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:

Dewing-TheLute

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.

Dewing-MusicLesson

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

Dewing-TheSong

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:

Dewing_Young_Woman_with_Violincello

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:

Gauguin-the-first-flowers-1888

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

FrederickWalker-spring

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:

Janet1600x1200

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! :-)

IMG-20140309-00985

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”.

BruegeltheElder-AssSchool

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:

Hopper-moonlight-interior

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:

cezanne-sugar-bowl

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.

Paul-Cezanne-9542036-1-402

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.

cezanne-mont-sainte-victoire

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:

Paul_Cézanne_Bathers

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”.

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!

.

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 :-)

Acknowledgment

The last few days have seen my 2014 planner become officially christened. It’s now broken in with my goofy scribblings, underlines, notes, cross-outs, times, names, all the personal hieroglyphics that make my mess of book my own hideous creation. “Port” means “portrait”, “anat” means “anatomy”, and why I won’t make the effort to finish off those words with just a few more letters I have no idea. Maybe I was a stenographer in a previous life. There are also a few racy doodles in the margins but we won’t get into that :lol:

Anyway, I’ve been joyfully fielding phone calls and emails bearing work for the spring semester. (“Spring” semester … doesn’t that sound nice in the midst of this winter cold blast? Ah yes.) And as I’m on the verge of starting the new sessions full blast, I am inspired to acknowledge the model coordinators and bookers who keep me working regularly thanks to their conscientiousness and professionalism. They call, they return calls, they honor both teachers’ requests and models’ availability, they straighten out mix-ups, give referrals, and do what they have to do to keep everyone happy. Our business functions best when model coordinators are on the ball. Last semester I was fortunate to have abundant work and wonderfully positive experiences thanks to the good work of those who book models here in NYC: Katie at the New York Academy of Art, Mark at FIT, Sergio at the National Academy, Minerva and Jordan at Spring Studio, Marilyn at the National Art League, Robert at the Long Island Academy of Fine Art, Randall at Figureworks Gallery, and all the individual artists who contact me for private sessions and groups. I work steadily because of these folks. To all of them, a heartfelt and sincere thank you. I’m ready to drop my robe, so let the spring term begin!

The Artist’s Studio, Jose Malhoa, 1894:

Malhoa-the-artist-s-studio-1894

Deep Freeze

I guess it was too much to hope that 2014 would begin, by some miracle, with a spa day, a soak in a jacuzzi, or a plane ticket to the Bahamas. Instead it dropped a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures across much of the United States. Well, it is January after all. And it is cold, man. Like -14 level of cold. Brrr!

Of course, not one group of guys came knocking on my door to offer snow removal. The only able-bodied young men who trudged down my street today were carrying sleds not shovels. I probably should have joined them! But no, I did the shoveling all by myself. Normally I don’t mind the exertion and exercise but I think I have shin splints or something in my lower right leg, and it kinda hurts. Years of full time art modeling catching up with me perhaps. It’s all those long standing poses! Okay, maybe not.

Anyway, here’s a little art to kick off the new year. It’s a snow scene by George Wesley Bellows, an artist who had a great talent for painting snowy landscapes and cityscapes. Oh sure Bellows was good at painting snow, but did he shovel? :lol:

George Wesley Bellows, Winter Afternoon, 1909:

George_Bellows_Winter_Afternoon

I hope you’re all keeping warm and staying safe where you are. If you’re in need of some reading material, check out my friend Daniel Maidman’s latest piece on the Huffington Post. I don’t know if I’m fully worthy of his incredibly kind and unstinting praise, but I’m very honored that he discussed me and the Museworthy Art Show in his piece. Other elements of his superb art exploration include John Singer Sargent, Dorian Vallejo, and our good friend Fred Hatt.

Cheers everyone! And Happy New Year! :-)

The 2013 Museworthy Art Show

“Creativity takes courage”
Henri Matisse

.

In early October I invited the readers of this blog to participate in a second art show. Our first one took place in 2011. This year, artists were asked to create an original work based on one of four modeling photos of me taken by Fred Hatt. For six years I have been known as “the muse of Museworthy”. With this special blog event, that moniker which I hold dear takes on a truer meaning than ever before. One muse, eighteen artist submissions (myself among them) and a marvelous diversity of styles and interpretations. I want to express my sincere thanks to all those who contributed. It is truly my honor to serve as blogger and muse. From my heart to yours, enjoy this celebration of online community, creative expression, and joyful participation.

Claudia  xoxo

.

Todd Fife

pencil on paper

Bowling Green, Kentucky

claudia1B

.

David Rockwell

oil and acrylic on canvas

New York City

Claudia Painting Phase 4 102913

 .

William MacDonald

graphite

Quincy, Massachusetts

IMG_0081-001

.

Colin Buckett

pencil and oil pastel

Ottawa, Canada

DSC05043comp

.

Elaine Hajian

pastel on paper

New York City

MomPastel

.

Mark Wummer

pencil and watercolor on paper

Southeastern Pennsylvania

Museworthy

.

Bruce Williams

relief, plasticine clay

New York City

Claudia_Relief

.

Grier Horner

Apple Aperture

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Museworthy, bright

.

Rob Carroll

charcoal on paper

Swindon, UK

Claudia --- November '13

.

Derek James Tewey

oil, acrylic, mixed media

Brisbane, Australia

Claudia -Body and Soul

.

Christopher Hickey

linocut

Atlanta, Georgia

Muse-Linocut

.

Fred Hatt

aquarelle crayon on paper

Brooklyn, NY

fredhatt-claudia-for-museworthy-art-show-2013

.

Dave Moran

pencil on paper

Ann Arbor, Michigan

image

.

 Peter Howard

acrylic on board

Surrey, England

claudia painting

.

Richard Rothman

Sketchbook Mobile

Rising Fawn, Georgia

Sketch76111232

.

Daniel Maidman

oil on canvas

Brooklyn, NY

MAIDMAN_Study-of-Claudia_24x18 large

.

Ed Ettlin

pencil, crayon, watercolor, white ink on brown paper

Lucerne, Switzerland

reclined_ed

.

Claudia Hajian

paper collage, mixed media, ink stamp

New York City

IMG_5960

Jesus and the Money Changers

While I don’t begrudge people seeking bargains on holiday gifts, especially in our troubled economy, I think it’s fair to say that if shopping for discounts leads to shoving, fisticuffs, and arrests, the situation has probably gone a bit too far. I honestly have no idea how or when “Black Friday” officially became a thing. Throughout my childhood and most of my adult life, I don’t remember the day after Thanksgiving being anything more than just a heavy shopping day. Now it has a special designation, replete with its own name, days of hype and media coverage, and disturbing iPhone footage of brawls. When exactly did this happen? Did I miss something?

When I saw some of the images of zealous Black Friday shoppers, it brought to mind a painting I admire by El Greco, the Crete-born Renaissance painter known for his unique depictions of religious events. In the Gospel, Christ and his disciples come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Upon entering the Temple, Jesus encounters noisy hoards of merchants and money changers. He promptly, and rightly, throws a fit over people profiteering in a house of worship. So angered by the desecration of a holy site, Jesus took a whip to the scene, overturned the tables, and castigated the exploiters for turning a house of prayer into “a den of thieves”. It is the only Biblical account of Jesus ever acting violently. This incident is referred to as “The Cleansing of the Temple”.

El Greco painted a stunning and effective rendition of the important scene in this composition. An unabashed proponent of conspicuous, almost garish color tonality and distorted elongated figures, El Greco was considered something of an oddity, rejecting the conventions of his day to pursue dramatic visual expression. He did several versions of the Temple scene. I like this one the best.

Christ Driving the Money Changers From the Temple, circa 1595:

El_Greco_016

Of course, my attempt to draw an analogy with Black Friday is terribly flawed. Christ was objecting to commerce defiling a sacred place where pilgrims come to worship in peace free of distractions, and business existing in a place where business doesn’t belong. Black Friday, in contrast, is all about commerce in places that are most certainly all about commerce. Target and Walmart ARE places to shop, after all. But I think the reason the El Greco painting came to my mind was due to the holiday season being taken over by shopping in general. Gifts, buying and selling, material goods. Truthfully, I have no principled objection to the marketplace and what it entails. Heck I buy stuff. And I very much enjoy giving gifts to friends and loved ones, especially to my niece. But true “gifts” are the gifts of God. Or for my atheist and agnostic readers – of whom I have many – the gifts of life, of nature, of the common man toward one another. Kindness, forgiveness, patience, generosity, goodwill, hope and light. These things, and not flat screen TVs, should be the guiding values of the holiday season, and our lives throughout the year. Love one another.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”

Thanksgiving Wishes

hAPpyTHanKsGivInG! HaaPPyThANkSgIvInG! haPPytHaNkSGivInG! hApPYthaNsGiVInG! HAppYthaNKsGiVIng!

H A P P Y  T H A N K S G I V I N G!

Whew! Finally got it right ;-)

Blessings to all Museworthy readers everywhere. May grace, love, and gratitude fill you up on this and every day. And remember the simple things, always.

Autumn Leaves by John Everett Millias, 1856:

Millais-autumn-leaves-1856

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

Money Is No Object

You have to wonder just how far mega-rich contemporary art buyers are willing to go to satisfy their acquisitiveness. Last week, an anonymous bidder (now identified as a member of the Qatari royal family) paid the staggering sum of $142 million for a work of art at Christie’s in New York City. The coveted painting was a triptych entitled Three Studies of Lucian Freud, by Dublin-born master of angst Francis Bacon. The sale now holds the record for highest amount paid for a work of art at auction, ousting Edvard Munch’s The Scream from the top spot.

We could argue about the merits of the Bacon work in relation to the money spent on it until we’re blue in the face, but I think we all know that such hangwringing, astonishment – even disgust in some cases – are utterly besides the point. Is there absurdity and excess in the art market? Of course there is. But this is about commerce, nothing more. Qatar is preparing to open a national art museum in 2016, and the Bacon triptych will likely be one of the standouts in its collection. I get it. Heck it’s their money and they can do with it whatever they want. I guess we can take some comfort in the fact that at least it wasn’t a Damien Hirst.

Putting aside the $142 million purchase price, I would point out that the Bacon is a triptych, and a large one at that, which makes it substantial. And I have no doubt that the subject being Lucian Freud, the revered British painter who himself is a darling of art collectors, had everything to do with the work’s sought-after reputation. It’s hard to imagine that the piece would have fetched $142 mil if Bacon had painted his mailman. Honestly, I don’t find the “painter does a painting of another painter” thing inherently interesting, but maybe that’s just my model’s bias talking ;-) Regardless, Bacon and Freud were good friends so I suppose it’s an affectionate tribute, twisted caricature-like quality notwithstanding.

I’m sure most of us understand, and accept, that the big money art market is far removed from the art world the rest of us understand and inhabit. Ours is the world of searching for beauty, expression, transcendence, emotional depth and spiritual uplift in drawings, paintings, and sculpture. Lucky for us, those qualities can be found in a multitude of places, down the line from the Old Masters to the Modernists and perhaps even on your neighbor’s pad in life drawing class. Of course we are moved individually, subjectively, personally. Doesn’t it all just boil down to taste in the end? I know people who would be happy never seeing a Picasso again for the rest of their lives. I also know people who dismiss the French Impressionists as creators of mere “pretty pictures”. We all respond to different things. Some value simplicity and elegance. Others value rich composition and color. Some prefer form over content, or vice-versa. Many are partial to landscapes over nudes, realism over abstraction, technique and skill over aesthetic appeal. To each his own as they say.

So my question to my readers is this: if money was no object and you could have in your possession ANY work of art – a work you genuinely love, that moves you, pleases you, that will hang on your wall for you to see every day – what would it be? Consider all the options – style, artist, technique, subject matter, medium. I’m confident I can speak for my mother in that her choice would be a Degas drawing or pastel. As for me, I can’t decide! It wouldn’t be a Francis Bacon I can tell you that. A painting by Edward Hopper is definitely high on my list. I surely wouldn’t turn down a drawing by Raphael or a watercolor by John Singer Sargent or an etching by Rembrandt. I’m very interested to hear your choices so please share.

Right now what I wouldn’t mind hanging on my wall is a summer beach scene to remind me of warmer days. It’s gettin’ cold man. Winter, ugh.

To The Water by Joaquin Sorolla, 1902. Ahh, beach :-)

Sorolla-to-the-water-1902

Girl at Sea

That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made her triumph
Where the bales and baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, “O sea-starved, hungry sea”.

– William Butler Yeats

The Yellow Sail by Odilon Redon:

Redon,_Odilon_-_La_Voile_jaune_(The_Yellow_Sail)_-_Google_Art_Project