Albert Moore : Of Beauty & Aesthetics , York Art Gallery until 1st October

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 (!)

A Garden 1869

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 :

A Venus 1869

Did critics think that normal women had wasp waists even when corsets were taken off ? Actually this reminds me of :

La Souce Ingrès 1856

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 ?

Shells 1874

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 .

Midsummer 1887

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 :

A revery 1892

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 .


About rukshanaafia

Ceramic & textile artist
This entry was posted in other artists, paintings, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Albert Moore : Of Beauty & Aesthetics , York Art Gallery until 1st October

  1. Kathy Bergen says:

    I have been enjoying your reviews of art shows…I am not able to go to many such events here. I, too, am very impressed by Moore’s work…it is very beautiful, and does remind me of Raphael’s work. As to your comments of his female figures being somewhat androgynous, some of them look a little masculine…i.e. his Venus and his Shells…and Revelry. Even Michelangelo’s work back then showed masculine formed women… Artists often sculpted or painted the male figure and added female breasts! Ingres’ La Source has a good woman’s figure. That he often chose a title after completing the painting is interesting to me…I used to write stories and poetry like that…had no idea what was going to happen next! I love the detail and soft beauty of Moore’s paintings. Thanks for sharing.

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