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The book: Joe Machine


Joe Machine

Hardback: 308 pages, 140 illustrations
Language: English
Text by Edward Lucie-Smith
ISBN: 978-5-91373-061-9
Dimensions: 30 x 24 x 3 cm

                                                              Available from Amazon

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Joe Machine by Edward Lucie-Smith

Like many of the most remarkable artists of the Modern and Post Modern epoch, Joe Machine is self-taught. As it happens, being self-taught is also very much part of the English – or should I be politically correct and call it the ‘British’ - tradition. Francis Bacon, notoriously, had no professional formation as a painter. William Blake, in many ways a precursor of Joe Machine, as some of the illustrations in this book amply demonstrate, spent six years studying at the Royal Academy, but the instruction he received seems to have bounced off him. All it did was to instill in him a profound disrespect for academic ways of thinking, at least as these were understood in the England of his time.

Joe Machine’s art is also often autobiographical. Autobiography, as a theme for visual art, is essentially a product of the later phases of the Romantic Movement. Before that time, artists had very often, certainly from the time of the Renaissance onwards, produced self-portraits. Sometimes they were likenesses made as independent works of art. Sometimes they were inserted into multi-figure compositions, as a form of signature or guarantee of authorship. Sometimes they were offered as proof of skill, such as the young Parmigianino’s portrait of himself reflected in a convex mirror, presented by the artist to Pope Clement VII. Parmigianino, newly arrived in Rome, wanted to show the Pope what he could do.

 Only rather rarely did pre-Romantic artists attempt an additional dimension. The paintings in which they did so are the ones that our contemporary sensibilities cherish today. Famous examples are Durer’s likeness of himself using an image-type usually reserved for representations of Christ, Michelangelo’s grotesque likeness of himself as the empty skin of St Bartholomew, dangling from the hand of the naked saint in the artist’s huge fresco of The Last Judgment, Velazquez’s Las Meninas, where we see the painter a work on a portrait of a young Spanish princess surrounded by her attendants, Rembrandt’s late self-portraits, and Caravaggio’s self-portrait as the decapitated Goliath, held up for inspection by a youthfully triumphant David.

Read more: Joe Machine by Edward Lucie-Smith