April 18, 2011
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."