I am pleased to see that one of the paintings in the Post-Impressionism exhibition is by the little-known French Humorist writer Alphonse Allais, for if he is obscure as a writer he is even more obscure as a painter. The painting is one of his best, being a white rectangle entitled “Anaemic Girls going to their First Communion in a Snow Storm”, (Not his absolute best, though, which I think is his black rectangle called “Negroes fight in a cave at Night``.) As these paintings date from the early 1880s, they may even be the first abstracts ever painted.
Unfortunately, the white painting at the RA, which is labelled a Modern Reconstruction has been hung – or rather pinned – in the upright or portrait position. I have always understood that he painted the picture in landscape or wide-and-a-bit- shallow shape. That at least is how all his pictures are reproduced in his collected works, edited by the French scholar Francois Caradec. This means one of two things; either the modern reconstruction has been displayed 90 degrees out of true (not 180 degrees, as I believe is normal with modern paintings) or it is based on a forgery. Either way, I think the Royal Academy owes the public an explanation, or at least should indulge in some hasty repining.