Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Supper at Emmaus

(A unpublished review for New City)

Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus” and other “Caravaggesque” paintings, at the Art Institute of Chicago, through Jan. 31

1600 was a big year for Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), and for the history of European painting, as that young man became famous for a dramatic realism that would develop a style for the counter-Reformation and begin to visualize the world of the street instead of the palace. One year later, he painted the “Supper at Emmaus” which is currently hanging in Gallery 211 at the Art Institute, surrounded by the works of those who followed him in the 17th. Century. And it has to be seen to be believed. Not so much for its fine detail, as for its size, and the way the figures project themselves into the viewer’s space, as it realizes that moment when God, through the Holy Ghost, dramatically entered human history. Which is to say, this is a very effective liturgical painting, and makes almost everything else in the room feel merely picturesque, especially the otherwise excellent painting by his rival, follower, chronicler, and bitter enemy, Giovanni Baglione (1566-1643).

Here's the Baglione
St. Francis

And here's a version
that Caravaggio did
about 5 years earlier

Why is it so effective? Certainly the drawing is important. Caravaggio drew directly on the canvas, unlike so many others who could only make great drawings on paper (Il Guercino, for example, whose “Entombment” hangs on the opposite wall).


And here, in the actual painting, you can feel the careful modulation of tonal values that escaped so many of his followers (especially Bartolomeo Manfredi and Cecco del Caravaggio, whose works now hang on the same wall),



and escape all of the reproductions. (especially those transparencies that visited L.U.M.A. a few years ago) But overall, you just have to credit this tormented young man’s prophetic vision, which seems to have needed the power and beauty of divine grace much more than the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Chicago Antiques Fair - Autumn 2009

My first destination
in this exhibit
was the gallery
with the Francis Chapin show

Chapin (1889-1965)
taught at the Art Institute
for about 2 decades beginning in 1930.

And when I finally found the Chapin display,
it was such a bold, noisy contrast
to the quieter things that filled
the adjacent rooms

The pieces felt a little like textbook examples
of how to design a modern painting
but they do seem to catch the excitement
of a big city

big, loud, affable, and goofy

He also painted
the vacation areas
where art colonies
popped up over the Summer
and he taught classes

I think he was having a fun life

This is one of his earlier paintings
done in the 1920's
showing that he
could just as well
have become an illustrator

Here's another early painting
that seems to have some narrative
other than
"boy, is this a fun view"

this is one of his later watercolors,
probably from the 1950's
looking out of somebody's studio
in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Ave.

Every square inch is packed with
some kind of turbulence
but it still feels
like a touristy postcard

Robert Tolman (b. 1886)

The lady in the underwear
with the paintbrush
is the artist's wife.

(the gallerist said that she
was becoming better known then him,
but not according to Google)

A very sweet scene,
I almost wish
I'd married an artist

These chubby fellows
from the Ming Dynasty
remind me of the model
we've been using the past month.

I wish this kind of figurative
architectural detailing
was used more today

Here's a famous Chicago landmark,
the Bahai temple
as it was seen about 60 years ago
by Walter Burt Adams
(note: it was still under construction)

I love these
little Tang fellows.

So happy to serve.

Stokley Webster (1912-2001)
was an American Impressionist
who also started several
small businesses
in his spare time.

This one grabbed my eye,
and it seems much better
than several of the other images
found on the internet

Hovep Pushman (1877-1966)
has been a favorite
of mine since I saw
his work in the Union League Club
a few years ago.

He specialized in still lifes
that included Chinese ceramics.

And I think he did them justice.

When 20th C. American painting
finally gets re-evaluated
after the age of Modern/Contemporary
is declared finished,
he will be rated near the top.

Paul Trouillebert (1829-1900)

The landed gentry
of 19th C. Cincinnati used to collect
Corot, so I grew up with him
in the local museums.

That's why I find this inferior hommage
so fascinating.

The quiet mystery is gone.

Hugh Kapel (1910-1982)
caught my eye
with this little breakfast nook

That painting of his
has the same effect
as ten cups of coffee

George Josimovich (1894-1986)
is mostly
an abstract
hard-edge painter.

But clearly,
he had once been to art school.

And I'm afraid
that none of my comrades
at the art club
draws this well.

Edward Gay (1837-1928)
was apparently
a very successful
painter in his day.

And I can see why.

Ming architectural ceramics
must be in fashion this year.

I can't remember any
from previous shows.

Charles Warren Mundy (b. 1945)
is a near contemporary of mine
so it was fun
to find his work
showing in an antiques fair.

He gets a little too loose for me,
but this one was my favorite of his.