Monday, March 31, 2014

Monet to Rousseau Landscapes

In Philadelphia, 
Tuesday April 8th, 4-5:30pm
at The Barnes Foundation


La Plaine de Bellevue

For centuries, the landscape has been a muse for artists. From real locations to imagined scenes, learn how legendary artists like Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, and Rousseau have captured the beauty, mystery, and experience of nature. Voted Best of Philly by Philadelphia Magazine, this 90-minute tour offers an intimate Barnes experience on a day they’re closed to the public.   

check webite for price of tour

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Recognizing St. Christopher

The point of iconography is to identify biblical and legendary characters in art. But for those of us who didn't a have a parochial education, raised with exposure to the stories of the saints, the age-old attributes of many biblical figures that we see in painting aren’t always all that helpful.

There are some telltale attributes that are always easy for me to recognize, like St. Peter with his key, St Paul with the sword of his martyrdom, St Catherine of Alexandria with a spiked wheel … but since I didn't grow up learning about the saints and their martyrdoms, there are very many that aren’t lodged in my long-term memory. I depend on my FlammarionIcnographic Guide to the Bible and the Saints.  

As the patron saint of travellers, St Christopher is perhaps one of the most widely-recognized:  identified in art as an outsized man carrying an small child on his shoulder. The iconography stems from the legend, popularized in the 13th century, in which a Canaanite named Reprobus, who was 5 cubits (7.5 feet) tall, decided to seek out and serve "the greatest king there was".  After attaching to two or three kings who proved themselves to not be the greatest, Reprobus met a hermit who instructed him in the Christian faith and suggested that because of his size and strength he could serve Christ by assisting people to cross a dangerous river. 

Soon after Reprobus began providing this service, a small child asked him to carry him across the river. During the crossing, the river became swollen and the child became increasingly heavy, so much that Christopher could scarcely carry him. When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: "You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were." The child replied: "You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work." The child then vanished.  

The legend tells us that henceforth Reprobus was known as Christopher, meaning "Christ-bearer".  Wikipedia has an interesting entry about the historical figure – a soldier in a Roman military cohort in Northern Africa who may have been merged into this legend.

Today I came across a figure identified as St. Christopher … dressed as a Roman soldier with the head of a dog atop his neck … with no sign of a river and no child perched on his shoulder. Misattribution was unlikely: painted on the panel adjacent to the figure’s halo, clear as day (?!), it says Ἅγιος Χριστόφορος, Greek for St. Christopher.  

Uh oh. My RC-centric Flammarion Guide says nothing about a dog-headed (cynocephalic) Christopher. 

But a little delving led me to the website of the Museum of Russian Iconography in Clinton MA. The museum has recently acquired this miniature icon depicting St. Christopher with a dog's head, wearing gilded armor and a red cape. Scholars believe that the Latin words for Canaanite (Cananeus) and "dog-like" (canineus) may have been confused in early translations, making St Christopher a fearsome warrior for the Christian faith. While the dog-headed legionnaire iconography became standard in the art of the Eastern Orthodox church, it never took hold in the Roman Catholic west, replaced by the Christ-bearer image. 

To the right is an extremely rare icon in which East meets West, showing a dog-headed St. Christopher bearing Christ on his shoulder. 

Incidentally, in the museum's miniature icon (shown above), the figure with the cynocephalic Christopher is identified as St. Stephen. Stephen was a deacon who was expelled from town and stoned to death. Here is wears his usual dalmatic and stole, but the expected stones of his martyrdom are missing. In their stead he holds a censer and a model of a fortified town ... unusual attributes in my experience.  More delving required ...! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Alert: Winged Victory Under Restoration

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is undergoing restoration at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The current word is that it will be unveiled sometime this summer.

The Winged Victory is a phenomenon of Hellenistic sculpture. The statue of a winged female figure—the messenger goddess Victory (Nike in Greek)—stands atop a base shaped like the prow of a ship. The monument measures just over 18 feet 3 in in height.

The monument was sculpted in the 2nd century BC in white Paros marble. It was created as an offering in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace following a naval battle. Spreading her tremendous wings, the goddess announces the victory. The figure wears a sheer chiton and a cloak that swirls and falls in deep folds. The massive base and pedestal are sculpted from grey white-veined marble from the quarries of the island of Rhodes, a darker color that contrasts with the white marble of the statue. The incredible ingenuity in the construction of this masterpiece shows the artist to be of extraordinary talent.

The Victory was discovered in April 1863 by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, who sent it to Paris in the same year. The monumental yet airy Daru staircase was built to link the Denon and Sully wings of the Louvre, and in 1884 the Winged Victory was positioned at the top landing and unveiled to the public.

For anyone interested in the process of restoring such an important antiquity, there is an interesting explanatory slideshow on the museum website.   The staircase will be under renovation until Spring of 2015.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three Historic House Art Museums

In Chicago
The Driehaus Museum  
Housed in a grand residential building of 19th-century Chicago which was the Gilded Age home of banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson. The galleries feature surviving furnishings paired with elegant, historically-appropriate pieces from the Driehaus Collection of Fine and Decorative Arts, including important works by such celebrated designers as Herter Brothers and Louis Comfort Tiffany. 

Through June 29, 2014

  Louis Comfort Tiffany worked in nearly all media available to artists and designers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — glass, ceramic, metalwork, jewelry, and painting.  More than 60 objects are on view.

In Glens Falls, NY  
Historic Hyde House
Housed in an American Renaissance mansion built in 1912.  The collection includes Rembrandt, Rubens, Picasso, Renoir, and Hassam. 
Through May 11, 2014 

A selection of approximately twenty winter landscape paintings, including the work of Aldro Thompson Hibbard, Hobart Nichols, Ernest Lawson, Arthur James Emery Powell, Arthur Clifton Goodwin, and Walter Koeniger. In the early twentieth century, winter scenes emerged as a major genre for American landscape painters as artists sought to express the special quality of a local place through the luminescent effects of bright, winter light and its reflective colors.

Arthur James Emery Powell 
(American, 1864-1956)
Winter Landscape, ca. 1930, 
oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 24 1/4 in

Through April 20, 2014 

Forty early works by legendary master of American landscape photography, Ansel Adams, will offer a fresh look at key images by the artist from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Also, original masterworks from an international circle of painterly photographers know as the Photo-Secession. In the first years of the 1900s, the artists broke away from the mainstream use of the camera as a tool for mechanical reproduction and embraced a new style that emphasized the role of craftsmanship.

In Rockland, ME 
Farnsworth Art Museum

The museum has 20,000 square feet of gallery space and more than 10,000 works in the collection. One of  the nation's largest collections of works by sculptor Louise Nevelson. Its Wyeth Center features works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth.
Through April 27, 2014

As 19th century artists drew creative inspiration from the environment, melding of the real with the ideal, these works offer us a view of the compositional and conceptual ideas of the time.  .

 E Josselyn 
Untitled Winter Scene, 1885 
Oil on canvas 25 3/8" x 33 1/2"

Through December 31, 2014

From the holdings of the Farnsworth Art Museum, the exhibit presents the nude, as it explores the ideal of beauty.  From the fluid, classical sensuality of John Adams Jackson’s Eve to the soft intimacy of George Bellows Girl on a Flowered Cushion, to the austere aggressiveness of Leonard Baskin’s Apollo, to the overt sensuality of Emil Ganso’s Lingerie, to Neil Welliver’s whimsical Floating Women.


Emil Ganso 
American, b.1895, d.1941) 
Lingerie, 1932 Color 
lithograph 16 x 21 1-2" 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Temporary Art Exhibits In Cincinnati

At the Cincinnati Art Museum
through May 11, 2014

More than seventy master drawings by a group of artists known as “The Generation of 1700.” This group of artists born in or around the year 1700, includes François Boucher, Charles-Joseph Natoire, and Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. Their work epitomizes the French grand manner: from Boucher’s sumptuous reclining female nude, to a rare, early pastel by Chardin, to a mature self portrait by theDirector of the French Academy, Charles Coypel. 

François Boucher (1703–1770), Recumbent Female Nude, circa 1742–43, red chalk, heightened with white chalk, The Horvitz Collection, Boston

At the Taft Museum of Art

A selection of exquisitely embellished robes, accessories, and textiles from the Qing dynasty. These rarely seen items include imperial silk robes, hats, fans, sleeve bands, rank badges, jewelry, shoes, and wall hangings. The exhibition will provide an enriched context for the Taft’s porcelains, which share a number of decorative motifs and symbols with the visiting objects.

Imperial Manchu Man’s Semiformal Court Robe with Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty, China, 1850–1875, woven silk and metal thread tapestry. Denver Art Museum Neusteter Textile Collection

Also at the Taft Museum of Art 
through June 22, 2014

A group of diminutive oils featuring landscape, portrait, and figure paintings by 18th- and 19th-century artists from the United States, France, and Holland.

Frank Duveneck, An Italian Woman, about 1880, oil on panel.
Taft Museum of Art, 

New Look, New Directions

I've been blogging about art-related things that interest me for seven and a half years! Haven't always posted regularly, by any means ... this is only my 120th entry.   The will to post seems to come over me in random spurts.  I'm in a spurt right now.

Browsing around blogspot I've found that there are a lot of features they didn't offer when I got started in 2006. And I've learned that my old template is no longer supported ... which may explain why I have been having so much trouble getting spacing and font-size selections to stick!

So ... a new look and an new feature: Now you can follow my blog by entering your email so new posts will automatically appear in your inbox.

I've also recently started posting information about special temporary exhibits that are on display in museums around the US and abroad. If you're looking for a weekend get-away, this could give you ideas!

I'd love it if you would sign up to follow my blog!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Notable Contemporary Art Exhibits: East,West and Mid U.S.

New York City
 through June 8th
Focuses on Paul Gauguin’s rare prints and transfer drawings, and their relationship to his better-known paintings and sculptures in wood and ceramic. Approximately 150 works, including some 120 works on paper and a selection of some 30 related paintings and sculptures, it is the first exhibition to take an in-depth look at this overall body of work.
Created in several discreet bursts of activity from 1889 until his death in 1903, these remarkable works on paper reflect Gauguin’s experiments with a range of media, from radically “primitive” woodcuts to jewel-like watercolor monotypes and large, mysterious transfer drawings. Gauguin’s creative process often involved repeating and recombining key motifs from one image to another, allowing them to evolve and metamorphose over time and across media.

Also at MOMA 
through June 1, 2014
Celebrates the recent joint acquisition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s extensive archive by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. Through an initial selection of drawings, films, and large-scale architectural models, the exhibition examines the tension in Wright’s thinking about the growing American city in the 1920s and 1930s, when he worked simultaneously on radical new forms for the skyscraper and on a comprehensive plan for the urbanization of the American landscape titled “Broadacre City.”   
Highlighting Wright’s complex relationship to the city, the material reveals him to have been a compelling theorist of both its horizontal and vertical aspects. His work, in this way, is not only of historic importance but of remarkable relevance to current debates on urban concentration.

Los Angeles
At The Hammer Museum  
through May 18, 2014
Approximately 100 works, including prints as well as rare books and ephemera (such as menus, theater programs, and music scores). This array of objects gives the exhibition an intimate quality, revealing much about how women – and men – lived their lives during a time of great social upheaval and artistic innovation. 
Whether as angelic creatures or exotic lures, women filled the imaginations of artists and were a frequent subject of fin-de-siècle art. Those who had leisure time were depicted relaxing with an afternoon cup of tea, as seen in a Mary Cassatt etching, whereas other artists portrayed the drug addiction common to women facing harsh economic realities.

Also at The Hammer Museum  
through May 18, 2014
Focuses on the intersection of two important genres of contemporary art: appropriation (taking and recasting existing images, forms, and styles from mass-media and fine art sources) and institutional critique (scrutinizing and confronting the structures and practices of our social, cultural, and political institutions). The exhibition brings together works by thirty-six American artists who came to prominence between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. 
The majority of the works on view are from the 1980s and 1990s, a groundbreaking period that was shaped by the feminist and civil rights movements of the previous decades. Conscious of the profound impact on society of mass media such as television, newspapers, and film, artists examined critical questions of identity and representation via politically and socially engaged practices.

San Francisco
NEWS:  the SFMOMA building is closed for expansion through early 2016. But in the interim, you can experience SFMOMA's exhibitions and events at locations around the Bay Area. Check the website for info. 

At the Museum of Contemporary Art through Jun 15, 2014
 The 1960s were important years for artists and friends Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987) and Marisol (Marisol Escobar, American, b. France, 1930), and marked a formative period in the development of their individual careers. Warhol began using his celebrated silk screen techniques to produce serial paintings, often based on mass media images. Marisol made the first of many portraits and developed her signature style, wooden sculptures with flat painted surfaces and additional elements such as everyday objects or plaster castings. Both were prominent figures in New York City’s lively art scene during this time.
Inspired by the multifaceted relationship of these two artists, the show presents a focused selection of their works, side-by-side.

Also at the Museum of Contemporary Art 
through Aug 17, 2014
MCA DNA: AlexanderCalder 
Traces the development of the artist’s ideas over a fifty-year career, in particular, his exploration of how art can move in response to its physical environment. The exhibition presents examples of Alexander Calder’s (American, 1898–1976), mobiles, stabiles, and works on paper dating from the 1920s to the 1970s—a selection of the museum’s in-depth holdings of the seminal artist’s work.
Trained as an engineer, Calder applied his knowledge of mechanics to colorful abstract shapes. Activated by air currents, his dynamic mobiles are ever-changing compositions. Marcel Duchamp invented the word mobile to describe Calder’s revolutionary work.


At the Walker Art Center 
through June 20, 2014
The first major museum exhibition to focus on the drawings and creative process of Edward Hopper (1882–1967), surveys his significant and underappreciated achievements as a draftsman. More than anything else, Hopper’s drawings reveal the continually evolving relationship between observation and invention in the artist’s work. Includes pairings of many of his greatest oil paintings with their preparatory drawings and related works.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

What's On At Boston's Museum of Fine Arts?

An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection    
through March 30, 2014
approximately 50 early 20th-century American photographs 

Elegant Contortions: Renaissance Prints   
through March 30, 2014 
Some 50 works from the MFA’s collection and select loans, focuses on Italian printmakers of the 16th century

through May 11, 2014

some 30 works, including prints from the MFA’s copy of The Birds of America and some smaller books by Audubon, to show the range of his birds.

through 26-May-14

MFA's first “crowdsourced” exhibition - Boston’s 30 favorite Impressionist works of art from the MFA collection

through 26-May-14
Juxtaposes clothing, accessories, graphic illustrations, jewelry, and paintings to shed light on changes in style

American Gestures: Abstract Expressionism       
through June 1, 2014 
30 drawings, prints, paintings, and sculpture from the late 1940s to the 1970s by Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, David Smith, Mark Tobey, Alfred Leslie, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and a number of others.

through August 17, 2014 
20th century prints are shown together with preliminary drawings, woodblocks, artists’ proofs, and variant versions printed from the same blocks, highlighting the interplay of creativity and technique in printmaking.

March 8, 2014 - July 6, 2014 
50 lively drawings and watercolors by leading 17th-century Dutch artists 
Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics & Bamboo Art  
through 8-Sep-14

Samba Spirit: Modern Afro Brazilian Art
through 19-Oct-14
works by 20th-century Brazilian artists of mostly African descent

Friday, March 07, 2014

On the Under-Appreciated History of Drawing

That Santa Fe is a world-class art city was confirmed when I learned last Fall that an exhibit of the Spanish drawings from the British Museum would be making it’s only U.S. appearance at the New Mexico Art Museum in Santa Fe. Oh joy!

I attended the Renaissance to Goya show the weekend it opened and promised myself I’d go back when it was less crowded. Drawings need to be studied close up, which is hard to do when there are a lot of others jostling to do the same. 

I did finally return to it this past week … just days before the show closing on Sunday, March 9th. Needless to say, there would have been fewer people at my elbow had I got back in January, but I had an delightful 2 hours with the drawings nonetheless.

I hadn’t realized that art historians have long assumed that Spanish artists didn't draw much and produced little in terms of prints. This show (organized by Mark McDonald, curator of prints and drawings at the British Museum) served to challenge that notion to some degree. While McDonald contends that Spanish drawings are somewhat rare because they were not considered collectable works of art in their time, he did gather more than 130 sketches and prints to provide insight into four centuries of Spain's culture and history, including Murillo, Zurbaran, Ribera and Goya. There were quite a few exquisite drawings by artists I’ve not heard of before, as well as some by Tiepolo, who spent his last decade in Madrid.

I’m sometimes amazed that any drawing on paper has managed to survive the centuries. Indeed, many of these examples were marked with the stains and tears and folds that occurred as they were used and reused, as teaching tools and for developing compositions for paintings. The works in this show ranged from exploratory sketches to highly finished and detailed drawings. Media included chalks, charcoal, and ink as well as engravings and lithographs. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of so many different ways of defining form and of modeling.

In my experience, drawings typically receive little attention in the teaching of art history. They are viewed as secondary to the real deal:  paintings and sculpture. But maybe drawing should be considered the first art. As children we start expressing ourselves visually, by drawing. Art sudents have traditionally started to learn to see, by drawing. Composition is worked out through drawing. Buildings start out on paper, as drawings. ...

Before going back to see the Renaissance to Goya exhibit last week, I was googling around in an attempt to learn more about drawing during the Renaissance.  I came across a website put together by Thomas Buser, a retired professor of Art History. Titled simply, History of Drawing, Buser says it is “a textbook and reference book available free to anyone who loves drawings.”

It’s well worth a look if you want to learn about the development of drawing style, materials, technique, and purpose from the 15th through the 20th centuries. The many images make it a really compelling resource.