I got my eyes on you D.C.

Three days in the capital were just enough to whet our appetite for more. I don’t know when that will be, because there so many places in America we want to see before leaving the country, and the more time we spend here the longer the wish list gets; but I do hope we make to D.C. again, if only to explore Georgetown which we missed this time due to, well, rather unfriendly weather conditions (read rain, tons of it!).

But time to hop on a train again; not yet back to Manhattan, that will have to wait a little longer.

Our next stop: Baltimore.

April 25th, 2017

Fear & Love

Go hand in hand. See, for instance, how beautifully these works complement each other –

From the powerful painting by Maynard Dixon, giving shape to fear,

Maynard Dixon, Shapes of Fear, 1930-32, oil on canvas

to the subdued and delicate works by Joseph Cornell, who took his fear of this world and placed it inside wooden boxes, each one containing a mini universe,

Joseph Cornell, Soap Bubble Set, 1949-50, glasses, pipes, printed paper and other media in a glass-fronted wood box

or his magical homages to Tamara Toumanova, Cornell’s way of expressing his great affection for the world of Romantic Ballet.

Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Marine Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova), c. 1940, collage and tempera on paperboard
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Tamara Toumanova), c. 1940, collage with tempera on paperboard

Embracing Life @ Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

Man in a Vest

William H. Johnson, Man in a Vest, 1939-40, oil on canvas

“And even if I have studied for many years and all over the world, . . . I have still been able to preserve the primitive in me. . . . My aim is to express in a natural way what I feel, what is in me, both rhythmically and spiritually, all that which in time has been saved up in my family of primitiveness and tradition, and which is now concentrated in me.” — William H. Johnson

With its minimal palette of contrasting colours and clean, simple lines Man in a Vest expresses brilliantly Mr Johnson’s quote, don’t you find?

Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

Will o’ the Wisp

My, oh, my… those fans! This is one of the most exquisite quilts I have ever seen! I wonder if I could borrow it for a day or two…

Harriet Hosmer, Will o’ the Wisp, modeled 1858, marble
Residents of Bourbon County, Kentucky – Fan Quilt, Mt. Carmel – 1893 – cotton, wool, silk, velvet, lace, ribbon, silk thread, paint, chromolithographic paper decals and canvas
Residents of Bourbon County, Kentucky – Fan Quilt, Mt. Carmel – 1893 (detail)

If not the quilt, how about this Greek Evzone costume?

Walter Gould, Portrait of John B. Carmac in Greek Evzone Costume, 1853, oil on canvas

”Walter Gould painted this image in Florence in 1853, soon after he returned from Greece and Turkey. He posed his sitter wearing Greek military costume associated with the crack troops that fought the Turkish occupation of Greece. Such costumes alluding to Greek independence became popular with visiting American tourists, who fondly saw parallels to their own war of independence. Gould portrays Carmac as if he were a local resident, holding a long-stemmed pipe; a hookah, or water pipe, rests on the floor beside the window.”

I seem to be in need of some counseling!

John Rogers, The Council of War, modeled c. 1873, painted plaster

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th

Bad kitty…!

Scolded and Unamused

Reproof

c. 1878-1880 by Edward R. Thaxter

Marble

”In Reproof a young girl sternly scolds her cat who has just attacked a birds nest. She clutches the cat to her chest and looks at it disapprovingly while waving her hand in discipline. Meanwhile a dead bird lies at her feet and feathers hang limply from the cat’s mouth. This scene is a prelude to the responsibilities of motherhood the young girl who is now reprimanding her cat will have to ensure that her own children are well behaved in the future. Although Edward Thaxter’s life was short, he excelled in creating detailed neoclassical sculpture. He made at least five marble copies of Reproof.”

Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

A breath of fresh spring air

A breath of fresh spring air from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., in spite of the 6-10 inches snow accumulations we have been warned to expect today in New York City!

Kenyon Cox, An Eclogue, 1890, oil on canvas
Robert Reid, The White Parasol, c. 1907, oil on canvas
Robert Reid, The White Parasol, c. 1907, oil on canvas (detail)
Arthur F. Mathews, Spring Dance, c. 1917, oil on canvas

”Arthur Mathews led a group of progressive Californians who believed that fine art and design served the public good. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he and his wife, Lucia, also a designer, led the effort to rebuild the city’s fine public spaces. The pastoral scene in Spring Dance evokes civic murals created for museums, libraries and concert halls. But Mathews had more on his mind than ancient Greece or Rome. His Arcadia is the luminous landscape of California, and the planes of color and the graceful postures of the dancers show the artist is also looking across the Pacific to Japan for inspiration. The ornate frame is a reproduction of the original. It repeats the colors in the painting, reflecting Mathews’ commitment to designing complementary furniture, art and architecture to create an aesthetic whole.”

Eastman Johnson, The Girl I Left Behind Me, c. 1870, oil on canvas
Childe Hassam, The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913, oil on canvas

”Childe Hassam spent many summers on Appledore Island off the coast of Maine. Every year, he and a circle of musicians, writers and other artists gathered as an informal colony based at the home of his friend, the poet Celia Thaxter. In Thaxter’s gardens and on the rocky beaches, Hassam used the flickering brushwork and brilliant colors he had adopted in France to capture the dappled light of Appledore’s brief summer. This painting evokes the leisurely, seasonal rhythms of America’s privileged families in the last years before the Great War. A beautifully dressed woman shields her face from the sun; she looks down and away, as if absorbed in the song of a sandpiper, the island bird that inspired Celia Thaxter’s most famous children’s poem.”

Childe Hassam, Tanagra (The Builders, New York), 1918, oil on canvas

”In Tanagra (The Builders, New York), Childe Hassam painted a complex image of modern life. At the turn of the twentieth century, the skyscraper symbolized all that was dynamic and powerful in America. Architects praised the new towers as symbols of mankind’s reach for the heavens. If the skyscraper represents worldly ambition, the other vertical elements in the painting – the lilies, the Hellenistic figurine, the panels of a beautiful oriental screen – suggest delight in the sophisticated cultural aspirations of American Society.

But as the United States grew in power and prestige, the workers who provided the nation’s muscle also seemed to threaten Hassam’s orderly and prosperous world. The artist had built his career picturing New York’s moneyed class; the art, music and fine manners surrounding what Hassam called a ”blond Aryan girl” are a world apart from the immigrants laboring to build the city’s future.”

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, In the Garden, 1892-94, oil on canvas
Thomas Wilmer Dewing, In the Garden, 1892-94, oil on canvas (detail)
John La Farge, Wreath of Flowers, 1866, oil on canvas

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

Sleeping Children

There is something simultaneously tranquil and unsettling about this sculpture – I want to believe the children are sleeping but a subtle whisper tells me they won’t be waking up…

Sleeping Children
William Henry Rinehart, 1825–1874

Modeled 1859, Carved 1869
Marble

Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

The Woodner Collections: Master Drawings from Seven Centuries

Sheer delight continued with the discovery of these masterpieces dating from the 14th to the 20th century.

Beham, Sebald, 1500 – 1550, Cimon and Pero (1540), pen and black ink with charcoal heightened with white on heavy laid paper

The story of Cimon and Pero was told by the first-century historian Valerius Maximus in his Memorable Deeds and Sayings. Imprisoned without food or water, the aged Cimon was saved from death by the visits of his daughter Pero, a young mother who nourished him with breast milk. Pero’s selfless act, which came to be known as ”Roman charity”, was regarded as a model of filial piety.

Niccolò dell’Abbate, 1509 or 1512-1571, The Rape of Ganymede (c. 1545), pen and ink with wash and watercolour over traces of chalk, heightened with white on paper washed light brown

Ganymede was a handsome shepherd who was carried off by Zeus (shown here in the form of an eagle) to become cupbearer to the Gods. The youth is usually shown nude or in classical dress, but here he wears the elegant costume of a sixteenth-century courtier.


Federico Barocci, probably 1535-1612, Head of a Bearded Man (1579/1582), chalks on blue paper
Luca Signorelli, 1445/1450 – 1523, Bust of a Youth Looking Upward (c. 1500), chalk, partially indented with a stylus
Andrea del Sarto, 1486-1530, Head of Saint John the Baptist (c. 1523), chalk
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1725-1805, Bust of an Old Man, probably 1763, chalks with stumping, wetting and erasure

After completing a painting, Greuze often made finished drawings of the heads of some of the individual figures. These ”têtes d’expression” (expressive heads) were intended to be sold and appreciated as independent works of art. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1780-1867, Mademoiselle Mary de Borderieux (?), 1857, graphite and watercolour with white highlights
Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, Self-Portrait, c. 1855, chalk
Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881 – 1973, Two Fashionable Women, 1900, charcoal
Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825, Satan Defying the Powers of Heaven, late 1790s, graphite, chalk and wash

National Gallery of Art

”Washington, DC—Ian Woodner assembled an extraordinary collection of over 1,000 old master and modern drawings, making him one of the 20th century’s most important collectors. More than 150 works from his collection now reside at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. While Ian Woodner gave some works himself in the 1980s, the majority have been donated by his daughters, Dian and Andrea. His daughters have also made other gifts and have pledged works from their personal collections. The Woodner Collections: Master Drawings from Seven Centuries brings together for the first time the best of Ian Woodner’s collection with some of the works given and promised by Dian and Andrea Woodner. […] 

Some 100 drawings dating from the 14th to the 20th century are presented in an exhibition of masterworks donated by one of the great connoisseurs of the 20th century, Ian Woodner, and his daughters, Dian and Andrea. The Woodner Collections includes drawings executed by outstanding draftsmen such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edgar Degas, and Pablo Picasso, among many others.”

They were on view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art through July 16, 2017.

April 25th, 2017

The Urban Scene: 1920-1950

What a sheer delight, to walk in the National Gallery of Art and discover these rather brilliant prints depicting urban scenes from the Jazz Age and beyond!

Martin Lewis, Building a Babylon, Tudor City, N.Y.C., 1929, etching and drypoint
Stow Wengenroth, Quiet Hour, (New York), 1947, lithograph
Robert Riggs, Germantown & Chelten, (Philadelphia), c. 1950, lithograph
John Taylor Arms, West Forty-Second Street, Night, (New York), 1922, aquatint and etching on yellow laid paper
Isac Friedlander, 3 A.M., (New York), 1934, etching
Howard Norton Cook, Looking up Broadway, 1937, lithograph
Martin Lewis, Quarter of Nine – Saturday’s Children, (New York), 1929, drypoint
Clare Leighton, Breadline, New York, 1931, wood engraving
Armin Landeck, View of New York, 1932, lithograph

National Gallery of Art

”Washington, DC—American artists of the early 20th century sought to interpret the beauty, power, and anxiety of the modern age in diverse ways. Through depictions of bustling city crowds and breathtaking metropolitan vistas, 25 black-and-white prints on view in The Urban Scene: 1920–1950 will explore the spectacle of urban modernity. Prints by recognized artists such as Louis Lozowick (1892–1973) and Reginald Marsh (1898–1954), as well as lesser-known artists including Mabel Dwight (1875–1955), Gerald Geerlings (1897–1998), Victoria Hutson Huntley (1900–1971), Martin Lewis (1881–1962), and Stow Wengenroth (1906–1978), are included in this exhibition.”

The Urban Scene was on view in the West Building until August 6, 2017.

April 25th, 2017