Entries by Bob Marshall

The Renaissance Nude

A major museum exhibition can have two justifications: it can make a novel or interesting point, or argument; or it can present great, or at least interesting, objects. By those measures, The Renaissance Nude at the Getty Center was a disappointment. If there was a point, it was hardly novel or coherent. Despite social inhibitions, […]

American Masterpieces

At some point you go to so many museums it loses the thrill, and you wonder if you’re going just because it’s there and it’s a comfortable habit. In the span of a month, I went to the National Gallery, the Phillips Collection and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and Portrait Gallery in Washington; […]

Corot: Women

Two questions came to mind as I wandered through Corot Women at the National Gallery of Art: how many variations are there on the word “melancholy,” and is it acceptable to judge a work of art on the attractiveness of the model depicted? Of the 44 paintings in the show, spanning the half-century 1826-1874, more […]

Delacroix at the Met

Seeing 150 works in the Met’s first-ever-in-North-America retrospective of Eugene Delacroix I came to the conclusion that he was a one-trick pony. There was little or no development or change detectable from his first works, which were revolutionary in the 1820s, to his last and worst in the ’50s. The trick, so to speak, was […]

Truth and Beauty

Kudos to the organizers of this exhibition for using major international loans to make an art-historical point. It’s one thing to say that Britain’s Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was inspired by certain Renaissance artists; it’s quite another to show their work cheek-by-jowl with actual paintings they would have known in London in the 1850s. The most telling […]

Museum Exhibitions ’18

Over May and June of this year I’ve had occasion to visit a half-dozen special exhibitions, from the spectacular to the routine to the overstuffed. Far and away the best, and perhaps the best I’ve ever seen, was “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” designed by Robert Wilson. Each gallery was theatrically lit, with […]

Thomas Cole @ Met

Thomas Cole is a crucial, but transitional, figure in the history of American landscape art, bridging the European world of myth and legend with the American world of boundless nature. This can be seen, most famously, in his five-part Course of Empire series in which the unspoiled world of the Native American gives way to […]

Cult of the Machine

The “Cult of the Machine” at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum spotlighted American artists’ fascination with the industrial boom roughly between the World Wars, when machines equaled progress and the future and, therefore, became a new vocabulary for the decorative and visual arts. I was hooked immediately by Morton Livingston Schamberg’s nonsense machines, precisely drawn and […]

Paintings at the Met – 18th Century

613. French Women Best: Marie Denise Villers, Marie Josephine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes (1801). Of all the eyes looking at me in this gallery, hers are the ones that hold me. Light and shadow define the plain dress and spartan room, and we see a courting couple through a broken window pane. The composition is […]

Paintings at the Met – Spain

610. Velazquez Best: Velazquez, Juan de Pareja (1650). A masterpiece of world portraiture: Velazquez’s consummate brushwork comes through the unfortunate glazing, capturing light reflecting off the Moor’s forehead, texturing his skin, revealing itself in the lace color and rich gray background. Note the single red dot that marks the right ear. Worst: Bartolome Esteban Murillo, […]