Friday, June 09, 2006

A.I.C. : the Braude Memorial Collection

Dorothy Edinburg collected drawings (18th - 20th C.) -- and this exhibit celebrates their donation to the museum -- as well as a certain approach to collecting that was spelled out in a monumental text that covers the first wall of this exhibition.

Rather than just picking what she liked to see, she chose drawings that would:

* effectively present the essence of an artist's achievement
* relate to objects in other media but also function as significant independant statements
* play a seminal role within an artist's ouvre
* satisfy high standards of authenticity and condition.

Here's the ones I liked the most:

This is what, for me, European figure drawing is all about: the crisp articulation of of volumes in space -- that just feels endlessly refreshing. The artist is Francois Lemoyne (1688-1737)-- and the subject is Hercules -- forced by a petulant queen to do woman's work (in the buff, no less !) Does this really feel like a Hercules ? I don't think so -- but there's so much rational optimism and vigor there -- I'm ready to believe that the whole mythological set-up is just a showpiece for good figure drawing (as Baroque opera might be called a showpiece for good voices)

Alessandro Magnasco (1667 - 1749) was a great cartoonist who was, perhaps, a little ahead of his time -- i.e. he had to place his whimsical, electric sketches into historical or religious paintings -- often leaving others to paint the landscape or architecture. Leaving the great symphonic compositions to a contemporary like Tiepolo, he was master of detail. (this exhibit had a Tiepolo -- but it was a disappointment -- compared to many others that I've seen)

Jean Baptiste Oudry (1686-1735) "Sick Stag": The previous drawings seemed to be preparatory sketches for paintings -- but this one, like many others in the show, seems to have been done as a decorative item iself -- drawing on paper just as others might paint on ceramic plates. Usually this kind of work bores me -- even if it is evidentaly well made. But this one has such an atmosphere of sweet melancholy -- and I love to feel sad. (and Oudry is one of my favorite animal-painters)

Over the years, I've collected books of "Master Drawings" and Piazetta is one of the usual suspects. I've always enjoyed the fullness of his volume -- but was never happpy with how it all fit together. The notes that accompanied this drawing may have explained why: Piazetta sold these sketches to tourists, not to churches or courtiers -- so sentimentality was more valued than profundity.

This little Italian landscape by Jacques Louis David (1748 - 1825) actually gave me more enjoyment than anything else in the show. He did it in 1775 -- soon after winning the Prix de Rome and and a trip to Italy. It's all that thrill of Classical culture -- its stateliness -- it sunniness - and more than any other, this drawing takes me to a place I want to be.

Prudhon (1758-1823) is the hero of French drawing because he turned the standard academic exercise into an objet d'art - with a charming classical atmosphere. This drawing is nice -- but as it recalls the drawing of the previous century (Lemoyne) or the classical sculpture of the next (Maillol) -- I feel its shortcomings. Did he successfully negotiate that delicate space between the model's right arm and her torso ? I just don't think so.

Maybe you have to love cats to enjoy this pastel -- but it just seems to present the essence of the feline mischief with which I am all too familiar. If a choice must be made between thorough and lively --- I'll always pick lively.

One of the things that irritates me the most about this kind of exhibit is the servile compliance with the canon: the endless repetition of the same famous artists -- as if there weren't tens-of-thousands of good, interesting drawings made by names unknown. But then the collector would have to rely on taste -- and that's not how this -- or many other collections --were made.

But the above artist, Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955) is pretty far from the A-list -- and I really enjoyed the hippie atmosphere of the above scene: zoftic art chicks cavorting nude in the campground beside his big red tent. Looks like fun to me !

The most recent piece that I enjoyed was this lifesize charcoal drawing by Nicholas De Stael done in 1953. American abstract painting interests me about as much as lawn bowling -- but I like the story -- and the results -- of this abstract painter's love affair with a tall young woman -- whose beautiful body brought him back to the world of figurative art.

No erudite theory is required to enjoy drawing -- and looking at -- the beloved.


Blogger Gawain said...

i see what you mean about proudhon's right hand. but it is a very beautiful drawing, i ripped it off and will use it as wall paper for a while. the hercules is very beautiful, too

June 10, 2006  
Blogger Gawain said...

Btw, whats the size of the proudhon?

June 10, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

I'm guessing it's about 20" high

June 11, 2006  

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