Jerry Weiss

Born into an artistic household, Jerry Weiss studied drawing with Roberto Martinez in Miami, Florida, and drawing and painting with Harvey Dinnerstein, Robert Beverly Hale, Mary Beth McKenzie, Ted Seth Jacobs, and Jack Faragasso at the Art Students League and the National Academy in New York City. He has had numerous one-man exhibitions in museums and galleries, and his portraits, figures, and landscapes are represented in public, private, and corporate collections, including the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, Brigham and Women's Hospital, The Harvard Club of New York, the Connecticut State Capital Building, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Weiss was awarded the Isaac Maynard Prize in the National Academy of Design's 159th annual exhibition and the Julius Hallgarten Prize at the 167th annual. He was also awarded a Fellowship for Painting by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Weiss has written features for The Drawing Magazine, and is a contributing editor for The Artist’s Magazine, for which he writes features and the "Master Class" column. He is represented by The Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme, Connecticut and Portraits, Inc. Weiss has taught and lectured at art schools and art associations in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, and was an instructor at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts for fifteen years. He currently teaches Painting and Drawing from Life at the Art Students League of New York, as well as intensive workshops there and in other venues around the country. For more information, visit www.jerrynweiss.com.

Posts

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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27210" align="alignright" width="375"] Alice Boughton (1865–1943), Henry James, 1906, gelatin silver print. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. Gift of Allan M. Price.[/caption]

In his youth, the great novelist Henry James briefly studied painting. Realizing his talents lay elsewhere, he nonetheless retained a lifelong enthusiasm for the visual arts and did what many aficionados do: he befriended painters. These friendships form the rationale for Henry James and American Painting, now on display at the Morgan Library. Included in the exhibition are paintings, drawings, manuscripts, and letters that shed light on his associations with artists, many of whom were American expatriates living in Europe. What James wrote about their art still makes for good reading, as he had a facility for wrapping snark and appreciation in the same package. Here, in part, is an assessment of Winslow Homer:

“He is almost barbarously simple, and, to our eye, he is horribly ugly…but there is something one likes about him."

Apparently James's knife had a retractable blade. In fairness, contemporary reviewers were generally, and mistakenly, critical of the lack of polish in Homer's work. James was a more profound snob than most: as an American who settled in Europe and broke bread with the upper class, Homer's homegrown subjects weren't his cup of continental tea. Work in the current show is in keeping with James's more cosmopolitan milieu. For starters there are two fine Whistlers, a standing female portrait and a Thames nocturne, the one swathed in drawing room mystique, the other in London fog. These could, but for Whistler's pointed antipathy for narrative, be a protagonist and a setting for a novel.

[caption id="attachment_27207" align="alignleft" width="323"]Henry James and American Painting at the Morgan Library Frank Duveneck (1848–1919), Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, 1888, oil on canvas. Cincinnati Art Museum; Gift of the artist, 1915.[/caption]

In fact, some of the artists in James's circle provided the necessary literary material. He was well acquainted with Francis Boott, a wealthy composer from Boston, and his only daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth took to studying art with Frank Duveneck, who was at the time a brilliant but financially challenged painter. When the two fell in love, Elizabeth's father disapproved. Their marriage was preceded by a lengthy courtship, and the dynamic between artist, wife and father-in-law inspired characters in no fewer than three novels by James. Featured here are large portraits Duveneck painted of father and daughter, both of which show him turning away from his flashing youthful style in favor of a more conservative finish. His work became more accomplished but lost its bite. Francis Boott looks like a Doge out of Titian, Elizabeth an exquisite schoolmistress. After they married, James visited the Duvenecks at their Florentine villa, no doubt taking notes. Elizabeth died young, and Frank was bereft. A version of his sculpted memorial to her is the centerpiece of the show's "Duveneck" room. 

The artist most closely associated with James, and the star of the show, is John Singer Sargent. Lifelong bachelors, American expats, and each preeminent in their field, the two had much in common. The writer recognized a kindred spirit when he pronounced Sargent "civilized to his fingertips." Though James chastised his friend for prettifying his sitters, he championed him in a feature published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in October 1887. Artists are familiar with the article by virtue of a few choice quotes, but it’s a lengthy appreciation and it cemented their friendship; a few years ago Harvey Dinnerstein expressed interest in reading the article in its entirety, and I was able to hunt down a copy of the magazine online.

[caption id="attachment_27205" align="alignright" width="425"]Henry James and American Painting at the Morgan Library John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Henry James, 1913, oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, London; Bequeathed by Henry James, 1916. NPG 1767.[/caption]

James sat for many artists, but Sargent's portrait of 1913 is definitive. As both personality study and painting it's one of Sargent's best portraits. His brow slightly furrowed and a hand hitched up at his side, James appears to be appraising the artist, and is for all time taking our measure as well. The attitude could be that of Churchill or a plutocrat, but the characterization runs deeper. All the same, its implied hauteur and the scent of a male-dominated culture was not lost on a suffragette named Mary Wood, who had at the canvas with a meat cleaver when it was first exhibited in 1914. James wrote of the attack, “she got at me thrice over before the tomahawk was stayed. I naturally feel very scalped and disfigured.” Over the years the painting has grown on me, to the point that I can imagine it alongside Eakins's portrait of Dr. Samuel Gross as a celebration of intellectualism, albeit of two very different types. The head is beautifully and simply modeled, the drawing superb. Sargent's handling of shadow masses is a how-to for aspiring painters. The picture has enough gravitas to hold its panache in place. There are other noteworthy Sargents here, too, including several Venetian interiors and the portrait of Mrs. Boit, whose facial expression eludes explanation. James, immensely proud of his own portrait, rightly took Sargent to task for the Boit painting, writing that it "seems to me a supreme example of his great vice—a want of respect for the face.”

James's pithy descriptions of his friends have long since entered the critical lexicon. His references to Duveneck as an "unsuspected genius" and Sargent's talent as "uncanny spectacle" have been appropriated as titles for monographs and an exhibition. My favorite Jamesian critique is contained in a personal letter to Hendrik Christian Andersen, a young sculptor of whom he was fond. In it he offers advice on getting on in the world.

Stop your multiplication of unsaleable nakednesses for a while & hurl yourself, by every cunning art you can command, into the production of the interesting, the charming, the vendible, the placeable small thing. With your talent, you easily can—& if I were but near you now I should take you by the throat & squeeze it till you howled & make you do my Bust! You ought absolutely to get at Busts, at any cost of ingenuity—for it is fatal for you to go on indefinitely neglecting the Face, never doing one, only adding Belly to Belly—however beautiful—& Bottom.

Of all the ways artists have been counseled that nudes don't sell, none has been more delightfully phrased than the exhortation to cease the "multiplication of unsaleable nakedness." It is a triumph of prudish practicality. Henry James, refined aesthete and chronicler of the upper class, was also a clear-eyed pragmatist. 


Henry James and American Painting is on view at The Morgan Library & Museum until September 10.

[post_title] => Henry James and American Painting at the Morgan Library & Museum [post_excerpt] => What James wrote about the art of American painters still makes for good reading, as he had a facility for wrapping snark and appreciation in the same package. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => henry-james-american-painting-morgan-library [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 14:54:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 18:54:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=27199 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27081 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-06-09 08:58:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-09 12:58:12 [post_content] => In the July/August issue of The Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss writes about the how and why over the course of his career he has collected art by other artists. "Living with Art" (pdf here) includes images of works from Weiss's collection by Harvey Dinnerstein (below), Deane G. Keller, Tom LoeppSusan MazerTom Root, Edmund F. Ward, Blanche Weiss and Morris Weiss (his parents), and many others. "The best reason to collect isn't for the sport of it, nor for profit," Weiss writes. "Each of these drawings and paintings speaks to the artist's observations and aspirations, and each of them resonates with me for various and personal reasons."  [caption id="attachment_27095" align="aligncenter" width="550"]artist as collector Harvey Dinnerstein's charcoal drawing of Mr. Meltzer[/caption] [caption id="attachment_27094" align="aligncenter" width="550"]artist as collector A self-portrait by Dan Gheno, oil on board[/caption] [post_title] => The Artist as Collector [post_excerpt] => "The best reason to collect isn't for the sport of it, nor for profit," Weiss writes. "Each of these drawings and paintings speaks to the artist's observations and aspirations, and each of them resonates with me for various and personal reasons." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => artist-as-collector [to_ping] => [pinged] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/recollections-of-susan-mazer/ http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/tom-peggy-root-old-lyme/ http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/on-letting-go/ [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 11:07:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 15:07:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=27081 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26848 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-05-20 20:28:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-21 00:28:12 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_26852" align="aligncenter" width="930"]plein-air Patrick George Patrick George, Hickbush Landscape, early 1970s, oil on canvas, 16 x 48 in.[/caption]

I'd never heard of the English artist Patrick George (1923–2016) until a colleague made mention of him a few years ago. He was, I happily discovered, landscape painting's version of Euan Uglow. And no wonder, since the two were close friends and fellow students of William Coldstream. From Coldstream they learned a meticulous approach that required measuring what lay before them, whereby a scene is observed as if on a curved plane, with the viewer's eye at the center point. Like Uglow, George shook the umber dust off Coldstream's example and painted with a crisp, cool palette. George made fine figure studies, a genre which he came to associate with life in London, but mostly he painted en plein air in the Suffolk countryside where he lived. Unlike the model on the stand, trees could not be marked with tape to maintain a reliable constancy; they move with the breeze and gain or shed their leaves with the seasons. But the space between them can be ascertained, and George possessed an eye for calibration. His personality was not that of the stereotypical plein-air painter, who excels at the rapid pochade. He told one of the best stories I've ever read about painting outside, that of working while seated in a farmer's field, when a cow came over and placed its head on his knee. Looking over the animal's head, he continued painting. He noted the tedium and conditions beyond his control, but was nevertheless drawn to the pursuit. 

"Outside, I am exposed to the same elements as my subject… the wind that shakes the twig shakes my outstretched arm… we both get wet or scorched by the sun. Outside there is no cool appraisal, you just have to get on with it as best you can."

[caption id="attachment_26853" align="alignleft" width="475"]plein-air Patrick George Patrick George, Yellow, Red, Green, and Blue, 2009, oil on board, 38 x 48 in.[/caption]

One reads this with some amusement, for if George's painting doesn't indicate "cool appraisal," it is an understatement to say that it suggests a consistency of temperament. He painted in all weather, though one would hardly know it; he studiously avoided the ecstasy and violence of sunshine, abiding instead in a flat English half-light. "I like the landscape," he wrote in 2003, "when it is all there to be seen in its own right, not disguised by shadows or fancy sunlight."

The discipline George imposed on his content was based on an austere taste, both of design and color. In a shared love for the native landscape, he expressed admiration for Gainsborough and Constable, but George's work was too engaged in formal issues to draw an easy line from those influences. The determination to get proportions right tends to remove sentimentality from the equation. Beginning with his move to Suffolk in 1961, George saw the Stour Valley through modern eyes. There is in the Tate a large canvas, Hickbush, Wooded Landscape, painted in characteristically thin washes, that is gorgeous in its graphic masses as well as for its evocation of agrarian serenity. Often the design tilted toward the antiseptic, as in Hickbush Landscape, where the composition, its shapes so hard-edged they could have been cut and pasted, trumps nature. At other times one almost imagines George was challenging himself to see how many shades of acid-washed green could be delivered in a single view. Perhaps no plein-air painter ever used less yellow. That color often lagged behind drawing in his work was as he intended; even when the foliage is bleached and the paint is applied as if in defiance of visceral pleasure, the draftsmanship is savory.

[caption id="attachment_26854" align="alignright" width="473"] Patrick George, House and Sycamore, 2010–13, oil on board, 35 x 60⅛ in.[/caption]

After moving to Great Saxham in the 1990s, George began to change his thinking. "I suddenly realized that I was looking at measure instead of looking at the thing. Instead of giving you an answer, I was actually obscuring the view. So I dropped it." A recent memorial exhibition at Browse & Darby in London focused on the late work; in the last decade of George's life, a relative looseness crept into the painting, and with it came a bump in color. This is evident in a painting like Yellow, Red, Green & Blue, where the local color of a shoulder season dictates a more chromatic environment, but it's also noticeable in summer paintings such as House and Sycamore and Large Ash Tree and Sycamore. As he neared his ninetieth year, George allowed fecund greens to burst forth as he hadn't before. An oft restrained optical sensuality was released, and for the first time one can imagine the influence of Bonnard behind the smoldering color. A new willingness to engage nature was also reflected in paintings like Greengage Trees I, wherein George set up amid the very tangles of foliage he'd spent decades observing from afar. The canvas works as representation and abstraction, and the nuanced foliage, with its beautifully drawn patterns of warm and cool leaves, is delightful.

[caption id="attachment_26856" align="alignleft" width="450"]plein-air Patrick George Patrick George, Greengage Trees I, 2009, oil on board, 26¼ x 32½ in.[/caption]

I confess a suspicion of an artist who paints from life outdoors and avoids "fancy sunlight." Andrew Wyeth and Wilhelm Hammershøi suffered a similar distrust of chromatic tone, as if to admit of joyfulness in the presence of nature would be vulgar. The popularity of Impressionism probably makes such reactions inevitable, but ceding both color and the satisfyingly tangible qualities of paint is too steep a price to pay for insisting on one's seriousness. George's blanched hillocks and tenderly mapped branches are redeemed by his dry visual wit. With a stringent palette and relentless attention to topographical landmarks as well as the distances between them, he imposed an intimate order on the pastoral landscape. For the balance of his long life he painted in the English countryside and enjoyed a final blossoming at a very late date. We all should be so lucky.


Patrick George: Memorial Exhibition was on view at Browse & Darby (London, UK), from February 8–March 2, 2017.

[post_title] => Of Landscape and the Distances Between [post_excerpt] => With a stringent palette and relentless attention to topographical landmarks as well as the distances between them, Patrick George imposed an intimate order on the pastoral landscape. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => plein-air-patrick-george [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-22 09:52:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-22 13:52:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=26848 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26663 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-05-05 07:51:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-05 11:51:08 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_26671" align="alignright" width="388"]recollections of susan mazer Susan Mazer, Summer on the Lake, 1986, oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in.[/caption]

I met Susan Mazer in the spring of 1980, and we were together until 1988. To write about Sue’s art constitutes a spectacular conflict of interest; I won’t even pretend to be impartial. The pitfalls of self-interest aside, Sue merits the attention. Sixteen years after her death, she’s unknown, and any light I can shine on her work is long overdue. There's some reason for the obscurity. She seems to have stopped painting by the 1990s in favor of a more lucrative career in animation, and the bulk of her fine art has been neither exhibited nor published.

[caption id="attachment_26673" align="alignleft" width="335"]recollections of susan mazer Susan Mazer, Morning Ablutions, c. 1987, oil on canvas, 26 x 24 in.[/caption] We met at the League, in Ted Seth Jacobs' class. I'd been studying in New York since 1978, but Susan was newer to art school, having "wasted" two years at Bryn Mawr, a detour she always regretted. Part of that first summer was spent at her parents' country home outside of Syracuse, another part visiting my parents in south Florida. In order to sharpen her skills, Susan moved in with my folks while she studied with my old drawing teacher in Miami. I returned to New York to continue at the League and was miserable apart from her. After a few months, I got a call from my mother: she could no longer tolerate my girlfriend's resistance to soap and water, what with the charcoal fingerprints being left all over the house. Sue did soon find another living arrangement, and her drawing, if not her hand washing, improved. Sue was as ambitious as I was, meaning that there was an implicit tension in the creative partnership; a vigorous if unspoken rivalry—how could you avoid comparing your work with the artist beside you?—was balanced by constant mutual encouragement. My father found a place for us in Cliffside Park, a blue collar town right across the Hudson. We were quite the novelty, the only artists in a town that seemed to have stalled in the 1950s. In the fall of 1981 we settled into a pre-war ground floor apartment, where we painted in close quarters, moving our French easels from bedroom to kitchen to living room to bathroom. There was neither a designated studio space nor a proper studio easel. All five hundred square feet were up for grabs; Susan once stood in the shower to paint me washing my face in the bathroom sink. Financial support came from home, we lived on the cheap and slept on a futon on the floor. She baked a lot, combing through the Moosewood Cookbook. Several times a week, regardless of weather, we'd walk on Abbott Boulevard, a lovely shaded street, to Fairway market in Fort Lee for groceries. Our haunts were health food markets and second hand clothing stores. [caption id="attachment_26675" align="alignright" width="399"]recollections of susan mazer Susan Mazer, Nude Study with Orange, 1982, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in.[/caption] Sue's big breakthrough came at the National Academy, studying with Ron Sherr. Ron had just begun teaching, and he had his students working with knives on large canvases. At that point she went from conscientious student to painter. When I learned that Mary Beth McKenzie was going to start teaching there in the fall of 1982, I urged Sue to call on her at home that summer, and she became Mary Beth's first monitor (those classes were filled with talent; a number of our contemporaries are established artists, and some now teach at the League). The high water mark was the spring of 1985, when in our mid-twenties we had a two-person show on East 67th street, in a gallery owned by A.M. Adler of Hirschl and Adler. We thought we were on our way. A studio visit with Raphael Soyer, in which he presciently told us that the art world liked glitz and our success would take a decade or two, hardly dampened our enthusiasm. We drew and painted without respite, except to write letters on behalf of political prisoners or to the New York Times art editor in futile attempts to educate their obtuse and condescending reviewers. Other artists looked to belong to schools, to find a communal identity. We were intolerably earnest in our devotion to a personal figuration and inhabited an island big enough just for us two. That kind of youthful bond, built on mutual ideals and shared economy, can and often does come undone as people grow older and up. The last few years we fought and yelled, doors slammed and things were thrown. The neighbors got an earful, and I've always been grateful that we didn't own a gun. Both of us were wound a jot too tight to be fully trusted. But there were a few years of childlike happiness, a cheery domesticity when the seriousness of working together was leavened by humor and tenderness. [caption id="attachment_26678" align="alignleft" width="454"]recollections of susan mazer Susan Mazer, Self-Portrait in Sunlight, 1986, oil on canvas, 26 x 24 in.[/caption] It goes without saying that we couldn't afford models. We painted family and traded off sitting for other artists. Some of our best paintings were those we made of one another, and that may have been an expression of our feelings, or it could have just been the law of averages—given our proximity, we painted one another far more than we did anyone else. There were distinctions. Sue tended to lean more toward narrative in her painting, though it was pretty well veiled. She preferred color where I liked character. She was more adventurous in her picture making. Once she determined to paint a group of young women standing and chatting in a schoolyard, composing the canvas from sketches. One morning Sue was working on the project, and I was cooling my heels in the living room while she drew a (rare) hired model in the bedroom. I heard a great thump, and ran in to find the model had collapsed to the floor in a dead faint. There were no such complications when I posed. We found that I was useless at holding any position that wasn't reclining. Sue made the best of that, with a terrific series of canvases in which I'm swaddled in multi-colored sheets, hit by striped sunlight through Venetian blinds, or both. When more traditional portraiture bored her she made me a player in these paintings of light and pattern, or dressed me in coat and tie to invent different personae. Towards the end even these experiments ran dry for her, and when she tired of painting my face she hid it behind an open book in the double portrait I inhabit with Dan Gheno. Sue continued to sit for me without asking for reciprocation in kind, instead keeping track of the hours so that I could make them up in housework. She made sure I knew that the muse doesn't give it away. [caption id="attachment_26677" align="alignright" width="424"]recollections of susan mazer Susan Mazer, Deer, 1989, oil on canvas, 34 x 40 in.[/caption] All things considered, we lasted for a surprising length of time, especially considering that Sue was restless and I was recalcitrant. That I was listening to rock while she was high on The Smiths became symptomatic of a schism in the relationship. I have all sorts of regret. I realize how fortunate I was to spend much of that formative decade with a kindred spirit. The romantic fantasy of a painting soulmate seems silly at this point in my life, yet it happened at an age when it meant the world. Hers was the only opinion that mattered to me, and I thought painting would be impossible without her. After she left it took me years to recover, and eventually, grudgingly, I accepted that the situation—perhaps a metaphor for my youth—would not be repeated. In the year after the split, Sue painted a wonderful series of dead animals she found on the roadside or in the woods upstate, no doubt a bit heavy on the symbolism. Soon thereafter she stopped painting. [caption id="attachment_26670" align="alignleft" width="450"]recollections of susan mazer Susan Mazer, Harry and Norma in Winter, 1985, oil on canvas, 40 x 27 in.[/caption] Although with every passing year I remember less about that time, I can still recall propping her up when she was miserable over a painting, and how we understood what the other was going through, trying to become very good at a calling that was appreciated by very few. When I see Sue's paintings now, my admiration is mixed with the distant recollections that each work evokes. Virtually a neophyte when I met her at the League, within a few years she was painting with immense skill, but I was even more impressed by her determination to get at elements that were truthful, with understated empathy. I marvel at the painting of her parents—authors Harry and Norma Fox Mazer—silhouetted against a snowy landscape, and remember how she inexplicably melted down in anguish while painting it (The composition was an inspired compromise—we'd begun on a winter day by drawing her mother and father in separate rooms before someone hit on the idea of painting them together). Covering the seasons, she painted her parents in the blazing heat of the summer sun at their Canadian campsite, and walking together on a cool fall day. The self-portrait in a rocking chair was painted in our living room; the crooked bookcase behind her was our sole venture into carpentry. I'd put it up against any representational painting from that era.

It is indeed difficult to look back to one’s youth from an older and nominally wiser place. Memories may become mercifully blurred, but paintings remain as visual markers. Susan’s strike me as unusually beautiful. When she was on, her drawing was sharp, her colors sang, and she was incapable of laying down a false stroke. She was as good a painter as I've known.

All photos by Massimo Zarucco. Images courtesy of the Mazer family. Titles have been made up by the author for temporary reference and may be different from those that have been previously published.

[post_title] => Recollections of Susan [post_excerpt] => "The romantic fantasy of a painting soulmate seems silly at this point in my life, yet it happened at an age when it meant the world." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => recollections-of-susan-mazer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-05 07:57:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-05 11:57:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=26663 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26197 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-04-18 13:05:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-18 17:05:43 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_26330" align="alignright" width="374"] Gustav Klimt, Woman with Fur Collar, 1897. Oil on cardboard, mounted on wood. Signed, lower right. 14¼ x 7¾ in. Weidinger 112. Private collection. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] For its spring exhibition, the Galerie St. Etienne has installed The Woman Question: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. As a showcase of figure draftsmanship, it’s a master class in linear economy. The quality of the titled artists’ draftsmanship is so well acknowledged that it’s taken for granted, so the gallery’s accompanying essay doesn’t risk belaboring the point: instead, it goes straight to sexual politics in Vienna a hundred years ago, then makes the case that things haven't changed a lot since then. This is an awkward juggle, promoting art that objectifies women while simultaneously criticizing the artists for making it.   Among the three heavyweights, Klimt's work best represents the dramatic class divisions in pre-war Vienna. His portraits of wealthy women now demand regal sums—a small early oil, Woman with Fur Collar, hints at his high-end future. But to Klimt's patrons, the artist may have been just a gifted laborer. Friederike Maria Beer, the subject of a pencil study here, sniffed, "He even smelled like an animal." Whether she was referring to pheromones or hygiene remains a mystery.  A prominent subset of Klimt's drawings speaks to feral impulses, those which could be indulged in the studio with models from the demi-monde. His drawings of women pleasuring themselves are, like those by Schiele, plainly pornographic, and could be dismissed as such if they weren't so well done and so truthful to the artist's mode of being in the world. They take elegant delight in eroticism, and are offered without judgment or condescension; small wonder that he ruffled bourgeois feathers. The question of whether Klimt's libidinous sketches celebrate or demean women is a knotty one, which I won't pretend to answer. It's worth underscoring that his erotica was a private endeavor—whether we stand before it as connoisseurs or voyeurs, we are eavesdropping. Even in the chastest circumstances the artist and model partake of a shared venture that functions best in a spirit of complicity. It's safe to say that the women who posed for Klimt and Schiele did so of their own volition. Yet even when artist and model are in sync, the balance is tenuous. In the midst of a breakup, a girlfriend once went through my sketchbooks in order to remove and keep nudes she'd posed for during happier times. She wasn't about to relinquish control of her image to the possibility of a public viewing at some point down the line, and though I had no such intention, I didn't blame her.  [caption id="attachment_26332" align="alignleft" width="445"] Oskar Kokoschka, Annie Knize, 1933-34. Pencil on paper. 19 1/4 x 21 5/8 in. Private collection. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] As a teenager, Schiele's sensibilities were too radical for the art schools in Vienna, and he sought out Klimt as a mentor. While nominally following the same dual channels, those of public portraitist and private sensualist, Schiele was less discrete. He acted out psycho-sexual traumas in his art, using his younger sister and underage girls as nude models. He was a frank exhibitionist whose self-portraits are both confessional and theatrical. Schiele seems to have had few filters between his perceptions and his expression, which got him into predictably hot water, including imprisonment as a pornographer. As with Klimt, there's no doubting the sincerity or the brilliance of his work. Where the older artist's line is unfailingly delicate, sinuous, the flow of Schiele's calligraphy is electrified by desire and self-loathing. Schiele's women are even more stylized than Klimt's, and often more aggressive in posture. A pat way of describing the difference is that Klimt was a product of the nineteenth century, Schiele, the twentieth. Under Klimt's guidance, art nouveau blossomed into glorious decadence; for Schiele, that decadence was a point of departure. For both, women are often sexual ciphers (there are exceptions here, in the guise of portrait studies that demanded a more urbane approach, or when Schiele drew his young bride, an exploration of mutual confusion). Their art was a reflection of the era's attitudes. That's not to absolve the artists, but it does provide necessary context.  [caption id="attachment_26333" align="alignright" width="463"] Oskar Kokoschka, Two Studies of Lilith Lang in Profile, 1907. Pencil on brownish paper. Studies of the same subject (Weidinger/Strobl 187a), verso. 12 x 11 7/8 in. Related to the illustrations for The Dreaming Youths (Wingler/Welz 22-29). Weidinger/Strobl 187. Private collection. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] Kokoschka, too, is sometimes a great draftsman, though not so responsive to sensuality. Still, he had his share of issues; when an affair with Alma Mahler ended, he made a manikin in her image and carried it around Vienna. "Fear of adult female sexuality," the gallery notes, "continued to haunt Kokoschka's later nudes, which are largely devoid of erotic appeal." His portraits, less precious and more animated than those of Klimt or Schiele, are among my favorite drawings in the show. In Annie Knize and Seated Female Nude, Facing Left, Kokoschka comes across as naturalistic in the Modersohn-Becker style. When treading into Schiele territory, as in Two Studies of Lilith Lang in Profile, the erotic charge is mitigated by the girl's averted stance. It's discomfiting territory nevertheless. This was, after all, the Vienna of Freud, with its oleo of decadence and burgeoning interest in psychology.   [caption id="attachment_26331" align="alignleft" width="294"] Oskar Kokoschka, Seated Female Nude, Facing Left, 1913. Watercolor and black crayon on cream wove paper. Initialed, lower right. 17½ x 12¼ in. Belvedere exhibition, 2015-16, No.138 (ill. p. 205). Weidinger/Strobl 632. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] The show raises another question besides that of misogyny: what if the work was never intended to be seen? Historically, works on paper served preparatory or exploratory purposes. Most of the master drawings that are exhibited or reproduced were not meant for public dissemination. The same holds true for many of the drawings in The Woman Question, wherein we may vicariously, disapprovingly, or hypocritically pore over the artists' private lives. The erstwhile and unconvincing interpretation of Klimt's explicit drawings was that they evidenced his rejection of bourgeois morality; the more recent reading is that his figures were presented for the leering eye of the male viewer. Either art historical view, whether arising from patriarchal or feminist scholarship, is based on the implicit premise that the artist was drawing for us, when he was doing nothing of the sort. I'm not saying that an artist's private work should be forever held under lock and key—if that were the case, the history of visual art would look vastly more barren. But the dispersal of said work is usually driven by motives independent of the artist's intent, and we have a responsibility to understand the circumstances in which artwork was, and is, created. (A famous exception was Andrew Wyeth's shrewd marketing of the 'Helga' series, which pretended to be naughty and private, complete with whispers of adultery, and was thus eagerly devoured by a happily gullible public).  We demand unfettered access to the personal lives of strangers, a curiosity no less intrusive than an artist's obsessions. This creates a hall of mirrors that, at the least, suggests we level judgment very carefully: the artist violates decorum in the privacy of the studio, and we, in turn, violate the artist's and model's privacy when viewing the work created therein. The irony is that Klimt avoided public self-revelation, insisting we know him only through his paintings. "I have never painted a self-portrait," he said, not imagining that we, assembling his drawings later, might paint one for him.  
The Woman Question: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka is on view at the Galerie St. Etienne through June 30, 2017. [post_title] => Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and Women  [post_excerpt] => Galerie St. Etienne's The Woman Question: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka is a showcase of figure draftsmanship and a master class in linear economy. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => woman-question-galerie-st-etienne [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-27 11:54:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-27 15:54:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=26197 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25950 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-03-28 12:21:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-28 16:21:23 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_25959" align="alignleft" width="459"]Marsden Hartley Met Breuer Marsden Hartley, The Wave, 1940, oil on masonite-type hardboard 30 1⁄4 x 40⅞ in. Worcester Art Museum[/caption]

The Met Breuer has put together a cohesive and powerful show in Marsden Hartley's Maine. It's cohesive by dint of theme, but also because Hartley's best work, while undergoing changes in palette and mood over the course of his working life, was consistent in its grasp of the distinctive image. This comes as rather a surprise after reading the artist's correspondence, for Hartley was deeply insecure about his standing—there was a period when he compared his painting to Picasso in an effort to convince himself of eminence—as well as the more mundane but vital matter of selling art. The need for reassurance was constant, his self-absorption exasperating. His pre-World War I infatuation with Germany doesn't play well, either. A Hartley scholar told me that while writing about the artist, he fantasized that the ship carrying him back to the U.S. in 1916 had sunk. 

[caption id="attachment_25960" align="alignright" width="390"]Marsden Hartley Met Breuer Marsden Hartley, Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy, 1940, oil on hardboard, 40 x 30 in. Bequest of A. James Speyer 1987.249. The Art Institute of Chicago[/caption]

Hartley's Maine paintings were based on the landscape of his home state, boiled down to a series of iconographic images of mountains and oceanfront. He was able to channel two of his greatest immediate predecessors, Albert Pinkham Ryder and Winslow Homer, melding mysticism and solid form, or, more precisely, the impact of solid form through graphic symbols. To these traditional landscape elements he added another that hadn't previously received much attention from American artists: homoeroticism, in a group of stylized odes to the male body electric. Critics for the most part dodged the issue while admiring the paintings' masculinity. (I'm reminded of how long art historians were uncomfortable with the subject: Lloyd Goodrich, generally superb and always readable in his 1982 biography of Eakins, defended his subject's heterosexuality by noting the lack of feminine qualities in his painting, and left it at that). In art as in life, Hartley didn’t connect easily with individuals, and many of his figures are hardly more than brightly-colored manikins, but the Met Breuer show has the best of them in his memorialized portrait of Ryder, Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy and Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Despite their ridiculous physical exaggerations, the monumental nude that fills the picture plane and the bow-legged bather seen against a summer sky are among the most memorable male figures in American art. They are idols that would have been unrecognizable to Ryder or Homer, both of whom were still alive when Hartley painted his first Maine scenes in the years before 1910.

[caption id="attachment_25961" align="alignleft" width="484"]Marsden Hartley Met Breuer Marsden Hartley, The Silence of High Noon—Midsummer, ca. 1907–08, oil on canvas, 30½ × 30½ in. Collection of Jan T. and Marica Vilcek, Promised Gift to The Vilcek Foundation[/caption] The early landscapes feature an ostensibly impressionist palette, and that's as far as the similarity goes. Hartley was never interested in the transient impression—as much is clear from the quick drawings that open the show and account for its sole sour note—even when he painted sunlight breaking in staccato pools across a stubbled mountainside. He was always hunting the resolute image, a perfect pictograph, and he largely succeeded. The early Maine works, inspired by inland topography, are dense tapestries built on thousands of thick, small brushstrokes. The design that attracted him goes back to the Hudson River School, but in Hartley's versions is flattened to basic recognizable patterns: a foreground plane of land or water, then some middle-distance trees followed by a dark mountain and a high horizon line beyond, with stylized clouds jammed in at the very top. It was a theme he repeated obsessively and to varied effects. In 1909, vivid colors gave way to a "Dark Landscapes" series which bore the moody influence of Ryder, and perhaps something more. Stieglitz claimed that Hartley was considering suicide while painting them. For a long time Hartley couldn't get far enough away from Maine and unpleasant memories of childhood, hence the chronological gaps in the show. After the First World War he returned to Europe for nearly a decade, then moved around the US through much of the 1930s. By then Regionalism was a potent idea, and Hartley had been traveling a long time. He returned to Maine in 1937. In the catalogue for a show that year he wrote,

“I wish to declare myself the painter from Maine….I say to my native continent of Maine, be patient and forgiving, I will soon put my cheek to your cheek, expecting the welcome of the prodigal.”

[caption id="attachment_25958" align="alignright" width="481"]Marsden Hartley Met Breuer Marsden Hartley, Mt. Katahdin (Maine), Autumn #2, 1939–40, oil on canvas, 30¼ x 40¼ in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991[/caption]

One wall of the current show is dominated by three similar large oils inspired by the crashing surf at Schoodic Point, a less traveled section of Acadia National Park adjacent to Mount Desert Island. In these paintings Hartley reconciled the influences of Homer and Cézanne; the Met has loaned the former's Northeaster for comparison. Viewing the crashing waves at an angle, the Homer is both naturalistic and substantial. Hartley's versions take the ocean straight on. They are hauntingly visionary, their symbolic shapes vastly more sophisticated than in his pre-1910 images, and they hold up better than the marines of the many painters who took Homer’s influence more literally. Cézanne comes into play in the abstract syntheses of forms, hatched brushstrokes and the shapes of the upthrust foam, as if the triangular bulk of Mont Sainte-Victoire had been reconstructed from water and viewed through an embankment of serrated rock projections. In their dramatic pessimism they give visual expression to thoughts Hartley confided in 1939: "I am pent up in a lot of things....I am a first class hater now—I hate life and I hate art—lots of men turn on their wives later in life and never speak to 'em—I've been married too long to art to tolerate the bitch any longer." Tolerate he did; those last years in Maine constitute a memorably prolific stretch.   Of a sunnier disposition is a series of images that may represent Hartley's most direct reply to Cézanne, in the form of Mt. Katahdin. Then again, the allusion to Cézanne is just a point of departure, for the abstraction of shape in the Katahdin paintings is as decisive as a cut-out silhouette. At the least, the late works reflect Hartley's assimilation of multiple influences from European and native modernism into a personal expression; I even thought of Georgia O' Keeffe, another artist who communicated in hard-edged symbols, with whom Hartley had competed years earlier when both were represented by Stieglitz. There are also several views from Hartley's window, with an obvious nod to Matisse. Yet all these associations are for us, as they were for Hartley, merely touchstones. The forms he distilled from nature were, in the end, products of his own reinvention.

Meeting the aging Hartley at a reception, Fairfield Porter found him “bitter and contemptuous,” but was of the opinion that “he is a real artist, who deserves better treatment from the world.” Hartley would have undoubtedly agreed. The current show at Met Breuer confirms that his works number among the very best paintings of Maine, and of American modernism.


Marsden Hartley’s Maine continues at the Met Breuer through June 18.

[post_title] => “I Wish to Declare Myself the Painter from Maine.” [post_excerpt] => The current show at Met Breuer confirms that Marsden Hartley's works number among the very best paintings of Maine, and of American modernism. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => marsden-hartley-met-breuer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-29 08:05:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-29 12:05:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25950 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25897 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-03-22 10:32:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-22 14:32:57 [post_content] => One day, when I was nineteen and had recently moved to New York City to study at the League, I accosted Alice Neel in public to solicit her opinion of a painting I was working on. To be clear, I may have been fueled by youthful impetuousness, but it was not an arbitrary gesture. Neel was one of a handful of preeminent New York figure painters of her generation, and at that time her art appealed to me far more than did the work of traditional portrait painters. Her confirmation mattered to me. Some years later our paths crossed again, albeit less directly; Ms. Neel had died by the time one of her granddaughters sat for me.  [caption id="attachment_25902" align="aligncenter" width="922"]alice neel Installation view, Alice Neel: Uptown, at David Zwirner New York, February 23 – April 22, 2017. © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Victoria Miro, London[/caption] Neel was the least conventional of portrait artists, so it’s a little ironic that she ended up painting portraits of famous contemporaries—by virtue of the subject's notoriety, her painting of Warhol is probably her best known work. But before she was accepted in the high rent district, Neel lived in Spanish Harlem and painted her neighbors. They are the subject of the current exhibition at David Zwirner, Alice Neel, Uptown. Curated by Hilton Als, the show focuses on Neel's portraits between 1943 and 1979, particularly those of people of color, whose presences have been largely omitted from Western art. If the theme has political undertones, Als notes that Neel's "work was not marred by ideological concerns; what fascinated her was the breadth of humanity that she encountered in her studio, on canvas." The show’s problem, and it is nearly lethal, is its physical presentation. The impact of the paintings is undercut by both the minimalism of the gallery’s design and its warehouse scale. Even the largest canvases are overwhelmed by the space, and all would have benefited from a tighter and more boisterous interplay. [caption id="attachment_25903" align="alignleft" width="400"]alice neel Alice Neel, Julie and the Doll, 1943, oil on canvas, 28⅛ x 20¼ in. The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Victoria Miro, London[/caption] Although born in Pennsylvania, Neel was very much a New Yorker; her forays to a summer cottage in Spring Lake, New Jersey, yielded no series of pastoral reveries. As a young artist she tried numerous styles, by turns painterly, graphic or surreal, and often raw. Neel's early years were a catalogue of unsettling events, which included a lover who destroyed much of her work and a suicide attempt that resulted in lengthy hospitalization. It's appropriate to ascribe her belated recognition to misogyny, yet she also didn't mature as an artist until middle age. Even after she had resolved a preference for portraits set in a shallow space, Neel sought variety through pose, color, and expression. She adapted to the subject and to pictorial demands.  Balancing a measured analysis of the sitter with the impulse for self-projection is a challenge for every painter of portraits, especially for Neel, who studied her subjects with particular intensity, and transcribed them through a filter unlike anyone else’s—it’s fitting that a larger retrospective of her work is simultaneously running at the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, France. She claimed to have become subsumed by her subjects while painting them, but that’s hard to believe; one wonders if the subject of Julie and the Doll, the earliest painting here, was as hard-boiled as Neel made her out to be. The miracle is that she didn’t entirely overpower her sitters’ identities. She bade them reveal themselves as she saw them, and a good many of them appear to have responded transparently, if not eagerly. Neel recalled that the youngsters who sat for Two Puerto Rican Boys volunteered to pose after hearing that she had painted Spanish children. Neel was, it may be surmised, looking for people who were as marginalized and as "real" as she was, those whose experiences paralleled her own. One could argue that a woman artist who ignored social expectations was particularly well-positioned to study the impact of those very conventions. How many white women painters in the 1940s, no matter how bohemian, opted for Spanish Harlem over Greenwich Village? Her immediate spiritual predecessor, similarly honest and ballsy, was Suzanne Valadon. [caption id="attachment_25910" align="alignright" width="418"]alice neel Alice Neel, Two Puerto Rican Boys, 1956, oil on canvas, 32 x 28 in. Jeff and Mei Sze Greene Collection. © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Victoria Miro, London[/caption] The directness of Neel's best work is on display here in several remarkable portraits. Anselmo is a sympathetic painting of a neighborhood handyman, its intimacy underscored by the tight cropping of the figure. Horace Cayton, an educator and author, is depicted in a dim light that evokes the kind of apartment familiar to millions of city dwellers (later, Neel’s palette grew more luminous, as in Pregnant Maria, due in part to her transition to a more light-filled apartment). Once you get past the rich painterly properties of Black Spanish-American Family, there are three distinctive personalities to acknowledge. The girls’ expressions suggest too much worldly awareness for their ages, and their mother, seated protectively between daughters, is a closed book. Two Puerto Rican Boys is less densely painted, and has the spontaneous appearance, with its unfinished passages, typical of Neel's later work. Viewing these, one is struck by their documentary quality, though there is always a life force to Neel’s art that one misses in the era’s editorial and often morose black and white photojournalism. The least characteristic painting here is the most polished, that of Alice Childress, a major actress and playwright, rendered in noble profile. It is one of the few times that the artist seems to have been awed by her subject. [caption id="attachment_25917" align="alignleft" width="399"]alice neel Alice Neel, Kanuthia, 1973, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Victoria Miro, London[/caption] It's more satisfying to see Neel fully herself, warts and all. There is in her painting an indecipherable mix of the sophisticated and the naive. She often tends toward caricature, making the heads outsized—this had its benefits in the form of establishing an African-American iconography, as in powerful images of Abdul Rahman and Kanuthia—and outlining her subjects' eye sockets with dark paint while leaving pure canvas for the white portions. Arms and legs are rubbery, and the drawing of hands routinely borders on the tortured, to the extent that they are expository of Neel's personality rather than revealing her sitters'. If her eccentricities are irksome, fine. Bob Dylan's voice gets on my nerves, too. Neel was an original. Als' appreciation for Neel's paintings of her Spanish Harlem neighbors is poignant: "There was a quality I shared with her subjects, all of whom were seen through the lens of Neel's interest, and compassion." Isolating these portraits from those she painted of white cognoscenti raises interesting and troubling questions. Neel may have been free of overt political agenda, and the catchall designation of social realism hardly seems appropriate. Her interest was psychic complexity, and all the better if she could drill down to discomfort. She painted people who didn't look like her, and that's true, insofar as we're resigned to treating skin color as a defining attribute. Neel painted people who felt like she did, or at least those upon whom she could project her own agitations. Hers is not the most profound portraiture—it tends to be broad in its characterizations, and values the slap over the whisper—but it is personal, vital, and, to use the current term, inclusive. That alone still has the power to gain our attention.
Alice Neel, Uptown, will be at David Zwirner, 525 & 533 West 19th Street, until April 22, 2017. [post_title] => Portraits of Color [post_excerpt] => How many white women painters in the 1940s, no matter how bohemian, opted for Spanish Harlem over Greenwich Village? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => alice-neel-david-zwirner [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-23 09:45:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-23 13:45:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25897 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25716 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-03-07 07:07:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-07 12:07:46 [post_content] =>

One of my favorite painters, or at least one to whom I'm most grateful, is Whistler, for he upset British art by attempting to remove the expectation that paintings tell a story. The determination to avoid narrative in visual art may seem like going to the movies solely to admire the cinematography, a myopia of which I'm partly guilty. Let the work stand or fall on its intrinsic merit, without resorting to anecdote. Of course, there's banality lurking in the purely formal approach as well. By choice my Instagram feed is dominated by observational painters, for whom the temptation to showcase technical bravado is sometimes hard to suppress. 

[caption id="attachment_25725" align="alignleft" width="507"]Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports J.M.W. Turner, Harbor of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile, exhibited 1825, but subsequently dated 1826, oil on canvas, 68⅜ x 88¾ in. The Frick Collection, New York. Photo: Michael Bodycomb[/caption]

Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages through Time, recently opened at the Frick Collection, is predicated on the artist's interest in historical narrative. I came, however, for the spectacle of Turner’s art, and I'm assuming that a lot of the visitors who crowded the exhibition Saturday weren't there to learn about a grieving widow arriving with her husband's remains on the Tiber, nor how the incident foreshadowed the downfall of the Roman Empire. That canvas's title is a plump piece of text: Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus. The Triumphal Bridge and Palace of the Caesars Restored. Turner was doing what many artists prior to the Impressionists did with landscape, referring to classical themes per the example of Claude Lorrain. Painters borrow what they need; Monet looked at Turner and dispensed with the Claudian rhetoric and kept the atmosphere, which Turner supplied in breathtaking abundance. In Aggripina, the bridge in the middle distance and the palace beyond are shrouded in golden haze. This surely symbolizes the glory of an era long past, a theme that couldn’t interest me less. To me the painting is a burnished reference to two canvases Turner produced five years earlier that depicted the burning of Parliament. The undercurrent—if not the very subject that would preoccupy his maturity—was evanescence, the mutability of material form as well as human institutions. For Turner, a conflagration was a blessedly dramatic symbol of material destruction, though the steady drip of human degradation offered content enough. If the artist who gave us the pessimism of Fallacies of Hope and Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying was cynical about mankind, his joyousness was unconstrained in the act of painting and the palette he chose. He adored the dazzling luminescence of sunlight. His contemporaries grumbled about the amount of yellow he used.

[caption id="attachment_25724" align="alignright" width="503"]Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports J.M.W. Turner, Cologne, the Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening, exhibited 1826, oil on canvas, 66⅜ x 88¼ in. The Frick Collection, New York. Photo: Michael Bodycomb[/caption] The glorious trio of harbor views that dominate the Oval Room represent an apogee of Turner's middle period. At the flanks are two paintings owned by the Frick, and which usually face one another and anchor opposing walls of the West Gallery. To the left is the radiant Harbor of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile, its bustling shoreline and rows of mercantile traffic opening to the horizon; at the distant center is the parish church of St. Jacques, the facade of which would later serve as the imposing subject in a series of paintings by Whistler’s disciple, Walter Sickert (who, incidentally, was absolutely smitten by the storytelling impulse, and is one of my favorite modern painters anyway). To the right is Cologne, the Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening, a luminous if less romantic harbor view, its skyline punctuated by sails and a series of medieval spires. With diagonal shadows falling across the buildings at right and twisted frames from abandoned fishing nets semi-submerged in the foreground, it's a more dynamic and eccentric composition. Between them, on loan from the Tate, is the unfinished The Harbor of Brest: The Quayside and Chateau. Oh, the indignities The Harbor of Brest has endured: along with other canvases, it was long consigned to the basement of the National Gallery in London. In 1943 Kenneth Clark, searching for air raid shelters under the museum, found paintings so covered with grime and disfigured by humidity he thought they were tarpaulins, and realized otherwise only after attacking one with a soapy scrub brush. The current state of The Harbor of Brest is the product of several restorations. What's delineated in the Frick's canvases is evocative in the Tate's, and one can appreciate the Brest all the more in this context. The painting's abstract forms and glowing light reveal how much of Turner's vision was baked into a canvas from the early stages, and act as happy confirmation to those of us who teach the studio gospel of working from large to small. Thankfully, Turner left a substantial number of broadly painted and incomplete works. These reveal much about his technical methods and his aesthetic intent, and to our eye they are the more powerful for what's left out. [caption id="attachment_25728" align="alignleft" width="515"]Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports J.M.W. Turner, The Harbor of Brest: The Quayside and Château, ca. 1826–28. oil on canvas, 68 x 88 in. Tate; Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London 2016.[/caption] Admittedly, you can't get to the one place without going through the other. Although abstraction is necessary as a foundation for detail, the ability to bring work to an elaborate state fortifies subsequent paring down of non-essential information. A painter has to overwork in order to learn how to better simplify; late Turner needed to be early Turner first. In that spirit I could visit the adjoining East Gallery, which is filled with several dozen small, finely detailed watercolors. These evidence Turner's technical aptitude, and establish the foundation for his application of transparent washes in oil, a connection between the media that is more obvious than with any other great painter. Like the major oils here, the aquarelles date from the mid-1820s, and most of them were painted to be transcribed to prints for tourist publications. They're travelogues weighted with topographical accuracy; richly painted as they are, they remain highly controlled performances for a commercial purpose. The watercolors that knocked me out are a handful of very rapid color notes done on the spot, excited abbreviations of what the artist saw on excursions to Dieppe and Cologne. [caption id="attachment_25723" align="alignright" width="500"]Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports J.M.W. Turner, Brighthelmston, Sussex, for Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England, ca. 1824, watercolor on paper, 5¾ x 8¾ in. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; Purchased 2012 with assistance from The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Royal Pavilion & Museums Foundation.[/caption] It was these rapid watercolors that served as my gateway drug to Turner. I was painting plein-air New York cityscapes when I was introduced to Andrew Wilton's books featuring the European and Venetian color sketches that Turner made on the fly during his prolific travels. Unless I was willfully conflating the west tower of Brooklyn Bridge with a medieval church (well, yes!) it's hard to explain how these were relevant to the factual presentations I was making of the waterfront—it's a long way from Giudecca to the East River—but probably I recognized someone who was gobsmacked by the surroundings, and who was able to distill monumental views with economy of means. Turner possessed the requisite discipline to commit observations to paper, a visual reporter who was perpetually taking notes. Later, in the studio, the big oils grew out of the fast watercolors. A painting like The Harbor of Brest retains brevity while doubling down on everything that counts: anthemic scale, glowing color and an indescribable spiritual aura, of the sort that would have been compromised by further elaboration. This is the Turner who must have seemed awfully eccentric to his contemporaries, but who resonates with the modern aesthetic. We don't know the reason he never finished this exhibition's centerpiece, but it's worth floating a guess. Turner wasn't averse to including everyday grit in his paintings; the Cologne canvas features a pipe spewing refuse into the river while a dog laps at the water nearby. But Brest offered a more disturbing prose. Writing in the show's catalogue, Gillian Forrester notes that "had he completed and exhibited his painting of the port of Brest, a hub of the transatlantic slave trade, it likely would have seemed to its viewers freighted with associations with slavery." Any suggestion that these ships were involved in such transport, or perhaps the mere mention of the city, would have negated the canvas's classical references, let alone the transcendent abstraction we enjoy today. Turner may well have concluded that he didn't want a pre-loaded storyline to co-opt public perception of the work. The canvas remained in his studio, unfinished at the time of his death. The narrative intent is forever sublimated to the beauty of the painting, which is one reason I like it so.

Turner’s Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages through Time is on view at the Frick Collection through May 14, 2017.

[post_title] => Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports [post_excerpt] => Turner's narrative intent is forever sublimated to the beauty of the painting. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => j-m-w-turner-modern-and-ancient-ports [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-08 16:27:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-08 21:27:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25716 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25611 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-03-02 07:46:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-02 12:46:13 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_25649" align="alignright" width="380"]Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden Jacques-André-Joseph Aved, Portrait of Count Carl Gustaf Tessin, 1740, oil on canvas. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. All photos: Cecilia Heisser / Nationalmuseum.[/caption]

The Morgan Library is currently hosting Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin, a selection of more than seventy-five drawings and paintings on loan from Stockholm while the museum undergoes renovation. The Nationalmuseum, which now holds nearly half a million drawings, was founded in the late 1700s with the collection of Count Carl Gustaf Tessin, a Swedish politician, diplomat and inveterate art aficionado. Tessin is the subject of a portrait he commissioned from Jacques André-Joseph Aved, which serves as a frontispiece for the exhibition. He is seen seated in his dressing gown in a scholarly milieu, holding a print of a Raphael drawing. Six sessions into the painting, Tessin noted that Aved had "merely sketched the eyebrows and eyelids," but the painstaking approach paid off, for when the portrait was completed it met with generous praise. In private, the subject expressed regret that he hadn't hired a more prominent portraitist, with the belated observation that you get what you pay for (for the record, Aved was good enough to have taught both Boucher and Chardin). It is, in fact, a very good work of its kind: the figure and fabrics, especially the fine silk robe and embroidered lace shirt, are beautifully painted. Perhaps Tessin was uncomfortable with the characterization, since his small mouth and soft jowls are more suggestive of dissolution than of his formidable political and oratorical skills. As a young man, Tessin travelled to Paris and Italy, ostensibly to study architecture and continue his father's business; instead he enjoyed a social life in the company of women and card players. A political career followed, and Tessin held a government position equivalent to that of Prime Minister. His discerning eye and profligate spending would eventually benefit Sweden's cultural holdings. While in Paris in the early 1740s, Tessin couldn't get enough art, befriending the best painters in the city and buying old master drawings in quantity until he went broke. Fortunately, his friend King Fredrik I bailed him out by purchasing the collection as a gift to the queen, and this subsequently formed the nucleus of Sweden's national collection. 

[caption id="attachment_25632" align="alignleft" width="416"]Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden François Boucher, The Triumph of Venus, 1740, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.[/caption]

In addition to his portrait, two other paintings Tessin commissioned in 1740 are included here. Endearing is Jean-Baptiste Oudry's portrait of Pehr, Tessin's favorite hunting dog and traveling companion; it must be the most noble depiction of a dachshund in art history. Tessin's marquee commission was Boucher's The Triumph of Venus, one of the artist's acknowledged masterpieces. Notwithstanding my weakness for toutes choses féminines, everything about this makes my teeth hurt. The painting's softly sanitized eroticism and false color foreshadow the perfumed fantasies of lesser nineteenth-century French painting, when the aristocratic ideal of the nude was updated for the bourgeoisie. But it's also the precursor to Renoir, whose adoration of the female form, while equally palpable, was born of earthier soil.

[caption id="attachment_25634" align="alignright" width="355"]Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden Jean Siméon Chardin, Young Student Drawing, 1733–35, oil on oak, 19.5 x 17.5 cm. Nationalmuseum,
Stockholm.[/caption]

There is gentle remonstration close by in the form of a bunch of small oils by Chardin, a painter of domestic life who at his best is just a brush length short of Vermeer. Woman Drawing Water from a Water Urn is an early figure piece, but it signals Chardin's compositional strengths, fondness for setting white drapery against warm interiors, and signature clotted build-up of paint, one of the most subtle and satisfyingly tangible pleasures in western art. His Young Student Drawing, well-known through reproductions, is astonishingly tiny, and slicked-up as the panel is with varnish it is easier to view in the show's catalogue than in the flesh.

[caption id="attachment_25636" align="alignleft" width="359"]Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Study for the Figure of Esther in The Great Jewish Bride, 1635, pen and gray- brown and dark brown ink, brown and gray wash, on beige paper. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.[/caption]

Most of the show is devoted to old master drawings, which has always been the Morgan's specialty. The works on paper include drawings from France, Italy, Germany, Flanders and the Netherlands. The drawings are as varied as the nations, some delicate, some boisterous, some intense and some Rembrandt. The Dutchman's pen and brush drawings are the liveliest things in the building. Study for the Figure of Esther in the Great Jewish Bride, impetuous and imperfect, nonetheless carves a magnificent space with a fusillade of ink gashes, loops and washes. We have the luxury of appreciating the radical shorthand of these private notations, and can only imagine what a large canvas, painted with commensurate ferocity and economy, would have looked like. It would be two centuries before Daumier retained such visceral draftsmanship in his painting.

[caption id="attachment_25635" align="alignright" width="343"]Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden Antoine Watteau, Four Studies of a Young Woman’s Head, ca. 1720, red, black, and white chalk. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.[/caption]

To my surprise, a charcoal and chalk portrait by Dürer is more tender than intense, and is excelled in that form of sobriety that seems particularly Northern by Lucas van Leyden's Portrait of a Man with a Cast in his Eye, drawn the same year the two artists met in Antwerp. Van Leyden's controlled hatching in black chalk is nearly preternatural, and renders the three-dimensional appearance of the man's skin and clothing with cool precision. A Hendrick Goltzius self-portrait in colored chalks is bland by comparison, a business card advertising the artist's respectability. The master of trois crayons was Watteau, whose Four Studies of a Young Woman's Head displays a characteristic delicacy of touch. His Three Studies of the Head of a Young Man, a more successfully composed grouping, is the counterproof of a celebrated drawing in the Louvre. Watteau often produced reverse images by moistening a sheet of paper, placing it on the original drawing and running it through a press. That the results lack the snap of an original can be seen by comparing these two drawings, hung side by side.

[caption id="attachment_25637" align="alignleft" width="499"]Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden Raphael (Raffaello Santi), Adoration of the Infant Christ, ca. 1503–4, pen and brown ink, incised for transfer. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.[/caption]

Raphael's Adoration of the Infant Christ, a pen and ink study, exhibits an incomparable sense of harmony both in the disposition of individual figures and their grouping with respect to the overall design. In the early 1500s Raphael's drawing still revealed echoes of his contemporaries—he was only twenty-one or so when he drew this—yet his distinctive draftsmanship and humanism were already apparent. The more naturalistic impulse in Italian Renaissance art is exemplified by Ghirlandaio's renowned Head of an Old Man, about which the scholarship will be forever inconclusive as to whether the subject was observed while sleeping or dead; and by Annibale Carracci's life study of a reclining male nude, a marvelous essay in foreshortening, so sensually apprehended that it was long attributed to Correggio.

Tessin's years in Paris were not devoted solely to collecting, for he was engaged in strengthening a long-neglected alliance with France. He made diplomatic overtures to Denmark, and supported a losing war against Russia. Prominent a political figure as he was, Tessin may now be better remembered for his art collection. There is comfort in that. If we sometimes seem to be fairly drowning in the chaos of the newsworthy, the Morgan's show is a reminder of what's lasting. 

Politica est brevis, ars aeternum


Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin is on view at the Morgan Library through May 14, 2017.

[post_title] => Swedish Treasures at the Morgan Library [post_excerpt] => Gems from the collection of Count Carl Gustaf Tessin that became the nucleus of the Nationalmuseum of Sweden, founded in 1792. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => swedish-treasures-morgan-library [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-02 07:49:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-02 12:49:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25611 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25495 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-02-21 14:31:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-21 19:31:10 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_25503" align="alignright" width="450"]Alfred Sisley Bruce Museum Alfred Sisley, The Seine at Bougival, 1872, oil on canvas, 50.8 x 65.5 cm. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Gift of Henry Johnson Fisher, B.A. 1896 (1962.54). [/caption]

In the second half of the nineteenth century, art history, in one of its many benevolent permutations, provided a landscape painter with Corot's sensibility and Monet's touch. This brilliant hybrid—Alfred Sisley—has, alone among the original Impressionists, been treated with benign neglect. A primary and much documented reason for this was his ability to synthesize influences, not only those of Corot and Monet, but Constable and Renoir as well, without the ambition to mold his borrowings into an instantly recognizable and trademark-ready product. All artists are hybrids, so to speak, but Sisley sails especially in Monet's slipstream. Robert Rosenblum echoed more than a century of criticism when he dismissed his work as a "generic" example of the movement, which is like calling George Harrison the quiet Beatle. Kenneth Clark had it right when he pronounced the work Sisley produced during an 1874 trip to England "a perfect moment of Impressionism."

Scholarship's way of correcting such oversights is to mount retrospectives and publish catalogues, and this is now being done on Sisley's behalf. The catch is that Alfred Sisley (1839–1899): Impressionist Master, isn't hosted by the Met or the National Gallery, but is installed in the Bruce Museum, a modest building on a Greenwich, Connecticut hilltop overlooking I-95. It's a plum get for the Bruce, and an inexplicable miss for any number of major museums. [caption id="attachment_25506" align="alignleft" width="450"] Alfred Sisley, Flood at Port-Marly, 1872, oil on canvas, 46.4 x 61 cm. National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon[/caption] Sisley was the least experimental of the Impressionists, peaking early to mid-career and adhering closely to the movement's original precepts his entire working life. He was exclusively a plein-air painter, and once he found his rhythm he held fast to it. Sisley was, according to his biographer Richard Shone in the exhibition's fine catalogue, "one of the first European painters to dedicate himself almost exclusively to pure landscape." He painted beautifully and helped to create the archetype of the painter working out of doors, responsive to nature and its transitions. At this moment a hundred thousand artists are attempting much the same thing, and none of us are doing it as well. The notion that he ought to have been more innovative needs to be put to rest. Sisley’s strengths included an ability to render atmosphere; solid draftsmanship; truthfulness of tone; and most importantly, a gentle integrity. The last quality refers to the personal character of the artist, insofar as it's possible to suss it out based solely on the evidence of the art. Sisley left virtually no autobiographical breadcrumbs, and there's just one letter by his hand explaining his art. We know that he befriended Monet, Renoir and Bazille in Charles Gleyre’s Paris atelier in the early 1860s. His studio at Bougival was overrun by enemy soldiers during the Franco-Prussian War, and any early work housed therein was destroyed (Camille Pissarro suffered the same crisis at his home in Louveciennes, where his canvases were used as doormats by Prussian soldiers). In later years he decamped to the countryside at some distance from Paris, where he lived in semi-seclusion and at arm's length from success. Other than some basic familial details, we don’t know much more about him than that. [caption id="attachment_25504" align="alignright" width="451"]Alfred Sisley Bruce Museum Alfred Sisley, The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne, 1872, oil on canvas, 49.5 x 65.4 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ittleson, Jr., 1964 (64.287). [/caption] The Bruce's show is comprised of some fifty paintings; several dozen are extraordinary. Maybe the most famous is Flood at Port-Marly, one of a series of canvases in which Sisley chronicled the overflow of the Seine. There isn't a false note in the painting, either in terms of color or understated sentiment; if one missed the title it would be easy to accept the view as commonplace, as if we've happened upon some quaint French Venice. In spirit this is as close to Corot as any painter of Sisley's generation got, which is to say that whether he was painting the movement of trees in the wind, flowing water or scudding clouds, the abiding mood is tranquil. In The Seine at Bougival, the weather is similarly gray. I've looked at the painting in reproduction for decades, and been impressed by its silver palette and striking reflections, without ever taking conscious notice of the picture's stringent geometry. Sisley sliced the view straight down the middle vertically, and again on the horizontal axis. A piece of sky at the far left and the jagged contours of the foreground boats break up the quadrants, and, as always with Sisley, the touch is so flickering that the formality of design is obscured. That calligraphic touch owes a lot to Monet, but there's a distinctive reserve that one is tempted to ascribe to Sisley's English heritage. Even the elation of a perfect day is distilled through an even temperament. The blanching sunlight of The Bridge of Villeneuve-la-Garenne, a high point of Impressionism, is painted with a cool palette. The paint's tactile quality is evident in the dirt and foliage on the riverbank, the reflections under the bridge and, most notably, in the windswept clouds, where Sisley animated the naturalism of his observations with a measured exuberance. Twenty years later he wrote: "Is there anything more beautiful and more moving than the sky that is so frequently found in summer. I am talking about the blue sky with white, drifting clouds. What movement, what allure, don't you agree?...I always begin by painting the sky." [caption id="attachment_25502" align="alignleft" width="478"]Alfred Sisley Bruce Museum Alfred Sisley, Under Hampton Court Bridge, 1874, oil on canvas, 50 x 76 cm. Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Donated by Dr. Herbert and Charlotte Wolfer-de-Armas, 1973. © Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich, Lutz Hartmann[/caption] This could not have been true of at least one painting in the exhibition, Under Hampton Court Bridge. For its dominating symmetry and excision of sky, Under Hampton Court Bridge is nearly anomalous in Sisley's mature output. Ever the master of atmosphere, here Sisley ceded his subtle strength in favor of vertiginous linear perspective. The painter placed himself directly under the bridge, so that the subject is both the stalwart architectural structure and the landscape glimpsed through multiple windows opened between the bridge's pylons. His church facades at Moret-sur-Loing of the 1890s, several of which are represented at the Bruce, are neither so oppressive nor so airy. The Hampton Court paintings are those of an artist in his prime, fueled in part by the proximity of his colleagues; by the time Sisley settled in Moret in 1882 he had begun to work in greater isolation. In 1892 he wrote, "I will never really leave this little place that is so picturesque." Sisley merits a more impressive venue, but that will wait for another time. Right now Greenwich is host to a perfect moment of Impressionism. 

Alfred Sisley (1839-1899): Impressionist Master is on view at the Bruce Museum through May 21. 

[post_title] => Impressionism’s Perfect Moment [post_excerpt] => Alfred Sisley possessed the ability to synthesize influences, not only those of Corot and Monet, but Constable and Renoir as well, without the ambition to mold his borrowings into an instantly recognizable and trademark-ready product. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => alfred-sisley-bruce-museum [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-22 21:19:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-23 02:19:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25495 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25395 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2017-02-09 11:48:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-09 16:48:34 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_25397" align="aligncenter" width="940"]Gifford Beal On the Hudson at Newburgh Gifford Beal, On the Hudson at Newburgh, 1918, oil on canvas, 36 x 58½ in. The Phillips Collection.[/caption] For his latest "Master Class" column in April 2017 issue of The Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss writes about Gifford Beal's On the Hudson at Newburgh (1918), "a lost treasure found," that is part of the exhibition World War I and American Art, now on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Beal studied with William Merritt Chase and later served for thirteen years as president of the League's board of control. You can read Weiss's article, "Hidden No Longer," online here.  [post_title] => A Gifford Beal Painting Rediscovered [post_excerpt] => A Gifford Beal canvas perfectly preserved for seventy-five years beneath another. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gifford-beal-on-the-hudson-at-newburgh [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 08:59:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 12:59:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25395 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25178 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-01-31 10:02:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-31 15:02:36 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_25180" align="alignright" width="434"]Yale University Art Gallery Maurice Prendergast, Piazza of St. Mark’s, ca. 1898–99. Watercolor and pencil on paper. Private collection[/caption]

On a visit last week to New Haven, all roads led to Venice, or so it seemed to me. What with the midday traffic on Church Street, maybe I just wanted to go somewhere far away, where there are no cars. 

A Venetian thread is admittedly a tenuous theme with which to connect the Yale University Art Gallery and the nearby Yale Center for British Art, but it speaks to the hold the floating city had on generations of artists, and the spell it generates still. Aldro Hibbard's oil of the Piazza at St. Mark's and Maurice Prendergast's watercolor of the same subject are, incongruously, among the first works in the Art Gallery's current exhibition, It Was a New Century: Reflections on Modern America. So be it. Prendergast has always been an anomaly, by virtue of his official affiliation with the urban painters of The Eight, and in the broader scheme by not fitting conveniently into any American movement. His oils, flat, thick and decorative, give him art historical street cred, but his watercolors, with their Morse code dots and dashes of semi-transparent color, place Prendergast among the very best American practitioners. The more characteristic members of the Ashcan School are here too: Robert Henri is represented by a large theatrical portrait; Everett Shinn by pastels that are sometimes more flimsy than evanescent; Ernest Lawson—whose French palette adapted to city subjects—by a lovely view of the Harlem River; George Luks, with a vigorous handling of a horse race; and George Bellows, whose lithographs of New York boxing scenes end the show with style and bite. There are some fine Homer watercolors, their terse designs contrasting with the intricacy of those by Prendergast.

[caption id="attachment_25181" align="alignleft" width="483"]Yale University Art Gallery George Bellows, A Stag at Sharkey’s, 1917. Lithograph. Private collection[/caption]

My favorite work in the show may be William Merritt Chase's A Bit of the Terrace, which beats similar images by his European counterparts by transforming the urban park from an Elysian to a domestic and autobiographical setting. It took a generation for Henri and his followers to displace Chase's debonair vision, but I'm less convinced than I used to be that the urban subjects of The Eight were any more realistic than the art they supplanted. Their case here is best made by Bellows, whose prints are both boisterous and grave at the same time; in other words, he was perfectly suited by temperament to be a New York City artist. The exhibition—all the work derives from a single private collection—reads like a condensed version of the Met's 1994 anthology on American painting at the turn of the century. With an Adriatic touch.

[caption id="attachment_25188" align="alignright" width="366"] Robert Burnard, John Gubbins Newton and His Sister, Mary Newton, ca. 1833, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection[/caption]

Down the block and across the street is the Center for British Art, its airy and elegant interior spaces having reopened last spring after a year and a half of renovations. This is very good news if, like me, you have Anglophilic tendencies. Highlights of the collection have been reinstalled on the fourth and fifth floors, as part of a long-term exhibition entitled Britain in the World. Therein is the largest collection of British painting in the country, more of which is now accessible thanks to an extensive hall with paintings hung salon style. Breadth and depth are separate qualities, and I'm reminded of the Metropolitan Museum's decision in the 1990s to make more of its American holdings public on movable walls. This is a mixed blessing. Scholars will be pleased, but anyone hoping for a revelation of previously sequestered masterpieces will be disappointed. In other words, we weren’t missing much before.

There is, however, just such a surprise around the corner from the usual suspects (Constable and Turner, to whom we'll return shortly), in the guise of a brother and sister portrait by Robert Burnard. His painting of John Gubbins Newton and Mary Newton exists apart from the contemporaneous grand manner; it is a provincial work, of a sobriety in tone and character that is nearly primitive, yet it is so cleanly drawn that its creator was surely well trained. Every part—the children's faces and clothing, the horse, and the dog whose tail is alertly erect—is painted with an earnest realism that suggests a Northern influence (I'm thinking of the Danish painter Christen Købke). Burnard, it seems, was a house painter and plumber, and the present canvas was attributed to him in 2001. Yale claims that it is his only known work, though an Australian collection attributes a still life to him. Either way, his anonymity remains fairly secure. 

[caption id="attachment_25187" align="alignleft" width="497"] Richard Parkes Bonington, Grand Canal, Venice, 1826, Oil on millboard, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection[/caption]

Notwithstanding the portraits by Reynolds and Lawrence and George Stubbs's horses, the collection's cornerstone is Romantic landscape. Yale is famously rich in Constable studies, the little meteorological notes he made of passing clouds that nearly every plein-air artist since has emulated; miracles of inspired temporal observation, they are now hung by the dozen on opposite walls. These virtuosic notes reach a crescendo in his painting of Hadleigh Castle, wherein clouds pile ominously, in what's traditionally interpreted as an expression of grief over the recent death of his wife. Nearby are Turner's large scale evocations of sea and storm in Staffa, Fingal's Cave, based on both a real Scottish island and a then wildly popular myth, and the blinding radiance of sunrise that obliterates all detail in Inverary Pier, Loch Fyne: Morning, a canvas no less effective for being unfinished. Constable's romantic impulses were forever tied to his familiar English countryside; Turner traveled widely, yet for all the topographical notes he made, his earth, sea and sky eventually became equally vaporous elements all but freed from recognizable touchstones. The third great British master of the genre, had he lived long enough, would have been Richard Parkes Bonington. He, too, is well represented at Yale, by studio pieces as well as plein air sketches. Bonington was the swiftest draftsman of the lot, and there's a scintillating lightness to his touch that belies a melancholic nature. His Landscape near Quilleboeuf, Franceis the most serene painting in the collection, but I favor the clear colors and architectural precision of his Grand Canal, Venice. As a plein-air painter traveling through Italy in 1826, Bonington was working at a level close to that of Corot, who happened to be painting in and around Rome at precisely the same moment.

[caption id="attachment_25185" align="alignleft" width="329"] Walter Richard Sickert, La Giuseppina, 1903 to 1904, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund[/caption]

The other Venetian painting I'd hoped to revisit was Walter Sickert's L'Ospedale Civile, Venice, but it's not currently on view. As Canaletto, Turner, Bonington, and his mentor Whistler had done before him, Sickert staked Venice as his own territory, visiting repeatedly from 1895 to 1904. Having exhausted the outdoor scenery, on his last foray he stayed in a rented room and hired prostitutes to pose for works that foreshadowed his Camden Town interiors. Yale's La Giuseppina hails from this series, and it's cleverly installed—one can fairly hear a curator chuckling—beside Gwen John's Study of a Nun, which shares a Whistlerian palette.

There's far more to the British collection, ranging from van Dyck to Hogarth, Gainsborough, Bacon, and Uglow. Although the European and American collections were not on view in the Art Gallery, what is up now is very much worth the trip, all the more so on a given weekday when guards are nearly as numerous as guests.

On my way out of town, Siri sought the quickest route through downtown traffic by directing a u-turn on College Street. "Really?" I asked the dashboard, and wondered if vaporetti are equipped with GPS.


It Was a New Century: Reflections on Modern America will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery until June 4, 2017. At the Yale Center for British Art, Britain in the World is up through December 31, 2017.

[post_title] => The View from Chapel Street [post_excerpt] => On a visit last week to New Haven, all roads led to Venice, or so it seemed to me. What with the midday traffic on Church Street, maybe I just wanted to go somewhere far away, where there are no cars. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => view-chapel-street [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-02 09:36:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-02 14:36:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=25178 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24907 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-12-21 11:33:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-21 16:33:15 [post_content] =>

It took me nearly three and a half months to visit the Clare Eddy Thaw gallery of the Morgan Library and view Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece. There's none of the obvious improvisation we direct painters enjoy—rather than oomph, we get delicacy and earnestness. With its hard edges and humble scale, Flemish art of the late fifteenth century may still look primitive as it emerges from Gothic stylization, but it claims that things are observable and knowable, and can be transcribed with astonishing clarity. Memling and his contemporaries mixed fact and the fantastic as a matter of course. They were regularly called upon to juxtapose elements taken from life with the conventions of imagined narrative, as often happened when artists were commissioned to place patrons in devotional pieces.

[caption id="attachment_24912" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Hans Memling Morgan Library Hans Memling, The Triptych of Jan Crabbe, ca. 1467–70, oil on panel. Center panel: Image courtesy of Pinacoteca Civica di Palazzo Chiericati, Vicenza. Left and right panels: © The Morgan Library & Museum, Photography by Graham S. Haber.[/caption]

Born in Germany, Memling set up shop in Bruges by the mid-1460s. This allowed him to take advantage of the city's international trade, an arrangement that worked both ways: he had access to patrons from all over Europe, and Florentine artists became familiar with his paintings. Raphael took note of his portrait designs, and his work was collected in France and England in the century following his death in 1494. Since the humanism of the Italian Renaissance didn't reach the North until sometime around 1500, he had a greater influence on Italian art than vice versa.  

[caption id="attachment_24916" align="alignleft" width="261"]Hans Memling Morgan Library Hans Memling, Old Woman at Prayer with St. Anne (left panel), ca. 1470, oil on canvas. ©The Morgan Library & Museum, Photography by Graham S. Haber.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_24915" align="alignright" width="264"]Hans Memling Morgan Library Hans Memling, Young Man at Prayer with St. William of Maleval, ca. 1470, oil on canvas. ©The Morgan Library & Museum, Photography by Graham S. Haber.[/caption]

At the center of the Morgan's exhibition is the reunion of far-flung components of the Triptych of Jan Crabbe, an altarpiece Memling painted around 1470 and which was at some point disassembled so that its parts could be sold separately. The interior wing panels belong to the Morgan, while the main panel traveled from the Musei Civici at Vicenza and the exterior wings have been leant by the Groeningemuseum in Bruges. The center panel, the worse for wear, depicts Crabbe, a monastery abbot and well-known humanist, accompanying a group of saints at the Crucifixion. Its modern attribution to Memling dates from 1892, before which time it was thought to be by Jan van Eyck. Flanking it are the Morgan's panels, the left showing Crabbe's mother kneeling in prayer, the right with his half-brother doing likewise. The triptych is held together by an invented landscape that, while not offering a seamless transition between the three parts, is close enough to establish topographical coherence. Also unifying the panels is a consistent flat light that gives the figures the appearance of a bas-relief, and transforms their drapery into glazed parchment. Like the figures, the landscape is painted with an attention to detail that is at once naive and scrupulous, and is a lesson in pictorial relationship. Elaborate details of distant vegetation and architecture remain secondary to the main story, owing more to the color and mass of the figures' clothing than their actions or expressions—the blue, red, and white robes account for the painting’s animation. Installed on the reverse are the outer wings, which illustrate the Annunciation with the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel. They are painted in demi-grisaille, with their white drapery intended to mimic sculpture, and the figures imbued with skin tone. This was an innovation credited largely to Memling, and indicates a "meta" conception, the artist playing with perceptions of illusionism in a way he could not elsewhere in the triptych. 

[caption id="attachment_24914" align="alignright" width="248"]Hans Memling Morgan Library
Hans Memling, Portrait of a Man, ca. 1470, oil on panel. © The Frick Collection.[/caption]

A winningly subliminal aspect of Memling's work is its even temper. He has been described, a bit uncharitably, as a sweeter artist than van der Weyden or van Eyck. Indeed, the sorrow of the Triptych of Jan Crabbe is muted, the pathos mitigated by understatement. The scholarship tends to be less impressed with the central panel of the Crabbe triptych than with the detail of Crabbe's mother, a formidable woman whose depiction by Memling is routinely described as one of the finest portraits of an elderly subject in the Northern Renaissance. Perhaps her present-day renown is assisted by the dramatic facts of her life: Anna Willemzoon, an older widow of means, was brutally kidnapped in 1449 and forced to marry a squire, from whom she eventually escaped. She would have been about eighty years of age when she sat for the altarpiece, where it's easy to see a tight-lipped resolve in her countenance. 

[caption id="attachment_24913" align="alignleft" width="281"]Hans Memling Morgan Library Hans Memling, Portrait of a Man with a Pink, ca. 1480–85, oil on panel. The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1907. Photography by Graham S. Haber.[/caption]

“Realistic portraiture,” wrote Kenneth Clark, “the use of the accidents of each individual face to reveal inner life, was not a Florentine, nor even an Italian invention. It was invented in Flanders.” Memling was one of the earliest and most influential practitioners. The highlights here are the Frick Collection's Portrait of a Man, seen against a distant landscape, the Morgan’s Portrait of a Man with a Pink (oh, the trouble that was had fitting hands into bust-length portraits, flattening the fingers against the picture plane), and an oval portrait from a private collection of a young man before a green wall, itself a fragment of an unknown larger painting. For me it’s the surprise gem of the show. These few small portraits alone are worth a visit, but it’s good to have the triptych as a centerpiece. Many times I’ve breezed through the Northern Renaissance rooms at the Met on my way to more exuberant pastures, those that celebrate the stuff of paint. The Morgan show offers a reason to stop and admire different virtues, from a time when piety and painting were synonymous, and portraiture was undertaken with the intensity of a newfound love. 


Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece is on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through January 8, 2017.

[post_title] => Hans Memling at the Morgan Library  [post_excerpt] => The Morgan show offers a reason to stop and admire different virtues, from a time when piety and painting were synonymous, and portraiture was undertaken with the intensity of a newfound love. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hans-memling-morgan-library [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-21 11:33:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-21 16:33:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24907 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24881 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-12-16 12:55:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 17:55:29 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24899" align="aligncenter" width="975"]Jackson Pollock, Number 8, 1949, 1949, oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas, 34 x 71½ in. Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1971.02.11 © 2016 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Jim Frank. Courtesy American Federation of Arts Jackson Pollock, Number 8, 1949, 1949, oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas, 34 x 71½ in. Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1971.02.11 © 2016 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Jim Frank. Courtesy American Federation of Arts[/caption] [caption id="attachment_24886" align="alignright" width="341"]Willem de Kooning, Marilyn Monroe, 1954, oil on canvas, 50 x 30 in. Collection of Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1971.02.06 ©2016 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Jim Frank Courtesy American Federation of Arts Willem de Kooning, Marilyn Monroe, 1954, oil on canvas, 50 x 30 in. Collection of Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1971.02.06 ©2016 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Jim Frank. Courtesy American Federation of Arts[/caption]

Selected works from the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College are criss-crossing the country on a tour of small museums and have lately settled in the Esther B. O’Keeffe Gallery, a modest Spanish style building at the Society of the Four Arts. The grounds, set hard by the intracoastal waterway, are lovely. A visiting artist driving a rental through the strip mall tracts and car dealerships of Okeechobee Boulevard crosses the water to the properly named Royal Palm Way, and is apt to see a Rolls Royce parked outside the museum. This is Palm Beach. Perched on a retaining wall behind the gallery is a lizard the size of my arm; this, too, is Palm Beach.

If the art of the Neuberger collection is suitable for this high-rent district, it was amassed in an unprepossessing fashion. Roy R. Neuberger was a young buyer of fabric for a department store who took a shine to art during a trip to Europe. A savvy investor, in 1939 he co-founded his own firm and began purchasing art from New York City galleries. The art he sought didn't conform to a particular mode–the work in this show covers a number of sensibilities from the 1940s through the 1960s, and includes the preeminent women and African-American artists of an era when there were few of either. His impetus was as much philanthropic as acquisitive; he only bought work by living American artists (a focus that distinguished him from fellow extravagant collectors and museum founders Joseph Hirshhorn and Duncan Phillips, who amassed work by artists living and dead, European as well as American). "I have not collected art as an investor would,” he said. “I collect art because I love it.” Neuberger lent his work for exhibition, endorsed the creation of a National Cultural Center in Washington, and donated his collection to SUNY Purchase, forming the eponymous museum so as to enrich the college's curriculum.

[caption id="attachment_24885" align="alignleft" width="449"]Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection Georgia O’Keeffe, Lake George by Early Moonrise, 1930, oil and gouache on canvas, 24 x 36 in. Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1970.02.26 © 2016 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Jim Frank
Courtesy American Federation of Arts[/caption]

Neuberger got as much mileage from his resources as could be gotten without benefit of institutional backing. This is a backhanded way of noting that a lot of the works are immediately recognizable as trademark pieces—a de Kooning from the "Woman" series, a small Milton Avery, from whom Neuberger bought over a hundred works, an abstract/precisionist canvas by Charles Sheeler, and a sickly green O'Keeffe Lake George landscape—even though they're not premier examples. With that proviso, there are historical curiosities and gems. Max Weber's La Parisienne is both, for it pinpoints the moment the young artist became maybe the first American expatriate to synthesize modernist influences. Matisse's imprint is strong, and one wants to cite Modigliani in the nude's flattened forms and stylized contours, but Weber got there a decade earlier. Neuberger purchased an abundance of paintings by Louis Eilshemius, a genuine eccentric and oft-forgotten artist whose The Dream, with its nymphs levitating in a landscape, I persistently mistook for an Arthur Davies. There's Mark Rothko's Old Gold Over White, which in 1959 was included in a Moscow exhibition as part of a cultural exchange. When Rothko's loyalties were subsequently questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, the canvas was defended as "hopelessly meaningless," and therefore politically inoffensive. With such a defense, who needs prosecutors?

[caption id="attachment_24887" align="alignright" width="450"]Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection Marsden Hartley, Fishermen’s Last Supper, Nova Scotia, 1940–41, oil on canvas, 30⅛ x 41⅛ in. Collection Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift from the Estate of Roy R. Neuberger, EL 02.2011.67 Photo: Jim Frank. Courtesy American Federation of Arts[/caption]

For me, the standouts in the show are Richard Diebenkorn's Girl on a Terrace, she of the title overlooking an abstracted landscape in a beautifully painted blue- and white-striped skirt; Marsden Hartley's Fishermen's Last Supper, Nova Scotia, a formalized memorial to two young brothers lost at sea, the rolling pitch of the interior suggestive of a storm-tossed boat; and my favorite, The Banquet, by Jack Levine, a great small satire of political corruption in Boston. Levine was terrifically sharp as a young man, and though he never lost his edge, neither did he surpass the technical proficiency or the bile of the early paintings. In The Banquet a still life of a plated fish is as energetically painted as the ethically challenged figures, and equally sympathetic in character. 

On the occasion of his hundredth birthday, Neuberger said, "I liked adventuresome work that I often didn’t understand. For art to be very good it has to be over your head." Except it doesn't. Taken at face value, it's a sentiment as overly simplistic as "I know what I like," and is the sort of statement that feeds the misconception that art appreciation is essentially elitist. Less literally, it invokes the necessity of openness to the unfamiliar. Neuberger's collection reflects that openness. Leaving the Four Arts and the art of a near-distant past, one is struck by how quickly what was once novel is now accepted in staid surroundings, though rarely quickly enough for the artists themselves to reap material benefit. I hope that among the Rolls-Royces and estates of Palm Beach there dwells another collector of Neuberger's ilk, buying work out of affection for art and artists. In these times we could use him.


When Modern was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection is on display at the Society of the Four Arts until January 29.

[post_title] => Twentieth-Century Art in Palm Beach [post_excerpt] => Leaving the Four Arts and the art of a near-distant past, one is struck by how quickly what was once novel is now accepted in staid surroundings, though rarely quickly enough for the artists themselves to reap material benefit. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => twentieth-century-art-in-palm-beach [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:01:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 18:01:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24881 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24816 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-12-11 10:33:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-11 15:33:31 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24820" align="alignright" width="449"]American Artists communist party Alice Neel, Longshoremen Returning from Work, 1936, oil on canvas. Signed, lower left, 30 x 39 in. The Estate of Alice Neel. Photo courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York[/caption] In the event that you haven't had your fill of political commentary this year, Galerie St. Etienne is offering an early Christmas present entitled You Say You Want a Revolution: American Artists and the Communist Party. It's a timely survey of work that addresses the complex intersection of art and left-wing politics in this country, from its most vital manifestations in the 1930s to more recent, less programmatic expressions. (An essay that accompanies the show is indispensable for providing context). A minimum of what's on view is baldly propagandistic, and the lion's share of that comes from Hugo Gellert, a socialist whose posters are as powerful as they are promotional, as in an absurdly muscular depiction of Lenin towering above the masses. Gellert is a good example of the complicated relationship between art and politics in New York between the wars. During the 1920s he was employed as an illustrator by both the New Yorker and the New York Times, but by the early 30s the Museum of Modern Art was getting nervous about his subject matter, and a proposal to deaccession his work from MoMA's collection was countered—not solely for political reasons—by other artists who threatened to withdraw their work from the museum. An anecdote that perhaps best captures the apparent incongruities of the era is Abby Aldrich Rockefeller's reported explanation of her interest in Ben Shahn's series depicting the martyrdom of Sacco and Vanzetti: "Comes the revolution, I can fill the windows with these, and the House of Rockefeller may survive.” [caption id="attachment_24821" align="alignleft" width="452"]American Artists communist party Raphael Soyer, In the City Park, 1935, oil on canvas. 38 x 40 in. Goodrich 85. Private collection. Photo courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] The hardships of the Great Depression and the rise of fascism created temporary bedfellows, many of whom preferred to be "fellow travelers" rather than full-fledged communists. A lot of what's on display at St. Etienne is not overtly partisan, a reminder that humanism shapes the best social commentary. Paintings like those of Raphael Soyer, whose In the City Park is arguably the show's centerpiece, were dimly viewed by a communist program that preferred images of workers rising up against capitalism, rather than loitering in an unemployed stupor. Soyer's view, free of an overtly revolutionary agenda, better captures the mood of the era than do Gellert's calls to arms. Alice Neel's Longshoremen Returning from Work portrays a similarly dispirited atmosphere, though in a less naturalistic pictorial vocabulary. There's more movement to the composition, but it's dreary stuff. That both Soyer's and Neel's palettes brightened considerably after mid-century seems as much to reflect post-war optimism as they are representative of natural painterly evolution. Of the more aggressive social commentary, the acrid drawings of George Grosz and strident caricatures of William Gropper wear less well than Jack Levine's slyer attacks on systemic graft. Levine was our best editorialist in paint, and his skill as a draftsman and colorist make his indictments of corrupt pols all the more memorable; he’s the closest thing to Daumier we’ve had. One can simultaneously enjoy the trenchant character studies of The Card Players and admire it as pure painting. [caption id="attachment_24819" align="alignright" width="451"]American Artists communist party Jack Levine, The Card Players, 1940, gouache on paper, 16¾ x 21¾ in. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York[/caption] There were, of course, even more dire social issues; several artworks in the show deal with lynching. The horror of racially motivated gang murder lent itself to searing imagery, and allowed artists to appropriate the composition and symbolism of traditional religious narrative—see Marion Campbell Kronfeld’s Pietá. Depictions of Christian martyrdom could be referenced in works deemed socially progressive, an iconographic and philosophical complexity that suggests the difficulty of designating themes as purely "leftist" in content. [caption id="attachment_24818" align="alignleft" width="273"]American Artists communist party Leonard Baskin, Hydrogen Man, 1954, woodcut on cream wove paper. Signed, lower right. 62¼ x 24 3/8 in. Fern/O'Sullivan 249.  Copyright © The Estate of Leonard Baskin. Photo courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York[/caption] The Red Scare of the 1950s chilled the visual arts as it did Hollywood. Artists such as Gropper and Shahn were summoned by the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Cold War and disenchantment with Stalinism surely had an effect, but though sociopolitical art was overshadowed by abstract expressionism, it continued to find able practitioners in Shahn, Levine and Leonard Baskin. Baskin is best represented in the current show, with several monumental wood sculptures and famously immense woodcuts. His beautifully drawn and flayed Hydrogen Man, printed in response to United States weapons tests, is an implicit indictment of the arms race. The most recent works in the show are the fiercely dark drawings of Sue Coe, wherein graphite and charcoal are wielded as a sledgehammer against the injustices of poverty and hunger. Dropped in at the end of the exhibition is a small drawing of a destructive tornado sporting a familiar plump face and fluff of hair, captioned "It Can Happen Here." It’s never stopped happening. The show at Galerie St. Etienne is a less than subtle reminder that the same issues which drew moral outrage in the last century—labor unrest, economic disparity, political corruption, the cloud of nuclear war—are very much with us. There are new problems, which have in turn spawned newer ones still: efforts to confront global warming encounter resistance provoked, in part, by misinformation spread on the internet. The impetus to state the obvious—that black lives matter—is met with pushback, and the disenfranchisement of minorities through voter suppression operates in the full light of day. Communism has long ceased to be a relevant touchstone for artists and intellectuals seeking an alternative to the ills of capitalism. At this moment the frustrations of the working class worldwide have engendered a populist support for demagoguery and oligarchy. The ideal of workers uniting under socialism, let alone a government intent on responding to the concerns of those in need, has been supplanted by a commitment to Wall Street and big oil. One can venture a fair guess what the artists assembled here would have to say.
You Say You Want a Revolution continues at Galerie St. Etienne through February 11, 2017. [post_title] => Seeing Red [post_excerpt] => The show at Galerie St. Etienne is a less than subtle reminder that the same issues which drew moral outrage in the last century—labor unrest, economic disparity, political corruption, the cloud of nuclear war—are very much with us. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => american-artists-communist-party [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-11 10:33:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-11 15:33:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24816 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [15] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24748 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-12-05 13:05:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-05 18:05:48 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24750" align="alignleft" width="439"]Guido Cagnacci Guido Cagnacci, Cleopatra Morente, 1660–63, oil on canvas, 150 x 186 cm. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.[/caption] What is it with the Italian baroque artists currently being celebrated in New York City? I'm speaking of the libertine factor. Valentin de Boulogne, the hard-partying protégé of Caravaggio who died after a night of revelry, is enjoying a belated resuscitation at the Met, while Guido Cagnacci is benefiting from a lively push at the Frick, thanks to the loan of a major painting from the Norton Simon Art Foundation. The details of Cagnacci's life are few and best known to us from criminal reports; an elopement with a wealthy widow was scotched by her family, and his later peripatetic tendencies included adopting an alias while traveling with young women who were dressed as men. These recently renewed attentions have long been in the works. The Met's Keith Christiansen first proposed a Valentin show in 2008, while Xavier F. Salomon's interest in Cagnacci had been germinating at least since an Italian journey of the same year. Both curators have made significant contributions to scholarship on the artists, writing books to accompany the exhibitions. [caption id="attachment_24769" align="alignright" width="400"]Guido Cagnacci Guido Cagnacci, The Death of Cleopatra, ca. 1645–50, oil on canvas; 37⅜ × 29½ in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, James and Diane Burke Gift, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, Friends of European Paintings Gifts, Gwynne Andrews Fund, Charles and Jessie Price and Álvaro Saieh Bendeck Gifts, Gift and Bequest of George Blumenthal and Fletcher Fund, by exchange, and Lila Acheson Wallace and Michel David-Weill Gifts, 2016[/caption] Though Caravaggio's influence was strong enough to cast a shadow on much of the Italian baroque period, Cagnacci's references were more varied and his work more eclectic than Valentin's. It’s thought that he studied with Ludovico Carracci in Bologna, and he briefly lived with and may have been a student of Guercino in Rome. Taking on standard religious themes, for years Cagnacci's work alternated between lyricism and naturalism, until he fused the strands in his maturity. The most famous and notorious of these fusions date from the mid-1640s to nearly the end of the artist's life in 1663, when Cagnacci built a unique cottage industry of images conflating mortality and sensuality. His signature theme was the half-length female nude, which satisfied the three standard criteria of such artworks: a narrative foundation, showmanship of technical prowess, and an erotic hook. The first component was necessary to justify the others, but Cagnacci's cheesecake didn’t meet with unanimous approval, and there's reason to think his work and personal life were conveniently merged in the popular imagination—then again, traveling with cross-dressing models would have stoked some misgivings in seventeenth-century Italy. Aside from the fact that Cagnacci repeated the same motif, merely varying the secondary elements (an astonishingly kitschy Rape of Europa features an unconvincing damsel in distress beside a bovine head with floral crown; in an Allegory of Human Life owned by Nelson Shanks, an undraped lovely clutches a skull and is thus identified as the embodiment of Vanitas), his skills are too finely developed to write him off as a boor. If artists and their patrons had become too sophisticated to take these morality tales seriously, Cagnacci was notable in the extent of his irreverence. The best examples, two of which are on exhibition in New York this month, depict Cleopatra, ostensibly meeting her fate courtesy the venom of an asp, but looking suspiciously rapturous in the process. [caption id="attachment_24781" align="alignleft" width="500"]Guido Cagnacci Frick Collection Guido Cagnacci, The Repentant Magdalene, ca. 1660−63, oil on canvas, 90¼ x 104¾ in. Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena, California[/caption] At the invitation of the young Emperor Leopold, Cagnacci left Venice to spend his last few years as a painter to the Viennese court. While there he accepted an illustrious commission, and the result is now considered a high point of seventeenth-century Italian painting: The Repentant Magdalene, currently in residence at the East Room of the Frick. It's a very large canvas commanding the far end of the gallery. The figures are life-size. In the foreground lies Mary Magdalene, more naked than not, her expensive finery and jewelry dispersed on the floor around her, symbolic of her renunciation of worldly things. Here is the first miracle Cagnacci wrought in this painting: a chaste female nude who's up to the transcendent moment, without the subtle salaciousness he'd been honing for years. Mary's rapt attention is devoted to her sister Martha, who sits before her, pointing at the action taking place behind them. This is the second miracle, a fantastic scene of an angel driving a demon out of the room. The angel—Virtue—is no holographic specter, but is as corporeal as Martha and Mary. Sporting a pudgy adolescent frame, he is less well-muscled for the task than one would expect. The figure of Vice, urged toward the window like oversized vermin, is humorously tangible as well. The third surprise is that of design. With Mary and Martha set at the bottom of the canvas, Cagnacci placed two servants rushing out to a sunlit veranda on the right, in opposition to Virtue chasing Vice away at the left. A composition with figures storming off in all directions is better suited for staged farce than the strict confines of a painted narrative, yet there's no denying its success. The forms are remarkably chromatic for a painting over three hundred and fifty years old, the light that streams into the room from both sides still clear as a bell. And what a treat when viewed in relation to even the best Valentins now at the Met, more entrancing in effect, a piece of epic whimsy unmatched in the Caravaggisti's grave and claustrophobic spaces. The Repentant Magdalene surpasses anything Cagnacci had done before, as well as most everything painted in Italy during the 1600s. He had a chip on his shoulder—he'd become so identified with sexy little torsos that it was rumored he couldn't paint a figure below the waist, and in a letter he sneeringly suggested that perhaps a rival artist should be brought in to paint the feet. Cagnacci did more than silence that criticism. With one canvas he placed himself alongside the Carracci, Guercino and Guido Reno. And then some. Cagnacci's biographer Pier Giorgio Pasini wrote that in The Repentant Magdalene, "there is a bit of everything: you have Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, Titian, Federico Barocci; you have Bronzino and you have Holbein; you have a premonition of Vermeer, of Ingres, of the romantic and naturalistic academy of the nineteenth century." That's quite an epitaph for an otherwise minor master. Suffice to say that this fall at the Frick, even the van Dycks in the East Gallery look a little duller by comparison.
Cagnacci’s "Repentant Magdalene": An Italian Baroque Masterpiece from the Norton Simon Museum will be on view at the Frick Collection until January 22, 2017. Guido Cagnacci: Dying Cleopatra will be on view at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York until January 19, 2017. [post_title] => The Apotheosis of a Minor Master [post_excerpt] => Guido Cagnacci's signature theme was the half-length female nude, which satisfied the three standard criteria of such artworks: a narrative foundation, showmanship of technical prowess, and an erotic hook. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => guido-cagnacci-frick-collection [to_ping] => [pinged] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/valentin-de-boulogne-metropolitan/ [post_modified] => 2016-12-06 08:33:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-06 13:33:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24748 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [16] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24706 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-11-22 13:12:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-22 18:12:41 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24708" align="alignright" width="450"]Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter, Untitled (View Outside Southampton Studio), 1968, oil on Masonite, 20¼ x 18 in. Private Collection, Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York[/caption] An exhibition of paintings by Fairfield Porter, small of scope and uneven in quality, is still well worth wading through the congestion of Fifth Avenue and Fifty Seventh Street in order to view. The current show is the first that Tibor de Nagy has devoted to Porter in eighteen years, though the place and time have turned out to be less than optimal, what with the gallery situated across the street from Trump Tower. A protest march closed off the avenue and snuffed my initial attempt to visit. Porter's timing has been bad before. Enthusiastic recognition came belatedly, with a major exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts eight years after his death. The problem was that Porter painted images of a leisurely life on Long Island and in Maine when abstract expressionism was ascendant, and in that zeitgeist the idea of an American artist chronicling a trouble-free suburban environment would easily be taken for dilettantism. His work fit neither the prevailing nor reactionary styles of his time; he borrowed painterly elements from his friend Willem de Kooning while maintaining a representational style, and the fusion made his work difficult to categorize. His primary influence was Edouard Vuillard, whose love of hue and pattern was also out of fashion for much of the twentieth century. [caption id="attachment_24712" align="alignleft" width="449"]Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter, Katie and Dorothy E., 1957, oil on canvas, 16 x 20¾ in. Private Collection, Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York[/caption] In years past my reservations about Porter were twofold. The first had to do with his figures, which have the paint-by-numbers quality of Neil Welliver, though less well-drawn. His subjects' eyes are disconcertingly small and have a creepy intensity, with white highlights invariably dropped into the center of the pupils; beyond poor drawing they suggest an emotional disconnection on the artist's part. I’ve been twice commissioned by the Harvard Club of New York, where my portraits hang at some remove from one painted by Porter. It's apparent that he was not able to adapt, as did Vuillard, to conventional portraiture, with its emphasis on likeness and anecdote—of course, one could see this as a sign of integrity, if the issues were not pervasive in his personal work as well. The second problem I had was frankly cultural—I was flat-out distrustful of WASPish images which, no matter how colorful, are redolent of a privileged intellectualism. To me, Porter's world was alien, and I wonder if he sometimes felt the same way; the Harvard Club portrait indicates his unease with the old world of money and mahogany. Nonetheless, my reading was at least a little superficial. One has to take care not to mistake thoughtfulness for diffidence. There were times when the artist had doubts. Describing a rough period in 1968, Porter wrote from his summer home in Great Spruce Head Island, Maine,

I think I was also tired of landscape. Why make it? Who cares? In a short time we will be back in Southampton. It is more beautiful here, in fact this is one of the beauty spots of the world. But that too, puts me off. Why reproduce this, when what matters, if it does, is just to look. How does this beauty connect with everything else?

[caption id="attachment_24711" align="alignleft" width="450"]Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter, Claire White, 1960, oil on canvas, 45½ x 45 in. Private Collection, Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York[/caption] These questions are inevitable for modern and post-modern artists working in a figurative vernacular, especially when celebrating the well-heeled pleasures of the material world. At his best Porter resoundingly answers these doubts, and merits Hilton Kramer's pronouncement after seeing the Boston show that "the history of American painting is going to have to be rewritten to give Fairfield Porter a larger place than he has heretofore been granted." My thawing to paintings like Claire White signals a gradual appreciation of his painterly assets. The canvas, conceived as an impressionist portrait, frustrates for its lack of individualism despite the specificity of its title—the subject's face is, in terms of characterization, a wall. The painting's attributes can barely be appreciated in reproduction, where the loose and lively application of Maroger-laden pigment is all but lost. Everything from the hieroglyphic rug to the kitchenette table to—most crucially—the blue stripes on Ms. White's dress, are graphically pleasing and set in a fluid space. Two other portraits in the show suggest what Porter was capable of when more engaged with his subjects. In Katie and Dorothy E., the little girls' impatient figures melt into the patterned sofa, a tutorial in economy. At times Porter appears to connect with an individual and awaken to his sitter's personality, as in John MacWhinnie. On occasion the pieces fell divinely into place, as in The Mirror (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), and we're reminded that a cool-handed approach can yield moving results. [caption id="attachment_24707" align="alignright" width="451"]Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter, View From Bear Island, 1968, oil on board, 14 x 15 in. Private Collection, Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York[/caption] Arguably it is as a landscape painter that Porter is best known. When seeking to explain to students the value of flat pattern combined with attention to shape, he's the standard I summon. He makes it look easy enough for anyone to do, which is a neat deception; I've gone to the Maine coast and tried to paint a flat field in the foreground, a tree punctuating the middle distance and expanses of water and sky beyond, as Porter did in View from Bear Island, and the results have never been happy. If many a painter's misapprehension is that a surfeit of detail will win the day, the attendant fallacy is that simplification is simple. Successful demonstrations of low-key visual wit are exceedingly difficult, and Porter regularly walks the line between blandness and bliss. In the backyards of Southampton he sought out different challenges while painting suburban lawns, reveling in complex patterns of trees and bushes. Trees in Bloom, a misnomer when applied to the foreground horse chestnut, shows how much Porter really did enjoy drawing with the brush, and of the satisfying mean to be struck betwixt breadth and detail, a pale spring light unifying all. In Untitled (View Outside Southampton Studio), he was free to indulge perhaps his definitive characteristic, in which patterns were haphazardly broken into positive and negative shapes. Distant foliage appears between houses and against the sky, their organic patchwork an echo of the light and shadow playing across a blazing row of forsythia. It is in these clarifications of visual busyness, whence a proper organization of flat colors can be read as atmosphere, that Porter's true genius lay. I think it’s no coincidence that Porter questioned the relevance of painting beautiful things in 1968, a year of war and protests, violent political conventions and assassinations. “Why make it? Who cares?” One may justifiably ask the same questions now. The answer is that appreciation of beauty is not an indulgence but a necessity. Fairfield Porter: Things as They Are, will be showing at Tibor de Nagy at 724 Fifth Avenue until December 10. [post_title] => A Tutorial in Economy [post_excerpt] => Fairfield Porter painted images of a leisurely life on Long Island and in Maine when abstract expressionism was ascendant, and in that zeitgeist the idea of an American artist chronicling a trouble-free suburban environment would easily be taken for dilettantism. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fairfield-porter-tibor-de-nagy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-22 13:12:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-22 18:12:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24706 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [17] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24365 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-10-26 17:39:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-26 21:39:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24449" align="alignright" width="401"]Valentin de Boulogne, David with the Head of Goliath, 1615–16. Oil on canvas, 39 x 52 3⁄4 in. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid Valentin de Boulogne, David with the Head of Goliath, 1615–16. Oil on canvas, 39 x 52 3⁄4 in. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid[/caption] With a current show, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is making the case for a reassessment of Valentin de Boulogne, a second-tier master and dedicated Caravaggisti. On the one hand, this is an ambitious undertaking: forty-five of Valentin's paintings—three-quarters of his extant output—have been assembled, much of it gathered from Europe. On the other, the catalogue's advocacy is so unadulterated ("How could one not love Valentin?" begins one chapter) as to unnecessarily raise doubts. It doesn't help that the show is installed in gallery 999 on the second floor, a middle-distance cab ride from the main entrance. Perhaps this, and the show's subtitle, are tacit recognitions of just how difficult it is to coax museum goers into an old master show without a marquee name. [caption id="attachment_24447" align="alignleft" width="307"]Valentin de Boulogne, Samson, 1631. Oil on canvas, 53 3/8 x 40 1/2 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund Valentin de Boulogne, Samson, 1631. Oil on canvas, 53 3/8 x 40 1/2 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund[/caption]

Valentin is the sort of artist I would have been thrilled to discover during my student years: richly talented, emotionally dark, and, best of all, virtually unknown in America. Born in France in 1591, he moved to Rome sometime between 1609 and 1614, and was soon painting in the Caravaggesque style. Like Caravaggio, he eschewed compositional sketches, preferring to paint straightaway on the canvas, and he also followed the former's practice of working from the live model. Caravaggio's lessons outside the studio may have been taken too much to heart; in the rough and tumble of seventeenth-century Rome, Valentin joined a group of carousing Dutch and Flemish painters known as the Bentvueghels, and was bestowed the nickname "Amador," or lover boy. By the late 1620s he was well known, receiving important commissions for allegorical and religious subjects. He died in the summer of 1632, having suffered a terrible fever after a night of partying that culminated with a plunge in a fountain. The artist left little other than his paintings, so friends financed his funeral.

[caption id="attachment_24448" align="alignright" width="399"]Valentin de Boulogne Metropolitan Valentin de Boulogne, Cardsharps, ca. 1614–15. Oil on canvas, 37 1/4 x 54 in. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden[/caption] Valentin's paintings are very good, sometimes brilliant. Cardsharps, an unusually fine early painting inspired by a Caravaggio of the same subject, strips down the master's theatrical presentation to its dissolute essence. More primal than Caravaggio's version is Valentin's interpretation of Judith and Holofernes, the murderous downward thrust of Judith's arms countered by Holofernes's left arm raised in reflexive agony. Where Caravaggio felt the need to fill the space between protagonists with blood-red drapery, Valentin chose darkness. Caravaggio’s narratives lay out the stories as if we didn’t know them; Valentin takes the allegorical tropes for granted and distills them. [caption id="attachment_24369" align="alignleft" width="351"]Valentin de Boulogne Metropolitan Valentin de Boulogne, Lute Player, ca. 1625–26. Oil on canvas, 50½ x 39 in. Purchase, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Acquisitions Endowment Fund; Director's Fund; Acquisitions Fund; James and Diane Burke and Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch Gifts; Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 2008[/caption]

A rapid progress in emotive ability can be seen in themes that Valentin revisited: a Saint John the Baptist (ca. 1620–22) is stiff and fussy compared to a Riberaesque later version (there is yet a third take, an unapologetic nude in Apiro that may be the most memorable of the lot). Similarly, a second version of Judgment of Solomon moves away from the anecdotal elements of the Louvre canvas to a more effective emotional narrative. A late masterwork, A Musical Company with a Fortune-Teller displays compositional unevenness. Each figure is beautifully rendered, and the central grouping of soldier and gypsy features an exquisite lightness of touch, but I am almost certain that the last thing the painting needed was not one, but two portraits jammed between the principal couple’s gazes. The lack of cohesion among the secondary figures is an odd deficiency for a painter employing a consistent light source in a barren environment—and barren the surroundings are, as Valentin's preferred setting is a void—but it does speak of a reliance on naturalism to the detriment of overall design. The show's catalogue cites Caravaggio for this sense of "frozen action" and "piecemeal construction," but his canvases possess a turbulent unifying dynamism. The grandiose Allegory of Italy is steeped in literal study of substance and anatomy at the expense of liveliness; realism without rhythm. Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian is active enough, but it is a precursor to the excesses of nineteenth-century Salon machines, wherein the admirably rendered parts are more compelling than the painting as a whole. This isn’t a problem when Valentin deals with small groups or single figures. Samson is wonderfully painted, its sobriety enlivened by streaming drapery, but the model is "acting" thoughtful—I’m caught between the intended tragic introspection and a nagging suspicion that it’s a portrait of Dave Grohl contemplating his playlist. One has no such qualms before the haunting Lute Player; it makes perfect sense when Keith Christiansen, the Met’s Chairman for the Department of European Paintings and the driving force behind the show, draws a line from this musician to those painted by Watteau and Manet.

Valentin may not be the most profound of the Carravagisti—there's no slam-dunk realism as in Ribera's The Clubfoot, nor the mystical solemnity of de la Tour, a fellow Frenchman who's enjoyed a victorious rediscovery in modern times. He does, however, represent the last and brightest flame of Caravaggism in Rome, with a gravitas that’s missing, for instance, from the art of the Utrecht followers. What Valentin supplies, embedded within his allegories, are moments of sober poetry. In the beseeching outstretched hand of Saint Mark and the tambourine player at the center of Musicians and Soldiers, a distinctive and poignant personality is evident. The Met’s contribution may not raise Valentin’s reputation, but it shines a well-deserved light on his art. Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 16, 2017. [post_title] => Sober Poetry [post_excerpt] => Valentin is the sort of artist I would have been thrilled to discover during my student years: richly talented, emotionally dark, and, best of all, virtually unknown in America. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => valentin-de-boulogne-metropolitan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-23 08:29:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-23 13:29:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24365 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [18] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24273 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-10-14 16:03:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-14 20:03:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24313" align="alignleft" width="300"]Modern Renaissance: The Fourteenth Street School and Classical Life Drawing Kenyon Cox, Untitled, 1900. Oil on board, 30 x 18 in. Collection of the Art Students League of New York.[/caption]

Modern Renaissance: The Fourteenth Street School and Classical Life Drawing, currently installed at the the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery of the Art Students League of New York, offers a vibrant overview, at once expansive and abridged, of a distinctive New York City contribution to American realism in the first half of the twentieth-century. The exhibition draws largely from work in the League’s permanent collection, and includes an assortment of drawings, prints and paintings from both notable and lesser-known artists.

As the title suggests, there are two themes in play, either of which would merit a stand-alone survey: the Fourteenth Street School refers to a loosely organized group of artists who settled in and around Union Square beginning in the 1920s, all of whom had either studied or taught at the League and were interested primarily in the human figure as a subject. As examples of classical life drawing, several classroom figure studies are included, more for elucidation of the methodologies then in place at the League than for any obvious connection to the Union Square collective. The drawings, themselves evidence of the strengths as well as the limitations of turn-of-the-century academic practice, are intended to throw reflected light back onto prominent League instructors, Kenyon Cox and Kenneth Hayes Miller, though in several studies the light being reflected belongs to George Bridgman, whose construction-oriented approach requires separate consideration.

Cox was a French-trained classicist who created the League’s venerable logo, and who, according to the illuminating notes that accompany the exhibition, “introduced the French practice of concours (juried exhibition) as a means to highlight exceptional work and in some cases demote students who needed further practice.” (The many students who do not receive dots acknowledging their work now know who to blame for starting the process. As far as demoting students, there’s no longer a formal mechanism for doing so, but I well recall hearing Robert Philipp yell at a young pupil to take a drawing class before attempting to paint, and said student leaving the studio in tears. It is fair to say that teachers and students continue to grapple with the same issues). If Cox was a hard-liner pedagogically, some of his paintings reveal a lyrical sensuality, as may be seen in Untitled, a female nude study that transcends the merely academic by virtue of its light palette and suggestion of an outdoor environment.

[caption id="attachment_24315" align="alignright" width="506"]Modern Renaissance: The Fourteenth Street School and Classical Life Drawing Kenneth Hayes Miller Women in the Store, 1937. Oil on canvas, 19 x 24 in. Collection of the Art Students League of New York.[/caption]

Cox’s main relevance here was that he was the teacher of the progenitor of the Fourteenth Street School, Kenneth Hayes Miller. Taking his painting at face value, Miller has always appeared to me to be among the least inspiring presences one could conjure up in American art; imagine the art deco of Paul Manship without the life force, let alone rhythmic design. Yet Miller played a significant role as a teacher and role model. Isabel Bishop explained that he was “intellectually stimulating, not stultifying, a fascinating person who presented all sorts of new possibilities, new points of view.” Her monumental, if flawed, Kenneth Hayes Miller Mural Class, Art Students League, 1927, is a tribute that shows Miller’s explicit influence. Bishop was impressed by her instructor’s adherence to the figure and traditional technical methods. Like Miller, she developed her work through underpainting, without ceding primacy of line. The basis of this was taken from baroque Flemish art, and modernized through subject matter and a progressively looser approach.

[caption id="attachment_24310" align="alignleft" width="440"]Modern Renaissance: The Fourteenth Street School and Classical Life Drawing Reginald Marsh,Flying Concellos,1936. Etching, 8 x 10 in. Collection of the Art Students League of New York.[/caption]

Miller’s influence transcended the classroom. Bishop’s mature work focused on the prosaic lives of shop women she observed near her Union Square studio, as in Seated Woman with Hat. Her interest in the same subjects that Miller had sought was made more effective by sublimating classical underpinnings, in favor of a nearly documentary emphasis on the individual—Miller was a socialist, Bishop was a humanist. Reginald Marsh was no less impacted by Miller’s presence, writing years after having studied, “I still show him every picture I paint. I am a Miller student.” It was Miller who discerned Marsh’s talent for painting raucous New York street subjects: “These awkward things are your work. These are real. Stick to these things and don't let anyone dissuade you.” In works like Afternoon Coney Island and Flying Concellos, one can see the significance of draftsmanship, in suggestions of the baroque flourishes of Rubens and—in the obsessive fascination with the nude figure in motion—Michelangelo.

[caption id="attachment_24311" align="alignright" width="327"]Modern Renaissance: The Fourteenth Street School and Classical Life Drawing Raphael Soyer, Woman with Scarf, Oil on canvas, 23 x 19½ in. Courtesy of Forum Gallery[/caption]

Although he didn’t study with Miller, Raphael Soyer’s inclusion in the group is traditional and necessary. Soyer moved to Union Square in 1931 (Miller had moved there in 1923, Bishop in 1926), and like his predecessors was inspired by the social tensions that existed in the neighborhood, symbolized by the juxtaposition of the S. Klein department store and the headquarters of New Masses, a communist publication. In common with Bishop and Marsh, Soyer sometimes depicted life on the street, but as in paintings like Woman with Scarf, was more given to French influences, especially in his growing fondness for color. I don’t think the show’s characterization of Soyer’s work as presenting “a darker side to city life” is strictly correct; rather, he would eventually mine more psychologically complex territory than Bishop. But his early paintings, those that chronicled the effects of the Great Depression, were indeed more allied with "social realism" (a term that Soyer wasn’t comfortable with), and were fueled by his response to social ills.

[caption id="attachment_24309" align="alignleft" width="321"]Modern Renaissance: The Fourteenth Street School and Classical Life Drawing Steven Assael, Monica with Legs Crossed, 2014. Crayon with graphite on paper, 14 x 11½ in. Courtesy of Forum Gallery.[/caption]

That the influence of Miller, and by extension, Cox, is still a force at the League is clear in the preponderance of contemporary figurative artists who reconcile the mashup between traditional precepts and the energetic catalyst of city life around them—any number of teachers here are philosophical descendants of the Union Square artists. The show includes the work of two contemporary artists, Steven Assael and David Jon Kassan, who continue to visit these approaches and themes. Some of the connections are less obvious; when I walked through the show on Saturday, Ronnie Landfield, an important abstract expressionist, came by and smiled. He pointed at a painting by Arnold Blanch—another Miller student—and said that he’d studied with him when he was fifteen.

Modern Renaissance is a rich acknowledgment of League history and its seminal role in American realism. In its persistent, if indirect, devotion to classicism, the Fourteenth Street School represented an alternative and powerful vein that complemented Robert Henri’s romantic contributions to New York City realism. Gestated in the studios of the Art Students League, the commitment to figuration found renewed vitality in its interpretations of contemporary life. It still does.

The exhibition continues through November 1, 2016 in the Art Students League's Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery.

[post_title] => The League and Union Square [post_excerpt] => A vibrant overview of a distinctive New York City contribution to American realism in the first half of the twentieth-century [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => modern-renaissance [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-21 07:57:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-21 11:57:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24273 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [19] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24059 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-09-14 07:54:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-14 11:54:29 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24066" align="alignright" width="409"]David Pena, Artist Jerry Weiss, The Man with a Cane, ca. 1990. Oil on linen, 40 x 30 in.[/caption] As this summer drew to a close, so did the life of an old friend, David Beynon Pena. I hadn't spoken to Dave in more than twenty years, until a mutual friend urged me to call him, with the news that he had little time left. We talked for about five minutes, Dave pausing at intervals to catch his breath. We first met as young art students, when my parents were preparing me to move to New York and we visited the Salmagundi Club, where Dave was already a regular at nineteen. Soon afterwards he befriended me at the League. He was like nobody I'd ever met in my largely protected life. Where I was shy and socially inept, he was gregarious and blessed with a galaxy of friends. In contrast to my studiousness as a painter, Dave was flamboyant. Often we'd break from classes for dinner at a pizza joint that once existed where the Extell tower is now going up next door. He'd buy a slice and cover it with hot sauce, a small bottle of which he carried in one pocket, and maybe, for extra protein, add a bag of peanuts from another pocket. Some nights after class we'd walk across town on 57th Street. One late night when he wasn't in a good way, he stopped in front of Hammer Gallery, took out a black magic marker—in high school, Dave's canvas was the subway, which he covered in graffiti as "Zephyr 2000"—and wrote on the gallery's door in his stylized script, "For a good painting, call Jerry Weiss," and added my dorm pay phone number. The next year he was monitoring Harvey Dinnerstein's class, then filled with fifty students on the mezzanine level. If you were his friend he’d wave you in to find a spot, with the understanding that a class ticket was optional. His tenure as monitor didn’t last long. That winter he invited another League friend and me to come out to Brooklyn. Dave was living rent free as the caretaker of a church, and he needed help disposing of a broken washing machine. He cooked us a dinner of rice or pasta, and we bunked down in his loft at the top of the building for the night. Half-dressed the next morning, the three of us wrestled the appliance out the building's front door and down the steps in sub-freezing cold, and tossed it gently over the fence onto the sidewalk. In the meanwhile the front door closed and locked behind us. Dave quickly concluded that the best option for reentry was to smash a small glass window next to the door and reach his arm fully in to turn the doorknob. As he did so, a police cruiser passed by slowly, two cops watching us in the act of breaking and entering. It says everything of our respective student years to note that this was a memorably entertaining moment for me, but surely nothing more than a blip on Dave's radar.

 Dave was unconscionably pretty, which got him into a world of trouble and got him out of it just as often. Years later we were walking near Union Square on a Sunday and I observed the unfairness with which physical grace is bestowed. “Together we look like a movie actor and his Jewish agent.” Dave was 6' 4", thin but big-boned and smartly tailored even when his clothing was paint-spattered and he didn't have a nickel. He was the first person I ever saw wear a dress jacket with short pants, which I thought was a regrettable faux pas, and it would have been for me, but he was right when it came to fashion. He played tennis very well—despite a misshapen ankle, the result of it having been run over by a car when he was a kid—and thought so highly of himself that at sixteen his coach matched him against John McEnroe as a lesson in humility. [caption id="attachment_24061" align="alignleft" width="409"]David Pena, Artist Jerry Weiss, Dave in an Overcoat, 1981. Oil on linen, 36 x 30 in. Collection Robert and Judith Rubin.[/caption] His twenties alone comprised a lifetime of adventure. I was privy to schemes, some motivated by financial need, some by the thrill of a shortcut. These would have been spectacularly illegal if acted upon, and would have put me in the position of unwilling accomplice before the act. He must have known in advance I'd strenuously disapprove, but he sought my counsel anyway. I do think that besides our shared interest in painting, this was the basis of our friendship: he saw me as a sober and sensible male presence, which wasn't actually true, and I saw him as a volatile and romantic character. It was a mismatch maintained by mutual good intentions. We sat for one another on several occasions, an arrangement that, given his looks, always fell in my favor. The first time was when we were twenty-one and twenty-two, respectively. In the mornings I'd drive from Jersey and through downtown Manhattan traffic to reach his top floor walk-up near Pratt in Brooklyn. Sometimes Dave would be hungover or asleep when I arrived. The walls of the apartment were painted dark gray to eliminate reflected light, and amid the gloom I painted him seated in a charcoal overcoat. The radio was tuned to urban dance music, a genre outside my experience, but a few of the songs are still in my head. It was hard work, and we spent hours together several days a week in common purpose. One day when progress seemed within my grasp but slipped through my hands I cursed, kicked his easel and threw my brushes. Dave was as close to being cross with me as I'd ever seen him. "Hey, easy. You had it before, you'll get it again." A few years later the painting was bought by Robert Rubin, then of Goldman Sachs and later the Secretary of the Treasury. In the years immediately after leaving the League, I detached a bit from Manhattan out of preference for domestic life in New Jersey, but when my girlfriend left me and a subsequent affair fizzled, I spent my days at Union Square, where Dave and other painters had studios. For three or four years in my early thirties I knocked around with a group of fellow male artists; in retrospect it was a textbook lesson in arrested development, equal parts fun and misery. There were holiday dinners celebrated in diners, or sometimes at Dave's mother's apartment. This was a lonely stretch made tolerable by camaraderie, and I'd often hang out at the studios late into the evening, Dave patiently rolling cigarettes for himself with his long fingers while we talked, or whiling away hours throwing darts before driving home. Those stubbornly unattached years could have been a period of profligate misbehavior; instead I threw myself into painting. Dave advised me in the romantic arts, a humorous endeavor at a time when I avoided intimacy with stubborn and nearly ascetic resolve. There is no adequate description in the English language for the strangeness of several double dates he engineered on my behalf. [caption id="attachment_24063" align="alignright" width="409"]David Pena, Artist Jerry Weiss, On the East River, ca. 1991. Oil on panel, 27 x 24 in. Collection Pfizer, Inc.[/caption] We painted together along the East River a few times. Once while I painted him as he stood working under the FDR Drive, a raucous bunch of teenagers paid a visit. Dave instructed me on how to disarm a malevolent group with swift and sure employment of a tee square, an antiquated notion in a gun-happy culture. We both had paintings accepted into National Academy annuals, and his, a dreary and powerful view of the Philadelphia train station, was favorably mentioned in a New York Times review. (He also took a trans-Canada train trip during the winter, and painted the stations at various stops. He told me he painted outside using auto antifreeze as a medium). One summer he invited me to accompany him to Sag Harbor; either on that trip or some other I painted him while he stood painting on a beach. The exact circumstances of our travels have blurred with time. In 1994 I left both the studio at Union Square and the New Jersey apartment and moved to rural Connecticut. I severed friendships, and cut off from Dave. Any further news came by way of mutual friends. Within a few years I heard that Dave had married. Later on he became president of a New York arts club, taught painting in New York and New Jersey, and assisted Ray Kinstler in his workshops. He continued taking portrait commissions, traveled widely, and spent time in Maine. Simultaneously we each settled into parallel versions of a respectable middle age. Younger artists who met him after he'd gained weight and gravitas wouldn't recognize my thumbnail descriptions of the man I knew so well in younger days, who was hell on wheels. With jet fuel. On September 1, I got a message from a friend that Dave was declining rapidly. I knew that he'd received chemotherapy in the past year, and found pictures of him on social media, which showed him looking distressingly gaunt. I called him the next day, with trepidation over my sense of guilt and the fear that he'd be angry; it had been twenty-three years since we last talked. He apologized to me for saying anything that may have hurt my feelings all those years ago. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for and apologized to him in turn. I was told that he was moved by our conversation. I know that I was. I learned of Dave's passing on September 10, while I was returning to Connecticut after teaching my first class of the new school year at the League. The League is much the same now as it was when we studied there in the late 70s and early 80s, but it's also different. There are far more women teaching, and there's no longer a fourth floor smoking room or red sand buckets for cigarette butts hanging outside the studios. Now I take the elevators or walk slowly if using the stairs, and I remember when we thought nothing of running up and down the stairs from first floor to fourth. Full of youth and talent, we thought we owned the League, and I'm afraid there were times when we acted like it. Dave was a real New Yorker, and in all his flamboyance, incorrigibleness, convulsive laughter and memorable kindness, he was a quintessential part of League life. Even after all these years apart, he remains the most colorful person I've ever known, and I'm glad I did. Bless you, my old pal. [post_title] => David Pena, Artist [post_excerpt] => Dave was a real New Yorker, and in all his flamboyance, incorrigibleness, convulsive laughter, and memorable kindness, he was a quintessential part of Art Students League life. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => david-pena-artist [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-21 08:14:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-21 12:14:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24059 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [20] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24037 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-09-12 12:16:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-12 16:16:49 [post_content] =>
[caption id="attachment_24048" align="alignright" width="516"]New York Times Old Masters  Willem Claesz Heda, Still Life with Oysters, a Silver Tazza, and Glassware, 1635. Oil on wood, 19⅝ x 31¾ in. From the Collection of Rita and Frits Markus, Bequest of Rita Markus, 2005. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Willem Claesz Heda, Still Life with Oysters, a Silver Tazza, and Glassware, 1635. Oil on wood, 19⅝ x 31¾ in. From the Collection of Rita and Frits Markus, Bequest of Rita Markus, 2005. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[/caption]

"Can the Old Masters Be Relevant Again?" asks the provocative headline of an August 28 New York Times feature by Robin Pogrebin. I'm dubious about such click bait, which takes for granted a flimsy premise; the following day another Times headline observed "Shooting Scares Show a Nation Quick to Fear the Worst," as if relentless media attention hasn't played a major role in stoking the very fear it then stands back to observe.

I'll take the bait, but with as elliptical a response as the question merits. Let's begin by parsing the question in a nearly legalistic way: what constitutes the designation, "old masters?" We can probably say that the term encompasses Western art history from Masaccio to Matisse, which covers a lot of ground. It would be a vast oversimplification, though not incorrect, to summarize six hundred years as a period in which painters fell in—and then increasingly out of—love with spatial illusion. After that it was easy enough to cite non-objective art as the cut-off between old and new; Kandinsky threw the first pitch and Pollock hit it out of the park. Since then it's gotten a lot more fragmented. The Cold War days when my teachers could wage rhetorical battle against non-objective art are long gone; today one can hardly keep up with the permutations of figurative art alone, let alone all the approaches that don't require conventional materials. But until I saw the Times article, I had no idea that the art of the last six centuries had ceased to matter. I mean, I've been following the news every day. I understand what Pogrebin's article is getting at, insofar as she interviewed auction houses, dealers, and curators who asserted that there's a greater interest now in contemporary art than in art of the past. Fewer people are buying old master paintings at lower prices, and there's a drop off in the number of scholars in the field. Perhaps the tilt in scholarship can be partly explained as practical calculation, since contemporary art offers more virgin territory for research than does the finite corpus of work by old masters.
Great art acknowledges its precursors without becoming mired in what was.
The evidence is that more folks want to see what's fresh out of the oven than something with a layer of patina. It's for this reason alone that I stopped putting dates on my canvases—if a prospective buyer is only interested in viewing the latest product, it's my obligation to mess with the chronology. Another implication is that relevance may be measured through sales. There isn't a level at which that works for me. A student of either art history or economics knows that the arc of progress, be it that of reputation or investment, doesn't enjoy uninterrupted ascent. The Times article ends with a listing of upcoming auctions at which old master works can be purchased for relatively affordable prices. This left the impression that the piece really belonged in the financial section. Or the classifieds. The real subject was art as commodity.
For a contemporary artist with an interest in museums, what the article suggests is the epitome of a mixed-feelings situation. Forsaking the art of the past may seem close to blasphemy, yet at the same time we're very much alive and thus have a vested interest in marketing our own wares. For most of my working life I've thrown in with the old school, from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism, with a heavy interest in late-nineteenth century and contemporary realism. Maybe it's the diversity of what's being practiced now, and maybe it's that I'm loosening up a little with age, but I no longer feel a need to carry a torch for a past that, in post-modern jargon, was the province of the dead white guys club. There is still immense pleasure in drawing ably and watching a representational image develop in front of me, and I still think too few artists properly appreciate, let alone excel at traditional skills. I'm deaf to digital painting that copies effects of oil and canvas. But the desire to align with certain predecessors and the attendant odor of idealistic zealotry no longer motivates me. One way of trying to bridge the gap between past and present is through emulation. When I started taking classes I became aware of teachers and students who sought to paint in the style of Rembrandt, Rubens or Vermeer, and suspected there was a self-congratulatory element to the proceedings, complete with mixing up special sauces that were supposed to replicate the old masters' media, as if genius could be inherited through alchemy. When you're a student it's pretty much impossible to avoid emulating others; it is, in fact, necessary. Andre Malraux famously noted that all masters go through a youthful stage of 'pastiche', a time of cutting and pasting a variety of influences in the process of maturing. For years my go-tos were Degas, Eakins and Raphael Soyer, and to a lesser degree a few dozen other artists. The dangers are in relying for too long on historical crutches, rationalizing the value of adhering to an aesthetic cause, and of targeting the most superficial aspects of masters. An artist friend put it well: painters who seek to channel the concepts and techniques of another era are as close to what they're emulating as a Civil War reenactment is to the real thing. That river passed, and you can't step into it again.
You could argue that the most successful paraphrasing of the old masters has been that of self-conscious satire, as in the paintings of John Currin or Odd Nerdrum. But does reference to the masters have to be so, well, odd? And are pornography and kitsch the best vehicles for revisiting and revitalizing traditional themes? Maybe so, if one's ambition is to carve a high profile spot in a noisy and pluralistic market. The problem with the Times’s question is that it is skin-deep, in that it refers to market trends, and the public's fascination with novelty. (Moreover, a website called Art History News challenges the article for cherry-picking financial data and quotes from anxious dealers in order to reach an unsettling and arguable premise.) The last two questions I ask myself at the easel are whether the painting is salable and whether it's relevant. There are a multitude of more interesting concerns.
It gets worse than the Times piece. As a reminder that the comfort of ignorance may trump creative thought, an article was published in the Guardian, "Yes, great art. Can I go now?" just as I was finishing this. It serves as a coda, or a coup de grace, in its view of the museum as mausoleum. Readers' comments seconding that emotion offered testimony by a public desiring fresher diversions.
Dismaying as I find all this, there's an inevitability to leaving the past behind in favor of living in the present. Great art acknowledges its precursors without becoming mired in what was. Still, that acknowledgment is vital for the layperson as much as it is for the artist. To slough off the past as immaterial to current experience is to live untethered, and suggests contentment to wade in shallow waters. What does one ask in front of a painting? I propose two deceptively simple questions: Is it well done, and more importantly; Is it true? In that light, all else is irrelevant.
[post_title] => On Relevance [post_excerpt] => Until I saw the New York Times article, I had no idea that the art of the last six centuries had ceased to matter. I mean, I've been following the news every day. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-york-times-old-masters [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-21 08:10:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-21 12:10:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=24037 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [21] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23183 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-07-12 13:29:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-12 17:29:38 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23197" align="aligncenter" width="914"]Peggy Root, Winter Watauga River, 2016. Oil on canvas. Peggy Root, Winter Watauga River, 2016. Oil on canvas.[/caption]

"There is someone who feels as I do." This was supposedly what Degas uttered when he first saw Mary Cassatt's work, and it summons as well as any description the flash of recognition we experience in the presence of certain artists. One imagines that Tom and Peggy Root experienced a similar recognition when they met as students at the Ringling School of Art in Florida, and it's a sentiment that I've come to acknowledge when viewing their paintings. This is not to suggest identical visions. Married since 1981, Tom and Peggy have maintained distinctive identities through subject matter alone: Tom painting portraits in the studio and Peggy working en plein air. Her canvases revel in the molding of landscape through light and color, while his work relies on the circumscription of the figure's contours. Both make what they do look easy, and without the preening that attaches to a lot of technically accomplished work; even their flourishes are modest, and are imbedded in their painting more out of pictorial function than to flaunt sleight of hand.

Last week the Roots were in Connecticut for the opening of On Familiar Ground, an exhibition of their paintings at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. The school and the town have changed since Tom and Peggy studied and lived there in the 1980s—before it was a college, the Academy was an atelier school about as given to bohemianism as Old Lyme would allow. Most of the area's natural charm is intact, though the center of the historic district and the college itself are in the bull’s eye for a newly proposed northeast corridor rail line. Peggy, Tom, and their son Charles joined me on a landscape painting venture; we settled on the town’s cemetery, and I watched them evoke sensitive atmospheric effects while I lay discourteous siege to a hapless panel. They feel as I do, only more subtly. [caption id="attachment_23189" align="alignright" width="460"]Peggy Root, Clouds, North Alabama, 2013. Oil on canvas. Peggy Root, Clouds, North Alabama, 2013. Oil on canvas.[/caption] Much of the show was transported from the Roots' home in Tennessee, near which Peggy finds her subjects. Her paintings of the southern landscape depict specific places, observed in solitude, yet the sites she chooses sometimes appear nearly indistinguishable from the Connecticut venues she painted thirty years ago. Maybe an artist subconsciously seeks out similar motifs wherever they are, or imposes an individual stamp; Inness' Florida landscapes were but nominally different from those he painted in New Jersey, and indeed, all were cooked up in his studio. Clouds, North Alabama, could have been painted most anywhere, and strikes the same divergent notes of joy and melancholy as Isaac Levitan found in the Russian countryside. A particular setting, with it rich foliage and open space is a necessary spark, but once the match is struck, Peggy is free to give voice to thoughts both personal and universal. [caption id="attachment_23190" align="alignleft" width="460"]Peggy Root, Wildflower, Bass Lake, 2011. Peggy Root, Wildflower, Bass Lake, 2011.[/caption] The elation of paintings like Wildflowers, Bass Lake is unalloyed. The fuzzy contours of trees are less romantic convention than response to the optics of southern humidity, and are grounded by foreground plant shadows, denoted by brushwork that, in another context, would work nicely as urban graffiti—as if to drive the point home, the radiant mass of a cloud is broken by a blue "z." But it's the flecks of yellow and lavender—wildflowers—that grace the painting with its ultimate ebullience. If color supplies the emotional resonance in Peggy's work, drawing is the implicit armature. The elegant tracery of tree limbs against distant scenery in March Evening Sunlight strikes a balance between movement and serenity. In Winter Watauga River, such tensions are dissolved in dusky atmosphere, bare trees merged into a violet ground plane at their bases and dissipated in the clouds above. These are, in total, a sustained meditation and celebration of the Southern landscape that is rare in American painting. They are also among the best plein air work done in this country in the last few decades. [caption id="attachment_23192" align="alignright" width="349"]Tom Root, Charles with Guitar, 2016. Oil on linen. Tom Root, Charles with Guitar, 2016. Oil on linen.[/caption] To my mind, Tom Root occupies the same standing as a painter of portraits. He is less likely to sample a chromatic spectrum, and this probably owes equally to the studio environment and personal disposition. He's more apt to leave, if not accentuate, the contours of a figure, as in Charles with Guitar. Of the two artists, rather counterintuitively, it is Tom, the portraitist, who prefers canvas of rough weave; the paint in Charles, dragged over the linen surface, has a drier and more deliberate quality than Peggy's fluid application.

Often Tom displays a most subtle appreciation for tone, as in Eli, a portrait sketch so sublime that further elaboration cannot be imagined. The planes of the head are beautifully modeled, as if seen through a slight gauze of atmosphere. Moreover, the implicit effect joins artist and subject in silent contemplation. The facility required to pull this off, and do so without appearance of effort, is as formidable as it is unobtrusive.

[caption id="attachment_23188" align="alignleft" width="314"]Tom Root, Eli, 2015. Oil on linen. Tom Root, Eli, 2015. Oil on linen.[/caption] Sometimes Tom chooses a more direct angle, in which the subject assesses the artist in the process of painting. His Portrait of Christine Murdock is proof of my longstanding belief that an artist's technique rises to match the sophistication of their perception; the flawless draftsmanship of the head and hand and modulation of black, gray and skin tones are exactly suited to the depth of characterization. Tom consistently paints without the affectations that are inherent to the business of portraiture. I prefer his paintings to those of his mentor, Aaron Shikler, precisely for this reason: they are done without the self-consciousness of one who is working in the public arena. His self-portrait brings to mind the image of a painterly Garrison Keillor—droll, disheveled and a sharp surveyor of himself and others—whose observations are tempered by humane discernment. [caption id="attachment_23193" align="alignright" width="344"]Tom Root, Portrait of Christine Murdock, 2011. Oil on canvas. Tom Root, Portrait of Christine Murdock, 2011. Oil on canvas.[/caption] In their realism Tom and Peggy have each attained a personal economy of means. Tom's portraits reveal a confidence in the paring of non-essential elements, to the extent that many of his subjects exist as vignettes, emanating from an abstracted or even blank ground, with few or no anecdotal elements. Success in developing personality is totally dependent on Tom's connection to the sitter; his is a high-wire act performed without compositional crutches or distractions. By contrast, Peggy's mode of shorthand relies upon an ability to quickly summon the illusion of depth in a landscape, rendering complex layers of terrain through changes in value and color. This also assists in the suggestion of movement, the fluid dashes of brushwork and calligraphic flights evoking not only the effect of wind on foliage and clouds, but the painter's joyfulness in the presence of nature. It is true, if overly simplistic, to note that Tom's career is based on a series of intense interchanges with individual models in a controlled environment, and Peggy's engages a multitude of organic form and hue, seen in ever-changing conditions. What they share is an interest in working from life, their subjects seen with a parallel intimacy. Both Tom and Peggy have constructed, in different ways, vocabularies that abstract and distill visual information. The modesty of their practice—artists of high ambitions don't move to small towns in Tennessee—has kept them at arm's length from commercial centers. Galleries here would be wise to take notice. Even in New York City, it's a safe bet that many feel as they do. [post_title] => A Parallel Intimacy [post_excerpt] => On Familiar Ground is a two-person exhibition at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts that continues through August 13, 2016. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => tom-peggy-root-old-lyme [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-07-13 13:23:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-07-13 17:23:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=23183 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [22] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22994 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-06-21 09:50:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-06-21 13:50:25 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23004" align="alignright" width="419"]J. Alden Weir, Midday Rest in New England, 1897. Oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 50 3/8 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Gift of Isaac H. Clothier, Edward H. Coates, Dr. Francis W. Lewis, Robert C. Ogden, and Joseph G. Rosengarten, 1898.9 J. Alden Weir, Midday Rest in New England, 1897. Oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 50 3/8 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Gift of Isaac H. Clothier, Edward H. Coates, Dr. Francis W. Lewis, Robert C. Ogden, and Joseph G. Rosengarten, 1898.9[/caption] Reviewing an exhibition of J. Alden Weir's work barely a month ago I wrote, "Of our major artists, Weir is one of the least likely to inspire impassioned tribute." A happy exception to that statement is provided by The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920, an exhibition now installed at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. Therein hangs Weir's Midday Rest in New England, a big pastiche that ought not to be as good as it is: the tree-punctuated skyline is a paraphrase of Monet's poplar paintings, the yoked oxen appear to have been cut and pasted from a Barbizon landscape, and one of the resting figures may have been lifted from his friend Sargent's Tyrolean idylls; the other is seen in static profile. Somehow, Weir managed to combine too many moving parts in a zig-zag composition and pull off a painting that, if not entirely cohesive, possesses both the grandeur of a mural and atmospheric beauty. Conceived at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, whose collection forms the core of the show, The Artist's Garden traveled to several venues prior to making its final appearance in Old Lyme. It's divided into various sections: American Artists, European Gardens;
 The Lady in the Garden; The Garden in Winter; The Urban Garden, etc. But a lot of the works at the Florence Griswold can claim only the most tenuous connection to the American garden movement of a hundred years ago. Weir's canvas, for my money the show's centerpiece, depicts an agrarian theme rather than the patrician and leisurely subject the show's title evokes. One is harder-pressed to rationalize the inclusion of Childe Hassam's The Hovel and the Skyscraper, a comment on the juxtaposition of old and new in the cityscape, though it’s preferable to Jane Peterson’s thematically consistent but achingly pretty Spring Bouquet. [caption id="attachment_23008" align="aligncenter" width="723"]Charles Courtney Curran, A Breezy Day, 1887. Oil on canvas, 11 15/16 x 20 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Henry D. Gilpin Fund, 1899.1 Charles Courtney Curran, A Breezy Day, 1887. Oil on canvas, 11 15/16 x 20 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Henry D. Gilpin Fund, 1899.1[/caption] The show's poster image is The Crimson Rambler, a canvas by Philip Leslie Hale that, though ostensibly a perfect fit in these environs, is a good example of what the Ashcan School was rebelling against—Hale took an ebbing genteel theme and literally put a bow on it. How much an Abbott Thayer floral, a nursery scene by Dennis Miller Bunker, a couple of gardens by Frederick Freiseke, or an Appledore Island subject by Hassam (a bunch of the latter will convene later this summer at the Essex Peabody Museum in Massachusetts) would have helped can only be imagined. These wants were, in fact, largely satisfied in PAFA’s original version of the show, which has been stripped down for the smaller galleries in Old Lyme. [caption id="attachment_23010" align="alignleft" width="411"]Theodore Robinson, Autumn Sunlight (In the Woods), 1888. Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 3/4 inches Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company Theodore Robinson, Autumn Sunlight (In the Woods), 1888. Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 3/4 in. Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company[/caption] Still, there are at least a dozen noteworthy paintings here, some by major artists, others by lesser-known painters. Robert Vonnoh's November is a tonal French garden scene, of the sort many American expatriates produced that split the difference between Impressionism and academicism. (Vonnoh died in France, but is buried in Old Lyme). Charles Courtney Curran, a painter who too often trafficked in calendar-ready banalities, is represented by A Breezy Day, a small and elegant oil of laundresses laying out linen in a stiff wind. Autumn Sunlight, one of Theodore Robinson's first genuinely impressionistic works, reveals his genius for summoning effects of mottled sunlight on foliage; it is no wonder that of all the American artists who wished to befriend Monet at Giverny, Robinson forged the closest rapport. Also featured are fine paintings by John Twachtman, Willard Metcalf—whose Kalmia is one of the Griswold Museum's prizes—and Cecilia Beaux’s portrait of Ethel Saltus Ludington, recently gifted to the museum. Disclosures are in order. The former owner of the Beaux portrait is a friend; moreover, the Florence Griswold Museum is, for all intents, my home field, and remains a congenial site in which to paint and bring classes. Set beside the Lieutenant River, the museum’s grounds once provided summer respite for Metcalf, Hassam, and other grandees of Impressionism. It is the perfect setting for this type of exhibition, even in abridged form. [caption id="attachment_23006" align="alignright" width="437"]Maurice B. Prendergast, Promenade, c. 1915-18. Oil on canvas, 24 x 31 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, The Vivian O. and Meyer P. Potamkin Collection, Bequest of Vivian O. Potamkin, 2003.1.9 Maurice B. Prendergast, Promenade, c. 1915-18. Oil on canvas, 24 x 31 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, The Vivian O. and Meyer P. Potamkin Collection, Bequest of Vivian O. Potamkin, 2003.1.9[/caption] Some of these works, now so easy for us to digest, would once have been considered radical for their broken color and chromatic palettes. Chase and Hassam were in the vanguard before they became the establishment. Without benefit of novelty, their longevity depends on other, not wholly nostalgic qualities, those of fine drawing and sensitivity to color. Visitors will undoubtedly enjoy The Artist's Garden for the retrospective comforts it provides, but those who make the effort to really look at the best of these paintings will find more than an exercise in sentimentality. What’s on view is a vital naturalism that was practiced in many permutations; much of the exhibition is rooted in nineteenth-century realism as it ranged from Impressionism to Tonalism, with Maurice Prendergast’s Promenade nudging the proceedings toward the advent of modernism. But by then the art world had already cycled through Cubism, Fauvism, and Dada. With the onset of World War I, the gentility of the cultivated garden as a genre for painting belonged to a bygone era. When the subject reappeared in the mid-twentieth century via Fairfield Porter, it was characterized by an atmosphere that was simultaneously more openly autobiographical and cooler in disposition, and the manicured flora of the garden movement was flattened by the glare of midday sunlight. The Artist’s Garden will continue at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme until September 18. [post_title] => Back to the Garden [post_excerpt] => The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920, an exhibition of "vital naturalism," now on view at the Florence Griswold Museum [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-artists-garden [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-06-21 11:26:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-06-21 15:26:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22994 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [23] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22741 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-06-03 12:44:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-06-03 16:44:25 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22760" align="alignright" width="345"]FullSizeRender(8) Jerry Weiss, student painting, ca. 1980.[/caption] I am in South Florida this week to help with some heavy lifting, the emptying of my parents' former home in the aftermath of my mother's transition to assisted living. It is a tough business even without the emotional backwash. The night of my arrival here I stood in the deconstructed living room—books, paintings and drawings stacked amid the remaining furniture—and welcomed a wave of remorse. The trigger was memory. Each painting, whether good or bad, carries sensations associated with its making or its reception; collectively the effect was temporarily overwhelming. There's an old painting I can't stand, a landscape I committed on the edge of a Miami area golf course, that my father enjoyed in his last years. Nearby is a nude I painted as a demo for a workshop that evoked similarly disparate assessments from my father and myself. In a few days both works, and many more, will be consigned to charity or destruction, and are free to go without undue sentiment. [caption id="attachment_22756" align="alignleft" width="403"]FullSizeRender(7) Jerry Weiss, student painting, ca. 1980.[/caption] There are many works about which I'm less cavalier. Dozens of paintings and hundreds—maybe thousands—of drawings are earmarked for dispersal, the process of winnowing that accompanies major moves and death. I have no room for most of what remains, and less still in the back of a Subaru, the vessel of rescue for a handful of works. I can't bring myself to go through the drawings, out of fear that something fine will present itself and summon further nostalgia and regret. My older sister, whose visit here overlaps my own, is free of any such ties; none of her personal history is overtly present, and after my father died two years ago and I briefly considered renting storage space nearby for the artwork, she was quick to encourage removal of the "junk" canvases that filled the garage. Most artists dread the thought that their life's production will be annihilated; there's a dark narrative humor provided by a sibling who's blasé about deflating any delusions I may still cling to. [caption id="attachment_22753" align="alignright" width="424"]FullSizeRender(1) Ham Fisher, caricature of Morris Weiss.[/caption] My parents, bless them, didn't make this any easier. Their home was a repository for my early work, in addition to a broader array of art; they met at the Art Students League in 1940, when both were studying with George Bridgman, and my father became a successful cartoonist who amassed an important collection of American illustration. I can imagine my father's reaction to the current dismantling of what remains. Then again, he was as practical as he was sentimental, so I believe he would understand. In the mornings I'm trimming my beard in front of the same bathroom mirror my father used, in the evenings sleeping in my parents' last shared bedroom, now empty but for a mattress, a TV, and a small cabinet. There is symbolism and maybe something sacramental to this process that I'm aware of but am loath to acknowledge. During the day I run errands and visit with my mother, whose new home is a fifteen-minute drive away. By week's end the house should be all but empty, nothing but an air mattress and enough food in the refrigerator to last until my return home. Alone in the house, I leaf through unstretched canvases and find some awful paintings and a few keepers, which will lay flat in the back of the car, an easy fit. The larger paintings, the ones my father liked, sport ornate frames that will take up precious room; it would be nice to preserve some rear view vision for the trip. [caption id="attachment_22759" align="alignleft" width="301"]FullSizeRender(2) Blanche Weiss, student painting, 1981.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_22757" align="alignleft" width="292"]FullSizeRender(4) Blanche Weiss, student painting, 1981.[/caption] Among the paintings I'm determined to squeeze into the car are two by my mother, done at the League at the same time I was studying there. They date from the early 80s, when my parents rented a summer house in Teaneck and my mother went into the city to attend Hughie Lee-Smith's class. I didn't know Mr. Lee-Smith, but he appeared to be a gentleman of quiet dignity; I think he was only the second African-American artist to be elected a member of the National Academy. He taught my mother to start a painting en grisaille, adding color through subtle glazes. She flourished in those summers, not that I noticed much, focused as I was on separating from family and establishing a career. This week I'm studying these two paintings with newfound respect, not only for their accomplished technique but for their inventive designs. I, too, used the League's floating studio lights in my drawings and paintings, but never to the same humorous effect my mother so successfully employed. I remember the model for her other painting, a man who took pride in his powerful physique, and was able to hold a handstand for a full minute in the figure drawing class. [caption id="attachment_22754" align="alignright" width="309"]FullSizeRender(3) Jerry Weiss, Kathryn, 1984. Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 in.[/caption] Mostly I'll load up with paintings I made at the League and in the years just after leaving school. Stacked for possible inclusion is the last painting I perpetrated in Ted Jacobs's class, which he critiqued with the sort of faint praise that accelerated my departure. Two paintings depict an older model who had posed some years earlier for Raphael Soyer: one was painted by natural light in the League's mezzanine studio, and marked my first meeting with a fellow student who would become a lifelong friend, Dan Gheno. In the other the model wore a vivid red scarf; it was one of my father's favorite paintings, but I need to scare up a screwdriver and remove an attached picture light if it's to fit in the car. There's a little oil sketch from Harvey Dinnerstein's class at the National Academy that's held up better than many more ambitious pieces. Also a good painting of my first girlfriend, a fellow artist who died many years ago. There are, in other words, paintings that meet both technical and emotional requirements. There's irony to the fact that earlier on the day I departed for Florida, I was approached by a colleague who assists artists in preserving their documents, in an effort to secure their historical legacies. It seems there is always conflict between our material and spiritual beings, and this is especially true at a moment when one is compelled to relinquish control. I'm not letting go without a fight—the ego is nothing if not resilient, and sneaky. But to what end, other than the appeasement of vanity? [caption id="attachment_22758" align="alignleft" width="436"]FullSizeRender(5) Jerry Weiss, Susan (Summer Reading), 1986. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in.[/caption] Although I'll bring a few paintings and assorted remembrances of my parents with me when I leave Florida next week, it's clear that the lesson will be that of releasing the past. The next few days, alternating between visits to my mother and overseeing the evisceration of her last conjugal home, promise to be, shall we say, educational. In dispersing a chunk of my visual memoir, the casualty will be the last vestige of personal mythology. This is a profound humiliation, and a very good thing. Brighter moments intervene. I'm informed by a dealer that a sale of two paintings is pending. It's a reminder that artwork is preserved for pragmatic reasons, and if the sale goes through my trip here will be more than paid for. And there are moments that defy facile description: last night while we sat in front of the TV my sister bought for her new digs, I briefly explained to my mother the complexities of cleaning out the house. "What house?" she asked. [post_title] => On Letting Go [post_excerpt] => Most artists dread the thought that their life's production will be annihilated. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => on-letting-go [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-21 08:31:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-21 12:31:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22741 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [24] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22628 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-05-26 09:50:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-26 13:50:38 [post_content] => Two articles by Jerry Weiss will be published in upcoming issues of The Artist's Magazine. "Painterly Prints" (PDF here) appearing in the magazine's July/August 2016 issue, is a review of the current exhibition of Degas monotypes at the Museum of Modern Art. "The Give-and-Take of Buildings and Trees" (PDF here) is an article about Julian Alden Weir, whom Weiss calls a "convert to American Impressionism," which will appear in the September 2016 issue. [caption id="attachment_22661" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Edgar Degas, Landscape with Rocks, 1892. Pastel over monotype in oil colors on wove paper, 10 1/8 x 13 9/16 in. Purchase with High Museum of Art Enhancement Fund. High Museum of Art. Edgar Degas, Landscape with Rocks, 1892. Pastel over monotype in oil colors on wove paper, 10 1/8 x 13 9/16 in. Purchase with High Museum of Art Enhancement Fund. High Museum of Art.[/caption] [post_title] => Two Articles by Jerry Weiss [post_excerpt] => Upcoming in two issues of The Artist's Magazine are articles about Edgar Degas and Julian Alden Weir by Jerry Weiss. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-artists-magazine-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-26 20:28:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-27 00:28:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22628 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [25] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22518 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-05-16 15:09:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-16 19:09:45 [post_content] => One of the foremost American painters of his generation, Julian Alden Weir kept a studio in New York and taught at the League. He also spent many productive summers in rural Connecticut. Weir’s art, friends, and family life in Windham, Connecticut, are the subject of a fine show at the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London, entitled A Good Summer's Work: J. Alden Weir, Connecticut Impressionist. The exhibition's theme was an inspired choice by curator and art historian Anne E. Dawson. Though Weir was part of the Cos Cob Art Colony and his life in Connecticut has been primarily associated with his farm in Branchville, it was in Windham that he painted his best landscapes. His farm in central Connecticut offered respite from New York City, and something more, in the form of a bucolic ideal. [caption id="attachment_22520" align="alignright" width="321"]J. Alden Weir, Portrait of Mrs. Ella Baker Weir, c. 1900 - 1910 Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 1/2" Brigham Young University Museum of Art Purchase/Gift of Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959 J. Alden Weir, Portrait of Mrs. Ella Baker Weir, c. 1900–10. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 1/2 in. Brigham Young University Museum of Art. Purchase/Gift of Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959[/caption] [caption id="attachment_22530" align="alignright" width="294"]J. Alden Weir, Anna with a Greyhound, 1882. Oil on wood. Private collection. Photo by Harrison Judd J. Alden Weir, Anna with a Greyhound, 1882. Oil on wood. Private collection. Photo by Harrison Judd[/caption] No hour in the day passes but what I recall the first Connecticut hours we had in the charming little village of Windham. This is really the first Connecticut village that I have really ever known, and now I feel that a chain is connected to all villages. When Weir studied in Paris, he chose the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme, and was appalled by what he saw of impressionism. His initial abhorrence to the new art may be explained by his background: both Weir’s father and older brother were heavyweights in American academic art. Eventually Weir was not only reconciled with impressionism, he became one of its foremost proponents. There was some awkwardness in the reconciliation: a pre-impressionist portrait of his first wife, Anna with Greyhound (when she died in 1892, Weir married her older sister, Ella) is painted with rigid deference to convention, and hardly suggests the couple's deep emotional connection. A later painting of Ella, notwithstanding its laboriously hatched color, is suffused with warm intimacy. Weir's best portrait in the museum is installed apart from the exhibition on the first floor; a hybrid of traditional composition and broken color technique, it depicts Ella standing in a white dress. [caption id="attachment_22519" align="alignleft" width="428"]J. Alden Weir, The Spreading Oak, J. Alden Weir, The Spreading Oak, ca. 1910. Oil on canvas, 39 x 50 in. Gift of Col. C.E.S. Wood in memory of his wife, Nanny Moale Wood. Portland Art Museum.[/caption] The landscapes, too, vary in quality. The best of the lot are The Spreading Oak, in which Weir's painted hachure weaves a powerful composition from the summer landscape (no mean feat, devoting half a canvas to dense shadowed foliage in the near distance); and U. S. Thread Mills, Willimantic, Connecticut, one of a series of canvases Weir painted of the immense thread factories near his farm, and the one whose design is most clearly influenced by Japanese prints. Unfortunately, Weir's two greatest Windham area landscapes, and arguably the best he ever painted—The Red Bridge and Factory Village—are both in the Metropolitan Museum, and are absent from this show. They reveal Weir to have been in full and memorable voice when he was painting the interface between rural and industrial life in New England. [caption id="attachment_22535" align="alignright" width="296"]John Singer Sargent, Portrait of J. Alden Weir, 1890. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. Private collection Photo by Harrison Judd John Singer Sargent, Portrait of J. Alden Weir, 1890. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. Private collection. Photo by Harrison Judd[/caption] A Good Summer's Work is fleshed out with paintings by some of Weir's friends and visitors to Windham. Childe Hassam, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Emil Carlsen are represented, and John Twachtman was a confidante as well; at times Weir seems to channel characteristics of each of these artists. Influences and shared sympathies can be discerned, but Weir is not as vibrant as Hassam, as mystical as Ryder, nor as fine a designer as either Carlsen or Twachtman. If one’s taste for deft marksmanship need be indulged, there's a quick portrait of Weir painted by Sargent, which effortlessly captures his handsome face as it begins to broaden in middle age. Of our major artists, Weir is one of the least likely to inspire impassioned tribute. It's not for lack of effort; in fact, the problem is that he tried too hard. His paintings are accretions of hesitant movements, impasted passages bearing the scars of knife scrapings and tentative draftsmanship, his landscapes seen under diffused sunlight, his portraits stilted and overworked. When Weir does hit the mark—and good fortune visited his easel often enough to grant him prominent standing among the first generation of American Impressionists—it wasn't because of a sudden flash of clarity. He muddled through until the painting worked. It's often said that great painters make the process look easy, but Weir inverted the cliché; one will search his catalogue in vain for a blithe stroke. [caption id="attachment_22521" align="alignleft" width="309"]Julian Alden Weir, <i>U.S. Thread Company Mills, Willimantic, Connecticut</i>, c. 1893/1897. Oil on canvas, Gift of Margaret and Raymond Horowitz, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art Julian Alden Weir, U.S. Thread Company Mills, Willimantic, Connecticut, c. 1893/1897. Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. Gift of Margaret and Raymond Horowitz, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art.[/caption] If Weir’s work was seldom spontaneous and never glib, it was often poetic and always genuine. His aversion to flourish is as much a charm as it is a deficiency. In a market taken with hyperbole and showmanship, the simple honesty of a good painter interpreting a sunny day is a rare enough thing, rare as a day in June. A Good Summer's Work: J. Alden Weir, Connecticut Impressionist will be on display at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut, until September 11. Rare Light: J. Alden Weir in Windham, Connecticut, 1882–1919 is a book edited by Anne E. Dawson, the exhibition’s curator and Weir scholar and Professor of Art History at Eastern Connecticut State University.  
[post_title] => “In the Charming Little Village of Windham” [post_excerpt] => Of our major artists, J. Alden Weir is one of the least likely to inspire impassioned tribute. It's not for lack of effort; in fact, the problem is that he tried too hard. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => j-alden-weir-lyman-allen-museum [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-17 10:16:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-17 14:16:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22518 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [26] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22287 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-05-04 12:01:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-04 16:01:46 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22295" align="alignright" width="426"]National Academy of Design Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Miraculous Haul of Fishes, c. 1913–14. Oil on canvas, 38 x 47½ in. National Academy Museum, New York Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Miraculous Haul of Fishes, c. 1913–14. Oil on canvas, 38 x 47½ in. National Academy Museum, New York[/caption] This is the third article I’ll have written in as many years about the shuttering of a museum. The first was an obituary for the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, a major collection that succumbed to serial mismanagement; the second was the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City, which closed on an operatic high note last year with an exhibition of Florentine sculpture. The latest casualty is, for me, the most personal. Lest we forget how tenuous this business is, a recent article in the Times detailed the diverse fortunes of New York's museums: just now MoMA and the Whitney are cresting on the public's interest in contemporary art, while the Met, struggling with deficits and looking to carve a niche in the modern market, has opened a new outpost on 75th Street. In deepest water is the National Academy, an organization of artists and architects founded in 1825 for the purpose of promoting “the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition.” Owing to financial difficulties, the Academy is about to close its museum—the former home of Archer Huntington in which it’s resided since 1942—and move elsewhere with the profit expected from the sale of its buildings. 

Visiting the Academy's museum after many years and for one last time, it's easy for me to indulge in personal reminiscence. In the early 1980s I studied at the Academy school with Colleen Browning, Harvey Dinnerstein, and Mary Beth McKenzie. The studio walls were painted in light tones and the rooms had great skylights, the clientele was older, and the atmosphere was distinctly more genteel than that of its boisterous 57th Street cousin. In contrast to the League, even popular classes were relatively uncrowded, which gave the impression that one had happened upon an exclusive resource on the Upper East Side. [caption id="attachment_22293" align="alignleft" width="400"]National Academy of Design Isabel Bishop, Nude Study, 1934. Oil on canvas, 15 x 18 in. National Academy Museum, New York Isabel Bishop, Nude Study, 1934. Oil on canvas, 15 x 18 in. National Academy Museum, New York[/caption] The museum next door hosted an annual open exhibition, juried by member artists—though I couldn’t find any mention of this on the Academy’s website, the exhibition was for generations a premier showcase for American artists. In a recent phone conversation, Dinnerstein recalled that the annual continued to serve as a springboard for aspiring artists of his generation. It was still an effective venue well into the 1980s: I was fortunate to have been juried into three shows and won two prizes, which led to press coverage and gallery representation. But by the 1990s the open shows were cut back to every other year, and soon thereafter, the annuals were closed to everyone except for elected members and selective outsiders. This not only rescinded opportunities for unknown artists to be juried in alongside Academicians, it removed the most significant venue available to many representational painters. 

No organism is static—London's Royal Academy, the association upon which the N.A. was originally modeled, welcomed Tracy Emin into the fold a decade ago—and certainly the National Academy has changed since I studied and exhibited there. Its membership now includes numerous avant-garde artists, and the school has introduced newer media to its curriculum. [caption id="attachment_22294" align="alignright" width="361"]National Academy of Design Kenyon Cox, A Blonde, 1891. Oil on canvas, 41 x 36 in. National Academy Museum, New York Kenyon Cox, A Blonde, 1891. Oil on canvas, 41 x 36 in. National Academy Museum, New York[/caption] What hasn’t changed at the museum since 1980, when I was briefly employed as a guard, is the sense that one is visiting a sparsely inhabited Beaux-Arts villa. On a bright Saturday afternoon last week the building was nearly empty. The Academy’s swan song at its Fifth Avenue location (one more "pop-up" show is scheduled for late May) begins with an exhibition of work by Miriam Schapiro, whose paintings moved from Abstract Expressionism to hard-edged abstraction before settling, in the 70s, on a feminist vision that incorporated fabric and collage into her canvases. The museum’s upper floors are devoted to an installation of abstract and conceptual works that evidence systematic approaches, and, finally, paintings, film and sculpture assembled as "Contemporary Highlights from the Collection." By far the largest show, in terms of pieces if not wall space, is a chronological installation of some one hundred paintings from the Academy’s permanent collection, created between 1820 and 1970. The works are hung au salon, three deep, to the detriment of "skyed" paintings like George Bellows’s Three Rollers and Kenyon Cox’s A Blonde; it’s a surprise to learn that Cox’s nudes of the 1880s were considered ripe enough to be controversial. Among other highlights are William Merritt Chase’s The Young Orphan, Cecilia Beaux’s Self-Portrait, Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Miraculous Haul of Fishes and Isabel Bishop’s Nude Study. [caption id="attachment_22291" align="alignleft" width="350"]National Academy of Design Thomas Eakins, Self-Portrait, 1902. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. National Academy Museum, New York Thomas Eakins, Self-Portrait, 1902. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. National Academy Museum, New York[/caption] The museum’s star, nested between canvases by Robert Henri and Daniel Garber, is Thomas Eakins’s Self-Portrait. Eakins’s recognition came relatively late. After years of lukewarm treatment—including complaints that his anatomy lectures at the National Academy’s school were offensive due to the use of nude male models—he was accepted as an Associate member in March 1902. He quickly painted this image and presented it to the institution in May the same year, and within days was made a full Academician. One of only two stand-alone self-portraits by the artist (the other is at the Hirshhorn in Washington), it displays remarkable emotional intensity and disquieting honesty; this is the greatest self-portrait in American painting. Whatever Eakins’s mindset when he painted it, its astringent quality may now be seen as mute admonition to the organization that owns it. [caption id="attachment_22292" align="alignright" width="326"]National Academy of Design George Wesley Bellows, Three Rollers, 1911. Oil on canvas, 39⅝ x 41¾ in. National Academy Museum, New York George Wesley Bellows, Three Rollers, 1911. Oil on canvas, 39⅝ x 41¾ in. National Academy Museum, New York[/caption] A more public reprimand occurred in 2008, culminating in sanctions imposed on the Academy by the Association of Art Museum Directors, after the N.A. deaccessioned two major paintings by Hudson River School artists to raise over $13.5 million for operating costs. The sale did not alleviate the Academy’s financial woes, and so it has decided to follow through on a solution that was long being considered, and has put its buildings on the market for $120 million. The museum closes in June, and the adjacent school building promises to continue hosting classes at least until a new site is found. Even a museum of the Met’s magnitude is susceptible to popular erosion, and it could be that the N.A., too, has struggled to maintain an identity while hoping to attract broader public interest. Egalitarian by self-description, it is also, in essence, an elite club. The immediate concerns may well be those of survival, where and when the Academy will reopen. What happens inside that building will ultimately be most significant. [post_title] => Remembering the National Academy [post_excerpt] => Pondering the closing of the National Academy of Design's home on Fifth Avenue, Eakins’s vulnerable expression, caught between resistance and resignation, may well speak for many artists. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => remembering-national-academy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-22 15:25:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-22 19:25:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22287 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [27] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22176 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-04-22 12:23:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-04-22 16:23:54 [post_content] => The current exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art entitled "Not Theories but Revelations": The Art and Science of Abbott Handerson Thayer got me to thinking about Thayer, an exquisite painter and passionate naturalist. He was an important mentor to young artists—Rockwell Kent served as his apprentice, and Dennis Miller Bunker called him “The first great man I ever knew.” Thayer’s interest in animal coloration led to innovative theories on protective camouflage, a subject about which he argued publicly with President Theodore Roosevelt. He also spearheaded a successful effort to preserve his beloved Mt. Monadnock from commercial development. He was responsible for beautiful, if conventional, landscape and still life paintings, but was most emotionally invested in a corpus of images depicting classically-robed women, with wings. [caption id="attachment_22181" align="alignright" width="300"]Jerry Weiss's copy of Abbott Thayer's The Sisters Jerry Weiss's copy of Abbott Thayer's The Sisters[/caption] In the winter of 1983 I was studying at the National Academy of Design School with Mary Beth McKenzie, when an exhibition of Thayer’s work landed at the Academy’s museum next door. Blessed by proximity, Mary Beth arranged for the class to spend a few weeks copying Thayer’s paintings. I don’t know how the other students felt, but for my part the opportunity engendered considerable excitement. The painting that fascinated me was The Sisters, a double portrait on loan from the Brooklyn Museum. My version was a conscientious if dry replication, but it’s the only oil copy I’ve kept in my studio, and is proof of a fondness for Thayer’s work that goes back more than thirty years. [caption id="attachment_22184" align="alignleft" width="323"]Abbott Handerson Thayer, Study of Alma Wollerman (Mrs. Gerald Thayer), ca. 1915. Oil on canvas. Jean Reasoner Plunket Trust. Abbott Handerson Thayer, Study of Alma Wollerman (Mrs. Gerald Thayer), ca. 1915. Oil on canvas. Jean Reasoner Plunket Trust.[/caption] Admitting a fondness for Thayer almost requires a qualifying statement, which I’ll get to shortly. Even during an era when the image of American femininity was relentlessly idealized, his angelic women went beyond the pale; he doubled down on the virginal trope by adorning otherwise realistic figures with large white wings. Thayer held dear an ideal of feminine purity, one which became entwined with a fascination for bird plumage. “Doubtless,” he explained, “my lifelong passion for birds has helped to incline me to work wings into my pictures; but primarily I have put on wings probably more to symbolize an exalted atmosphere (above the realm of genre painting) where one need not explain the action of the figures.” Although this indicates an impressively tangled subconscious, one cannot doubt the genuineness of his explanation. Among the small treasures of the Williamstown show is a painting of a wood duck, camouflaged in the surrounding landscape, an experiment in protective coloring theory carried out in paint. And Study of Alma Wollerman (Mrs. Gerald Thayer)—with the figure’s contours lost and found against an indeterminate background—appears to be cut from much the same pictorial cloth. Thayer’s interest in natural coloration dovetailed with the concurrent Tonalism movement in American painting. In private, Thayer expressed fury at what he considered the abasement of women in popular culture. Writing of the characteristics that fashionable portrait painters seized upon, he railed against artists “stone blind to any attribute except fuckableness!” (Maybe I’m the only person who watched commercials for Victoria’s Secret with models clad in nothing save for underwear and enormous white wings, and imagined what would have been Thayer’s apoplectic response.) He liked his models beautiful, but swathed in an aura of purity to protect against erotic bias. One gets the impression that Thayer’s anxiety was less a reaction to the broader culture than an expression of his own conflicted feelings about women in particular, and his tumultuous nature in general. He referred to his tremendous mood swings as “the Abbott pendulum,” which would now be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. [caption id="attachment_22183" align="alignright" width="362"]Abbott Handerson Thayer, Male Wood Duck in a Forest Pool, study for Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, ca. 1909. Oil on board. Family and Estate of Abbott Handerson Thayer. Abbott Handerson Thayer, Male Wood Duck in a Forest Pool, study for Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, ca. 1909. Oil on board. Family and Estate of Abbott Handerson Thayer.[/caption] It’s this emotional tension that’s at the heart of Thayer’s painting, where it manifested in heavily overworked and incomplete passages. Themes that I’d find irredeemably cornball from any other artist are rescued both by Thayer’s prickly earnestness and his formal abilities as a draftsman and painter. His studio modus operandi was unique: Thayer would begin a figure and have an apprentice make a copy of it in an early stage, so that he could then alternate working on both canvases. Once, while struggling over a painting of a winged figure seated on a rock that would become a memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson, Thayer asked Rockwell Kent for his input. Kent later recalled:

With not too much conviction I offered my criticism. "Good!" said Thayer. "Now I'll go out. You take my brushes and paint the rock the way you think it ought to be. And call me when you've finished.".... So I went to work. And when I had done the best I could, I called Thayer back. Thayer was generous. "Yes," he cried, "I think you've helped it." Suddenly he cried, "Look! We're both wrong—building it up little by little like that! God said, 'let there be a rock'—and there it was." And picking up a broom he swept it right and left across the painting. It did the trick.

[caption id="attachment_22182" align="alignleft" width="320"]Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel, ca. 1900-1903. Oil on canvas. Harvard/Fogg Museum. Gift of Irwin D. Hoffman. Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel, ca. 1900–1903. Oil on canvas. Harvard/Fogg Museum. Gift of Irwin D. Hoffman.[/caption] Thayer didn’t give a lick for the immaculate surfaces that are as prized now as they were then. His unfinished Angel, in the current show, displays both his anachronistic obsession and a brisk handling we associate with the modern temperament. In a letter to a collector he explained, in part, that “my picture, though perhaps locally badly executed, owes the somewhat exalted position it holds to the fact that this imperfectly executed part was nevertheless, tuned to, harmonized with, every other part of the canvas.” He expressly forbade that his pictures ever be retouched. The variegated surfaces, creamy white passages, and thickly repainted areas, one impetuous thought supplanted by the next, were left by intent. It’s no wonder I like him. Abbott Thayer, painter of birds, mountains and winged women, will always be one of my guilty pleasures. “Not Theories but Revelations:” The Art and Science of Abbott Handerson Thayer, is on display at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts, until August 21, 2016. [post_title] => Guilty Pleasures [post_excerpt] => Themes that I’d find irredeemably cornball from any other artist are rescued both by Abbott Thayer’s prickly earnestness and his formal abilities as a draftsman and painter. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => guilty-pleasures-abbott-thayer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-22 12:23:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-22 16:23:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22176 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [28] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22098 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-04-18 11:06:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-04-18 15:06:04 [post_content] => That Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty is the first exhibition the Museum of Modern Art has devoted to Degas is hard to believe. His late work is in many ways no less modern than that of Monet, whose Waterlilies murals are a foundation of the MoMA collection. That having been said, the current show, if long overdue, offers a well curated slice from the master’s oeuvre. The theme is monotype and the armature is the subject matter that Degas explored in various media, but the boldface subtext is the smudged distinction between drawing and painting. This was no small feat, given Degas’s respect for Ingres and his beginnings as a draftsman in the classical tradition, and it illuminates his desire to go beyond adherence to conventional approaches. Arguably the greatest draftsman of his time, there was nothing fastidious in his thinking. Degas couldn’t wait to find new ways to get his hands dirty. [caption id="attachment_22102" align="alignleft" width="439"]Edgar Degas, executed in collaboration with Vicomte Lepic, The Ballet Master, c. 1874. Monotype heightened and corrected with white chalk or wash, Sheet: 24 7/16 x 33 7/16 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Rosenwald Collection Edgar Degas, executed in collaboration with Vicomte Lepic, The Ballet Master, c. 1874. Monotype heightened and corrected with white chalk or wash, Sheet: 24 7/16 x 33 7/16 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Rosenwald Collection[/caption] His individuality was evident early, in portrait etchings that refer to the influence of Rembrandt without being bound by a youthful desire to emulate. By the late 1870s Degas was experimenting with lithography, drypoint and aquatint, and his prints became more painterly. A working partnership with Ludovic Lepic was, perhaps, seminal, though one must believe that Degas would have found his way to monotype by hook or crook. Lepic wasn’t an important artist, but he was a restless eccentric, and Degas was interested in his friend’s recent printmaking explorations using ink and rags. Probably his first monotype, installed at the entrance of the MoMA show, was the large The Ballet Master (c. 1874), which is signed by both artists. It would be convenient to say that Degas’s innovations in printmaking followed a clear chronological layout, but until Picasso he was the least doctrinaire of masters (the show is ordered as much by subject as it is by chronology). Thus, The Ballet Master (c. 1874) isn’t a pure monotype, since it includes additions of either opaque watercolor or white chalk that cloud rather than clarify the image. Soon enough he got the hang of the process, and was off and running. In unadulterated form, monotype is practiced by painting with ink on a metal or glass plate, with the image transferred to paper while still wet. Degas used both the additive and subtractive processes—painting straight on a blank plate or covering it first with ink, then wiping out the light areas—and often mixed the two approaches. The Two Connoisseurs (c. 1880) appears to have been done primarily via the first process, with the figures and background elements painted directly on a dry plate, yet there are also numerous passages within dark fields where ink was partially wiped away, probably with a rag. The contours of the main gentleman’s ear were delineated by scraping into ink with a fine pointed object, while the front edge of his face was reinforced with a single brushstroke of black pigment. The image, typically urbane in characterization and handling, is a minor masterpiece. Woman Reclining on Her Bed (c. 1885) was done in the subtractive manner—the process will be familiar to those of us who studied at the Art Students League in Frank Reilly-inspired classes—with an ink-covered plate from which Degas wiped out lighter passages, the brightest being an oil lamp in the lower left-hand corner of the sheet. The figure itself is half-swallowed in shadow, the swipes of a cloth across her forms suggesting both her sculptural mass and her indolence. Here, too, Degas incised lines into the ink with a sharp instrument, to pull certain contours out from the velvety shadows. [caption id="attachment_22104" align="alignright" width="445"]Edgar Degas, The Madam's Name Day, 1876–77. Pastel over monotype, 10.47 x 11.65 in. Musée National Picasso. Edgar Degas, The Madam's Name Day, 1876–77. Pastel over monotype, 10.47 x 11.65 in. Musée National Picasso.[/caption] For an earlier work, The Name Day of the Madam (1876–77), Degas used a more complex technique of pastel applied on top of the printed monotype (It’s worth digressing to note that the literature on Degas’s monotypes focuses to an unusual degree on the technical aspect, presumably because the media is not popularly understood by non-artists, and because Degas was its foremost innovator). The Name Day is one of a series of monotypes by Degas depicting the general lassitude of life in a brothel, one of the very few subjects that the artist did not explicitly attempt in any other media—insofar as he devoted much attention to the subjects of ballet, bathers, and the brothel, the distinctions between the genres blur like printer’s ink. As Degas chronicled in other works, Parisian ballet "rats" often depended on older sugar daddies to bankroll their careers, and the identities of his women at their baths or in their beds are ambiguous enough that some are traditionally classified within the brothel series. Such are the reasons, buttressed by a prevalently voyeuristic point-of-view, that Degas has often been accused of misogyny. It was an attitude which his most gifted protégé, the English artist Walter Sickert, took to such extremes, hiring prostitutes to pose for him in hotel rooms, that he’s been mistakenly proposed as a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders. [caption id="attachment_22101" align="alignleft" width="500"]Edgar Degas,Landscape, 1892. Monotype in oil colors, heightened with pastel, 10 x 13⅜ in. Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Richard J. Bernhard Gift, 1972. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Edgar Degas, Landscape, 1892. Monotype in oil colors, heightened with pastel, 10 x 13⅜ in. Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Richard J. Bernhard Gift, 1972. The Metropolitan Museum of Art[/caption] Degas’s acid was constrained by a bourgeoisie background, and if it reached an apogee of sorts in his first batch of monotypes from the late 1870s and early 1880s, it dispersed entirely in the dreamy landscape monotypes of a decade later—I first saw these at the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit of Degas’s landscapes in the mid-1990s, and have never wavered in thinking them the most beautiful works ever made in this medium. Spurred by a carriage trip through the French countryside in 1890, Degas executed in the studio a series of monotypes that were yet more aggressively experimental, covering a plate with splotches of color, then overlaying pastel atop the painted print, sometimes using tinted paper as a ground (see Landscape (1892) and Landscape with Rocky Cliffs (1890). His beloved line was diffused in a series of abstractions that valued evocativeness over topographical description. Although his traveling companion attested to the images’ literalness as evidence of Degas’s acute visual memory, the artist referred to them as “paysages imaginaires.” It is likely that both views are correct, with the resulting works constituting an uncharacteristically romantic rebuttal—but a rebuttal nonetheless—to his colleagues’ devotion to plein-air painting. Nearly eighty-seven years after its inception, MoMA has found a rationale for honoring Degas. He was, in addition to many other things, the greatest innovator and creative force in the medium of monotype. The current exhibition is enriched with drawings and paintings that correspond to the show’s theme, and besides, there needn’t be a good excuse to include pastels like Dancers Resting (c. 1898), a late work in which one may be forgiven for temporary confusion regarding which leg corresponds to which dancer. It’s a blast of color grafted upon an aging draftsman’s linear framework, and ought to be a reminder that Degas’s genius is reason enough for MoMA to revisit this modern artist, before another eighty-seven years have passed. Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through July 24, 2016. [post_title] => Worth the Wait [post_excerpt] => Arguably the greatest draftsman of his time, there was nothing fastidious in his thinking. Degas couldn’t wait to find new ways to get his hands dirty. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => worth-the-wait-degas-moma [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-18 13:16:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-18 17:16:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=22098 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [29] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21752 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-03-30 09:03:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-30 14:03:22 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_18553" align="alignleft" width="297"]Alice Neel, James Hunter Black Draftee, 1965. Oil on Canvas, 60 x 40 in. COMMA Foundation Belgium. © The Estate of Alice Neel Alice Neel, James Hunter Black Draftee, 1965. Oil on Canvas, 60 x 40 in. COMMA Foundation Belgium. © The Estate of Alice Neel[/caption] Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible is the inaugural marquee installation at the Met Breuer, the Metropolitan Museum’s new exhibition space in the building that once housed the Whitney Museum. The show is, as its name suggests, an assemblage of artworks that are incomplete. Sometimes a lack of resolution is obvious, sometimes not, and then, it’s sometimes unclear whether a work was left incomplete by design or accident. Often not even the artist knows for certain when a work of art is done. “To finish a work? To finish a picture?,” Picasso once asked, and then supplied the answer. “What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.” There are many circumstances in which the coup de grace is never delivered, and Unfinished enumerates these, and then some. The Met Breuer’s show sprawls over two floors, and includes work whose trajectory was truncated either by accident—examples include Gustav Klimt’s Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III, left unfinished at the time of his death, and Alice Neel’s James Hunter Black Draftee, with the title all but explaining why Mr. Hunter never returned after the first sitting—or aesthetic choice—see any one of the paintings by Joseph Mallord William Turner, whose landscapes so brazenly disregarded traditional ideas of finish that they’ve merited their own small gallery. In Turner, the demarcation between a completed painting and one that was left in progress is often negligible, and the distinction is further complicated, or blunted, by a modern acceptance of visual suggestiveness. There are revelations; I never realized that El Greco’s Vision of Saint John was incomplete, and there are memorable Titian portraits and an incomplete Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry by Rubens that I’d never seen before. [caption id="attachment_18552" align="alignright" width="405"]Janine Antoni, Lick and Lather, 1993–94. Chocolate and soap. Head I: 24 x 13 in. Head II: 16 x 13 in. Base: 45 x 13 in. Collection of Jill and Peter Kraus. © Janine Antoni; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York Janine Antoni, Lick and Lather, 1993–94. Chocolate and soap. Head I: 24 x 13 in. Head II: 16 x 13 in. Base: 45 x 13 in. Collection of Jill and Peter Kraus. © Janine Antoni; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York[/caption] The curators have included a number of works that make tangential points. Michelangelo’s famous study for the Libyan Sibyl was a preparatory drawing that was probably not intended for public display, thus the concept of "finish" is irrelevant. Sunset on the Sea, by John Frederick Kensett, is a finished painting that was chosen because it’s less compositionally elaborate and more overtly visionary than Kensett’s previous work. What of Willem de Kooning’s Woman, I, which was repainted in its entirety dozens, if not hundreds of times over the course of several years? Is it unfinished because the artist was persistently dissatisfied (though he eventually stopped and announced it finished), or because it looks brusque? Robert Smithson’s installation of sand addresses themes of loss and decay, but this deals with the artist’s acknowledgment of art as ephemera, an issue which is distinct from that of completion. Conceptually, Janine Antoni’s Lick and Lather seems a natural continuation of Rodin’s incomplete sculptures, whose human forms emanate from rough-hewn marble, and the "melting" surfaces of Medardo Rosso’s impressionistic portraits. But Antoni’s pair of busts, one cast in chocolate and the other in soap, were completed before she licked the former and bathed with the latter, slightly deforming both self-portraits (the catalogue notes that three other chocolate busts were defaced by viewers who bit off their noses, perhaps the most forgivable instances of art vandalism). The points being made here are a bit arch, with the curators casting a net so wide that not just the materials used in the artworks but the theme itself starts to disintegrate. [caption id="attachment_18554" align="alignright" width="323"]Leonardo da Vinci, Head and Shoulders of a Woman, ca. 1500–1505. Oil, earth, and white lead pigments on poplar, 9¾ x 8¼ in. Galleria Nazionale di Parma Leonardo da Vinci, Head and Shoulders of a Woman, ca. 1500–1505. Oil, earth, and white lead pigments on poplar, 9¾ x 8¼ in. Galleria Nazionale di Parma[/caption] For artists, thematic cohesion will probably be secondary to the work itself. The pickings, as may be surmised from the works already mentioned, are bountiful. Additionally, there are beautiful figure works and portraits by Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Corot, not to mention a small painting by Leonardo that invites the obligatory cluster of fascinated viewers. There are a couple of abandoned paintings by Lucian Freud: a clean, early self-portrait that reveals a methodically piecemeal approach, and a nude portrait left incomplete at the time of his death, the paint dry and scabrous. The scholarship is divided as to whether Cézanne finished Gardanne, but any further filling-in of the bare canvas would have sacrificed the landscape’s luminosity and compromised the delight one feels at confronting an incomplete puzzle. Two of my favorites here are Corot’s Sybille, a Met denizen of perfect equipoise, the shudder of her unfinished arms supplying counterpoint to an idealized face—it is the sort of painting Picasso digested but never forgot; and Degas’s Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey, a canvas the artist continued to rework more than three decades after it was first exhibited. Any painting that can remain unfinished for thirty years and retain this much nervous energy merits a show unto itself. [caption id="attachment_18557" align="alignleft" width="284"]Camille Corot, Sibylle, ca. 1870. Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 25 1/2 in. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Camille Corot, Sibylle, ca. 1870. Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 25 1/2 in. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[/caption] If visiting artists opt to cherry-pick through its nearly six hundred years of art, they will find more than enough to amply reward the inconveniences—on a sunny Saturday late afternoon, the crowds were wicked thick, and negotiating them required a measure of midtown-style sidewalk agility. Some of the works beguile with the charm of non finito, others open limited windows on the creative process, be it methodical or spontaneous, while still others, with their bizarrely empty passages, are inadvertently surreal. [caption id="attachment_18556" align="alignright" width="285"]Edgar Degas, Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey, 1866, reworked 1880-1881 and c. 1897. Oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 13/16. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. The National Gallery of Art. Edgar Degas, Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey, 1866, reworked 1880-1881 and c. 1897. Oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 13/16. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. The National Gallery of Art.[/caption] The exhibition isn’t a master class, but it does address a topic that’s central to our studio pursuits, where students customarily want to finish before they’ve learned how to start. One of the Whitney’s last blockbusters in its former location, wherein Edward Hopper’s preparatory drawings were liberally mixed with paintings, was far more instructive. Notwithstanding the chance to glimpse so many works abruptly halted midstream, the struggles of conception and composition remain gratifyingly inscrutable. This, alone, is an important reminder to those who teach and study the nuts and bolts of making art. The Met Breuer’s self-described mission is to function as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s flagship for contemporary art, and it’s been noted that in this respect Unfinished, with its preponderance of old masters, is a confusing inaugural. The exhibition allows the mother institution to draw from its own collection and borrow from those of major museums worldwide, and the result is too expansive by half. The scope overwhelms the theme, for any show that runs the scale from van Eyck to Warhol risks feeling like a prelude to an art history midterm. Some part of me takes stubborn offense at juxtaposing Titian with Smithson, if not for issues of quality then at least for the disparate vocabularies of the work at hand. One can argue that with these rapid juxtapositions, the Met is constructing a bridge between its past and its future. Happily, Unfinished doesn’t come off as a pedantic exercise. There’s great buoyancy to the exhibition, and a sense that the show’s title refers as much to the state of the new museum as it does to the exhibition itself. [post_title] => Art, Interrupted [post_excerpt] => Often not even the artist knows for certain when a work of art is done. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => art-interrupted [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-22 15:44:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-22 19:44:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=21752 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [30] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21511 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-03-21 10:39:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-21 15:39:21 [post_content] => Jerry Weiss's Adrien in Adirondack will be part of the group exhibition In Full Bloom, which opens at Portraits, Inc. (6 East 92nd Street) on April 20, 2016. [caption id="attachment_21512" align="aligncenter" width="660"]FullSizeRender(15) Jerry Weiss, Adrien in Adirondack. Oil on linen, 44 x 54 in.[/caption] [post_title] => Jerry Weiss at Portraits, Inc. [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss will be exhibiting at Portraits, Inc. in April. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-at-portraits-inc [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-29 13:20:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-29 18:20:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=21511 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [31] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17823 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2016-01-22 14:36:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-22 19:36:48 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22321" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Charles-François Daubigny, Banks of the Oise at Auvers, 1863. Charles-François Daubigny, Banks of the Oise at Auvers, 1863.[/caption] "A Good Example for Those Who Come After" is Jerry Weiss's latest "Master Class" column in the March issue of The Artist's Magazine. You can read a PDF here. [post_title] => Jerry Weiss on Daubigny's Influence [post_excerpt] => "A Good Example for Those Who Come After" is Jerry Weiss's latest "Master Class" column in The Artist's Magazine. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-on-daubignys-influence [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-03 12:07:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-03 16:07:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=17823 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [32] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17683 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2015-12-22 12:40:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-12-22 17:40:05 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_17684" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Harvey Dunn's Something for Supper Harvey Dunn's Something for Supper[/caption] "The Majesty of Simple Things," an article about Harvey Dunn by Jerry Weiss, a contributing editor to The Artist's Magazine, will appear in its January/February issue. "[Dunn's] favorite themes included a broad plot of land, a vast sky, and a figure or two, small in the scheme of nature but unselfconsciously dignified," writes Weiss. "Trying to describe his work to someone who wasn’t familiar with him, the best I could do was call him a rawboned American version of Jean-Francois Millet. A better parallel is to the work of Winslow Homer, had he never seen the ocean. Symbols of a discreet heroism, Dunn’s independent figures do their farming, hunting and gathering under a big sky. Perhaps the best analogy is cinematic, for there’s a love of open space that’s reminiscent of John Ford’s westerns. His Dakota scenes were painted not en plein air, but in his suburban New Jersey studio, and are based on sketches he made during visits back west. Their authenticity resided in the artist’s memory." Weiss has also written about Peggy Root for the issue. On January 21, 2016, in a lecture at the Florence Griswold Museum, "Finding New Inspiration on Well-Trod Ground," Weiss will consider the landscape of Old Lyme that has been thoroughly examined by plein-air painters over the last century and whether there's anything fresh to be found in familiar places. [post_title] => Weiss's Upcoming Articles and Lecture [post_excerpt] => Weiss's articles about Harvey Dunn and Peggy Root and his lecture on painting familiar places. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => weiss-upcoming-articles-and-lecture [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 07:17:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 12:17:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=17683 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [33] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17687 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-12-21 11:29:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-12-21 16:29:52 [post_content] => A recent trip to south Florida occasioned what has become a routine sojourn for me, a stopover at the Norton Museum of Art. Often as not there's something of interest, and this season the Norton has loaned out a couple of works from its collection, and received two paintings in return. My desire to see the canvases, a van Gogh from the Cleveland Museum of Art, and a Degas from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, raised several questions: Why the fascination with nineteenth-century art, especially Impressionism? And what, if anything, is the connective tissue between two such distinctive and disparate personalities? [caption id="attachment_17691" align="alignright" width="402"]Van Gogh 1958.32_2 Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), The Poplars at Saint-Rémy, 1889. Oil on fabric, 24¼ x 17 15/16 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art; Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., 1958.32[/caption] At the Norton, van Gogh's The Poplars at Saint-Rémy is overwhelmed twice, first by its ornate antique frame, then by its installation on the third floor. Softly lit, it inhabits its own grey-painted gallery, a pearl in an oversized jewel box. It doesn’t help that the landscape's colors are relatively sedate for a late van Gogh, relying on white to suggest terrain bleached by sunlight. The central two poplars are enclosed within a diamond-shaped design circumscribed by skyline above and crossing diagonals of rock-strewn land below. It is an inherently unstable composition, harmonized by color, the blue sky repeated in ground plane shadows and the blanched earth tones picked up in clouds. There is perhaps no way to write about van Gogh's brushwork, idiosyncratic and instantly recognizable, without resorting to banalities; suffice to say that his sense of urgency demanded an entirely novel handling of paint. The Poplars at Saint-Rémy was made in a single session, a feat of compressed intensity. Sharing a gallery with two other works by the artist, Degas's Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon resides more comfortably in its ground floor setting. The story of its production is no less remarkable than that of the van Gogh; leaving Paris during the barricades of 1871, Degas arrived at the Valpinçon country home without a canvas, and apprehended some mattress ticking upon which to paint his friend's nine-year-old daughter. She leans into a sideboard and surveys us with unusual self-possession for one so young, holding in her right hand what has been variously described as a slice of fruit or a coin. Wearing a pinafore, a swath of broad-brushed white fabric that reappears under different guises in many early Degas portraits, Hortense is surrounded by a jumble of fabric patterns. Degas was at once enumerating the complex materials of a modern environment—clothing, hat, wallpaper, glimpses of skin—and challenging his facility for description. As ever, his draftsmanship is breathtaking, and as if to emphasize its primacy, Degas left a series of superfluous linear notes along the edge of the child’s back, a skittering calligraphy which may or may not have been left as a corrective reminder. At the last moment, the carefully contrived atmospheric spell has been broken. [caption id="attachment_17690" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Edgar Degas, Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon, c. 1871. Oil on mattress ticking, 29¾ x 44¾ in. The John R. Van Derlip Fund. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Edgar Degas, Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon, c. 1871. Oil on mattress ticking, 29¾ x 44¾ in. The John R. Van Derlip Fund. Minneapolis Institute of Art.[/caption] The two artist's backgrounds could hardly have been more different. Degas, the son of a banker, was thoroughly schooled in academic art, steeped in the work of the old masters. His bon mots carry an odor of aristocratic snobbery. Van Gogh wanted to save people, tried to be a rural preacher, and found his calling as a rough-hewn painter. Hortense Valpinçon is restrained, factual and witty; Poplars is emotional, visionary. The painters shared common ground in their disdain for convention, or more to the point, a willingness to circumvent conventional means when necessary, which is to say frequently. For van Gogh, this meant forming a personal mode of expression which could transmit an immediate, passionate observation. For Degas, an obsessive faculty for experimentation made possible the use of domestic linens when no artist's canvas was available. Both artists enjoyed the tactile qualities of paint. Again, with van Gogh this is more obvious, since his painting is less concerned with a traditional attempt to mimic the surface of substances than an expression of felt "essences." The resulting waves of thick, juicy pigment announce the prominence given to the substance of paint itself. Degas, especially in his youth, was a more subtle iconoclast. His affection for a variety of textures is evident in the Valpinçon portrait, but his purposes are not purely mimetic, and he, too, forgoes a traditional attempt to duplicate material in favor of pattern. It's a short leap from here to Vuillard, an evolution that Degas would largely experience himself in later works. The ascendancy of pattern at the expense of three-dimensional effect—or at least the tension between the two modes—was a hallmark of Impressionist painting, and a shared characteristic of Degas and van Gogh. So was the attempt to suggest transient effects through paint application, in Degas's painting via unfinished passages and "stray" lines, and in van Gogh's work the furious wet-in-wet hatching of pigment. These ideas suggested new responses to modern life, and account for the energized surfaces of later nineteenth-century painting. Removed from the atelier, painting was revitalized in the drawing room and the open air. In Impressionism, negative space, deep space, took on tangible attributes. The general banishing of brown and black from the palette indicated not only a preference for sunlight, but abandonment of the idea that dark pockets of space within a painting were dead sections. The pulsing sky of The Poplars and the blurred floral wallpaper behind Mlle. Valpinçon serve as more than mere backdrops or rest areas to their subjects. In each canvas there exists a tense equipoise between the subject and subsidiary elements. Soon enough, such tensions became irrelevant; flatness and movement were qualities formalized by Cubism and Futurism. That's not to say one wishes to return to another era, nor is there an intent to romanticize a bygone culture. But there is something in the art of that time and place, aside from the commercial popularity a once radical movement now enjoys, that continues to resonate. For some few years painters found a fraught balance not only between form and flatness, but between the museum and the café, between past and present. Degas meant a lot to me when I was younger; if our laws were more stringent about such things, I could nearly have been cited for visual copyright violations in several paintings. I left the Norton no longer wishing to emulate him, but with a confirmed appreciation for his drawing, design, and above all, his fascination with subtleties of personality in the individuals he portrayed. Van Gogh has staked the strongest claim to our romantic imagination, but Degas, the master of the drawing room, was arguably the preeminent figurative artist of his era. If you’re in West Palm Beach this winter, come for the van Gogh, but stay for the Degas. The Poplars at Saint-Rémy is on view at the Norton Museum of Art until April 17, 2016. Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon is on view until May 15, 2016. [post_title] => Poplars and a Portrait in West Palm Beach [post_excerpt] => Degas and Van Gogh shared common ground in their disdain for convention, or more to the point, a willingness to circumvent conventional means when necessary, which is to say frequently. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => poplars-and-a-portrait-in-west-palm-beach [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 07:18:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 12:18:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=17687 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [34] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17415 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-11-16 15:56:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-16 20:56:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_17383" align="alignright" width="318"]Paula Modersohn-Becker, Peasant Woman in Profile, Facing Left, 1898. Charcoal on heavy tan paper. Initialed "PMB" by Otto Modersohn, lower left. Signed drawing of a woman, verso. 38.7 x 34.6 cm. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York. Paula Modersohn-Becker, Peasant Woman in Profile, Facing Left, 1898. Charcoal on heavy tan paper. Initialed "PMB" by Otto Modersohn, lower left. Signed drawing of a woman, verso. 38.7 x 34.6 cm. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] While the mass of commercial galleries long ago dispersed from Midtown in search of more affordable quarters, several stalwarts have remained on Fifty-seventh Street, none more venerable than Galerie St. Etienne, a showcase for Expressionist and Primitive masters. A common theme among its artists, from Schiele to Kollwitz to Grandma Moses, is humanism, a chord that's once again plucked to softly haunting effect in the current show of paintings and works on paper by Paula Modersohn-Becker. 

Modersohn-Becker studied drawing and painting in Berlin in the 1890s, an atmosphere that was not hospitable to women artists. (Only a decade earlier, there had been no place for Kollwitz to study from a live nude model.) At 23 years of age she moved to an artists' colony in rural Worpswede, where the emphasis was on the observation of nature in an agrarian setting. [caption id="attachment_17387" align="alignleft" width="374"]Paula Modersohn-Becker, Still-Life with Yellow Bowl and Earthenware Pitcher, 1906. Oil on canvas. Initialed "P.M-B.," lower right. Authenticated by Otto Modersohn on the stretcher, verso. 65.4 x 82.5 cm. Busch/Schicketanz/Werner 670. Private collection, courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York. Paula Modersohn-Becker, Still-Life with Yellow Bowl and Earthenware Pitcher, 1906. Oil on canvas. Initialed "P.M-B.," lower right. Authenticated by Otto Modersohn on the stretcher, verso. 65.4 x 82.5 cm. Busch/Schicketanz/Werner 670. Private collection, courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] Modersohn-Becker's earliest work indicates an acceptance of the colony's precepts, with an earthiness out of the van Gogh playbook, as may be seen in the splotched, ruddy face of Half-Length Portrait of a Girl in the Sun, Before a Wide Landscape, and the charcoal Peasant Woman in Profile, Facing Left. But the countryside's charms were limited for a young woman of ability and ambition, and her earnest attempts at landscape painting are among her least memorable works. For one thing, she doesn't seem to have possessed the requisite interest in atmosphere—she was far more fluent with a subject that could be contained on a table top, witness Still-Life with Yellow Bowl and Earthenware Pitcher—let alone a lasting romantic attachment to the pastoral. For another, the imminent revolutions in modern art were to occur in urban studios, rather than the field, as had happened in the 1870s. Presentiments of future shocks can be read in Modersohn-Becker's journals: "My own personal feeling, that is the main thing. Once I have got that pinned down, clear in its form and color, only then do I introduce things from nature, which will make my picture have a natural effect."
After homage has been paid to the aggressively virile stance of German Expressionism, it is Modersohn-Becker’s art that gets quietly beneath one’s skin and stays there.
From a woman, the insistence on “my own personal feeling” was then strong stuff. Given Modersohn-Becker’s objectives, it was a necessarily forthright attitude. According to her biographer Diane Radycki—and I cannot think of an example to contradict her—Modersohn-Becker was the first woman artist to paint a nude self-portrait. Her very presentation of the subject was a radical departure from the history of a male-dominated viewpoint, in which the figure was usually offered for its sexual allure. On the face of it, her Reclining Female Nude appears to accord with this tradition, but it’s not a very sensual image after all, and, assuming one’s predilection runs toward flesh soft to the touch, the coruscating strips of paint that Modersohn-Becker dragged across the figure’s ample torso are more scabrous than erotic. The amatory content of the pose has been purposefully subverted. In some ways it’s the least characteristic—and least appealing—work in the show, and conflicts with her signature broad treatment of the figure. [caption id="attachment_17385" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Paula Modersohn-Becker,Reclining Female Nude, 1905-06. Oil on canvas. Initialed "P.M-B.," lower left. 71.1 x 113 cm. Busch/Schicketanz/Werner 631. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York. Paula Modersohn-Becker,Reclining Female Nude, 1905-06. Oil on canvas. Initialed "P.M-B.," lower left. 71.1 x 113 cm. Busch/Schicketanz/Werner 631. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17388" align="alignleft" width="205"]Paula Modersohn-Becker,Studies of Three Children, circa 1899. Charcoal on paper. Inscribed "f. P. Modersohn-Becker, O. Modersohn," by the artist's husband, lower right. 167.6 x 86.4 cm. Private collection, courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York. Paula Modersohn-Becker,Studies of Three Children, circa 1899. Charcoal on paper. Inscribed "f. P. Modersohn-Becker, O. Modersohn," by the artist's husband, lower right. 167.6 x 86.4 cm. Private collection, courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] Radycki makes further heady claims on Modersohn-Becker’s behalf: she believes that any influences with respect to Picasso were mutual, and that the latter’s famous portrait of Gertrude Stein may have been resolved as a result of seeing Modersohn-Becker’s work. It’s an intriguing theory, especially since Modersohn-Becker was restlessly shuttling back-and-forth between Germany and Paris, leaving a husband and step-daughter behind to be in the thick of emerging movements in modern art. [caption id="attachment_17386" align="alignright" width="221"]Paula Modersohn-Becker, Seated Girl with Black Hat, Holding Flower in her Right Hand, circa 1903. Tempera on canvas. 69.9 x 45.1 cm. Busch/Schicketanz/Werner 393. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York. Paula Modersohn-Becker, Seated Girl with Black Hat, Holding Flower in her Right Hand, circa 1903. Tempera on canvas. 69.9 x 45.1 cm. Busch/Schicketanz/Werner 393. Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York.[/caption] A rapid evolution was required to go from the conventional if unsentimental figure drawings in Studies of Three Children, to Seated Girl with Black Hat, Holding Flower in her Right Hand, and Portrait of the Artist's Sister Herma with Amber Necklace, yet all were accomplished within a roughly five-year span. In Seated Girl, the echoes of van Gogh from just a few years before have been replaced by a “personal feeling,” simultaneously leaden in palette while unexpectedly lilting in sentiment. The portrait of her sister Herma is a gem whose flatly painted and elegantly abstracted surface paralleled the concurrent experiments of Matisse and Picasso—Cézanne was the shared point of departure. That such works haven’t received proper recognition in this country must owe something to the chauvinism of the art business and the subtlety of Modersohn-Becker’s voice. After homage has been paid to the aggressively virile stance of German Expressionism, it is Modersohn-Becker’s art that gets quietly beneath one’s skin and stays there. [caption id="attachment_17384" align="alignleft" width="299"]Paula Modersohn-Becker, Portrait of the Artist's Sister Herma with Amber Necklace, ca. 1905. Oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 34 x 26.4 cm. Paula Modersohn-Becker, Portrait of the Artist's Sister Herma with Amber Necklace, ca. 1905. Oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 34 x 26.4 cm.[/caption] Modersohn-Becker’s evolution had to be rapid. At age thirty-one she decided to have a child, and was dead of an embolism eighteen days after giving birth. Her genius was but partially fulfilled. Virtually unknown at the time of her death, she is now considered one of the first and most important modern masters of the twentieth century. “Now that I’m free,” she wrote a friend in 1906, “I will make something of myself. I almost believe, by this year .... I’m painting life-size nudes and still lifes with faith in God and in myself.” That faith was both short-lived and well-founded. [post_title] => “I Will Make Something of Myself.” [post_excerpt] => A review of Paula Modersohn-Becker at Galerie St. Etienne

 by Jerry Weiss. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => i-will-make-something-of-myself [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 10:23:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 15:23:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=17415 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [35] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17193 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-11-02 13:29:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-02 18:29:30 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_17200" align="alignleft" width="291"]Vilhelm Hammershøi, Self-Portrait, 1890. Oil on canvas, 20 1/2 x 15 1/2 in. Vilhelm Hammershøi, Self-Portrait, 1890.
Oil on canvas, 20½ x 15½ in.[/caption] Considering the popular dramatic narrative, it’s understandable if we are inclined to think that painters who matured in the second half of the nineteenth century were compelled to choose between two alternatives, academicism and impressionism. The truth was more complex; before mass market color publications and the internet, artists had access to Old Master paintings via museum collections and were privy to a broader array of influences than they received in ateliers. Among those influences, the rediscovery of Vermeer in the 1860s was seminal. Reminiscing years later about his youth, Degas noted “When we were beginning, Fantin, Whistler, and I, we were on the same path, the road from Holland.” The road from Holland was marked by a sobriety of tone in every sense of the word, and no major painter of fin-de-siècle Europe stayed closer to that path than did the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi, a selection of whose works is installed at Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Though there are several large paintings in the show, Hammershøi was certainly an intimist, an artist whose moody interiors evoke a bleached-out Vermeer, by way of Bergman. He studied with P. S. Kroyer, an extrovert whose paintings are filled with color, but Hammershøi’s interests lay elsewhere. “I have a pupil who paints most oddly,” Kroyer confided. “I do not understand him, but believe he is going to be important and do not try to influence him.” [caption id="attachment_17201" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Vilhelm Hammershøi, The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, Seen from St. Annae Street, Copenhagen, 1902. Oil on canvas, 57 5/8 x 55 1/3 in. Vilhelm Hammershøi, The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, Seen from St. Annæ Street, Copenhagen, 1902.
Oil on canvas, 57⅝ x 55⅓ in.[/caption] Even in his most self-conscious compositions, like the symmetrical The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, Seen from St. Annæ Street, Copenhagen, we know we’re experiencing a dryly personal view of the artist’s surroundings. Kasper Monrad notes in the show’s catalogue that although Copenhagen was lively with pedestrian traffic, Hammershøi was more interested in empty space than human presence. The ghostly intimations of ship’s masts that the artist left at the center of The Buildings of the Asiatic Company remain appropriately mysterious: did he intend to paint a fog that wiped out all semblance of activity in the nearby harbor, or was the painting just left unfinished? Ventures into greener pastures, as with Near Fortunen, Jægersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen, produced elegiac dreamscapes. Hammershøi liked his scenery backlit, trees swathed in mist, their branches twisted against a penumbra of soft light. [caption id="attachment_17197" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Vilhelm Hammershøi, Near Fortunen, Jaegersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen, 1901. Oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 26 1/8 in. Vilhelm Hammershøi, Near Fortunen, Jaegersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen, 1901.
Oil on canvas, 21⅝ x 26⅛ in.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17196" align="alignright" width="325"]Vilhelm Hammershøi, Portrait of Ida Ilsted, Later the Artist's Wife, 1890. Oil on canvas, 42 x 33⅞ in. Vilhelm Hammershøi, Portrait of Ida Ilsted, Later the Artist's Wife, 1890. Oil on canvas, 42 x 33⅞ in.[/caption] In his early years Hammershøi could be an intense portraitist, as is evident from several highly sensitive and characteristically dolorous paintings of his wife and acquaintances. A youthful self-portrait is thickly painted, as if the clotted atmosphere the artist favored had got inside the pigment itself. A canvas of the same year, Portrait of Ida Ilsted, Later the Artist’s Wife, is handled with lovely subtlety. One wonders whether Ida was as good a temperamental match for her husband as his paintings of her suggest, or whether we’re witnessing the inexorable projection of Hammershøi’s personality. At any event, Ida eventually became the most recognizable chess piece in her husband’s interiors. [caption id="attachment_17199" align="alignleft" width="325"]Vilhelm Hammershøi, Woman Seen from the Back, 1888. Oil on canvas, 25 x 21 5/8 in. Vilhelm Hammershøi, Woman Seen from the Back, 1888. Oil on canvas, 25 x 21⅝ in.[/caption] Hammershøi’s most famous works are his interiors, whose figures, stationed like so much organic furniture, are often seen from behind. With no clear anecdotal purpose and no discernable features, the abstraction of Woman Seen from the Back must have been exasperating to a public expecting narrative; it’s little surprise to learn that Hammershøi moved briefly to London in hopes of meeting Whistler, an artist with a shared aversion to storytelling and love of visual ambiguity. Woman Seen from the Back has its understated pleasures, especially in the poetry of edges at the figure’s shoulders and arms and the welcome warm tone of the arcing chair in the foreground (At last, I nearly shouted with relief, a change in color temperature!). But such rewards, as well as the tactile surfaces of some of the paintings, are largely suppressed. Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor is a marvelous study in variations of gray, but it, and the exhibition in general, left me uncertain as to whether Hammershøi’s paintings deliver moments of transcendence or merely chronicle an unremittingly dour interior life. The artist wore his rigors on his sleeve, and without recourse to an occasional flourish of color or brushstroke, he challenges us to accept a world predicated on abstinence. Painters will find beautiful passages, fine drawing and a refined sensibility, and even casual viewers will be moved by the pictures’ quietude. But one recalls Andrew Wyeth’s dismissive reference to impressionist painting as “visual cocktail,” a sentiment Hammershøi would have appreciated. When it came to color and its expressive connotations he was one of art history’s great teetotalers. [caption id="attachment_17198" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901. Oil on canvas, 18 1/3 x 20 1/2 in. Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901. Oil on canvas, 18⅓ x 20½ in.[/caption] Why do I use few and muted colors? I’m sure I don’t know. It’s quite impossible for me to say anything on the subject. It’s natural for me, but why, I couldn’t say. But it has in any case been like that from the first time I exhibited. It can perhaps best be called neutral and few colors. I absolutely think that a picture has the best effect in strictly coloristic regards the fewer colors there are in it. No painter has ever better described the sum of their career than did Hammershøi in that last sentence. He found the perfect palette to suit a narrow emotional range, and made the most of his limitations. Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi continues at the Scandinavia House through February 27, 2016. [post_title] => An Abstinent Palette [post_excerpt] => "I absolutely think that a picture has the best effect in strictly coloristic regards the fewer colors there are in it." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => an-abstinent-palette [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 10:25:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 15:25:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=17193 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [36] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17085 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-10-22 09:53:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-22 13:53:08 [post_content] => Once upon a time the Frick Collection didn't do blockbusters as did other museums. The permanent collection, constituting arguably the greatest concentration of master works in the country, was a sufficient display. It was possible to memorize the placement of favorite paintings—heck, the holdings were small enough that it was possible to memorize pretty much everything—and be secure in the knowledge that if you left the city for years they'd be in the same spot when you returned. Not a lot of action for the curatorial staff, one imagines. For a long time, though, the Frick has stealthily presented itinerant productions. Recent installations haven't been full-fledged shows so much as promotional blurbs for other museums: a handful of masterpieces arrived from Edinburgh last winter, and, more recently, Puerto Rico's Flaming June—or "Much ado about Orange"—was installed this summer past. [caption id="attachment_17092" align="alignleft" width="374"]Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486 - 1530) Study of the Head of an Old Man in Profile, about 1520 Red chalk 23.9 x 27.7 cm (9 7/16 x 10 7/8 in.) Owner: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, KdZ 12924 Photo credit: bpk, Berlin / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany / Photo: Volker-H. Schneider / Art Resource, NY Andrea del Sarto, Study of the Head of an Old Man in Profile, about 1520. Red chalk, 23.9 x 27.7 cm. Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Volker-H. Schneider / Art Resource, NY[/caption] The Frick's current installation is Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action, a show whose title may raise expectations for a production with more oomph, or at least greater exposition of the workshop process. In fact, the heavy scholarship has been saved for the show’s catalogue, which makes sense, given the Frick’s space limitations. The exhibition, comprised of some fifty small drawings, inhabits two rooms in the museum’s lower level, and a third, the Oval Room, on the ground floor. A few paintings are interspersed for the purpose of illuminating relationships between linear ideation and finished product. To see the drawings in the flesh after familiarity through published reproductions is to be surprised by their diminutive scale. What remains of del Sarto’s drawings are fragments of paper sheets that were central to the creation of painted masterworks in sixteenth-century Florence. In his heyday, circa 1520, del Sarto ran the most influential workshop in Florence, including among his students Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, and Vasari, his first biographer. He was considered the equal of Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael, and Vasari described his work as senza errori—free from errors. The compliment stuck, as did Vasari’s less generous characterization of Andrea’s personality. The criticism that his work was premised too much on naturalism at the expense of innovation is perhaps rooted in the value Vasari placed on ambitiousness, as well as his antipathy for del Sarto’s wife. That is not to trivialize genuine aesthetic differences—the tenderness with which del Sarto wields red chalk at times seems to me to presage Watteau, suggesting a more precious sensibility than was considered suitable for the painting of frescoes and altarpieces. [caption id="attachment_17095" align="alignright" width="370"]1972.118.271 Andrea del Sarto, Studies of Hands, ca. 1527. Red chalk, 4 13/16 x 6 7/16 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY[/caption] Del Sarto’s naturalism suffuses the Frick show. Many of the drawings were made from the living model; Studies of Hands, one of the exhibition’s few drawings that cannot be matched to a painting, evidences the artist’s love of drawing for its own sake. Both hands are subtly yet solidly modeled by light. Del Sarto’s preference for red chalk furthers the impression that we’re not merely viewing a study whose purpose was utilitarian, but are sharing the draftsman’s quiet warmth of spirit (so enchanting is Study of the Head of an Old Man in Profile that it’s a genuine shock to learn it was drawn from an antique bust). What comes to mind is Degas’ rapture over a drawing by Ingres he had recently purchased: That is my ideal of genius, a man who finds a hand so lovely, so wonderful, so difficult to render that he will shut himself in all his life, content to do nothing but indicate fingernails. [caption id="attachment_17093" align="alignright" width="325"]Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486 - 1530) Study for a Portrait of a Woman, Three-Quarter Length, about 1522 Red chalk 24.2 x 20.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 15/16 in.) Framed: 52.5 x 39.5 x 3 cm (20 11/16 x 15 9/16 x 1 3/16 in.) Istituti museale della Soprintendenza Speciale per Il Polo Museale Fiorentino Andrea del Sarto, Study for a Portrait of a Woman, ca. 1517–25. Red chalk, 9 1/2 x 7 15/16 in. Galleria degli Uffizi, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Florence. By permission of the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo[/caption] But there are other notes here as well, rapid conceptual drawings in which del Sarto puzzled out themes and design, as well as those which lay bare the gift for abstraction upon which his observations were grounded. One of the most beautiful works is Study of a Woman, long thought to represent del Sarto’s wife, Lucrezia. It appears to be related to a fragmentary painting now in Berlin, and is memorable for its sense of movement and variety of handling. The features of the portrait are summarily treated, yet the head is fully modeled in light and shadow; much the same balance between naturalistic description and a broad structural comprehension is achieved throughout the sheet. Changes in pressure applied to the chalk account for textural variations. The beguiling lightness of del Sarto’s touch around the head shifts to a crisper, richer handling of the sleeves and culminates in a schematic impression of Lucrezia’s hand, a premonition of Pontormo’s anxious nature. Drawing these separate areas required more than keen observation of different surfaces: it necessitated transitions in del Sarto’s response to those surfaces, without sacrificing the work’s holism. [caption id="attachment_17094" align="alignleft" width="334"]Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486 - 1530) Study of a Bearded Man in Profile, about 1526 - 1527 Black chalk 21.8 x 18.1 cm (8 9/16 x 7 1/8 in.) Framed: 52.5 x 39.5 x 3 cm (20 11/16 x 15 9/16 x 1 3/16 in.) Istituti museale della Soprintendenza Speciale per Il Polo Museale Fiorentino Andrea del Sarto, Study of a Bearded Man in Profile, about 1526 - 1527. Black chalk, possibly with gray wash, 8 9/16 x 7 1/8 in. Galleria degli Uffizi, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Florence.By permission of the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo[/caption] More frenetic in treatment is Study of a Bearded Man in Profile, as overtly energetic a life study as del Sarto produced. Naturalism nearly gives way to the impassioned narrative for which the drawing was a preparation, for this profile shows up as the head of a disciple in del Sarto’s fresco The Last Supper in Florence. The emotive force of the portrait is underscored by rapid gestural strokes of black chalk, economically hatched around the bony structure of the skull, flowingly descriptive of facial hair, forcefully applied in shadow accents and supplemented by a dampened brush—errant splashes of gray wash may be discerned, especially at the neck. Both the centrality and three dimensionality of the ear are remarkable, and imply the primacy of the act of listening. [caption id="attachment_17090" align="alignright" width="345"]2_Portrait-of-a-Young-Man_National_Gallery-690_2000 Andrea del Sarto, Portrait o Young Man, ca. 1517–18. Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 22 1/2. National Gallery, London. ©The National Gallery, London[/caption] In the end, the star of the show is a painting, Portrait of a Young Man, for which there are several supposed chalk studies, small drawings that are purely gestural and which represent del Sarto’s initial attempts to nail down pose and composition. The oil is one of the great portraits of the Italian Renaissance, sculpturally wrought yet bathed in atmosphere, an ambiguous presence rendered more mysterious by its lack of identification. Inevitably, this vacuum was temporarily filled by the National Gallery in London, which hung the painting in 1863 as a self-portrait. At the Frick, one may gage both its charms and limitations by walking a few yards to the Living Hall, wherein reside Titian’s Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap and Pietro Aretino, paintings that define the sensual breadth of the Venetian school. It is not del Sarto’s naturalism that is at issue, but rather his more intimate nature. We may extol the artist’s technical attributes to the extent that Vasari did, and bemoan a lack of ambition, but in so doing overlook the qualities that distinguished del Sarto from his contemporaries, and continue to set him apart to this day. His is the province not of dynamism but sublime melancholy. At the Frick, this unassuming blockbuster has found its perfect setting in New York. In its scrutiny and celebration of draftsmanship as preparatory to and inseparable from the paintings they presaged, this exhibition is invaluable to artists and students. Scholarship aside, it is also a feast of inspired drawing. [post_title] => Andrea del Sarto at the Frick [post_excerpt] => A survey of the Renaissance master’s drawings lands in New York. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => andrea-del-sarto-at-the-frick [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-24 15:24:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-24 20:24:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=17085 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [37] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16860 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2015-10-05 15:58:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-05 19:58:31 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_16861" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry Weiss, View of the Lieutenant River. Oil on linen, 24 x 36 in. On view at Cooley Gallery: Jerry Weiss, View of the Lieutenant River. Oil on linen, 24 x 36 in.[/caption] Jerry Weiss is currently exhibiting paintings in two group shows at Connecticut galleries. Local Color at the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme continues through November 7, 2015. The second show, at Cooper & Smith Gallery, in Essex, includes five paintings by Weiss as well as work by several in the gallery's stable of artists and will be up for the next several months. [caption id="attachment_16862" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Jerry Weiss, Seated Figure. Oil on linen, 48 x 36 in. On view at Cooper & Smith: Jerry Weiss, Seated Figure. Oil on linen, 48 x 36 in.[/caption] [post_title] => Jerry Weiss in Two Group Shows [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss is currently exhibiting paintings in two group shows at Connecticut galleries. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-in-two-group-shows [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:18:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:18:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=16860 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [38] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16818 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-09-29 11:12:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-09-29 15:12:09 [post_content] => A few weeks ago I was invited to lunch at a private beach club in Connecticut. As I sat in the shade of an awning and squinted into the glare of a sunlit shoreline, I got to thinking about the beach as playground and its place as subject matter in American painting. The subject of shoreline recreation has provided artists with natural situations for composing multiple figures and studying the nude or nearly nude body out of doors. Their paintings and drawings have reflected changing cultural attitudes regarding exposure of the figure, as well as socioeconomic differences in the forms of available recreation. What follows is a virtual exhibition of my favorite essays on the theme. [caption id="attachment_16823" align="aligncenter" width="660"]William Merritt Chase, At the Seaside, ca. 1892. Oil on canvas, 20 x 34 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot. William Merritt Chase, At the Seaside, ca. 1892. Oil on canvas, 20 x 34 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot.[/caption] The first painter I thought of was William Merritt Chase, whose images of the dunes and shore at Southampton, Long Island, were closest in both topography and spirit to the beach I was visiting. At the Seaside is Exhibit A for the halcyon vision of upper-class leisure, with fully-dressed women and children relaxing amid brightly colored umbrellas. Chase’s handling of paint is both virtuosic and eminently tasteful; the suave abbreviations of his brushwork fit the subject perfectly. At the Seaside was a product of Chase’s stint as director of the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, the first major school in America devoted solely to summer landscape painting. Chase’s decade-long stretch there was charmed—wealthy patrons lured him to Long Island by constructing the school and a separate home just for the artist and his young family—but success came in fits and starts. The image of cultivated leisure he worked hard to maintain was shadowed by financial difficulty, and during his reign at Shinnecock, Chase was compelled to auction off the contents of his famously chic New York studio. Yet his Long Island landscapes are free of such troubles. Populated by his wife and daughters, they constitute a serene vision of domestic life at the seaside. Like Chase, Edward Potthast was a Midwestern native who studied in Munich, and at first sight his paintings of New York and New England beaches appear to have much in common with those by Chase. However, Beach Scene (or Sunday on the Beach), indicates a different culture and a distinctive approach. Though focused on the play of several brightly-clad girls at the water’s edge, the painting itself features a rougher execution, the pigment applied in thick and seemingly spontaneous passages. The tactile quality of the impastoed surface is more insistent than Chase’s suave marksmanship. Just as crucial is the shift in subject: whereas Chase’s Shinnecock paintings depicted family life in a private setting, Potthast chose crowded public beaches for his themes. The middle ground of Beach Scene is filled with adult women clad in dark bathing suits, and in the distance may be seen an urban skyline and city pier. [caption id="attachment_16825" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Edward Potthast, Beach Scene (or Sunday on the Beach), c. 1915. Oil on board, 30.5 x 40.6 cm. Gift of Teresa Heinz in memory of her husband, H. John Heinz III, B.A. 1960, Yale University Art Gallery. Edward Potthast, Beach Scene (or Sunday on the Beach), c. 1915. Oil on board, 30.5 x 40.6 cm.
Gift of Teresa Heinz in memory of her husband, H. John Heinz III, B.A. 1960, Yale University Art Gallery.[/caption] Potthast’s predilection for city beaches, and the public acceptance of the subject, were surely facilitated by the success of the Ashcan School in the first decade of the twentieth century. Still, cursory divisions between genres and generations are to be discouraged—aristocratic a front as Chase adopted, he was the first artist to make plein-air paintings in Central Park and Prospect Park, laying the foundation for subsequent essays on the urban theme by a multitude of painters, and George Bellows, the Ashcan prodigy, eventually moved from rambunctious city scenes to paintings of polo and tennis at Newport. Such blurred lines suggest that artists were simultaneously chronicling the broader cultural environment while reflecting the immediate circumstances of their own lives. [caption id="attachment_16827" align="aligncenter" width="660"]George Wesley Bellows, Forty-two Kids, 1907. Oil on canvas, 106.7 × 153 cm. Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, William A. Clark Fund), National Gallery of Art. George Wesley Bellows, Forty-two Kids, 1907. Oil on canvas, 106.7 × 153 cm. Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, William A. Clark Fund), National Gallery of Art.[/caption] Fifteen years and a few miles separate Bellows’ paintings of child ruffians swimming at the edge of Manhattan Island from Chase’s leisurely idylls, and though the differences in subject are bracing, what is common to both artists is a fluid painterly draftsmanship. Bellows was arguably at his best in canvases like Forty-two Kids, a tour-de-force whose gritty theme is leavened by a boisterous sense of humor. The decorum of a feminine world that was depicted by Chase and Potthast gave way in the work of Bellows to the rough-and-tumble existence of city street kids smoking, pissing, and skinny-dipping in a river black as industrial ink. To note that the irresistible energy of Forty-two Kids owes something to its loose, cartoonish approach is less a criticism than recognition of the limitations of black and white photography of the era, which Bellows’ biographer Mahonri Sharp Young rightly called “lugubrious.” Nonetheless, the joyfulness of Forty-two Kids, acted out upon a rotting pier and without a trace of sky, is redolent of a squalid life far removed from genteel seaside leisure. On a more formal level, the canvas provided an opportunity for Bellows to paint the brilliantly illuminated nude—many nudes, in fact—in dramatic contrast against a dark backdrop. [caption id="attachment_16829" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Reginald Marsh, Coney Island Beach, 1934. Etching and engraving, plate: 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in. Gift of The Honorable William Benton, 1959 Rights and Reproduction: © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York Reginald Marsh, Coney Island Beach, 1934. Etching and engraving, plate: 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in. Gift of The Honorable William Benton, 1959. Rights and Reproduction: © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York[/caption] A common characteristic of these paintings was that the figures, be they Chase’s adored daughters or Bellows’ urchins, were viewed at a distance and in the context of the broader landscape or cityscape. Among twentieth-century American artists, there was perhaps no draftsman more obsessively interested in the figure for its own sake than Reginald Marsh, and his prints and paintings of bathers at Coney island were an excuse to study the human body in casual, intimate, and active situations. “I like to go to Coney Island,” Marsh said, “because of the sea, the open air, and the crowds—crowds of people in all directions, in all positions, without clothing, moving—like the great compositions of Michelangelo and Rubens.” Marsh, a prominent instructor at the Art Students League, filled the picture plane with figures that were based on sketches made from life. Although he was inspired by Old Masters, his subjects were not constrained by classical prototypes, instead depicting the relaxed or raucous behavior of adults who crowded New York’s most famous public beach. There is, as in Bellows’ paintings, a sense of humor, but Marsh was more drawn to human interaction, with an accent on raw, if sensitively observed, physicality. [caption id="attachment_16821" align="aligncenter" width="660"]David Levine, Untitled (Three Women, Two Umbrellas on beach),1982. Watercolor on paper, 4¼ x 14 in. © Matthew and Eve Levine, courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York, NY David Levine, Untitled (Three Women, Two Umbrellas on Beach),1982. Watercolor on paper, 4¼ x 14 in.
© Matthew and Eve Levine, courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York, NY[/caption] The graphic power of New York City realism in the earlier twentieth century would years later be sustained in David Levine’s satirical drawings. Yet despite Levine’s acid brilliance as a caricaturist, his paintings were far more concerned with an often delicate arrangement of pattern and color. As did Marsh, Levine liked to venture from his Manhattan studio to find material on the beach at Coney Island, but Untitled (Three Women, Two Umbrellas on beach) is closer in spirit to Maurice Prendergast or even Vuillard than to the traditions of urban realism. The monumental figures of elderly women swathed in white drapery—the most self-conscious and artfully composed figures of this sampling—seem like ironic references to the sprightly linen-clad girls of Chase’s Shinnecock oils. As in Chase’s and Potthast’s oils, the figures in Levine’s Coney Island watercolors are steeped in the atmosphere of the landscape, to the extent that specificity of both place and personality are largely ceded to a soft-edged abstraction. Further, the abstraction of Untitled suggests a mood of isolation contrary to the enjoyment of physical density that was so vital to Bellows and Marsh. Summer is short in the Northeast, which may account for the theme’s enduring popularity here. For all their miles of shoreline, there’s no comparable history of great art chronicling the social fabric or physiques of beachgoers in Florida, Hawaii or California. I write this as summer slips away, and what lay ahead are the onset of fall colors, bare landscape and bitter cold. C’est la vie. Until next June rolls around, we’ve got these paintings to remind us of a brief season and its high spirits. [post_title] => An Ode to the Shoreline [post_excerpt] => Five American painters and their visions of the shoreline in summertime. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => an-ode-to-the-shoreline [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 10:31:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 15:31:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=16818 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [39] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16486 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-08-31 08:27:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-31 12:27:29 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_16508" align="alignright" width="358"]Velázquez in New Haven Diego Velázquez, The Education of the Virgin, ca. 1617. Oil on canvas, 168 x 137 cm. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., Gift of Henry H. Townshend, b.a. 1897, ll.b. 1901, and Dr. Raynham Townshend, b.s. 1900s.[/caption] When I was a student, one of my favorite paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was an academic male nude, ascribed without reservation to Gericault. At some point it was quietly demoted to anonymous status and consigned to storage. This is not unusual—if the attribution is "soft," designation of authorship may shift from one generation to the next. Attribution hangs on the value of the educated guess. A few years ago I was producing essays for an auction house, and one of the works I was asked to write about was supposed to have been painted by a known nineteenth-century American artist. The canvas, for many years rolled up and stored somewhere in the Midwest, had just been discovered. I had access only to photographs, but it looked like a poor copy after an original. I was not comfortable putting my imprimatur on the painting; the auctioneer honored my suspicions and the work was deattributed, no doubt with significant financial consequences. Deattributions often go unnoticed, in large part because nobody wants to publicize them. Conversely, it’s news when an artwork is promoted to the canon of a master. This is what happened recently in New Haven, where I traveled last week to view a painting that the Yale University Art Gallery has attributed to Velázquez. The Education of the Virgin—a five foot high painting depicting the Virgin Mary being taught by her parents in a darkened interior—had been knocking around the Yale campus at least since the late 1880s. In 1925 it was formally donated to the Yale University Art Gallery, where it resided, mostly in secret, for the rest of the twentieth century. (In 1970 a graduate student saw the painting and made a connection to Velázquez, but was rebuffed when he contacted scholars). In 2004 a young curator named John Marciari was going through the storage racks in the basement of the Yale galleries, when the canvas caught his eye. “I must be insane,” Marciari thought. “There’s no way I just found a Velázquez in a storeroom.” [caption id="attachment_16499" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Velázquez in New Haven Carmen Albendea, Associate Conservator of Paintings and Ian McClure, Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator.[/caption] Research and correspondence with art historians followed, and eventually Yale announced that the author of the painting was the preeminent artist of the Spanish Baroque, and one of the greatest painters in Western art. The attribution has not been universally accepted, and among the dissenting voices is Jonathan Brown, this country’s leading Velázquez scholar. But the evidence in favor of Velázquez, if circumstantial, is fascinating. The business of attribution is a sticky one. What was once a purely subjective study is now supported by advances in science—conservators were able to confirm that the pigments and canvas of The Education of the Virgin were consistent with the materials used by Velázquez. But such evidence isn’t the equivalent of a DNA sampling, and indicates likelihood rather than certainty of authorship. Attribution was further complicated by the condition of the canvas, which with its many tears and abrasions, may generously have been described as horrid. Several years of restoration were necessary. The complexity of the situation is explained by the conservators in the accompanying catalogue:

The areas of abrasion and loss in the painting have offered a unique opportunity to study aspects of its creation that would otherwise have remained invisible. However, the interpretation of the painting in its present state has to be approached with caution, as much of what is now visible was never intended by the artist to be seen and much that was intended to be seen has either been abraded or removed through damage and previous misguided cleaning.

[caption id="attachment_16491" align="alignleft" width="261"]Diego Velázquez, detail of The Education of the Virgin (ca. 1617), showing the head of the Virgin Diego Velázquez, detail of The Education of the Virgin (ca. 1617), showing the head of the Virgin[/caption] Which leaves us at square one. Poorly painted passages have been interpreted as evidence that the painting was produced by a follower of the master. There are, for instance, the disconcerting head of the young Virgin, and the immense ocher mantle worn by St. Anne, which at the arm and shoulder hints at the powerful conception of drapery that was characteristic of Velázquez’s figures ca. 1620, but the lower region, with its inelegant and sluggishly painted folds, could attest either to the artist’s youth or later overpainting by another hand. A comparison with An Old Woman Cooking Eggs, of 1618, does The Education of the Virgin no favors, but it may also underscore the rapidity of the young artist’s development. When Brown asserted that it “cannot possibly be the work of the master,” he was correct in an obvious sense—the painting is not the product of Velázquez’s mature hand, or even his hand at the age of nineteen. And given both the condition of the canvas, and the skill of his most youthful known works, the attribution was bound to be controversial. There is no confident alternative attribution. Was there a Sevillian artist, contemporary to Velázquez, who was capable of either conceiving or executing such an image? In response to an email from me, Professor Brown wrote “I have no idea who might have painted the Yale picture. There were at least thirty to forty painters active in Seville in the early seventeenth century. We know only their names but no paintings by them. The Yale picture was done by one of their number.” That the painting may have been created by an artist whose work is otherwise unknown, is as intriguing a proposition as the Yale attribution. It’s easier to accept this possibility if one sees The Education as a pedestrian effort; the path to ascribing it as a very early Velázquez depends on whether we perceive something extraordinary, even if it’s present on an incipient level, in the canvas. [caption id="attachment_16492" align="alignright" width="297"]Diego Velázquez, detail of The Education of the Virgin, (ca. 1617), showing the head of Saint Anne Diego Velázquez, detail of The Education of the Virgin, (ca. 1617), showing the head of Saint Anne[/caption] The Education of the Virgin may be inconsistent, but it’s also extraordinary. The powerful naturalism of the Yale canvas was Velázquez’s contribution to Spanish art. Most notable are the portraits of Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, each of whom are endowed with Velázquez’s effortless gravitas. As Marciari notes, the model for the old man is very similar to one who appears in other early paintings by the artist, and the painting of his profile, seen up close, is quite good. Saint Anne’s head is better still. Despite its compromised condition, one can see that it is beautifully drawn and has a tremendous plastic form that contributes to the evocation of the figure’s quiet strength and dignity. In the artist’s early works this sense of intimate connection with a model, and of the figure’s interior life, is rarely surpassed. Walter Liedtke, the late curator at the Met, once wrote, “Labels change and opinions change, but pictures remain the same (although conservators would qualify this remark).” Whether or not the painting is by Velázquez—I think the attribution is credible, if inconclusive—Yale has done us a favor in taking pains to repair and exhibit an imperfect masterpiece. An educated guess has restored a long-neglected canvas to the public forum, and has initiated, yet again, the discussion as to what constitutes a signature work of art. [post_title] => On Educated Guesses and a Velázquez in New Haven [post_excerpt] => Deattributions often go unnoticed, in large part because nobody wants to publicize them. Conversely, it’s news when an artwork is promoted to the canon of a master. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => on-educated-guesses-and-a-velazquez-in-new-haven [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-25 20:46:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-26 01:46:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=16486 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [40] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15895 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-07-08 12:47:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-07-08 16:47:54 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_15903" align="aligncenter" width="660"]john singer sargent portraits John Singer Sargent, Group with Parasol (Siesta), around 1904–05. Oil on canavs, 22 3/8 x 28 9/16 in. Private Collection.[/caption] Fresh from art school three decades ago, I wrote a letter to American Heritage magazine protesting a review of a Whitney Museum retrospective of John Singer Sargent that designated him the greatest American portrait painter. I could have dissented on a technicality—Sargent was less American than he was European. And I suppose that was part of my point, insofar as Thomas Eakins was far more the salt of native soil. Until the Whitney show, Sargent had been critically dismissed for much of the twentieth century as a glib expatriate; in the years since, his ascent has been unabated. I witnessed the moment of a sea change, with some trepidation. The editors of American Heritage published my letter, cutely entitling it "No Time for Sargent." With age I've come to increasingly appreciate the vibrant pluralism of American figurative painting. If everyone painted with the probing sobriety of Eakins—pretty much what I demanded back then—the museums would be drearily earnest. Nonetheless, earnestness is a trait Sargent often forsook in favor of virtuosity. Make no mistake, his gifts were of the highest order, but they're presented self-consciously. The necessity to impress patrons tinges everything Sargent painted; ever the master of prestidigitation, even in his relaxed moments he is a thoroughly public artist. No other major painter’s manual dexterity is so central to his identity. With these reservations as prelude, what positive notes does the current show at the Met offer? Many, as it happens. One can fault Sargent for being a performer, and still marvel at the performance. But he’s at his best when genuine feeling comes through. Even the marquee paintings in the first gallery are, for the most part, expertly crafted advertisements for the young artist’s ambitions as a portraitist. In the second gallery an increasingly confident Sargent comes into his own. Aside from the Stevenson portraits, which reveal Sargent's gift, when summoned, for psychological subtlety, the room is owned by lilies: the flowers in his large sketch of the Vickers children are breathtakingly drawn, and the portrait of Lily Millet, the wife of a fellow artist, is as directly personal and affectionate a response as the artist allowed. Sargent is said to have repainted it a half dozen times; the exhibition is worth seeing for her alone. [caption id="attachment_15901" align="alignleft" width="315"]john singer sargent portraits John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, 1892. Oil on canvas, 81 x 45 1/2 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Douglass Campbell, in memory of Mrs. Richard E. Danielson, 1998. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[/caption] Some of Sargent's greatest portraits, each of them hitting a different note, are in the third gallery. In rapid succession: La Carmencita, a commanding depiction of the dancer's insolence; W. Graham Robertson, a sympathetic study of a fey dandy; Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, one of Sargent's most engaging paintings in the grand tradition; Eleonora Duse, a master class in the premier coup method of beginning a portrait head, wet into wet; Henry James, whose attitude reciprocates the artist’s keen appraisal; and the Portrait of George Henschel, as ethereal as James is solid. The full-length portrait of Edwin Booth in the fourth gallery exemplifies the pros and cons of Sargent's fondness for the theatrical—a comparison with Eakins's The Thinker, in the Met's American wing, reveals the latter to have better channeled the poignancy of Velázquez. A more successful sample of Sargent’s mature swagger is Mrs. Boit, who despite her disquieting squint, shows how far Sargent had come in the few years since the conscientiousness of his early portraits. The performative brio that was sometimes his undoing was also his most natural mode of expression. [caption id="attachment_15902" align="alignright" width="315"]john singer sargent portraits John Singer Sargent, The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy, 1907. Oil on canvas, (28 1/8 x 22 1/4 in. Friends of American Art Collection 1914.57. The Art Institute of Chicago.[/caption] A gallery devoted to the artist's European travels yields several gems. Both The Sketchers and The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy, are marvelous open air compositions, their rough surfaces indicating they were painted over previous efforts. Group with Parasols is a triumph of dappled light and slashing brushwork. As a bonus, the Met has added a gallery of its Sargent watercolors and drawings. Unfortunately, the museum has also tacked on an embarrassing sales room promoting smocks, plein air tools, and straw hats, complete with an appropriately dressed pitchman. Sargent, finely tuned to the flow of commerce, would have blanched at the gaucherie. In total, the show is uneven, though the lesser oils and charcoal sketches will undoubtedly awe the faithful. I suspect that some of Sargent's fans willingly conflate his skill with his worldly success. When Henry James pronounced him “civilized to his fingertips,” it was code for “plays well with wealth.” Hard-wired into his painting is an ambitiousness that rivals that of his most regal subjects. Sargent's work is nothing if not material; the stuff of paint, applied with flamboyance, becomes synonymous with the luxuriant apparel his models wore and upon which they reclined. I also suspect it's no coincidence that his stock began to soar during the mid-80s, as the country took a conservative turn. In a culture that reflexively makes money the measure of all things, and where the line between what is public and what is private has become virtually indistinct, my reservations sound both esoteric and quaint. Maybe Sargent's reputation will prove vulnerable when the climate turns chilly for plutocrats, but I doubt it. At this point he looks pretty bulletproof. That's fine, so long as we stop to distinguish his top-shelf work from the merely clever. The current show throws together a bit of both. Sargent’s masterworks marry style and substance, and reside longer in the heart than does the icy elegance of Madame X. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends continues through October 4, 2015. [post_title] => Time for Sargent [post_excerpt] => The necessity to impress patrons tinges everything Sargent painted; ever the master of prestidigitation, even in his relaxed moments he is a thoroughly public artist. No other major painter’s manual dexterity is so central to his identity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => john-singer-sargent-portraits [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-25 21:13:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-26 02:13:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=15895 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [41] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15744 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-06-29 10:43:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-29 14:43:57 [post_content] => Painting the Figure is a solo exhibition of Jerry Weiss's figurative paintings and drawings opening at the Cooley Gallery (Old Lyme, CT) on July 15 and continuing through August 15, 2015. The gallery will be posting the entire exhibition of about a dozen works online opening day, and Weiss will talk about the craft and tradition of figure drawing during that evening's reception. [caption id="attachment_15746" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Jerry N. Weiss, Chris and Michelle. Oil on linen, 46 x 38 in. Jerry N. Weiss, Chris and Michelle. Oil on linen, 46 x 38 in.[/caption] [post_title] => Jerry Weiss at Cooley Gallery [post_excerpt] => Painting the Figure is a solo exhibition of Jerry Weiss's figurative paintings and drawings opening at the Cooley Gallery on July 15. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-at-cooley-gallery [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:14:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:14:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=15744 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [42] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15585 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-06-15 15:45:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-15 19:45:15 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_15599" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Leighton’s Flaming June June 9, 2015 to September 6, 2015 Leighton’s Flaming June installed at the Frick Collection[/caption] One of the problems attending Frederic Leighton's Flaming June—now on loan to the Frick Collection from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico—is the hype. The voluminous promotional material provided by the Frick describes it once too often as "iconic," a term that needs to be permanently retired in reference to familiar images. Flaming June is a good painting and a conversation piece, the inspiration for a garden party at the Frick, at which many of the guests wore requisite shades of saffron. [caption id="attachment_15589" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Leighton-Flaming-June_600 Frederic Leighton, Flaming June, ca. 1895. Oil on canvas, 46 7/8 x 46 7/8 inches.
Museo de Arte de Ponce, The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.[/caption] The pendulum swings, sometimes too far. Flaming June was a success for Leighton, a longtime president of the Royal Academy, who died a few months after finishing the painting. The popularity of Victorian era art evaporated, and June elicited little excitement when it was put on the market in the early 1960s. Luis A. Ferré, the founder of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, was smitten with the painting, and purchased it for a song. By the early 80s, the backlash had begun in earnest: students in life classes were pinning post cards of academic paintings to their easels, and Flaming June was on the cover of Robert Rosenblum's survey of nineteenth-century art. Now she's nestled amid Whistler’s great portraits. The resurrection of tepid sensibility is complete. [caption id="attachment_15591" align="alignright" width="280"]James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)  Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, 1872-1873 oil on canvas 77 1/8 in. x 40 1/4 in. (195.9 cm x 102.24 cm) Henry Clay Frick Bequest. Accession number: 1916.1.133 James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, 1872–1873. Oil on canvas, 77 1/8 in. x 40 1/4 in. Henry Clay Frick Bequest. The Frick Collection.[/caption] With its glossed-up neoclassicism, I was anticipating a chance to eviscerate the painting, in the manner of Tom Lubbock’s piece from 2008. The thing is, it's neither as good as all the fuss, nor bad as all that. The figure’s contortions, inspired by Michelangelo, lack the Florentine's powerful energy. More than that, Leighton couldn't draw as trenchantly as Whistler—compare the face of the idealized woman in Flaming June with that of Symphony in Flesh Color and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland. At a glance, June's a nice fit with Whistler's standing figures, and the attendant scholarship pushes the art for art's sake aesthetic as the connective thread. But she's very nearly a one-off, Leighton's single such triumph in a genre that was Whistler’s playground. Moreover, Whistler was, for all his refined aestheticism, interested in very real people, voluptuous women, pretentious dandies, and robber barons. He made art from subjects that burdened Sargent with the imperative to flatter. Lubbock was right when he characterized Flaming June as "middle of the road." Its eroticism safely removed to an ancient Greek setting, the painting is too tasteful to catch fire. Whistler's fully clad portrait of Lady Meux exudes more sexual energy. [caption id="attachment_15590" align="alignleft" width="274"]James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)  Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux, 1881-1882 oil on canvas 76 1/4 in. x 36 5/8 in. (193.68 cm x 93.03 cm) Henry Clay Frick Bequest. Accession number: 1918.1.132 James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux, 1881–82. Oil on canvas, 76 1/4 in. x 36 5/8 in. Henry Clay Frick Bequest. The Frick Collection.[/caption] Insofar as most of the scholarship concentrates on the figure as femme fatale and the significance of the dress’s color—it is, for the record, more conservative peach than blazing orange—we miss the most interesting aspect of the canvas, the passages of pure painting which answer the call of art for art’s sake. Flaming June's sensual tension derives less from the bland figure than its intricate rhythms of excess drapery (Susan Grace Galassi, the Frick’s Senior Curator, does devote attention to this in her catalogue essay, mostly in relation to Leighton’s preliminary drawings). Leighton’s last burst of tactile eloquence is dispersed in details of cloth. The apricot, carmine, and sienna fabrics are composed of subtly attuned color changes. Abundant swirls of gossamer material, bunched up around the woman’s legs in liquid strokes, are where Leighton left his heart. The story goes that Leighton once made the mistake of asking Whistler why he never finished his paintings. The respondent, not one to ignore a high soft lob, asked Leighton why he even started his. The exchange was telling: Leighton was preoccupied with superficial finish that took classical prototypes as inspiration; Whistler was engaged in finding an artful response to modern life. The two may have nominally shared an aesthetic, but their visions were irreconcilably at odds. The contest wasn’t close. Game, set, match, Whistler. Leighton's Flaming June is on view in the Oval Room of the Frick Collection through September 6, 2015. [post_title] => In New York City This Month, Orange is the New Black [post_excerpt] => Painter Jerry Weiss isn't so sure Flaming June is the best picture in the room at the Frick Collection. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => leighton-flaming-june-frick [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 10:58:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 15:58:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=15585 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [43] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 15094 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-05-18 07:58:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-18 11:58:45 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_15111" align="alignright" width="326"]Saint John the Evangelist (profile)_low-res Donatello, St. John the Evangelist (detail), 1408–15. Marble, 212 × 91 × 62 cm. Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, inv. no 2005/113 © Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone[/caption] After a decade at the corner of Broadway and Sixty-first Street, the Museum of Biblical Art is closing its doors on a very high note. Its final exhibition, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral, features nearly two dozen works by sculptors including Donatello, Nanni di Banco, and Luca della Robbia. All the sculpture was produced in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, to adorn interior spaces and the facade of Il Duomo. Twenty-three pieces have been on loan to MOBIA since February 20, the result of ongoing renovation and expansion that have temporarily closed the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo to the public. These works, representing the pinnacle of Florentine sculpture in the early Renaissance, had never been seen in this country until now. [caption id="attachment_15104" align="alignleft" width="298"]CE della Robbia Luca della Robbia, The Art of Dialectic (Plato and Aristotle?), 1437–39. Marble, 83.5 × 69 × 13 cm. Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, inv. no. 2005/437 © Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattron[/caption] My first smart move was seeing the show before it, and the museum, closed; my second was asking a friend and esteemed sculptor, Susie Chism, to accompany me. The exhibition opens with bronze replicas of three panels from Lorenzo Ghiberti’s doors for the Baptistery, under which are stone carvings made after them by the Master of Castel di Sangro. Sue shared my enjoyment of the texture and fragmentation of the stonework, but was better able to appreciate the superior technical mastery of the bronzes. A preference for roughhewn surfaces renders me unreliable for assessing the merits of sculpture with polished veneers; that this compromised my evaluation of Ghiberti’s masterpiece is not a source of pride. Three hexagonal reliefs by della Robbia are enchanting. The opposing figures of the Dialectic are spiritual forerunners of Raphael’s School of Athens, and are more constrained by their classical narrative purposes than the joyously interwoven figures of della Robbia’s Cantoria. Writing in The New Criterion, Marco Grassi compared della Robbia’s panels to seeing “Masaccio-in-the-round,” and the analogy is most apt, except the monumentality of della Robia’s figures is leavened with a gently sensual touch, evidence that sculpture may be lighter than painting. [caption id="attachment_15106" align="alignright" width="330"]CE Donatello-2 Donatello, Prophet (possibly Habbakuk), known as the Zuccone, 1435–36. Marble, 195 × 54 × 38 cm. Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, inv. no. 2005/374 © Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone[/caption] Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi—Donatello—is rightfully the show’s star, a magnificent technician whose figures are imbued with understated energy. He is first represented here by two bronze heads, whose flowing hair, intense eyes, and abstract conception are so indebted to classical Roman art that they were once mistaken for works of antiquity. These are warm-ups for the main events: Placed side by side are Donatello’s life size marbles, Prophet Habakkuk and The Sacrifice of Isaac. With his flowing robe and pained expression, Habakkuk was the forerunner of Rodin's Burghers of Calais. The subject and presentation are obscure enough to encourage a variety of interpretations, but the prophet’s restless movement and ascetic appearance—the skull is reminiscent of Houdon’s l’Ecorche—place the emphasis on the figure’s interior life. A sixteenth-century scholar, Bernardo Davanzati, recognized the necessity for emotive exaggeration, given the placement of the sculpture at a height well above the viewer. “The eyes,” he wrote, “are made as if they were dug out with a shovel: eyes which would appear lifelike on the ground level would look blind high up on the Campanile, for distance consumes diligence.” Somewhat less poetic is Vasari’s account of Donatello’s frustration with the working progress of Habakkuk. “Speak, speak,” he is said to have commanded the sculpture, “or may you get the bloody shits!” The Sacrifice of Isaac (on which Donatello worked with Nanni di Bartolo) is, by contrast, a familiar motif. The lengthwise thrust of the sculpture was no doubt dictated by the slender niche into which it had to fit, thus Abraham’s gesture of his arms at his sides, an iconography that painters—who often opened Abraham’s stance so as to take advantage of the moment an angel arrested his upraised arm—were not constrained to follow. While The Sacrifice of Isaac cleaves to the dramatic Biblical narrative, it is no less psychologically evocative than Habakkuk. The forms of both Abraham and Isaac’s bodies are beautifully modeled, balanced between naturalistic observation and classical references; Sue noted the pleasingly idealized profile of Abraham’s forehead and nose, a straight line continuing almost uninterrupted into his flowing beard. “It looks,” she said, “like it belongs to the mythological canon, rather than the religious. It’s the head of a satyr.” Yet seen head-on, Isaac’s expression is a portrait of existential crisis. He is torn between his faith in God and the love of his son; we are divided between fascination in the story and the sheer beauty of the work. [caption id="attachment_15105" align="alignleft" width="358"]CE di Banco Nanni di Banco, St. Luke the Evangelist, 1408–13. Marble, 207 × 91 × 63 cm. Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, inv. no 2005/112 © Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattron[/caption] Equally intriguing is the pairing of two other immense marble figures, Nanni di Banco’s St. Luke the Evangelist and Donatello’s St. John the Evangelist. Since they were sculpted for shallow niches, the figures were not meant to be viewed in the round, something that Sue observed in the fact that the evangelists’ legs project in a more three-dimensional fashion than do the torsos. Indeed, when a visitor attempted to walk around the St. John, he was quickly apprehended by a guard (It is, incidentally, little wonder that the guards are roving the exhibition so conscientiously—in 2013 an American visitor to the Duomo touched a carving of the Virgin Mary by Giovanni D’Ambrogio, snapping off one of the sculpture’s fingers. The missing finger has been restored for this show. The entire work, an Annunciation, is a minor masterpiece and a beguiling treatment of the mystical interchange between the two figures.) [caption id="attachment_15108" align="alignright" width="361"]CE Donatello Donatello, St. John the Evangelist, 1408–15. Marble, 212 × 91 × 62 cm. Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, inv. no 2005/113 © Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone[/caption] Sue was especially taken by the naturalism of St. Luke’s portrait, which I found fussy. For me, the contrast served only to underscore Donatello’s superior rendering of anatomical and draped forms, and the confidence of his portraiture, which displays great emotional complexity. His magisterial St. John, beside whom di Banco’s St. Luke looks a bit like a poseur, is often cited as an inspiration for Michelangelo’s Moses, but it is a disservice to see the figure primarily in this context. Donatello’s comparatively restrained conceptions are no less engaging than the muscular heroism of the High Renaissance, and may be appreciated for qualities similar to those of Rembrandt’s late images of prophets, which eschewed the grand rhetoric of the Baroque in favor of more profound notes. A key service of this exhibition is to allow for a fresh viewing of these masterpieces and to appreciate them as something more than the quiet before the storm. Taken altogether, the movement of the figures has an almost torpid quality, as if perceived in a beautiful dream. What soon followed was an art of tremendous action, both physical and intellectual. Notwithstanding the achievements of the later Quattrocento, something charming was lost when Michelangelo resolved what had merely been implied by his predecessors. Della Robbia’s articulate reliefs, Donatello’s soulful figures and Brunelleschi’s powerful designs for the dome are masterworks of a flowering humanist aesthetic. For those of us desiring a trip to Florence, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello is both salve and spur. By any measure it is a memorable exhibition, a once-in–a-lifetime New York show, and an incomparable final act for a small museum. Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral is at the Museum of Biblical Art, New York, through June 14, 2015. Some of Susie Chism’s work can be seen at here. [post_title] => An Incomparable Final Act [post_excerpt] => The Museum of Biblical Art closes its run with a memorable show of twenty-three works representing the pinnacle of Florentine sculpture in the early Renaissance, never before seen in this country until now. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => an-incomparable-final-act [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-24 11:06:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-24 15:06:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=15094 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [44] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14830 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-05-04 08:00:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-04 12:00:16 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_14832" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, 1940-41. Panel 58: “In the North the Negro had better educational facilities.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, 1940-41. Panel 58: “In the North the Negro had better educational facilities.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY[/caption] Having flown of late more often than I like, I can say with some certainty that entering the Museum of Modern Art in New York is just like arriving at an airport, only without the charm. The plan was to visit at opening time on a Monday morning, operating under the wildly misbegotten assumption that the building would be sleepily coming to life. In actuality, the atrium was so overfilled with visitors that labyrinthine cordons were necessary to pipe us through admissions and coat check lines, to say nothing of the elevator and escalator queues. Right now MOMA is in the midst of Björkapalooza, so presumably a lot of people had come to view her many and diverse installations. It is one of a succession of high-profile exhibitions of contemporary artists the museum, presumably seeking a hip posture, has become fond of; Peter Schjeldahl wrote in The New Yorker, “Björk’s dignity endures. That of the museum disappears.” I had a similarly ambivalent response to the current exhibition, One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. Thematically, the show has as much gravitas as anything the museum is likely to put up any time soon, but it’s consigned to a far corner of the third floor. Lawrence was an African-American prodigy, who in his early twenties conceived a series of paintings that would tell the story of the black exodus from the rural South to the urban North that occurred between world wars. His family was part of the migration’s first wave—Lawrence was born in Atlantic City in 1917, and landed in Harlem as a teenager. [caption id="attachment_14834" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, 1940-41. Panel 1: “During the World War there was a great migration North by Southern Negroes.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. Acquired 1942. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, 1940-41. Panel 1: “During the World War there was a great migration North by Southern Negroes.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. Acquired 1942. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.[/caption] In preparation for the Migration Series, Lawrence spent months reading at the New York Public Library’s 135th Street branch, the type of research that historical painters did in order to nail factual minutiae. Lawrence, though, wasn’t interested in authenticity of visual detail. “Soon my research,” he wrote in 1992, “gave me the images I needed to tell the story of the great migration.” The study of recent history fired his imagination and provided a foundation for his narrative: Blacks left the South en masse to find better jobs and living conditions in cities like New York, Chicago, and St. Louis (see Panel 1). The move wasn’t easy, and neither was the new life many encountered. Fearing a loss of cheap labor, white Southerners tried to impede the migration. Fearful of arrest or lynching if they stayed, many blacks overcame their hesitation to relocate. Lawrence was twenty-two when he began the series. He assembled tables from boards and sawhorses in his studio, and his wife assisted in preparing the panels. Working from general preparatory sketches, he painted each panel one color at a time—if the order of the day was brown pigment, then the brown areas of each panel were painted all at once before moving to the next color, “so that they share the same palette.” The paintings’ stark abstract patterns are strongly reminiscent of woodblock prints. Lawrence produced sixty small tempera paintings within a year, completing them in 1941. His use of a sequence of paintings for the purpose of historical narrative was novel; the Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., each wanting the panels, agreed to split them, with MOMA taking the even numbered paintings and the Phillips, the odds. “Lawrence’s work,” the museum notes, “is a landmark in the history of modern art and a key example of the way that history painting was radically reimagined in the modern era.” [caption id="attachment_14833" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, 1940-41. Panel 22: “Another of the social causes of the migrants’ leaving was that at times they did not feel safe, or it was not the best thing to be found on the streets late at night. They were arrested on the slightest provocation.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series, 1940-41. Panel 22: “Another of the social causes of the migrants’ leaving was that at times they did not feel safe, or it was not the best thing to be found on the streets late at night. They were arrested on the slightest provocation.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY[/caption] If the significance of the Migration Series is readily acknowledged, the impact of its installation at MOMA is neutralized by well-meaning attempts to give the series historical context and to flesh out the exhibition with supplementary content. Adjacent to the single gallery housing the series are rooms featuring more of Lawrence’s work, as well as paintings by his contemporaries, a collection of photographs, graphic art, cartoons, books, and newspaper clippings chronicling the migration, followed by a darkened gallery in which videos are played; there is a continuous loop of Gospel, Spiritual, and Blues which can be heard throughout the exhibition. The Migration Series is treated less as art than a point of departure for a walk-through documentary. I came to view a singular performance by an important painter, and got a Ken Burns treatment instead. I’m making a distinction between museums devoted to fine art and those devoted to national and ethnic history. The installation of the Migration Series underplays and subtly diminishes the art itself, subordinating the power and beauty of Lawrence’s images to the larger cultural story. My reservations may be written off to personal querulousness, and so be it. Since he painted the series as a history lesson, Lawrence probably would have been happy with the exhibition, which memorializes both the tragedy and the progress that were inherent in the migration. All the same, the paintings are more than journalism, and their value transcends both place and moment; Panel 22 is an all too timeless image, as recent events in the North remind us. In the end, color and design add up to a quiet woefulness. Lawrence never convincingly summons a spirit of optimism, and the effect of the series is that of subtle despair. A postscript was provided the moment I left the museum via the Fifty-fourth Street exit. Across the street was a group of homeless men, two of whom sat on the sidewalk, while two stood yelling at one other. First I thought of the persistent sense of disenfranchisement of many urban blacks, a painful legacy of the great migration. Then I thought of the altercation from an artist’s perspective, imagining it as inspiration for a piece of social realism. And I realized that Lawrence, through first hand knowledge and a grasp of pictorial essentials, would have done a far better job with the subject than would most any other painter. [post_title] => Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series at MOMA [post_excerpt] => The Migration Series is treated less as art than as a point of departure for a walk-through documentary. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jacob-lawrences-migration-series-at-moma [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 11:04:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 16:04:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=14830 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [45] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14514 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-04-20 15:34:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-20 19:34:08 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_14523" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Richard Estes, Sunday Afternoon in the Park, 1989. Oil on canvas, 
24 x 44 in. 
Private collection 
Photo by Bruce Schwarz. Richard Estes, Sunday Afternoon in the Park, 1989. Oil on canvas, 
24 x 44 in. 
Private collection. 
Photo by Bruce Schwarz.[/caption] This past Saturday afternoon I left the Art Students League to view two exhibitions of New York City paintings—constant readers will recall my interest in city subjects. Originally I thought the juxtaposition of two artists’ works, seen in rapid order, would constitute a mildly mischievous undertaking. In the event, I was impressed by similarities, as well as the obvious differences. The painters, Richard Estes and John Dubrow, benefit from venues that match their styles. Estes’ work is on view at the Museum of Arts and Design, where the glass, stone and steel of his subjects align with the building’s interior, as well as the exterior views of Columbus Circle. Dubrow’s paintings are presented at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, and on a fine April day the gallery’s doors opened onto Tenth Avenue and the High Line, an urban playground in tune with Dubrow’s paintings. The exhibition of Estes’ works, on the museum’s third floor, is a career retrospective that includes silk screens and photographs as well as major oils. Estes is arguably our most famous photorealist; his career, included in anthologies of modern American painting, began during the height of Pop Art. At the show I overheard a mature couple, standing before an early figurative work, negotiating related aesthetics and citing both John Currin and, in the lady’s words, “Mr. America”—she meant Norman Rockwell. Their confusion summarizes the uncertainty as to where Estes’ work resides, though he is neither a biting satirist nor given to populist sentiments. There is, I think, more and less to his work than meets the eye.¼ [caption id="attachment_14509" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Columbus Circle Looking North, 2009 Oil on canvas 40 x 56 1/4 in. (101.6 x 142.9 cm) Linden and Michelle Nelson Tenants by the Entirety © Richard Estes, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York Richard Estes, Columbus Circle Looking North, 2009. Oil on canvas, 40 x 56¼ in. Linden and Michelle Nelson Tenants by the Entirety © Richard Estes, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York.[/caption] Less, in that there’s no sly agenda. His cityscapes are straightforward in their depiction of surfaces—usually architectural but occasionally organic—and as free of social commentary as one could imagine. Nor do they go out of their way to glamorize the city. Estes’ paintings are devoted, above all, to the compositional busyness that New York’s surfaces offer. Often painted under a sunlight that is clean and flat, the shimmering exteriors of Estes’ New York appear to be immaculate replicas of their subjects. According to the museum’s notes, Estes never projects his photographic references onto the canvas, and doesn’t merely copy a single snapshot, preferring to paint a distillation of numerous photos. His paintings, entirely credible and deceptively realistic, are studio productions. They are characterized by technical excellence and a conscientious draftsmanship that belie one’s suspicions that they have been traced, or even copied mechanically from photographic sources. [caption id="attachment_14521" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Richard Estes, Hotel Empire, 1987. Oil on canvas
37 1/2 x 87 in. Courtesy of Louis K. Meisel Gallery. Richard Estes, Hotel Empire, 1987. Oil on canvas
, 37½ x 87 in. Courtesy of Louis K. Meisel Gallery.[/caption] In Estes’ earlier paintings brushwork is still present, if barely. Sunday Afternoon in the Park, with its Elysian suggestions, follows the flow of light over rocks, sunbathers and buildings, and the manipulation of paint, while highly controlled, is discernible. And although its title invites comparison to Seurat, nothing could be further from the artist’s radar than experiments in color vibration, either scientifically or emotively; local color, of a heightened Kodachrome sort, is empirically valid. The grey rocks in Central Park are painted with grey paint, and so on. Hotel Empire and the more recent Columbus Circle—the latter depicts the view right outside the museum—display a fascination with city views that are panoramic and kaleidoscopic. The shiny bifurcations of space caused by reflective glass that I find repellent, are the material of art to Estes. These complicated exercises in perspective evoke the intense plein air studies of Rackstraw Downes and Antonio Garcia Lopez, but with a subtle and important difference: Estes’ paintings are not given to the scrutiny of light, color and atmosphere, gained through repeated observation of the motif. Surprisingly beautiful, they are about the polished image, rather than the process of seeing. A nearly total reliance on photographic imagery, even if it is the apotheosis of that imagery, is inherently limited. [caption id="attachment_14525" align="alignleft" width="365"]John Dubrow, Playground, 2012-15. 
Oil on linen, 
72 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Lori Bookstein Fine Art John Dubrow, Playground, 2012–15. 
Oil on linen, 
72 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Lori Bookstein Fine Art.[/caption] In an entirely different way, technique is also front and center in the most recent paintings by John Dubrow. The surfaces of Dubrow’s canvases are, as the gallery describes them, almost geological in appearance. Paint has been troweled onto the canvases in patterns that appear carefully designed, yet which surely shifted in the process of painting and repainting. The crusted pigment has accreted to such a density that even the hard edges of architectural planes are softened at the meeting of seams. Unvarnished, the geometric patterns have a raw tactility that belies their high-key color—a child’s sunlit shirt in Playground appears to have been spontaneously painted wet-into-wet with a brush, and the brio of the passage is welcome. These paintings are, in one way, the realization of a painter’s dream to retain the energy of a sketch in large scale. In reproduction, TriBeCa 2 could pass for a pochade study; seen in the gallery, its abstracted shapes acquire tremendous force. Whether intended or not, one finds multiple references to modern masters: the upper right hand corner paraphrases Hans Hofmann, the arboreal shapes at upper left echo Robert Motherwell’s Elegies (in other paintings, the foliage, heavy in shape and beautiful in their subtle coloring, are reminiscent of Pissarro or Cezanne); the human interchanges of the lower half, played out in dappled light, are more subtle. These ‘samplings’ don’t come across as derivative—to the contrary, they are the intelligent improvisations of a formidable painter. [caption id="attachment_14526" align="alignright" width="420"]John Dubrow Playground Sandbox
2008-15 
Oil on linen 
44" x 54"  Courtesy of the Artist and Lori Bookstein Fine Art John Dubrow, Playground Sandbox, 
2008-15. 
Oil on linen, 
44  x 54 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Lori Bookstein Fine Art.[/caption] Dubrow’s painting has long played with tensions between observation and abstraction. Presentiments of the current works are found in paintings made from a studio in the World Trade Center in the 1990s, when the artist surveyed the city from great height, assembling hundreds of distant architectural slabs as one might a puzzle of brightly lit pieces. The images were composed of multitudinous small blocks of color, which through skillful drawing and precise modulation of color were also convincingly atmospheric. In this show, precision and atmosphere give way to abstraction: Playground is no longer an actual place observed, but a revisiting of an earlier composition. The design is the same, but the effect is more evanescent and more intimate. In Playground Sandbox the actual subject hardly seems to matter; the playground is the canvas itself, animated by clever pattern and sensitive color, the pigment applied like stucco. As Dubrow’s paintings literally get heavier, they attain greater lightness of feeling. [caption id="attachment_14524" align="alignleft" width="321"]John Dubrow, TriBeCa 2,
2014-15. 
Oil on linen, 
50 x 44 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Lori Bookstein Fine Art John Dubrow, TriBeCa 2,
2014–15. 
Oil on linen, 
50 x 44 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Lori Bookstein Fine Art.[/caption] In completely different ways, both Estes and Dubrow celebrate their city, the one through consistent adherence to a type of visual fact in which mark-making is suppressed, the other in a personal survey of the stuff of painting. Both artists create their major works in the studio—Estes continues to use his photographs for reference, while Dubrow refers to memory, sensation, and other paintings. Estes’ vision has always been easily accessible, for it documents exteriors which any New Yorker may identify. Dubrow is giving voice to an interior life, one in which the city becomes a motif for joyous formal explorations, even as the role of the urban subject seems to be increasingly incidental. What New York City has supplied for both artists, as it has for so many others, is a rich source of visual complexity. Each has distilled from the city a different and unique form of poetry. Richard Estes: Painting New York City continues at the Museum of Arts and Design through September 20, 2015. John Dubrow: Transformations continues at Lori Bookstein Fine Art through April 25, 2015. [post_title] => New York, New York [post_excerpt] => Two current exhibitions feature notable painters of the urban scene, Richard Estes and John Dubrow. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => richard-estes-john-dubrow [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 11:05:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 16:05:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=14514 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [46] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14383 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-04-15 08:28:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-15 12:28:42 [post_content] => In his latest article for the "Master Class" column of The Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss writes about Antonio Allegri da Correggio's Jupiter and Io, one of four commissioned canvases, the artist painted "depicting the loves of Jupiter, the god who ... transformed himself into nonhuman forms in order to indulge amatory indiscretions without being discovered by his wife, Juno." Weiss's article (PDF here) will appear in the June 2015 issue of The Artist's Magazine. [caption id="attachment_14389" align="aligncenter" width="345"]Antonio Allegri da Correggio, Jupiter and Io, ca. 1532–33. Oil on canvas, 63 4/5 x 29 1/2 in. Kunsthistorisches Museum. Antonio Allegri da Correggio, Jupiter and Io, ca. 1532–33. Oil on canvas, 63 4/5 x 29 1/2 in. Kunsthistorisches Museum.[/caption] [post_title] => Jerry Weiss on Correggio's Jupiter and Io [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss writes about Antonio Allegri da Correggio's Jupiter and Io for the June 2015 issue of The Artist's Magazine. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-on-correggios-jupiter-and-io [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:10:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:10:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=14383 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [47] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14282 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-04-07 08:58:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-07 12:58:25 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_14284" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), A Trail through the Trees. Oil on board 20½ x 29 7/16 in. Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), A Trail through the Trees. Oil on board, 20½ x 29 7/16 in.[/caption] A show of nineteenth-century landscape painting is on view for a few more days at Questroyal Fine Art, housed in a sprawling apartment overlooking Park Avenue and 79th Street. The exhibition is a beauty titled Voyeurs in Virgin Territory: The Hudson River School Painters, and this writer was the sole visitor on a recent late afternoon. In other words, the setting is an ideal one for the contemplation of art. The Hudson River School—the name was coined as a term of disparagement—now refers to several generations of American landscape painters who comprised our first major art movement. That said, the influence of European painting, in the forms of Classicism and the Barbizon and Dusseldorf schools, is pervasive. A powerful impetus for mid-century artists may have been this country’s natural splendor, but the native training was still thin, and Italy, France, and Germany beckoned. The first schools to teach landscape painting didn’t open here until Impressionism was in full flower. Albert Bierstadt, recognized for panoramic scenes celebrating the American west, was one of those who was trained in Dusseldorf. His Trail through the Trees offers a finely drawn subject, with a dedication to the expressive possibilities of naturalism that’s strongly reminiscent of the great German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich. What distinguishes Bierstadt is the optimism of his ambitions—for him the abundant foliage of a great tree symbolizes a land of plenitude. Foliage at fever pitch was the province of Jasper Francis Cropsey, our unabashed celebrant of autumn. His fondness for highly chromatic displays can grate; when he exhibited in London, an English audience questioned the credibility of his palette, and Cropsey had leaves mailed from home to verify his observations. Autumn Sunset pushes the envelope in typical fashion, yet the scene is more intimate than spectacular, and the effect is genuinely moving. [caption id="attachment_14285" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823–1900), Autumn Sunset, 1895. Oil on canvas, 12 1/16 x 20⅛ in. Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823–1900), Autumn Sunset, 1895. Oil on canvas, 12 1/16 x 20⅛ in.[/caption] One of the show’s highlights is Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sketch of Hunter Mountain, Catskills, a small composition so perfectly resolved as to make the term "sketch" misleading. Gifford was adept at painting rapidly, with wet-into-wet passages and fluid, precise drawing—that many of the school’s painters were so gifted is sometimes forgotten. A Sketch of Hunter Mountain is comprised of distinct planes, each of which read as atmospherically true. The painting’s details hint at a somber undercurrent—the Civil War had ended a few months before this was painted, and at that time artists often included tree stumps and dead branches as symbolic allusions to the decimation of soldiers. [caption id="attachment_14286" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), A Sketch of Hunter Mountain, Catskills (Twilight on Hunter Mountain), 1865. Oil on canvas 10⅛ x 16⅞ in. Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), A Sketch of Hunter Mountain, Catskills (Twilight on Hunter Mountain), 1865. Oil on canvas, 10⅛ x 16⅞ in.[/caption] Gifford’s fellow Luminist, John Frederick Kensett, is best known for coastal views that reconcile a Pre-Raphaelite commitment to observation of nature with a spare abstraction of geometric precision. The gentle waves, billows of cumulus and human presence of New England Coastal Scene with Figures hardly detract from the impression of serenity that is characteristic of Kensett’s work. [caption id="attachment_14289" align="aligncenter" width="660"]John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872), New England Coastal Scene with Figures, 1864. Oil on canvas, 14¼ x 24 3/16 in. John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872), New England Coastal Scene with Figures, 1864. Oil on canvas, 14¼ x 24 3/16 in.[/caption] The epic note is perhaps best struck here by William Stanley Haseltine’s Coast of Sori. Like many of the Hudson River School painters, Haseltine traveled widely. Sori is a seaside municipality in northwest Italy, and Haseltine’s apparently fanciful view, except for the addition of modern buildings on the foreground ledge, looks much the same today. The artist’s early works established what would be a life-long interest in rugged coastlines, initially painted with a hard-edged clarity akin to that of Kensett. Haseltine, like many artists of the Hudson River School’s second wave, evolved from a meticulous rendering to a looser approach that evidenced a variety of European influences. [caption id="attachment_14287" align="aligncenter" width="660"]William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900), Coast of Sori, 1893. Oil on canvas, 25 3/16 x 45 5/16 in. William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900), Coast of Sori, 1893. Oil on canvas, 25 3/16 x 45 5/16 in.[/caption] George Inness’ progression as a painter was decidedly personal, and the influence of Hudson River prototypes was confined to his earliest efforts. Inness’ career resolved in Tonalism, but to leave it at that is unsatisfactory. His Monte Lucia, Perugia, is a sketch, yet herein are the elements that make Inness’ work singular: a convincing sense of deep space, elegant formal design, and an implication of profoundly spiritual qualities. Along with the technical aptitude of the Hudson River School’s artists, it is the tacit divine presence in nature that draws us to their work. For Bierstadt, Moran, and Cropsey, spiritualism is represented theatrically; for Kensett and Gifford, it is manifest in sublime illumination; Inness finds it in the vapor of atmosphere. [caption id="attachment_14288" align="aligncenter" width="660"]George Inness (1825–1894). Monte Lucia, Perugia, 1873. Oil on canvas, 13 7/8 x 19 3/4 in. George Inness (1825–1894), Monte Lucia, Perugia, 1873. Oil on canvas, 13⅞ x 19¾ in.[/caption] “The highest art,” Inness said, “is where has been most perfectly breathed the sentiment of humanity. Rivers, streams, the rippling brook, the hill-side, the sky, clouds—all things that we see—can convey that sentiment if we are in the love of God and the desire of truth.” This could serve as a mission statement for the painters of the Hudson River School, whose best works, while rooted in the documentation of landscape, transcend specific time and place. Voyeurs in Virgin Territory: The Hudson River School Painters is on view until April 11 at Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, 903 Park Avenue, Third Floor. [post_title] => Technical Prowess, at the Service of the Spiritual [post_excerpt] => Voyeurs in Virgin Territory, a show of nineteenth-century landscape painting on view at Questroyal Fine Art, is a beauty. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => technical-prowess-at-the-service-of-the-spiritual [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 11:07:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 16:07:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=14282 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [48] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 14016 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-03-06 11:15:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-06 16:15:01 [post_content] => “….he expresses regret that he did not study under Ingres, whose work he may have liked moderately, but from whom he would have learned to draw: which was an absurd piece of modesty for he drew better than Ingres, as his etchings prove.”

Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Joseph Pennell

Notwithstanding the adulatory tone taken by his friends and biographers, the Pennells, James Abbott McNeill Whistler was indeed a great etcher, and it was the print process more than any other that allowed him to display the expertise and delicacy of his linear stroke. The painter best known for artful evanescence may still surprise us for the exactness of drawing that characterizes his prints. This is a good time for fans of Whistler and devotees of drawing, for Whistler in Paris, London, and Venice is on display at the Yale University Art Gallery until July 19. As the title suggests, the show is based upon Whistler’s three formal sets of etchings—the French, Thames, and Venice—which represent, in turn, student work that was influenced by other masters, his own emergent originality, and the products of his full maturity. Although much of the work in the exhibition is drawn from Yale’s collection, the show is confined neither to examples from the three sets, nor to work by Whistler: there are numerous pieces by his masters and contemporaries, and even one of his Venetian pastels. The latter is considered so susceptible to light that it’s covered by a cloth drapery, which the viewer lifts in order to see the work. It’s an inadvertently Duchampian touch that Whistler would have liked.[portfolio_slideshow width="636" height="500" id="21103"] In the mid-1850s, Whistler experimented with etching alongside his brother-in-law Francis Seymour Haden, who collected prints by the Old Masters and encouraged the younger artist to work from nature. With these influences fresh in his mind, Whistler set out on a sketching trip through France and the Rhineland; twelve of the resulting prints comprise the French Set. There are echoes of the Dutch masters, and an attention to detail he would modify, if not relinquish, in due time. The Unsafe Tenement (1858) has a geometric, monumental mass viewed in harsh sunlight that is nearly unique in his oeuvre. Drouet, Sculpteur (1859) is a portrait completed in two sittings. The magnificent head, rich in detail, takes on even more solidity when contrasted with the open handling of the torso and arms. Soon after his return to London, Whistler embarked on the Thames Set, which included sixteen etchings that parallel the subjects of his paintings, ca. 1860. More than any artist, Whistler owned the Thames waterfront. The London prints reveal an interest in the specificity of architecture, ship riggings and the working-class denizens of the docklands. Courbet’s influence is apparent in the insistent realism, yet Whistler possessed a more sophisticated eye, and his compositions are more complex than in the French Set (see Black Lion Wharf and Billingsgate). The crowded designs of these etchings would in a few years give way to Whistler’s mature aesthetic, wherein detail is subsumed by fog and night. Bankruptcy forced Whistler to Venice in 1879, in the form of a much-needed commission to produce a set of a dozen etchings for a London dealer. The trip turned out to be unexpectedly productive: he remained in Venice for over a year, producing about fifty etchings, twice as many pastels, and several paintings. Among the legions of artists who besieged the city in the second half of the 1800s, Whistler was unique in his focus on backwaters and impoverished interiors, rather than picturesque vistas—though his aesthetic had changed, a connection to working class themes remained. (Another quality that never left Whistler was his irreverence: encountering a disciple of John Ruskin who was painting an elaborately finished, 7½-foot-wide canvas in St. Mark’s Square, Whistler supposedly pinned to his back a note reading, "I am totally blind.") A great sense of restraint and an often dreamlike quality characterize the two Venice Sets of 1879-80, where those parts of the plate left untouched are as important as the deliberately descriptive passages. The Little Lagoon is a lesson in brevity; in Nocturne: Palaces, lines are woven to a velvety effect. The Yale show preserves a welcome sense of intimacy, abetted by the small scale of the works and sparse attendance on the intermittently snowy afternoon I was there. If one is to fault the exhibition, it is for lack of an accompanying published catalogue. The only corrective is to return and view the show again. In the trenchant yet delicate draftsmanship of his etchings, Whistler’s monogram of a barb-tailed butterfly finds its most fitting expression. Whistler in Paris, London, and Venice continues at the Yale University Art Gallery through July 19, 2015.
Pre-publication states of The Unsafe Tenement included a darker sky and a woman who was replaced by the pitchfork at left. Many of the French Set images were printed on a thin, warm-toned chine sheet. The Unsafe Tenement, from the French Set (Douze Eaux-Fortes d’après Nature or Twelve Etchings from Nature), 1858. Etching. Sheet: 20.3 x 26.7 cm (8 x 10 1/2 in.) strike 6 1/4 x 8 7/8. Gift of Robert W. Carle, B.A. 1897. 1958.2.9. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery. Whistler often supplemented his etchings with drypoint, which produces painterly effects. Because the resulting burr erodes so rapidly, only a few good impressions could be drawn from a plate. J.A.M. Whistler, Drouet, Sculpteur, 1859. Etching. Sheet: 30.2 x 19.7 cm (11 7/8 x 7 3/4 in.); strike 9 x 6. Gift of Mrs Emerson Tuttle, in memory of Theodore Sizer, 1967.83.7. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery The Thames Set etchings feature complex designs and a flattening of space that evidence Whistler’s increasing interest in Japanese art. Black Lion Wharf, from the Thames Set (A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames and Other Subjects), 1859. Etching. Sheet: 22.9 x 35.9 cm (9 x 14 1/8 in.); strike 5 7/8 x 8 3/4. The Walter R. Callender, B.A. 1894, Memorial Collection, Gift of Ivy Lee Callender, 1962.45.538. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery J.A.M. Whistler, Billingsgate, 1859. Etching. Sheet: 26.0 x 36.5 cm (10 1/4 x 14 3/8 in.); strike 6 x 9 in. Gift of Allen Evarts Foster, B.A. 1906. 1965.33.578. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery Referring to The Little Lagoon, Whistler scholars Ruth Fine and Margaret MacDonald wrote, “Whistler drew on the copper plate with an extraordinarily light hand in precisely the right places, structuring a great distance in space.” J.A.M. Whistler, The Little Lagoon, from the First Venice Set (Venice, A Series of Twelve Etchings), 1879-80. Etching on antique handmade laid paper dating to 1670s and containing watermark of Dutch paper maker, Pieter Van der Ley. 23.5 x 15.3 cm (9 1/4 x 6 in.) (sheet). Frederic George Achelis Memorial Collection, Gift of Miss Elizabeth Achelis, a lover of prints, 1927.73. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery J.A.M. Whistler, Nocturne: Palaces, from the Second Venice Set (A Set of Twenty-six Etchings), 1879-80. Etching and drypoint on laid paper. 30.2 x 19.7 cm (11 7/8 x 7 3/4 in.) (sheet). Frederic George Achelis Memorial Collection, Gift of Miss Elizabeth Achelis, a lover of prints. 1927.76. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery
[post_title] => Whistler’s Travels [post_excerpt] => The painter best known for artful evanescence may still surprise us for the exactness of drawing that characterizes his prints. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => whistlers-travels [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 11:10:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 16:10:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=14016 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [49] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13989 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-02-28 09:17:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-28 14:17:31 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13994" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Tom Loepp. Under the Manhattan Bridge, 1991. Oil on linen, 32 x 42 in. Tom Loepp. Under the Manhattan Bridge, 1991. Oil on linen, 32 x 42 in.[/caption] One of the most productive seasons of my painting life thus far was the summer of 1991. The primary subject matter was cityscape, painted on the spot. My plein air ventures in New York City that year began in the cool days of spring, when I accompanied Tom Loepp a few afternoons as he painted on Prince Street. It was a ridiculously busy choice of venues, especially on fair-weather weekends. From there we moved uptown to the quieter environs of Sutton Place and nearby streets that dead-ended over the East River, where we painted views of the Queensboro Bridge. Tom would drive in from his place in Brooklyn, I’d drive in from New Jersey, and we’d park on a side street and eat lunch before setting off to paint, usually within a few blocks of one another. Tiring of Sutton Place, one day Tom and I discussed our plans for the upcoming summer.  I didn’t have much in the way of model prospects—we were sharing a studio that he was subletting on Union Square—so I suggested we continue to work outside, along the East River. The social implications of the plan were drab. “Oh,” Tom drawled, “you’re sure to meet a lot of women under the bridge this summer.” Maybe now the riverfront is more hospitable, but at that time the real estate under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges was all but forsaken. Much as I was motivated by friendship, the decision to paint alongside Tom was a shrewd one for two reasons: he knew the drill of cityscape, having worked from the roof of the World Trade Center and walked up the cables of Brooklyn Bridge to paint from its towers, and he was a very good painter who was just then enjoying great success as a portrait artist. I watched what he was doing. [caption id="attachment_13996" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Tom Loepp, East River from the World Trade Center, 1989. Oil on linen, 14 x 18 in. Private collection. Tom Loepp, East River from the World Trade Center, 1989. Oil on linen, 14 x 18 in. Private collection.[/caption] We spent a few weeks on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, often working from early afternoon to dusk. By the beginning of July it was hot, so we’d sometimes set up our easels in a parking lot under the elevated FDR Drive to take advantage of the shade it cast. Once in a while I’d hear a splash nearby, the sound of garbage thrown from a car overhead, landing in the river. After we were done there we started painting on the Brooklyn side of the river, where the parking was easier. The Brooklyn side had a wealth of material: old warehouses, factories, and newly converted lofts. The colors were great. Perhaps my favorite painting of the summer was Tom’s Under the Manhattan Bridge; I was working a block or two away, closer to the river. Until Tom shared it on Facebook a few days ago, I hadn’t seen this canvas in nearly twenty years. The composition is a visual pinball machine of hard angles and a linear perspective that’s complicated by the bridge’s odd transverse through the neighborhood. The hulking shapes of the old buildings and the massive form of the bridge, beautifully rendered, are offset by a cool blue sky. I love the jagged play of light and shadow and the syncopation of positive and negative shapes—until you stand beneath a New York City bridge, you never realize just how porous the superstructure is. You could say that we had the advantage of working with picture-ready material; a fellow artist once exclaimed while looking at one of my city paintings, “Anyone can make a good painting of the Brooklyn Bridge!” Of course that’s not true—In Under the Manhattan Bridge, Tom chose the right spot, and organized and cut the elements of his composition for maximum effectiveness. The effect is bright and bleak, a jumble of urban architecture with nary a car nor a soul. To me it’s a hybrid of George Bellows and Antonio Lopez Garcia: muscular, beautifully drawn, vertiginous. The dark building at right was an apartment house, in which resided an old friend of Tom’s, an ailing portrait artist named Alex Fournier. Soon thereafter we landed on Bargemusic, the floating concert hall moored in the East River. We received permission to paint from atop the barge, and were thus afforded a good profile view of the east tower of Brooklyn Bridge. A young guy who worked as a watchman for an adjacent property would visit us while we painted. He sported a gold grill where his front teeth should have been, and he enjoyed bothering me. That should have been my worst distraction. [caption id="attachment_13998" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry Weiss. Red Crane, Brooklyn Bridge, 1991. Oil on linen, 25 x 34 in. Jerry Weiss. Red Crane, Brooklyn Bridge, 1991. Oil on linen, 25 x 34 in.[/caption] One late afternoon that fall we set up a hundred yards apart on the pedestrian path of the Williamsburg Bridge. While I was painting my glasses fell off and landed on the roadway, some twenty feet below. Tom climbed down a girder to a jersey barrier and dodged traffic to retrieve them. The following year I set up on the street on my own to paint Riverside Church, but not all the passersby were cordial. I requested and was granted permission to work from the sheltered grounds of the seminary nearby, but by then the business of urban painting had lost some of its charm. The cityscapes I painted in the summer of ’91 were important to me for several reasons. As much as any landscape painting I’d done until then, they allowed me to concentrate on design—at a certain level, notwithstanding the experiential significance we attach to things, it doesn’t much matter whether you’re painting a tree or a building, you’re dealing with abstract shapes. And yet it matters very much. The city paintings were a subconscious attempt to revisit a past I’d never known. I’d grown up in south Florida, and was returning to the places where my parents had lived between the 1920s and 1940s. Later I realized that painting New York street scenes had been a romantic undertaking. After it was done, I was ready to leave the city. Painting alongside Tom was to be the last such working partnership I’d have with another artist. I think the rapidness with which we went from site to site was good training, and likely altered both of our approaches. Many summer evenings we’d repair to the studio on Union Square, assessing the painting we’d done that day, sometimes with a glass of cheap wine and the company of other artist friends. A few years later I moved to rural Connecticut, and a few years after that Tom moved to rural Wyoming, where he’s from originally. I’ve always thought our city paintings would make for a good exhibition. For my money, Tom’s painting under the Manhattan Bridge would be the centerpiece. The city was rougher then, and these paintings show its desolate beauty. A few years ago a friend alerted me that she’d seen a small, unsigned painting of mine for sale in an antiques store in Connecticut. I went to have a look, and sure enough it was mine, an oil sketch of the Queensboro Bridge that must have been painted at the start of the 1991 campaign. I had no recollection of having painted it, let alone a clue as to how it wound up in an antiques shop. [post_title] => A Summer on the Streets [post_excerpt] => An ode to artistic friendship and the serendipity of plein-air cityscape painting. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-summer-on-the-streets-cityscape-tom-loepp [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 07:35:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 12:35:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13989 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [50] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13954 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-02-12 16:19:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-12 21:19:37 [post_content] => Among the victims of the Metro-North accident earlier this month was Walter Liedtke, who had been a curator of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for thirty-five years. In that time, Liedtke authored and contributed to numerous books and articles and curated many major exhibitions, including Vermeer and the Delft School, which was the most popular show in the world in 2001. He was, according to Thomas P. Campbell, the director of the Met, “one of the most distinguished scholars of Dutch and Flemish painting in the world.” [caption id="attachment_13958" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer by Rembrandt van Rijn. “To me,” said Liedtke, “this is one of the monuments of Western culture.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2dCeTPDEKY Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer by Rembrandt van Rijn. “To me,” said Liedtke, “this is one of the monuments of Western culture.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2dCeTPDEKY[/caption] Even the most cursory reading of Liedtke’s essays reveals his depth of scholarship and determination to reconsider conventional wisdom. In a Metropolitan Museum Bulletin from 1985, a copy of which has been in my possession for the last thirty years, Liedtke assessed the life and work of Anthony van Dyck. Liedtke challenged the traditional scholarship that characterized the artist as “willful, nervous, highstrung, or hypersensitive”. “One wonders,” he posits, “how much of this is romantic elaboration.” Liedtke’s approach was long on thoughtful observation and scrupulous study. Inherently skeptical of romantic interpretation, one can sense Liedtke’s discomfort with the long-accepted claim that van Dyck was already a master with his own pupils at the age of sixteen. “This supposition,” he wrote, “seemed to support the view that the young man was a sort of Mozart with the brush.” Believing it unlikely that the artist’s prodigal skills emerged fully formed in adolescence, Liedtke noted recent research which concluded that van Dyck was a pupil and assistant to Rubens until he was twenty-one. In his 2011 catalogue Frans Hals: Style and Substance, Liedtke opened with a healthy distrust of the notion, perpetuated by generations of art historians, that Hals was a dissolute personality, whose character was nearly from the outset linked to his supposed “low-life themes.” Difficulties in identifying the inspiration for Hals’ style have been taken to indicate a lack of traditional background and are seen as evidence of natural genius. Liedtke would have none of it: “What is often found in the early works of great masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals is the eager pursuit of so many artistic ideas that identifying particular ‘sources’ tends to miss the point, which is the acquirement of pictorial literacy.” This same spirit of intellectual discernment informed his studies of Rembrandt. In the catalogue for the Met’s 1995 exhibition Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt, Liedtke observed that overzealous attribution to Rembrandt had at the turn of the twentieth century accounted for roughly 600 paintings, a number now cut in half. The reattribution of Rembrandt’s work has been due, in part, to an increased willingness to give credit to his contemporaries, especially to pupils when they were most heavily influenced by the master:

Labels change and opinions change, but pictures remain the same (although conservators would qualify this remark). The painting once thought to be by Rembrandt and now recognized as by one of his pupils is a tribute to the master as teacher, to the actual artist, and to the culture that sustained not only the career of Rembrandt but also the careers of some forty artists who occasionally produced works in his style. One need hardly be a rabid revisionist to appreciate the pleasure of discovering a painting by Flinck, Fabritius, or another associate of Rembrandt in the permanent collection of a museum that hopes to present a balanced view of Dutch art.

If the fever had once been to assign as many paintings as possible to Rembrandt, Liedtke’s interest was an overview of the culture from which Rembrandt emerged. “It may not be essential, in a broad view,” he wrote, “to know whether a picture was painted by Fabritius or Flinck, or even by Rembrandt or Bol, but it is important to realize that Rembrandt’s achievement was part of a larger social phenomenon.” [caption id="attachment_13963" align="aligncenter" width="660"]The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. Liedtke wrote, “In The Milkmaid, tactile and optical sensations coexist: nowhere else in Vermeer's oeuvre does one find such a sculptural figure and such seemingly tangible objects, and yet the future painter of luminous interiors has already arrived.” See http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/milk/hd_milk.htm The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. Liedtke wrote, “In The Milkmaid, tactile and optical sensations coexist: nowhere else in Vermeer's oeuvre does one find such a sculptural figure and such seemingly tangible objects, and yet the future painter of luminous interiors has already arrived.” See http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/milk/hd_milk.htm[/caption] For Liedtke, it was imperative to humanize rather than deify artists. Reviewing the catalogue for Vermeer and the Delft School in 2001, art historian Sanford Schwartz wrote:

There's a pleasing art-worldishness about Liedtke's Vermeer. He's not the empyrean figure whose every picture has a "moral" value, as some have seen him, and Liedtke's way of presenting great, innovative art as the product of a slow process of absorbing countless precedents, and of being crucially dependent on a community of like-minded connoisseurs and patrons, injects a needed realism into the sometimes nearly hagiographic writing about Vermeer.

And yet, it would be a mistake to suggest that Liedtke was merely leveling the field, elevating second-tier painters at the expense of the masters. When he felt Vermeer’s genius was unfairly called into question, he contested the theory that the artist was dependent on the use of mechanical aids. “I don’t oppose the notion that Vermeer in some way responded to the camera obscura, but I do oppose drastic devaluations of the role of art.” Great artists reveal extraordinary truths in everyday experience, compelling us to see what we’d otherwise pass by; great art historians accomplish the same thing when they animate our understanding of art and artists. In his appreciation for “the role of art,” Walter Liedtke was an art historian par excellence. [post_title] => Remembering Walter Liedtke [post_excerpt] => For Walter Liedtke, it was imperative to humanize rather than deify artists. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => remembering-walter-liedtke [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 11:19:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 16:19:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13954 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [51] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13921 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:50:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-06 15:50:23 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13925" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Neil Welliver, Study for Little Spruce, 1985. Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in. ©Neil Welliver, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York. Neil Welliver, Study for Little Spruce, 1985. Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in.
©Neil Welliver, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York.[/caption] “Painting outside in winter,” Neil Welliver once said, “is not a macho thing to do. It's more difficult than that. To paint outside in the winter is painful. It hurts your hands, it hurts your feet, it hurts your ears. Painting is difficult. The paint is rigid, it's stiff, it doesn't move easily. But sometimes there are things you want and that's the only way you get them.” In order to get the things he wanted, Welliver ventured outside in all seasons to paint on the expanse of wooded property he owned in Lincolnville, Maine (see Study for Little Spruce). One suspects that the onerous winter storms that have recently beset the Northeast wouldn’t have much slowed him. A sampling of Welliver’s intrepidness is on view at Alexandre Gallery in the Fuller Building, in the form of ten works, mostly oils, painted directly from nature on small square canvases. Many of these were studies for the large canvases Welliver later worked up in his studio. Welliver’s mature landscapes are essays on nature viewed in solitude, yet his approach is not that of a painstaking naturalism: there’s a bounce to his white clouds and snow covered rocks, which could be mistaken for dollops of fresh whipping cream. This whiff of Pop modernism, strongest in his 1970s paintings of nudes shivering in ponds, is sublimated to an immersion in the complex shapes of the landscape. Welliver was delighted by oscillating pattern and the tangle of forest undergrowth, the busier the better (see Study for Prospect). [caption id="attachment_13926" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Neil Welliver, Study for Prospect, 1976. Oil on canvas, 20 x 18 in. ©Neil Welliver, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York. Neil Welliver, Study for Prospect, 1976. Oil on canvas, 20 x 18 in.
©Neil Welliver, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York.[/caption] According to Welliver, his color was not meant to be imitative. “I never try to get the color I’m looking at. I never copy the color I see. NEVER.” His palette, devoid of earth tones, was chosen to suggest the presence of air and to create an image that would parallel, rather than replicate, the luminosity of nature. The light in Welliver’s painting is cool, clear and bracing. “I was looking at something extremely obscure,” he once explained, “not light in the normal sense, light bathing objects, but light in the air, flashing and moving like a flow of energy through space. That interests me greatly. That’s what my paintings are about.” This is a very different conception from that of say, Homer, Hopper, or Wyeth, each of whom saw the Maine light as a vehicle for the revelation of solid form. Small wonder, given that Welliver’s influences were elsewhere, and included Josef Albers, Pollock, and Mondrian. His paint application is consistently, if creamily, flat, so that the sensual excitement in his canvases is often provided by graphic shapes and color fluctuation. The acknowledgment of artifice in terms of color as well as in his affinity for flatness—he was ever distancing himself from comparisons to the illusionary space of nineteenth-century Hudson River School painting—was as central to Welliver’s art as was his connection to Maine’s topography. This apparent dichotomy runs through the work of several of our best contemporary landscape painters, including Rackstraw Downes and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, who, like Welliver, are as concerned with how we see as what is being seen. All came out of a Yale School of Art that was largely antipathetic to traditional representational art. Welliver dealt with the complexities of his subjects methodically—it continues to surprise me that major artists are given to the most banal routines, but his were especially systematic. In the studio he always started his large canvases in the upper left-hand corner, proceeded downward and diagonally, and once having reached the lower right-hand corner, never went back to make corrections. His unfinished paintings confirm another methodical practice: every shape was circumscribed in pencil before color was added, the very model of the paint-by-number process. [caption id="attachment_13924" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Neil Welliver, Study for Spring Brook, 1982. Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. ©Neil Welliver, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York. Neil Welliver, Study for Spring Brook, 1982. Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 24 1/8 in.
©Neil Welliver, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York.[/caption] The studies are skillfully painted, though without overtly performative flair; Welliver was taking comprehensive notes and saving the panache for his studio pieces. The illustrative impact of Welliver’s big paintings—it’s possible that I first saw his work on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalogue—used to turn me off. What I’ve come to admire is an improbable reconciliation, that the "Pop-ness" of his pictures is grounded in the certainty that they represent a personal communion with the Maine landscape. In fact, one sometimes misses the amped-up colors of the big paintings when surveying the restraint of the studies. And sometimes not. Study for Spring Brook preserves the intimacy of the artist’s response, with an atmospheric subtlety that Welliver sacrificed in the finished eight-foot canvas (not in show), where value and color are pushed beyond credibility, and the mechanisms of his studio process are conspicuous. In the study, complex shapes are held together with masterful drawing, and the fluid manipulation of pigment echoes the oily, curling arabesques of the stream’s reflections. For all Welliver's interest in the surface plane of the canvas and his love of formal structure, he was determined to paint pictures that a viewer could enter, particularly, in his words, in a "psychological sense.  If there’s any doubt that he was working in a three-dimensional mode, compare a Welliver landscape to one by Klimt. No matter. Welliver’s thoughts on art are compelling, but they pale in comparison to the paintings themselves, which are among the most beautiful and evocative landscapes of our time. Neil Welliver Oil Studies and Selected Prints and Selected Works by Gallery Artists are on view at Alexandre Gallery at 41 East 57th Street until February 21. [post_title] => Neil Welliver Oil Studies [post_excerpt] => Welliver's palette, devoid of earth tones, was chosen to suggest the presence of air and to create an image that would parallel, rather than replicate, the luminosity of nature. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => neil-welliver-oil-studies [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 11:22:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 16:22:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13921 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [52] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13758 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-01-16 11:26:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-16 16:26:49 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13773" align="alignright" width="438"]LymeSummerSchoolArt Old Lyme, ca. 1904. Image courtesy Florence Griswold Museum.[/caption]

By virtue of its involvement with the Lyme Art Colony, the Art Students League of New York is inextricably connected to the history of Old Lyme, Connecticut. During the very height of the colony’s prominence, from 1902 to 1905, the League held immensely popular summer classes in Old Lyme. Thus, teachers and students associated with the League played a significant part in the area’s cultural life, and were integral in helping to establish the tradition of plein air painting and fine arts instruction that continues in Old Lyme today.

The Lyme Art Colony was the indirect product of a bicycle trip by Clark Voorhees, a native New Yorker and League student. Voorhees originally took to the area as a sportsman and naturalist, but he saw potential subjects in the hills, marshes, and river views of Old Lyme and began painting there in the summer of 1896. When he returned to New York City in the fall of that year he wrote in his diary, “I am sorry to get back after my long vacation, and feel more than ever that the country is the place for me.” A hundred years later I came to feel much the same way.

Voorhees was soon followed to Old Lyme by other artists, many of whom were fellow New Yorkers with ties to the League. They found the shoreline area of southeastern Connecticut an ideal place to relax and paint during the summer. Within a few years the Lyme contingency became the largest art colony in the country. The most prominent visiting artists were Henry Ward Ranger, who summered there from 1899 to 1904; Childe Hassam, from 1903 to ca. 1907, and Willard Metcalf, from 1905 to 1907. Central to the art life was a boarding house run by Florence Griswold—known as Miss Florence—which was the artists’ gathering place and, eventually, a museum celebrating the work of the colony.

Henry Ranger held sway in Old Lyme at the turn of the century, which is to say that a particular brand of Tonalism was prevalent. For Ranger, the woods and fields of Old Lyme were reminiscent of the French Barbizon Forest; perhaps he was on the lookout for just such a location, one upon which the French prototype could be easily transferred. In her monograph on Ranger, art historian Estelle Riback wrote, “The Barbizon idiom became the model for late nineteenth century landscape painters who strove for a personal expression.” In its depiction of a hushed forest clearing, dominated by an imposing oak and completed in the studio with layers of warm, rich glazes, Autumn Woodlands is a quintessential example of the vision that characterized the early years of the colony. Here was nature as a meditative haven.

[caption id="attachment_13762" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Henry Ward Ranger, Autumn Woodlands, 1902. 28 in. x 36 in. Florence Griswold Museum; Gift of Mr. Israel Liverant. Henry Ward Ranger, Autumn Woodlands, 1902. Oil on canvas, 28 in. x 36 in. Gift of Mr. Israel Liverant. Florence Griswold Museum.[/caption]

This changed with the arrival of Impressionism, in the guise of Childe Hassam. Gone were the romantic overtones of Tonalism—disparagingly referred to as the "baked apple school"—replaced by an emphasis on prismatic color, a crisp plein-air handling and an absence of brown from the palette. Hassam’s The Ledges, October in Old Lyme presents a very different conception of the landscape, one in which the artist has apparently isolated a random fragment of nature. No single tree presents itself as a focal point; rather, a screen of thin trees is arranged parallel to the picture plane in a grid-like fashion. The real subject is sunlight and the high key color contrasts it produces. As if to symbolize the comparative brazenness of the new attitude, Hassam took to painting out of doors stripped to the waist. This must have been a truly pointed display at a time when landscape painters wore dress suits while working en plein air.

[caption id="attachment_13763" align="alignleft" width="352"] Frederick Childe Hassam, The Ledges, October in Old Lyme, Connecticut, 1907. Oil on canvas, 18 x 18 in. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. Florence Griswold Museum. Frederick Childe Hassam, The Ledges, October in Old Lyme, Connecticut, 1907. Oil on canvas, 18 x 18 in. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. Florence Griswold Museum.[/caption]

The colony had been served notice, and was predictably divided. Some painters, like Allen Butler Talcott, made their homes in Old Lyme and split the difference, incorporating both Tonalist and Impressionist modes in their painting. Ranger didn’t stay, and though he maintained amicable terms with Hassam, in 1904 he moved a few miles up the Connecticut coast. It was only after he’d left the colony that Ranger began to adopt a more impressionistic palette.

Of all the artists who joined the colony over the next few decades, my favorite is Willard Metcalf, who arrived in 1905 at the encouragement of Hassam. Metcalf’s three summers in Old Lyme produced both personal crisis and great success. In July 1907, the atmosphere in Miss Florence’s house was strained when Metcalf’s young wife ran off with one of his students, a painter named Robert Nisbet. However, in the same year his May Night, a painting of the front lawn and façade of Miss Florence’s home, was awarded a gold medal and purchased by the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC. The event secured Metcalf’s reputation, and enriched the prestige of the Old Lyme colony. A writer in the Hartford Daily Courant noted:

Lyme cows are so busy posing for the Art classes that they have hardly time to be milked ... One explanation of the remarkable jump Lyme has taken is that Willard Metcalf sold in three days $3,000 worth of Lyme landscapes in the St. Botolph Club last winter. This made Lyme landscapes sound like Standard Oil, and with no less enthusiasm than the gold hunters of '49, the picture makers have chosen Lyme as a place in which to swarm.

The Florence Griswold Museum now houses the largest collection of Metcalf’s work and personal artifacts. His Kalmia, a painting of the ubiquitous mountain laurel that flanks the Lieutenant River, is one of the museum’s prizes.

[caption id="attachment_13764" align="alignright" width="389"]Willard Leroy Metcalf > Kalmia > 1905 > 20th Century > 34 in. x 34 in. > Florence Griswold Musuem; Museum Purchase through The Nancy B. Krieble Acquisition Fund, with the support of Geddes and Kathy Parsons; The Dorothy Clark Archibald Acquisition Fund; Helen E. Krieble; V. J. Dowling; Max and Sally Belding; Richard and Barbara Booth; Mr. and Mrs. David W. Dangremond; Charles and Irene Hamm; William E. Phillips and Barbara Smith; Andy Baxter; Charles T. Clark; Jonathan L. Cohen; Jim and Hedy Korst; Mr. and Mrs. S. Van Vliet Lyman; Clement C. and Elizabeth Moore; Robert and Betsey Webster; Renée Wilson; Peter and Karen Cummins, and a small group of members > Willard Leroy Metcalf, Kalmia, 1905. Oil on canvas, 34 x 34 in. Museum Purchase through The Nancy B. Krieble Acquisition Fund, with the support of Geddes and Kathy Parsons; The Dorothy Clark Archibald Acquisition Fund; Helen E. Krieble; V. J. Dowling; Max and Sally Belding; Richard and Barbara Booth; Mr. and Mrs. David W. Dangremond; Charles and Irene Hamm; William E. Phillips and Barbara Smith; Andy Baxter; Charles T. Clark; Jonathan L. Cohen; Jim and Hedy Korst; Mr. and Mrs. S. Van Vliet Lyman; Clement C. and Elizabeth Moore; Robert and Betsey Webster; Renée Wilson; Peter and Karen Cummins, and a small group of members. Florence Griswold Museum.[/caption]

Another New York painter who took up residence in Old Lyme was Frank Vincent DuMond. DuMond taught at the Art Students League for fifty years, and opened the Lyme Summer School of Art, which was the League’s satellite summer facility, in 1902. DuMond promoted the summer school hard, even sailing to France in an effort to convince expatriate American artists to return and study in Old Lyme. Describing the school’s curriculum, DuMond wrote,

“The study of landscape is always the great feature of interest in summer work. There are three criticisms weekly, two out of doors and one in the studio, covering all the work done during the week. These take the form of talks based upon the efforts submitted, the consideration of nature in its various phases, and meanings and its relationship to art and the needs of artists.”

“Unfortunately,” wrote art historian Richard H. Love, “in time, the permanent non-artist residents of Old Lyme became impatient with the constant intrusion on their privacies, and prices for lodging and food increased to the point that League students found it difficult to work there.” As well, some of the established artists wanted to keep Old Lyme for themselves, and resented the onrush of students. These tensions compelled the school to relocate to Woodstock, New York, in 1906. Nonetheless, DuMond had, according to Love, “put Old Lyme on the cultural map.” DuMond bought a home in Old Lyme, where he continued to teach privately, and would sometimes take a night ferry from New London to New York City to arrive in time to teach his morning classes at the League.

While some members of the Lyme Art Colony stayed in Old Lyme and made it their home, the best of the lot, Ranger, Hassam, and Metcalf, were in fact fair-weather residents who moved on after a few years. Hassam and Metcalf were friends, and their relatively brief convergence in Old Lyme had historical significance: many artists followed in their slipstream. Eventually, Voorhees voiced some reservations about art colonies:

At first they’re made up of a few good men. Then the floaters and hangers-on come in and spoil everything. It’s the social life that keeps those places going, and that saps your energy so that you can’t work. Some of the artists may accomplish something, but they’re the ones that would get ahead anywhere.

A century after Voorhees decided this would be a good place to set up shop, I came to Old Lyme as an itinerant artist and instructor of summer classes. I viewed the weekly trips from the New York City area as a necessary inconvenience. Others knew better: waiting in my mailbox at the Lyme Academy was a sheet of paper, with sketches of a half dozen good landscape sites and directions to each, that had been drawn up for me by Deane G. Keller. Unwittingly following the lead of legions of artists before me, by summer’s end I procured a studio in a nearby town and ceded the one I’d been sharing in Manhattan.

[caption id="attachment_13760" align="alignleft" width="378"]jerry_new-pond Jerry Weiss, Beaver Pond. Oil on linen, 36 x 48 in.[/caption]

Many of the qualities that appealed to artists a hundred years ago are still in place. Although Old Lyme and environs are now easily accessed by I-95, the pastoral feel of the Connecticut River Valley endures in its wetlands, forests, and farmlands. The topography lends itself to painterly exploration; moreover, there are numerous sites far enough removed from the beaten path that one can set to work in relative, if not total, seclusion. I found this a welcome change from the urban plein air work I’d done in and around New York City, which entailed constant attentiveness to one’s surroundings and invited the curiosity of passersby, sometimes by the dozens. In Lyme and Old Lyme the local population pays little mind to the presence of landscape painters. This lack of distraction facilitates greater concentration on the work at hand, as well as a connection with nature. When I put my easel and a canvas in the back of my car, it’s with the intent to search out subjects which I can paint without interruption. The location of Beaver Pond is a private property in Lyme, just a few yards off a country road but secure from idle conversation. That of Barbizon Oak is a seldom-visited preserve behind the Old Lyme Inn and adjacent to I-95. Legend has it that Ranger painted this tree.

There are a lot of artists in the Old Lyme area today, but there’s no unified art colony to speak of. What exists are cultural institutions lining the town’s historic district of Lyme Street, and these, in addition to the area’s natural beauty, have insured something most unusual in a small town: the continued presence of artists and students. Within walking distance are the Lyme Art Association, incorporated in 1914 as a venue for representational art and life study with a fine gallery space; the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, which was originally conceived by the sculptor Elisabeth Gordon Chandler as an atelier school for those who sought to learn traditional methods of drawing, painting, and sculpture; and the Cooley Gallery, which presents exhibitions of contemporary artists as well as shows spotlighting some of the Lyme colonists; it was through Jeff Cooley that I first saw paintings by Allen Talcott, a seriously undervalued artist who painted memorable landscapes.

[caption id="attachment_13761" align="alignright" width="373"]10917808_1596579253905764_3149893889744694884_o Jerry Weiss, The Barbizon Oak. Oil on linen, 30 x 40 in.[/caption]

The cornerstone is still Miss Florence’s house, now the Florence Griswold Museum, which has blossomed under the direction of art historian Jeffrey Andersen. Acquisition of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company’s paintings greatly enhanced the museum’s holdings, and necessitated the addition of the Krieble Gallery fronting the Lieutenant River, itself the subject of numerous paintings in the museum’s collection; the artists boarding at Miss Florence’s could eat breakfast and walk a few yards to the riverside to paint. Many times I’ve brought landscape painting classes to the site, or painted there on my own.

One cold and rainy January morning I visited the museum during off-hours, and was allowed into Miss Florence’s house by marketing director Tammi Flynn. Thanks to conscientious preservation, the building has retained much of its charm. On the first floor are the paneled walls and doors upon which the artists who stayed there painted; one of the panels, a collaboration between Hassam, Walter Griffin, and Henry Rankin Poore, is a fusion of Tonalist and Impressionist styles. This collection of informal paintings speaks to the collegial atmosphere that existed during the colony’s heyday.

On the second floor landing are three paintings, one each by Ranger, Hassam, and Metcalf. Ranger’s is Autumn Woodlands, the surface of which has acquired with time a mottled patina reminiscent of Albert Pinkham Ryder’s improvised canvases. The galleries of the second floor are devoted to paintings by members of the colony. While some of the paintings are picturesque in the mundane sense, there is beautiful work here painted in a style that was once deemed radical; it’s well to remember that only a few years before Hassam arrived in Old Lyme, New York critics dismissed his work as incomprehensible.  In art the distinction between that which is revolutionary and that which is charming is astonishingly fugitive.

The best painters of the Lyme Art Colony produced enough timeless work to justify this fine museum, and to build a reputation that continues to draw artists to the area. In a second floor gallery there is a canvas by Everett Warner—another League student—of the winter sun shining on the Lieutenant River. The view from the museum’s grounds today is nearly identical to that which Warner observed when he painted behind Miss Florence’s boardinghouse. Suddenly time is rendered meaningless, and we’re reminded that what artists saw here a hundred years ago may still be seen today.

[post_title] => The Art Students League and the Lyme Art Colony [post_excerpt] => The Art Students League of New York is inextricably connected to the history of Old Lyme, Connecticut. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => art-students-league-lyme-art-colony [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-19 12:25:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-19 16:25:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13758 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [53] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13545 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2015-01-04 07:00:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-04 12:00:59 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13547" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Recollections of Deane G. Keller Deane G. Keller and Lyme Academy students preserving the Bridgman scroll. Photo courtesy of Lyme Academy Archive. Posted on "Paula Billups Art."[/caption]

January 4, 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of Deane G. Keller’s passing. Deane was a remarkable draftsman, painter and writer, and an immensely popular and effective teacher. There are no better books on the topic of figure drawing than his Draftsman's Handbook.

Above is a photograph of Deane and his students at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, unraveling a sheet of figure drawings by one of his idols, George Bridgman. Deane’s father and both of my parents had studied with Bridgman at the Art Students League of New York, so it makes some sort of sense that we each had an obsessive interest in figure drawing. Deane’s great skill was his ability to transcribe human forms from memory, whereas I’ve always relied on the presence of the model for inspiration. The possibility that his expertise as an anatomist would overtake his artistry was never an issue, for there existed in Deane’s drawing an unfailing comprehension of the rhythms of the figure, which held both organic and spiritual components. Also, he owned vine charcoal.

For many years Deane taught figure drawing and anatomy at the Lyme Academy, where I came to know him as a colleague. In earlier years he’d also taught landscape painting and still life painting and probably other subjects as well; his intelligence and passion were expansive. Deane’s owlish face was as quick to slyly smile as it was to cloud over, for he was at once one of the most brilliant and emotionally kinetic people I’ve ever known. Late in his life he taught anatomy and figure drawing in New York City, at the Art Students League and the New York Academy of Art, regrettably short stints due to his failing health.

I want to share a few recollections of Deane, some of which I’ve recounted elsewhere before. The first involves a talk we had one day over lunch in Old Lyme. Deane, despite his degree from Yale and his superior experience as an instructor, envied me because I’d studied at the Art Students League: “Every American artist who mattered,” he said, “either studied or taught there.” To his mind a lack of association with the League was the single piece missing from his résumé. If he was setting me up to take the bait, I didn’t mind in the least; I told him that I’d studied with Robert Beverly Hale, and he was every bit as good as Hale. I urged Deane to contact the League. He was teaching there within a year or so, and though he may have had similar discussions with others, I always liked to think I was instrumental in encouraging him to go to New York and fulfill a dream.

As already indicated, Deane’s educational allegiances were counterintuitive. Although he was steeped in academia, his sympathies were grounded in studio practice. Dismayed by the changes the Lyme Academy underwent as it transitioned from atelier school to college, Deane muttered to me with reddened face, “The first day here was the best day!” On several occasions he counseled me not to let teaching take too much time from my studio work, as he had done. If there was ever anyone whose love of teaching belied this advice, it was Deane. I'd look at him and think that teaching might be a valuable art form, too.

Several times over the years I’d mentioned to Deane that he’d make a good subject for a painting, but I never followed up on the idea, probably because I was a bit intimidated by him, and I preferred painting young women. Inexplicably, I came to believe it was somehow Deane’s fault that he’d never sat for me. Then one day, during winter break from the college, it dawned on me that I’d never actually asked him to pose. On Monday afternoon, January 3, 2005, I called Deane and broached the subject. Well, he said, he’d be delighted. He’d been ill, but was feeling better. We agreed to meet at the Lyme Academy later that week to begin working in one of the empty studios, under the condition that I pose for a drawing in return. Deane joked that he’d wear a plaid shirt to make my job more difficult.

At noon the following day Jim Falconer, the school’s registrar and a dear friend, called to tell me that Deane had passed away. I’ve always regretted the missed opportunity, not only for the wonderful subject Deane would have made, but for the hours we would have spent talking about art and teaching and life. What promised to be an extraordinary experience was lost.

Deane left a deep impression on me. He paid me the highest compliments I’ve ever received as a draftsman and an artist, and the praise was memorable because it came from him. That Deane freely complimented many artists and students did not dilute the effect, because his intellectual authority made the kindness credible. While his instincts as an instructor were legendarily generous, his sentiments were always genuine. Genuine? Oh, he loved the hell out of drawing, and loved those who felt likewise.

[post_title] => Recollections of Deane G. Keller [post_excerpt] => Deane’s great skill was his ability to transcribe human forms from memory.... His owlish face was as quick to slyly smile as it was to cloud over, for he was at once one of the most brilliant and emotionally kinetic people I’ve ever known. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => recollections-deane-g-keller [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-04 07:25:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-04 12:25:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13545 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [54] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13501 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2014-12-17 13:49:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-17 18:49:08 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13503" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.18.31 PM Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860. Oil on canvas, 40 x 64 in. Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1965.233. The Cleveland Museum of Art.[/caption] In "A Portentous Landscape" (PDF here), appearing in the January/February issue of The Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss writes about Twilight in the Wilderness, an 1860 landscape by Frederic Edwin Church. The painting is part of the Cleveland Museum of Art's exhibition, Maine Sublime: Frederic Church's Twilight in the Wilderness, which continues through January 25, 2015. [post_title] => Jerry Weiss on Frederic Edwin Church [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss on Frederic Edwin Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness, what one art historian considers among the greatest paintings in American art. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-frederic-edwin-church [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:06:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:06:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13501 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [55] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13483 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2014-12-17 08:00:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-17 13:00:25 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13488" align="alignright" width="318"]1. Cezanne_Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair_MFA Boston Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair (Madame Cézanne in a Striped Dress), ca. 1877. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of Robert Treat Paine, 2nd[/caption]

Saturday night used to be a quiet time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Back in the early 1990s, when the idea of perusing cultural relics at night was still a novelty, it was possible to feel that one had entire rooms of the museum to one’s self. Things have clearly changed, as I learned on a recent trip to view Madame Cézanne, an exhibition that gathers twenty-four of the twenty-nine extant portraits the artist made of his wife, Hortense Fiquet. There is something disconcerting about the contrast between the pre-Christmas flood of visitors and the implacable presence of Madame, but that is often the nature of blockbusters, or—as is the case with the current mini-blockbuster ensconced in the Lehman wing—any exhibition that unfolds the privacy of the studio for the delectation of crowds. That’s not intended to sound too churlish about the museum experience. Still, one is permitted to gripe after not finding an empty cab on a cold, windy night, thus having to hoof it all the way back to Grand Central.

There are, Madame Cézanne reminded me, dividends to braving crowds. The impact and intent of an exhibition are lost in online and published formats, where curatorial decisions regarding the disposition and relationship of works are fractured. And then there’s color, which can’t be done justice in books, and is woven like a thematic thread through a life’s work. Even before Cézanne had found his compositional legs and was still pushing paint around in an effort to reconcile Impressionist tones with plastic form, blue was his keynote. It pervades a series of portraits in the guise of a robin’s eggshell wall behind the sitter, or infuses the sometimes black, sometimes red dresses that Hortense wears with a cobalt base.

In some works the beauty of blue is obvious, as in the pair of early portraits of Madame Cézanne in a red chair, where it attains floral ripeness in the marvelous bow on her jacket front. With its flattened structural forms, densely encrusted pigment and Impressionist color, Madame Cézanne Sewing (ca. 1877) is a type of painting that continues to resonate with every artist who puzzles out form by adding more paint rather than modeling with chiaroscuro. The justly more famous related work is Boston’s Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair (Madame Cézanne in a Striped Dress) (about 1877), a remarkable canvas in which Cézanne left behind the baroque convolutions of his youth in favor of a controlled, dense patchwork of paint. The red armchair alone is a magisterial piece of painting—upon seeing it in 1907, Rilke called it “a personality in itself.” The various blues of Hortense’s jacket run a finely orchestrated gamut from violet overtones to green, the sort of color transitions that Picasso would take up in his early works—intimations of Picasso run throughout the exhibition. With its compression of the picture plane and Hortense’s domination of the space, Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair is among the most airtight compositions the artist ever painted.

[caption id="attachment_13485" align="alignleft" width="320"]Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906). Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress, ca. 1888–90. Oil on canvas; 45 7/8 x 35 1/4 in. (116.5 x 89.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ittleson Jr. Purchase Fund, 1962 (62.45) Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress, ca. 1888–90. Oil on canvas; 45 7/8 x 35 1/4 in. (116.5 x 89.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ittleson Jr. Purchase Fund, 1962 (62.45)[/caption]

The presence of blue also endows Cézanne’s hard-edged drawing with an implicit atmosphere. This is the case even in the show’s most monumental canvas, the Metropolitan’s Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress (1888–90). In reproduction the painting seems to suffer a near crisis of disunity, with each element maintaining a stubborn independence, and the rightward pull of the composition an apparently puzzling miscalculation. But in the flesh one is made aware of an abiding blue harmony that holds everything together. The tilt is less disturbing than fascinating, and the dynamic between resolved and incomplete passages gives the picture a quivering energy. Adjacent to it hangs a similar, evanescent version on loan from Sao Paulo, a more conventionally poetic if far less memorable piece.

A century of art criticism has faulted Hortense as a supposedly unsympathetic presence in her husband’s life; sometimes, tangentially, Cézanne catches flak for the opacity with which he painted her. The bottom line is a presumptive lack of personal connection. For the most part Cézanne’s classical imperative supersedes the emotional vibrancy we’d like to see, especially when it comes to a man painting his wife. I think there are two reasons for the criticisms. The first is rather shallow: Hortense wasn’t beautiful, and Cézanne didn’t alter the facts or apprehend her in a particularly sensual way. The second reason addresses this in roundabout fashion: the robustness of his best paintings from the 1870s through the early 1890s, the period when he was painting his wife, is largely missing from these canvases. This may be due, as has often been speculated, to a strain between them, but I also think it reflects a sensitivity on the artist’s part, a tightening up painters experience when they’re trying hard to get something right. Cézanne wasn’t cutting loose in these paintings so much as struggling with an uncharacteristically intimate set of observations.

Much as I want to like them, the portraits of Hortense are not generally my favorite portraits by Cézanne. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that both he and Hortense were relieved on days he went outside to paint that other pyramid, Mont Sainte-Victoire. All the same, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue by curator Dita Amory (interview here) go a long way toward rewriting a well-worn narrative of conjugal dysfunction, for there are a number of drawings and paintings in which Cézanne appraises his wife with tenderness, and she returns the favor.

[post_title] => Saturday Night with Madame Cézanne [post_excerpt] => The Metropolitan Museum's Madame Cezanne and its accompanying catalogue go a long way toward rewriting a well-worn narrative of conjugal disfunction. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => saturday-night-with-madame-cezanne-metropolitan-museum [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-18 07:39:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-18 11:39:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13483 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [56] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13383 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2014-11-24 12:13:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-11-24 17:13:28 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13407" align="alignleft" width="316"]Andrew Wyeth. © Jan Adelson Andrew Wyeth. © Jan Adelson[/caption]

I approach Andrew Wyeth’s work circumspectly, in order to tease apart and separate the art from the commodity. For me this wariness dates from 1986, when the existence of the Helga paintings—dozens of works that took Wyeth's neighbor and aesthetic accomplice Helga Testorf as his subject—hit the covers of Time and Newsweek, and Wyeth’s popularity accelerated on the strength of shrewd public relations and voyeurism.

Several works from the Helga series feature in a new show at Adelson Galleries, Andrew Wyeth: Seven Decades. It’s a strong, if necessarily limited survey of a life's work. For the show’s catalogue the eminent scholar Dr. William H. Gerdts has contributed essays riddled with rhetorical questions, a contrivance that suggests each painting is shrouded in mystery. Well, notwithstanding decades of literature asserting his mystique, there are few famous artists who are less enigmatic than Wyeth. This is not Vermeer: we know the salient details of Wyeth’s life, and he was open about what made him tick. The insistence on mystery has become a bother, perhaps intended to neutralize the impression that Wyeth’s content is too accessible. To the public, accessibility has never been an issue. From early on, Wyeth’s facility was remarkable; his first New York show sold out when he was twenty. The ambivalence he felt about the ease with which he handled watercolor—see the flourish of The Pirates (1939) or Maplejuice Cove (1942)—led him to the painstaking discipline of egg tempera. A wonderful early example in that medium is On the Beach (1946), a meditative panorama filled with sky, ocean and sand. Slight Breeze (1968) is a mature tempera, Wyeth having mastered the nuances of filmy sunlight on a whitewashed building with a personal visual idiom that is instantly recognizable and much imitated. Although Wyeth's stringent palette was tailored to his preference for desiccated landscape, his response to the nude could be surprisingly and frankly sensual. His most successful figures were painted from direct observation and situated in real environments. “Wyeth has, I think,” wrote John Updike correctly, “an intense and individual enough relation to his visual material not to need to toy with it.” Lovers Study (1981), a painting done in watercolor and drybrush, depicts Helga’s body ablaze in a beam of sunlight as she sits in a darkened room. The shadows that cut across her upper torso and lower legs give way to an illuminated abdomen and thigh, a counterintuitive lighting that brings attention to the voluptuous swell of her hips. [caption id="attachment_13384" align="alignright" width="300"]Army Blanket Andrew Wyeth, Army Blanket, 1957. Watercolor. ©Andrew Wyeth[/caption]

Two other watercolors of distinctly different moods are equally notable. The first is Army Blanket (1957), a nearly monochromatic piece in which broad, virtuosic passages start and stop on a dime. Washes of deep shadow, their value improbably calculated at one go, are tersely measured against the corner facade of a clapboard home. Rapidly painted trees, grasses, and the off-kilter rectangle of a hanging blanket all connote motion of the sort that Hopper could not or did not wish to bring to similar paintings, and at which Wyeth excelled when so moved.

The other watercolor, In the Orchard (1973), is a more intricately plotted effort. Helga sits on the ground and leans against a sturdy apple tree, while the branch of another skews directly into her profile. In the Orchard’s composition is built upon more diagonals than can be counted with both hands, the eccentric shapes of the secondary tree twisted violently against a pale sky. The tree against which Helga leans is the painting’s stanchion, a sole vertical that supports not only her figure but the entire downhill-sliding design. Apples, hanging from branches and littering the ground, provide the season’s last fertile notes in an otherwise barren landscape. These paintings stand out for their graphic impact and precise draftsmanship. They exemplify Wyeth’s skill as a designer—value interested him far more than color—with an aptitude for balancing specificity and abstraction. He explained the importance of distilling essential visual information in a 1970s interview: “You have to find a method to capture the quality of an object. And it isn’t because you put in every fleck on a pile of stones or every blade of grass on the hill. That doesn’t make up a powerful painting. That’s why I feel strongly about a lot of so-called realism that is done today which I think I’ve had a very bad influence on. They think it’s the amount of detail, and that really isn’t it.” In other words, Wyeth was never the quaint stenographer of American nostalgia that the public mistook him for, but neither was he impenetrable. His best work, at once detached and sneakily emotional, exists aside from the market and above popular misinterpretation. Andrew Wyeth: Seven Decades (e-catalogue here) is on view at Adelson Galleries (730 Fifth Avenue) until December 20. The Friday afternoon I visited, two excellent portraits by John Singer Sargent hung in the back gallery.

[post_title] => Andrew Wyeth at Adelson Galleries [post_excerpt] => I approach Andrew Wyeth’s work circumspectly, in order to tease apart and separate the art from the commodity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => andrew-wyeth-adelson-galleries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-03 12:09:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-03 16:09:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13383 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [57] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13325 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2014-11-18 09:19:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-11-18 14:19:06 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13327" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Théodore Rousseau, A Village in a Valley, late 1820s. Oil on paper, mounted on canvas Dimensions: 9 1/8 x 16 in. The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Théodore Rousseau, A Village in a Valley, late 1820s. Oil on paper, mounted on canvas, 9 1/8 x 16 in.
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[/caption]

There are a couple of exhibitions of nineteenth-century landscape painting on view at the Morgan Library & Museum, and while both merit attention, especially if one is a plein air painter with an interest in the genre’s history, there is reason for disappointment. The fault lies not entirely with the works themselves, but more about that later. 

The primary show is The Untamed Landscape: Théodore Rousseau and the Path to Barbizon, a collection of about seventy mostly small drawings and paintings by Rousseau, who along with Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet was one of the founders of the Barbizon School of painting. The exhibition reveals Rousseau’s complexity, both in terms of historical context and technical approach. Rousseau was born to paint landscape; the show opens with A Village in a Valley, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum. That the artist was a teenager when he painted it makes the work’s precision and atmospheric clarity all the more impressive. The painting’s cool naturalism suggests a temperament akin to that of the young Corot, who was nearly a generation older. 

Rousseau’s realism settled into a darker expression, one that excluded human presence and inclined toward jagged topography and ominous woods; a later oil of a rocky landscape in the Forest of Fontainebleau is reminiscent of Courbet. Savvy curatorial sidebars note Rembrandt’s influence on Rousseau’s finely wrought drawings, and isolate a pen and ink sketch whose twisted trees, described in dots and dashes, presage the calligraphic inflections of van Gogh. Rousseau worked fluently in virtually every medium, oil and watercolor, pencil, pen and charcoal—the show’s cover image, Study for The Forest in Winter at Sunset (ca. 1846), was begun as a charcoal drawing on paper, to which oil paint was added. The exhibition’s emphasis on drawings done before nature is especially valuable, for it underscores Rousseau’s personal connection to his subjects, as well as offering insight into the picture making process in a pre-photographic era.

[caption id="attachment_13342" align="aligncenter" width="660"]1. Rousseau Study for Forest Théodore Rousseau, Study for The Forest in Winter at Sunset, ca. 1846.
Oil over charcoal with white heightening on paper, mounted to canvas. Private collection.[/caption]

Rousseau’s life was beset by personal misfortune and lack of public success, and the generally dolorous mood of his work reflects his worldly troubles. Whatever the motivating factors, the sobriety of Rousseau’s personality found comfort in the forests outside of Paris. Surprisingly, his work has never been the subject of an exhibition in this country, and though a comprehensive presentation demands the inclusion of major canvases, the Morgan has performed a long overdue service in staging The Untamed Landscape

Sky Studies: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection is the theme of a smaller show, fourteen paintings in all, installed in the Morgan’s basement level. One approaches it with high hopes, perhaps inflated by thoughts of Constable. What’s present isn’t bad, but one expects more than adequacy from a museum of this caliber. There are several unremarkable sketches by Johan Christian Dahl, an important Norwegian landscape painter whose best plein air works are characterized by a romantic treatment, painted with high energy. In this show those honors go to paintings by Eugène Boudin and Eugène Isabey, with some nicely naturalistic cloud studies by Jean-Michel Cels, a little-known Belgian artist.

A problem for both shows is intrinsic to the setting. Since moving to Connecticut in 1994, I hadn’t visited the Morgan, and was not familiar with the architectural reconfiguration that was completed by Renzo Piano in 2006. My reservations begin and end with the updated conception of the museum and its role as an exhibition space. A lot of it is right, per se: the vast atrium, abundance of glass walls, doubling of exhibition area and intent to connect the institution’s sprawling departments are laudable achievements for a public urban environment. But it’s an incongruous setting for intimate shows, especially those of small old master works. The Rousseau and sky studies would have been a perfect fit for a couple of adjacent rooms in the old Morgan, works of a bygone era sequestered in the old mansion. The small nineteenth-century landscapes currently on view seem anachronistic in these surroundings, their modest scale overwhelmed by the proximal atrium; the sky studies in particular are lost in space. 

This leads to an unusual conclusion, that the catalogue for the Rousseau exhibition, with reproductions filling the pages, restores the impact that’s lost in the actual physical presentation. The new vertical Morgan, defined by open air and crisp geometry, its various levels accessible via glass elevator, is tailor-made for large twentieth-century painting. An example of the seamless matching of art to its showcase may be seen uptown at that other mansion turned museum, the Frick, where Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery is now installed. It’s worth taking a few hours on a Friday afternoon to visit both. Hurry—the Frick is planning its own major renovations, complete with a six-story addition.

[post_title] => Rousseau and Nineteenth-Century Landscape Paintingat the Morgan [post_excerpt] => There are a couple of exhibitions of nineteenth-century landscape painting now on view at the Morgan Library & Museum. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => theodore_rousseau_morgan_library [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:06:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:06:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13325 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [58] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13254 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2014-11-12 07:45:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-11-12 12:45:21 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13260" align="alignright" width="321"]Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Arm Twisted above Head, 1910. Watercolor and charcoal. Private collection. Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Arm Twisted above Head, 1910. Watercolor and charcoal. Private collection.[/caption]

During my first year studying figure drawing, a fellow student brought a book on Egon Schiele to class. It was a revelation. After months of taking Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rubens as role models, here was the work of someone who sang directly and urgently of the body electric. Students are ever introducing one another to hitherto unknown masters, but Schiele has for generations represented a special sort of discovery for young artists. He dealt with self-loathing and sexuality up front—he was the proto-punk. And he could really draw.

Lest we’ve forgotten just how well he could draw, Egon Schiele: Portraits is on display at Neue Galerie until January 19. The show opens with a series of drawings Schiele made as a youngster, while studying at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Not surprisingly, the traditional curriculum didn’t suit Schiele, and he soon found a sympathetic mentor in Gustav Klimt. There are a lot of qualities the two share, including a dedication to erotica (the third gallery of the current exhibition is devoted to "eros" and "lovers") and a strong dose of non-conformity. But I think the primary quality the two had in common was a conception of the figure as existing in a creative hothouse, isolated from the real world. 

Once Schiele left school he abandoned the illusionism of light and shadow. In none of his independent work is there an identifiable light source with which forms are modeled. Line was all he needed. A master of the unbroken contour, Schiele could suggest the living swells and valleys of a figure so dexterously that any elaboration by means of value would have been, well, academic. 

[caption id="attachment_13261" align="alignleft" width="303"]Egon Schiele, Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Standing (Edith Schiele in Striped Dress), 1915. Oil on canvas. Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands. Egon Schiele, Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Standing (Edith Schiele in Striped Dress), 1915. Oil on canvas. Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands.[/caption]

The show is comprised mostly of drawings, though there are a few major canvases interspersed, and these remind us that Schiele’s nonpareil draftsmanship provided the framework for his rapid development as a painter. Two of the large oil portraits are especially intimate: Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Standing (Edith Schiele in Striped Dress) (1915), and Portrait of Johann Harms (1916). (I’m omitting The Family because it’s an allegory, a tragic fantasy rather than a group portrait; Schiele, his wife, and unborn child were all taken by the Spanish Flu before he could finish the canvas). 

The painting of Edith Schiele (née Harms) has long attracted comment for the subject’s vacuous appearance, evidence of her puritanical bourgeois background—decades later, Edith’s sister expressed indignation that Schiele had made her look dumb. Maybe, but I wonder if the artist was reluctantly coming to grips with a female image that didn’t rely on sexual energy as a leitmotif. If Schiele was searching for a different context, one that attempted to confront his wife on something other than a libidinous level, he need only have looked to Klimt, who had painted similarly doll-like representations. Yet a comparison between the artists finds that Schiele’s painting is more personal. Edith’s expression, often characterized as vapid, strikes me as mildly amused, and probably a little shell-shocked in the presence of her new husband’s intensity. I’d like to go against the conventional interpretation of the portrait, and venture that the tenderness with which Schiele painted Edith’s face is a welcome change from the anxiety that was his default mode. It’s such a departure that the balance of scholarship on the artist hasn’t gotten it quite right yet. Nearly alone in Schiele’s oeuvre, the palette of Portrait of the Artist's Wife hints at the potential for happiness. 

The painting itself is a gorgeous piece of drawing, as well as a sophisticated color essay, Edith’s dress supplying dozens of chromatic stripes that vibrate against a white backdrop—it’s a color field painting a half century early. The likely reference was a black and white striped dress fashioned from the artist’s studio curtains, so the painted garment was a fabrication in more ways than one.  

[caption id="attachment_13259" align="alignright" width="359"]Egon Schiele, Portrait of Johann Harms, 1916. Oil with wax on canvas. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photo: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource, NY Egon Schiele, Portrait of Johann Harms, 1916. Oil with wax on canvas. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photo: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource, NY[/caption]

Portrait of the Artist's Wife traveled from The Hague for this show; Portrait of Johann Harms journeyed a few blocks from its home at the Guggenheim. Johann Harms was Schiele’s father-in-law, and the two got on well; they must have, for Harms to have consented to such an unconventional and cheerless image. A portrait of aged resignation, Johann Harms is a stark contrast to that of Harms’ daughter. The one is filled with light and tentative promise, the other a densely painted variation of grays, blacks and earth colors enlivened, as always, by a restlessly descriptive line. Harms slumps wearily in a hard wooden chair, as if primed to slide off it and right out of the canvas. One of the twentieth century’s great portraits of old age, it reveals Schiele’s ripening maturity, his ability to observe and record the human condition outside of his own immediate experience.  

The difference between the two canvases, in terms of palette, paint handling, and sensitivity to independent personalities, ought to partially satisfy those who bemoan the artist’s premature death. By the age of 28, Schiele had already created a phenomenal and varied life’s work, evolving from enfant terrible to a perceptive observer of the human condition. Now, nearly a hundred years after his death, a student is more likely to first encounter him on an iPad than a printed page, but the jolt of recognition remains the same.

[post_title] => Egon Schiele’s Portraits [post_excerpt] => A master of the unbroken contour, Schiele could suggest the living swells and valleys of a figure so dexterously that any elaboration by means of value would have been, well, academic. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => egon-schieles-portraits-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:05:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:05:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13254 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [59] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13117 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2014-11-10 07:00:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-11-10 12:00:35 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_13202" align="alignright" width="269"]Sandro Botticelli,  The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, ca. 1485. Sandro Botticelli, The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, ca. 1485. Tempera, oil, and gold on canvas, 48 x 31¾ in. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. © Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland[/caption]

A lot of us will never get to Edinburgh, but a choice piece of Scotland is visiting New York: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery has opened at the Frick. It’s a terrific survey, with several paintings that are familiar to us through reproduction, so there’s a pleasant sense of familiarity, even if we’re seeing many of the actual works for the first time.

For starters, there’s Botticelli’s gorgeous The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child (ca. 1485), a beautifully drawn and luminously colored Madonna and Child. The painting, acquired by the National Gallery in 1999, required major conservation efforts to restore its color and condition, including the removal of layers of discolored varnish. The Christ child lies on the ground, disencumbered of the robe in which he had been swaddled, so that the Virgin may momentarily kneel before him. Above her looms a column of rock, of the sort favored by early Florentine painters, cut crisp as a quarry facing.

[caption id="attachment_13200" align="alignleft" width="403"]Diego Velázquez, An Old Woman Cooking Eggs, 1618. Diego Velázquez, An Old Woman Cooking Eggs, 1618. Oil on canvas, 39½ x 47 in. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. © Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland[/caption]

An Old Woman Cooking Eggs (1618), by Velázquez, is one of the master’s earliest known canvases. Velázquez was nineteen when he painted it, and the picture is a quintessential youthful showpiece, an essay in tactile form and conscientious mastery of still life elements. Everything is a bit self-consciously staged, yet it’s incredibly well-painted and has an unpretentious realism that was fundamental to Velázquez’s nature.

[caption id="attachment_13203" align="alignright" width="311"]John Constable, The Vale of Dedham, 1827–28. John Constable, The Vale of Dedham, 1827–28. Oil on canvas 57 x 48 in. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. © Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland[/caption]

The French Rococo is represented by Fêtes Vénitiennes (1718–19), one of Watteau’s perfect confections, a series of courtships playing out in a pastoral amphitheater, comprised of delicate satin and feathered foliage. One could make a case that it’s the handling of foliage as much as any convention that connects eighteenth-century French and nineteenth-century English painting: Watteau’s breezy conception reappears in Thomas Gainsborough’s mature landscapes. However, Gainsborough’s River Landscape with a View of a Distant Village (ca. 1748–50) from the Scottish collection is a very youthful example, and is more reminiscent of Dutch models, particularly van Ruysdael. The show’s great landscape is The Vale of Dedham (1827–28), John Constable’s symphonic vision of nature. It was painted the year his wife died, and reflects that point when Constable’s work adopted a more tumultuous emotional tone. 

[caption id="attachment_13201" align="alignleft" width="370"] John Singer Sargent,  Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892. John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892. Oil on canvas, 49½ x 39½ in. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh © Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland[/caption]

There are several memorable portraits here, including Sir Joshua Reynolds’s The Ladies Waldegrave (1780–81), a prototype for Sargent’s triple portraits of the Wyndham and Acheson sisters a century later, and Sir Henry Raeburn’s Colonel Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell, 15th Chief of Glengarry (1812). Of the bunch, my guess is that John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892) will be the show’s crowd pleaser. Lady Agnew provided the career ascendancy for Sargent that Madame X had so embarrassingly failed to do. It’s no wonder, given the virtuosic technique and casual yet assured pose, the lady settled at an angle contrary to that of the chair—aristocracy never looked so hospitable. 

Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery features ten important paintings, and will be on display at the Frick Collection through February 1 of 2015. 

[post_title] => Masterpieces from Edinburgh at the Frick [post_excerpt] => A lot of us will never get to Edinburgh, but a choice piece of Scotland is visiting New York: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery has opened at the Frick. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => masterpieces-from-the-scottish-national-gallery [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-09 10:11:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-09 15:11:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=13117 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [60] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12971 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2014-10-20 14:39:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-10-20 18:39:50 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_12970" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Paul Cézanne, Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888–90. Oil on canvas, 35 1/4 x 28 1/2 in. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art. Paul Cézanne, Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888–90. Oil on canvas, 35 1/4 x 28 1/2 in. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art.[/caption] In "Boy in a Red Waistcoat," his latest article for the "Master Class" column of Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss suggests Cézanne had a connection to classical sources far greater than many of today's classical realists would acknowledge. "Cézanne was dedicated to supplementing the study of the old masters with the observation of nature," writes Weiss, "an ambition that we can hardly improve upon. He was less interested in the surfaces of classical paintings than their structural design, and his eye for composition was redoubtable." Weiss's article (PDF here) appears in the December 2014 issue of the Artist's Magazine. [post_title] => Jerry Weiss on the Sects of Figurative Painting [post_excerpt] => In "Boy in a Red Waistcoat," his latest article for the "Master Class" column of Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss suggests Cézanne had a connection to classical sources far greater than many of today's classical realists would acknowledge. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-sects-figurative-painting [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:04:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:04:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=12971 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [61] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12439 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2014-09-24 08:00:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-24 12:00:41 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_12481" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry N. Weiss, October, undated. Oil on canvas, 30 x 48 in. Jerry N. Weiss, October, undated. Oil on canvas, 30 x 48 in.[/caption] "How does one paint autumn?" asks Jerry N. Weiss in "Autumn's Lament & License," forthcoming in the November 2014 issue of the Artist's Magazine (PDF preview here). The difficulty, he suggests, lies in "painting a spectacular subject, without the painting itself suffering the unfortunate consequences of clashing colors." The article offers several insights that Weiss calls "principles of unity." [post_title] => Weiss on Painting a Spectacular Subject [post_excerpt] => "How does one paint autumn?" asks Jerry N. Weiss in "Autumn's Lament & License," forthcoming in the November 2014 issue of the Artist's Magazine. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => painting-autumn-landscape [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:03:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:03:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=12439 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [62] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12446 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2014-09-22 09:50:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-22 13:50:48 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_12448" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1888. Reed and quill pens and brown ink and black chalk, 12 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1888. Reed and quill pens and brown ink and black chalk, 12 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum.[/caption] "To speak of great drawing is, by implication, to refer to the art of hatching," writes Jerry N. Weiss. "It's a technique born of a practical consideration: how best to translate three-dimensional imagery to paper." In the Fall 2014 issue of Drawing, Weiss reviews Hatched: Creating Form with Line, an exhibition of twenty-two Old Master drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum this summer (preview PDF here). [caption id="attachment_12449" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Frans Crabbe van Espleghem, Esther Before Ahasuerus, ca. 1525. Pen-and-dark-brown-ink with touches of gray-brown wash over black chalk, 9 5/16 x 7 5/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Frans Crabbe van Espleghem, Esther Before Ahasuerus, ca. 1525. Pen-and-dark-brown-ink with touches of gray-brown wash over black chalk, 9 5/16 x 7 5/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum.[/caption] [post_title] => Hatching—Technique and Unique Calligraphy [post_excerpt] => "To speak of great drawing is, by implication, to refer to the art of hatching," writes Jerry N. Weiss. "It's a technique born of a practical consideration: how best to translate three-dimensional imagery to paper." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => hatching_technique [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:03:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:03:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=12446 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [63] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12379 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2014-09-18 01:00:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-18 05:00:28 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_12405" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Eugene Speicher, Portrait of a French Girl (Jeanne Balzac), ca. 1924. Oil on canvas, 40 x 36½ in. Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Permanent Collection. Gift of E.G. Jarman, Jr. Eugene Speicher, Portrait of a French Girl (Jeanne Balzac), ca. 1924. Oil on canvas, 40 x 36½ in.
Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Permanent Collection. Gift of E.G. Jarman, Jr.[/caption] Eugene Speicher, who first studied, and then taught at the Art Students League for five years during the 1910s, is the subject of  Along His Own Lines: A Retrospective of New York Realist Eugene Speicher. "At the height of his fame," writes Jerry Weiss in the October 2014 issue of the Artist's Magazine (PDF here), "Eugene Speicher was called 'America's most important living painter' by Esquire magazine." But his exalted reputation declined precipitously over the second half of the twentieth century. Speicher painted fellow student Georgia O'Keeffe, when both were studying with William Merritt Chase. Speicher's portrait, reproduced below in the Art Students League's 1908–09 annual course catalogue, was acquired as a red dot purchase, and remains part of the school's permanent collection. [caption id="attachment_12388" align="aligncenter" width="660"]O'Keeffe by Speicher A spread from the 1908–09 annual course catalogue of the Art Students League[/caption] Along His Own Lines opens October 18 at the New York State Museum, Albany. [post_title] => Weiss on Eugene Speicher [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss writes about Eugene Speicher and the fortunes of artistic reputation. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => weiss-eugene-speicher [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:02:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:02:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=12379 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [64] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11716 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2014-07-24 15:15:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-07-24 19:15:20 [post_content] => In the forthcoming article "I Paint the Way I Like To" Jerry N. Weiss writes about Raphael Soyer's 1946 painting After the Bath. "Soyer formed a political alliance with his realistic colleagues in the 1950s in a battle that, like most in the art world, seemed to be pitched against a fear of annihilation," explains Weiss. (Soyer taught at the Art Students League during the 1930s and early 1940s, as did his brother Isaac in the 1970s.) The article (PDF here) will appear in the September issue of The Artist's Magazine. [caption id="attachment_11728" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Raphael Soyer, After the Bath, 1946. Oil on canvas, 36½ x 22 in. Raphael Soyer, After the Bath, 1946. Oil on canvas, 36½ x 22 in. Montclair Art Museum. Blanche R. Pleasants Fund.[/caption] [post_title] => Weiss on Raphael Soyer [post_excerpt] => Raphael Soyer's art was the subtle expression of an unwavering vision, writes Jerry N. Weiss. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => weiss-raphael-soyer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 10:01:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 10:01:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=11716 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [65] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11360 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2014-06-20 11:47:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-06-20 15:47:39 [post_content] => Read about how Mary Cassatt painted an ungainly subject as a retort to Edgar Degas in "A Matter of Style" by Jerry Weiss in the July/August issue of The Artist's Magazine. So impressed was Degas by Cassatt's painting, he traded a pastel for it and displayed it in his home thereafter. [caption id="attachment_11361" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Mary Cassatt, Girl Arranging Her Hair, 1886. Oil on canvas, 75.1 x 62.5 cm. Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.97. Collection of the National Gallery of Art. Mary Cassatt, Girl Arranging Her Hair, 1886. Oil on canvas, 75.1 x 62.5 cm. Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.97. Collection of the National Gallery of Art.[/caption] [post_title] => Jerry Weiss on Mary Cassatt [post_excerpt] => In "A Matter of Style," Jerry Weiss writes about how Mary Cassatt painted an ungainly subject as a retort to Edgar Degas. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-artists-magazine [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:59:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:59:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=11360 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [66] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11219 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2014-06-06 15:44:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-06-06 19:44:08 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_11221" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry Weiss, July at Ashlawn Farms. Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in. Jerry Weiss, July at Ashlawn Farms. Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in.[/caption] Jerry Weiss will be teaching two workshops in New Hampshire this August. The first is "Large-Scale Figure Painting" at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (Manchester, NH) from August 4 to 8, 2014. The second, at Sharon Arts Center (Sharon, NH), is "Plein-Air Landscape Painting," scheduled for August 23 and 24, 2014.  [post_title] => Workshops with Jerry Weiss [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss will be teaching two workshops in New Hampshire this August. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => workshops-jerry-weiss [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:59:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:59:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=11219 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [67] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10143 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2014-04-15 06:00:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-15 10:00:18 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_10141" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry Weiss, October Afternoon, 2012. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in. Jerry Weiss, October Afternoon, 2012. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.[/caption] Jerry Weiss will be teaching a two-day workshop, "Plein Air Landscape Painting Simplified," at the Lyme Art Association on May 31 and June 1, 2014. [post_title] => Jerry Weiss's Landscape Workshop [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss will be teaching a two-day workshop at the Lyme Art Association. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-plein-air-landscape-workshop [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:57:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:57:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=10143 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [68] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 9043 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2014-02-04 06:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-02-04 11:00:00 [post_content] =>

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"Shafts of Sunlight" is a ten-page illustrated article on Joaquín Sorolla's paintings by Jerry Weiss, which appears in the March 2014 issue of The Artist's Magazine. You can preview a few pages here. Sorolla's work is also the subject of an exhibition, Sorolla & America, currently on view at the Meadows Museum in Dallas. [post_title] => Jerry Weiss on Sorolla [post_excerpt] => "Shafts of Sunlight" is a ten-page illustrated article by Jerry Weiss on Joaquín Sorolla's paintings, which appears in the March 2014 issue of The Artist's Magazine. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-8 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:39:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:39:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=9043 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [69] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 9040 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2014-02-03 10:00:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-02-03 15:00:53 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_9047" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry Weiss, Sky over Spruce Head, 2013. Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in. Jerry Weiss, Sky over Spruce Head, 2013. Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in.[/caption] Seven of Jerry Weiss's landscape paintings will appear in an exhibition at the Main Street Gallery of Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, in Chester, Connecticut. The show opens February 7 and continues through April. [post_title] => On ExhibitionJerry Weiss at Main Street Gallery [post_excerpt] => Seven of Jerry Weiss's landscape paintings will appear in an exhibition at the Main Street Gallery of Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, in Chester, Connecticut. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-7 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:41:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:41:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=9040 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [70] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8680 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2014-01-13 15:37:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-01-13 20:37:50 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_8674" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Jerry Weiss, Raspberry Island, undated. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in. Jerry Weiss, Raspberry Island, undated. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in.[/caption] Jerry Weiss will exhibit landscapes at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth, Maine, during February and March 2014. [post_title] => On ExhibitionJerry Weiss at Elizabeth Moss Galleries [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:38:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:38:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=8680 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [71] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7811 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2013-12-12 13:08:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-12-12 18:08:29 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_7822" align="aligncenter" width="660"]131212-il-weiss-j-K-and-S-p Jerry Weiss, Katharine and Samantha, 2011. Oil on canvas, 40 x 56 in.[/caption]

Jerry Weiss will be teaching workshops in large-scale figure painting and drawing with the brush at the Silvermine School of Art (New Canaan, CT), February 6–7 and March 27–28, respectively.

[caption id="attachment_7821" align="aligncenter" width="660"]131212-il-weiss-j-Faith-at-Night-p Jerry Weiss, Faith at Night, 2012. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in.[/caption] [post_title] => Upcoming Jerry Weiss Workshops [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss will be teaching workshops in large-scale figure painting and drawing with the brush at the Silvermine School of Art (New Canaan, CT), February 6–7 and March 27–28, 2014. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-4 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:28:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:28:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=7811 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [72] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6981 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2013-10-31 11:30:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-10-31 15:30:14 [post_content] => Catch a glimpse of several of Jerry Weiss's landscapes and nudes in the romantic comedy A Case of You, starring Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood. His paintings appear in a scene that takes place in a New York art gallery where the romantic leads have an argument amidst an exhibition entitled Wyeth and Weiss. [post_title] => Weiss at the Movies [post_excerpt] => Catch a glimpse of several of Jerry Weiss's landscapes and nudes in the romantic comedy A Case of You, starring Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-3 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-10-31 11:30:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-10-31 15:30:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=6981 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [73] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5476 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2013-06-19 12:56:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-06-19 16:56:49 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_5478" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Jerry Weiss, Repose, 2000. Oil on canvas, 38 x 60 in.[/caption] Jerry Weiss will be teaching a five-day figure painting workshop, June 24–28, at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT. Students will have the opportunity to paint a sustained study in large scale, allowing for observation of the figure and portrait. For more information or to register, go to Silvermine Arts Center. [post_title] => Upcoming Workshop with Jerry Weiss [post_excerpt] => Jerry Weiss will be teaching a five-day figure painting workshop, June 24–28, at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-11 09:17:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 09:17:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=5476 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [74] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3311 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2013-03-08 06:00:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-03-08 11:00:03 [post_content] =>

The studio I work in is located In Chester, Connecticut, a little more than two hours north and east of New York City. It's quite rural, which I like—sometimes I can hear a neighbor's rooster crowing its heart out. We've got red-tailed hawks and deer and all the mice—country mice, mind you—you could ever want. A few years ago some birds hammered into the side of the house and installed a nest. After they were chased out, some large grey squirrels tore a hole through the roof and tried to evict me. I've been here since 1994, which is long enough to wax nostalgic for a time when there was less traffic than there is today. I think the building was once part of a farm, later converted to a loft and artist's work space. It has a cast-iron wood stove that I used a lot the first winter, until I got tired of dealing with firewood.

[portfolio_slideshow width=636 height=500 id=21217] It's a wonderful space, with a peaked ceiling to accommodate a bank of high north-facing windows. The trouble is I like to work fairly large, and have accumulated an inventory in the course of the last eighteen years that has left little working room. There's now just enough space to set up a model on the couch and maneuver my easel into place nearby. Still, there's nothing but trees and sky when I look up at the windows, and it's hard to knock that.
At the easel. Photo: Bettina Archer In the studio. Photo: Bettina Archer
[post_title] => The Studio Project | Jerry Weiss [post_excerpt] => The studio I work in is located In Chester, Connecticut, a little more than two hours north and east of New York City. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jerry-weiss [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-21 07:02:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-21 12:02:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://linea.sheffieldmediagroup.com/?p=3311 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
  • Henry James and American Painting at the Morgan Library & Museum

    What James wrote about the art of American painters still makes for good reading, as he had a facility for wrapping snark and appreciation in the same package.

  • The Artist as Collector

    "The best reason to collect isn't for the sport of it, nor for profit," Weiss writes. "Each of these drawings and paintings speaks to the artist's observations and aspirations, and each of them resonates with me for various and personal reasons."

  • Of Landscape and the Distances Between

    With a stringent palette and relentless attention to topographical landmarks as well as the distances between them, Patrick George imposed an intimate order on the pastoral landscape.

  • Recollections of Susan

    "The romantic fantasy of a painting soulmate seems silly at this point in my life, yet it happened at an age when it meant the world."

  • Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and Women 

    Galerie St. Etienne's The Woman Question: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka is a showcase of figure draftsmanship and a master class in linear economy.

  • “I Wish to Declare Myself the Painter from Maine.”

    The current show at Met Breuer confirms that Marsden Hartley's works number among the very best paintings of Maine, and of American modernism.

  • Portraits of Color

    How many white women painters in the 1940s, no matter how bohemian, opted for Spanish Harlem over Greenwich Village?

  • Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports

    Turner's narrative intent is forever sublimated to the beauty of the painting.

  • Swedish Treasures at the Morgan Library

    Gems from the collection of Count Carl Gustaf Tessin that became the nucleus of the Nationalmuseum of Sweden, founded in 1792.

  • Impressionism’s Perfect Moment

    Alfred Sisley possessed the ability to synthesize influences, not only those of Corot and Monet, but Constable and Renoir as well, without the ambition to mold his borrowings into an instantly recognizable and trademark-ready product.

  • A Gifford Beal Painting Rediscovered

    A Gifford Beal canvas perfectly preserved for seventy-five years beneath another.

  • The View from Chapel Street

    On a visit last week to New Haven, all roads led to Venice, or so it seemed to me. What with the midday traffic on Church Street, maybe I just wanted to go somewhere far away, where there are no cars.

  • Hans Memling at the Morgan Library 

    The Morgan show offers a reason to stop and admire different virtues, from a time when piety and painting were synonymous, and portraiture was undertaken with the intensity of a newfound love.

  • Twentieth-Century Art in Palm Beach

    Leaving the Four Arts and the art of a near-distant past, one is struck by how quickly what was once novel is now accepted in staid surroundings, though rarely quickly enough for the artists themselves to reap material benefit.

  • Seeing Red

    The show at Galerie St. Etienne is a less than subtle reminder that the same issues which drew moral outrage in the last century—labor unrest, economic disparity, political corruption, the cloud of nuclear war—are very much with us.

  • The Apotheosis of a Minor Master

    Guido Cagnacci's signature theme was the half-length female nude, which satisfied the three standard criteria of such artworks: a narrative foundation, showmanship of technical prowess, and an erotic hook.

  • A Tutorial in Economy

    Fairfield Porter painted images of a leisurely life on Long Island and in Maine when abstract expressionism was ascendant, and in that zeitgeist the idea of an American artist chronicling a trouble-free suburban environment would easily be taken for dilettantism.

  • Sober Poetry

    Valentin is the sort of artist I would have been thrilled to discover during my student years: richly talented, emotionally dark, and, best of all, virtually unknown in America.

  • The League and Union Square

    A vibrant overview of a distinctive New York City contribution to American realism in the first half of the twentieth-century

  • David Pena, Artist

    Dave was a real New Yorker, and in all his flamboyance, incorrigibleness, convulsive laughter, and memorable kindness, he was a quintessential part of Art Students League life.

  • On Relevance

    Until I saw the New York Times article, I had no idea that the art of the last six centuries had ceased to matter. I mean, I've been following the news every day.

  • A Parallel Intimacy

    On Familiar Ground is a two-person exhibition at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts that continues through August 13, 2016.

  • Back to the Garden

    The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920, an exhibition of "vital naturalism," now on view at the Florence Griswold Museum

  • On Letting Go

    Most artists dread the thought that their life's production will be annihilated.

  • Two Articles by Jerry Weiss

    Upcoming in two issues of The Artist's Magazine are articles about Edgar Degas and Julian Alden Weir by Jerry Weiss.

  • “In the Charming Little Village of Windham”

    Of our major artists, J. Alden Weir is one of the least likely to inspire impassioned tribute. It's not for lack of effort; in fact, the problem is that he tried too hard.

  • Remembering the National Academy

    Pondering the closing of the National Academy of Design's home on Fifth Avenue, Eakins’s vulnerable expression, caught between resistance and resignation, may well speak for many artists.

  • Guilty Pleasures

    Themes that I’d find irredeemably cornball from any other artist are rescued both by Abbott Thayer’s prickly earnestness and his formal abilities as a draftsman and painter.

  • Worth the Wait

    Arguably the greatest draftsman of his time, there was nothing fastidious in his thinking. Degas couldn’t wait to find new ways to get his hands dirty.

  • Art, Interrupted

    Often not even the artist knows for certain when a work of art is done.

  • Jerry Weiss at Portraits, Inc.

    Jerry Weiss will be exhibiting at Portraits, Inc. in April.

  • Jerry Weiss on Daubigny's Influence

    "A Good Example for Those Who Come After" is Jerry Weiss's latest "Master Class" column in The Artist's Magazine.

  • Weiss's Upcoming Articles and Lecture

    Weiss's articles about Harvey Dunn and Peggy Root and his lecture on painting familiar places.

  • Poplars and a Portrait in West Palm Beach

    Degas and Van Gogh shared common ground in their disdain for convention, or more to the point, a willingness to circumvent conventional means when necessary, which is to say frequently.

  • “I Will Make Something of Myself.”

    A review of Paula Modersohn-Becker at Galerie St. Etienne

 by Jerry Weiss.

  • An Abstinent Palette

    "I absolutely think that a picture has the best effect in strictly coloristic regards the fewer colors there are in it."

  • Andrea del Sarto at the Frick

    A survey of the Renaissance master’s drawings lands in New York.

  • Jerry Weiss in Two Group Shows

    Jerry Weiss is currently exhibiting paintings in two group shows at Connecticut galleries.

  • An Ode to the Shoreline

    Five American painters and their visions of the shoreline in summertime.

  • On Educated Guesses and a Velázquez in New Haven

    Deattributions often go unnoticed, in large part because nobody wants to publicize them. Conversely, it’s news when an artwork is promoted to the canon of a master.

  • Time for Sargent

    The necessity to impress patrons tinges everything Sargent painted; ever the master of prestidigitation, even in his relaxed moments he is a thoroughly public artist. No other major painter’s manual dexterity is so central to his identity.

  • Jerry Weiss at Cooley Gallery

    Painting the Figure is a solo exhibition of Jerry Weiss's figurative paintings and drawings opening at the Cooley Gallery on July 15.

  • In New York City This Month, Orange is the New Black

    Painter Jerry Weiss isn't so sure Flaming June is the best picture in the room at the Frick Collection.

  • An Incomparable Final Act

    The Museum of Biblical Art closes its run with a memorable show of twenty-three works representing the pinnacle of Florentine sculpture in the early Renaissance, never before seen in this country until now.

  • Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series at MOMA

    The Migration Series is treated less as art than as a point of departure for a walk-through documentary.

  • New York, New York

    Two current exhibitions feature notable painters of the urban scene, Richard Estes and John Dubrow.

  • Jerry Weiss on Correggio's Jupiter and Io

    Jerry Weiss writes about Antonio Allegri da Correggio's Jupiter and Io for the June 2015 issue of The Artist's Magazine.

  • Technical Prowess, at the Service of the Spiritual

    Voyeurs in Virgin Territory, a show of nineteenth-century landscape painting on view at Questroyal Fine Art, is a beauty.

  • Whistler’s Travels

    The painter best known for artful evanescence may still surprise us for the exactness of drawing that characterizes his prints.

  • A Summer on the Streets

    An ode to artistic friendship and the serendipity of plein-air cityscape painting.

  • Remembering Walter Liedtke

    For Walter Liedtke, it was imperative to humanize rather than deify artists.

  • Neil Welliver Oil Studies

    Welliver's palette, devoid of earth tones, was chosen to suggest the presence of air and to create an image that would parallel, rather than replicate, the luminosity of nature.

  • The Art Students League and the Lyme Art Colony

    The Art Students League of New York is inextricably connected to the history of Old Lyme, Connecticut.

  • Recollections of Deane G. Keller

    Deane’s great skill was his ability to transcribe human forms from memory.... His owlish face was as quick to slyly smile as it was to cloud over, for he was at once one of the most brilliant and emotionally kinetic people I’ve ever known.

  • Jerry Weiss on Frederic Edwin Church

    Jerry Weiss on Frederic Edwin Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness, what one art historian considers among the greatest paintings in American art.

  • Saturday Night with Madame Cézanne

    The Metropolitan Museum's Madame Cezanne and its accompanying catalogue go a long way toward rewriting a well-worn narrative of conjugal disfunction.

  • Andrew Wyeth at Adelson Galleries

    I approach Andrew Wyeth’s work circumspectly, in order to tease apart and separate the art from the commodity.

  • Rousseau and Nineteenth-Century Landscape Paintingat the Morgan

    There are a couple of exhibitions of nineteenth-century landscape painting now on view at the Morgan Library & Museum.

  • Egon Schiele’s Portraits

    A master of the unbroken contour, Schiele could suggest the living swells and valleys of a figure so dexterously that any elaboration by means of value would have been, well, academic.

  • Masterpieces from Edinburgh at the Frick

    A lot of us will never get to Edinburgh, but a choice piece of Scotland is visiting New York: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery has opened at the Frick.

  • Jerry Weiss on the Sects of Figurative Painting

    In "Boy in a Red Waistcoat," his latest article for the "Master Class" column of Artist's Magazine, Jerry Weiss suggests Cézanne had a connection to classical sources far greater than many of today's classical realists would acknowledge.

  • Weiss on Painting a Spectacular Subject

    "How does one paint autumn?" asks Jerry N. Weiss in "Autumn's Lament & License," forthcoming in the November 2014 issue of the Artist's Magazine.

  • Hatching—Technique and Unique Calligraphy

    "To speak of great drawing is, by implication, to refer to the art of hatching," writes Jerry N. Weiss. "It's a technique born of a practical consideration: how best to translate three-dimensional imagery to paper."

  • Weiss on Eugene Speicher

    Jerry Weiss writes about Eugene Speicher and the fortunes of artistic reputation.

  • Weiss on Raphael Soyer

    Raphael Soyer's art was the subtle expression of an unwavering vision, writes Jerry N. Weiss.

  • Jerry Weiss on Mary Cassatt

    In "A Matter of Style," Jerry Weiss writes about how Mary Cassatt painted an ungainly subject as a retort to Edgar Degas.

  • Workshops with Jerry Weiss

    Jerry Weiss will be teaching two workshops in New Hampshire this August.

  • Jerry Weiss's Landscape Workshop

    Jerry Weiss will be teaching a two-day workshop at the Lyme Art Association.

  • Jerry Weiss on Sorolla

    "Shafts of Sunlight" is a ten-page illustrated article by Jerry Weiss on Joaquín Sorolla's paintings, which appears in the March 2014 issue of The Artist's Magazine.

  • On ExhibitionJerry Weiss at Main Street Gallery

    Seven of Jerry Weiss's landscape paintings will appear in an exhibition at the Main Street Gallery of Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, in Chester, Connecticut.

  • On ExhibitionJerry Weiss at Elizabeth Moss Galleries

  • Upcoming Jerry Weiss Workshops

    Jerry Weiss will be teaching workshops in large-scale figure painting and drawing with the brush at the Silvermine School of Art (New Canaan, CT), February 6–7 and March 27–28, 2014.

  • Weiss at the Movies

    Catch a glimpse of several of Jerry Weiss's landscapes and nudes in the romantic comedy A Case of You, starring Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood.

  • Upcoming Workshop with Jerry Weiss

    Jerry Weiss will be teaching a five-day figure painting workshop, June 24–28, at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT.

  • The Studio Project | Jerry Weiss

    The studio I work in is located In Chester, Connecticut, a little more than two hours north and east of New York City.