Monday, January 30, 2012

Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" coming to San Francisco

I can imagine the lines for this one...

Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl With A Pearl Earring” will come to the De Young Museum in San Francisco next January (2013), the first stop on a three-venue American tour of paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, the Hague.

The Dutch museum is sending 35 paintings on a two-year tour, announced Friday, first to the United States, then to two museums in Japan, while it undergoes renovations. “Girl With a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings From the Mauritshuis,” will run Jan. 26-June 2, 2013, at the De Young, then move to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Frick Collection in New York City (where the show will be scaled down to 10 works and presented as “Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis”).

“Girl With a Pearl Earring,” painted around 1665, was last seen in the United States in 1995 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in a 21-picture exhibition focused solely on Vermeer.

Reviewing that “once-in-a-lifetime….or even once-in-many-lifetimes” event, Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote that “sometimes, as in the exquisite 'Girl With a Pearl Earring,’ the sitter in the painting returns your focused gaze. An inexplicable charge rushes through the experience, as when an electrical circuit is suddenly completed.”

The show at the De Young also will include paintings by Rembrandt’s “'Tronie’ of a Man with a Feathered Beret,” Carel Fabritius’ “The Goldfinch” and works by Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Jacob and Salomon van Ruysdael, Paulus Potter, Meindert Hobbema and Jan van Goyen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Mozart

Happy Birthday Mozart' - Homage to Mozart for Orff Orchestra composed by Giovanni Andreani and first performed on June the 3rd 2006 by pupils of the Amadeus Music School - Scuola di Musica Amadeus in Albano Sant'Alessandro BG Italy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Celebrate the lunar year

 Bowl with a pair of dragons. Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722). Porcelain with incised decoration, yellow glaze, polychrome enamels. China | Jiangxi province. The Avery Brundage Collection

As the Bay Area's Asian-American population approaches 2 million, its cultural diversity has grown. The Bay Area is now home to Mongolian, Tibetan, Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese populations, each with their own distinctive traditions and celebrations. Many of the celebrations are rooted in Buddhist beliefs, a spirit of sharing, a hope for abundance and prayers of peace. The Year of the Dragon's celebrations were kicked off with the first rain of the year - a good sign because it means abundance.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. In the 12 year cycle, this year (4710 on the Chinese calendar) begins on January 23rd, and is the Year of the Dragon.

The dragon is one of 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, but it outranks all others as the ultimate emblem of the Chinese nation and race. Paradoxically, it represents power on the one hand but benevolence and blessings on the other.

The Asian Art Museum blog wanted us readers to comment on our favorite dragons. Well, I couldn't decide on just one. How can there be just one with faced with such beauty? Let Europe have it's St. George slaying the dragon; I'll take ones of China...or Japan... or Thailand...or Cambodia...or Laos..or.. Thailand. I'm not picky about place, only about beauty. 


I have always loved Ming Dynasty porcelain and this is a beautiful piece, both for the exquisite blue glaze and the way that the dragon motif compliments the shape of the plate. Ming dynasty, reign of the Jiajing Emperor (1522-1566). Porcelain with underglaze blue decoration and partially blue glaze. In the center of this plate is depicted a dragon in a floral scroll (instead of the usual clouds that accompany depictions of this mythical animal), complemented by a design of two dragons striding through flowers around the edge. This design is repeated on the back.

Facing dragons (Nephrite).1840-1950. I could have sworn that this piece was older but I may have mixed up my labels (corrections welcomed). This is part of the magnificent Brundage collection which forms the core of the collection.

 The design for this textile is rich with symbols. Along the border are bats among clouds, puns for “ May you have good fortune or luck.” Two blue dragons face each other representing a happy reunion, each with a tail that ends in geometric meanders symbolizing longevity. Of the various flowers surrounding the dragons, the day lily stands out as a motif for honoring one’ s mother and wishing her long life.

Images from the Asian Art Museum.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Designation: Deity trees (shenmu) in Taiwan. Artist: Zhang Daqian. Chinese, 1899-1983
Date: 1970. Medium: Ink and colors on paper . Place of Origin: Taiwan | United States
Credit Line: Gift of the artist. Label: Zhang Daqian painted this work during a 1970 visit to Taiwan, where many of his friends lived.

I am more than a bit groggy, having been kept awake until 4:30 AM by my heedless upstairs neighbors (who says that Neanderthals are dead?.)  But while sleep is short, blogging is eternal so here is the Saturday post .

Chinese New Year is here (or almost here). This is the year of the Dragon which is supposed to be tempestuous and eventful. As last year was the Year of the Rabbit which was supposed to be calm and peaceful - and wasn't! - I shudder to think about what we have in store.

The Asian Art Museum blog has a post on the dragon images in their collection and another on Chinese New Year's Food which I am also researching for a future post. They encouraged us to post about our favorite dragons in the collection. There are so many that I love that I don't know where to start.

Unfortunately for me, my collector's eye is not matched by my bare bones budget. But looking is free for the cost of admission and the membership is a great deal.  Although I am a Capricorn and love old things best, this painting caught my eye with its vivid colors and flowing movement. I appreciated the more modern ambiance and the inscription is exquisite.

The inscription by the artist reads:
The clouds of four mountains are endless,
Trees like twisting dragons stretch upward.
They sturdily stand at hundreds of meters high,
It’ s even hard to see the top when I look up together with
young folks.

Trees have been through enough wind and rain, To fill a history of a thousand ages.

Deity trees on Hengguan Road, Taiwan. Painted on Mr. Meng’ s request, in Taipei, the sixth month of the Republic 59th year (1970). Yuan weng [artist’ s signature].

Deity trees, or shenmu, are culturally important natural resources in Taiwan. According to governmental classification, deity trees are at least 1,000 years old and stand over 26 feet tall. Due to their sheer size and age, the trees came to be
respected as sacred natural phenomena and sites of worship to various deities.
(image from the Asian Art Museum website)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ready for my close up!

 Bryon Spicer. Joy at Market St. Gallery. Opening Saturday, January 21st.

Up now at the  Dana Zed, January De Young Artist in Residence, Claire Pasquier's "Portraits," current at SFMOMA Artist's gallery at Fr. Mason and Byron Spicer at Market Street Gallery, a colorful, happy collection of smiles of all shapes and sizes, which inspires joy from those who observe the works.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Lines and Colors says it better than I can. This bill could shut any site down that they want to. The implications are horiffying. Go and read:

Big money has been trying to shut down the Internet for ages. If they can't make money off it, they want to destroy it. This bill just might do that.
(A lot of sites are going black in protest. I don't know how to do that to mine so consider this a symbolic shut down).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Amédée Joullin, forgotten SF Painter

Amédée Joullin. Untitled, (Dunes, 1910, oil on canvas, approx 12 x 17". Bequest of Max Hochhauser, image courtesy of FAMSF, photo @ Andrew Fox, used with permission.

When I saw the current show at the Legion on "Artistic San Francisco,"  I read a checklist of familiar names - Diebenkorn. Thiebaud, Obata, Park and Bechtle, But one name was totally unfamiliar to me - Amédée Joullin. Yet, even in that illustrious company, his painting stood out.

The piece is fairly small, and, until you look closely, seems a typical 19th century Barbizon landscape. The image is roughly divided into thirds, with the dunes and silhouettes of trees and foliage further dividing the center of the painting. The sky is a solid cerulean blue which merges into an indigo blue sea. A grove of trees is silhouetted against the skyline on the left side and a wedge of lower trees and bushes breaks the space on the right. Grey-green grass and moss are scattered around the light ocher portion of the dunes. The brushwork is fluid and expressive, with flecks of color worked into all parts of the painting. The surface is lightly glazed and the color glows and and sparkles.

Perhaps the piece doesn't sound very exciting. It's not revolutionary or bizarre. Joullin is not an experimental painter. Although Picasso and the Fauves in Paris were beginning to revolutionize the boundaries of painting, that news hadn't reached San Francisco.   Its simplicity is deceiving and although painted in a style which is completely out of fashion, is exquisitely beautiful and visually compelling.

Who was Amedee Joullin? There's not much about him in the art books so it has been difficult to recreate his life, But, born in SF of French parents who were early immigrants to California,  (June 13. 1862), he was part of the SF arts scene until his death in 1917.

His father, Etienne Joullin wanted to see him follow the printer's trade. But the young man was stubborn and pursued his own artistic goals.  He studied with Julies Tavernier, a native Frenchman who set up a studio here and attained artistic fame. Unlike Tavernier, he seems to have been more serious, more disciplined and so, there are less colorful stories to recount.

Nevertheless, he was a bon vivant and an early member of the Bohemian Club.

In his early twenties,  Joullin traveled to Paris, France for two years to gain more academic experience at the Julian Academie where he studied under Jules Lefebvre and Robert Fleury (1882-1884). He exhibited twice in the Paris Salon, winning first and second rank in his classes. He was later honored by the Academy of France in 1901 for his contribution to art education, the only American painter at the time to receive this decoration.

The Mark Hopkins School of Art

He returned to San Francisco in 1887 and promptly opened a studio at 207 Sansome St, in what is now the heart of the financial district. From 1887-1897 he worked as an instructor, proving a demanding teacher. The list of his students is a roll call of early 20th century Northern California artists.

Overland Monthly, California Artists, III. by Arthur Street (UMICH edu on line archives) Photo of his studio, approx 1900. 

He was fascinated by the Chinatown of the day, making studies of what he considered the "exotic" and picturesque atmosphere. He wasn't immune from the prejudices of the day.

In an 1901 article in the SF Call, he lamented the changes in Chinatown, the cleaner walls, electricity and modernization. "Of course it was never a pleasant place to work because of the dirt and the way the Chinese had of scrambling over one's shoulders. But an artist would have it so than as it is. Now. that it is being made clean, there will soon be nothing to paint." (SF Call, Nov 1, 1901). Given that his paintings of the Chinatown of the day were very successful - one sold for $1000 to the then Mayor James Phelan - it's no wonder that he didn't like the change.

Using Chinatown and the Chinese for his paintings also brought him into conflict with another local artist, Theodore Wores, who used the same subjects. The SF News letter Op-Ed piece of March 19, 1882 was not very complementary toward either artist, proving that there is nothing new under the sun, either in artistic rivalries or journalistic disdain. 

By 1897, he resigned his professorship at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art to travel to Mexico, painting Aztec temples, landscapes and interiors.  A few years later he travel to New Mexico to paint the Pueblo Indians, work which was again successful. One piece "The Weaver" was purchased by Phoebe Hearst for $1500.

He was living in SF in 1906 and survived the earthquake and fire. Although his studio burned down on Pine street, he fell in love with the women who became his his wife while both were trying to salvage what they could from the ruins.

Lucille Joullin had studied under him at the Mark Hopkins Institute. She was married briefly at the turn of the century to artist Jules Mersfelder; however, the marriage failed and she married Joullin in 1907. A article from the SF Call Bulletin says that they were going to Algeria for their honeymoon but returned to San Francisco to live.

In 1910, he held his first solo exhibition at the Helgesen Galleries in San Francisco receiving great praise. The works in that exhibit were a collection of paintings with subjects from all of his travels in France, Algeria, Mexico and California. He was known for bringing new cultural elements into already popularized landscapes.

His artistic creed was an honorable one, "I have always adhered strictly and faithfully to nature. It has been the only guide that I have had. I have obtained all my subjects from it, and I could ask nothing more (Overland Monthly, 1899, p 13) 

Joullin died in San Francisco in 1917, after a 6-week illness. At the time a memorial exhibition was held at the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco featuring thirty of his canvases of landscapes, still life, and figures, providing a conclusive retrospective of his prolific career.

But all of that has disappeared somewhere, the victim of changing tastes. All we now have is one painting, enough to show what we are missing.

Artistic Landscape at SF Legion, closes Jan 22
catalog of the exhibit:James A. Ganz.  Artistic San Francisco, . FAMSF, 2011
Birgitta Hjalmarson. Artful Players in Early San Francisco, Balcony Press, LA, .
SF Call Bulletin, various issues from 1985 - 1917.
Overland Monthly, January 1899
California History, v 79, #4,

Two new exhibits celebrating Martin Luther King's life

When he accepted the Nobel Peace price, Dr. King ended his speech with the following words,

"I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality......."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Amedee Joullin, forgotten SF Painter

This is a page marker to make me get off the ...and write the darn post. I now have tons of information. Andrew Fox, photographer for the Legion and the de Young, was nice enough to take time to send me a photo. So....coming up next...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sunrise, Jan 2012

The latest in my "boat" series, titled "Sunrise, Jan 2012" for lack of a better name. 22" x 28" , Oil, oil sticks and oil pastel on canvas.The photo shows the orange/yellow areas a little brighter than they are in reality but when I get it photographed professionally, that will be corrected.Shall I aspire to be SF's very own Turner? Maybe Whistler? Nocturne at Sunrise, SF 2012?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winter Salads

 courtesy Ramona Soto. Used with permission.

It's close to 70 degrees here with blue skies and balmy breezes. It seems ridiculous to write about winter but I wrote the piece last week and didn't have time to publish it. So, whatever the weather, I'm going to post it, darn it!

I was so groggy this morning that I didn't realize I'd published it under my "other" title of museum examiner, not frugal grocery reviewer. But it published in the right section so I'm going to leave it be.

Nobody's perfect.

Friday, January 6, 2012

At the Asian: Closing this Sunday (Jan 8th)

 Drum-shaped bottle with peony decoration. Korean, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910); late 15th - early 16th century. Buncheong with iron-painted design. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul.

The Buncheong exhibit of Korean ceramics at the Asian will be closing January 8th and as it's a free day at the Asian, try to check the exhibit out before it closes.

Buncheong ceramics emerged as a distinct Korean art form in the 15th and 16th centuries. Colors range from cream to titanium white, some with decorative elements in black. The work is elegantly simple but with a homey, spontaneous quality that adds to its appeal. There are numerous shapes on view - bottles and bowls in all shapes and sizes. Some of the decoration is whimsical and one - of a dog squatting to do his business - slyly funny. Other pieces have carved or incised images of flowers, fish, birds, trees and other natural motifs.

What is ironic is that Buncheong was devalued in by the upper classes and nobility in Korea in favor of more ornate porcelain. Yet, the spare aesthetic was admired by Japanese potters and influenced the development of the bowls and cups used in the Japanese tea ceremony.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kim and Claire and Winni and Andy

 Frau Buch, 12/1980; Polacolor 2; 4-1/4 x 3-3/8 in.; gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

The focus this month is on the portrait at SFMOMA Artists Gallery Portrait Show as artists Kim Frohsin, Claire Pasquier, Winni Wintermeyer explore the Portrait. The Berkeley Art Museum will be showing 40 of Andy Warhol's polaroid portraits of the famous and not-so-famous.