Thursday, February 24, 2011

Goodbye Manhattan, Hello Brooklyn!

Trevor, 2011, graphite on paper, 15 x 11 inches
No I'm not moving, I don't even live in Manhattan, but I have stopped attending the Art Students League in exchange for the Teaching Studios of Art in Brooklyn. I have been taking drawing and painting lessons from Robert Zeller since the summer of 2009, and since then his small studio is growing into an atelier with more classes and faculty during the week. I enrolled at the League last summer to be in a different atmosphere, it was a no brainer since the school was closer to my apartment and classes were very inexpensive; but things aren't always as good as they may appear. Leaving the Art Students League was not very hard, after trying in out for a few months things weren't really working out for me. I wasn't getting the instruction I wanted, classes were jam packed with students, which makes it hard for instructors to spend more than five minutes with each one per session. This month I have been in Brooklyn working on figure drawing, and it has been great. Number one, I'm guaranteed a spot, and number two, I get more instruction. The drawing above was completed in about 21 hours. From this 1 month pose I have learned so much. Next week we'll start on a new pose, and I can't wait to see the results.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Weekend at the Met

Filippino Lippi (Italian, ca. 1457-1504), Madonna and Child, ca. 1485, tempera, oil and gold on wood, 32 x 23 1/2 in., The Jules Bache Collection, 1949, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
I took an unexpected trip to the Met Friday night, it wasn't an easy one, since the city was being blown in all directions by cold hurricane like winds. Sometimes facing the wrath of mother nature has to be done, my visit that night was long overdue, and I was in desperate need to rejuvenate my soul in the place I call my sanctuary. I walked around the galleries without having any plan as to what I would like to see. I didn't fallow my usual paths, and the outcome was like magic. The first surprise was Filipino Lippi's recently restored painting of Madonna and Child. This painting is to take part in an exhibition about the artist in Rome next year, and it is due to this occasion that the painting was sent to the conservation department. According to the Met's website "a test cleaning revealed that beneath a thick, discolored varnish there was a beautifully preserved, richly colored painting." This description does not over embellish the truth, the intensity of Lippi's colors commanded attention as I walked into the gallery where the painting hangs. The ultramarine blue cloak is electric, and the rich reds pulsate off the picture, it is almost too daring to be a 15th century painting, but there it is hanging in all its glory in a gold ornate frame.
Francesco Francia (Italian, Bologna, active by 1482, died 1517/18), Madonna and Child with Saints Francis and Jerome, 1500-10, tempera on wood, 27 1/2 x 22 1/4 in., gift of George Blumenthal, 1941, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Lippi's Madonna inspired me to look closer at the Met's Renaissance collection. Thinking I had seen it all after years of visiting the museum regularly, I strolled through the galleries, and slowly gems of Italian art kept appearing before me. One of the first paintings to catch my attention was Francesco Francia's Madonna and Child with Saint Francis and Jerome. Here, I thought, was an exquisite work, with beautiful saturated blues, greens, reds and golds. I have always admired Renaissance painters because of their ability to achieve incredible color harmonies using a limited palette of high key colors. Perhaps their advantage over modern painters is that during their time they had a limited choice of colors in the market. These days color makers try to out do each other by giving artists endless choices in colors. No wonder why we are so confused!
Michele da Verona (Michele di Zenone), Italian, Veronese, 1470-1536/44, Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, probably late 1490's, tempera and oil on wood, 29 x 22 3/4 in., anonymous gift, 1927, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
I usually know right away when a painting interests me or not and for what reasons. When I encountered Michele da Verona's Madonna I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I thought the Madonna was beautiful, a bit on the Michelangelo side, and I loved her almost masculine hand popping out of the picture. I was also taken by the intricate gold and black wood frame. So what bothered me so much that kept me looking at this painting longer than others trying to decipher it? I guess the Christ Child is oddly shaped, and the young Saint John looks a bit like a paper cut out glued down onto the surface of the picture. I did love the warmth of the colors, and the longer I looked at it the more it grew on me. In the end, even if I tried to attempt this kind of work I would fail miserably, with that in mind I consider this a great piece.
Italian (Lombard) Painter, first quarter 16th century, Christ at the Column, oil on wood, 24 x 16 in., private collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Luca Signorelli (Luca d'Egidio di Luca di Ventura), Italian, Cortona, active 1470-died 1523 Cortona, Madonna and Child, ca. 1505-7, oil and old on wood, 20 1/4 x 18 3/4 in., The Jules Bache Collection, 1949, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
If I thought that da Verona's painting had an intricate frame, then I was not ready for the framework on both of the paintings above. I think we can agree that the painted surfaces are delicate and , yes, beautiful, what gives these two works more presence are their architectural frames.
Filippo Tarchiani, Italian, Castello, 1576-1645 Florence, Saint Dominic in Penitence, oil on canvas, 52 x 43 in., private collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
In the same gallery where the previous three paintings hang, this painting by Filippo Tarchiani stole my heart. I have a soft spot for dark moody paintings, and this piece immediately reminded me of Zurbaran's Saint Serapion. I have never seen this painting on display at the Met, and there was no sign of it being a recent acquisition, but who's complaining, I got to see it and I'm glad I did.
Andrea del Sarto, Italian, Florence 1486-1530 Florence, Madonna and Child, oil on wood, lent by Mrs. Alfred A. Taubman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Another work pulled out from storage, so it seems, is this painting by Andrea del Sarto. If this painting has been hanging in the same spot for years and I never noticed it then I must be really blind. What pulled me into this painting was the emerald green backdrop emerging from the dark. The composition is simple, but the drama is in the way del Sarto worked with light and shadow.
Francesco Francia, Italian, 1450-1517, Madonna and Child with Saints Francis and Jerome, oil on panel, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
My last pleasant surprise at the end of the night was this second painting by Francesco Francia. This beautiful work was tucked away in a dark corner of the Lehman Collection, poorly lit and almost lonely looking. I walked up to it and I thought I was going crazy because I thought I had just seen it on the second floor galleries. Does the Met have two of the same paintings? I went through all the photos taken that night, and yes, I did see another version of it by the same artist. At first glance both paintings may appear to have the same composition, but a closer look reveals subtle differences. It was an exciting find and definitely a good end to my visit.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Progress Report

It may seem like I may have fallen out of the face of the earth, that's if you go by my last blog post, but I'll have you know I'm still here, alive and kicking! This winter has been brutal on us here in New York. It has been snowing and raining at least two days a week since Christmas, and the cold has kept me indoors as much as possible. Not going out isn't so bad though, it has kept me occupied and very productive.
I have been working on the new still life, and I'm surprised how fast I'm getting it done. Since the last blog entry this painting has come a long way, specially the background. I was convinced that the ideal background for this painting would be a deep rich black, and was planning for the objects to emerge from the darkness. Not realizing it, I was being influenced by Zurbaran's still life. The idea of it was intimidating, didn't want to be considered a copy cat, not to mention that my take would fail miserably. I kept woking on it despite my insecurities, and one night I looked at the painting and thought "who am I kidding?" I gave up black backgrounds years ago, besides, I was itching to introduce another color and play with light and atmosphere. Once the color was changed the painting started heading on the right direction.