Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kazimir Malevich born this day in 1878

"Color is the essence of painting, which the subject always killed." born in 1878. On view:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

100th anniversary tribute to Rodin at the Legion

There are exhibits of Rodin's work that are more powerful - the placement of the "Burghers of Calais" as you walk up the lawn to the entrance of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the "Gates of Hell" outside the Cantor Art Museum in Stanford but it would be difficult to find more of his work outside France than the tribute to Rodin at the Legion of Honor. The 50 items from the Legion's collection range from the famous (The Thinker which silently greets visitors to the museum) to the many, less known but far more eloquent, plaster casts that he made in preparation for scultpures that often never got made.

Born in 1840 in France, Wikipedia claims that Rodin never set out to be a rebel. But what else can you call his deliberate flouting of convention in "The Burghers of Calais," his emotional tribute to Balzac, his deliberate hymns of priaise to sexuality and love in stone or clay? His tempestuous affair with Camile Claudel is well known, thanks to Isabelle Adjanti's poignant portrayal in the movie of the same name. But what is less known is his causal promiscuity which drove his common law wife crazy with jealousy. In all things he was larger than life and reveled in his fame. He apparently did not know the art of compromise and for that we can be grateful.

"August Rodin, Drawings and Watercolors," published by Thames and Hudson 2006 shows that he was also ahead of his time in in his drawings and watercolors, showing in aother medium the role of sensuality in his work .

Rilke thought that Rodin was born great and never had any doubts about his talent. That may or not be true but what is manifestly true is that his passionate, engaged, emotional work broke the conventions of 19th century sculpture. We still resonate to Rodin and pass by the many 19th century sculptures of now unknown generals and other sentimental, trite pieces in bronze or stone with indifference.

Rilke on Rodin: 

“Our Rodin holdings are one of the finest and most significant collections in the United States,” notes Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums. “This exhibition will surprise visitors and inspire dialogue about Rodin and his impact on artists working today. It is a must-see for anyone who thinks there is nothing left to learn about this towering figure in the history of Modern Art.”



Through April 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ansel Adams

February 20, 1902. Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 - April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist best known for his black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park. In this image: Paul D'Ambrosio, curator of the Fenimore Art Museum, discusses an Ansel Adams exhibit at the museum during a media tour of the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., March 27, 2007. The show, "Ansel Adams: The Man Who Captured the Earth's Beauty," runs through May 13.

The Photo that made him famous


National Archives

Library of Congress

Sierra Club

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Happy birthday Constantin Brancusi

February 19, 1876. Constantin Brancusi (February 19, 1876 - March 16, 1957) was a Romanian-born sculptor who made his career in France. As a child he displayed an aptitude for carving wooden farm tools. In this image: Three sculptures by Constantin Brancusi, "The Sorceress", left; "The Muse", center; and "King of Kings" are on display during a preview of the "From Picasso to Pollock: Classics of Modern Art" exhibit at New York's Guggenheim Museum Tuesday, July 1, 2003.

Constantin Brâncuși, Portrait of Mademoiselle Pogany [1], 1912, White marble; limestone block, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. Exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show.   

Constantin Brâncuși, 1907-08, The Kiss. Exhibited in 1913 at the Armory Show and published in the Chicago Tribune, 25 March 1913

Bird in Space

The Art Story here
Wikipedia here

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Happy Birthday Anders Zorn

Swedish artist #AndersZorn was born #OnThisDay in 1860.

Anders Zorn, Sweden’s answer to Sargent, is ready for rediscovery. He was one of the most famous artists of during his lifetime but forgotten after his death in 1920. Until now, there has only been one major retrospective of him in the last century. For those who think that Munch is the summation of Scandinavian art, Zorn will come as a delightful surprise

In 2014, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco presented "Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter," They brought together one hundred of the artist’s oil paintings, watercolors, etchings, and sculptures. Anders Zorn (1860–1920) was one of the world’s most famous living artists at the turn of the twentieth century, known for his virtuoso painting and printmaking techniques.

Anders Zorn was born in Mora, Sweden, in 1860, in very humble circumstances. He was the illegitimate son of a German brewer and a local farmer’s daughter. His parents never married but he was acknowledged and allowed to carry his father’s name.

He studied at the Stockholm Royal Academy of Art, but left before graduation to launch what would become a successful international career.

At the Student exhibition in 1880, Zorn showed the watercolor “In mourning “ (on display in the show), which propelled him into the spotlight.

It was his facility in watercolor, his assured command of that difficult medium’s luminosity and transparency that brought him early fame.

Zorn watercolors such as "Lapping Waves" (1887), "In the Port of Hamburg" (1890) and "Sea Study" (1894) showcase his dazzling talent. Light and water dance across the paper in a seamless whole. His delicate touch is even more apparent in the forest scenes where layers of layers of green, pricked out by details of leaves and branches leave the viewer asking, “How in the world did he do that?”

He moved to London in 1882 and later to Paris (1888) where he reinvented himself as an oil painter and etcher, won a first class medal at the Exposition Universalle of 1889, and was decorated with the prestigious Legion d’Honneur.

Like Sargent, portraying the society dames and potentates of the Gilded Age gave him the financial stability to live life the way he wanted to.

Eventually he crossed the Atlantic seven times where he became as famous as any 20th century rock star.  A 1901 headline in the Minneapolis Journal proclaimed, “Zorn’s Brush: its Magic Frequently Brings the Owner $15,000 a Week.” He painted portraits of the rich and famous including three American presidents, Grover Cleveland, William H. Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

The show at the Legion displayed these portraits in all their bravura glory. Colin Bailey, the late Director of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco described his brushwork as loaded with “sprezzatura,” a term used by Castiglione’s “Book of the Courtier” to mean "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it."

Zorn does make it look easy, largely using a limited color palate of white, ochre, vermillion and black.

He was also an etcher, drawer, sculptor, and designer. The show has a few small pieces of his sculpture but it’s his etching that, like his watercolors, dazzle. He was one of the great modern etchers with a facility equaling Whistler in his technical skill for suggesting texture, atmosphere and psychological truth in black and white line. His brilliant handling of the tools of etching made for works that display pure chiaroscuro.

Zorn also had an eye for the ladies sans clothing. A small but select section of the show wasdevoted to his nudes. There is not an anorexic, silicone pumped stick in the lot. His models were taken from his native town of Mora, Sweden. He was a specialist in portraying their full bodies, soft buttocks and breasts and silken, silvery warm Scandinavian skin. Often set in water scenes, Zorn was able to explore his fascination with water and the reflections of light on its surface as well as pretty women.

Emma Zorn survived her husband by more than two decades. She remained in their home in Mora and maintained his legacy until her death, in 1942. In their joint will the couple bequeathed almost their entire fortune to the Swedish state, including more than sixty buildings and some twenty thousand objects. The Zornsamlingarna (Zorn Collections), as the donation is known, comprise the museum and house, the open-air museum, and Gopsmor. It is today among the most beloved and respected art institutions in Sweden.

Because of that, we can enjoy these works which otherwise might have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Zorn was neither an Impressionist nor a modern painter like Matisse (who also has a small show up at the Legion). He followed a different but equally valuable artistic path.


On facebook, those interested in art tag other artists and art aficionados to research and post images and information about certain artists. Tom Christenson, who used to be in charge of publications for the Asian, a well known author and a man of many talents, tagged me to write about Zubaran ( November 7, 1598 – August 27, 1664). He is known primarily for his religious paintings but it was this still life that captured my attention..

I remember when I saw "Still Life with Lemons" at the Norton Simon Museum. Until that time, Zubaran was just a name to me. But the painting's still, powerful beauty drew me in and I sat in front of it for quite some time, in a meditative state. The painting had been cleaned by the experts at the Getty and was being displayed, before going on tour.

The painting was buried under many layers of varnish and very discolored," says Mark Leonard, head of paintings conservation at the Getty, who spent a couple of weeks studying and cleaning the Zurbaran, removing paint applied by restorers long ago and filling in lost flakes of pigment. "With each successive revarnishing, corrections were made of existing retouches," he says. "When you do that, the retouched areas grow. What starts out as a tiny hole becomes a big blob. That, combined with the general discoloration of the surface, was really suffocating the picture." (Culture Monster, 2008)

I am not particularly religious and certainly not religious in the 17th century Spanish Catholic sense but Zubaran's handling of the dark areas of a painting brings a haunting spiritual sense to the best of his work.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Deloris Thomas. 1935-2016. RIP

 Another long time friend gone  - artist, activist, long time San Franciscan and friend. RIP.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday Max Beckmann

February 12, 1884. Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 - December 28, 1950) was a German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement. In the 1920s, he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism that opposed its introverted emotionalism. In this image: A visitor looks at the painting "Descant" of Max Beckmann in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, western Germany, Thursday, June 30, 2005.

 One thinks of him, with reason, as quintessentially "German.' Yet his art had the same relationship (or lack of one) to German expressionism as Edouard Manet's did to French impressionism. Beckmann was not interested in the pseudotranscendental aspects of expressionism --its yearnings for a higher world and bleatings about this lower one, its way of ducking into the "mystical' and the "primitive' as an escape from the politics of immediate experience. To him, as to the Dadaists in Berlin, this was for air heads. "My heart beats more for a raw, average vulgar art,' he noted in one of his copious journals, "which doesn't live between sleepy fairy-tale moods and poetry but rather concedes a direct entrance to the fearful, commonplace, splendid and the average grotesque banality in life.' This was in 1909, when the young Leipzig painter was just a month shy of 25. Robert Hughes, review of a show in 1985. LA Times

The bare bone of Beckmann's message is that fame, money and the love of women are not all they are said to be, but the strange, staid-looking conviction with which Beckmann invests his personages carries his painting beyond moralizing to something like magical invocation, a raising of the worst noonday ghosts of the '30s. He was certainly one of the great fabulists of modern art. But unlike the surrealists, he was not content with the effort to tap into a collective unconscious through the littered cellar of the individual self. And unlike lesser but more popular artists like Marc Chagall, he did not permit himself a moment's slump into nostalgia. Always on the move, the exile with one packed bag under the bed, gazing at a future that was bound to be worse than the past, he retained an uncanny ability to go through his fears and find history on the other side of them. Beckmann's art was poised, so to speak, between the sleepwalk and the goose step; on its rigorous and masculine frame are nailed the private splendors and public horrors of the first half of the 20th century. Robert Hughes

Wikipedia here

Beckmann at the Met here

NPR here

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Free Admission to the De Young Museum

Celebrate love, tolerance, and diversity at the de Young today!

Join them today, for FREE general admission, activities and performances as part of our One Love community day.

Enjoy music, art making, tours, and more while exploring the many voices reflected in our permanent collections and discovering various expressions of love.

De Young Museum

"On the Grid" - an exhibit on textiles and minimalism closes tomorrow. 

Open at the Legion of Honor: “Auguste Rodin: The Centenary Installation,” which includes 50 items from the museum group’s permanent collection