It’s been there for four years, but yesterday was the first time I’d seen it: the Wisteria Room, created by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer. According to the info plaques, wisteria flowers are associated with welcoming. The room was created for a French engineer, a connoisseur of art nouveau. The lighting in the installation is not this bright, and it is difficult to get a sense of the wonderful color of the murals. Fantastic, nevertheless!
I visited the Met today to see the exhibition on caricature - Infinite Jest. Among the things I learned was that Delacroix was heavily into satire and caricature early in his career, and that he studied my favorite, James Gillray, very closely: The show had studies by Delacroix of Gillray’s cartoons. Of course, Gillray was well represented, including his most famous image, and one of the most famous political cartoons of all time, The Plum Pudding.
There were several by Daumier of course, including the one at the top here, showing Louis Phillipe as a three-faced pear-headed fellow. Each face sees a different time, past, present, future, and they are all bad. Daumier did many variations on the King-as-pear theme, including one showing him, popular and democratically inclined at first, slowly mutating into peardom as he sinks into corruption and incompetence.
Another Daumier shows the Marquis de Lafayette, the one who helped George Washington in our Revolutionary War, dreaming a very bad dream that he is oppressed by a pear standing in for a succubus. Lafayette publicly embraced the king when he took power (shown in the picture on the wall behind him) and grew to mightily regret his early support.
Elsewhere in the museum, time continues to stand still. These Renaissance plates, maiolica ware, show Actaeon, a favorite theme of mine (see here and here), and the death of Achilles. I’ve never seen Actaeon turned into a stag with his full suit of clothes still on him, nor have I seen Diana and her nymphs bathing in such a crowded fountain. As for Achilles, I never imagined that Hector was so darn close to him when he got in his lucky shot at the heel of the invincible hero. These images have a slightly cartoonish look to them, I think.
In cartoons, sometimes you see into the hearts of characters, literally. This marvelous statue group of The Visitation, the mother of Jesus and the mother of Saint John the Baptist meeting and greeting each other, provides each figure with a large rock crystal lozenge on the breast of each woman. Originally, you would have been able to see a little image of the Christ child and the Saint growing within each of the women.
The Metropolitan has a marvelous exhibit of the works of Jan Gossart (he is known by a variety of names) that I visited today. A northerner, in the pictorial tradition of van Eyck and other pioneering artists in oil, he, like Albrecht Durer, went south, and was enthralled by the ruins of the classical world and the Humanist revival in Italy. He fuses this taste with his northern gothic tradition and produces something that is at times downright weird, but compelling. The exhibit was unusual, I thought, in its emphasis on the sources in contemporary art of the north for many of his works. Gossart was on the cutting edge; one of a group of humanist-scholar-artist afficianados who found deep-pocketed patrons to finance their new vision.
As always, click on the images to enlarge them.
The image at the top was one of my favorites – a disguised portrait of a young girl as Mary Magdalen, so simple, plain, and lovely compared to the other Magdalen below.
His debt to Durer’s popular engraving is clear and direct, but he drops some of the classicizing of the print’s image.
Here, he cuts loose a bit and depicts Adam and Eve as actual human beings, rather “than Biblical Figures”, who are obviously quite attracted to one another.
The Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalen: The first is calm, contemplative, and shows that strange marble-like texture found in so many of his portraits. He seems to enjoy painting people as though they were sculpture, sometimes to a degree that it appears trompe l’oeil. The second is strange, twisted, writhing, and definitely tipping in the direction of mannerism.
Hercules and wife, classical architecture, bodies – see, her breasts are perfect hemispheres – and a weird, erotic entangling of legs. The picture on the right makes use of blue pigment created from lapis lazuli that was as expensive as gold.
A bit of weirdly erotic classicizing…
A portrait of a man who was in charge of municipal toll collections, an important and lucrative post. From his look, he seems right for the job. If you look very closely at his eyes, at the white highlight on the iris reflecting the incoming light, you can see the image of the mullions of the window from which this scene is illuminated.
In keeping with my plan to visit the Metropolitan Museum once a month, I spent an hour at The Cloisters today. This is the uptown branch of the Met that houses a large collection of medieval objects in a building resembling a monastery, and with multiple courtyards and interiors of European abbeys that were transported here and reconstructed. It sits in the midst of a park on highlands overlooking the Hudson River Palisades and northeast Manhattan, and it is the only museum in Manhattan where I can drive up and park at the front door anytime I want. The trip from my home takes about fifteen minutes.
I like to visit museums for short periods, or exhaustion sets in. Since I can go often, I can look at a few things each time and leave the rest for later. Some of favorites that I viewed today:
Today, a holiday, was a beautiful day. Or at least, I think so. A friend of mine demurs – too much sun! Courtesy of Mayor-Midas Bloomberg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was open, while it is usually closed on Monday. So I took myself in to see the Comics and Fashion exhibit (dumb) and the Jeff Koons sculptures on the roof garden.
One of the things I like about going to a museum often is that I can take the time to observe the other people, instead of devoting all my attention the art that I may not have the chance to see again in a long time. I love to look at people looking at art. What are they thinking? Do they like it? Does it move them, impress them, bore them? Are they just enjoying the thrill of being here?
Lately, I’ve become more and more aware of people and their phones and their cameras – who hasn’t? Since they are so cheap and easy to use now, people use them everywhere, and often. I particularly like to watch people taking pictures of “attractions” and events. Here are a few from my rooftop visit to the Met. Voyeurism? Voyez vous!
Dog and Pony Show —- ——– Reflections in a Candy Apple Heart
Which Way is It? ————– Why I Prefer a Viewfinder
Paying Homage ————- Creative
The Classic Group Shot ————— Art, Monument, Idol?