Wednesday, August 24, 2016

July 25 -- National Gallery of Art, part 2

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There is a road between the west and east wings of the National Gallery of Art.  Luckily they have provided us with a convenient underground passageway between the two wings, so we don't have to go out into the weather. 

(Digression I seriously wish all of the museums had open-to-the-public underground passageways between them!  You think to yourself "The Museum of American History is right next door to the Natural History Museum."  And so it is.  But they are so big that it's probably about a quarter of a mile from the door of one to the door of the other.  And when the heat index is over 100, this matters.....  End of Digression.)



There are slidewalks through here, but they were not operating on the 25th.  This was good, from my perspective -- I got to take my time going through.  I could stand still to take pics.

This is an art museum.  This passage is lined with an art piece made by Villareal who made that nice sparkly piece over the staircase in the Renwick. 

Here we are, getting ready to go in.  The wall on the right is curved away from us the whole length of the passage.




The lights continually change.  They seem to move from one end to the other, reversing direction from time to time.

Some times the light show is more interesting than other times.



And some times you get really lucky and can capture this.  Very pleased with this one.....  ("Boldly go" anyone??)

Wasn't it thoughtful of all those people to arrange themselves so photogenically at the eastern end?



The East Wing was under construction.  The Calder wire "drawings" that are on my "always visit" list were not on view.  Alas.

The building was open, but very little art was on display.  Calder's enormous mobile in this huge atrium space was in its proper place, decorously turning in response to air currents.



Some guy was working on the roof.  That's part of the enormous mobile between us and him.



I did venture up the stairs, but there wasn't much more to see from up there.  Here is the orange part of the mobile, between us and some other work.



If I took paint chips and arranged them in a way that was pleasing, would my work get into the National Gallery?  I doubt it.  And yet -- how would my paint chips be different from this????  This is bigger, yes........ 

Does size impact whether or not something is art?  And, if the contention is that it does, what is the defense for that position, I wonder......



We've gone back through the underground passage. 

This is a self-portrait of Henri Matisse, done in 1937.  I like the way he allows his glasses frames to overlap his eye.



Moving on, wandering around.

"Allies Day, May 1917"  Childe Hassan



"Simplon Pass"  John Singer Sargent, 1911.  He's so well-known as a portraitist.  I don't know that I've ever seen any other landscapes he has painted.



A very different sort of flower painting from the painstaking photographic realism of the Dutch in the 17th century.

This is all very misty, with only the foreground in focus at all.

"Flowers on a Window Ledge"  1861  John La Farge.




Another artist I am not familiar with.

"Mount Monadnock"  "probably 1911/1914"  Abbott Handerson Thayer 



An impressionistic landscape.

"The Valley of the Seine from the Hills of Giverny" 1892  Theodore Robinson



Every pic I took of this one in its frame was blurry.  This "painting, only" shot is better (but still not as sharp as I would wish).  "Still Life of Flowers"  1868  Adelheid Dietrich



Sometimes you wonder about the frame.  This very mundane subject, in this very fancy frame....  I suppose it's about how much the picture is valued, rather than about a frame that makes sense with its subject?

"Green Plums"  1885  Joseph Decker 

You could see wooden boxes exactly like this at the farmers' market now.  Or, at least, you could have within the last several years.  Now, I guess fruit boxes are much more likely to be plastic, or ... whatever you call that paper-pulp stuff egg cartons might be made of.



One of the themes recurring in my brain as I walked around art galleries was how much of the art had been commissioned/owned by rich white men, and how much of the subject matter was rich/powerful white men and their possessions.

As I noted when I was in the National Portrait Gallery, I think the people who decide what's displayed in galleries/museums are trying to display a more diverse collection.

They can't go back and time and see to it that more diverse likenesses are captured (or that a more diverse group of artists get a chance to have their work admired and preserved), but they can surely display what they have.

I don't remember seeing native Americans displayed in the National Gallery before.  I was glad to see them now.

"White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas"  1844/1845  George Catlin



Unfortunately this man's name has been lost.  I'm glad we get to enjoy his image. 

"Portrait of a Ship's Steward"  "probably 1829"  and the artist's name is lost, as well as the name of the subject



"Montaigne Sainte-Victoire, from near Gardanne"  Paul Cezanne  1887

I wonder if Cezanne considered this to be a finished work.



"Roses"   1890  Vincent Van Gogh



"Green Wheat Field"  Vincent Van Gogh   1890



And here's what it looks like if you are able to stick your nose (and/or your camera) up close to the painting.



Poor old Vincent.  I wonder if it would be a comfort to him, or a torment, to know how beloved his work would become.......

Self portrait, 1889.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

July 25 -- National Gallery of Art, part 2

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One thing that really baffled me on this trip is the incessant selfie-taking I observed.  People lined up in front of Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci, to take their pics with Ginevra.

Why?  I totally do not get this.  Taking a pic of Ginevra, I can understand.  But of yourself in front of Ginevra?  Why........?

Some people literally stepped from one painting to the next, taking a pic of themselves in front of each painting.

Baffled.   !

Surely not even one's mother cares about seeing one's face in front of painting after painting after painting................



I suppose -- of all the baffling things people do, at least this one is relatively harmless........................



Moving on.

Lorenzo de' Medici -- Florentine 15th or 16th Century, probably after a model by Andrea del Verrocchio and Orsino Benintendi.  Painted terracotta.

He looks like someone who expects to get his own way, doesn't he? 

The NGA's website says "Lorenzo de’ Medici, the learned, charismatic, and ruthless head of a wealthy banking family, ruled the Italian Renaissance city-state of Florence from 1469 to 1492, in the time of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Botticelli (1446–1510), and the young Michelangelo (1475–1564). The simple costume he wears in this bust, including a distinctively Florentine padded and draped headdress called a cappuccio, reflects Lorenzo’s claim to be merely a respected citizen rather than a de facto prince. Cleaning in recent years has brought out original colors, including bright reds, warm flesh tones, and a light beard. The brooding face suggests the forceful intelligence behind Lorenzo’s power."

The main thing that caught my eye was the hat.  I don't remember seeing a hat like this -- basically a very drapey long tube.  Folded over on top of the head.  This would be a cinch to knit -- aside from stopping the touching-the-shoulder end from rolling like the other end does....  Hmmmm.......



Speaking of funny clothes....   This one made me roll my eyes.  Want to guess who this is?


It purports to be Alexander the Great.  I am snickering at the idea of a serious soldier (and commander) got up like this fripperyfied dandy, even on vacation.  At a costume ball.  But what do I know.  Maybe he would have, if he'd thought of it.

This is 15th century Florentine, again.  Marble, from the Workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio.

The carving is impressive.  Look at the lace below his neck, as well as at the ribbons and curls......

The National Gallery has multiple "small" garden areas.  They seem small in comparison to the big spaces in this big building, but they're really not small at all.  I am pretty sure our whole house could fit handily in this one.

Someday, when it's not as crowded as it is in July, this would be a pleasant place to sit.



Nice plants in these gardens.............



I love the portraits Holbein did in England..........

This is the one that got me started wondering about provenance.  This is Henry VIII's son.  How on earth did he end up in the USA?


On the other hand -- it's hardly the case that the monarchy passed happily and decorously from one proud relative to the next.  When someone who hardly approves of his predecessors takes the throne, I suppose he feels no compunction to retain their images.  And once the work is out of the hands of governments, all bets are off and things end up in the hands of the high bidder.


As I walked through the gallery, thinking about how rich men own way too much of everything, and make FAR too many decisions about the fate of humanity, I was also thinking about how few women artists are represented in art museums.  (Sigh.......... !!!)



I was happy to spot this -- I thought at once "That is a self-portrait!"  And so it is.

Judith Leyster, Dutch, about 1630.




Another self portrait.  Rembrandt.



Ah, the Dutch and their incredible detail......  Love examining their work.

"A Vase of Flowers," Jan Davidsz. de Heem, about 1645.



A couple of closer looks.  I love the leaf on the wheat stem (top center).....

Isn't it interesting to see plants we easily recognize now?




Another flower pic, about which I failed to capture any id info.  It is similarly detailed..........



Irritated that I didn't think to capture info about this next one!

I believe this is actually an assemblage, rather than a painting.  I surely can't tell from the photograph that it is!  Given the Dutch facility with extreme realistic detail, this could surely be a photograph of a painting..........

But I think it's really an assemblage.  I don't remember seeing assemblages this old before.
 


Three combs (including one that looks like it's meant for removing nits).



Time for a spot of lunch!  Above my nice salad-by-the-pound in the cafe on the concourse level is a big fountain.  The fountain is outside, and the plants between us and the water are inside, with glass in between.



Here's another look at the fountain.  There are pyramidal skylights scattered over this walkway.  (Which is almost always full of people taking selfies in front of the fountain.  I had to wait attentively to get an unobscured look at the fountain.)



Done with lunch.  Let's get a closer look at the fountain.  Here is the tree-shaped plant near the right edge of the photo above.



Here's a look through the glass at the fountain's beginning, outside.  The water shoots up, then runs down this rippled surface, bouncing and falling down toward us.



The water behind that same tree-shaped plant.



Closeup of a flower.


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Monday, August 22, 2016

July 25 -- National Gallery of Art

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The moon was still visible, the morning of July 25.



Enjoying my big-sky view from the hotel window.



This was the first time I rode on one of the new subway trains, with detailed info about where you are and where you are going.  We are headed for Judiciary Square.



Lots of court buildings around Judiciary Square.

Art Deco eagle in front of one of the buildings.



District of Columbia Court of Appeals.



Hey, look -- we can see the Washington Monument!



Crepe myrtle.  In addition to excellent flowers, it has interesting bark.....



Looking straight up.  The exposure was wonky, but it's reasonably sharp.  Increasing the "exposure" so we can see the color, but it's still not as pretty as it was in person.  Love the curvy stamens.



The National Gallery of Art.  There's a big street between us and the NGA.



Crossing that busy street.  I'm thinking it's the same busy street, with the Capitol at the end, that we crossed yesterday.  Only now we are closer to the Capitol.



It was another hot and steamy day.  This very nice big fountain, partially in the shade, is on our path to the NGA.  We'll pause here.





See the Washington Monument?



Zooming in -- here it is again, behind the Museum of Natural History.



Unzoomed, turning a bit to the right....



Inside the National Gallery of Art at last.

There was a big exhibit of art that has been recently donated by Andrew Mellon.

I have mixed feelings.  All of this money, in the possession of one man, to do with as he chose -- just wrong, in my humble.

But at least he donated a whole bunch of art to a public museum, where we all can see it........

Both of these versions of Degas' famous little dancer were his...............  One says "plaster" and the other says "wax"......  I'm assuming that Mellon owned both of these object made by the master (even better than owning mere copies in bronze??).



They were facing each other in the museum -- a dramatic and effective way to display them, I thought.



I believe we are no longer in the "new Mellon donations" exhibit.

This lion was relatively small -- about a foot wide?  Alas, I did not capture its info.



This is the area under the National Gallery's dome.  I don't like people in my pics, but the guy in black pants and a white shirt, just under the lip of the fountain at the left edge of the image (just left of the blue shirt of the woman with the shopping bags), shows how big those black columns are.  Big.



Standing in the same place, looking up.....



Moving a bit, to see as much of the dome as we can see with this lens.



Looking at more art.  Fra Fillipo Lippi, c. 1440.  Florentine. 

Wondering which rich men's hands this went through, to end up here in the USA........  The NGA publishes provenance.  The answer in this case, I believe, is that we do not know where it was between 1440 and 1821 when it is believed to have been sold by Edward Solly to the K√∂nigliche Museen (later Kaiser-Friedrich Museum), Gem√§ldegalerie, Berlin.



Nice floor................



This is one of my very favorite pieces in the National Gallery of Art.

Little boy, made of marble around 1460 by Desiderio da Settingnano (Florentine).  Something else that used to belong to Andrew Mellon. 

I have been making a point of visiting this kid ever since I first saw him, sometime in the 1970s.  He is still as appealing as ever.  That upper lip..................


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