Another rewarding exhibition – things are looking up ! I expected this to be akin to Frederick Leighton’s work or even Alma-Tadema’s – very staid late Victorian academicism with Arcadian settings excusing the semi nudity and lots of repressed eroticism à la Tennyson’s ‘A Dream of Fair Women’ . In fact Albert Moore’s work was a revelation . The labels associated him with Whistler (a close friend) , Leighton and 2 other erstwhile Pre-Raphaelites – Burne-Jones and Millais as part of the Aesthetic movement whose slogan ‘Art for Art’s sake’ is so much part of the fin de siècle/ Wildean viewpoint . It does seem extraordinary that just as with Whistler the titles of his paintings should have been criticised , as subjectless (!)
Subjectless ? Apparently he often chose a title after the painting was completed and they are descriptive of the mood and colour rather than some moral lesson – just as with Whistler’s use of musical terms . I was also puzzled by the contemporary criticism of this female nude as androgynous :
Did critics think that normal women had wasp waists even when corsets were taken off ? Actually this reminds me of :
Ingrès was a successful French painter (and so not popular now !) . His nudes are idealised of course but the 2 are the same body type and hardly androgynous , surely ?
Moore’s draughtsmanship is superb . This painting caught my eye because I could feel how her left hand is holding the muslin down . He did considerable preparation for each painting and many of these studies are exhibited alongside the finished works – which should be done more often . He did studies of the planned draperies with white chalk on brown paper and many drawings of the movement . In fact it has been suggested that the many paintings he did of sleeping and lounging figures was to give his exhausted models a rest after jumping off something or running across the studio floor repeatedly ! Certainly the figures never look like marble statues in costumes howevermuch he had studied the Parthenon frieze . In fact the colour palette and accessories are obviously ‘aesthetic’ . Note the overall warm colours in the exhibition with its preponderance of green and yellow and the anachronistic Japanese fans in the sumptuous ‘Midsummer’ , as well as his final work .
I’m not convinced of his argued contribution to Impressionism or Abstraction because he seems to have been classically skilful at rendering surfaces as well as structure rather than inspired by photography or optics and his paint is not thickly applied at all . In some ways he could be seen as an Aubrey Beardsley in glorious colour and not so warped . They both have a wonderful line and appreciation of the possibilities of patterns . Look at this , Moore’s last painting :
The exhibition also shows some work by his father and the 4 other brothers who became painters in one side room and then in another there are paintings and records of York School of Design (later Art & Design , later yet York Art School) which was opened in 1842 as the second provincial Design school in the UK and originally was within York Art Gallery . His father and the 5 brothers all taught &/or were taught there . So Albert Moore is a local boy .