Art Study – Weekly.

Week beginning 27th September . . .

Joan Brown – The Kiss.

Vanessa Bell – Roofs

Roofs – Vanessa Bell.

What caught my eye with this image was the light in the leftside – the white haze – as though light is reflecting on the pane of glass and the prominence of the two flowers in the vase.

The rooves are there but they are pushed up and out towards the edges of the image and there is little to see of them. The windows on the buildings opposite are much more prominent.

Is the title an attempt to draw us away from the real focus of Vanessa Bell’s gaze, which maybe the right window out of the top line of four, being the clearest and the most sharpley painted?

I think it is.

If you look closely there seems to be a figure in that window. It is difficult to determine if the figure is male or female but they appear to be unclothed, possibly washing themselves.

If it was a woman then the significance of the flowers fits neatly. They are lillies and on the continent, where the colours and architecture would seem to place us, they are associated with the Virgin Mary, relating to the figure as one of purity and innocence.

Graham Sutherland – Adam and Eve, 1924.

Graham Vivian Sutherland was a British painter, printmake, and designer, born in 1903.

Adam and Eve is an etching on cream laid paper made in 1924.

It depicts Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden by God after they have eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

In this image Sutherland chooses to send Adam and Eve out through a broken section of wall into the darkness beyond.

He is possibly imagining a Victorian walled garden, but already the walls seem to be weathered with cracks in them. This could easily stand as a metaphor for the effect of the First World War, particularly with the debris from the hole not visible, so potentially ‘blown’ out.

The years preceding the Great War were often referred to as the ‘long summer afternoon’ in English Edwardian Society, idylic, bucollic, and perhaps edenic in view point.

The industrial killing of the war left its mark on the individuals who fought and the country as a whole. Sutherland seems to anticipate this with the wall being broken down and the venture into the darkness.

Adam’s clothing is certainly of the period fashion and interestingly the apple is falling from his left hand. In his right hand he is carrying gardening tools. As society would need to be rebuilt after the war, we are being shown that it will be in a different form to that preceding it.

As Adam and Eve enjoyed the bounties of the Garden of Eden, laid by God, they now have to try and recreate that in the toil of the soil and the sweat of their brow. The remade society will not be as it was once before. The fall from grace, and the impact of the war, will forever change things.

Adam is bowed over, possibly with the weight of guilt, or with the gait of a former soldier keeping his head down below the top of the trenches.

Eve, however, stands tall and seems to rub her neck in a mannerism which indicates she may just have awoken. Her clothes – or lack of clothes – is more enigmatic. Compared to the Adam, she is naked from the waist up but wears a long skirt.

Why is Adam fully clothed but Eve is not? Is Sutherland casting her in a ‘siren’ type of role – a mermaid luring the sailors to their doom? Is she uncaring by virtue of her pose?

The flower stems behind her look like lavatera maritima which have lost their blooms. Does this reinforce the siren/mermaid image as they naturally occur within 100m of the coast?