Now to get down to the absolute best part about my Art Excursion - The Art!
I have been studying other artists and their work for years through the veiled versions published in books and on screen, through documentaries, or on the internet. In all cases my experience of art and art history has been based on tiny thumbnail versions of paintings. To have researched and studied from a distance and then to be able to see the authentic original works before me blew me away for many reasons.
I was so fortunate to be able to visit so many amazing public and private art galleries. To kick of my tour of galleries I took a bus with the Art of the Portrait Conference to the National Portrait Gallery/ The Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
At the National Portrait Gallery I had my very first experience with a Chuck Close painting. Here is one of many that I saw throughout my trip to many galleries. This painting he did of President Clinton made me see the artist as a real person, not some art deity, with a very human touch. In reproductions of his work you never quite get the scale of his work or a good sense of his brush strokes. What surprised me most was that he let a lot of the white of the canvas show through especially where two colors meet or where squares in his gridded images meet.
Though I do not have an image of it, I was also surprised at Norman Rockwell's work, of President Nixon, and how much medium and how thinly he used his paint. I had been reading about his carelessness when it came to creating images that would sustain the test of time and I could definitely see how his images could easily deteriorate. Rockwell's brushstrokes were quite tiny, amazing, and intricate which is something that doesn't get picked up in reproductions either.
When I started this journey I was open and hoping to come across paintings I have never even heard of before and for the indescribable experience that comes with standing in front of an extraordinary work of art. After seeing thousands of paintings my eyes widened at this magnificent work of art. It is a painting of Christopher Reeve by Sacha Newly and it took my breath away. The image I've posted of it makes it look ordinary and lacking artistic skill, but to be standing right in front of it it could make you cry with emotions that can only be communicated visually and can be given no form of description in verbal language. It is the experience I had in front of this painting that told me that "This is what painting is all about". I was in aw looking at this painting as it broke so many rules of visual design so as a painter it confused me and as a person it made me want to fall to my knees with a clutter of emotion. It was a truly moving painting and I will carry the experience of that moment standing before it with me for the rest of my life. It was unexpected and challenged everything I know about painting. In other words it was awesome!
This was another stunning painting Miss Julia Marlowe by Irving R. Wiles that was even more amusing to watch how other people looked at it. It was eye catching and stopped everyone in their tracks. It did reaffirm the idea of measure twice and cut once, where by you study the object/subject intensely several times get the perfect brush and color ready and in one solid committed swoop you make your mark and leave it.
This watercolor painting of John Glenn by Henry C. Casselli gave the second spark, after seeing Mary Whyte's demo and work, for my new appreciation and enjoyment of watercolors. Since this trip I have been dabbling in watercolors a bit more especially in my sketchbook.
The intensity of detail in this painting of Toni Morrison is mind blowing. The artist, Robert McCurdy who I had never heard about until this point, brings intricacies that normally the human eye wouldn't normal see into high clarity. I may have looked a bit odd, but then I saw other people doing the same, by staring deeply transfixed on her chest as the tiniest threads were impeccably clear. I felt like my sense of vision was heightened. The painting, and as such the skill of Robert McCurdy, made me feel grateful for the subject, Toni Morrison's existence and contribution to culture and the world. So upon her passing, it was the experience of standing before this painting that was the first thing that came to my mind. It would be the closest I would ever get to being with Toni Morrison.
This painting Portrait of Leonard Cox, was a gem of a find. It was located in the 'stacks' of the Smithsonian. It was there that I discovered the work of Kenyon Cox and his wife Louise Cox who where both fantastic painters that I had never heard of before. I have never really been drawn to paintings of children or babies, but this one was astoundingly executed. It was perfect. It was a pleasure not only to find and be inspired by artists I haven't heard of or seen before but I was also so pleased to have come across many of their works throughout other galleries I visited.
William Robinson Leigh new his stuff when it comes to color, making white out of every color but white in his portrait of Sophie Hunter Colston.
I am not sure if this painting, Angel, brought tears to my eyes because it was so beautiful or because my overwhelming tour of the National Portrait Gallery was over. It was wonderful to leave the gallery on a high note by seeing Abbot Handerson Thayer's work last and to be able to be next to the wonderful artist Jeffrey Hein to discuss it.
On my way into The Metropolitan Museum
The expression on my face definitely shows that I feel like I'm getting away with something. Being able to stand close to Raphael's painting Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints made me feel a bit spoiled. It is hard to believe that it was created in 1520.
I had a new discovery moment seeing this painting Lady with the Rose by John Singer Sargent that I have never seen or heard of in print.
I have read quite a bit about Picasso and his career and I have seen a few of his drawings in a traveling show in our Provincial gallery but never a completed painting. I thought I knew about how his paintings were constructed but I was wrong. There is so much to a Picasso painting. In this painting The Dreamer the texture is incredible and you can see the history of the creation of the painting as skeletons of previous brushstrokes try to push through the surface layers.
If I had one extravagant wish for the world, I wish that everyone all over the world can teleport for the day to extraordinary museums like The Met for the day. I would go once a month at least.
I also attended MOMA, but in all honesty I don't have much to report about it. What I found surprising is that there is really incredible famous art and artists shown in the small private galleries as I gallery hopped through Chelsea to Soho. The private galleries blew my mind. If you want to see modern or contemporary art go to the private galleries and the art schools and academy galleries. They are free, not packed full of people, and there is always someone there to tell you more about the work.
That was my 2014 Art Excursion. Thank you for reading.