The Getty Department of Photographs is the Mecca of Photography

The J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection of over one hundred thousand images is among the most comprehensive holdings of rare and important photographs in the world. It ranges from daguerreotypes to work by contemporary photographers.

For conservation purposes and, may I add, due to their sheer number, photographs cannot be kept on permanent display, but go on view during rotating exhibitions. The images below are from ”Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante” , ‘‘the most important photobook to document the devastating impact of deindustrialization on working-class communities in northern England in the 1970s and 1980s”.

Paired here with an image from the Cactus Garden and a detail from one of the exterior walls showcasing just a few of the 1.2 million square feet of travertine stone used to cover many surfaces of the Getty Center.

Bever Skinningrove (1987) by Chris Killip
Gelatin silver print

The Getty Center

July 18th, 2017

”Elementary, my dear Watson”

Under the magnifying glass: A view of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone towards Capo di Posilippo, 1791 by Giovanni Battista Lusieri (1755-1821)

The precision of the figures and architecture – first painstakingly depicted with pencil underdrawing – has led many to speculate that Lusieri used an optical device such as a camera obscura. However, eyewitness accounts of the artist at work do not support this theory. Lusieri painted the view over a period of two years from rooms in the Neapolitan residence of Sir William Hamilton, British envoy to the court of Naples. Hamilton commissioned it to hang in his London home, perhaps to serve as a reminder of this sunny scene when he returned to his often-gloomy homeland. 

Lusieri is getting Sherlocked @ The Getty Center

July 18th, 2017

Taking sides

Do we really have to? I can’t decide.

Bust of Juliette Récamier, ca. 1801-2
Joseph Chinard (1756-1813)

Juliette Récamier (French, 1777-1849) was a socialite renowned for her literary circle, but perhaps even more for her beauty. At age fifteen, she married Jacques-Rose Récamier, a banker, thirty years her senior – and her mother’s longstanding lover. Rumor had it that Récamier was, in fact, her natural father and they got married so that she would become his heir(!) Apparently, the marriage was never consummated.

Prince Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, courted her; Prince Augustus of Prussia proposed but she refused to divorce her husband/father; the French Romantic writer François-René de Chateaubriand was a constant visitor of her salon. The courtship never seized; despite advanced age, ill-health and reduced circumstances having lost most of her fortune, Juliette remained as charming as ever.

In this bust, her friend Chinard, a brilliant portraitist, enhanced her charming features by slightly tilting her head, paying attention to details such as her hair and including her arms and delicate hands.

@ The Getty Center

July 18th, 2017

The Getty Villa

J. Paul Getty purchased his first work of ancient art in 1939 – a small terracotta sculpture. Almost thirty years later, inspired by his growing collection of antiquities of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art, he announced he would build a museum worthy of such treasures: a recreation of the Villa dei Papiri, a luxurious Roman residence in Herculaneum, Italy that had been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

The Villa dei Papiri (“Villa of the Papyruses”) was rediscovered in the 1750s. The excavation recovered bronze and marble sculptures, wall paintings, colorful stone pavements, and over a thousand papyrus scrolls – hence the name. The Getty villa is a near replica of it, in scale and appearance; even some of the materials used were taken from the Villa dei Papiri. (source)

In other words, the Getty Villa should be seen as a work of art in itself and feature high on your list of ”must-see” museums next time you plan a trip to Southern California. 

In antiquity, as today, awnings served both a ceremonial and practical purpose. Roman hosts invited guests to dine on outdoor couches protected from the sun by colourful fabric. Tends and awnings throughout towns and cities marked festivals and holidays and provided shade for the audience in open-air arenas and theatres.

Pair of Altars with Aphrodite and Adonis
Greek, made in Taras, South Italy, 400-375 B.C.

Mixing Vessel with Adonis, Aphrodite and Persephone
Greek, made in Athens, 390-380 B.C.

Roman, A.D. 100-200; found in Rome

Roman, about A.D. 200

Storage Jar with Medusa
Greek, made in Athens, 530-520 B.C.

The Lansdowne Herakles
Roman, about A.D. 125

This sculpture was one of J. Paul Getty’s most prized possessions and inspired him to build this Museum in the style of an ancient Roman villa. The statue, representing the Greek hero Herakles with his lionskin and club, was discovered in 1790 near the villa of the Roman emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy.

Poet as Orpheus with Two Sirens
Greek, made in Taras, South Italy, 350-300 B.C.

Pair of Peacocks
Roman, from Syria, possibly Emesa (present-day Homs), A.D. 400-600

Sadly – and alarmingly – the Getty Villa will remain closed all weekend – Saturday and Sunday, November 10 and 11, 2018 – due to the ongoing wildfires in order to help firefighting efforts by alleviating traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway. The Villa itself is not threatened by the fires.

Here’s hoping to see the end of this destruction, soon.

The Getty Villa

The House Stalker

Stalking the Gehry Residence, that unique structure that looks like it sprung out of a cubist painting, which Frank Gehry designed himself and built around an existing suburban Dutch Colonial house.

I only wish I could have seen the interior but then I wouldn’t have been a stalker, I would have been an acquaintance or a friend of the family. Wouldn’t that be something!

The Gehry Residence, Santa Monica

July 17, 2017


Credits in sequence:

Blue Jasper Plaque with Apollo and the Muses, ca. 1778-80
Manufactured by Wedgwood and Bentley, Stoke-on-Trent, England
The Huntington Gardens
Geometric Hearth Rug, ca. 1800
Attributed to Mary Peters Hewins
Quilts made between 1850-1896
Drunkard’s Path Quilt, ca. 1880-90
(the large red square one with the yellow pattern)
Pair of Pockets, ca. 1775
Because most American women’s clothing in the 18th century lacked fixed pockets, detachable pockets such as these were tied around the waist and worn either over a dress or under an overskirt. They were worn both singly and in pairs. It is extremely unusual for a pair such as this to survive intact. I urgently need two pairs!
Helen E. Hatch
Folk Art Crazy Quilt, 1885

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017

Straight Windsor Lines & Shaker Oval Boxes

1/ & 2/
Windsor Armchairs & Settee, mid 18th century

Decorated Boxes
Used to store everything from grains, spices and dried fruits to combs, sewing accessories, jewelry, tobacco and documents, these boxes were often decorated as gifts.

Oval Shaker Boxes, ca. 1840-60

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing became more commonly known as ”Shakers” because of their ”ecstatic and violent bodily agitation” in worship. A Christian sect founded in 1747 in Manchester, England they emigrated to America to avoid persecution. Their first settlement was in New Lebanon, New York and eventually eighteen other communities were established, reaching a total number of 5.000 devotees during the decade preceding the Civil War.

Though men and women lived separately in Shaker communities, they believed in gender equality; they also believed in celibacy, common property and the second coming of Christ.

The Shakers were hard working, excellent farmers and equally great artisans who embraced new technologies and used them to create fine furniture, tools, equipment and artifacts, guided by the principles of simplicity, utility and honesty.

Perhaps the best known of these artifacts are their distinctive oval storage boxes secured with swallowtail ”fingers” or laps. Oval box making began in the 1790s at the New Lebanon, New York, community (the Shakers’ spiritual centre) as one of the first Shaker industries, and survived well into the 20th century. While boxes were produced for use by the Shakers themselves, the vast majority were sold to outsiders, becoming one of the Shakers’ most profitable commercial products.

Little did the first settlers know that, two hundred years later, their simple, honest designs would be admired by art enthusiasts as museum pieces!

Sargent Claude Johnson, 1888-1967
Untitled (screen for pipe organ)

The Huntington

July 16th, 2017