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Muse Reviews: 11 May

11 May 2014

A round-up of the week’s reviews and interviews…

(1878), Mary Cassatt.

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878), Mary Cassatt. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

First Look: ‘Degas / Cassatt’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington (Kimberly A. Jones)

Cassatt was the real revelation. She’s so well known for her images of mothers and children that they have largely eclipsed the rest of her artistic production. However, once we began to look more closely at her work from the late 1870s and 1880s, a very different side of Cassatt began to emerge. She proved to be more daring and innovative than we’d initially realised or has been acknowledged previously.

(c. 1958), John Piper.

Townscape (c. 1958), John Piper. Courtesy of Bohun Gallery

John Piper at the Bohun Gallery (Matilda Bathurst)

This is an artist whose commissions encompassed projects as diverse as stained glass windows, fabric designs, and firework displays. Works on show range from ceramics created in collaboration with Geoffrey Eastop, to prints of mysterious Foliate Heads, to stage designs for Britten’s Gloriana, and even a gleefully theatrical lithograph for the J. Lyons ice-cream parlour chain.

Liam Gillick and Viv Albertine star in Joanna Hogg’s ‘Exhibition’ (Lily Le Brun)

Childless D and H dress up for parties, and leave with relief, bored by their neighbour’s insensitive chatter about their children. They have sex. They worry, they bicker, they guard their independence, and they constantly question and affirm their love for each other. Their house is overtly modernist, their car is silly; as the tactless neighbour implies, they are consciously unusual.

(2014), Yinka Shonibare MBE.

The British Library (2014), Yinka Shonibare MBE. A co-commission by HOUSE 2014 and Brighton Festival, 2014. Photo: Jonathan Bassett

Highlights from the Brighton and HOUSE Festivals (Digby Warde-Aldam)

A blitz of a visit on Friday brought me to the city feeling more than a little cynical, but I left that evening clear of thought and optimistic – the organisers have done a tremendous job. Ignore the thematic brackets imposed by the two festivals and their partner projects; it’s enough to know that there are some extremely strong exhibitions in Brighton this month.

(detail; 1886; edition 1906), Auguste Rodin.

Eternal Idol (Large) (detail; 1886; edition 1906), Auguste Rodin.
Courtesy Bowman Sculpture

‘Rodin – In Private Hands’ at Bowman Sculpture (Lowenna Waters)

Despite being commercially successful, Rodin’s ‘blockbuster’ works, The Kiss (1882), the Thinker (1881) and the Eternal Spring (c.1884), were not his favourite. Instead, Rodin recognised his own achievement in his more subversive, progressive and abstracted works. He considered Mask of Man with a Broken Nose (1863–4) his first good piece of modelling, saying it ‘determined all my future work’.

(1799), Clodion.

Zephyrus and Flora (1799), Clodion. The Frick Collection; recently treated and photographed by conservator Julia Day, and shown here with a backdrop Fifth Avenue Garden magnolias

Sculptures by Houdon and Clodion at the Frick Collection (Louise Nicholson)

Imagine this: a terracotta sculpture portraying Zephyrus and Flora enrapt, entwined, enamoured, their bodies a spiral of sensual twisting energy. This winged god of the west wind – a herald of spring – is embracing his beloved goddess of flowers, crowning her with a wreath of roses, while mischievous putti frolic at their feet, gently pushing them closer together.