1. “Landscape with Swan” (1947) by Filippo de Paris, Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 73.5 cm.
|Mushrooms by the Sea|
3. “Little Man in a Street” (1948) by Ottone Rosai, Oil on canvas, 53 x 38cm.
Again, I couldn’t find this painting online. It is an image of a small man in a big coat walking, alone, on a village lane. We only see this man’s back: his hands are crossed behind his back and his head is lowered, his hat in place. What was captivating about this painting, for me, was that the ‘street’ with its high concrete wall on one side adds a catastrophic feel to the scene and appears to be a segment of a large labyrinth. In that confined space, the walker is completely sealed off from the outside world. If the walker is trying to find his way out, he does not seem to be in a hurry or in any agony. Perhaps there is nothing outside of that labyrinth to inspire him to enthusiastically solve the puzzle. That, for a moment, made me very sad.
4. “Ashtray” (1958) by Renato Guttuso, Oil on canvas, 58 x 67cm.
I am drawn to paintings of ashtrays partly because my father is a smoker; he has started smoking since his teenage years, a fact that worries me constantly (read my poem “Cigarette Butts”). In Guttuso’s painting, part of which you can see below, there is a collocation of a dozen or so cigarette butts, and strangely, although there is only one can (or glass?) left on the table, three of the butts are still lit; their orange spots signifying life. Together, they leave curvy Aladdin-style smoke reaching the upper end of the canvas. Who were the smokers? Why did they leave the room? Was the departure intended to be temporary only? I kept trying to see some kind of pattern in the smoke: a fading face, a random letter. But in the end I got nothing. The smokers have left the room, leaving the viewers a mystery. And the smoke is complicit.
5. “Landscape with Lovers” (year?) by Renato Guttuso, Pastel on papers, 48.5 x 68cm.
This is an image of a narrow road between a stone wall and a row of olive trees (see below). The stone side is brown and black and the trees side is yellow, almost glorious, and the dark distinct branches echo the cracks of the opposite wall. At first, I couldn’t spot the lovers, since they are perfectly blended into the stone side of the painting. Their clothes are of a similar tone to the darker stone making up the wall, suggesting their working-class background. Once they are ‘found’, however, it is hard not to see them in the painting. The lovers, obviously in love, are kissing intensely and are perfectly oblivious to their surrounding and any potential voyeurs. Their oblivion causes the viewer to be aware of and feel guilty for his/her intrusion. The onlooker wants to be discreet, look away, and leave the young couple alone. But at the same time he/she is drawn to them one more time, focusing on their lustful interlocked mouths, the woman’s fleshly buttocks, the concave and convex of the lovers’ bodies down the waist. The hidden erection and wetness. Then he/she reluctantly moves on.
|Landscape with Lovers|
A shorter version of this appears here.