Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Etruscan Sculpture

Back when I was a impressionable youth,
my father took me to the
Cincinnati Art Museum
and declared that their
was the best sculpture in their collection.

on my last trip there,
I couldn't get a good photo
through the reflective glass case
and the piece
can't be found on the museum's website

And, to my surprise,
there wasn't much on the Internet either,
or even in the art books
at the Ryerson Library

But whatever I find
will be added to this post.

None of them seem as good
as the one I remember
seeing when I was 12,
but that could just be
the nature of my memory

most of the ones I'm finding now
appear to be from a later
less anorexic style,
which is good too,
but not quite as exciting

I feel kind of bad
for the old Etruscans.

They seem like an elegant
and gentle people.

As the Roman historian, Livy, tells us
every Spring a Roman army
would march north to do battle,
and after a few generations of this,
Etruria finally succumbed.

this is one of my favorite pieces
from the books,
and I think this book
was in my parents' collection.

Etruscan sculpture was a big deal
in the modern art world of the early 20th C.
(that's why there was such a good market
for forgeries - which fills the first few pages
of a Google search)

But today,
that enthusiasm has waned.

(BTW - the above piece is #1 for me,
not at all hurt by the background
cleverly placed behind it)

The Art Institute of Chicago doesn't have
any Etruscan bronze warriors,
but it does have this wonderful terracotta.

What a great action scene!
(and perfect composition)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Aesthetics Cop

Here is the complete text of
"How the Metropolitan Museum Misteaches Art" (1962)
by my favorite skeptical curmudgeon,
Theodore L. Shaw.

How can you argue with a skeptic ?

Except -- perhaps to ask him
how he would do a better job than the Met.

Perhaps this guy is too
much of a crank
to merit serious attention.

But still...
I like the questions that he raises,
and if serious aesthetes
cannot answer them,
they should probably be arrested
by "The Aesthetics Cop"
and locked in an art museum
until they can figure them out.

I like the fact
that he shows paintings
and then variants of them
to test whether that variation
would make any difference to the man in the street.

(although to an aesthete,
the opinion of randomly chosen individuals
would be worthless)

His contribution to art theory
may found here:

"Art Reconstructed: A New Theory of Aesthetics"
(published 1937)

that somewhat resembles
a text book in high school physics,
and was discussed here , here , and here )

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Judith and Holofernes

Hermann Geibel

Just discovered this 20th C.
German sculptor,
and loved his vision
of a mean, young Judith

Quite a contrast to
Donatello's stately version
from the 15th Century

(and I was surprised
at how few good pictures
are showing this piece
on the internet.
In fact -- none of them are
very good except for this detail shot)


But what about the rest of
sculpture history?

there must be some others,
..... besides myself


and true to form,
Robert has replied
with the following:

these are, of course,
more pictures of the Donatello piece.

But that one is so incredible
it's not possible to have too many views.
(and according to Robert,
it was the first sculpture
to which the master signed his name)

Is it one of the great sculptures of all time ?
Yes - without a doubt.

But can I believe that a top general
would have taken
this tough-looking woman to bed
in the first place ?

I'm afraid not.

German, late 16th Century

Is this really Judith ?
Or.. is it a peasant woman
harvesting a head of cabbage ?

late 17th Century

It doesn't look this dominating Judith
ever had to take her clothes off

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Here's an unsigned piece
from the early 20th C.

This one could also serve
as a Salome,
i.e. a girl who is just as bad
as she can be

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Re-installation of the American Wing

William Turner Dannat (1853-1929)

Every gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago
is getting re-hung
in anticipation of the opening of the Modern Wing
and the American Wing is no exception

even if it is basically the same collection
being shown in the same space.

(it had a major transformation about 5 years ago
when it expanded into the second floor
special exhibit areas)

Why aren't the modern painters
(Georgia O'Keefe etc)
being carried over
to the Modern Wing
like Picasso and Matisse will be ?

I have no idea.

But that is too bad --
since it doesn't offer
any more room for the other styles.

And especially.....
there is no more room
for the Chicago area painters,
as the Art Institute
continues to refuse to serve
as a museum
for local art.

William Penhallow Henderson (1877-1943)

On this trip through the collection,
I'm looking for things I hadn't noticed
for anything by any artists with local connections.

In 1914,
the mayor of Chicago sponsored
a number of Chicago painters to
travel to Taos to paint the wild west.

I've already blogged about

Walter Ufer
and Victor Higgins

since they were members of the Palette and Chisel,
Henderson was new to me.
(and I find him less appealing)

Todros Geller (1889-1949)

This Chicago painter/teacher
has been in the AIC collection for 50 years,
but I never noticed it on display here before.

(though I do remember that the Terra Museum showed it
in one of its last shows)

Oh -- that sad 20th Century.
Not a good time for Jews.
(although - what ever has been ?)

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

And I don't remember this Sargent, either,
although there's quite a few Sargents on display
and maybe I just overlooked it.

Which brings up another issue,
the museum tends to focus on the super-stars
at the expense of all the others.

So... we have 8 or so pieces each
Sargent, Whistler, O'Keefe etc

and nothing
by local stars
like Ponsen, Juergens, Dudley, Grant, Payne,
Mulhaupt, Betts, Buehr, etc.

O. Louis Guglielmi (1906-1956)

At least there's some space
for this charming
but relatively obscure NY painter

Archibald Motley (1891-1981)

and of course,
there's space for Chicago's great
Duke Ellington of painters

Homer Dodge Martin (1836-1897)

Here's a painting I hadn't noticed before
by a name I didn't recognize.

The entire museum could easily be filled
with paintings of this quality
without a single European work
being included.

(which is why I want every gallery
to be treated as temporary exhibits)

Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922)

"Messing around with boats"

(I wonder if I'll ever feel the water
beneath my feet again)

There's nothing in this scene
that could not have been found
in the Baroque era..
but somehow this vision is distinctly 20th C.

Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949)

Finally -- here's a classic Chicago view,
but the painter,
although a native,
left town at the age of twenty
and never moved back.
(and there are hundreds of Chicago views
that are just as good
by resident Chicago painters

like this one )

Ivan Albright (1897-1983)

OK - I had to include
something by this painter
because he is our town's
most famous native son.

But, still, I hate him.
(this treacly detail comes from his
"Portrait of Dorian Gray)

The AIC has 120 pieces by him,
but I prefer both his father,
Adam Emory Albright

and his twin brother,
Malvin Marr Albright