Raoul Dufy (1877 – 1953)

Kweiseye is an art criticism blog written by Tom Kwei. If you enjoy this article, browse the archive HERE for more than 60 other critiques of both artists and exhibitions. Any questions/queries/use: tomkweipoet@gmail.com

In spite of Fauvism’s short lifespan (1905-1907), France’s early avant-garde movement made quite a splash upon the grand history of Art – both literally in terms of its unhinged splattered tones, as well as through its strong later influence upon painters such as Henri Matisse.  So called after a comment by journalist Louis Vauxcelles, whom compared the vigorous brushwork and pastel liberation of the group to ‘fauves’ (wild beasts), the genre is wild, lawless and invigorating. A style in which its painting avidly avoids anything in the way of content or message, rather far happier to cover over traditional artistic reference with luminous bands of unorthodox colour.

Personally guided to writing this piece more through an interest in the movement itself rather than an individual stylist, I found Raoul Dufy to be the most interesting of the twenty or so loosely connected Fauvist artists. His painting oddly childish, yet captivatingly different.

‘The Three Umbrellas’ – Raoul Dufy (1906)


The backs of three women look out from below their eponymous umbrellas, but the focus here seems to more on what we see than what they do. Meaning for the most part is unimportant here, Fauvism more about the force conveyed through its unique colouring, than the narrative to which it coyly suggests.

The umbrellas themselves then are starting gaze points for the viewer, signals which through their semi-abstract swirls point to a symphony of instability within Dufy’s painting. Against the right hand road of the piece we see more umbrellas shilouetted off to the canvas edge, along with a further duo in black across the way on the bridge, the two owners staring back towards our own direction.

Now whilst many praise Fauvism for its celebratory nature, I’ve always enjoyed tangling with it as more of a form of hallucinatory representation. Spirals and abstract palette choice apart, its own sense of distance is what I find so distorting. At the front of the piece for example there is some clarity, the three women fairly recognisable in their postures; down below them however figures grow stretched and odd amidst the mottled brushwork, with the aforementioned couple of the bridge facing the same fate. Positioned at the back then in such reassuring warmth then, it’s odd to see the buildings painted in such brilliance of skill. Their own representations, dare I say it, actually looking like as they actually are.

‘Venice’ – Raoul Dufy

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Life doesn’t look like this. Whilst Dufy doesn’t dispense as readily with familiar colouring as is other work, there is still a cartoonish playful quality about every brush and shade. The trees for example appear in praise, their arms guided upwards by the leaves twiddling amidst themselves. The clouds too are nothing more than squiggles amid a well composed sky, which compared to Alfred Sisley (an earlier article featured)  seem almost unimaginable. But, this blog isn’t about comparison. Neither is Art for that matter, it’s about movement and self-expression, the ability to disregard foreknowledge in favour of individual worth.

Which is why I really like the painting, I like the exuberance and wily tone. Everything seems brushed up against invisible curves, divided to make quick motion. At the back we have a rabble of residences all crammed staring onto each other, whilst amidst the front, trees gather in joy with armpit hair leaves.This clever juxtaposition allows a breath to be taken, both for the unique manor of portrayal Dufy uses, as well as the difference between town and city.

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Top 5 Favorite Shows Seen At Edinburgh Fringe 2014.

Kweiseye is an art criticism blog written by Tom Kwei. If you enjoy this article, browse the archive HERE for more than 60 other critiques of both artists and exhibitions. Any questions/queries/use: tomkweipoet@gmail.com

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to stay in Edinburgh for the week, watching and reviewing shows for ‘A Younger Theatre’. Every day had 5 plays to see and 5 write-ups to follow. It was tremendous. And though it galls me as mere voyeur to say, really quite exhausting too. The city seems hillier on every visit.

What follows here are my favorite shows seen during my time in Edinburgh. As I personally saw 31/3000 shows on offer (some 1%! of all productions), these picks are in nowhere representative of any general trends of inclinations.

Nathan Penlington: Choose Your Own Documentary – @npenlington

Upon entry to Nathan Penlington’s creative homage to the compulsive page turner Choose Your Own Adventure Books, ‘Choose Your Own Documentary’ gives each audience member upon a entry a small clicker remote. At various points of this moving  tale, Penlington allows a democracy to bloom as we mere watchers are given opportunity to vote on the direction we want the narrative to follow. Told in excellent cinematography through various clips behind Penlington, the show’s 1566 possible journeys are presently concisely, always leaving you wanting more, allowing the somewhat novel clicker concept to become exciting and real:

Edinburgh Review: Nathan Penlington: Choose Your Own Documentary, Gilded Balloon


Ablutions – @FellSwoopTheatr

Music is used so cleverly in this piece. The melodies and moods spewing forth effortlessly from a thread bare band made up of skilful character actors. Following Eoin Slattery’s bard barman finding no joy in the endless existence of endless pouring, the story is a twisty constantly downward spiral. The entire cast skilled, with the music as amorphous as their salubrious depictions of a familiar yet compelling downward America:

Edinburgh Review: Ablutions, Assembly Roxy


Away From Home – @RobWardPlazy

Football can be a right fickle game. One that not only finds thousands of people despising thousands of others for no other reason than the team they support, but also one that forces homosexuals within its ranks to hide their true selves for fear of career suicide. In the superb Away From Home, Rob Ward’s wonderfully drawn Kyle begins by not caring about this one bit. He’s a male escort who sees the funny side to the occupation, filling the entrancing hour we spend in his warm company with various quips, “I went limper than Brazil’s defence”. It is only when Kyle, a dedicated football fan who demands Saturdays off for games, meets a professional footballer as a client, that things take a turn for the worse:

Edinburgh Review: Away From Home, Assembly George Square Studios


The Fair Intellectual Club – @loonabimberton

Intelligent and really well performed clever stuff here by first time playwright/comedian Lucy Porter. A look backwards to Scottish Bluestockings group who make multiple contemporary references despite the 18th century setting. Purely made up of a superb trio of women: a poet, a mathematician and, best of all, a gossip. Individual stories are told with grace and meaning, so much so that when the ladies take a selfie at the conclusion, it feels anything but anachronistic:

Edinburgh Review: The Fair Intellectual Club, Assembly Rooms


The Post Show – @TheBerserkerRes

You know you’re onto a winner when you’re laughing before you’ve even taken a seat. Upon entering for The Post Show, US comedy trio the Berserker Residents are already in full swing, finishing up the bombastic closing scene of their 6-hour tour-de-force Prodigal Father. We’re all late, and as the show’s cast, haunting Noh-style ghost included, bow out to applause, the troupe then turn to the audience inviting questions in what is now a post-show Q&A on a show we’ve but glimpsed.

The three hold microphones and sit on stalls like any other feedback session, however this one begins with ‘popcorning’, a technique encouraging us all to vocalise a word we feel encapsulates the entire six hours of Prodigal Father. With a set littered with clues of what may have happened, along with a hilarious programme given out beforehand, there is much ammunition in this free forum for the questions the skilled performers so eagerly invite:

Edinburgh Review: The Post Show, Assembly George Square Studios



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Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (1871-1945)

Kweiseye is an art criticism blog written by Tom Kwei. If you enjoy this article, browse the archive HERE for more than 60 other critiques of both artists and exhibitions. Any questions/queries/use: tomkweipoet@gmail.com

The best surprises come at book sales. Recently trawling through an open top market in Manchester I discovered a copy of Jan Marsh & Pamela Gerrish Nunn’s, Women Artists and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, finding countless intriguing countesses and painters within its wide crinkled pages. Though the Pre-Raphaelite Movement is far too vast and complex for me to ever do justice in several posts, let alone one, here’s what John Ruskin helpfully had to say in his work, Modern Painters (1848): 

‘The Pre-Raphaelites have one principle, that of absolute uncompromising truth in all it does, obtained by working everything, down to the most minute detail, from nature and from nature only’

Working some 40 years after Ruskin’s statement, in what is known as the third & final generation of the movement, Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale’s ‘The Guardian Angel’ both seems to embody and contradict the critic’s edict.

 ‘The Guardian Angel’ – Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (1910) 


The paintings contradiction however, both through its ideological disobediences and contrasting styles within the same image, really unify the piece for me. This after all was one of the first works within the genre to bring together the raw imaginative force of the Pre-Raphaelites with the modern technology of the time – the majority of PR paintings to me seem to be more portrait orientated. Brickdale was supposedly inspired by the death of the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls (half of the Rolls-Royce Partnership) in a flying accident near Bournemouth in July 1910, the piece then is an inverted triptych of sorts, detailing both a progression and inherent order within the pursuit of higher realms.

Across the angel’s legs we can see a deft mass of birds collecting, all of them yearning further upward but none seemingly able to escape the pull of their own nature. It’s the mass of energy here that really drives it forward – some large birds yearn and seek higher skies, others cast their bodies flat and seem to drive further into the storm.

Above the reach of instinct, a far more technical mechanical style of painting emerges, with the plane in all its glory and detail seeming to penetrate through both frame and angel. Perhaps as a comment on the crash itself, the plane too it seems, just like the birds, has its limit, the both of them nestled below a dominant angelic force.

Indeed the guardian dominates the picture, clearly controlling man’s own will within its hands, as well as mocking the birds below with its own dominating wingspan, one that Brickdale cleverly abridges at the corners to increase the epic spread of feathers a real power and relevance. It’s the face of the angel though that I keep coming back to, a malignant yet benevolent watcher, a seer that looks on to both man and no nature.


‘Knight Carrying Child’ – Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale

A Sweet Lullaby, illustration from 'The Book of Old English Songs and Ballads', published by Hodder and Stoughton, c.1910 (colour litho)

Carried away by his father to someplace up the hill, a child stares out vacantly. Its own tiny body against the adult armor brings us back to our own recollections of being young, when a parent really was a knight, something incalculable in power, authority and respect.

Though the winding & somewhat haphazard path behind the action is interesting, it is this dialectic pull between parent and child that really makes the picture worth pondering. Similar to how she clipped the wings of her angel in the aforementioned picture, here the armour dominates the frame, complex not only in rich design but also the play of light against the polished steel.

The father’s head too, leant and nestled against his pondering son, creates a warm intimacy as they continue on their journey. The intricate weave of the designs giving weight and wonder to the front ended image, with the fantastical nature of the protection subtly balanced against the piercing eyes of the boy.

Enjoy reading that? Click HERE to see a list of all the art analyses on Kweiseye to date.

To keep up with the blog and all the art I write about, follow me right here on this blog or here @tomkweipoet