A brilliant mind

Drawing by Bill Sienkiewicz

“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

In Memoriam: Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

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

Sunday in The Met with George

But first, a peacock mosaic column, one of the two that served as a room divider in Tiffany’s Manhattan showrooms, Madison Avenue & 47th St., as shown here in a picture taken ca. 1913. 

Fresh from an inspiring performance of ”Sunday in park with George” at the Hudson Theatre the previous weekend, a ”Sunday in The Met with George” to see Seurat’s Circus Sideshow, one of only six major figure paintings he created, was the next best thing. With it, an array of works by other artists – Seurat’s contemporaries – the exhibition aimed to explore their fascination with the Sideshow as a subject.

Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque) represents an ensemble of circus players lined up on a narrow stage outside a tent performing sample entertainment to entice customers to their show.

Georges de Feure. The Corvi Circus (Le Cirque Corvi), ca. 1893
Gouache, watercolour, pencil on paper

This highly finished gouache, by an artist who went on to champion Art Nouveau design, relies on simplified drawing and bold colour to give an edge to his description of performers preparing backstage at the Corvi Circus. His palette – the ambient blue of the evening set off by strident pinks, violets and yellows – uses ostensibly festive hues to spotlight the vagrant life of the saltimbanques and the existential paradoxes of the performer. 


Jules Chéret. Folies-Bergère: Corvi Circus, 1881. Colour lithograph


Georges Seurat. Two Clowns (Une Parade), ca. 1886-88. Conté crayon on paper


Georges Seurat. Study for ”Models”, 1886 – 87. Conté crayon on paper


Georges Seurat. Models (Poseuses), small version, 1887 – 88. Oil on canvas

This gemlike canvas is a small-scale version of the imposing, life-size Models (The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia) that Seurat exhibited alongside Circus Sideshow at the Salon des Indépendants in 1888. Two years after he asserted his authority as an innovative painter of modern life, with a plein-air subject in full sunlight, Seurat returned to the public stage with figure compositions that succeeded to demonstrate the versatility of his approach. He set forth a daytime, interior studio scene – graced by three nudes who channel classicizing prototypes, while skirting his earlier triumph – and a contrasting nighttime, outdoor scene that reflects a more abstract sensibility, broaching a symbolist aesthetic. Linked by formal characteristics, such as frontality and symmetry, the opposites did not attract equal attention. Models stole the limelight. 


Louis Anquetin. Avenue de Clichy (Street – Five O’ Clock in the Evening), 1887
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas

Anquetin’s view of a Paris boulevard at dusk – the blue and violet gloaming of the twilit street offset by the orange and yellow light of a butcher’s shop at left – is painted in his signature cloisonnist style, characterised by flat areas of colour outlined by emphatic contours. It was shown in the Salon des Indépendants of 1888, in direct competition with Seurat’s Circus Sideshow. Quick to recognise the rival solution to painting a nocturne of urban bustle under artificial lighting, one critic saw Anquetin’s canvas as ”designed to trouble those practicing pointillism.”


Georges Seurat. Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), 1887 – 88. Oil on canvas

From the time it debuted at the Salon des Indépendants in 1888, Circus Sideshow has intrigued and confounded its viewers. Indeed, Seurat’s closest associates were seemingly dumbstruck, largely confining their spare remarks to its novelty as a ”nocturnal effect”. (Of course, his detractors could not see past the ”multicoloured and mathematically contrasted lentils.”) The laconic artist never mentioned the picture, nor did he exhibit it again. Recent technical findings reveal that in adding the painted border, Seurat effaced his signature at lower right.

Circus Sideshow was sold from the artist’s estate in 1900. It left Paris for New York in 1929, claiming a ”place of honour” at the Museum of Modern Art’s inaugural show. Future Met donor, Stephen C. Clark acquired it three years later.


Seurat’s Circus Sideshow at The Met (February-May 2017)

March 19th, 2017

Two angry faces – in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Both belong to Renée, drawn by French artist Jacques Villon.

Villon, also known as Gaston Duchamp, was one of Marcel Duchamp’s siblings but, in order to distinguish himself from them, he started using the pseudonym with which he became known.

Renée was the daughter of Villon’s cousin and the subject of several works by the artist.

Doesn’t she look angry in these drawings? I wonder what – or who – could be responsible for this frown on her face.

Renée. Three Quarter View, 1911. Jacques Villon

Renée. Three Quarter View, 1911 (detail). Jacques Villon
Renée. Full Face, 1911 (detail). Jacques Villon
Renée. Full Face, 1911 (detail). Jacques Villon

Philadelphia Museum of Art
February, 22nd 2017

 

Reflecting on art

Literally.

Light reflects on the glass adding – or hiding – details. I tried to filter them out somewhat and the result was this mellow, pastel effect. Still, rather pleasing.

”Repent in Haste”, Gouache on board, by Harry Anderson (1906-1996)

Illustration for the story by Katherine Greer.
Caption: ”Here, in this very window, might be her ring!”
Redbook magazine, January 1950

Couple on balcony in formal evening dress. Pastel, guache and charcoal on board, by John La Gatta (1894-1977)

Caption: ”It was restful to be near Sara, thought Vilas. You didn’t have to explain things to her. She understood.”
Cosmopolitan magazine, 1949

The Clever Sister. Guache on bard, by Edwin Georgi (1896-1964)

Illustration from ”The Clever Sister” by Margaret Culkin Banning
Caption: ”Beneath the strangely different melodies of their lives ran hidden themes that others never heard; yet one refrain they had in common: ‘Whom does Barney love – my sister or me?”’
Woman’s Home Companion, January 1947

The Butterfly Man. Watercolour on paper, by Harrison Fisher (1875-1934)

Illustration for the book by George Barr McCutcheon
Caption: ”They, too, were seen together very often of late.”
This work also appeared in ”A Garden of Girls”, published by Dodd, Mead & Co., 1910

The Temptress. Oil paint on linen, by Mortimer Wilson, Jr. (1906-1996)

Title illustration for the story by Ann Pinchot
Caption: ”This way, darling” she said… He followed her, as he would follow her anywhere.
The American Magazine, ca. 1945

James McVane, M.D. Oil paint on board, by John La Gatta (1894-1977)

Illustration for a story by Philip Wylie
Caption: ”Every night I dream I’m being chased by a green locomotive. Does that mean  I should give up Creme de Menthe?”
Redbook magazine, April 1938

 

<<The Permanent Collection of the Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is one of the most comprehensive collections of this genre in the world. Comprised of over 3,000 works by many of the greatest names in illustration and comic and cartoon art, this celebrated collection is ever expanding thanks to purchase and donation from our membership, art patrons and estates. These works are fully catalogued with portions of the collection constantly on rotating display.>>

February 11th, 2017