Here are all sorts of departures, some obvious and some a bit more subtle.
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Annibale Carracci
1560, Bologna- 1609 Rome
 
The Holy Family: c1589
Oil on canvas
70 x 61 cm
NGV (I) Melbourne
 
Annibale, his brother Agostino and their cousin Ludivico made up “the Carracci” a family of painters working initially in Bologna. All three, working in Ludivico’s studio, set out to return painting to its more “naturalistic” roots after a period of “mannerism” where nature was presented as more refined and self-conscious. Annibale was a superb draughtsman and we are left with many fine examples of his drawings. The Carracci worked towards an honest depiction of nature and the people who populate it. In their religious paintings, in particular, the Carracci achieved direct and clear pictures of truth and reality in the scenes they were painting.
 
The Holy Family is a wonderful example of the naturalistic and reality painting practiced by Annibale. The family is grouped in front of a window set into a dark wall. White highlights lead us around the picture: Christ’s shawl, Mary’s headdress and Joseph’s beard, whilst the bright landscape encourages us to look through the picture. Joseph is physically and emotionally remote from the other two a metaphor for his relatively minor appearance in the story of Christ’s life. Mary holds the struggling child her downcast face and sad, apprehensive expression foretelling the apparent tragedy that will overtake her child. Jesus is here not the playful child or formulaic messiah handing out blessings from the crib, but a person with full knowledge of the tribulations of his forthcoming life. This small picture is a masterpiece of composition, feeling and “story”.









The Adoration of the Golden Calf: before 1634
Oil on canvas
154 x 214 cm
National Gallery London
 
Poussin came late to painting. Born in Normandy of farming stock he left for Paris around 1611 where after years of difficulty he successfully completed a commission for the Jesuits in 1622. He moved permanently to Rome in 1624 where he established himself completing church commissions and smaller works for private patrons. He painted historical subjects drawn from the myths and legends of antiquity and the bible: his work is founded on balance, harmony, proportion and order. Figures, frozen in time, act out their roles as though on stage. Colour is used prolifically and composition is based on geometrical constructions often modelled beforehand with wax figures.
 
This picture in London is a pair with Melbourne’s Poussin “Crossing of the Red Sea”. In the London picture the people of Israel, losing confidence in Moses, ask Aaron to manufacture gods to lead them from the wilderness. Aaron collected gold earrings from the people, melted them down and made a golden calf which the people began to worship. Moses returns with the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments to find his people seriously distracted from their original pilgrimage. He breaks the tablets by throwing them on the ground. Moses and Joshua are shown on the left coming down from Mt Sinai whilst Aaron is the white-robed figure dominating the right-hand side of the picture. All of the worshipping figures in this large work are suspended in their motion and ecstasy as they worship the over-size “calf”. The tumultuous scene vibrates with passion as the people mistakenly entreat their new idol to save them from the rigours of the wilderness and lead them out of it. 
 








Johann Zoffany
1733/5 Frankfurt- 1810 Kew, England
 
Self-portrait as David with the Head of Goliath
Oil on Canvas
92 x 75 cm
NVG (I) Melbourne
 
Zoffany began his art studies in Germany but moved to England c1760. In London he met the actor David Garrick (Garrick Theatre London) in whose house he lived. Influenced by the theatre and theatre people he began to paint theatrical “conversation Pieces”. His work is characterized by great attention to detail and meticulous painting.  He also completed portraits of royalty, being elected to the Royal Academy in 1769. He worked in Florence 1772-1778 and India 1783-1789 painting portraits of British residents and Indian nobility.
 
In this history painting Zoffany portrays himself as David the slayer of Goliath. Head, body and clothing are rendered in fastidious detail while the skin glows with health and virility. “David” has a shepherd’s staff and lambs wool cape and his left hand holds the stone which slew his adversary. The head of Goliath- neck down so that the conceit of the composition is not disturbed by neck wounds- provides a resting place for the triumphant elbow of The Victor. The left arm is shown with artistic license being rather too long and unnaturally bent. Goliath’s left eye makes eye contact with us and his facial expression shows surprise and frustration rather than homage to David.










Joseph William Mallord Turner
1775-1851 British
 
 
The “Fighting Temeraire” tugged to her last birth to be broken up: 1838/9
Oil on Canvas
91 x 122 cm
National Gallery London
 
 
Turner developed his painting style by studying Flemish landscape painters and the French master Claude He was a strong influence on the French Impressionists though never painted in an “Impressionist” style. Turner’s later pictures paint light and the effects of it on his subject and our appreciation of it. The pictures glow with such exuberance and vitality that light itself almost becomes the subject. 
 
In “Fighting Temeraire” Turner leaves us in no doubt that he regards the immanent destruction of the Trafalgar veteran as a great loss. The old ship rears defiantly from the water bathed in the same light as the mighty landscape through which it is being dragged. Its colours are those of the life-giving sun and its reflection. The tug, meanwhile, is smug and flat, a business-like vessel with no character. Smoke and sparks emanating from its funnel imply the older ships last resistance to destruction. The horizon recedes forever taking with it the history of the great fighting ship.











Charles Condor:
1868 London-1909 Surrey, Australia 1884, Paris and London after 1890
 
 
Departure of the Orient, Circular Quay: 1888
Oil on Canvas
45 x 50 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
 
 
Condor was one of Australia’s leading “Impressionist” painters. He painted with Roberts, McCubbin and Streeton in Melbourne and Julian Ashton in Sydney. He designed the Art Nouveau cover for the famous 9 x 5 exhibition in Melbourne where impecunious artists painted on 9 x 5 inch cigar box lids. Much of his artistic life was spent in London and Paris where he exhibited with the New English Art Club and became a symbol of the Art Nouveau movement.
 
Departure of the SS Orient was the first Condor to enter a public collection and represented his first commercial success. The picture is an exercise in tone with sky-reflecting water and the wet quay blurring the boundary between land and sea. A collection of people either watch the departing ship or chat amongst themselves their sinuous grouping leading us into the picture. The departing ship makes only a small contribution to the composition. This is a picture of human departure as a component of a great scheme of light and landscape.  Mostly we are attracted to the play of light on watery surfaces and the stormy sky making up the top third of the picture. The gentleman with the inside-out umbrella at the bottom right deftly leads our eye back into the picture once we have traversed to the horizon. 






 
Rene Magritte
1898-1967 Belgium
 
 
The Menaced Assassin
Oil on canvas
150 x 195 cm
Museum of Modern Art New York
 
 
Magritte’s childhood was disturbed by the suicide of his mother in 1912 though the painter rejected any association between his painting and this tragedy. The boy was present at the recovery of his mother’s body. He spent time working in Paris with the Surrealists but returned to Brussels in 1930 where he spent the remainder of his life. Magritte’s better-known pictures lend new meanings and interpretations to what seem ordinary objects and situations. He painted in a very obvious realist style making much of the truism that a painting is a representation of an object and while the painting is real the image is not. This led him to show everyday subjects in strange juxtaposition and to confuse space and our perceptions of what is happening in it.
 
“The Menaced Assassin” is a deeply disturbing picture. A murdered woman lies on a couch (bier?) in the middle of the picture. Her murderer – the assassin- has become distracted by music coming from a gramophone and he is sufficiently distant from the death he has brought about to have laid down his case, coat and hat to stop and listen. Meanwhile his own nemesis waits just outside the doorway in the form of two law-enforcers who are suitably armed with a club and net- capture weapons more associated with animals than humans. Gently converging lines on the floor take us to three observers looking out and making eye contact with us. Are they associates of the killer or of the law or are they like us, simply looking on? A threatening landscape is visible behind the trio. What is happening here? We will never get any further than individual interpretation as Magritte has provided no clue to help.
 






Salvador Dali
1904 1989 Spanish
 
The Persistence of memory
Oil on canvas
24 x 33 cm
Museum of Modern Art New York
 
 
Dali will appear in the later programme on Fantasy. Sufficient here to say that he was the leading exponent of the Surrealist movement and his artistic and social life manifested surrealism
 
 
The clocks concern us in this programme. Dali was a highly intelligent man and fully part of the ideas of his time. He took great interest in Einstein’s theories on relativity and time. Einstein dismantled the idea that time was unchangeable showing by analogy and calculation that the faster an object moved the more slowly time passed for it. Thus an object travelling at the speed of light saw time stand still. Dali’s melting clocks show variation in time. Not only is the reading distorted but the actual instrument is too. Time has ceased to be a fixed measure. Like all other physical quantities it can change depending on the observer’s circumstances. This was a considerable departure from accepted scientific understanding and what people thought about some things being “unchangeable”.






Kasimir Malevich
 
Biographic and painting-style details may be found under Revolutions
 
 
Suprematist Composition: White on White: 1918
Oil on Canvas
79 x 79 cm
Museum of Modern Art New York
 
This picture is an example of Minimalist Art though Malevich would not have called it that. We saw an example of Minimalist Art in the Revolutions programme with the Yves Klein example. A white square floats on a cream background. The hand of the artist can be seen in the variation in shade and tone of both surfaces so the picture is not entirely impersonal though it has no reference to any reality, i.e. it is not trying to be a picture of something nor to hint at something we might be able to easily relate to. The lines defining the rectangle are sketched in so the shape has some indefiniteness to it. 
It is the “floating” which interests us. The rectangle appears to be about to float out of the space through its top right corner. Malevich was fascinated by modern technology, particularly flight where mankind could break the bounds of earth. Flight transcended earthly forces, aerial photography recorded the earth as a moveable object, and flying reduced our dependence on the solidity of the earth and introduced us to the “infinity” of the space above the earth.
Malevich and his fellow Russian intellectuals hoped that the Russian Revolution would bring in a society which would be perfect and reduce human dependence on materialistic objects. Malevich coined the term “Suprematism” to describe how this perfect society might be manifested by art. Pure perception did not involve nature and could only be produced by non-objective (abstract) art and suprematism would free viewers from the ordinary, materialistic world. Floating above the earth was a most useful metaphor for a society not bogged down by material demands.









Arthur Boyd
1920-1999 Australian, London and Australia after 1950
 
The Expulsion: 1947-8
Oil on board
102 x 122 cm
Art Gallery of new South Wales
 
The Boyd family is Australia’s leading art dynasty of which Arthur is the best known both locally and internationally. His expressive work illuminates social issues, biblical stories, the impact of man on the environment and landscape to name but a few of his subject areas. A generous benefactor he and his family have given many works to public collections in Australia and just before his death he bequeathed a property in south-eastern New South Wales to the nation to be used as a live-in school for aspiring artists.
 
In The Expulsion we see no obvious signs of perspective instead our eye travels the strong diagonal joining Adam and Eve with the dismissing angel and colour takes us around the rest of the picture. Using these devices Boyd focuses our attention on the action: the dramatic expulsion of hapless mankind from the Garden of Eden and the invocation of “original Sin”. The burnt, bare landscape into which the couple stumble is in unhappy contrast to the lushness they leave behind. This is the ultimate departure!






Jeffrey Smart
1921 Australia, Italy and Australia after c1960
 
Central Station 1974-5
Polymer paint on canvas
86 x 100 cm
Art gallery of new South Wales
 
 
Jeffrey Smart’s painting is informed by surrealism but has more direct contact with human existence. His flawless technique is used to paint industrial landscapes, road junctions, factory remains, humans with buildings, billboards… all the trappings of urban human existence. His pictures are invariably unsettling as though to shake us out of our acceptance that if something is created by human then it must be worthwhile and not threatening. We are often left with the idea that the created landscape is much less than that it replaced.
 
 
In Central Station a man runs to catch his train which is presumably on the point of departure.  Papers flutter in his wake; perhaps he has dropped them or perhaps they have prompted his hurry to catch the train.  Steep perspective adds to the urgency and the figure is dominated both by the huge building and the clock tower. Safety helmets must be worn in the area and there is no admittance so what is our figure doing there anyway?  Warhol-type posters decorate the wall to the right adding a  mass-produced feel to the scene. We take from this picture the feeling that the man will run forever in a landscape of unrelenting urban starkness and unhelpfulness.