Dueling Mandolin Girls

As an artist’s model it pains me to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: very often in art, subject is secondary to style. Certainly, the first thing the viewer notices about a painting is the subject, but soon after that initial observation, the artist’s individual rendering of that subject – his style, technique, personal vision – takes over and becomes the dominant aspect. We art models look at paintings of ourselves and think, “That’s ME! My pose! My body!”. Other people look at the same painting and think, “Look at how he painted that nude person. Look at his palette and his brushstrokes.” Boo!

On the positive side, it’s the existence of those incredibly diverse styles which allow the same subject to be painted over and over again without boring the hell out of people. Imagine if everyone painted a vase of flowers the same way? Or a landscape? Or nudes? Yes, even nudes would get monotonous after a while without a variety of representations.

For “Music Monday” this week, I had planned to post and discuss just one of the following works – the Lefebvre. But then I came across a Picasso of the same subject, with the exact same title no less! Typical Picasso, disrupting the status quo. Messing up my plans, Pablo! So I thought it would be fun to put them side by side and do a little compare and contrast.

Both of these paintings are called Girl With a Mandolin. The first is circa 1870 by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, a French academic painter who focused mainly on female subjects, mostly nude, some clothed, often idealized, always beautiful. “Ugliness”, even if artistic in nature, had no place in Lefebvre’s work. His girl here is a somber and forlorn gypsy, a moody brunette with expressive, soulful eyes, dressed in dark colors, clutching her mandolin as though it’s all she has in her vagabond life. And what a fabulous model. Lefebvre used many great ones.

Next is Picasso in heavy Cubist mode, from 1910. His mandolin girl is not depicted with a finely-drawn personality, ethnicity, or identity of her own like in the Lefevbre. However that is not to say that the model, Fanny Tellier, has no individual presence in the piece. She certainly does. But this is Cubism after all. Her forms, her contours and physical structure inspired the geometric shapes that Picasso employed to “translate” her onto the canvas. Note that the neck/shoulder/chest areas are especially strong and prominent. While the Lefebvre is more intimate and sensitive, the Picasso has vigorous rhythms and a strenuous, active energy that is perhaps lacking in the Lefebvre. On that last point, consider that Picasso’s girl is playing her mandolin while Lefebvre’s is holding hers rather submissively, a detail that significantly affects the action issue:

So my dear readers, what’s the verdict? In a battle of style, whose Mandolin Girl do you prefer? I have my preference 🙂

Posing, Learning, Blogging

Helloooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have returned!!!!!! Did y’all miss me? And did I just say “y’all“???? Oh man, that ain’t right 😆

It’s good to be back. I missed posting on my blog! After a strenuous week of work I’m happy to report that I am free of nerve damage, muscle injury, or any other variation of art modeling physical trauma. Oh sure, I limped my way out of the New York Academy of Art the other night, and  very slowly made my way over to the Franklin Street subway. But once I got home, climbed into bed and sprawled out, the restful healing began. It’s amazing how well the body can bounce back after so much exertion. Long term effects I’m not so sure, but I prefer not to think about that!

The summer sessions at the New York Academy of Art consist of continuing education classes, which I really enjoy posing for. They’re very different from MFA classes. The students are somewhat friendlier and warmer toward the models, based on my experience. They learn a great deal and are demonstrably appreciative of the instructors’ guidance and the model’s hard work.

I’ve been enjoying my incidental observer’s role very much, a terrific perk of being an art model – free art education! Shauna Finn who is teaching the afternoon class, spent some time talking to the students about great painters like Vermeer and Velasquez. Cool. And John Wellington, who is teaching the night class, discussed the works and technique of Prud’hon. Cool again! Lectures, demos, plenty of painting, drawing, practicing, and, of course, a hell of a lot of art modeling. Summer in the city 🙂

This chalkboard diagram is neater and clearer than anything I ever saw in school. The instructor wanted to illustrate the nuances of light and shadow, a critical issue for artists which involves subtleties of tones and values. “Reflected light” is much different from “direct light”, cast shadows different from core shadows, etc. Understanding these gradations, and painting them with accuracy, imbues artwork with beautiful depth and realism. In the night class, my leg is the source of this issue, as John Wellington and his monitor set the lights in such a way that a dramatic shadow runs down my mid thigh, over the knee, and down the lower leg, turning gently around the three-dimensional form.

I have no photo of myself posing, sorry about that. I have done it before much to everyone’s enjoyment.  I’ll ask a student to snap a picture next week. In the meantime, I can offer a picture of the empty stool on the modeling platform! Isn’t that exciting? It’s the setup for my afternoon class. That canvas is the beginning of a student’s work. Looks like she’s off to a fine start of a figure painting:

Did I mention that I also did a session at Spring Studio this week? I love working there. I’m also working Saturday at the National Academy. Love working there too! Most of all I love blogging on Museworthy!!!!!!!!!

Hope everyone is well. See you soon! 🙂

Father Portraits

My darling, dearest readers! Hi everyone. Ok, so here’s the deal. I have three consecutive insanely jam-packed days of art modeling, beginning on Monday. By jam-packed I mean a triple, a double, then another triple. Whoa. That’s sick! But I’m up for it, I think 😕 Hopefully I’ll get through it just fine. Or I might end up in traction on Thursday. Either way, gotta make a living. Bring the pain, baby!!

This is of course Father’s Day weekend, and on Sunday I’m going to the cemetery to visit my dad 😥 It will be a tough day emotionally. Looking ahead, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll be able to post on the blog for a few days, as I won’t have time to prepare anything decent and I’ll be too tired to focus. So no “Music Monday” this week, unfortunately. If it’s alright with everyone, I’m going to take a brief blogging hiatus. But I’m still here! Feel free to email away and comment away. I’m always happy to hear from my awesome readers.

I can offer a little art to commemorate the occasion. Two portraits from two very different artists. They are Rembrandt and Courbet and their respective fathers.

This is Rembrandt’s portrait of his father from 1631. The entire character of this man, and his years of accumulated life experience, can be seen just in those forehead lines, painted with precision and sensitivity like only the great Rembrandt can:

Courbet’s portrait of his father, year 1840. The father’s name was Regis, but I don’t believe he ever co-hosted a TV talk show with Kelly Ripa 😆 Wonderful painting with a Napoleon-like hand gesture in the vest:

To all the dads, Happy Father’s Day you good men! Love, hugs, and kisses . . .

See you all later in the week.

An Afternoon

Sunny, sunny, balmy and blue
Wraparound skirt,
Slurping a lemonade and nibbling on cashews
Forgot my sunglasses
Fountains in the circle, gushing up and splashing down
Water gods in midtown
Nymphs laughing, dancing under the statues
Pigeon wings flapping

Ooooh . . . hello you!
I’ve missed you 😉
“Sssh!!” . . . giggle giggle
Don’t make a sound
I see you smiling, you bad boy . . .
Furtive delights
Don’t worry baby . . . they can’t hear us

Winks and glances and whistles
Pedicabs rolling and swerving
The circle is alive
With afternoons and hours and interludes,
Of people dreaming, desiring, pursuing, and playing
Our great big sexy city
Blows tickling breezes under my skirt
I flutter from the air,
And from him . . .

Forward Bent Female Nude by Egon Schiele

Soul of the Sitar

Here we are, on another “Music Monday”! I hope you all enjoy this post while I, your hardworking muse, do a Manhattan-to-Queens all quick poses all day and night with no time to eat dinner rushing to catch trains during harrowing NYC rush hour art modeling double that will keep me posing/undressing/dressing nonstop until 10:00 at night 😮

I don’t know if George Harrison deserves most of the credit, but all the individuals who helped introduced the sitar to western pop music audiences rate a heartfelt “thank you” in my book. A long-necked stringed instrument which dates back to the Middle Ages, the sitar is used primarily in the Hindustani classical music genre which originated in the northern regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

It’s easy to fall in love with the unique, unmistakable sound of the sitar which can be described as mystical and otherworldly. Sitar strings are arranged in a way that creates a “reverb”, a humming drone behind the melody. It’s all in the construction. Underneath the main playable strings are “sympathetic strings”. These are not strummed. They exist only to react and resonate. The resulting vibrations of the sympathetic strings against the bridge create that reverb or distinctive sitar “buzz”. No other stringed instrument sounds anything like the sitar. It is instantly recognizable after just a few notes.

The name we immediately associate with the sitar is, of course, Ravi Shankar, the preeminent sitarist of the past six decades. It was Ravi who gave George Harrison his first sitar lessons, and Harrison was soon incorporating his sitar playing into Beatles’ recordings, the first of which was the beautiful “Norwegian Wood” from the 1965 album Rubber Soul. Harrison developed into a fine sitar player. But Ravi Shankar is a true master. Sitar is an incredibly difficult instrument to play. It requires tremendous dedication, concentration, and years of practice. Even the tuning process is variable and complicated. With no default settings like in other instruments, the sitar is tuned according to the key of the specific music being played and/or the personal preference of the sitarist.

In this video from 1971, Ravi Shankar performs “Raag Bihag”. The close ups are great because you can see the distinctive large curved frets on the neck of the sitar. Also, the whole tuning issue is evident at 3:05 when Shankar pauses to make adjustments. Best of all, we get amazing views of Shankar’s skillful technique, intense focus, and expression of profound spiritual devotion. The man is totally in the zone:

News and Notes

Helloo, helloooooo!!! Did everyone have a good week? Mine was good. I’m back to steady art modeling work finally. Well, “steady” is a relative term. Summer is a much slower time of year. But I’ve booked a few jobs that will keep me working enough until the wasteland that is August. And that’s when I’ll be going down to Miami to visit my friend Stephanie. Can’t wait to see her!!

Summertime has never been defined by manic, compulsive work anyway. Instead, it offers a seemingly endless stream of enjoyments, amusements, and activities, some cultural and highbrow, others just plain fun and recreational. One of the best, longstanding summer traditions here in NYC is the New York Philharmonic’s free concerts in the parks series. My father used to take us every year to the Queens concert at Cunningham Park. A wonderful way to spend a summer night, listening to symphonies under the stars. Great memories 🙂

Throughout the month of July, the Lincoln Center Festival will be offering a huge array of music, dance, and theater performances from all over the world. But it doesn’t end there. Lincoln Center keeps right on going into August with its free Out of Doors performances.

The New York Academy of Art, where I work, is currently showing it’s Summer Exhibition, on view until July 31st. I caught just a quick glimpse of it the other night when I was there for modeling, but I’m going to view it more closely next week. What I saw looked terrific! Another show I’d like to see is “Defining Beauty”, drawings of Albrecht Durer at the Morgan Library. Looks like a very “museworthy” show.

But it’s the one and only Pablo Picasso who is dominating New York art shows this summer. The Spanish master has taken over both the Museum of Modern Art and the Met. What an egomaniac! 😆 The MoMA show, “Themes and Variations”, features Picasso’s printmaking and examines his creative process. “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum” complies all the museum’s Picassos in one show. I saw it already. Loved it. Will devote a blog post to it in a few weeks. They let us take pictures! Yay!

The Met has even more to offer this summer than Picasso. The much buzzed about “Big Bambu” installation on The Roof Garden is a must see. Constructed by brothers Doug and Mike Starn, “Big Bambu” is an elaborate assemblage of bamboo stalks, lashed together with nylon rope. Fred and I went up there after the Picasso show and we were both amazed by it. What I found most fascinating is that while the construction is very intricate and convoluted, especially when viewed up close,  it is not dizzying to the eye. It’s actually quite tranquil and zen-like in its aura. It’s also great to photograph, and I posted some of my pictures in a set on Flickr. This is one of my favorites:

“Big Bambu” is an ongoing work-in-progress, and will be at The Met well into October.

Hope everyone is doing well. See you soon!

Painting the Pasdeloup

After a weekend of heavy discussion on this blog about the Gulf oil spill, energy policy, and the future of man’s survival on earth, it’s time to move onto lighter fare. In other words, it’s time for “Music Monday”! 🙂

Jules Etienne Pasdeloup was an accomplished French conductor who sought to popularize orchestral music and promote the works of both past and current composers. He may not be a household name, but Jules Pasdeloup greatly influenced French musical tastes in the 19th century. In 1861, he founded Concerts Populaire, also known as Orchestre Pasdeloup or Orchestre des Concerts Pasdeloup. It is the oldest symphony orchestra in France. Pasdeloup’s vision was to make orchestra performances accessible to the general public, instead of just the monied upper-classes of Paris. So the Orchestra Pasdeloup offered cheap Sunday afternoon concerts at the Cirque d’hiver. Among the works performed on opening day on October 27th, 1861, were Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Great program!

From Wikipedia:

The enterprise was a great success and the Concerts Populaire became a genuine institution playing a lead role in forming a new audience through making known the Austro-German répertoire and also by influencing the creation of French symphonic works.

Rehearsals were held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Cirque d’hiver. On one of those days in 1878, an artist sat up in the balcony, quietly sketching away, capturing the musicians at practice. That artist was none other than John Singer Sargent. After several preparatory drawings, he completed this marvelous painting that is very pleasing to look at. An interesting composition here, Sargent presents a great visual perspective that depicts the oval-like shape, depth and breadth of the hall’s interior. As only Sargent can, he manages to delineate details (pages of sheet music, violin bows) using loose, nimble brush strokes, relying on lights and darks to capture the overall scene. Sargent was a genius at that. The most developed figures in the whole piece are the costumed spectators in the foreground, leaning on the ledge, leisurely enjoying the orchestra rehearsal. When I look at the painting, I can almost hear the sounds of instruments tuning up, the conductor’s baton tapping on the stand, pages turning, and that wonderful acoustic echo you hear in large performance venues.

This is John Singer Sargent’s Rehearsal of the Pasdeloup Orchestra at the Cirque d’hiver, 1879-80:

Website for the Orchestra Pasdeloup