Studio Spirits

Hellooooo Museworthy friends! It seems that I took the entire month of May as a hiatus, which was totally planned of course! <— not really 😆 But I’m back now and will do my best to not use this blog as a sounding board for my life’s aggravations and distresses. Can’t make any promises though. I’ve been attending counseling fairly regularly, but besides that I haven’t been taking very good care of myself unfortunately. Then last week an aggressive assault of seasonal allergies swooped in which was bizarrely debilitating. It’s just pollen dammit! I estimate that I coughed and sneezed at least 80,000 times in five days 🤧

I’d like to pay tribute to a local artist who was among the regular loyal attendees at Minerva’s Drawing Studio for years. Walter Lynn Mosley passed away a few months ago after a valiant battle with cancer. A most lovely gentleman, Walter is sorely missed at the studio. His gentle, polite, kind-hearted demeanor was a welcome presence, and his respect for the models made him a particularly beloved studio regular among us models. Walter lived and breathed art of all subject matter – whether figure drawings and portraits, plein-air and landscape, or still lifes. He continued to create art throughout his final weeks, making sketches of staff and visitors at the hospice. Here  is just a sampling of Walter’s portrait drawings of the studio models. His sensitivity and thoughtfulness clearly shines through.

This is me, by Walter Lynn Mosley:

Donna:

Freddy:

Kuan:

Our tribute to dear, departed artists continues with the recent passing of an art world giant. Renowned portrait painter Everett Raymond Kinstler died on May 26th at the age of 92. Back when I was still a fairly new artist’s model, I was booked for my first ever painting workshop, instructed by Ray Kinstler! It took place over a Saturday-Sunday at the National Academy of Design. I had no modeling-for-a-workshop experience at the time, but it turned out to be a wonderful weekend. Kinstler was not just a charismatic teacher but also a great storyteller and raconteur. Very entertaining and funny man. A dyed-in-the-wool native New Yorker with an engaging personality. I remember taking a seated pose, wearing a colorful kimono, and just before we set the timer Ray approached me to adjust my hand placement. He said he wanted it to look “more natural”. See, I told you I was inexperienced! It bothers me to think that I was once, way back when, a little ‘stiff’ in my posing. But there was Ray Kinstler to set me straight.

Tony Bennett, who was an art student before he became a successful singer, posted this tribute to Raymond Kinstler on Twitter that I thought was worth sharing:

Two artists have passed; one venerable and illustrious, the other of more modest renown and local esteem. And I am privileged to have posed for both of them. This long art modeling career of mine has blessed me with such a glorious scope of experiences, and I’m astounded at times when I think of the multitudes of crossed paths, remembered details, demos and easels, the sounds and sights and settings, the voices and faces and paint-splattered smocks, the artists known, lesser-known, and even the unknowns. And with the recent graduation of the New York Academy of Art’s class of 2019, the soon-to-be “knowns” are embarking on their post-art school journeys. We art models truly are witnesses to the careers and dreams of others. It’s a profession like no other.

Since today is Monday and we haven’t had a Music Monday in ages, I’d like to share a recording by a vocalist I only recently became aware of. I heard this on the jazz radio station WBGO and it absolutely blew me away. She goes by the name Yebba, and she’s an Arkansas native. Stylistically, if you like Adele you’ll like Yebba. Here she accompanies the brilliant pianist James Francies in the unique and expressive “My Day Will Come”. It really got under my skin, and will maybe get under yours as well. Love you all, and I’ll see you soon 🙂

Lifeline

This has been the busiest summer of art modeling that I’ve had to date. It’s almost as if God or the spirits or the cosmic energies of counterbalance are aware of how much I desperately need this gratifying work to keep me from stumbling into the abyss of personal torments. I’m sorry if that sounds hyperbolic, but it’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. From sculpture at the New York Academy of Art to joyous sessions at Minerva’s drawing studio, summer pre-college portfolio classes at FIT and Molloy College and ‘Figure al Fresco’ at Battery Park, I’ve been an artist’s model this summer far more than I’ve been a sunbather – and that’s saying a lot because I love sunbathing!

Amidst all this summer work the highlight, without a doubt, has been private modeling sessions with Steven Assael, the living master of representational art. Besides the great pleasure of getting to know him as a person, it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch him work. The steadiness of his hand, the precision of his fingertips rubbing as he blends and shades, and the focus of his gaze, are in themselves a display of ‘art’ in a way. Creation in action, unfolding before your eyes. While posing for the drawing below I felt almost in a trance!

And these are some sketches of my short poses by Steve, in different tools and paper, from my very first session in his studio. Love these 🙂

And a quick note for my New Yorker readers; the exhibition “Armenia!” is opening at Metropolitan Museum next month on September 22nd. It sounds amazing. This Armenian girl is looking forward to it!

Mornings at the Museum

Hellooo friends! In the midst of a jam-packed art modeling schedule of late I’ve still managed to see the Michelangelo exhibition at the Met … twice! Eight years in the making, works loaned from 50 museums and private collections around the world, and it shows. And they let you take photos! Why does that excite me so much? Because I’m now the owner of a brand new iPhone 7 which has a superb camera. I’m gonna have fun with this device, and it’s good for Museworthy too. Better pics!

This piece was a real treat, and it exemplifies why artists love to look at drawings even more than paintings – observing a master’s hand at work as he explores ideas and formulates his vision. These are Michelangelo’s studies for the arm of God in the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Interesting how he tested two different gestures. And since Michelangelo wasn’t wasteful and reused paper, we can see the faded centaur sketch in the background:

I posted those arms to Instagram. Yes I’m on Instagram now! You know, with all the cool kids 😉 I’m at artmodelnyc if any of you would like to follow me there.

Here’s another drawing that my art model readers will appreciate. The paper is in poor condition but the pose is intense. A male model (all of Michelangelo’s models were men) doing a deep torso twist, turned head and pivoted shoulders. Not easy! The model was most likely one of Michelangelo’s stone cutters or studio assistants:

And a little more fun with my camera in black and white, the Athena Parthenos in the Met’s Great Hall. I posted a video about this sculpture’s installation last year. She’s a beauty:

Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench

I posted a figure painting to my Tumblr a couple of weeks ago that has received over 200 likes and reblogs. And we all know that accumulating “likes” on social media is the most sought-after form of validation in our culture, right? Do we even matter if we’re not getting “likes”? How are we to measure our popularity and worth if not by “likes”?? 😛 I’m kidding of course, but there was an eye-catching Impressionistic quality to the painting that appealed to many of my fellow Tumblrers.

By the way, does everyone know that I have a Tumblr? In case you don’t, it’s called meanderings and it’s a collection of images that I find interesting, fun, or intriguing. No commentary like here on Museworthy, just a potpourri of cool stuff. Art, photography, animals, etc. Feel free to check it out and assess my curatorial skills.

So the painting I posted was this nude by the 19th century Spanish artist Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench. In addition to the lovely swimming figure, the teal color is great.

Camarlench was born in Valencia in 1849. He grew up poor and worked in various jobs to help support the family. By the time he was 21 he was enrolled in art academies and on his way to a successful career as a painter, doing commissions, receiving awards, and teaching.

I looked at a lot of his work, and I especially like when he worked in a more painterly style with conspicuous brushstrokes. But he really mixed it up over the course of his life, shifting gears in both style and palette. His subjects range from portraits to landscapes to nudes, and many works of his children. I’ve selected a few to share here with my readers.

Clavariesas:

Nude:

Lovers:

The Procession in Godella:

Icarios’ Games:

Marisa, the artist’s granddaughter:

Mounted Guards:

Nude

And the man himself in a really cool self-portrait from 1895. I dig the hat 🙂

For more Camarlench, including some drawings, go to Museo del Prado.

Portraits & Pets – A Museworthy Art Show

Companions. Loved ones. Models. Friends. Souls – human and animal – with faces and gazes, personalities and body language, stories and histories. Followers of this blog contributed works of art – in a most glorious array of expressions – to a little online art show themed “Portraits and Pets”. Some included brief descriptions to accompany their work, others let their art stand alone. Each one is thoroughly unique, and a gesture of participation in this blog’s congenial community. And your blog hostess was honored to participate right along with you. I now present …”Portraits and Pets”! Enjoy 🙂

Ron Anticevich
Radar
oil on linen
Simi Valley, California

Mark Wummer
Finding Flint
watercolor
“Flint is a fifty-five pound black lab that started his life training to be a service dog but decided on a career change, and instead became our son’s family pet. He can curl himself into a ball of black fur so tightly that it’s tough to know what part of him you are looking at.”
Reading, Pennsylvania

Derek James Tewey
Mariama, my sister, 1935-2017
acrylic
“I miss her”
Brisbane, Australia

Dave Moran
Hero
graphite
“my pit bull mix”
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Fred Hatt
Leo and My Foot
Aquarelle crayon and gouache on grey paper
Brooklyn, New York

Todd Fife
Ilex
pencil, acrylic, coffee, gold leaf
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Daniel Maidman
Felix
oil on canvas
Brooklyn, New York

Bill MacDonald
Young Man with a Beard
colored pencil over graphite
Quincy, Massachusetts

Two from
Susan Berkowitz
King
gouache, watercolor, and acrylic on aquaboard
Brooklyn, New York

Susie
oil pastel

Rob Carroll
Lulu
HB pencil
Swindon, UK

Bruce Williams
Claudia and Ika
hand-colored drypoint
New York City

Two from
Judy Waller
Best of Friends
watercolor on paper
“At home in the studio where she lives and works, her little parrot Beatrix can almost always be seen sitting contentedly on Lita’s shoulder. Lita starts every day by holding Beatrix in her palm and stroking her feathers, much to the little bird’s obvious delight. They truly are ‘Best of Friends!'”
Roseburg, Oregon

Siesta
watercolor on paper
“My painting of Mike and his dog Sophie captures the tender affection between the two, in a peaceful moment of repose. Mike has a natural affinity for animals, and can befriend even the most reluctant dog or cat almost instantly.”

Elaine Hajian
Patriarch
pastel
“My grandfather who came to America to escape the Armenian Genocide. Honoring a gentle man who will live forever in our hearts.”
New York City

Mark Kurdziel
Blu
oil on linen
Jersey City, New Jersey

Christopher Hickey
Anne’s Black Bird
etching tinted with watercolor
“our cat Noelle has a cameo role”
Atlanta, Georgia

Francisco Malonzo
Connie 3
acrylic
New York City

Rosanne Kaloustian
Rose
pastel
“This painting of my aunt was created from an old black and white photo … remembering the good old days.”
New York City

Roberta Moring
Pauly
acrylic
“My muse is my beautiful African Ring-Neck parrot”
West Bend, Wisconsin

Claudia Hajian
Jessie and her Blue Toy
pastel on paper
New York City

Pumpkinhead

A dear friend of mine – someone very special to me – had a birthday this weekend. So I emailed him an artwork that I knew would make him smile. It did 🙂 Then, while modeling today, it occurred to me that it might make a fun Museworthy Halloween post.

The work is a ‘self-portrait’ by Jamie Wyeth – son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth. Yes, it is a man with a pumpkin head. I will let Jamie Wyeth himself explain how this painting came to be, with an excerpt from an interview he gave with a public radio station in Boston:

“I had been elected to the National Academy of Design in New York, and one of the requirements was that you give a portrait, a self-portrait of yourself. Well, I didn’t want to do myself in a self-portrait, but I love pumpkins. It’s the sinisterness, the Halloween I’ve always loved. It’s a little bit edgy. So I did it and of course they were furious and rejected it.”

Pumpkinhead, 1972:

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That Jamie Wyeth submitted this odd, quirky pumpkinhead as his ‘self-portrait’ membership requirement to a panel of stuffy academicians might be my new favorite art anecdote. A scion of a family of great artists, who have been unfairly dismissed by the fine art establishment as mere “illustrators”, submits an offbeat work instead of something safe and traditional. Gotta love it. Team Wyeth all the way!

Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll see you all very soon with cool stuff, photos, updates, drawings and dispatches from the modeling platform. Peace, friends.

Départ pour le Sabbat by Albert Joseph Pénot, 1910:

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Amrita Sher-Gil

She has been called “the Indian Frida Kahlo”. To a fellow 20th century female painter with the same fearless and rebellious spirit as the Mexican icon, the moniker is no doubt a great compliment. Though her life and career were brief, Amrita Sher-Gil defied conventional norms and left a legacy as India’s most celebrated woman artist of the modern era.

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She came into the world blessed with privileged circumstances, and was reared with an Indo-European cultural identity that would shape her sensibilities as she matured. Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913 to highly accomplished and well-connected parents. Her father was a Sikh aristocrat and scholar, and her mother was a Hungarian opera singer. Both of them encouraged and supported their daughter’s art education and training. The family moved to Shimla in northern India when Amrita was a child and she began creating her first artworks at the age of five. By the time she was in her teens Amrita, accompanied by her mother, was studying sculpture in Italy and, later, painting in France at the esteemed Ecole des Beaux Arts.

With the requisite formal academic training under her belt, Amrita was ready to discover her authentic voice. I find it fascinating how a young woman in the 1920s and 30s, whose experiences overlapped between the European west, British Raj, and traditional India, manages to find a sense of cultural belonging. Amrita’s fiercely independent spirit and fervent curiosity surely helped her navigate the unique cultural patchwork in which she found herself. In photos of Amrita taken during various stages of her life, she appears in some of them wearing traditional Indian dress, and in others wearing bathing suits and fashionable western clothing.

During her years in Paris, Amrita drew profound inspiration from the works of Cezanne, and post-Impressionists like Gauguin and van Gogh. Gauguin, with his subjects of native people and village life, and use of bold lines and rich palettes, became a particularly strong influence and is evident in many of Sher-Gil’s paintings.

Hungarian Gypsy Girl, 1932:

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One of Amrita’s most well-known works, this is Three Girls, 1935. It was her first painting upon returning to India from Europe. She wrote, “I realized my real artistic mission, to interpret the life of Indians and particularly the poor Indians pictorially; to paint those silent images of infinite submission and patience,… to reproduce on canvas the impression those sad eyes created on me.”

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Painting of Sumair, Amrita’s cousin, 1936:

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A lovely photo of a smiling Amrita with three of her paintings:

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In 1938, against her parents’ wishes, Amrita married her first cousin on the Hungarian side of her family, Victor Egan, and returned to India for good. Amrita realized that she was destined to paint in India and India alone, never having felt completely comfortable, artistically, in Europe. As she put it, “There [Europe] I was not natural and honest because I was born with a certain thirst for colour and in Europe the colours are pale – everything is pale.” The couple first settled in Uttar Pradesh, where Amrita immersed herself in painting themes of rural Indian life and the struggling poor, particularly the women and children, whom she portrayed with solemn empathy.

Hill Women:

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Part of Sher-Gil’s “South Indian Trilogy”, this is Bride’s Toilet, 1937:

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In 1941, Amrita and Victor moved to Lahore (present day Pakistan). Then, tragically, Amrita fell ill and slipped into a coma in December of that year. The cause of death is not known, although it’s been speculated to have been possibly food poisoning, peritonitis, or a botched abortion. She was only 28 years old. A woman of liberated modern mind who chose to remain artistically faithful to her indigenous roots. Frida Kahlo approves.

Sculpture, Picasso Style

Regular museum visitors know the rules when it comes to photography. At most New York museums, photography (with no flash) is allowed in all the galleries which house works of the permanent collection. Special exhibitions, however, prohibit photography of any kind. Try to take a quick pic on your iPhone and you can expect one of the guards to admonish you. “Sorry ma’am, no photography”. You will then be handcuffed and escorted to an interrogation room <– just kidding 😉 So imagine my delight when I was told that photography WAS allowed at the recent “Picasso Sculpture” show at MoMA. Yay! The show ended its five month run on February 7th, and I saw it in its final few days, which is how I see most of the big acclaimed art shows in town – when the end date is looming! I’m very glad I didn’t miss this one.

Picasso had formal training in painting and drawing only. So his approach to sculpture was motivated by experimental impulses, ingenuity, and his fertile creative mind, all of which were abundantly on display in this exhibit. What we witnessed, from gallery to gallery, was a man engaged in self-taught exploration, working in three-dimensions, letting his imagination run free, salvaging metal and wood scraps, found objects, paper and paint, cardboard, string, nails, plants, plaster, bronze, and anything he could get his hands on. In a wide array of subject matter – women, animals, children, instruments, etc. -Picasso’s sculptural expressions alternate from childlike to muscular, classical to avant-garde, spontaneous to engineered. He worked big, he worked small, and continued to experiment with sculpture for decades – a perpetual student – up to the mid-1960s. It was a truly fun and fascinating show.

This is just a sampling of the works, and among the ones I’ve chosen to post there is surely something for everyone here. I took all the photos in this post, so feel free to download, keep, and share!

Woman with Hat, painted sheet metal:

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Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture, oxidized welded steel:

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Head of a Woman, painted sheet metal and iron wire:

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Little Horse, painted metal with wheels:

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Sylvette, painted sheet metal:

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Kneeling Woman Combing Her Hair, bronze:

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Head of a Woman (Fernande), bronze:

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Guitar, ferrous sheet metal and wire:

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Picasso did six versions of this, Glass of Absinthe, in painted bronze with an actual absinthe spoon. He made the sugar cube also from a piece of bronze. A very popular alcoholic spirit in Picasso’s day, absinthe was prepared by pouring it over a sugar cube and then diluting with water:

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Guitar, painted sheet metal, painted tin box, and iron wire:

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Composition with Glove, glove, cardboard, plants sewn and glued, coated with sand:

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Seated Woman, bronze:

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Part of the memorial monument to Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet and friend of Picasso who died in 1918. Head of a Woman, iron, sheet metal, springs, and painted metal colanders:

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Also from the Monument to Apollinaire, Woman in the Garden, welded and painted iron:

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Head of a Woman, plaster:

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One of my favorites, The Reaper, plaster and wood:

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And another one of my favorites, this rough but quirky Little Owl, painted bronze with nails:

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Woman Carrying a Child, painted wood and section of palm leaf:

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Cat, bronze:

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The Orator, plaster, stone, and metal dowel:

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Man with a Lamb, bronze:

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The Bathers, wood and gesso:

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I’ll let the man himself sign off this post. Picasso’s signature on the back of one of his sheet metal creations:

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da Forlì’s Angels

If the walls of my modest home weren’t already covered with framed artwork featuring one model – yes, that would be me 🙂 – I would want to time travel back to the Renaissance and commission one of the great Italian fresco painters of the 15th and 16th centuries to paint my home’s interior. He could adorn these plaster walls with stories, allegories, figures and faces, depicting themes of theology, philosophy, poetry, and the human condition. I couldn’t afford to pay him, mind you, but perhaps he’d be willing to barter his services for some art modeling.

For today’s Music Monday we have some surviving fragments of a fresco painted by Melozzo da Forlì for the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome in the late 1400s. Today they are on view at the Pinacoteca Gallery in the Vatican Art Museums. These are “music-making angels”, celestial and beautiful with their lutes, drums, violins and tambourines. The third one would look lovely in my bedroom. Anyone up for a decorative house painting gig? 😉

DaForli-Angel2

DaForli-Angel

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DaForli-Angel3

An Artist Unearthed

To disobey a person’s wishes in the event of their death seems an inconsiderate thing to do. I know I’d be pissed if the instructions I left behind were ignored. But in some rare instances it might be wise to respectfully defy the wishes of the deceased. Such is the case of Arthur Pinajian, an Armenian-American artist who died in 1999 and whose body of works were discovered in 2007 in a dilapidated cottage in Bellport, Long Island. With no heirs or loved ones with a vested interest, Arthur Pinajian insisted that after his death his artwork be thrown in the garbage – specifically, dumped into the Brookhaven landfill. His sister, with whom he lived, knew of Arthur’s wish for the works to be discarded but allowed them to languish – paintings, drawings, and notebooks in disorderly piles, under a leaky roof, splotched with mold and mildew. After she died a few years later, two investors, Thomas Schultz and Lawrence Joseph, purchased the property with the intention of renovating it. Little did they know that the angels of fortuity would drop an enormous stash of never before seen art in their laps. Serendipity happens, folks. Believe it.

I feel a bond with this story for two reasons. One is that Pinajian was Armenian, as am I. And when a talented Armenian receives positive attention that makes me happy. The other is that I am an inveterate saver. I can’t bring myself to throw out anything that holds even an iota of value, whether it be sentimental, historical, or practical. I never would have been able to carry out Pinajian’s wishes, and how lucky we are that his discoverers couldn’t do it either. As Thomas Schultz himself explained, “I didn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing a man’s life’s work into a dumpster”.

I was thrilled to see the Pinajian exhibit when I was in East Hampton last week. Howard Shapiro, the curator at Lawrence Fine Art Gallery, was kind enough to let me take a few pictures which I’ve posted here. It’s just a miniscule sample of a breathtakingly versatile artist who, at his best, rides neck and neck alongside Picasso, Gauguin, Kline, Mondrian, and his Armenian brethren Arshile Gorky.

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While Pinajian may not have found his way into the upper echelons of the fine art world, his life and career were not at all misspent. A child of Armenian Genocide survivors, Pinajian grew up in New Jersey and became a self-taught and well-respected cartoonist. He created comic book illustrations during the 1930s and 40s. He won a Bronze Star for valor in World War II, and attended the Art Students League on the G.I. Bill. Pinajian was personally acquainted with his contemporaries, the abstract expressionists who dominated the postwar art scene, and experimented vigorously with style and color. But he was, for whatever reason, unable to break through into Pollock and de Kooning levels of acclaim.

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There is something really bittersweet about this kind of story; an artist toils away in the shadows for decades and can’t get a gallery owner to return his calls, and then after he dies is “discovered”, purely by chance, and galleries clamor to hang his work, some of which is selling for tens of thousands of dollars. My mother owns a Pinajian, a small abstract pastel of gentle colors.

Some good reads on the Arthur Pinajian journey from obscurity to posthumous recognition:

Arthur Pinajian: An art world genius lost, found, and now worth millions

Who Was Arthur Pinajian? Master of Abstraction Discovered

The Pinajian Discovery

Short video on YouTube about Arthur Pinajian

Revealing the Art of Arthur Pinajian, Armenian Weekly

Arthur Pinajian website

and the Facebook page of the Estate Collection of Arthur Pinajian

Chasing Isabel – Gaston Lachaise and his Muse

So fellas, how far would you travel to be with the woman you love? The woman who inspires you? For French-born sculptor Gaston Lachaise the distance was 3,400 miles, though we can presume he would have traveled a lot farther than that for his muse, the person who set afire both his artistic imagination and erotic passions. For an attraction that powerful, a trip across the Atlantic is a mere walk down the block.

She was Isabel Dutaud Nagle, an American woman vacationing in Paris during the early 1900s. Gaston Lachaise was still a young 20 year old art student at the Académie Nationale des Beaux-Arts when he first caught sight of her walking along the Seine. He was instantaneously captivated. There was only one problem; Isabel was married. She was also ten years his senior.

Isabel Nagle photographed in Paris, 1904:

isabel-1904

The son of a skilled woodcarver and cabinetmaker, Gaston Lachaise received training in the decorative arts from the age of 13. Immersed in apprenticeships and a supportive family, Gaston Lachaise was on a solid path to a life of creating art. But then, with a promising career in sculpture ready to break out, Lachaise did the unthinkable. At a time when artists from all over the world came TO Paris, often without a dollar to their name, to study and create and live in the city that was the happening, stimulating hub of vitality for artists during the 1900s  – Gaston Lachaise did the opposite. He made plans to leave Paris and follow Isabel to her home in Boston. On the surface it seemed he was going in the wrong direction. For an up and coming artist in 1904, Paris was the place to be, the heart, the “scene”. But in a choice between hobnobbing with Picasso, Modigliani, and art dealers in Montparnasse, or packing up and relocating to America to be with the woman he loved, Lachaise chose the latter.

But the logistics of such a move were not without snags. In 1903, the year Lachaise turned 21, he was was drafted into the French Army. He served an uneventful 12 months during which he could not see his beloved Isabel. It was also during this time that Isabel had to return to Boston. Her husband was a wealthy businessman who refused to grant her a divorce until their son Edward was grown and enrolled in Harvard. Isabel accepted those conditions. In the meantime, Gaston Lachaise was discharged from the army and, instead of returning to formal study, secured a steady job in the studios of René Lalique where he cast jewelry, modeled vases and other art nouveau objects that were all the rage of the day. Before long he had earned enough money to pay for his passage across the Atlantic plus $60. His girl was waiting for him.

Isabel doing a nice nude twist on the rocks:

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On December 5, 1905, Gaston Lachaise set sail for America. He arrived in Boston one month later and was reunited with his muse. He would never return to France again. Lachaise found work in the atelier of sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson and enjoyed the time he and Isabel were able to spend together. They listened to music, discussed art and books, and attended concerts. When Kitson moved to New York City, to a studio on MacDougal Street, Lachaise followed him. Isabel came soon after. By 1912, Lachaise was assistant to Paul Manship and about to enter the period of formidable personal expression in his own work, driven of course by his enchanting and inspiring muse. Of Isabel he wrote, “through her the splendor of life was uncovered for me and the road of wonder began widening.”.

Gaston Lachaise’s figurative sculptures are known for their Junoesque stature and voluptuous dimensions. Certainly Isabel was no skinny waif, but she was not quite the imposing figure of Gaston’s work either. In reality she was only 5’2″ tall and weighed around 110 pounds. But like many artists are inclined to do, Lachaise exaggerated for artistic effect, amplifying the sensuousness, strength, and vigorous force of the human form. This is one of Lachaise’s most famous works of Isabel, “Elevation”, in bronze. A fascinating sculpture that presents a full-figured torso and thick thighs in an active gesture balancing effortlessly on the tiptoes of tiny delicate feet. It looks as if she could lift off and float away, light as a feather.

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It’s hard to miss the influences of Rodin and Maillol. They along with Lachaise exalted the human form to archetypes of potency, energy, and forces of nature. Committed to his vision of “Woman” as he felt it and experienced it through Isabel, Gaston Lachaise remained faithful to his passions and his artistic vocabulary.

This is Gaston Lachaise’s “Floating Figure” at the National Gallery of Australia, also inspired by Isabel. Completed in plaster in 1927, there are seven bronze casts in existence altogether. At first glance we see an almost caricature-like exaggeration. But Lachaise is presenting us with curvaceous lines and shapes, which are inherently womanly and feminine, a disproportionately small head, and a cross-legged seated pose with outstretched arms that communicates a peculiar mixture of control, tranquility, expansiveness. An odd, original, memorable work of modern figurative sculpture:

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1917 was a banner year for Gaston Lachaise. He became a United States citizen, finally married the now-divorced Isabel, and was preparing for his solo show of sculpture and drawing at Stephan Bourgeois Galleries in New York. The next seventeen years brought more exhibitions, commissions, great success and critical acclaim, and the purchase of a summer home in Maine. In retrospect, Lachaise’s infatuation-induced decision to leave Paris for America was a wise one, however impulsive it may have been. His union with Isabel was happily made official, and his career flourished in his adopted homeland. He called America “The New World” and added that “The American soil is fresh. It is fertile. Flowers and fruit of new species will come forth from it to lighten the world.” The old adage about following your heart is exemplified by the journey of Gaston Lachaise.

And then, in 1935, Lachaise’s life and career were cut short by the sudden onset of acute leukemia. He died just months after a triumphant retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art. Isabel Nagle, who left her previous husband to be with Gaston Lachaise, was now his widow. He had written 567 love letters to her and credited her as his “primary inspiration”. Isabel lived for another 25 years after Gaston’s death.

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An invaluable source of images and information for this post came from the Lachaise Foundation . Definitely check them out to learn more. Also of interest, an old art review from the New York Times

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:

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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:

Dewing_Young_Woman_with_Violincello

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 😆

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