The incredible murals of the Boston Public Library

I had read about Sargent’s murals and, in any case, public libraries always figure high on our ”must see” lists when we visit cities with significant history and culture. Having already been acquainted with the treasures inside and out of the MFA and having marveled at the city from high above, I expected the Library would be the best way to end a day full of wonders. I expected to be amazed by a couple of murals, chandeliers, marble staircases and, of course, an inviting reading room. But nothing – nothing – could have prepared me for this:

Not just a couple of murals but three whole galleries covered in art – by three different artists.

We found the Chavannes Gallery first: The Muses of Inspiration Hail the Spirit, the Messenger of Light by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

“This cycle of allegorical murals by renowned French painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was completed in Paris and installed between 1895 and 1896. Subjects depicted include science, history, poetry and philosophy.”

Then came the Abbey Room and its murals: The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail by Edwin Austin Abbey

“Respected American illustrator Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) completed his first work in oil paint with this vibrant mural cycle, installed in the library in 1902. The murals follow the story of Sir Galahad on his quest for the Holy Grail.”

And, finally, the magnificent Sargent Gallery Murals: Triumph of Religion by John Singer Sargent

“American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) spent 29 years on this ambitious mural cycle, titled The Triumph of Religion. Painted in his studio in England and installed over four phases between 1895 and 1919, the panels interpret moments in the history of Paganism, Judaism and Christianity.”

For more information the Library and Murals, notably those by John Singer Sargent, please check The Boston Public Library website.

Visited on May 2nd, 2017 – and still in awe.

Head Hunters

Outside the MFA.

“Over the past several decades, Antonio Lopez Garcia has become known as the finest Spanish painter of his generation. His intensely realistic paintings-ranging in subject from grimy bathroom sinks to expansive Madrid cityscapes-often take him years of meticulous work to complete. These sculptures, and several other recent works by Lopez, were inspired by the birth of his grandchildren. When his second grandchild, Carmen, was a few months old, Lopez began modeling two portraits of her head, one depicting her awake and the other asleep.”
Source: CultureNOW

The full sculpture of the Hunter, however, depicts him hunting a antelope – not heads!

“Paul Manship designed Indian and Pronghorn Antelope to span the length of the mantelpiece in his New York City apartment. He expertly used the negative space created by the separation of the hunter and his prey to capture the drama of the hunt. The work represents a compromise between historical artistic traditions and modern tendencies toward abstraction: the smooth planes and stylized renderings recall ancient Greek statues, while the arresting linear design and suggestion of movement reflect Manship’s own innovations. Small-scale statuettes such as these were popular for interior decoration, and Manship’s style was immediately accepted by the public.” Source: Art Institute Chicago

While this particular cast adorns the Fenway entrance lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts, a quick search on line shows a number of others being in permanent collections of various museums in America, such as The Met in New York, Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha Nebraska, Buffalo Center of the West Wyoming, The Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts.

Antonio López García
Day & Night, 2008
Bronze

Paul Manship
Indian Hunter, 1917, this cast 2002
Bronze

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

May 2nd, 2017

The Garden of the Heart of Heaven

A few moments of contemplation, allowing ourselves to absorb the various works of art we had just witnessed across the Museum’s galleries – and the warmth that comes with sunshine after the rain.

And then came the bunnies… There is a bunny hiding in this picture; an adorable little troublemaker, disrupting the peace.


Tenshin-en
The Garden of the Heart of Heaven
Designed by Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, Japan
Dedicated October 24, 1988

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May 2nd, 2017

Maenads in a Wood

”Gustave Doré (1832–1883), known primarily for his book illustrations, prints, and paintings, turned to sculpture late in his career. It was only in 1871 that he began to learn to model, and he exhibited his first sculpture at the Salon of 1877.
This plaster relief is the second version of a sculpture inspired by his 1879 painting of the Death of Orpheus. Doré used the same background and composition in both reliefs; however, here the dead Orpheus is absent and the female woodland figures are not armed. He has depicted a Bacchic dance of the Maenads, followers of Dionysus, god of the Orphic religion, who in a delirious frenzy killed Orpheus. This relief may have been intended to serve as an architectural decoration.”

Maenads in a Wood, 1879
Gustave Doré

The painting in reference and a study (the only copies I was able to trace on-line): 

Gustave Doré
Study for La mort d’Orphée, 1879
Charcoal and watercolor with gouache on thick card


Gustave Doré
La mort d’Orphée, 1885
Wash and gouache


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May 2nd, 2017

Endlessly Repeating

”Josiah McElheny created this mirrored installation with a critical eye on histories of innovation, ornament and display that shaped European Modernism. He hand-blew each glass vessel based on sleek Italian, Austrian, Czech and Scandinavian designs from 1910-90. Then, the precisely positioned them within this polished cube to capture their endless repetition as infinite assembly lines of 20th century elegance.”

Endlessly fascinating.

Josiah McElheny
Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism, 2007
Blown mirrored glass, mirrors, metal, wood and electric lighting

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May 2nd, 2017

A gallery that always wanted to become a grand hall of a European palace

European Painting 1550–1700 and Hanoverian Silver hang on damask-covered walls in the William I. Koch Gallery, nothing less for a space designed to resemble a grand hall of a European palace. Looking at the round tables, I thought it must double up as an event space. And, while, it is difficult to appreciate the art individually (too much, too high, some maneuvering  necessary to avoid hitting the tables), seen as a whole everything seems to work. Besides… … it leads to the Monet gallery. The MFA boasts one of the largest collections of Claude Monet’s work outside France, with a whole gallery dedicated to the artist! Below, just two of the works I particularly enjoy – the first, for its virtuosity and splendid kimono and the second, for its hazy, dreamy mood: Claude Monet
La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume), 1876
Oil on canvas


Claude Monet
Rouen Cathedral, Façade, 1894
Oil on canvas


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

May 2nd, 2017

Horrors that Humanity never could’ve; should’ve; would’ve been through (in a parallel world)

Yet they happened in a not so distant past. Others are happening today. Such is the human nature, at once atrocious and compassionate, conniving and benevolent, with a remarkable capacity to adapt and re-write history at will.

Memory Unearthed” offered an extraordinarily rare glimpse of life inside the Lodz Ghetto during its existence from 1940 to 1944, through the lens of Polish Jewish photojournalist Henryk Ross (1910–1991).

Memory Unearthed
The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross (ran through  July 30, 2017)

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
May 2nd, 2017