April 18, 2011

"One can swim in chocolate or in blue sky" - Pierre Bonnard

May I present some highlights from the two New York museums I have explored - the MoMA and the Metropolitan.

I just remembered a story that happened to me when I was working in the Art Gallery of Ontario. There was a conference of directors from galleries all over North America and England. Somehow, I ended up as the only staff member who was supervising the installation of the exhibition for the conference, as well as the event. To watch the installation was truly fascinating. I saw drawings by Constable laid out before me; I saw ritual African masks of the 19th century; I saw a curator in white gloves taking out a little ivory skeleton, placing it on the pedestal, and inserting a tiny scythe into its hand. Then they decided to be charitable and let a group of security staff in to have a look around. It was quite a funny moment, because the security guards were gasping audibly all over the exhibit. Every moment, you could hear a new gasp from some corner of the room. Then the doors opened, and a whole swarm of bee-like directors got in, and started to buzz around the flowers, that is, the artworks.

What I'm trying to say is, when I visited the New York galleries, I was simultaneously like the security guards and like the directors. I was gasping and buzzing.

I apologize for the quality of my photos, because I was emotionally overwhelmed.

I'll start my highlights with my favorite artist - Edgar Degas. Although he is famous for his depictions of the ballet life, the truth is, he created them from his imagination, and from the stories of his models. It wasn't until many years later that his friend obtained him a pass to a rehearsal, and he could see what was going on with his own eyes.

A painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, the wonderful artist who was known for being very, shall we say, thorough about his paintings. For example, he worked on one painting for close to 18 years (not the one below, though). The woman depicted had gone through various other stages of life by the time it was finished.

Oscar-Claude Monet. When he was working on his series of pool paintings, they built him a raft. I can just picture this artist, early in the morning, standing with his canvas...the slightest draft of wind could turn that canvas into a sail.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir loved to paint cute young women. One time, a group of artists came over to see him, along with Modigliani. Renoir would have been pretty established by that time. He started to explain how much he enjoyed painting nudes. How he caresses the skin on the bums with the paint brush. Modigliani got up and said "I'm not interested in butts in the slightest" and ran off. Still, Renoir gave up a few paintings on the auction to raise money for Modigliani.

Renoir was born in 1841. His sons were born in 1885,1894, and 1901. His youngest child was born when Renoir was over 60. To avoid a scandal, the family started to refer to him as a "nephew". Having heard this story, Berthe Morisot was laughing, and said "Just wait ten more years, and the Renoirs will have another child."

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani painted nudes that were scandalous for the time. His maid saw a painting hanging in his room, and said that she wouldn't come back and clean the room until he takes it down.

Everybody knows that there was a rivalry going on between Modigliani and Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.

Henri Julien Félix Rousseau, nicknamed Le Douanier, one of the most mysterious artists for me. Since he was supposedly unable to paint properly, everyone made fun of him. There was a party for young artists, and people invited him just to ridicule him. Only Picasso visited him the next day to apologize.

Picasso always had to compete with somebody. He also had a love-hate relationship with Henri Matisse. So many books are dedicated to that. My favorite one is the memoir by Picasso's wife, Françoise Gilot.

Pierre Bonnard. Picasso had this to say about him - "That's not painting, what he does." Still life paintings by Bonnard were not arranged; they were meant to look like you have just entered the room and saw them. Bonnard`s quest was thus struggle between "the model you have before your eyes, and the model you have in your head."

Paul Cezanne had this strange habit - if he didn't like the way his painting turned out, he'd toss it right out of the window. When he made his still life arrangements, he would put coins and things under the fruit, so that it would look just as he intended.

It's impossible to get to know Vincent Willem van Gogh without reading his letters. Long-term depression guaranteed.

Berthe Morisot was married to Manet's younger brother, Eugene.

James Tissot also loved to paint cute women. He was the master of etching. His etching style evolved into a fluid and original use of this difficult medium.

Some of the following works of art are the ones I just enjoyed in the moment, without knowing any of their histories.

If I had several lives, I would devote one of them to the study of Medieval sculpture.

Jasper Jones visited Japan with his works one time. Since most of his works are encaustic, he needed an iron to get his works in the right state in Japan's humid climate. They gave him a little iron for ironing kimonos.

I haven't read any books about Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón yet where the author's point of view didn't overshadow the subject. I would like to find a book about her, and not the way the author sees her.

Francis Bacon is one of the most controversial artists of the 20th century. The most interesting memoirs about him were written by Lucian Freud, because they were buddies. A three-panel painting of Lucian Freud by his great friend Francis Bacon sold for more than £23 million at Sotheby’s.

Gustav Klimt would socialize with all layers of female society - from aristocracy to bourgeoisie to working class girls. It could be scandalous for that time. "I am not interested in myself as the subject of a picture", he wrote. "I prefer other people,especially women, and even more other forms of existence."


  1. Beautiful paintings! Nice post!
    Kisses from Brazil dear friend

  2. So many of these are like coming home to me. Thanks Olga!

  3. It takes an artist mind to appreciate these beauties ... thanks ! I may not understand all, but I am beginning to appreciate ...

  4. Fascinating and informative post. Wonderfully written. Thank you!

  5. Oh Olga, I've been waiting for your MOMA post . . . and I am sooooo not disappointed. I've been studying each of your great photos . . . my heart is beating fast. You've been in front of so many great masterpieces. I am so grateful you've taken the time to share these. Wow. Please don't ever ask me for my favorite.

    Some of these I've actually seen before. And I share your energy in seeing these, being able to photograph them. It's not the same, I know.

    My knees get weak on that Matisse.

    What can I tell you . . . .

    I love your thoughts, your impressions. I love sharing these with you.
    I'm afraid I'm in love with you, right now.

    Thank you, thank you.


  6. I would love to see a Van Gogh in person. You were so lucky to have seen them all.

  7. Dear Olga
    I love your photos! Very nice paintings and very nice impressions.
    Thank you for all! Have a nice week and a lot of greetings from Switzerland. Yvonne

  8. Great works of world champions. They are familiar, yet always fascinate. Painting is what my field is close. Even more to the art gallery you will return when I have more time. Greetings from Peter.

  9. Very good choice Olga !
    DEGAS, INGRES, RENOIR, MONET, etc. All great artists ! They bring us a lot of emotions trough time.......
    Thanks !

  10. Je t'envie beaucoup d'avoir pu visiter un tel musée. J'aurais pris un immense plaisir à découvrir en vrai les toiles de mes impressionnistes préférés.
    Bonne journée, Olga!

  11. Degas, Ingres, Monet, Renoir, and Modigliani, Cezzane, van Gogh, all at once. How can one not get emotionally overwhelmed!
    It's a special treat to see it again through your eyes and your words.
    I love Jasper Jones's strong, colourfull work, and Klint's delicacy.
    By the way, did you manage to see John Singer Sargent's Madame X, such a story behind too!

  12. J’ai passé un moment délicieux à travers ta visite.
    Je trouve Olga que ce que tu dis est toujours si pertinent et correspond à ce que je pense en plus que j'en suis parfois impressionné.
    I spent a delightful time through your visit.
    I think Olga what you say is always so relevant and reflects what I think I am sometimesmore than impressed.

  13. Beautiful art, some of my favourite artists are here, thank you for sharing.

    xoxoxo ♡

  14. Olga, I enjoyed my art lesson today. It has been many years since I took an Art History class. You covered a lot of the great and saw masterful works of art. Thank you for sharing and spending the time with us.

  15. Hey Olga,
    You just reminded me about my playing hooky as a teenager... My parents always laughed at me because whenever I decided to skip school I chose going to galleries and museums... Never gave them the opportunity to be mad at me... I had so much to see and learn...
    Going to a museum with you must be a real treat...
    Thank you so much for this tour... You made my morning a happier one!
    Buncha hugs!

  16. I like to hear your describe art. Very peaceful

  17. Hi Gisa,
    I'm glad you enjoyed my selection of paintings. Thank you for the kind words.

    Hi Lydia,
    You're so lucky you can go to this wonderful museum at a moment of your choosing.

    Hi Wong,
    This is one of the best compliments I have received :) I have always felt like understanding art is hard work for your whole life.

    Hi Laura,
    Thank you. It was really difficult to choose any one thing, because my head is full of information about these artists :)

    Hi Rick,
    I take this compliment not as a compliment for my hard work, but as an appreciation for these wonderful artists. The camera doesn't always capture our emotional states. I'm glad that at that moment I managed to produce something.

  18. Hi Randy,
    It's awful that Van Gogh had to be so lonely all his life. Maybe not even lonely, but rejected. I've seen his work in many museums, and I have always been stuck by that feeling of loneliness.

    Hi Yvonne,
    Thank you very much. Isn't it true that art brings something unusual to our lives?

    Hi Peter,
    I'm glad you enjoyed it. In Canada, we're not too spoiled by the presence of masterpieces. So, when I finally got near them, you can see that I was overwhelmed.

    Hi Pierre,
    Whenever you photograph works of art, there is that fear that you won't capture your own emotional response to them. I'm glad that this time something turned out well :)

    Hi Richard,
    J'apprécie beaucoup votre compliment. Surtout parce que vous êtes entouré de magnifiques musées en Europe. Il est beaucoup apprécié que vous aimez mon effort humble pour montrer ce que j'ai vu à New York.

  19. Hi Pet,
    I am always amazed when my posts find some response from such different people. In reality, I think we all see things differently. The funniest thing is, whenever I read you posts, I really relate to your experience :)

    Hi Jean-Philippe,
    Je suis arrivé à la conclusion que les véritables œuvres d'art ne laissent personne indifférent, indépendamment de leurs goûts et de l'éducation. Lorsque nous voyons une belle œuvre d'art, la seule chose que nous pouvons faire est debout devant lui avec émerveillement.

    Hi Dianne,
    You are welcome. Aren't they wonderful :)

    Hi lifeshighway,
    I also remember my art lessons from college and it seems like my lessons continue to this day :)

    Hi Lena,
    To me, museums are also my comfort zone. My friends love to go to the museum with me. Sometimes, during parties, they get exasperated with my art talk, though :)

    Hi Nikki,
    I'm glad you found my post peaceful. It's a good idea; I have one peaceful artist who is worth making a post about - Wolf Kahn.

  20. The quality of your photos is just fine! This is a very informative post, I like how you included a little bit of history behind each painting :) And of course the paintings were just lovely. I would've been excited to be there too just like the directors and the security guards!

  21. Superb collection you have here! You've also reminded me just how huge Monet's waterlily paintings were - the installations of their time.

  22. Oh Olga this was sublime, just sublime. When I knew you were going to do this post I kept wondering what paintings would you choose, and would they be ones I would choose. I am not surprised in the least that we have very similar tastes! Some of these paintings I have seen when they have been over in London on loan. But all the artists you have chosen I have seen their work either in London, Paris etc. It would be impossible to choose a favourite painting or artist: it depends on my emotions at that particular moment when I stand in front of a painting and just "feel" . This was a perfect post and I am off to bed now with a feeling of bliss. Thank you so much for all your work in producing this post, including your insightful comments X

  23. I am so overwhelmed that I forgot to say that if you EVER come over to London please please let me know. I would love to accompany you around my favourite rooms in my special galleries and we could talk for hours afterwards of what we have seen and experienced looking at Art :)

  24. I know I will never see these great pieces of work in person. But for a country bumpkin, I recognise some of the artist names and their works. But my favourite part of your blog today, was the history. Thank you Olga for 'taking' me with you to the museum today.


  25. Thank you Olga. I am so glad you have commented, because now I could read your inspirational blog:) and see your beautiful landscapes.

  26. Hello:
    What a fascinating and varied blog which we have discovered by chance and to which we are signing up as Followers immediately.

    The images which you have chosen to include in this post are wonderful.

    Additionally, where you have attached snippets of information and commentary one is drawn into the entire experience and it is as though one is in the gallery too. Previously we had no idea that Degas' paintings were not largely drawn from life, nor that Renoir had had a child at sixty, and so it goes on.

    Tomorrow we travel from Budapest to Pécs for the day to look at an exhibition of Hungarian Impressionists.

  27. Hi Olga, thanks for bringing a bit of the representation of these great museums, and which stand fine, well you chose the pictures and works of art to photograph, because it has filled our art looks big.
    Greetings .-

  28. That works wonders, my great museums with works overwhelms me so if I have to visit them in one day, any work of Renoir I can stay hours enjoying them. Being only less than 5 minutes with every great work and hurry is a sacrilege. Luckily in Madrid have been enjoying great works devoting every visit to one or two works, include some of them several days. So I just go on the tour. A greeting.

  29. I throughly enjoyed my virtual tour of the exhibition, although it was a lot to take in, so I will probably come back for another viewing. All so beautiful :)

  30. Fascinante muestra artística.
    SOBRETODO, si es que se puede elegir algo...me quedo con la primera fotografía, de la escultura de la niña...Tiene mucho movimiento y gracia. Es diferente. Muy especial.

    Gracias por pasar por mi blog y qué bueno te gustaran las fotografías.

    Disculpa, pero no hablo el inglés tanto como quisiera, para poder dejarte un mensaje en tu idioma.

    Abrazos grandes desde Chile!

  31. Olga, these are amazing. Thank you for the tour!

    I'm so lucky that I live close to the Tate Modern, where there are quite a few paintings by Monet, Renoir, Picasso... I love going there and just filling my eyes.

  32. Hi Brenda,
    It's easy for me to write about my favourite artists; it's much harder to filter the information to find something short and effective. I feel like some of them are like my relatives :)

    Hi Deborah Lawrence,
    Yes, I think he was definitely a pioneer of installations. The most amazing thing is that he was getting on in years, but he still had endless energy.

    Hi Dolly,
    I'm so glad you liked my selection. The decision was tough, because I had many more photos to include. When I come to London, we should definitely invade some gallery together :)

    Hi goodnufranch,
    I'm glad that my choice of paintings and my text appealed to you. Any time you're in Toronto, let me know, and I would love to be your guide around our local art world. Our feelings are mutual; I love to look through your photos as well.

  33. Hi Jonjver Takacs,
    I'm so glad I found your blog. Your photographs are incredible. It's wonderful to find another person who is interested in photography here in Canada :)

    Hi Jane and Lance Hattatt,
    I'm so jealous that you will get to see such a wonderful exhibition. I'm looking forward to your report on your blog. I know that it is difficult to work on these exhibitions, from personal experience. I'm also glad I've found your blog. Keep in touch!

    Hi Enrique,
    I was a little worried about the quality of my photos. I'm glad you understand that they were made with shaky hands :)

    Hi Leovi,
    I'm glad you enjoyed my report, and that you liked the paintings that I chose. It's true that every little contact with the world of art enriches and develops a person's inner world.

    Hi Lindy,
    You see, my friend, I'm coming back to your blog to see incredible Italian landscapes and flowers in order to uplift my spirits on this gray and rainy day in Toronto.

    Hi Maritza,
    No se preocupe - usted puede escribir en español, voy a usar mi traductor electrónico. La escultura de bailarina es uno de mis favoritos de obras de arte en el mundo. Me acuerdo de ella y amarla desde la infancia. Puesto que hay varias copias en el mundo, sigo buscando en diferentes museos y exposiciones. Gracias por su visita!

    Hi Talli,
    You are the luckiest girl. I understand that you are busy with your work, but it's wonderful to have the opportunity to visit the world`s greatest museums at any point. I only dream of London museums!

  34. 18 years on a painting!!? Oh my goodness- but that one that you showed really is pretty exquisite...it doesn't even really look like a painting!

  35. Going to all the museums (such as these) in NYC would be a dream come true to me. How beautiful is this art!

  36. Liebe Olga,
    vielen Dank für deinen netten Kommentar!Heute war es für mich wie eine Stunde Kunstunterricht.Und ich wollte nicht,dass diese Stunde zu Ende geht.Ein wunderschöner und bereichender Beitrag!Es war mir ein Vergnügen,dein Blog zu besuchen.
    ganz liebe Grüße
    Frohe Ostern

  37. Oh, my, these took my breath away. When my wife and I were in Florence last year we received very firm guidelines that no pictures be taken inside the galleries even without the flash.

  38. it must be a real treat to see all these beauties in person.

  39. What a fantastic experience to have seen these world famous paintings in person. It must have been awe inspiring!

  40. Ms. Olga - how wonderful and fantastic was this artistic journey. The world is so blessed to have so many wonderful artists...who have left us such a legacy of wonderment. Art - to be cherished!

  41. Olga -- this is a truly incredible post. I kept thinking as I went from photo to photo and painting to painting, "Surely these were not all in the same two museums!" All those famous and incredible works! What I liked, too, was each note about each artist -- I learned, and was surprised by, for example, that Degas had never seen an actual dance rehearsal before creating the ballet paintings, and that Renoir provided funds for Modigliani (whose grave I like to visit in Père Lachaise in Paris -- and such a sad story about Jeanne Hébuterne...). So much interesting information about each of these people.

    I was so taken by this post! I think it is one of the best I have read in a long time! Thank you for it. :)

  42. I remember feeling completely emotional and overwhelmed when first visiting MoMA and the Metropolitan, so I can totally relate to this post and the sentiments you express.

  43. I think that it was a great day for you !
    I love all these painters !
    a nice post !

  44. What a fantastic post. These pictures are stunning. I have never been a Picasso fan but the rest I love particularly the little squirrel. Diane

  45. Thank you for such a lovely tour of New Yorks' Museums. I spent 5 amazingly wonderous days there last year and wasn't able to do more than dash through. My plan is to go back in 2012 and really just hang out in the Met as long as I can....

  46. What an amazing exhibition you have presented for us. Truly overwhelming. Thank you so much. Added to that are the snippets about the artists; intriguing!

    I did not realise that Degas had not seen rehearsals - incredible. And I have to add that the Renoir painting of the two girls at the piano always remind me of my two daughters when they were young ... a romantic image that I give to myself!

  47. Hi Krystal,
    Ingres, in his works, would sometimes do some unexplainable things. He knew human anatomy perfectly well, and yet he would deliberately paint anatomically incorrect people.

    Hi Jennifer Fabulous,
    The more one learns about art, the more one understands and enjoys it. It's also possible to feel as if it was made for your personally.

    Hi Megi,
    Vielen Dank für Ihren wunderbaren Kommentar. Es gab mir die Idee, Beiträge über meine Lieblings-Künstler machen. Vielen Dank für diesen zu beeinflussen. Frohe Ostern auch für Sie.

    Hi Paul,
    It's incredible that, in the MoMA and the Metropolitan, you are allowed to take photos. In Frick Collection, they wouldn't let us. The same thing happens in Canada. Florence is my dream :)

    Hi Life Ramblings,
    Standing before these paintings gives you such a sense of awe.

  48. Hi Doug,
    After this, I also ran around doing other things in New York. The memories of these paintings makes me feel happy.

    Hi DeanO,
    It's true; artists make our life more colourful. I keep wanting to mention that I love reading your posts. Since I'm not at all competent in the field of politics, I appreciate it as a source of opinion.

    Hi Karin,
    I know more about certain artists than about members of my own family :) When I was a student, I considered naively that you can find one book about an artist and learn about him or her from it. Since that time, I have read about 24 books about Degas in English.

    Hi hila,
    Somebody commented in my blog - paintings are just canvas with some splashes of colour on it, but it can evoke so many emotions! It's incredible.

    Hi Marty,
    Thank you for your feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  49. Hi Diane,
    This squirrel is something phenomenal. I really like Dutch painters of the 16th and 17th century, with their attention and appreciation of detail.

    Hi Angela,
    I wish I could have spent more time in New York and in these lovely galleries. Perhaps in the future? I'm glad you enjoyed my post.

    Hi aguja,
    Degas not only imagined these rehearsals and painted them from his mind; it actually turned out that some minor details were very realistic. Although one needs to keep in mind that he heard a lot of information from his models.

  50. Olga

    Every artist you shown is wonderful --- but I must say I sat in front of the long series of big canvases of the water lilies of Monet's for hours. There is much to learn in contemplation with each dab of color,

    Happy Easter,

  51. Hi Olga!

    You have a wonderful blog and this post was breathtaking, I wish I could see these someday. I saw some of Monet's, Van Gogh's and Klimt's paintings in Prague and they were unbelievable! These are pure treasures.
    -Happy Easter, Susanna
    P.S. Thank you for visiting my blog :)

  52. You really know your art, and have such an engaging way of presenting it to others!

    I love the Metropolitan and still cannot believe that I have been lucky enough in my life to spend two days there separated by a decade. That second trip, my wedding trip, our best man's gift to us was to drive us and leave us at the met's Cloisters Museum. We wandered for hours and then took a bus back downtown. What a great day!

    My favorites here are the Klimt and Tissot.

  53. Such a wonderful post, Olga!
    I enjoyed it so much!

  54. Hi Joanny,
    I really bow before Monet. He was such a workaholic, but it never affected the quality of his work. If you look carefully at his last paintings (which he worked on when he was quite old), you could say he could have also made a brilliant career in abstract art.

    Hi Susanna,
    I'm a little jealous. To visit Prague Museums is my childhood dream. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Van Gogh and Climt are so different, but, as far as the way they affect the viewer, they come from the same tribe :)

    Hi Lydia,
    Visiting these museums, where there is a concentrated amount of talent, always leaves such a strong impression. I would say that every visit can be remembered in vivid detail.

    Hi tattina,
    I'm glad you enjoyed it! You're welcome in this blog.

  55. What a collection! Rousseau's paintings always catch my eye for longer!

  56. Hi Ola,
    I love him so much. He is the one who painted with his heart.

  57. Nice blog...thanks for the colourful explanations