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My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Thursday, 24 May 2018


Last night I watched one of my favourite tv presenters:

Waldemar Januszczak, Big Sky, Big Dreams, Big Art: Made in the USA 1/2 - BBC 4

Waldemar has a forceful presence and a style all his own which relates to no other I know of. He is pleasantly tubby and bouncy with a tendency to waddle, and pops up all over in bizarre locations. Some may say his visage is ugly, but no, he is such a likeable guy it is all character. He talks to you without condescension, and thankfully without academic gobbledygook.

He often underlines weaknesses  in paintings and artists and does a bit of debunking, but then builds them back up with compliments, anecdotes and a sort of satirical humour.

Last night Waldemar was tracing the history of American art starting with ancient Indian cave paintings and then moving on to the Wild West where he focused on the famous Charles Remington bronze: Coming Through the Rye. Waldemar contrasts this to Greek classical sculpture based on learned myths and calssical philosophy, whereas the cowboys are whooping into town after some perhaps dubious foray and on their way to the saloon for more high jinks.

That artwork is for me the most desirable and energetic I think I have ever seen, even though only through the medium of TV and the photo below. I imagine taking renewed pleasure viewing it every day, but sadly it was recently sold to someone else for $11m.

Waldemar progresses to the moderns and makes a brave attempt to relate Jackson Pollock's splashes, dashes and dribbles to the cave art introduced at the beginning, but although I have some respect for the Pollock works I am not convinced about that connection.

I am looking forward to the next episode.



  1. I think my favorite of his sculptures (I've seen in books) is the one of the bucking horse, arched high under the saddle and rider. Maybe it's just the shock I felt when I realized they weren't performing in a rodeo but because the horse was trying to avoid (stomp on?) the rattlesnake near its front feet.

    Had not seen "Coming Through the Rye" before, Conrad. I can see why you like it though: the epitome of the Wild West icons, cowboy and horse.

  2. ...oh, also guns a-blazin'!

  3. Waldemar always sounds as if he's having an argument but there's nobody there to argue with. A one-sided argument then.

    Is he wearing that ill-advised leather jacket that was already too tight for him in sixth form. You'll never guess where he was born: Basingstoke! The only remotely exotic citizen from a town where the bypass preceded the creation of the town itself. Luckily for him all his Hampshire smoothness was roughed away by advanced education at the University of Manchester (the University of Walsall being full at the time). Then elevation unto the heights - art critic of The Guardian.

    One of these days he's going to launch himself at a vast stone staircase at somewhere like Thrace, arrive puffing at the top, undergo syncope, and the Guardian's going to accord him a full-page obituary. Alas this tribute won't be what what it should have been, given the paper's decision to go tabloid.

    They have said Waldemar is the natural son of Lord Clark (of Civilisation). Something tells me this is wild speculation.

  4. I made a mistake. The sculpture I was remembering, "Rattlesnake", is one of Frederick Remington's iconic American West sculptures, not by Charles Russell.

    Both men had a love of the Wild West which came through in their art. Their paintings and sculptures helped romanticize an era in American history that was brutal and hardscrabble -- especially to those who had been living on and honoring the lands for hundreds of years before the settlers arrived.

    I found my mistake when I went googling for an image of horse and rider encountering rattlesnake. The artworks of both men came up in response to my search.

  5. The Crow - Ah! My bit of Americanism seems to have hit the spot. I notice you didn't say anything about Jackson Pollock.


    RR - You have intimated to me before that you are a fan of Waldemar, and whilst you write a good caricature that doesn't come through, except your reference to his elevation to art critic for the Guardian which I reckon automatically puts him amongst the gods for you.

  6. I couldn't imagine anyone understanding Pollock's work when I first (in early teens) saw photos of it. Then, a few years later, I did an abstract painting for a friend at work (head of the IT department) in which I used dripped paint to indicate the huge, floor-to-ceiling bank of computers he kept running in perfect order. I used the same technique to do his "portrait" in the center. It wasn't great, or even anything near good, but my friend liked it; said it reminded him of Pollock's paintings.

    I started looking at Jackson Pollock's work differently after that. (Not because of friend's remark, though. My painting was terrible!) I stared at a poster of a painting from 1950 (can't remember the title - or mumber, as the case might be) and found myself trying to see which color he dripped first. I noticed the rhythm of his lines, where there was repetition, almost like the lines we had to practice when we were learning cursive writing. The last two colors he laid were more chaotic, as if he were growing tired. Maybe the drips were intentional, maybe subconscious; maybe he was trying to avoid ash from his cigarettes falling onto the canvas.

    I don't think he cared if his work was misunderstood or unappreciated by the likes of me, an ignoramus about art. But, then, abstract expressionist paintings are done only for an audience of one - the artist. I don't pretend to know anything about his art, or anyone else's. Nor do I claim to like each of his paintings. There are some, however, I get lost in, like trying to unlock an enigma, find an answer that doesn't exist. I hope to see one in person before I die.

  7. The Crow - Thanks for that Martha - on my latest post you commended me for wise words - I now award the same accolade to you.