you ever find yourself accidentally in possession of a very cold doormouse she is just the person to ring, though don't ring her to try and persuade her to do pro bono work on ponies you read about in The Daily Mail because I do that the whole time and I think she might be slightly sick of it - so I'm considering downloading it.  Just as soon as I've finished watching the entirety of The White Queen on iPlayer, for I am gripped.)

Laura Knight Portraits is at the National Portrait Gallery until the 13th October.