Model to the Grindstone

Helloooooo!! Greetings friends. I trust you’ve all filed your taxes, completed spring cleaning, and renewed your car inspections since I lasted posted? Because I’ve done all of it! :lol:

Ok, I lied. I haven’t done any of those things. But they’re all in progress. I have a valid excuse for procrastinating, though, which is that I’ve been studio-bound working my heinie off at art modeling. Because it’s what I do. And I am a dreadful time-budgeter. The worst. Also, I had a a brief rant on Twitter the other day in which I vented some frustrations, but it’s passed now thank god. Behold the bitchfest here and here. My fellow art model Andrew heard my grievances loud and clear. Thanks friend.

For some visual proof of my daily grind, this is me posing on Long Island’s north shore. From the expression on my face it looks like I retained some residual “don’t mess with me, I’m a professional model” attitude from last week. Well, it had been a long day and Rob Silverman took this reference photo at the end of the session. It was very nice of him to send me the pic. Rob and I have known each other for years. He’s an excellent teacher. This was the agreed upon pose set-up for painting. They wanted nude with fabric and they got it. Throw in light, shadow, and color, and you’ve got the essentials of studio art. Satin, baby ;-)

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Raphael and the Body Electric

A few days ago I received an email from Sedef Piker, an art history and travel blogger, in which she generously invited me to take part in an online tribute the life and work of  Hasan Niyazi - a fellow art historian and blogger who left us far, far too soon. The “Day for Hasan” would coincide with the birthday of Raphael and consist of original blog postings written for the occasion. Honored that I was even asked to participate, I contemplated what my contribution should be and decided that I would respectfully leave the art historical discourses to the experts and the intimate recollections to those of course who knew Hasan personally. What I can offer instead is the point of view of an artist’s model toward the Renaissance master who so inspired Hasan’s passion.

My world is infused with figure drawing. Yes I have sat for countless portraits and oil paintings. But my years as a professional artist’s model have made clear one incontrovertible truth about the creation of art: drawing is the most vital and essential skill an artist can master. For it is from drawing the human form that all timeless art flows. Raphael’s magnificent paintings and frescoes exist because he was, above all else, a gifted master draftsman. Easily one of the best who ever lived. And when the rules of propriety constrained artists of Raphael’s day from working from nude female models – a taboo practice -Raphael did it anyway. Gotta love him for that.

Day in and day out, I see artists drawing my body, in chalk and charcoal, pen and graphite and conte crayon. Some do it with difficulty, others with facility, aspiring to capture the gestures, lines, volume, movement, and humanity of their life subject. If I could jump in a time machine and travel back to Rome in 1508, I’d bang on Raphael’s studio door and beg to pose for him. And based on accounts of Raphael’s irresistible charms I’d bring a bottle of red wine too ;-)

Hasan regularly expressed his admiration for my work as an artist’s model. He also enjoyed my blogging content which often includes art images with poetry. So for my friend Hasan who I miss very much on 3PipeProblem, Twitter, and warm, joyful notes in my email inbox, here are some Raphael drawings accompanied by excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “I Sing The Body Electric”, for a Museworthy virtual life drawing session:

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

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The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not           ….hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

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The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their
….dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent ….green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water,

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The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horseman in his
….saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their
….wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the
….crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured,
….native-born, out on the vacant lot at sun-down after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through ….clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,

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The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the
….listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and
….pause, listen, count.

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There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in
….the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

Dewing’s Musical Maidens

If we can infer an artist’s interests from his body of work – and I believe we can – then Thomas Dewing, the American Impressionist, was evidently interested in women, music, and “tonalism”. The process of gathering images and material for Music Monday posts have put Dewing on my radar often. Whenever I searched via tags like “music”, “women”, “song’, “violin”, etc,  his elegant, soft-focus, monochromatic compositions of ladies and instruments would fill my laptop screen.

Music, Thomas Dewing, ca. 1895:

Dewing-Music

Born in Boston in 1851, Dewing was one of the founding members of “The Ten” – a clique of painters who broke from the Society of American Artists in an act of liberation from the status quo and generally rigid, uninspired standards of the organization. Dewing studied at the prestigious Académie Julian in Paris where he learned formal techniques. When he returned to the United States he became a practitioner of “tonalism”, a painting style which employs a dominant hue of color applied for nebulous, moody effect and, in some cases, figures or objects which are somewhat indistinct. If James MacNeill Whistler comes to your mind with that description, you’re totally grasping it. And you get a Museworthy “A” in art history. Whistler was the godfather of tonalism.

Whistler’s famous “art for art’s sake” philosophy was fully embraced by Thomas Dewing. His women are lovely, feminine, delicate . . . objects really. In this work by Dewing, The Lute, 1904, the women are arranged in a visually pleasing composition amidst a gorgeous veil of green. Unlike true art “subjects”, they seem to exist nowhere in particular, have no identity or reason for being. Can-can dancers, prostitutes, peasants, socialites, gypsies, duchesses, housemaids, beggars – Dewing’s women are none of these things. They are simply figures that emerge out of the tonal shroud in a detached world; a misty, amorphous “dreamscape”, serving an aesthetic that would make Whistler proud:

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Here, in The Music Lesson, Dewing’s setting is again vague – a sparse, nonspecific space to emphasize the tonalism technique and his “woman with a musical instrument” motif.

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The Song, 1891. Dewing sure liked green! I don’t blame him. Green is a beautiful color, and these ladies are bathed in it:

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Compare these Dewing works with Vermeer’s scenes of young women practicing music. Surely Dewing was influenced by the great Dutch master. But Vermeer offered social context, perspective, and spatial dimensions. His girls exist in a place and time. And they are unique individuals, their eyes, dress, and postures emanating personality, like in this splendid work. Dewing’s world, in contrast, is ambiguous, uncluttered, indeterminate. Poems presented in a limited palette. Different from Vermeer without a doubt, but both men immortalized an enduring theme: women and music. I’m good with both of those things, no matter who paints them :-)

Young Woman with Violincello, Thomas Dewing:

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Face Forward

Friends, I am feeling much, much better since the burglary I’m happy to report. All of you who assured me that my sense of security would return in due time? You were right. I wouldn’t say that I’m at 100% – or ever will be – but I’m currently at a good 75%. And I’ll take it! The jittery nerves, the thick knot of anxiety in my chest, the fear and vulnerability and sleepless nights have diminished significantly. So thanks again to all of you for your support and comfort, expressed through blog comments and emails. I really appreciate it :-)

This is a pencil drawing of me by Irene Vitale, which is lovely for its simplicity and loose lines.  Between the burglary (during which she was a great support) and two snowstorm cancellations of scheduled art classes, Irene and I have had a crazy couple of months! Finally, we made it to the Art League of Long Island for class, on a snow-free day, where she taught, I modeled, and all was well.

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Vernal Expressions

The Enkindled Spring  - D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

My poetry/art mashups usually consist of one each: one poem, one painting. This time I’m treating us all to two artworks. The arrival of spring can’t be heralded enough as far as I’m concerned, especially this year, as we bid farewell to a fiercely harsh winter. D.H. Lawrence’s spring is a “leaping combustion” – described with heat-associated words like “flames”, “blaze”, “bonfire”, and “conflagration”, a vibrant expression of the flourishing, explosive growth of the season. Spring spreads like a wildfire in Lawrence’s poem.

Spring is also, to me, a time of discovery. Our old “friends” in nature – cherry blossoms, daffodils, the furry catkins on pussy willow branches – are born anew, and we delight in catching sight of them again. So here are two very different paintings from two very different artists of different periods, both expressing the joy of springtime discovery.

From Paul Gauguin, French Post-Impressionist, The First Flowers, 1888:

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And this one by British realist painter Frederick Walker, Spring, 1864:

FrederickWalker-spring

O’Museworthy

“To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

In a Dublin Park, light and shade, c. 1895, Walter Frederick Osborne. From the National Gallery of Ireland:

Osborne-DublinPark

Poets. Playwrights. Rebels. Iconoclasts. Wisecrackers. Saints and sinners. Lacemakers, footballers, farmers and whiskey distillers. Full of joy and cynicism at the same time. I would drink to the Irish for St. Patrick’s Day but I’ll be modeling for hours and hours. So I’ll get naked instead. Consider it a tribute to all the Irish bad boys I dated in my younger, more free-spirited years. Troublemakers ;-)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, and Happy Music Monday! Here’s a group of fine Irish fellas. Maybe you’ve heard of them :-)

Ars Longa Vita Brevis

When I first met Janet Cook, years ago in Mary Beth McKenzie‘s painting class at the National Academy, I was struck by two things; her strawberry blonde hair and her dainty English accent. Then I had a look at her artwork, and I was struck again by her imagination and originality. We have been friends ever since. Over the years I’ve been impressed by Janet’s dedication to figurative art, her tenacity, and her willingness to tackle bold compositions and embellish her paintings with decorative accents like stencils and jewels, or as Janet calls it, “bling”.

Her solo show, “Ars Longa Vita Brevis”, is now on view at Dacia Gallery, and it is thoroughly beguiling. The models – some of the best in the city – command the canvases through a multitude of physical expressions – they gaze, they twist, they extend and fly, they coexist with birds, butterflies, and shimmering fabrics, as joyful players in the colorful, vivid flight of fancy that is Janet’s artistic vision.

This piece is titled “Away”, one of my favorites:

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I am not among the models in this show’s work, but I have posed for Janet many times. You can see some of our past collaborations here and here. I took this picture of Janet at the gallery last Sunday. It was so great to see her and support her. Rock on, Janet! :-)

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At School With Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Hellooooooo!!! Greetings darling Museworthy readers. We are a few more days closer to spring since I last posted here. Ain’t that grand? I thought I saw some crocus bulbs poking out of the ground the other day. :happy dance:

My friend Francisco Malonzo was recently profiled in The Palette Pages with a splendid Q & A interview and magnificent images of his work. One of them is a portrait of yours truly that also appeared in this Museworthy post. More of Francisco’s paintings of me can be seen here and here. He and I have known each other for some time through the National Academy, and I’m delighted that he’s enjoying exposure and success :-)

Here in the Big Apple our newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio is waging a war against charter schools. The whole thing is a shitstorm of local politics that involves the teachers’ union, irate parents, and de Blasio’s personal vendetta against Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools. Lost in the midst of this imbroglio? The children of New York City, who deserve better. I was reminded the other day of an engraving I’d seen once by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Flemish painter and printmaker of the Northern Renaissance period. I found it on the Web. It’s called The Ass in the School, from 1556. The humorous scene depicts a classroom – more like a barn – of unruly children and a teacher about to discipline one with a spanking on his bare butt. A mysterious woman peers from behind a window, and a donkey, aka “the ass”, studies what appears to be sheet music from his perch. The inscription reads something to effect of “the ass goes to school but will never become a horse”.

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Bruegel could have been making a satirical statement about the folly of education, or rather certain aspects of it. Or perhaps a broad comment about human failings and our inherently flawed nature in the spirit of Hieronymus Bosch. If you enlarge the image and look closely, the faces of the “children” in the drawing don’t appear like true children but more like mini-adults. So Bruegel might be trying to suggest something there. Apart from the hidden commentary, the print is really great, in composition and character. Truthfully, I just wanted to post it because Bill de Blasio kind of looks like a donkey :lol:

Click on this link for a nice gallery of more Bruegel prints. Have a great weekend everyone!

Homestead

Did I lock the deadbolt? I think I did. I’m pretty sure I did. It’s 1:00 AM but I should get out of bed and check it just to be sure. And while I’m up I might as well check all the windows one more time, even though I checked them before I went to bed. I pushed the levers as far as I could push them but I should push them again with all my strength. Better safe than sorry, right? And I might as well look out the window and check the street one more time and make sure there are no suspicious cars in the neighborhood. All rightfully belong: Stacy’s Passat, Mary’s Honda CRV, Mike’s truck, Tony’s jeep. OK. Back to bed. But wait … what about that ill-fitting basement window that doesn’t always close completely? Better check it. Out of bed again, down the stairs, into the corner next to to the water heater. Checked. Secure. Back upstairs to bed. Go to sleep. I have modeling in the morning. But what is that tapping sound? thump … thump … thump … those are the heat pipes, and I know that full well because I’ve lived with those noises for 15 years. It’s the steam, not a prowler. NOT A PROWLER. Chill, girl, chill. It’s the pipes and you know it. Don’t freak out.

This is my house. MY HOUSE goddammit. Not the burglar’s house. Not the police’s house. MY house. My home. I have to stop this compulsive behavior. It would be so nice to have a big strong man here with me, but I don’t :-(

So this sucks, living this way in the wake of the burglary. My alarm system better arrive soon because I’m a ball of knots. I actually did a Google search for shotguns <–that’s how paranoid I’ve become. I’m an inch away from becoming a crazy lady in a bathrobe running out her front door yelling, “get off my property, punk, or you’ll be in a world of pain!”. And that’s so NOT who I am, good grief. But I will continue the mantra in my head: this is MY HOUSE. My sanctuary. My place of peace and privacy. I beg you, Queens burglars, leave me alone. You hit me once. No need to hit me again.

Moonlight Interior by Edward Hopper:

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I’m sorry, readers. I’m so sorry. I’m just unhappy and scared and lonely. I need a vacation … or just a day or two to feel carefree, or pampered, or, at this point, just a solid good night’s sleep.

I’ll be back in the next post in better spirits … I promise :-)

Cézanne and Sensibility

“Women models frighten me”
- Paul Cézanne

Oh Paul don’t be scared! We won’t bite. Well, maybe a little :lol: During a recent visit to the Met with my friend Fred, the topic came up about the lack of posed nudes in the work of Cézanne, the greatly admired “father of modern art”. For me, as a blogging artist’s model, Paul Cézanne has always been a conundrum. His catalog of paintings, while significant and groundbreaking, isn’t exactly a treasure trove of nudes for me to choose from for post discussions. Yes, nudes do appear in Cézanne’s work – abstracted nudes in which the forms are simplified to serve a larger compositional scheme. But the explicit art “nude” as a primary subject was something Cézanne avoided like the plague. In all the art lectures I’ve been privy to, Cézanne is never cited as an exemplar of nude figure painting. The sentiment expressed in the above quote, which was corroborated by his good friend Emile Zola, offers some explanation, but doesn’t tell the whole story.

Sugar Bowl, Pears, and Blue Cup, 1866, by Paul Cézanne:

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An artist’s sensibility and attitudes are central to the work they create, and Cézanne was no exception. The son of a wealthy banker, Cézanne rejected a career in law to devote himself completely to art. An inveterate rural man, Paul Cézanne wore his country bumpkin hat with pride. He was only truly comfortable in the picturesque hills of Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, the place where he was born and would die. Though he lived there for several years, Cézanne disliked Paris and preferred to spend as little time there as possible. When he did, he invited some derision from the fashionable Parisian sophisticates with his awkward social manners, southern dialect, and simple clothing. Mary Cassatt attended a dinner party where she observed Cézanne pulling the meat off his pork chop with his fingers. However, she also noted his respectful treatment of others which is rather interesting. “He shows a politeness towards us which no other man here would have shown.” she wrote.

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So I Googled a few book excerpts on the subject of Cézanne and nudes, specifically his aversion to them, and I found some explanations which are not totally unreasonable. First, it seems that Cézanne was genuinely uncomfortable in the presence of nude women. His discomfort stemmed from either his own prudishness or his fear of being sexually tempted. Or most likely a mixture of both. Cézanne was a fairly conservative man, raised by a conservative father, living and working in a generally conservative, rural, provincial town. To that last point, Cézanne also expressed concern that even if he wanted to paint a female nude, he believed he’d have trouble obtaining one in the region. Aix is a lovely place for sure, but it isn’t Paris – a city where an artist could find a willing nude model within five minutes. The local townspeople of Aix might not have taken kindly to Cézanne employing a parade of nude models.

One of Cézanne’s favorite painting subjects, Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain overlooking Aix-En-Provence.

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Besides his personal inhibitions and neurotic issues with women, Cézanne’s scarcity of nudes can also be explained in the context of his strong preference for working outdoors. While Cézanne painted many still lifes and portraits of his wife Marie-Hortense and other family members, he still held the belief that studio art could never be superior to art created outdoors, among the ever-changing lights, shadows, reflections, forms and colors of nature. Since a traditional “nude” is a studio work (for obvious reasons) it makes sense that the diehard outdoorsman wasn’t terribly interested.  Perhaps Cézanne had his fill of being cooped up in the studio painting apples and peaches. The beautiful landscape of Provence was a far more compelling enticement, and for an artist who was interested in exploring optical phenomena, nature provides the best material. In fact, Cézanne literally died from his devotion to outdoor painting. On October 15th, 1906 he endured two hours of a rainstorm working at his easel, until he finally succumbed, drenched and freezing. He collapsed on the road where a laundry cart driver found him. Cézanne died a week later from pneumonia and complications from diabetes.

So what about the nudes Cézanne DID paint? He was content to use his old sketches from art school and copies he made from museum visits as his references. With those, and perhaps a bit of “winging it”, an artist of Cézanne’s talents could achieve the nudes he required, without working from life. Anatomical precision and the individuality of the figure were not his main concern. The nudes, as shapes, are part of the landscape. This is his famous 1905 work, The Large Bathers:

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In writing this post I learned a lot about Cézanne, both the artist and the man. And even though he would choose to paint a bowl of grapes over me, I don’t take it personally ;-) Artists are expected to paint what inspires them the most and captures their imagination. No one is obligated to paint classical nudes of course. Actually, I respect Cézanne for being his own man; part beneficiary of a wealthy inheritance, part country yokel, not a lothario, not a publicity-seeker. He rejected the nightclubs, brothels, and cabarets of Paris, and the insufferable snobs of the art elite, and said instead, “Screw that shit. I’m gonna stay here in Aix and pave the way for modern art”.

Sloshing in the City

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice filthy slush puddle now and then? We New Yorkers are just loving it! It’s still only early February and I think it’s fair to say that this winter has been kicking our asses. But I try to look for the positives in most situations. They can be seen if we pay attention. One is the helpful, “looking out for each other” spirit that many people adopt during adversity. Someone slips and falls and folks are there right away to assist. An unspoken bond can be felt among city dwellers that we’re all in this together and once it’s over we can meet up on the Great Lawn in Central Park, bask in the  warmth of springtime and toss frisbees. In the meantime, let’s give each other a hand through this hardship. We can bitch about salt shortages and snow plows, or we can just buck up and deal with it as best we can.

Other positives include ice-encased tree branches and twigs and icicle formations, which are classically beautiful cold weather images. Also, the upper east side poodles and pomeranians in their little coats provide reasons to smile. Perhaps the most significant positive of winter in New York City is the indefatigable drive to keep everyday life going, business as usual … getting there, it’s all about getting there, slush puddles notwithstanding. Like the authentic New York City place that it is, Spring Studio keeps on going and doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “snow day”. Instead, every day is a “drawing day”. And through the slippery subway platforms, overhead drippings, and transit delays, the faithful model shows up at the studio. She’s wet, cold, and disheveled, but she shows up :-)

Created at Spring Studio on Monday night, a drawing of me by Robert Sebastiano:

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Vestiges

Song, from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, by Rainer Maria Rilke -

You, whom I do not tell that all night long
I lie weeping,
whose very being makes me feel wanting
like a cradle.

You, who do not tell me, that you lie awake
thinking of me:–
what, if we carried all these longings within us
without ever being overwhelmed by them,
letting them pass?

Look at these lovers, tormented by love,
when first they begin confessing,
how soon they lie!

You make me feel alone. I try imagining:
one moment it is you, then it’s the soaring wind;
a fragrance comes and goes but never lasts.
Oh, within my arms I lost all whom I loved!
Only you remain, always reborn again.
For since I never held you, I hold you fast.

Edvard Munch, Man and Woman I, woodcut, 1905:

Munch-ManandWoman

Rembrandt in the Room

After a previous failed attempt to see the Dutch Masters exhibition at the Frick, I finally got in. Yay! The show is now closed, and the magnificent loans from the the Mauritshuis are probably on their way back to their motherland of the Netherlands.

Like most visitors that afternoon, I took some time after taking in the Dutch show to view the permanent collection at the Frick. And why not? It’s extraordinary. I myself never feel completely comfortable in the Frick because it’s a mansion preserved in its original state rather than a true museum space, and I prefer museum spaces. I like “museumy” museums, it’s just a predilection I have. This is by no means a major issue. It just throws me off a little to view an artwork, step back several feet to get a better perspective, and bump into a dining room table. Looking at art at the Frick means having to navigate furniture, and personally I’d rather not.

While the visiting show presented an amazing Rembrandt, an even more impressive Rembrandt (in my opinion) could be found in a nearby gallery room. This work, a self-portrait created in 1658, stunned me more than any other painting into realizing once and for all that some works of art just HAVE to be seen in person. We all understand that great works of art lose precious ethereal qualities when viewed in digital form. Not even things like the Google Art Project and its high resolutions and dazzling zoom features can duplicate the experience of seeing a painting physically before our eyes. I can’t pinpoint the precise “lost” quality. Sure, it could be the brush strokes, the paint layering, the scale of the work, or the authentic color “in the flesh” – all things that are compromised on our computer screens. I’m inclined to believe that it has something to do with light; I mean the glints of real life light bouncing off the canvas and dotting the paint formations. You turn your head a bit, and it changes. You move a little to the left or right, and it changes. No photograph can replicate those nuances.

Here is the Rembrandt self-portrait that blew me away. This work, in person, commands the room and transfixes the viewer in a way I can’t accurately describe. He was there – right there – draped in 17th century attire, looking a bit weary but not melancholy, long past youthfulness but not beaten, surviving bankruptcy, but still a man of the Dutch Golden Age, a reddish mark on his cheek, his eyes gentle, plaintive, and a touch somber, yet he is also confrontational. A master handler of paint, Rembrandt never overlooked the humanity, the the tattered or triumphant soul of his subjects, himself included. This man here seems to be telling us his life story. Carrying burdens, but coping with them. I’ve been on a journey, he says. I am a man of my times. God bless Rembrandt. Seriously. I couldn’t tear myself away from this painting, and I was not alone in my admiration that afternoon at the Frick.

RembrandtSelfPortrait

How Rembrandt achieved the visual effects he did are of enormous interest to artists, and justifiably so. Scraping into the paint with the end of his brush handle, wiping off glazes right after they were applied, adept manipulation of transparency and opacity, mixing in crushed broken glass – whatever it took to create the desired effect, Rembrandt tried it. He was not strictly married to any one approach, and that certainly allowed him the freedom to get it ‘right”. And yet, none of his technical innovations or experiments would matter one bit if he hadn’t possessed a profound empathy for and perception of the human condition. To be a gifted skillmaster isn’t enough, as I discussed in my post about Mozart. Because skill doesn’t amount to anything if you have nothing to express.

I encourage you all to visit the Frick artwork page for this piece which includes a curatorial narration. And to anyone who plans to visit the Frick, go see this painting. Just go. That’s an order! :-)

Art Comes to Life

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Museworthy readers are the best! A stunning and exquisitely made video that is now being circulated around social media was sent to me, ahead of the growing popularity, by our friend in Kentucky, Todd Fife. What can I say? Todd is on the ball :-)

Digital animator and videographer Rino Stefano Tagliafierro uploaded to Vimeo a haunting and, at times, eerie video titled “Beauty” in which famous works of art “come alive” in movement. It has to be seen to be believed. You will easily recognize the Pre-Raphaelites, Bouguereau, and then Caravaggio, where the video takes a dark and gory turn. Caravaggio tends to have that effect! Anyway, I felt I just had to post the video here on Museworthy. So thank you Todd!

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I have a busy weekend ahead. I’m posing for an art class taught by my friend Paul, and I have two memorials to attend: one for a parishioner at my church who lost her battle with cancer, and one at Spring Studio for our dear friend Julia Foote. Also, I haven’t forgotten about Music Mondays! I’ll get back on track very soon. In the meantime, be well friends. See you all in a few days :-)

Paper Animals

Last Friday night my niece and I spent “A Night at the Museum”, a popular children’s event at the American Museum of Natural History. With sleeping bags and flashlights in tow, city kids and their adult chaperones had free reign to explore the museum to their hearts’ content, or until they passed out in their pajamas at midnight! Throw in an iMax film, storytelling, and a captivating visit to the Butterfly Conservatory, (one of my favorites) and a super fun time was had by all.

While there is certainly no shortage of fascinating displays at the Natural History museum, I was blown away by the museum Christmas tree which was still up in the main lobby, and the subject of many a camera click. Adorned completely in origami animals, the tree was one of the most enchanting things I’ve ever seen. I don’t think my photos fully capture the charms of this tree as they appeared live, but you can definitely get the idea.

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Origami, as everyone knows, is the art of paper folding. A Japanese tradition dating back almost 2000 years, origami, in its more skilled and advanced forms, is much more elaborate than the common origami cranes many of us learned to make as children. In fact, I asked my niece if she ever attempted origami and she responded, “Yes. It was a big fail!”. Ha, I know what she means. Anyone who’s ever struggled with the crane can feel only awe at the sight of origami giraffes, eagles, horses, dinosaurs, kangaroos, buffalos, geese, rabbits, alligators … the incredible range of diversity to be found in the animal kingdom. The origami artists who decorated the museum tree did it all.

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Check out the cobra at the bottom of this picture. Love it!

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Besides the sheer variety of animals to be found on the tree, the colors were also dazzling to the eye. What is it about colored paper that makes you want to play with it and create with it? Brings out our inner 2nd grader perhaps. The paper collage I made for the Museworthy Art Show makes even more sense now :-)

One more photo. Notice the red cardinal on the right side. So cute.

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