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, […]