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WashDC 17: Bazille and friends

Held in the new East Wing revamp, they did the entrance right.

Wow. On the last day of the show, July 9, I was lucky enough to be in DC. I was lucky enough to read about it. And I was lucky enough to see it. This was a great show, about one of the early Impressionists who did not live long enough to see just where the movement was going.

Frédéric Bazille Reclining Nude, 1864

Who was Frédéric Bazille? He was one of the original founders of the Impressionist movement, the others being Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley and Berthe Morisot. These young painters had formed ties through studios and contact with Manet. Morisot, the female in the group, was more sheltered, as studio painting for a woman was not yet “acceptable.”

A fresh look at a more spectral palate, more realistic subject matter and a concentration of creating imagery using the nature of paint, rather than duplicating drawing in color was an impetus for this group. They traded pencils in for brushes. Degas and Cassatt even go back to the old tradition of pastel. They are the children of Delacroix, Corot, Courbet, as well as Turner and Constable. Because of them, we admire the work of Boudin,  Jongkind and Diaz. Without them there is less appreciation of Whistler and Sargeant, and there is no Matisse.

9 rue de la Condamine done in 1870

“I am having fun so far painting the interior of my studio with my friends. Manet did me himself.”

Bazille’s Self-Portrait with Palette, 1865 and Self-Portrait with a Detachable Color, 1865-67.

A rare portrait by  Claude Monet Portrait of Bazille at the Farm of Saint-Siméon and a photo of the artist.

Cailleboite and Sisley lived long enough to see their place in the sun. Sisley, for example, is always considered first rate, but never strays far from the original tenets. The beauty of his work lies in those wonderful snow scenes where his lightness of touch of color sets him slightly apart. Renoir and Monet moved toward their own direction, the former a portrait painter, the later a landscapist. Degas is always Degas, with or without Impressionism. He is the draughtsman of a century, where there was no such shortage of great draughtsmen. Morisot continued to paint her paintings in that wonderful style she had developed as a young woman. Pisarro, the oldest, but youngest at heart, reinvented himself constantly. Later members like Cezanne and late joiners Cassatt, Gauguin and Seurat, were already in another direction.

One of his best to me, has always been Portraits de famille (Family Reunion)

Not everyone fits into that Impressionistic mold. Degas did not, but his use of pastels blurred that a little, but like Bazille, his painting is harder edged and in the early canvasses the paint thinner and brushwork less textural. Caillebotte in paintings such as  Rue de Paris; temps de pluie (Paris Street; Rainy Day) has that similarity in paint. The difference is Bazille is really a master at light which shapes his form, he and Monet really do have that in common. Even in his later works shown, the brushwork is subdued, but the light still plays an important part in shaping the painting

Femmes au jardin [Women in the Garden] is one of my favorite Monet’s. Madame Monet painted four times. Look what he does with the light with each of the dresses, now look at Bazille’s painting above. Lucky for us, it appeared at the show.

Monet in ’66 and Bazille in ’67 both owe that sense of detail to fabric to the tradition of Ingres, one of  the best textural artists of the French school extending back as far as the paintings of Clouet. Texture is a hard, and sometimes tedious thing to visually create, it may involve pattern, and a specific use of value. Bazille’s sensibility to light and texture is different than Monet. Most of the Impressionists eventually abandoned use of texture. I can only think of Caillebotte as the one that kept some semblance of it. Cezanne for example created monumental form from color, but abandoned texture altogether.

Frédéric Bazille’s View of the Town, the model I read was actually his sister.

Frédéric Bazille’s La Toilette

La Toilette is quite a sensational painting, the three figures compressed in a square format, the beautiful flesh tones of the women, the use of pattern and texture, and the rich palette make it a real looker.  The young woman to the right could have stepped out of a later Renoir, right down to the dress, when he went for less fuzzy brushwork. The work also has elements of Delacroix. The knee and foot of the center figure are a little awkward, but the idea of pushing out the woman on the left and pushing back the center figure whose torso is lying on the bed is done well. He gives it a few dark highlights on the edges of the torso to hold it together. The rich color and pattern of the background and the beautiful use of paint for the fuzzy stripes on the woman in the left in the foreground is a beautiful device. The painting depends on color, even though drawing with a brush is obvious. It is well composed, and put together. I had never seen even copies of this one.

Frédéric Bazille’s Summer Scene (Bathers)

Each painter sees light in a different way, and so for Bazille when compared to Monet.  To me, Monet saw shadows as patterns from light. The Reunion piece shows a painter who sees things under a distinct canopy and light dapples in. If you have ever shot a camera under these conditions, you see light differently, the patterns are less distinct and those spots of light that seep in form abstractions, next to the regularity the forms under the light-blocked canopy form. Even his outdoor male bathers, seem to be the product of outdoor light like 1884-7 bathing beauties of Renoir.

How many of us when young have either drawn or photographed ourselves nude, and then later sat embarrassed with the results? I have gotten the feeling that Bazille may have done the same with this painting. While his dreamy eyed bather in the above painting, seems a bit cliche for a young Frenchman, this one seems you painted yourself, your brother or a friend mooning someone and then felt a little ridiculous after. Think about it when you compare it to something like  L’Âge d’airain (The Age of Bronze) by Rodin.

Frédéric Bazille’s  Le Pêcheur à l’épervier (The Fisherman with a Net)

Frédéric Bazille’s Young Woman with Peonies (Le musée Fabre)

Frédéric Bazille’s Young Woman with Peonies (National Gallery DC), 1870

The above paintings were a joy to see together. I have loved forever this painting from the collection of the National Gallery, and it has sat for years without context. I have always believed it was a response to Degas’ 1865 A Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon).

Frédéric Bazille’s The Western Ramparts at Auiges-Mortes. 1867

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Frédéric Bazille, 1867 and  Frédéric Bazille’s Pierre Auguste Renor, 1868-69.

In 1870, Bazille became a victim of warfare, during the Franco-Prussian War. He died at 28, these amazing paintings were all that was left of him for us. It was said that Renoir was embittered upon news of his death, and that had he tried to talk his friend out of joining the army to begin with. Several of his paintings were secured by his father, which is why they are in the museum at Montpelier. The portrait by Renoir (above) was then owned by Manet, and his father made a trade of another for the portrait of his son. Some say he was forgotten altogether when Impressionism gained steam.

What a difference 150 years make. The audience compared to the artist, the dandy meets the barbarians, I suppose.

Life is a series of accidents, many more pleasant than not. The visiting of this show reminded me of a young art student hitching to Boston and someone telling him about a Cezanne show at BFA. He made it to a great show, full of wonderful paintings. His old counterpart, decades later, fell into a similar accident. Several years ago, when in Paris, I was at the Musée d’Orsay, some of these paintings were not on display due to a show they were getting ready for Manet. It was wonderful both to see and be able to photograph, what was not allowed the day I was there. Thanks curators of the National Gallery DC, you put a great show together.

Autumn in New York: Chihuly LIVE

Splashes of the Halloween season in the Children’s Park, become a backdrop for the work of Dale Chihuly.

These postcards from the Bronx Botanical Gardens, use many areas of the park as a backdrop for the work of glassmaker Dale Chihuly. Many images are variations of work done before. Chihuly’s work is always worthwhile to see, being the foremost glassmaker since Tiffany, but steeped in the twentieth and the twenty-first century. Don’t miss it if you can before October 29.

The genius of Dale Chihuly.

Goodbye, Irma.

Subtle signs of hurricane passed.

After a loud, blistering night, it is the reverse feeling of Christmas. You are waking up to something you don’t know what will be. The first sight is debris, but my neighbors cars are intact. My fence is still up, as the gate is in the garage, The window in the door boarded, The outside lights inside house. It will not matter as for 3 days there is no power. No school. No stores open, except for one McDonald’s, and Safeway. A few gas stations open. No banks. No mall.

Plenty of debris and then I spot it across the road. . .

What looks picturesque is my neighbor’s tree across the road with power lines. Did not hurt either of 3 houses, not even the mailbox (below) across the street.

Then it begins to set in, you were lucky, but maybe not so for others. A lake overspilled and found its path in a dry creek. Trees so numerous across the roadway, that it was like traveling through a maze with a car.

I had been in New York the weekend before Sandy. That weird moon the nights before. I remember a strange moon the day before this one and had commented on it to a colleague. I remember Christie and Bloomberg on TV, making everyone nervous. And recently, I had started watching the carpenter ants make a strange resurgence this summer, after years of not seeing them. There they were, and it reminded me of Charley.

We were lucky this time. The food got saved with ice, and the old grill came out of the garage. They eventually came and started clearing roads, even though lines remained down. My neighborhood has walls of debris curbside and we got back power. We always had water and a landline. There was some misery in our neighborhood, but it is a nasty thing to capitalize on another’s tragedy. Gawking with a camera.

Some in other areas had backed up sewers and waist high waters. A hurricane is the most boring and unnerving thing to sit through. You spend hours listening to hysteria from news people. Some who have never really been through one. Then the storm rolls in and those awful squalls. And the thuds, this time at night. This time a ton of rain!

As I was driving through Monday (?) a beautiful rainbow, where there was no rain. I guess that was Irma saying bye. That bitch.

Postcards from L.A.

A walk around Long Beach Shore Line area near Parker Lighthouse.

Certain shots are just made on their own. One shoots simply and comes out to find shots which exist on their own, no context, little content. But these shots exist for the beauty of the moment, and like postcards are throwaways. Consumed, then tossed.

Coming from Florida, there is a correspondence to living in an area of the country which allows one to live in and outdoors easily most of the year. Los Angeles light and color is less bright, less intense, but it has a softer beauty to it that makes its skies and especially, the evenings. a rare beauty.

Santa Monica Pier

Venice Beach

Downtown Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gehry

LAlive: Two Days in Another Town

Two views: One via Southwest, the other via the Getty Center.

Janene said, but you’re in Long Beach, you really aren’t in L.A. ? When I talk about Los Angeles, I talk about the whole thing. I know some of the parts think of themselves as separate, but the view from the outside has always been it is ALL L.A.. And in the good way that Los Angelenos think of themselves.

Down at the Convention Center in Long Beach, the Queen Mary sits and there was some kind of Monster convention going on.

Whether day or night, L.A. has its own color.

We figured out right away that North Long Beach looked a little like parts of Winter Park in FL. We found the typical chains, as we found on this coast, Aldi’s and Dollar Tree. Then we found the local In-N-Out Burger, and thought it would be a gas to eat there late that evening.

This is the day we arrived.

The second day we got out to the Getty Center using the Santa Monica Freeway, the one that becomes countless stories, starting with Bob Hope at the Oscars a thousand years ago. This was America’s superhighway, when bumpkins elsewhere couldn’t think what to do with a car, beyond start it.

You will find first rate art at the Getty Center, like van Gogh’s Irises,

and its own tram to transport you,

and first rate architecture by Richard Meier, the same on who did the High in Atlanta

and a Saturday night filled with stuff to do and see.

LA is a lot of things to a lot of different people. Easterners think of LA as a place of kooks, and they have a share, but none so much as places like NYC or DC. As I watch Latino families at an In-N-Out Burger, they look no different than the families I have seen in Apopka.

This baby made her second cross to the West Coast this year!

roma 17: Finding Caravaggio

ft.pngThe Fortune Teller, an early work of the master in the Capitoline collection

Another copy exists in the Louvre.

A while back, I had read the definitive biography, M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Robb  and blogged on some of the work of Michelangelo Merisi (1571 – 1610) , or as we know himCaravaggio. Thus, seeing a second version of The Fortune Teller, but with more classic treatment of the male (the Louvre version seems to be a portraits of one of his assistants or friends).

S. Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) also on view at the Capitoline.

The St. John in the Capitoline is Caravaggio at his classic style. The use of red for the drapery and the chiaroscuro used on the figure, already gives you an idea where Rubens and Correggio will go, with slightly broader palettes. After seeing the Rafaello rooms in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, you kind of get the reaction to the color constrain that Caravaggio is going for. His concentration of flesh tones and the use of red and medium blue, go far against the black grounds.

Deposizione (The Entombment of Christ) at the Pinacoteca at the Vatican Museums

The last time I saw this was at a terrific show of Caravaggio, at Scuderie del Quirinale. Desposizione was as striking as it is today. The sculptural effects he creates in this tight space is amazing, including the way the stone they are standing on juts out. Of all his work the faces are beautifully done, especially the women, watch how the hands lead in and out of space of the group.

 Mary Magdalena (center) is truly one of the most beautiful women Caravaggio has ever painted for me.

Look at the slight angle change of the heads from John to Nicedomus

Too bad the lighting of the painting led to a flair, but overall the beauty of the faces in this one is incredible.  The beauty of simplicity, the great use of drawing. It will always be amazing to me, that Caravaggio began painting directly on canvas without dozens of preliminary drawings!

But BINGO! San Luigi dei Francesi holds three Caravaggio’s in one small chapel.

In Rome you can explore and find artist’s work onsite, as they were intended to be displayed. This is the story of Caravaggio’s series on St. Matthew. East of the Piazza Navona, in the beautiful church of San Luigi dei Francesci in a little corner chapel, for nothing, but a few coins, if you wish, you can see a display of at least two of his finest paintings. In order to really see the paintings, everyone takes turns popping in coins for the lights to stay on.

As you cannot enter the chapel it is difficult to photograph both The Calling of Saint Matthew and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, as they are on right angles. The reason for the fuzziness of the images are due to correction of the parallax with photoshop. The vantage point also led way to the unwanted glare.

San Matteo e angelo (The Inspiration of Saint Matthew)

It is a shame that they are set so closely and the vantage point harder to see. Especially the The Calling of Saint Matthew, which is incredible in its darkness. Like a light out of darkness, Jesus stumbles into a den of dandies (check the get-ups) to call out St. Matthew, either drunk or afraid. The compressing of the action into areas leaving lots of space above, and the  gesture Christ’s hand already begin hands moving all over. Things learned from Leonardo and Michelangelo, and passed on to artists like Caravaggio and Andrea del Sarto.

Vocazione di San Matteo (The Calling of Saint Matthew), best I could do.

Vocazione di San Matteo (The Calling of Saint Matthew) (detail)

Notice how the two younger males at the right end of the table nearer to Christ, actually seem to move away from the table to open up space. Notice that face of the boy is probably Cecco at the back end. This is the face of Caravaggio’s apprentice and is seen in several paintings here, including , the angel in The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, as well as St. John the Baptist. He is probably also the boy in The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. 

This is one painting in spite of the neutral background, where the colors the dandy’s wear, seem so outstanding. The tone here is less somber than The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew where everything is almost the same color and the figures more in a deeper space.

Martirio di San Matteo (The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew)

The space is more an indication of the work he will do beginning in Naples. A good link from the space created in Raphael’s work and eventually moving full force in the work of Correggio and Tiepolo.