Beautiful Life and Style


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Museum Monday: Van Gogh Repetitions

I am always reading about interesting art exhibits around the world, and while I hardly have the time or budget to visit them all, I have decided to do a series of posts highlighting them here. Maybe you will have the opportunity to visit and report back on these “Museum Mondays” so I may live vicariously through you!

I’m sorry for the lateness of today’s post- you would think I would have had some time to plan ahead while I was home for Thanksgiving- but of course I fell completely off the grid! However, on the train ride home, as I was reading the Amtrak gem “Arrive” magazine, I found an ad for the exhibit “Van Gogh Repetitions” currently on view in Washington DC. It looks fascinating, so of course I had to share it here!

The exhibition is a study of a lesser known side to Van Gogh’s artisitic process- examining the paintings whose subjects he visited multiple times. The term “repetitions” is actually one coined by Van Gogh to “describe his practice of creating more than one version of a particular subject.” The exhibit was originally inspired by the close relationship between the Cleveland Museum’s The Large Plane Trees (the first below) and the Phillips Collection’s The Road Menders (the second one) both dating from late 1889. I think you’ll agree- even the phrase “close relationship” is an understatement! Curators for the exhibit studied the two at length, using microscopes, digital photography, and X-radiographs, trying to decide which is the original and which was created later in the studio. Can you guess? While the colors are a notable difference, it is the brushstrokes that truly sets them apart. The Road Menders has more deliberate and controlled lines, while the spontaneity of the brushstrokes in The Large Plane Trees suggests it is the original field painting.

Large Plane Trees the Road Menders

This curatorial process was repeated for 13 different repetitions- some with as many as nine variations on a theme! I have to imagine it was very fun to try and dig into each piece’s history and uncover the “original”. The Postman Joseph Roulin was one of Van Gogh’s favorite subjects and in real life, a true friend- visiting him in the hospital soon after the artist cut off his ear. Below are Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin, December 1888 and The Postman Joseph Roulin, May 1888

portrait-of-the-postman-joseph-roulin The Postman Joseph Roulin

The curators of the exhibition aim to suggest that these refined repetitions are proof in point that Van Gogh is much more of true artist than history might remember him as. While many people suggest that it was only his mental illness creating beautiful masterpieces in frenzied fits of inspiration, these works show the more thoughtful side of the artist.

I know in the past when I have created my own paintings, I can never decide when it is “finished”. “One more brushstroke here.. or what if I added a hint of this color?..” It seems to me that Van Gogh had the same issue- but then struggled to the point of needing to completely start over- to reinvent the work as a new experiment. A first draft, a second draft, etc. Did he ever consider any of them “final” or “perfect”? I guess we will never know, but we can certainly visit and pick our own favorites!

Van Gogh Repetitions will be shown at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D. C., from October 2013 to January 2014, and then will make its own “repetition” at the Cleveland Museum of Art from March 2014 to May 2014. Please report back if you visit either! Van Gogh’s works are definitely ones that must be experienced in person.


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Museum Monday: John Singer Sargent Watercolors

I am always reading about interesting art exhibits around the world, and while I hardly have the time or budget to visit them all, I have decided to do a series of posts highlighting them here. Maybe you will have the opportunity to visit and report back on these “Museum Mondays” so I may live vicariously through you! For this first week though, I thought I’d start with the City that I live in, and one of the largest exhibits this fall- John Singer Sargent’s Watercolors.

I don’t know where my passion for art museums came from. One of the earliest museum memories I have is of course, visiting the MET as a kid with my school on one of our yearly field-trips. The book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was also one of my favorite reads in third grade (can you imagine living in a museum!?) But I think my enthusiasm really solidified when my parents took us to see the John Singer Sargent oils exhibit at the MFA way back in 1999 (don’t I feel old!) It was a big deal, and the first modern retrospective for the artist- and how fitting that it was in the City of Boston, his American home and at the Museum so closely tied to his history- he after all painted the murals on the ceiling there! Either way, I remember driving up from New York and experiencing masterpieces such as The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and Fumee d’Ambre Gris which to this day, remain some of my favorite paintings. In fact, when I visited London 4 years later, I INSISTED to my Aunt that we visit the Tate just so I could see “Carnation” in person again. So imagine my delight when I learned that once again the MFA would be doing a collection of Sargent’s works, and this time specifically, his amazing watercolors.

When Sargent began painting in watercolor, he was already a well established portrait artist. Everyone can agree he had mastered the art of oil painting and it is suggested that he was becoming flat out bored. He needed a change of medium, and he craved to take his easel out in the field and around the world. Which is exactly what he did: traveling to deserts of Syria and the canals of Venice. However, while anyone who saw them gave the paintings glowing reviews, Sargent largely considered these watercolors to be for himself, they gave him great pleasure and they were NOT FOR SALE.

The Bridge of Sighs

His friend from Boston, Mr Edward Darley Boit (yes, the one with the daughters), insisted that he consider putting the pieces in an exhibit and selling- and Sargent agreed – but ONLY if the works were sold as a collection. I get the impression Sargent hoped the works would land at the MFA, but in a twist, the Brooklyn Museum won the collection of 83 works. Sargent was soon certain that the patrons in Boston, realizing they had missed out, would also want a watercolor collection of their own. So of course, for this second round, he spent more effort creating each one- a little less of a “study in watercolor” and instead more standalone pieces of art. The pieces were larger and most of them were signed. In the end, the MFA acquired the collection of 45. This current exhibit brings the paintings from both collections back together in one place. It is interesting to compare and contrast!

Villa di Marlia, Lucca- A Fountain

Sargent’s watercolor painting are very unique in the way they are created. In fact, there is a video playing at the exhibit where an artist tries to recreate one of the paintings- it was incredible to see how she had to work to achieve the lightness of the brushstrokes while at the same time creating such dark opaque colors.

Bedoins

What else makes these watercolors special? Well at the end of the day, they are still very Sargent. It has been said, that NO artist has been quite able to capture white the way that he was. Take his work “Reading” as an example. The whites in her dress are not pure white brushstrokes, but also grays and blues and yellows and even the slightest tint of green reflecting from her parasol. There is also an entire room of watercolors capturing the carrara marble quarries in Italy. The immense stones are cast in 1000s of shades of white and gray.

Reading

Carrara- Lizzatori I

John Singer Sargent Watercolors is running now through January 20th at the MFA- and I have a membership if you are looking for a tour guide! Nick and I attended the opening for this exhibit so I can say firsthand how magnificent it is. I hope you have the opportunity to visit. (And if you are wondering, yes- it wasn’t by accident that I chose to wear a watercolor print dress)

us at opening


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Artwork by: James Nares

You know when you discover something that catches your eye, and then you begin to start seeing it everywhere? Such it has been for me lately with the artwork of James Nares. I first saw his work several years ago, in the stairwell of an extremely posh office building in New York City. I remember the ribbon-like, blue painting seemed almost 3 dimensional and I probably could have stared at it for hours trying to figure out just HOW it was created. But of course the piece was then forgotten, until recently, when I saw this image of another work by Nares in this (may I add- EXTREMELY AMAZINGLY DESIGNED) Dining Room. Then I saw ANOTHER piece and so -of course- it is now time to share with you my love for this artist and his work!

James Nares in Dining Room

Nares was born in London in 1954, but moved to New York City in 1975. He was quoted as saying the motivation behind his move was the fact that  “All I did was read American art magazines. I felt like a real loner in London, being interested in all these artists that nobody else seemed to have heard of.” And from the moment he moved here, he began immersing himself in these artist circles, gaining respect from many of the painters he once admired. But it took some time before his work truly started to gain broader popularity. Now it is found throughout the world in private collections and major museums such as the MoMA and Whitney Museum.

James Nares Tetragram

While Nares’ paintings are most certainly unique, he especially stands apart in his methodology. His work is most often created in a SINGLE brushstroke with unique brushes of his own design. The brushes are created with a variety of everything from foam to feathers, and there is quite an experimental process to finding exactly the right one. He applies the paint while suspended over the canvas in an acrobatic harness that he created to achieve a gravity free painting environment.

James Nares painting

The painting process is one of erasing and recreating line-work before finding the perfect balance between improvisation and intent. Nares likens this artistic routine to hitting a home run in baseball, sometimes achievable in one go but more often requiring multiple attempts to accomplish.

James Nares What's What

James Nares I Do and I Don't

Nares’ unique process results in these fantastic ribbons of color. They have been likened to visuals such as swirling storm clouds, birds in flight and ocean waves. What do you see? Are you as mesmerized as I am?

James Nares Never Ever

Image Credits: 1 //2 // 3 // 4 // 5 //

Also link 3 is very cool interview with James Nares about  his early years in New York, and his process of creating and experimenting with the brushes he uses today.

I also read that recently Nares has further expanded his art into the realm of photography and film, with a film currently streaming at the Met.


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Artwork by: Aldro T. Hibbard

In the ongoing saga of my love/ hate relationship with winter, today I would like to embrace the snowy landscape and share some works by Aldro T. Hibbard. I saw one of his paintings featured on the Boston Antiques Roadshow episode this week (no I’m not 90 years old. I’ve been a hopeless Roadshow lover since high school. whatcha gonna say about it?!) Either way, the piece was brought in by v.i.p. Mayor Menino who said it was discovered in the attic of a school in Dorchester. It was appraised for $50,000.

Antiques Roadshow Hibbard

So what merits the high price tag?? As the appraiser explained: “Some artists, when they paint snow, you see white paint,” ….“When you look at an Aldro Hibbard, you see SNOW.” and I think you will agree! The way each scene is painted truly captures the way the sun bounces off the bright whites and also the heaviness of the mounds of snow.

aldro hibbard1

Hibbard is the quintessential New England artist. He was born in Falmouth, MA in 1886 and died in Rockport, MA in 1972, where he had moved to in 1920. He was a founding member of the Rockport Art Association and a member of the Guild of Boston Artists, the National Academy of Design and the Conn. Academy of Fine Arts to name a few. He studied at the Massachusetts Normal Art School and then received a traveling scholarship from the Boston Museum School of Art. He frequently taught classes and workshops and influenced several other New England painters.

Aldro Hibbard 3

Most of the scenes he depicts are from New England and he is especially well known for his snowy scenes of the mountains in Vermont. The Vermont paintings are all in oil- Hibbard was a plein-air painter and any other medium would have frozen outside in the cold months of January and February.

Aldro Hibbard 2

So I hope you agree- there is some beauty in the stillness of the snow! (until I hate it again tomorrow)

How much would you love one of these paintings???


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My Trip to SFMoMA

 

When Nick and I were staying at his house in California last week I INSISTED that we take a visit to one of my favorite museums in the world, SFMoMA. Every visit I find new favorite artists- and this excursion was no different.

The headline exhibit is currently Cindy Sherman, which, if I have to be honest, was a little off the deep end for me. Cindy Sherman is a notable portrait photographer- whose favorite subject is “herself”. However, this is not 500 photos of the same woman, in each, Cindy Sherman transforms herself with makeup, wigs and props to take on a new persona. There was one room of the exhibit I found especially bizarre where she photographed herself in the style of traditional portraiture as if from the 18th century, but with various grotesque anatomical exaggerations such as enlarged foreheads or giant prosthetic breasts. Like I said, bizarre- but interesting to see her skills of metamophosis.

My favorite exhibit at the museum was Naoya Hatakeyama, Natural Stories. Hatakeyama is a Japanese photographer, focused primarily on landscapes, and more specifically, ones that focus on the relationship between nature and humans. I found his images so peaceful and calming, which is interesting because some of them portray very jarring and violent images. On one hand there are many photos of landscapes that have been altered over time by human existence. For example he did an entire study of the controlled explosions of limestone inside a quarry. The other half of the exhibit is of man made landscapes that have been altered by natural forces- such as tsunami and earthquakes. At the end you wonder, which alters the other more?

And then of course, there is the amazing permanent collection at the museum. Organized by artistic movement, walking from room to room is like the greatest art history lesson you could have. I remember walking into the first room with several Matisse and Nick proclaims “wait- this isn’t Modern art” …my reply? “Well it was Modern when it first came out!” You have to know where you have been to see where you are going. I think that if certain artists didn’t pave the way, contemporary art could never be what it is now. Here are a few of my favorites, taken with my iPhone (shhh- don’t tell):

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