Monday, December 22, 2008

The New Galleries of European Art

Fra Bartolommeo

The Art Institute of Chicago
has just re-hung
it's collection of
pre-Modern and post-Ancient
European Art

and expanded it, too,
into galleries that once had
the modern stuff that will be
moving into the new Modern Wing next May.

So... there were many things that were new,
like the pre-Raphaelite piece shown above
(i.e. -- he actually came before Raphael,
by about 20 years,
and served as an early influence on him)

It's so nice and dreamy, isn't it ?
(though it feels like a lot of
restoration has taken place)

Spain 1500

This is also a recent addition
to the collection,
though there several great Medieval pieces
that are no longer on on display

South German 1520

This piece has been with the museum
ever since Ryerson donated it,
but I'm noticing it now
for the first time.

The detail areas are gorgeous,
and I can see why the notes
speculate that it came from a nunnery.

Lopez Y Portana

I may have seen this painting before,
but now,
in a room of Goyas,
I finally appreciated it
as the equal of any of the portraits
that the earlier court painter had done.

Jean-Joseph Carrias

This piece is too weird and ugly for me,
but this is the first time I've seen
the work of this 19th C. French sculptor.

It also appears to be a plaster cast of a wood carving,
so I'm wondering whether the tabu
against reproductions
has finally been broken.

Ferdinand Hodler "Truth"

This piece suffered mightily
when it was hung on a wall
cluttered by other paintings.

But now, given a space of its own,
this scrawny girl
rises to the occasion.

France 1150

This period of French art was so great
even the miniatures feel as spacious as cathedrals.

(I'm guessing this used to be shown with the Arms and Armor
in Gunuslaus Hall --- where the Indian Art is now displayed)

Meissen, 18th C.

Some of the new available space
has been given to the 'Decorative Arts"
in many cases,
I find it regretful.

I.e. -- if I found this piece
in my local re-sale shop
I would not pay even $5 for it.

And yet --it must have been very expensive,
since it took 200 words of text
to list all the donors involved in its acquisition.

On the other hand,
this ceramic piece,
which used to be the basement gallery,
is one of my favorites

especially for this charming detail
of the artist at work

Spain 1525

I know I've seen this piece on display before,
but still it strikes me as so bizarre.

I love the design,
except that as a narrative
it seems to be showing
a baby about to be cooked
by a gaggle of witches.

(allegedly -- it really is showing
the birth of John the Baptist)


The following is the unpublished
review written for New City

What an enormous project ! The entire second floor of the Art Institute. -- i.e. the pre-modern European painting and sculpture - has just been re-hung. Everything is in a new place -- and many things are actually new -- as they fill up space once taken by 20th Century work that will re-appear in the Modern Wing next May. Some decorative arts - like furniture and ceramics -- have been promoted from the basement -- and some important recent acquisitions - like a Holy Family by Fra Bartolommeo - have prominently appeared. And just moving things from one room to another can have a profound effect -- since it is so difficult to consider the illusional space of a large painting apart from the real space in which it's been hung. In my opinion -- the Tiepolo Rinaldo cycle was better off in a larger room, while El Greco's Virgin was better off at the head of the Grand Staircase. But Ferdinand Hodler's scrawny, naked "Truth" is now far better off on a wall by herself, surrounded by period furniture instead of intrusive other paintings. Unfortunately, large Medieval sculpture is more scarce than ever and I'm wondering if a gallery will ever be found for painting and sculpture that came after 1900 but is outside the narrative of Modernism. And wouldn't this have been a great opportunity to re-think the displays of European art -- and make them temporary so that more pieces -- and more information about them -- can be shown over time (as is currently done in the galleries of Japanese and Chinese painting and prints) But still -- this is a wonderful time to visit the museum. You are sure to find many treasures that will feel like you had never seen them before.


Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Oooh, that medieval piece from France -- it looks like ivory. Was it that, or (formerly) polychromed wood? It is gorgeous!

Chris, I know I don't get by your "neighborhood" much these days, but I am always gratified when I do by your keen eye and strong opinions. Thanks for sharing your wandering with me, with us. And happy holidays to ya!

December 26, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

Hi Lori! I often wander down to Texas for some poetry and photography - and recently, a slice of pie. Was that the Fra Angelico that made you cry at the Kimbell ? (and yes, that big/little Madonna was carved in ivory)

December 27, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home