Meanwhile, back at MoMA… [permanent collection, part 1]

Fascinated as I was with the depth, width and length of Picabia’s work retrospective, you didn’t think I’d leave MoMA without taking a long, refreshing look into the treasures of their permanent collection, did you?

In this series, we will walk through the sleek minimalist galleries, explore highlights, share favourites, be inspired and intrigued by some very stimulating works of art indeed.

Beginning with this charming postman, his suave royal blue uniform in contrast with the dark leaf green backdrop, the swirl of his beard echoed in the wind-swept flowers, the healthy colour of his skin reflected in their petals:

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1889. Oil on canvas || Vincent van Gogh

<<This portrait of Joseph Roulin is one of six Van Gogh painted of his close friend, a postal employee in the southern French town of Arles. Van Gogh had moved to Arles in 1888, hoping to create an artists’ cooperative. The plan never came to fruition and Van Gogh became lonely and isolated. He found comfort and companionship with the Roulin family and they are the subjects of many of his paintings. In this portrait, Roulin is depicted in the uniform he always wore, proudly, set against an imaginative backdrop of swirling flowers. In a letter to his brother Theo, the artist wrote that, of all genres, ”the modern portrait” excited him the most: ”I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we try to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our colouring.”>>


Something about the strong, almost geometric lines; the contrasting colours; the warmth and energy; the bright yellow light falling sideways on the bodies and making them glow:

Bathers, 1907. Oil on canvas || André Derain


Of all the paintings by Gauguin, this is my favourite one:

Still Life with Three Puppies, 1888. Oil on wood || Paul Gauguin

<<When Gauguin painted ”Still Life with Three Puppies”, he was living in Brittany among a group of experimental painters. He abandoned naturalistic depictions and colours, declaring that ”art is an abstraction” to be derived ”from nature while dreaming before it.” The puppies’ bodies, for example, are outlined in bold blue, and the patterning of their coats mirrors the botanic print of the tablecloth. It is thought that Gauguin drew stylistic inspiration for this painting from children’s book illustrations and from Japanese prints, which were introduced to him by his friend Vincent van Gogh that same year.>>


I am captivated by the fine elegance of Picasso’s work during his Blue and Rose periods. Anything beyond that leaves me indifferent:

Nude with Joined Hands, 1906. Oil on canvas || Pablo Picasso


Au contraire, all due respect to the real master of Cubism and his hypnotic, geometric perspectives:

Man with a Guitar, 1911-12. Oil on canvas || Georges Braque


The dynamism and violence and forces of nature, all in one picture:

The City Rises, 1910. Oil on canvas || Umberto Boccioni


And all the sadness of the world, in one body:

Hope II, 1907-08. Oil, gold and platinum on canvas || Gustav Klimt

<<A pregnant woman bows her head and closes her eyes, as if praying for the safety of her child. Peeping out from behind her stomach is a death’s head, sign of the danger she faces. At her feet, three women with bowed heads raise their hands, presumably also in prayer—although their solemnity might also imply mourning, as if they foresaw the child’s fate.>>


These Munch-like faces with a neon colour palette:

Street, Dresden – 1908. Oil on canvas || Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

<<At the time he made this painting, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was living in Dresden, a large city in southeast Germany. In a letter to fellow painter Erich Heckel, he wrote of the Dresden crowds, “Completely strange faces pop up as interesting points through the crowd. I am carried along with the current, lacking will. To move becomes an unacceptable effort.” Kirchner heightened the colors of this city scene, depicting the figures with masklike faces and vacant eyes in order to capture the excitement and psychological alienation wrought by modernization.”>>


This couple looking bizarrely distant in their two separate worlds, gazing in different directions had me wondering about their pose – until I read the accompanying note:

Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat, 1909. Oil on canvas || Oskar Kokoschka

<<In 1909 the Viennese art historians Hans and Erica Tietze asked 23-year-old Oskar Kokoschka to paint a marriage portrait for their mantelpiece. They were strong supporters of contemporary art in Vienna and together helped organize the Vienna Society for the Advancement of Contemporary Art. Mrs. Tietze recalled that she and her husband were painted individually, a fact suggested by their separate poses and gazes. Kokoschka used thin layers of color to create the hazy atmosphere surrounding the couple, and added a sense of crackling energy by scratching the paint with his fingernails.>>

Extracts from accompanying tags, either on site or on line (under the ”Artists” section)

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

One thought on “Meanwhile, back at MoMA… [permanent collection, part 1]

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed this selection, and also your thoughts and notes. I love Picasso’s blue period too, but haven’t seen much of his pink, so this was a treat. And Derain’s bathers, the colors, the mystery, probably my favorite on this page.

    Liked by 1 person


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