Saturday afternoon at the Met

Portraits, angels, ethereal figures, a lighthouse; I have them all to myself! Even on crazy busy weekends, the crowds disperse on all floors and into various galleries, engulfed by the vastness of space that is the Met, leaving me alone, to enjoy my favourite works in peace. Unless, that is, there is a popular exhibition – then it feels like the whole of New York has landed on that same floor, at the same time, making it really hard to appreciate the art. Popularity, like most things in this world, has its price…

Art:

1/
Fairfield Porter, 1907-1975
Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989), 1957
Oil on canvas

2/
Edward Hopper, 1882-1967
Tables for Ladies, 1930
Oil on canvas

In Hopper’s Tables for Ladies a waitress leans forward to adjust the vividly painted foods at the window as a couple sits quietly in the richly paneled and well-lit interior. A cashier attentively tends to business at her register. Though they appear weary and detached, these two women hold posts newly available to female city dwellers outside the home. The painting’s title alludes to a recent social innovation in which establishments advertised ”tables for ladies” in order to welcome their newly mobile female customers, who, if seen dining alone in public previously, were assumed to be prostitutes.

3/
Florine Stettheimer, 1871-1944
The Cathedrals of Broadway, 1929
Oil on canvas

4/ & 5/
Jean Dunand, 1877-1942 & Séraphin Soudbinine, 1870-1944
Pianissimo and Fortissimo, 1925-26
Lacquered wood, eggshell, mother-of-pearl, gold

Created for the music room of Solomon R. Guggenheim’s residence in Port Washington, Long Island, these screens are an artistic collaboration between the designer Jean Dunand and the sculptor Séraphin Soudbinine. While Soudbinine conceived the composition and carved the bas-relief figures of otherworldly angels and rocklike forms, Dunand lacquered the screen.  Guggenheim’s widow, Irene Rothschild, donated the screens to the Metropolitan following the death of her husband.

6/
Edward Hopper, 1882-1967
The Lighthouse at Two Lights, 1929
Oil on canvas

7/
Juan Gris, 1887-1927
Juan Legua, 1991
Oil on canvas

8/
Balthus, 1908-2001
Thérèse Dreaming, 1938
Oil on canvas

9/
Francis Bacon, 1909-1992
(Reflection on one of) Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1979-80
Oil on canvas

As Bacon remarked to David Sylvester in 1975, ”I loathe my own face… I’ve done a lot of self-portraits, really because people have been dying around me like flies and I’v nobody else left to paint by myself.”

10/
Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973
Bust of a Man, 1908
Oil on canvas

11/
Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973
Gertrude Stein, 1905-06
Oil on canvas

12/
Albert Bloch, 1882-1961
Summer Night, 1913
Oil on canvas

13/
Edgar Degas, 1834-1917
Young Woman with Ibis, 1860-62
Oil on canvas

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

February 17th, 2018

Blue Note

1/
Carrington (Portrait of a Girl in a Blue Jersey), 1912 by Mark Gertler (1891-1939)
Oil and tempera on canvas

Though begun in tempera, this portrait was finished in oils, a more forgiving medium. The switch may have been made from necessity: Gertler often admonished his sitter, fellow art student and object of his unrequited love, Dora Carrington, for her habit of rarely sitting still.

2/
Bathers (Bath Houses), 1950 by George Tooker (1920-2011)
Egg tempera on gessoed board

Tooker used egg tempera, a medium popular among Renaissance painters which underwent a revival in the 1930s and 1940s, to capture exacting details.

3/
The Long Leg, ca. 1930 by Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Oil on canvas

The Long Leg depicts a sailboat near the Long Point Light at Provincetown, Massachusetts, at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The boat sails in a zigzag series of short )and long tacks, or legs. Although the painting portrays a scene of leisure, no people are  visible on the boat or the landscape. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) this absence, this is my all time favourite of all of Hopper’s brilliant works.

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017

Washington D.C. – The Smithsonian American Art Museum part I

Taking refuge from the rain, letting the experience at Ford’s Theatre sink in. Next stop, the wonders of the American Art Museum. We arrived late in the day, two hours before closing, and instantly knew we were coming back for more. Perfect for rainy days – here is a first look:   Peacocks and Peonies, 1882, Stained glass – John La Farge (1835-1910)


John La Farge’s stained glass windows reflect the Gilded Age fascination with medieval art and craftsmanship. The tail feathers of the peacocks are made of bits of glass in the ”broken jewel” technique; each peony blossom is a single piece of glass molded to catch the light differently through the day. La Farge layered his coloured glass as a painter would build glazes of colours to achieve the right shade. For the composition, he borrowed from many cultures: the central panels with the bird and flower motif evoke Chinese and Japanese screens; the lower panels emulate Pompeiian architecture; and the transoms recall the curved arch above the door to a Romanesque cathedral. 


The Industrial Revolution had made inexpensive, mass-produced glass available to anyone, but art glass remained a prized emblem of wealth and good taste. These windows were commissioned by Frederick Lothrop Ames, a railroad magnate, who had them installed in a vast, baronial hall of his Boston house.


The Sun God, modeled 1882, cast iron – Elihu Vedder (1836-1923)

Between 1881 and 1885, Elihu Vedder undertook a number of commercial projects, including book illustrations and the design of firebacks and decorative tiles. A fireback was a metal insert placed against the back wall of a fireplace to protect the masonry and radiate heat forward into the room. Vedder decorated this example with the head of a sun god; the rays surrounding this face are a visual play on the warmth usually associated with the hearth.


Adams Memorial, modeled 1886-91, cast 1969, bronze – Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)


Marian ”Clover” Hooper Adams, wife of writer Henry Adams, committed suicide in 1885 by drinking chemicals used to develop photographs [Clover was a skilled autodidact photographer]. Her grieving husband commissioned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a memorial that would express the Buddhist idea of nirvana, a state of being beyond joy and sorrow. In Adams’ circle of artists and writers, the old Christian certainties seemed inadequate after the violence of the Civil War, the industrialization of America, and Darwin’s theories of evolution.

Saint-Gaudens’ ambiguous figure reflects the search for new insights into the mysteries of life and death. The shrouded being is neither male nor female, neither triumphant nor downcast. Its message is inscrutable. Clover’s gravesite in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C., quickly became a tourist attraction, but Adams resisted all attempts to sentimentalize the memorial as a symbol of grief. He acknowledged the power of Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture, however, and allowed reproductions to be made and sold to a chosen few.


Diana, 1889, bronze – Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)


Angel, 1887, oil on canvas – Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921)


Adoration of St. Joan of Arc, 1896, fire etched wood relief – J. William Fosdick (1858-1937)


J. William Fosdick made this relief to appeal to wealthy industrialists who favoured richly designed interiors and uplifting art. He tapped into the fantasy of a more spiritual past, and when the screen was exhibited, it was praised for craftsmanship that rivaled a medieval masterwork.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Joan of Arc was a popular symbol in American culture. Mark Twain wrote about her in 1896, Anna Hyatt Huntington created a sculpture of the martyr for Riverside Drive in New York and George Bernard Shaw’s famous play about her was first produced on Broadway in 1923. She could be a figure from the romantic past and an emblem of the ”New Woman” in the modern world. Joan may have died for king and country – as the legend at the bottom of the screen records – but her symbolic power as a woman who took history into her hands also resonated among women fighting for the right to vote.


Rising Sun, 1914, bronze – Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952)


Girl Skating, 1907, bronze – Abastenia St. Léger Eberle (1878-1942)


Synthetic Arrangement, 1922, oil on canvas – Morris Kantor (1896-1974)


People in the Sun, 1960, oil on canvas – Edward Hopper (1882-1967)


Night in Bologna, 1958, egg tempera on fiberboard – Paul Cadmus (1904-1999)


Night in Bologna is a dark comedy of sexual tensions played out on a stage of shadowy arcades. In the foreground, a soldier on leave throws off a visible heat that suffuses the air around him with a red glow. He casts an appraising look at a worldly woman nearby, who gauges the interest of a man seated at a café table. The gawky tourist is unaware of her attentions, and looks longingly at the man in uniform. Paul Cadmus noted that he used red, green and yellow to denote the characters’ vices – lust, envy and greed – but left the outcome unclear; he was more interested in the tangle of human instincts than in tidy resolutions. He once said that he would always rather paint a novel than a short story.


Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 24th, 2017

Poetry lives here

Behind the poetic doors of Washington Mews. A vision of an urban village within Greenwich Village; a fresh breath of quietness, a street where everything falls back to a human scale.

A private cobblestone street with rows of low height houses on both sides. It is owned by NYU and the buildings are used as homes, offices and other facilities connected to the university.

Some of the houses date back to the first half of the 19th century and were built as stables. Others are more modern but of the same height and style, keeping up with the spirit of the street. In the 1900s, they were all converted into charming studios, attracting the City’s art community. Edward Hopper lived here from 1913 until his death in 1967 – his studio was at 1 Washington Square North.

Washington Mews is a gated, private street but the gates are open during daytime and everyone is free to walk through.

December 4th,  2016

This Gentleman

wp20160910_194957Edward Hopper
Self Portrait, 1925-30
Oil on canvas

Edward Hopper’s wife Josephine was the model for this painting. She was 78 at the time but Hopper chose to depict a much younger version of her.

wp20160910_193955

Edward Hopper
A Woman in the Sun, 1961
Oil on linen

wp20160910_195926

Study for Office at Night, 1940
Fabricated chalk and graphite pencil on paper

A precious albeit brief encounter. Always a pleasure dear Sir!

September 10th, 2016 at the Whitney