Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thick rugs and thin paper

We went with our grand-daughter to the Legion of Honor, an amazing building, with views of the Bay and the Marin headlands; the morning air was clear and bright. The museum's permanent collection is remarkable for such a compact space; the works could easily be in the Met in New York or in the National Gallery in London. Not necessarily the paintings you recognize, but paintings and artists you need to know: waves by Monet, a Gainsborough, a Sargent woman at dinner, Reynolds, Georges de la Tour, Jean-Leon Gerome...A roomful of Rodins... you will know these... many are the studies for larger works... and, then, some rather acrobatic (!) pairings of lovers that are small enough to really see. This is a good way to experience Rodin, who can be overpowering (when you visit his former home in Paris and are confronted with not only its elegance but sculptures everywhere you turn). We walked through the other galleries, and were happily surprised; again, small collections of well-chosen work, perfect to study. I took a close-up photograph of one still-life:

The thick edges of the rug, the colors, the curves... I will track down the artist's name. And I took another photo because the model's clothes were more carefully done than her face. And it seems the artist was more fully engaged in painting those elaborate, expensive, varied-in-texture clothes, as a resume of his talents... And the woman is holding a chicken! So is she the cook? Or a Marie-Antionette-kind-of-person, playing at rural life? This painting is from 1635, and it is called "Neapolitan Woman," by Massimo Stanzione; here is a detail, with a bit of a lighting issue:

The details on her costume, metal, lace, ribbon, the colors, the movement of the different sets of stripes, are very carefully done. So, imagine how surprised I was to get to the special exhibition and find... this:

(This is a photo of the exhibition's -- "Pulp Fashion" -- postcard).  This is a life-sized paper woman, modeled on the woman from the painting by Stanzione... the artist who created this woman, Isabella de Borchgrave, says that she had often longed to walk around the figures in portraits and see the women in three dimensions... she carefully cuts and paints and glues and layers paper until the clothing appears. (The museum has a video of her way of working; a time-consuming process, demanding several assistants). Borchgrave had filled a room with generations of Medici women, and there were children, a Botticellian woman with thin layers of flowered "silk," a paper pavillion... the visitors were all entirely caught up in both the idea and the beauty of the craftsmanship. Utterly striking art....

No comments:

Post a Comment