Master Drawings @ The Morgan Library

We were back at The Morgan to see the magnificent Old Masters’ drawings from the Thaw Collection, that were displayed at the time.

These are some highlights, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Odalisque with Slave, 1839
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and Jean-Charles Thévenin (1819-1869)
Black chalk and graphite, black and brown wash with white and grey opaque watercolour


Reading, ca. 1860
Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)
Pen and black ink and grey wash with black fabricated chalk over charcoal


Woman Churning Butter, ca. 1855-58
Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
Black Conté crayon


Leave It All to Providence, from the Black Border Album, 1816-20
Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)
Black ink and grey wash


Portrait of Arthur Rimbaud, 1872
Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)
Watercolour and white opaque watercolour over black chalk on light brown paperboard


The Spider, 1902
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Charcoal and black pastel


The Fool, 1877
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Charcoal with black chalk and fixative on light brown paper


Artist in the making


Nurse with a Child’s Carriage
Georges Seurat(1859–1891)
Conté crayon on Ingres paper


Vincent van Gogh
Letter to Émile Bernard, 7 June 1888

Energized by his visit to the seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, van Gogh wrote enthusiastically to Bernard about his explorations of complementary colours (“No blue without yellow and without orange“) and his consideration of black and white as colours. He included several sketches to explain his ideas and enclosed a sheet containing drawings of canvasses in progress.


Vincent van Gogh
Letter to Paul Gauguin, 17 October 1888

Writing to Gauguin, who was to arrive later that month, van Gogh extolled the attractions of Arles and chronicled his progress on one of his masterpieces from the period, Bedroom at Arles (1888; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), even including a sketch.


Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, 1936
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pen and black ink and wash


Caricature of a Sleeping Man, ca. 1755-60
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770)
Pen and black ink and wash


Young Woman Wearing a Chemise, ca. 1718
Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Black, red and white chalk


Interior of a Library, ca. 1780-85
Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799)
Pen and black and brown ink and washes over graphite with black chalk


November 18th, 2017

 

 

 

 

The Art Institute of Chicago

After two full days absorbing as much as possible of the city’s stunning art deco architecture, it was now high time for some art. Enter the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest museums in the United States, one that is home to some of my favourite paintings and the one museum you should never leave Chicago without visiting.

And once inside, the danger is, you will never want to leave.

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877, oil on canvas


Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884 (1884-86), oil on canvas


Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Self-Portrait, 1887, oil on artist’s board, mounted on cradled panel


Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
The Bedroom, 1889, oil on canvas


Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
The Poet’s Garden, 1888, oil on canvas


Louis Anquetin (1861-1932)
An Elegant Woman at the Élysée Montmartre, 1888, oil on canvas


Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935)
Fisherman’s Cottage, 1906, oil on canvas


Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Lucie Berard (Child in White), 1883, oil on canvas


Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
Red-Haired Girl, 1919, oil on canvas


The Art Institute of Chicago

November 4th, 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

Sunday in the park with George

On a Saturday evening at the Hudson Theatre, exactly one month after its reopening on February 11th, 2017.

First opened in 1903 it served many a purpose: theatre, radio & television studio, club, porn cinema, events venue and, making a full round, a theatre again. And a Broadway one at that.

Many of its original features have been lovingly restored, like this magnificent Tiffany glass ceiling. But the seating has been completely redesigned with chairs adjusted to fit the average human measurements and not the other way round as in most (or all) other Broadway theatres.

It opened with the revival of ”Sunday in the Park with George”, a play inspired by George Seurat’s masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Jake Gyllenhaal embodied the master of pointillism and, on his side, Annaleigh Ashford performed the role of his muse and lover, Dot. The story unfolds with the perfectionist master obsessing over his work to such an extend that he ends up alienating the bourgeoisie, his peers and even his lover. His relationship is damaged, his fellow artists have rejected him, and yet…

Nothing will stop him from his quest to ”finish the hat”.

The story kicks off like this:

ACT I
Time: 1884.
A white stage. George, an artist, is sketching.

GEORGE
White. A blank page or canvas.
The challenge: bring order to the whole. (As he continues to speak, the white stage is transformed into a park on the island of La Grande Jatte. Trees descend onto the grass; a bottle glides into view; a cut out couple appear in the distance. The lighting gives the impression of early morning.)
Through design.
Composition.
Tension.
Balance.
Light.
And harmony.

1. SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
George is sketching. Dot is posing.

DOT
George. (no response) Why is it you always get to sit in the shade while I have to stand in the sun? (still no response) Hello, George? There is someone in this dress! (twitches slightly, sighs, mutters to herself)
A trickle of sweat.
The back of the head.
He always does this.
(hisses)
[…]

Until the painting was complete.

[…]
Forever
By the blue
Purple yellow
red water
On the green
Orange violet mass
Of the grass

DOT
In our perfect park

GEORGE
Made of flecks of light
And dark

ALL
(except George end Dot)
And Parasols…

People strolling through the trees
Of a small suburban park
On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday…
(All begin to leave very slowly, except Dot, who remains in the park, and George, who steps outside the park.)
Sunday… (A blank white canvas descends.)

GEORGE
(looking in the book again)
“White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities…”
(He looks up and sees Dot disappearing behind the white canvas.)

Sunday in the Park with George
Music: Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: James Lapine

The Hudson Theatre, Broadway
March 11th, 2017