Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Museum Mile : The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, what a wondrous place, filled with so many treasures! It actually has too many treasures I have yet to see probably most of what this place has to offer, but we did our best to see as much as we could in our allotted time. And yes this post is going to be filled with a lot of art history stuff as well, I just think looking at a work of art is so much more interesting when you know what it is all about and not just some random people or whatever. For example there is a Van Gogh painting featured in this post of a mom and dad with their little baby, how much more interesting and sweet does that picture become when you know it is a picture he painted specifically for his brother Theo, and it is of Van Gogh's nephew taking his first steps. BAM!! I know you all love art history now and realize how awesome it is, its as simple as that. So learn away my friends, learn away. (PS I am sure this post is filled with spelling and grammatical errors just like all my other posts, rest assured that I did graduate from college with a bachelors degree. I am just usually too tired to go back and spell check all of my ramblings, so just pass over them like they aren't even there. Thank You and I hope you enjoy this post.)

The Greek statue corridor is just so beautifully curated, its like being in Disneyland for us Art History nerds, it's just so magical.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Umberto Boccioni, 1913
I was excited to see this one, seeing the little icon of this on the map of the musuem is what made me drag my very nice parents to the modern art wing, they were very sweet to endure all the crazy modern things I wanted to see even though they aren't the biggest fans of modernism. This sculpture is a futurist work, The Futurist movement was striving to portray speed and forceful dynamism in their art. Boccini's goal for this work was to depict a "synthetic continuity" of motion instead of an "analytical discontinuity", He was more interested in depicting the essence of movement rather then an accurate portrayal of a walking human form.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
depicts a human-like figure seemingly flying or gliding through air. A clinging drapery whips back around his legs, giving the sculpture an aerodynamic and fluid form. Instead of a traditional pedistal, the figure is only bound to the ground by two blocks at his feet.

Though Boccioni apparently reviled traditional sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space does resemble more realist works. The flowing, windswept drapery looks back to the classical Winged Victory of Samothrace which Filippo Marinetti, founder of Futurism, declared was inferior in beauty to a roaring car.

This was just magnificent, it is entitled The History of Navigation Mural, by french artist Jean Dupas. It was made for the ocean liner Normandie. It is made of glass, paint, gold, silver and palladium leaf. Its super neat in person, it was hard to try and capture all of it in a photo.

Bird in Space, Constantine Brancusi, 1923
EEEEE!!! ok I think this is in the top three of my favorites in the modern sculpture category, I just find it stunning and so beautiful. It's another one of those crazy futurists work where they were just so obsessed with capturing movement and the essence motion. In the "Bird in Space" works, Brancusi concentrated not on the physical attributes of the bird but on its movement. The bird's wings and feathers are eliminated, the swell of the body is elongated, and the head and beak are reduced to a slanted oval plane.

The Lovers, Marc Chagall, 1913-1914
I just thought this picture was cute because the two lovers are the artist and his fiance, Bella Rosenfeld. He painted this in Paris yet the town from outside the window is an imaginary scene from his window in Vitebsk, a little town on the boarder of Russia. So I like to imagine that this is what he would day dream about when he was in Paris, being back home with his sweetheart, but I am just a romatic like that, I know nothing of the real story of when this work of art was created, but that is what I will continue to think because it is sweet.

Three Men Walking, Alberto Giacometti, 1949
His characteristic figures are extremely thin and attenuated, stretched vertically until they are mere wisps of the human form. Almost without volume or mass (although anchored with swollen, oversize feet), these skeletal forms appear weightless and remote. Giacometti's work can be seen to balance the concerns of the modern and the historical as well as the specific and the universal. While many have viewed his sculptures as emblematic of the horrors of World War II or representative of the alienation of modern urban life, his figures also contain specific allusions to ancient Egyptian burial figures and to early Greek korai. At the same time, the fragile figures are universalized, their tentative movements expressive of an essential human condition. In this work, the figures take wide steps, each in a different direction. The empty space around them acts as an obstacle to communication. They stride along, each untouched by another, alienated by the void that surrounds them.

Van Gogh, Oleanders, 1888
For van Gogh, oleanders were joyous, life-affirming flowers that bloom riotously and were continually renewing themselves. In this painting of august 1888 the flowers fill a Majolica jar that appears in other still lives made by the artist in Arles. They are symbolically juxtaposed next To Emile Zola's "La joie de vivre." This novel also appears in another of Van Gogh's still lifes painted in 1885 where it appears next to an open bible. Despite all of his mental and health problems I have such a deep and sincere admiration for Van Gogh, he was a very sweet, thoughtful, and religious person. Many of his great actions big or small are overshadowed by some of his manic actions so I feel he often is viewed differently then how he should be.

Paul Signac, Light house at Griox, 1925
Signac, an avid yachtsman, is best known for his glorious views of French ports and luminous seascapes. This work depicts the harbor of Port- Tudy on the Ile-de-Groix, a small island off the coast of southern Brittany opposite Lorient. Painted in 1925, it shows the mosaic-like strokes of color that were the hallmark of Signac's late style.

Paul Signac, Notre Dame-de-la-Garde, 1905
Another one of Signac's fabulous works. Signac went even farther the Seurat in his methodical studies of the division of light into its components of pure color, and he arranged rectangular brushstrokes like tesserae in a mosaic.

Van Gogh, Roses, 1890.
This beautiful piece was painted in May of 1890, right before Van Gogh's departure from the asylum in Saint Remy. The colors of this painting have faded over time, leaving just a faint suggestion at how vibrant these colors must have been at one time, it has a gorgeous composition though.

Van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889
This was the view outside of Van Gogh's window of the asylum in Saint Remy, he often wrote to Theo, his brother, describing the scene and described it as his Best summer canvas. He repeated the composition three times.

Edgar Degas, Dancer, ca. 1880
I have no background information on this masterpiece I adore it simply because it is stunning, breath taking and elegant.

Auguste Renoir, Bouquet of Chrysanthemums, 1881
Renoir felt that he had greater freedom to experiment in still lifes than in figure paintings. "When I paint flowers, I feel free to try out tones and values and worry less about destroying the canvas, I would not do this with a figure painting since there I would care about destroying the work." Well I would like to tell Renoir that I don't think he could destroy a canvas even if he tried, this so called experiment is outstanding, I love love love the colors and the exploding composition. All of Renoir's canvases have such a gentle softness to them, they all seem to glow a little bit around the edges.

Auguste Renoir, In the Meadow, 1888-92
Between 1888-1892 Renoir painted a number of works in which the same pair of girls are posed together by a piano, reading, talking in the countryside, or, as here, picking flowers. Another painting of these same girls will appear on this post later on. Renoir is another one of my favorite artists, the girls in his paintings remind me of my and my sisters.

Jean-Leon Gerome, Before the Audience, ca 1881
I found Gerome's works to be absolutely astounding, he paints with such painstaking detail that his paintings look like photographs. I am also a ginormous fan of Orientalism, and just eastern art in general, eeeee! I just find it so fascinating, paintings like this get me all giddy and such.

Pierre-Auguste Cot, Springtime, 1873
I will admit that I have never seen this piece before, and the artist sounded vaguely familiar to me but definitely wasn't someone that I had studied in depth but this painting made me stop in my tracks, it is soo beautiful it made me want to cry a little bit.

After we had exhausted the European paintings wing, which was my dad's choice and which, as you could tell, was amzazazaing, we headed over to my mom's choice, Babylonian art, the birth place of it all. I do love Babylonian art, it is so majestic and unique. My favorite is the gate statues pictured below. They are so huge and intimidating, yet so detailed and beautifully carved. My favorite little fact about them in that they have 5 legs each, so that they would look look from either head on or from the side. how smart is that!

This is their language, how crazy is that! they had one tool that had a triangular tip and they would write by changing the angle of the triangle. neat, neat, neat!

Here are two bonus paintings becuase I know you just haven't had enough yet.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga 1784-179.
The cats in this painting made me laugh out loud, also that fact that the boy has a bird on a leash, oh how I wish I could have a magpie on a leash that seriously would make me so happy. This painting was commissioned by the Count and Countess of Altamira, it is of their son. The lucky magpie that he is playing with, holds the painter's calling card in it's beak, why not get a little advertising in a commissioned work eh? The cage full of finches i think it very elegant that is why I took a close up of it but after a little bit of studying I discovered that in Christian art birds frequently symbolized the soul, and in Baroque art caged birds are a symbol of innocence (symbols are my FAVORITE! so fascinating!) Goya may have intended this portrait as an illustration of the frail boundaries that separate the child's world from the forces of evil or as a commentary on the fleeting nature of innocence and youth.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Girls at the Piano, 1892
Here they are, those same two girls that we saw earlier. We had a poster of this, or another Renoir very similar to this, hanging up in our house while I was growing up so when I see this it is so familiar its almost like a memory out of my own past. Like I said earlier, the girls in Renoir's paintings remind me of me and my sisters, I think these two look like my sister Jenny and I and this is something that we have done from time to time, spent time at the piano playing and singing so it very well could be a memory from my own past.

I had to sneak one more in of the amazing floral arrangements that were in the lobby. The lobby was gorgeous as well and often probably gets taken for granted, anything with pillars amazes me they are so classic and grand I want pillars somewhere in my future home, and don't worry I will make them look classy not flashy and out of place.


  1. Wow you're right, it is a lot better when you actually know a little background about what is going on in the paintings. I had so many favorites. I liked the two girls picking flowers a lot, and the caged birds (probably because of the symbolism otherwise I wouldn't even have noticed them) I liked the Notre Dame one cause of the brush strokes and the Van gogh roses cause you could see the brush stroke things. and that statue of continuity in space one looks like a person walking to me ... sorry this is so long haha

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