Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Discovering Art and Art History: A few reviews

Despite traveling almost every other weekend, Gman and I have managed to see a few exhibitions here in DC. I'll review two of them for you today, I highly recommend both!

First up is a show at the Phillips Collection: Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard. The focus of the exhibition is to demonstrate how the use of photography, which was in it's infancy, influenced painters of the late 19th century. The work of Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and others in the group now called the Nabis, is of particular interest. They painted directly after the impressionist and their brushwork as a loose, painterly quality that I'm absolutely in love with.

In the exhibition photographs taken by the artists to document their daily lives and subjects for their work are compared to their paintings. I loved getting a glimpse into someone's life who lived 100 years before me. What did they look like? What did they do? What was important to them? It turns out people then were pretty much the same. Photographs show the artists, their wives, children, and friends having picnics, sick at home in bed, bathing, and drinking. One of my favorite images was of an artists wife breastfeeding their baby. The mother was unposed, unguarded simply doing what she did everyday, the photo captures her sweet loveliness in that moment. I also liked this series of pictures of an artists lover in various states of undress posing in their garden.

The paintings are exquisite too. You can see the artists working through the problems of translating photographs to paints and how the compositions of the photographs are directly transferred. The scene becomes the subject of the painting instead of just a person, still life or landscape. It's all of that together, cut off where the photo wasn't captured. Figures aren't fully represented, perhaps only their leg made it into the shot, and sometimes vast open spaces fill the frame. I learned in college that photography influenced painting, but I didn't think of it as quite profoundly as I did in my visit to this exhibition.

The exhibition runs until May 6th.

Second up, a tribute to the centennial celebration of the Japan's gift of 3,000 Cherry Blossoms to the United States. The National Gallery presents Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800). The exhibition highlights some of Japans most beautiful masterpieces by 18th century painter, Itō Jakuchū. His exquisite handing of the paint is immediately apparent in the graceful details throughout the 30 scrolls.

I was very much impressed by the virtuosity of the brushwork, the brilliant colors, and elegant compositions of each of the paintings. I also liked that even though I don't know much about the history of Japanese painting, nor the saturated symbolism of Buddhism throughout the works, I was still able to appreciate and understand what I was looking at. It was difficult to choose a favorite.

This exhibit is only up until April 29th so go now to see it! Washingtonians, go pop in on your lunch break. It is located almost directly inside the 6th Avenue and Constitution entrance. It's free too, so you have no excuse not to check this out.

* I'm in the midst of figuring out how to secure the proper image credits for art before I post images of exhibitions on the blog. In the meantime, I hope you don't mind a few more pics of the Cherry Blossoms. :)

Also! I've been a busy blogger and am guest blogging over at The Yuppie Files today while she is on spring break. Must be nice right?! We'll I'm reminiscing about the good ol' days. Go check it out!

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