Pietàs of Passion

The word “pietà” means “pity” in Italian. Its Latin origin translates into “piety” or “duty”. In art, a Pietà is any representation of Mary mourning the dead body of the crucified Christ. It is a scene of powerful emotional import. If other figures from the New Testament are also depicted, the work is often called “Lamentation”. On this Good Friday, a collection of pietas for my readers.

The pietà subject presents many options for artists, both compositionally and stylistically. Some are horizontal, others are vertical. Some depict the body of Christ with blood and wounds, while others omit them in favor of an unscathed figure. Some emphasize the pain, agony, and grief of the moment, while others take an almost serene, quietly mournful approach.

We’ll start with the archetype, the pietà that sets the standard for all others; Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece located in St. Peter’s Basilica. Completed in 1499, and carved from a single slab of Carrara marble, it is the only work by Michelangelo that he ever signed. It received much criticism for its portrayal of an impossibly youthful Mary, who appears far too young to be the mother of a 33 year old man. But Michelangelo defended his choice. Designed in a pyramid shape, Michelangelo’s Pietà is considered a foremost example of Renaissance sculpture:

MichelangeloPieta

One of my favorite pietas is this painting by Annibale Carracci, 1600. The hand gesture of Mary is an extraordinary detail, and I love the lights and darks:

Carracci-pieta-1600

William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Pietà, 1876, is presented in the French academic style for which the artist is known. Mary stares straight ahead, surrounded by sorrowful angels:

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Pieta_(1876)

A striking Pietà by Luis de Morales, 1570. Again, the prominent placement of Mary’s hands.

LuisdeMorales-Pieta

Andrea Del Sarto, 1524, oil on wood. Christ’s face is barely visible here, as the surrounding figures seem to dominate the composition:

DelSarto-Pieta

A surrealist Pietà from Salvador Dali who clearly modeled this work after Michelangelo. His works of religious themes are really impressive. I’m a huge fan. I posted his Ascension of Christ here a few years ago:

Dali-Pieta

Sebastiano del piombo’s Pietà, ca 1515, takes a different approach, with Christ lying flat on the ground as Mary prays:

Sebastiano_del_piombo,_pietà

Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, 1485, in tempera by Carlo Crivelli, is a fine example of the early Renaissance style:

Crivelli-Pieta

Pietà by Moretto da Brescia, ca. 1530. Sorrow and pain come across in the facial expressions and gestures:

Moretto da Brescia (Italian, 1498 - 1554 ), Pietà, 1520s, oil on panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection

The desolate landscape works to great effect here in this Pietà, 1854, by the superb symbolist painter Gustave Moreau:

Moreau-Pieta

And here’s something you won’t see in any museum. A “pieta” on the streets of New York. Spring Studio‘s Minerva Durham plays Mary to a Jesus acted out by artist’s model and dancer Magic Distefano, in the middle of Lafayette Street. That’s Andrew Bolotowsky on flute. There wasn’t a music accompanist at Calvary, but there is in SoHo:

pietamail2

To all my readers, a blessed Easter weekend … lift up your hearts in rebirth, renewal, the coming of spring, and light everlasting …

Love you all:-)

Claudia

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:

IMG_7105

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

IMG_7109

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

IMG_7113

Little Horse, painted metal with wheels:

IMG_7119

Sylvette, painted sheet metal:

IMG_7110

Kneeling Woman Combing Her Hair, bronze:

IMG_7126

Head of a Woman (Fernande), bronze:

IMG_7128

Guitar, ferrous sheet metal and wire:

IMG_7137

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:

IMG_7145

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

IMG_7149

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

IMG_7154

Seated Woman, bronze:

IMG_7155

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:

IMG_7158

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

IMG_7159

Head of a Woman, plaster:

IMG_7162

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

IMG_7165

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

IMG_7168

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

IMG_7173

Cat, bronze:

IMG-20160204-01519

The Orator, plaster, stone, and metal dowel:

IMG-20160204-01515

Man with a Lamb, bronze:

IMG-20160204-01523

The Bathers, wood and gesso:

IMG_7177

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

IMG_7107

Art Around Town

Well hello there friends! It wasn’t my intention to go so long without a new blog post. I’ve just been completing a long sculpture pose at Grand Central Atelier and then jumped right into a weekend workshop with Max Ginsburg. So it’s been modeling duties, and the resulting body rest, that have occupied me for the past several days. I was worried that pilates class on Monday would be agonizing, but it wasn’t! Felt really good actually. My spine was grateful:-)

My good friend Francisco Malonzo shared something with me that I’d like to share with all of you. It reminded me that artists and models can appreciate the same experience of seeing artwork on the wall – artists delight at seeing their creation on display, and we models delight at seeing ourselves on display. A collector here in NYC took pictures of Francisco’s pieces in his Upper West Side apartment and they’re wonderful to see. A portrait of me is among the collection. You can view them on Francisco’s blog. Francisco’s dazzling work has appeared on Museworthy several times over the years. You can view previous posts here and here .

Also, I thought I’d share a photo from the sculpture class at Grand Central Atelier. It was a terrific gig with a lovely small class. I did a standing pose, which is fairly common for sculpture, and it was well worth it as you can see in this impressive work by fourth year student Charlie Mostow:

IMG-20151001-01212

Lastly, in keeping with three-dimensional creations, a photo I took last night at a gathering at the Armenian Diocese here in New York, where a new sculpture was unveiled to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Michael Aram designed this stainless steel work called “Migrations”, and on a beautiful moonlit October evening in the city, clergy members, artists, and Armenian New Yorkers were deeply moved by the dedication of this piece. My phone pic is okay but you can see it more clearly at Architectural Digest with an accompanying article.

IMG-20151006-01253

That’s all for now, friends. I’ll see you soon!

Snapshot

Sculpture is more divine, and more like Nature,
That fashions all her works in high relief,
And that is Sculpture. This vast ball, the Earth,
Was moulded out of clay, and baked in fire;
Men, women, and all animals that breathe
Are statues, and not paintings.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Grand Central Atelier, sculpture studio:

IMG_7055

To my Museworthy friends – have a splendid few days and let’s meet right back here on Thursday for our annual blog celebration. See you then!:-)

Crimes and Misdemeanors

If for nothing else, social media interactions can spur discoveries and offer interesting shares that one might have been unfamiliar with. Block out the irritations of the Internet and some cool stuff can come your way. The Ashmolean Museum recently posted an image to Twitter that caught my attention. It was this self-portrait by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the celebrated sculptor of the Baroque era. I’ve seen most of his self-portraits – he did quite a few – but I’d never seen this one before. He created it in black, red, and white chalk, circa 1635:

BerniniSelfPortrait

The drawing has a strange intimacy to it that intrigues me. His gaze is hard to pinpoint. Oddly, it is direct but a little preoccupied. Engaged but a little jaded. Cool but a little confused. I honestly can’t decide if he’s saying “You lookin’ at me, pal?” or “Whatever, dude”. His overall appearance is informal, with unkempt hair and a five o’clock shadow. He could almost be a young hipster barista making cappuccinos at a coffee bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn instead of the 17th century artistic wunderkind.

Bernini, the uniquely gifted sculptor who could turn marble into flesh and render stone creations with stunning action and theatricality, is a compelling and charismatic figure in art history. One cannot imagine a survey of Western art without his Ecstasy of St Teresa or Apollo and Daphne. The man himself possessed a personality which matched the intensity of his art. His notoriously hot temper was offset by his gregarious, outgoing disposition, well-roundedness (he was also an architect, poet, writer, and stage designer) and dedicated work ethic. It’s been said that he would chatter up a storm while he worked, telling jokes and sharing gossip with his assistants as he chiseled away in his studio. Like many sculptors he was physically strong and agile. And because his astonishing talents were evident to all, Bernini enjoyed a largely easy ride in terms of his career. He was showered with praise and recognition from his early years and it never waned. This, as I’m sure you all know, can be both a blessing and a curse.

Bernini was neither a sweetheart nor a monster. At only one point in his life did he go completely batshit crazy. And that one time sure was a doozy. A disturbing, mad, jealousy-infused doozy. Are you ready for the twisted soap opera? Fasten your seat belts.

In 1636 Bernini began an affair with Costanza Bonarelli, the wife of Bernini’s assistant Matteo Bonarelli. To describe it as “hot and heavy” would be an understatement. Bernini’s sculpture of her will tell us everything we need to know. She is tousled. She is lusty. She seems to be in some ravished stage of pre or post coitus. Her lips are parted, her blouse is undone. She is fleshy and earthy. She is not a proper aristocratic lady sitting decorously for a commissioned sculpture bust. She is, quite clearly, Bernini’s lover and object of his infatuation.

Bernini-Costanza

At the height of the torrid affair, Bernini was tipped off that Costanza was possibly sleeping with another man – not her husband but yet another lover. The lady got around apparently. The other man turned out to be none other than Bernini’s brother Luigi who was a rather unsavory character. Bernini, in the throes of unhinged jealousy, went ballistic. He spied on Costanza to confirm the rumor and, sure enough, spotted his brother emerging from her house. What ensued was pure madness. Bernini chased down Luigi and attacked him with an iron crowbar, breaking his ribs. He chased him again, this time with a sword, threatening to kill him. When his brother sought refuge in a church, the raging Bernini attempted to kick down the doors. But he wasn’t done with his vengeful impulses. Bernini ordered one of his servants to go to Costanza’s house and slash her face, which the man did, with a razor blade.

As for the fallout of this gruesome incident, Luigi fled to Bologna, fearing for his safety. Costanza, disfigured for life, was imprisoned for adultery. The servant who did the slashing was also sent to prison. And Bernini was issued a fine – a fine – which was eventually waived by his benefactor Pope Urban VIII, under the agreement that Bernini would marry, get his shit together, and live a respectable life. It pays to have friends in high places.

Another Bernini self-portrait:

GianLorenzo-Bernini-Autoritratto-1630ca-665x848

So Bernini went unpunished for his behavior, and Costanza paid the criminal price for adultery which the men eluded. This was, of course, 17th century Europe and a society structured in ways that baffle us. On the other hand, it’s not so baffling in that some aspects remain constant and are unlikely to ever change. Esteemed and advantaged people, like Bernini was then, receive special treatment, much like they do today. But for what it’s worth, Bernini did go on to marry, father eleven children, and live a pious life as a devout Catholic attending mass regularly. It appears he learned his lesson. Bernini suffered a stroke in his elderly years and died at the age of 82.

Corporeality

So I bitched all summer over not having enough work and now as the summer comes to an end, and art modeling will soon kick into high gear, I’m like NOOOO!! NOT YET!! Okay, I’m a pain in the ass😆

I suppose since last spring brought a good share of professional aggravation and frustration, I’m feeling some ambivalence about facing the art scene full throttle. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing certain people again that I’m fond of, and faithfully serving in my role as muse. I just hope my middle-aged body cooperates! I did a lot of running, biking, and exercising this summer, but I still could have done more.

I came across this video that I really enjoyed, “Sculpting the Female Torso” by Peter Rubino. Sculpture is amazing in that it begins as amorphous slabs and gradually transforms into a replica of the human form through molding, carving, scooping, and all those wonderful tactile sensations. Once when posing for a sculpture class I saw an artist get fed up with his tools and take out his plastic credit card, which he then used to scrape ridges in the clay with better precision. Sculptors get it done, one way or another. Beautiful final result in this video:

 

Not to be outdone by the three dimensional molders, artists who use pencil have to “mold” in their own way as well. Lights and darks, as we all know, are the keys to creating form on a piece of paper. This is my torso drawn by my dear friend Daniel daSilva.

IMG954852

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone! Peace and blessings. See you soon:-)

Love, Claudia

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:

35illchisalito

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.

Lachaise-StandingWoman

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:

LachaiseFloatingFigure

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.

35illchaise111

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