Best of 2018, Four: Nonfiction, part two

December 27, 2018 at 2:03 pm (Art, Best of 2018, Book review, books, Poetry)

So I’m getting ready to divide my 2018 nonfiction reading into neat categories, and I run into trouble right away. Some of these books are hard to pigeonhole: they’re sort-of biographies, sort-of true crime – was there actually a crime? – and, well, you get the idea.

  The only more or less conventional biography I read this year was Gainsborough: A Portrait, by James Hamilton. As is the case with the most engaging biographies, the life of this distinguished  artist was set vividly within the context of his times.

Almost exactly ten years later, a well-dressed, brisk and persistent gentleman called on a friend of his in London. There was nobody at home, just the servant. On the table was a small landscape painting which caught the man’s attention. He picked it up, looked at it closely, turned it over. ‘Ruisdael improved,’ he thought to himself. ‘Warmer colouring, as truly drawn and painted as Ruisdael, but more spirited.’ It was quite clear from the back of the canvas that this was a new, modern picture, not Dutch seventeenth century. The following conversation was published in 1772:

‘James, where did your master get this picture?’

‘At the auctioneers Langford’s, sir, I have just brought it home.’

‘Do you know whose it is?’ ‘My master’s, sir.’

‘Fool! I mean the painter.’ There was a knock at the door. James let his master in.

‘Who painted that picture?’ demanded the visitor. ‘Who do you think?’ replied his friend. ‘Don’t know, tell me instantly!’ ‘Come, come – you are a judge of pictures, and a bit of a painter yourself. It’s a gem, isn’t it?’

The visitor was even more intrigued.

‘You will like it so much more when I tell you it is painted by an artist who is unknown, unfollowed, and unencouraged.’

‘What’s his name?’

‘Gainsborough.’

 

Mary Little, later Lady Carr

 

Portrait of the Composer Carl Friedrich Abel with his Viola da Gamba (c. 1765)

 

Road from Market

Oh, those trees!

*********************

Three fascinating women figure in this narrative: Emily Dickinson, Mabel Loomis Todd, the lover of Emily’s brother Austin, and Millicent Todd Bingham, daughter of Mabel and her husband David Todd.

After Emily begins with Emily Dickinson’s funeral.

“And in the spring, also rare Emily Dickinson died & went back into a little deeper mystery than that she has always lived in. The sweet spring days have something in all their tender beauty when she was carried through the daisies and buttercups across the summer fields to be in her flowered couch,” Mabel later reflected in her journal. “It was a very great sorrow to Austin, but I have lived through greater with him, when little Gib [Austin’s son] died. He and I are so one that we comfort each other for everything, perfectly.”

There follows a furious nonstop battle over who owns the rights to her works. The story of the love affair of her brother and Mabel Loomis Todd is unexpected and remarkable. The fallout from it is significant, even profound. If you’re wondering whether Emily knew, she did – and did and said nothing, apparently.

But over and above the events of the narrative hovers the restless spirit of  that reclusive, brilliant poet:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
——-
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
————-
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
————–
Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
————
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
————
Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
—————-

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Holiday Wishes, 2018

December 24, 2018 at 8:48 pm (Art, Christmas, Family, Music)

My best holiday wishes to everyone.

I am deeply blessed and fortunate, and I wish the same for every one of you!

 

 

Wilton Diptych, left panel. Artist unknown

Wilton Diptych, Right panel. Artist unknown

 

Annunciation. Fra Angelico

 

Virgin of the Rocks. Leonardo Da Vinci

 

The Alba Madonna. Raphael

*******************************

FAMILY!!

My Aunt Patsy and Uncle Hal, enjoying life to the fullest, and always generously sharing that joy with friends and family. Forever in our hearts…

 

My parents, Lillian and Samuel ‘Ted’ Tedlow at the opera in Bayreuth, Germany. They exemplified class, elegance, and sophistication. I miss them.

Daughter-in-law Erica and Son Ben – Beautiful people in every way

 

Etta and Welles, growing by leaps and bounds, my love for them growing at the same dizzying speed

 

My husband Ron. His love, kindness, and companionship make my life worth living.

*******************

Le Paradis, by Henri Maik

 

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‘One of the most arresting jobs of ancient – as well as modern – sculptures was to be some kind of antidote to death and loss.’ – How Do We Look by Mary Beard

October 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm (Art, History)

  What a lovely gift to art lovers  and history buffs this book is! Renowned classicist Mary Beard has ranged far and wide to set before our eyes stunning images of ancient art. In some cases, the works and locales are familiar – Greece, Rome, Egypt – but even in these places, she introduces us to previously unseen objects – unseen by me, at any rate. Some examples:

 

This is the mummy of a Greek youth, between the ages of 19 and 21. It is owned by the British Museum. It dates from some time in the second century AD. The inscription on the painted stucco case reads: “Artemidoros – Farewell.”

The Boxer_of_Quirinal, dated somewhere between 330 and 50 BCE

Unlike the heroic, flawless athletes usually depicted in classical sculpture, this boxer is battered by past injuries and seems to be nearing the end of his career as a pugilist.

Boxing was always an important part of the ancient athletic repertoire, and the conceit of this sculpture is that the man must once have had a fit and toned body – but it has really suffered. The anonymous artist has focused on a wreck of a human being, devoting all his skill to a broken nose and cauliflower ears, flabby from all those blows. In fact, he appears to be still bleeding from fresh wounds. The blood is shown in copper and the bruises on his cheeks are brought out by a slightly different colour of a slightly different bronze alloy. It is almost as if the  bronze has become the mans skin.

Mary Beard, in How Do We Look

Compare him, for instance, to the Belvedere Apollo, the subject of Johann Winkelmann‘s rapturous description:

In gazing upon this masterpiece of art, I forget all else, and I myself adopt an elevated stance, in order to be worthy of gazing upon it. My chest seems to expand with veneration and to heave like those I have seen swollen as if by the spirit of prophecy, and I feel myself transported to Delos and to the Lycian groves, places Apollo honored with his presence—for my figure seems to take on life and movement, like Pygmalion’s beauty.

Back to  the subject of rough sport: Behold the Olmec Wrestler:

Made of basalt and described as nearly life size, this piece was found  by a farmer in 1933 in Veracruz, Mexico. (One is tempted to imagine his astonishment when, upon turning up a clod of earth, he finds himself confronted by this strange, otherworldly object.) There being little or no archaeological context with which to work, the Wrestler is extremely difficult to date – anywhere from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE. He is called a wrestler for lack of anything else to call him. He may not be a wrestler. He may even be a fake. If he is, he’s a mighty compelling one.

Probably the single most amazing surviving art from the Olmec culture – and certifiably genuine – is represented by the gigantic heads:

These heads, seventeen of which have this far been recovered, vary in height from between four and five feet to just over eleven feet. At least one weighs as much as fifty tons.

Above you see one of the the La Venta Heads. There are three more, located at La Venta Park, a premier archaeological site in Mexico.

Again, Mary Beard:

It is hard not to feel just a little bit moved by the close encounter with an image of a person from the distant past. Despite that distance in time, and despite the fact that he is, after all, just a face of stone, it is hard not to feel some sense of shared humanity.

But oh, the questions raised and not answered by this strange artifact of a remote time and place:

Ever since it was rediscovered in 1939, it has defied explanation. Why is it so big? Was he a ruler or perhaps a god? Was it a portrait of a particular individual, or something much less specific than that?Why is it just a head – and not even a complete one at that, but severed at the chin? And what on earth was the image for? It was carved using only stone tools, out of a single block of basalt that came from more than fifty miles away from where the head was found. It could not have been made without huge amounts of time, effort and human resources. But why?

Many other such phenomena are surveyed in this slender volume, packed as it is with riches. How Do We Look is a companion to the tv series Civilizations: From the Ancient to the Modern:

Episode Two featuring Mary Beard can be viewed in its entirety here.

 

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Books that are, in my view, edifying and enlightening, but rarely depressing… Part One: Biography and Memoir

September 26, 2018 at 9:41 am (Art, books)

[The selection criteria referenced in the title are by way of a continuation of a topic that arose in a previous post.]

In biography and memoir, I was looking for lives that would be of great interest and books that were well written. And, in accordance with the criteria specified in the title of this post, stories that were, in the main, upbeat. Here’s what I came up with:

Statue of Frederick Law Olmsted, by Zenos Frudakis, placed in the North Carolina Arboretum in 2016

 

Henry David Thoreau: A Life, by Laura Dassow Walls
A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century, by Witold Rybczynski

Somehow, as John Muir grew older, he became more photogenic. (Would that his indomitable spirit were with us today – his and Thoreau’s, as well.)

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, by Donald Worster
A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century and Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon, by Andrea di Robilant

  

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham, by Selina Hastings
A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

 

On Conan Doyle by Michael Dirda
Opium Eater: A Life of Thomas de Quincey, by Grevel Lindop
A Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape, by James Rebanks
Gainsborough: A Portrait, by James Hamilton
Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum, by Kathryn Hughes

 

I loved these books! I was particularly captivated by the Maugham biography, I ended up reading two novels: The Painted Veil and Mrs. Craddock – and quite a few short stories by this brilliant ‘teller of tales.’ The novels were very enjoyable, but the short stories were just plain terrific. Basically I went on a Somerset Maugham bender. It was wonderful.

PBS made a film, also called A Midwife’s Tale, based on Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s fascinating narrative of the life of Martha Ballard. The library owns it. I highly recommend both book and film.

There are  several lovely video segments on YouTube about the “Herdy Shepherd” and his splendid sheepdogs. Here’s one of them:

I didn’t know if I would stick with the Gainsborough biography to the end, but I did, with no trouble but rather with great pleasure. It was a thoroughgoing immersion in the English art scene of the eighteenth century.

And oh, those paintings!

Ann Ford, later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse, 1760

The Morning Walk, Portrait of Mr and Mrs William Hallett (1785)

Girl with Pigs, 1781-82

Landscape in Suffolk, 1748

The Painter’s Daughters, chasing a Butterfly, 1756

 

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Van Gogh and the Painters of the Petit Boulevard

July 27, 2018 at 12:35 pm (Art, France, Smithsonian Associates World Art History Certificate Program)

Self-portrait with Grey Felt Hat, 1887

Les peintres du petit boulevard. So they were called, first probably by Van Gogh himself. On a recent Saturday, my “art partner” Jean and I went to a Smithsonian program about these artists. The lecturer was art historian Bonita Billman, two of whose presentations we’ve already attended and greatly enjoyed.

When attending a function of this sort, one always hopes to receive a handout replete with definitions of terms, bibliography, and other enriching information. This Ms Billman provided. Here are the first two paragraphs of the handout:

Vincent Van Gogh spent 1886 to 1888 in Paris, living with his brother Theo, an art dealer. Theo’s connections with the avant-garde art world gave Van Gogh a quick and intensive contemporary art education as he was drawn into a social and artistic circle of like-minded painters that included Pissarro, Seurat, Signac, Gauguin, Laval, Bernard, Anquetin, and Toulouse-Lautrec. He called the rising group the Painters of the Petit Boulevard to distinguish them from the established and successful impressionists like Monet, Degas, and Renoir.

Van Gogh’s time among these young artists was among the most influential in his brief life. In searching for his own style, he rapidly passed through approaches including impressionism and divisionism, lightening his Dutch-inspired palette and breaking up his brushstrokes. He conceived the idea of his fellow artists joining him in a community he called the Studio of the South – a colony that never came to pass.

Divisionism is defined by Ms Billman in her handout as a “…painting technique making use of color theory in which the application of dots of complementary colors heightens their luminosity…” This is similar to pointillism, a term greatly disliked by Seurat, to whose work it was principally applied.

Seurat’s most celebrated painting, Un dimanche après-midi à l’île de la Grande Jatte, holds pride of place in the Art Institute of Chicago, where my granddaughter, a Chicago resident, is always happy to encounter it.

More art by painters in this group:

Avenue de Clichy, Louis Anquetin

 

Portrait of Felix Feneon, by Paul Signac

 

Laborer at Celeyran, by Toulouse-Lautrec

 

Une Bergère Bretonne (a Breton shepherdess), by Paul Gauguin  1886

 

Bathers at Asnières by Seurat, 1884

 

Elégante de profil au Bal Mabille, 1888

 

And there she is again, Grandma’s little art lover!

I saved Camille Pissarro for last because I’ve fallen deeply in love  with his paintings, especially  the early works. This just happened – honestly! Here are several:

Road in a Forest, 1859

 

Paisaje tropical con casas rurales y palmeras, 1853

 

Entrée du village de Voisins, 1872

 

Two women chatting by the sea, 1856

To me, there is something magical about these two women. I imagine they are talking over some small, mundane matter as they stand by the sea, bathed in the calm and beautiful sunshine. Some time ago I titles a post  about the art of Vermeer, ‘Quotidian moment, frozen in time.’ The same phrase might be applied, I think, to this painting.

In these works, Pissarro shows an almost uncanny way of capturing light, especially sunlight at a certain time of day. In 1885, he began studying With Seurat and Signac, adopting for a time their Divisionist technique:

La Récolte des Foins, Eragny (1887)

Pretty, but I rue the absence of that special light. At any rate, after a few short years, Pissarro abandoned the neo-Impressonist style, claiming that

‘It was impossible to be true to my sensations and consequently to render life and movement, impossible to be faithful to the effects, so random and so admirable, of nature, impossible to give an individual character to my drawing, [that] I had to give up,’

[From John Rewald’s biography of Pissarro, quoted in the Wikipedia entry.]

The artists of the petit boulevard frequently painted and drew one another:

Émile Bernard by Toulouse-Lautrec, 1886

 

Paul Signac, by Georges Seurat, 1890

The above portrait is executed in conté-crayon, defined in Wikipedia as  “a drawing medium composed of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a wax or clay base, square in cross-section.” The entry goes on to further elucidate:

They were invented in 1795 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté, who created the combination of clay and graphite in response to the shortage of graphite caused by the Napoleonic Wars (the British naval blockade of France prevented import). Conté crayons had the advantage of being cost-effective to produce, and easy to manufacture in controlled grades of hardness.

Van Gogh, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1887

 

Henri de Toulouse-Laurec by Louis Anquetin, 1886

Although Toulouse-Lautrec painted numerous different scenes and portraits, his fame rests largely on his depictions of the patrons and the performers at the Moulin Rouge:

Bal au Moulin Rouge

And here it is, brought to vivid, joyous life in the 1952 film Moulin Rouge. Watch carefully: About a third of the way in, you’ll see Toulouse-Lautrec’s hands sketching the scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New artists, new art

June 2, 2018 at 10:47 pm (Art)

New to me, I mean to say. And very welcome discoveries they are!

Estes Park Colorado, by Albert Bierstadt (Click twice to enlarge.)

I know this artist and his fabulous vistas, but I’d never seen this one.

 

Jungfrau Switzerland, by Alexandre Calame (Click twice to enlarge.)

 

Lake of the Four Cantons, by Alexandre Calame

I love the way the sun strikes the mountains while the trees in the foreground remain in shadow.

The Bachelor, by Rose O’Neill

I would have entitled it The Bachelor Beset (or Bewitched or Besieged). What a felicitous discovery is Rose O’Neill, who, among other things, created the Kewpies (derived from ‘Cupid’).

Worshipping Freddie, by Rose O’Neill

Inevitably, this illustration put me in mind of delightful visits to The Art Institute of Chicago with Welles, Etta, and their game-for-anything Mom.

 

Sale at Bendel’s, by Florine Stettheimer

Marvelous! Henri Bendel has been a fixture on Fifth Avenue for as long as I can remember. And Florine Stettheimer is yet another fascinating discovery.

New Mexico Afternoon by Carlos Vierra

 

Northern New Mexico in Winter, Carlos Vierra

 

Santa Fe by Carlos Vierra

Carlos Vierra’s art reveals the glorious color in (supposedly) monochromatic New Mexico.

Yes, the sky really is that blue, nearly every day. Sigh…

 

Along the Rio Grande, by Walter Ufer

 

Navajo Women Waiting, by Barbara Latham (Click to enlarge.)

 

After Rain, by Rae Sloan Bredin

Reverie, by Rae Sloan Bredin

I’ve been introduced to these artists and their works through these two magazines:

Albert Bierstadt 1830-1902

Alexandre Calame, 1810-1864

Rose O’Neill 1874-1944

Florine Stettheimer 1871-1944

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlos Vierra 1876-1937

Ernest L. Blumenschein 1874-1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walter Ufer 1876-1936

Barbara Latham 1896-1989

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rae Sloan Bredin 1880-1933

Musical suggestions to go with your viewing:

 

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A Mother’s Day Visit to The Art Institute

May 24, 2018 at 5:21 pm (Art, Family)

Our goals this time were to visit our former favorites, find some new favorites, and of course, have as much fun as possible.

Our old friends were right where we left them when last we visited (this being one of the excellent things about museums).

Etta and I have grown somewhat sentimental about this bizarre Roman theater mask. Seeing it for the first time, Welles was properly amazed – “He’s  got a hand in his mouth!”

Of course we greeted Degas’s Little Dancer:

 

And Georges Seurat’s Un Dimanche Après-Midi à L’Île de La Grande Jatte:

Each time we visit this place, we see something new (to us) and wonderful:

The Poet’s Garden, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh (Click to enlarge)

 

Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy, (Asnières), 1887, Vincent Van Gogh (Click to enlarge)

 

Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli, 1874: Still Life with Fruit and Wine Jug…

…and Gorgeous Little Girl in White Dress and Shoes of Gold… Ah, well, no chance of objectivity here!

Sir John Shaw and his family in the park at Eltham Lodge, Kent, 1761, by Arthur Devis

I’d never heard of Arthur Devis but I was completely captivated by this work. How did I miss it until now?

Boar Incarnation of the God Vishnu (Varaha), ca. 10th century, India

 

An Elegant Woman at the Elysee Montmartre, 1888, Louis Anquetin

 

Noh Costume (Nuihaku), 1801/25

Etta and I made our rounds together; Welles and his Mom went a different way. When we met up, Welles was nearly beside himself with excitement. He had something truly wonderful to show his big sister! So upstairs we trooped to the Kania Collection, and lo and behold, what did we find there but this:

Officially designated as “Untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA),” this work  – in some places referred to as an installation – is by the Cuban-born artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres and is dated 1991. The Art Institute site describes it as follows:

Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply
Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs.

An endless supply of candy! Surely this is the stuff of dreams, especially for children, and especially for Welles, a confirmed candy aficionado at the age of four. (‘Endless supply’ translates into the fact that visitors may help themselves to the sweet stuff, as long as it’s promptly replenished by staff.)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres‘s life was tragically cut short: he died in 1996 at the age of 38. But with this work, he gave joy to my grandchildren and no doubt to others as well. I am grateful to him.
***************

As for that other famed denizen of the Art Institute, alas, it is still at the Whitney in New York. I mean, of course, Grant Wood’s American Gothic:

This is the fourth time in the past two years that I’ve come to the Art Institute and missed seeing it! I must have faith that it will some day come home – sigh….

As usual, we finished our visit at the museum’s gift shop. There are two, actually, both equally filled with a tantalizing selection of goodies. The array of art books is truly impressive; there was an entire rack of these from my current favorite art book publisher, Taschen.

Among the other merchandise, I particularly love a series of hand painted silk scarves by Chicago artist Joanna Alot. This time I came away with this beauty:

As for the children, they selected kits of modeling clay. Welles and Etta are lively, energetic, and affectionate. Sometimes it is all their no-longer-young grandmother can do to keep up with them! And yet, once home from the museum, they became lost in clay play. Etta was creating her own version of marbles; Welles was making small containers for them. (It is absolutely necessary for Welles to have at least part of his vast collection of Hot Wheels nearby, whenever he undertakes a project of this sort – or just anytime.)

Watching them so quietly absorbed in these projects, I was reminded once more of the miracle of their existence, and of my equally miraculous and boundless love for them. And many thanks, too, to their Mom, my beautiful daughter-in-law, for making all of this possible.

 

 

 

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‘Their illusions are enchantments.’ – Andrew Graham-Dixon on the Northern Renaissance

April 13, 2018 at 12:54 pm (Art)

The following is from Andrew Graham-Dixon’s Renaissance:

Robert Campin – Jacques Daret; The Virgin and Child in an Interior

The sense of the real in fifteenth-century Northern European painting is so intense  that it becomes uncanny. The liquidity and brilliance of colours suspended in oil lends a particular lustre to details such as the copper ewer and the lights reflected in it. A dappled patch of light conveys the passage of sunshine onto a wall through the small panes of a thickly glazed window with astonishing virtuosity. Such effects would come as a revelation even to the Italians, who had done so much to achieve their own effects of naturalism in the different media of egg tempera and fresco. No wonder, perhaps, that the early Netherlandish artists should have acquired a reputation as necromancers and alchemists. Their illusions are enchantments.

 

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Writing About Art

March 31, 2018 at 2:21 pm (Art)

The more I read in art history, the more I encounter exceptionally beautiful and eloquent prose. I’d like to share some portions of it with you, in this and in future posts.

   In Rendez-vous with Art, Martin Gayford asks his co-author Philippe de Montebello, who served as Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from 1977 to 2008, if he could name a particular experience that caused him to devote his life to art. Here is his response:

 That’s the toughest question, Martin, and the one most likely to yield an invention, or a half truth. But since an episode just happens to spring to mind, let’s go with it. It was my first love, actually, a woman in a book.
She was Marchioness Uta in Naumburg Cathedral and I loved her as a woman. When I was maybe fifteen years old, my father brought home a book called Les Voix du Silence by André Malraux. I leafed through it, looking at its great, four-tone black-and-white illustrations. And suddenly there was Uta, with her wonderful high collar, and her puffed eyelids, as though after a night of lovemaking. She stands perhaps twenty feet up in the west choir of the building, so you could never see her so close in reality. But then I was seeing her in a book, held in my hand. I still think she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world. I’ve since discovered, a bit to my dismay, that she can be found all over Internet, because it seems I’m not the only person who thinks she’s supremely alluring.

I love the simplicity and directness of the statement: “I loved her as a woman.”

 

Naumburg Cathedral, Germany – groundbreaking in 1028; consecration in 1044. Inside this ancient and holy edifice, Marchioness Uta, serene and unchanging, has captivated those who gaze upon her for close to eight hundred years.

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The Art Institute of Chicago: the third visit…

March 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm (Art, Family)

…And this time Mom and little brother Welles came with Etta and me. After we got inside the museum, we split up: Welles and his Mom went off to see the miniature rooms, the paper weights, and other items of interest. Etta and I had sampled  these delights on a previous visit, and we hope to visit them again in the future. But meanwhile, wet went off in search of certain other favorites.

Such as:

Little Dancer, Age 14, by Edgar Degas (with littler dancer, age 7)

Etta calls this “The Dot Painting.” (A close look at it reveals the artist’s signature use of the Pointillist technique):

Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) by Georges Seurat, 1884

And then, there’s this character:

These tasks happily accomplished, we wandered off to do further exploration. Quite by happy accident, we found ourselves in The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor. This new installation opened only last year and is really stunning.

St. Francis Before the Pope, by Spinello Aretino 1390-1400

 

Left – St. Lucy Vergos workshop ca. 1500 Right – St .Agatha Vergos workshop ca. 1500

 

Retable and Frontal of the Life of Christ and the Virgin Made for Pedro López de Ayala, 1396

Adam and Eve, engraving by Albrecht Durer, 1504

 

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533-1537

Medieval and Renaissance music played softly in the background. We fell under the spell of these beautiful works. Etta was inspired to dance!

The arms and armor display was  also quite striking. We were especially impressed by these two who were jousting on foot:

In the European Decorative Arts collection, we saw a beautiful door whose design is attributed to Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo:

I think of the Art Institute as having three iconic paintings: L’Apres-midi Sur La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (see above), American Gothic by Grant Wood, and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I’ve been eager to lay eyes on the Hopper, painted in 1942, for quite some time, and finally – finally! – we did:

Here’s a somewhat better close-up:

About ten people were clustered around this painting. We waited a few minutes for a clearer view. Etta stared intently.

I said: “Etta, what do you think is going on in this picture? The two people facing us seem to be discussing something important. The man around the corner may just happen to have dropped in – or maybe he’s there for a reason. What do you think?”

She thought for a moment and  then replied: “I think he’s onto them.”

She left it at that, and so did I. 

The Khan Academy has an interesting video on Nighthawks:

Singer-songwriter Tom Waits has his own take on Nighthawks:

As for American Gothic, painted in 1930, it was once again out on loan – sigh… Later in the gift shop, when we were lamenting its absence, a person within hearing commented that she’d been to the museum three times in recent years and missed American Gothic every time!

Here it is, anyway, absent yet still in our hearts:

While Etta and I were covering all this territory, Welles and his Mom were also ranging far and wide:

The Family Room in the Ryan Learning Center, also one of Etta’s favorite places

 

 

Enchanted by the Thorne Miniature Rooms

Thanks to Welles and Etta’s Mom for these snapshots of Welles in action!

The four of us met up in a room filled with colorful helium balloons:

This was followed by lunch at Terzo Piano on the third floor:

At last, we rounded out the day with a visit to the Museum Shop, where we all did ourselves proud!

My daughter-in-law Erica took this picture of the children and me across the street from the Museum:

With her usual generosity, Erica made this day possible for all of us. I especially admire her skillful driving in the city and her negotiation of the interior of an especially challenging parking garage. Thanks so much, Erica! And bountiful thanks to my very special grandchildren, Welles and Etta: You make all things possible and joyful in my life.

 

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