Friday, 25 July 2014

VERMEER AT THE PMA

A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Is It for Real?
By Richard Carreño Posted 26 July 2014
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Philadelphia
It's hard not to like the works of the 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). His paintings are easy on the eyes, noted for a bright, luminous palette; portraying attractive studio scenes, populated with attractive people. He shows off Delft, his hometown, as a middle-class burgh; it's denizens, prosperous and well-attired. Comfort zone, anyone?
 
There's no better Vermeer poster child than Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). Recently rehung at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Pearl has most notably in recent years become one of the world's most recognizable portraits. Along the lines of that other general public icon, the Mona Lisa. As in the case with Mona, a door-buster at the Musee du Louvre, mass appeal means massive lines. Before returning to The Netherlands, Pearl had a brief run in New York. The lines were of fire-sale proportions.
 
Not to worry, Philadelphia. Philly Vermeer aficionados are not so troubled in viewing Young Woman Seated at A Virginal (1670-1672), now on a year-long visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That is, if local fans even want to be so bothered. Amazingly, for a Vermeer, the diminuative oil (25 centimeters by 20 centimeters) is more door-stopper, than buster.
 
I visited the painting recently in Gallery 264, where it has been hanging forlornly on loan since late last year. The gallery is a walk-through space (not a destination gallery), and Young Woman gets nary any attention.
 
'You're here to see the Vermeer, eh?' the museum guard on duty says to me. I nod. 'Oh,' he says. Not exactly, any variant of 'Make my day!'
 
The problem is that Young Woman, one of Vermeer's last works he painted in his truncated, 43-years, isn't really a Vermeer.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

FOLK GOES BROKE

Folk Museum: Going... Gone
How MoMA Trashed West 53rd Street
By Catherine Smith
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
New York 

In 1961 a folk art visionary conceived and established the Museum of American Folk Art and, with his collections and other donations, endowments and support, inaugurated
the museum in 1963 on the rented parlor floor of a brownstone on West 53rd Street. The collections, endowments, subscribers and visitors grew. 
 
In 1979 MAFA purchased two brownstones on West 53rd Street. In its quirky, somewhat  ramshackle venue the museum gained renown and clientele, and, to the surprise of all, began to become a destination. Growth and popularity continued. Exhibitions gained favor. The Clarion magazine succeeded. Notable art, collections and quilts and textiles continued to be donated.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Road Trip

POSTCARD FROM CALIFORNIA
We drove through the "Avenue of the Giants" Redwoods National Park some thirty to forty miles south of Eureka,California.These trees often reach heights of 350 plus feet and in the middle of the day, casting long shadows on the roadway making it feel like you're driving through a dark tunnel.Thank God for the preservationists of the early 20th century, otherwise the lumber industry would have decimated this forest.

Next up: Driving up to Crater Lake from Grants Pass. We ran into rain that quickly turned into a mid winter type snowstorm. Temps dropped from the 50's to the mid 30's. In June no less! This national park is at an elevation of 8,000 plus feet, and they told us that summer doesn't arrive until late July and lasts till around Labor Day.
The lake was totally enshrouded in fog when we arrived  but eventually it cleared (as we were having lunch at the lodge)  and the views were awesome. Crater Lake was formed by volcanic activity and its depth is almost 2,000 feet. This just may be the purest water in the world and its blue color, almost indigo-makes it unique.The rim road runs 33 miles around the lake but half of it was closed due to heavy snow as well as rock slides.
— Jonathan Loftus

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Jacob Epstein Busts of Einstein and Weizmann...

...DOUBLE THE ARTIST'S
SCULPTURES IN PHILADELPHIA
By Richard Carreño
Posted 9 July 2014
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Despite their coevality, a cursory comparison would not suggest much commonality between Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952). Einstein, of course, went on to create the Theory of Relativity; Weizmann, in 1949, was among the founders of the new State of Israel. (He also became its first president).
Interestingly enough, Weizmann, like the physicist Einstein, was also a scientist. They were both Jewish refugees, on the run from Nazi terror. And they both wound up, at different times in 1933, in the London studio of Anglo-American sculpture Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), where, thanks to Epstein's artistic skill, nay, genius, they were immortalized in bronze busts that have become the iconic images of both men.
 
Einstein and Weizmann have something else in common: Epstein's sculpted tributes to them share nearby space in a little-known installation at the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania.
 
For Philadelphia, the Penn-sited busts also contribute to a startling statistic; they double, yes, double, the number of Epstein sculpted works believed to be available for public viewing in the city. A large, outdoor sculpture, titled Social Consciousness, is located (and, unfortunately, largely ignored) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and a bust of Epstein's wife is part of the permanent collection at the La Salle University Museum.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

PHILLY SECRETLY COMES TO THE RESCUE

Before
After
 Photos: WritersClearinghouse News Service
 
MET II IN WORLD WAR II 
By Richard Carreño Bio Posted: July 5, 2014
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
For two years during World War II, from 1942 to 1944, the Metropolitan Museum of Art went to war -- in Philadelphia.
      Thanks to the Monuments Men, a recent film and a book by the same title, the war-time Met is now best known for its one-time director James J. Rorimer, a principal in organizing the group of GIs who, in their role in hunting down Europe's art treasures stolen by the Nazis, became known in romantic vernacular as the 'Monuments Men.'
      Less known is how another Met director, Francis Henry Taylor, Rorimer's predecessor and a former curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, worked quietly during the early war years to protect America's art patrimony.
      And how, thanks to Taylor, a mansion in the contiguous northwest Philadelphia suburb of Springfield became an auxiliary venue of the venerable New York art institution. In secret. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Now @ Tate Britain: Lord Clark Retrospective

LOOKING FOR CIVILISATION
Posted: 4 July 2014
This exhibition explores the impact of art historian, public servant and broadcaster Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), widely seen as one of the most influential figures in British art of the twentieth century. The exhibition examines Clark’s role as a patron and collector, art historian, public servant and broadcaster, and celebrates his contribution to bringing art in the twentieth century to a more popular audience.
 
The exhibition focuses predominantly on Clark’s activities in the 1930s and 1940s when he was a leading supporter and promoter of contemporary British art and artists. Using his own wealth to help artists, Clark would not only buy works from those he admired but also provides financial support to allow them to work freely, offered commissions, and worked to ensure artists’ works entered prestigious collections. Believing that a crisis in patronage had led artists to become too detached from the rest of society, Clark promoted a representational art that was both modern and rooted in tradition. The artists he favoured included the Bloomsbury Group, the painters of the Euston Road School, and leading figures Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, John Piper and Graham Sutherland.

Friday, 27 June 2014

UNDERGROUND ART

A Church Archway? A Street Loggia?
PMA'S HIDDEN VAULTS
Groin vaults, that is.

Since 1962, the northside arched entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been closed. That's about to change.

At least it will, if the multi-million-dollar Frank Gehry-inspired design plan to expand interior contemporary art gallery space gets done anytime soon.

Museum officials have their fingers crossed. It's one of those run-it-up-the-flagpole,- see-if-anyone-salutes plan.
Photos:
 WritersClearinghouse News Service

Starchitech Gehry was in town yesterday (26 June) to do a bit of flag waving.

Instrumental in the plan, which
will principally involve new gallery space under the Rocky steps, will be the reopening of the north-south groin vaulted loggia-like corridor that cuts across the building. The north end will be re-introduced as a new museum entrance.

The corridor, or walkway, the museum calls it, is a mammoth, imposing space -- a delight to behold.

Fortunately, progress on building and repurposing the building -- already in the works for more than five years -- will proceed as the cash rolls in, according to museum officials. A good thing! As of now, they don't think the project will be completed until 2028. Ouch!
--Richard Carreño

The Rocky Statue? Look Closely Below

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

THE TORTURED LIFE OF SCOFIELD THAYER By James Dempsey

DIAL 'T' FOR THAYER
By Richard Carreño
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
As its editor, patron, and publisher, Scofield Thayer revamped the Dial, an early 20th century literary monthly based in New York, into what today's readers might recognise as a late 20th century version of The New Yorker -- on steroids. Not for the little old lady from Dubuque, nor, really, for the patrician salons of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
 
Thayer (1889-1982) himself was a wealthy, blue-blood (Scofield, PUL-lezze), born in the central Massachusetts mill town of Worcester. In the course six short years from 1920, Thayer harnessed bursts of inspiration and exasperation to interpret a then-burgeoning 'modernist' creativity (in poetry, literature, and art) to a growing urban, upper middle-brow readership. The Dial was a savvy, avant-garde periodical. But Thayer never walked on the wild side, inviting legal censorship.

James Dempsey
In one typical issue alone, his contributors included T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, George Santayana, D.H. Lawrence, Gilbert Seldes, William Butler Yeats, and Wallace Stevens. There was never a culture magazine quite like it before, nor arguably one since that could match Thayer's Dial for literary star-power and influence.
 
Thayer published then-controversial writers (including Ezra Pound); thought enough of James Joyce that he gifted him several thousand dollars in today's money; and regularly gave E.E. Cummings a literary platform. (And his blessing to bed is wife. Elaine Orr Thayer was an angelic-looking knock-out, who also liked to screw around).

The PJ depends exclusively on reader support. Please help us continue by contributing directly via PayPal, or by contributing editorial content via PhiladelphiaJunto@ymail.com. Empowered by WritersClearinghouse | S.P.Q.R. 1976 Richard Carreño, Editor Copyright MMXIV. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 16 June 2014

$1,000 Per Bottle


Château Pétrus: Notes from DON MERLOT                                                
FIND A RICH CHINESE FRIEND
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
New Orleans
The wines of Bordeaux are considered some of the best and most elite wines in France and/or the entire wine world. Historically they have been given the highest ranking as great wines in the world. There was a wine classification in the 19th Century (1855) that ranked Bordeaux wines, and the wines that were elevated to the zenith of wine greatness enjoy that nirvana today. The ranking continues.
Chateau Pétrus is a wine from the Pomerol district (AOC) of Bordeaux and is a wine that oenophiles know of its lofty place. Chateau Pétrus is a red wine and has its own delicacy and heritage. Pomerol has become a producer of finely cultivated red wines. Petrus is the only wine ranked in Pomerol. It is hors classé.
 
The best and famous top Bordeaux wines are: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion, Cheval Blanc and Ausone. Pétrus rounds of the top eight.
 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

24 Hours


WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS
By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]

Hope Cemetery,
Coney Island Luncheonette, Worcester Art Museum
You can tell a lot about a city by its cemeteries. In New England, the denizens of these burying grounds, even in death, speak loudly of the accomplishment, influence, and fortune of once flourishing 19th-century communities. And even, as is the case in Worcester, poor cemetery management.

By the numbers, Worcester, with a population of about 175,000, is New England's second largest city. Though, as you walk about the city, as I did last week, you wouldn't know it. Pedestrians are few, and cars roar by with an intensity that makes its plain that their drivers have scant need nor interest in interacting with Worcester's downtown. What's left of it, that is.

Since the '70s, if not before, city officials, under the pretence of urban development, have worked tirelessly in gutting downtown's heart, in a city that's ironically nicknamed the 'Heart of the Commonwealth.' First they razed the commerical district around the Common, replacing it with a huge barrel-roofed, multi-storied shopping centre, attached to the world's largest indoor parking garage. [Sic!] The centre quickly morphed into a white elephant; the garage, almost always empty.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Barefoot and Airborne

FLIPPED OVER FLOPS
By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Move over Calf-High Boot Season. Make way for Flip-Flop Season. With matching polyester pjs optional.
 
In the airline business, there are two seasons. High? Low? No, seasoned airline flight crews and agents monitor seasonal change by passenger dress and appearance. Let the suits fret about seasonal high/low ticket costs.
 
Of course, there's nothing new about pax deplaning from the islands in colourful calypso attire. Regardless of the winter weather, passengers from Nassau, Mexican resorts, Aruba (you name the generic Caribbean island) will invariably walk off in the kind of clothes they wore earlier in the day while sunning at the beach. Swim shorts and tank tops for men? Sure. Cut-offs for women. You bet. The only thing missing is a limbo stick and surf board to help shovel three feet of the white stuff as they make their way to their snowed-in cars. Day One message: 'I was vacationing and tanning, and you weren't!' Day Two Message: 'Boss, I can't come in. I'm sick!'
 
What with the warm weather now arriving, on-board summer-wear has become more uniform.
 
In fact, it is sort of a uniform.
 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Sacked Again

Gutted: Worcester Telegram newsroom
Take This Job
and Love It
By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
I've been fired. So, probably, have you. Call it 'laid off,' 'redundant,' 'sacked, or the 'boot,' the result is the same. You're out the door. If you're lucky, you don't face of the humiliation of an escort.
 
Better to quit? Resign? Or even 'Take this job and shove it'? Yes, I thought so.
 
A number of years ago, in the late 90s when I was in my late 40s, I decided on the later option. I was then a reporter for the Worcester Telegram in Massachusetts. No, my job wasn't being fazed out. I wasn't threatened with the axe. I just wanted to move on, and I sensed the timing -- the beginning of the Internet-related downturn of the newspaper industry -- was right. I had returned to the Telegram after stints at the The Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe
 
By then, I was plotting my escape.
 
A few months before, I had gone for an 'exploratory' interview as an adjunct lecturer in American literature at an American-affiliated university in London. Just a chat, to be sure. Only speculative, you understand. As I leaving the luncheon interview, I was assured that I had the job. Probably had to do with my reference to Soames Forsyte. You know, that Soames, the protagonist in Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga. Arch? Arcane? You bet. But old Soames helped me win the day. 
 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Hilary Spurling on Henri Matisse


The PJ depends exclusively on reader support. Please help us continue by contributing directly via PayPal, or by contributing editorial content via PhiladelphiaJunto@ymail.com. Empowered by WritersClearinghouse | S.P.Q.R. 1976 Richard Carreño, Editor Copyright MMXIV. All Rights Reserved

Matisse Live from Tate Modern


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Tale of Two Museums

Chez Paul at 22 ave Foch
L'Orangerie
 Musée de l'Orangerie and Barnes Foundation Share the Same Muse
By Richard Carreño Bio
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Paris
The stats have an eerie familiarity: Scores of paintings by Chaim Soutine, Pablo Picasso, Jean Renoir, Henri Mattisse, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani and other Impressionists and post-Impressionists, and all assembled by a fiercely independent collector who pioneered new ground in introducing modern art to 20th century audiences. The Barnes Foundation collection in Philadelphia, maybe? In considering the numbers and artists, American museum-goers can be easily forgiven for free-associating with that Philadelphia institution, the world's largest repository such modern works. And, of course, they would be wrong. At least, in Paris.

Welcome to the Musée de l'Organerie, home of the Walter-Guillaume Collection, an array of 145 paintings that rivals the Barnes as a showcase of many of the same modern artists who once called upon Paris for inspiration and livelihood. For Philadelphians, especially those seeped in the lore of the Barnes collection and its visionary founder, the eccentric, taciturn Dr. Alfred C. Barnes, the Orangerie is a kind of foreign pilgrimage to a place that can rightfully be called the Barnes' French 'bookend,' even its precursor.

That the two museum collections are almost a matched set, in presenting a similar catalogue of artists and their works, is hardly coincidental, in that Barnes (1872-1951) and the Orangerie collection's founder, Paul Guillaume (1891-1934), equally admired and promoted the same favored artists. Similarities between the collectors, who were in equal parts friends, competitors, and business associates, don't stop there.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Long-legged Blonds



What no snails? Gary Lee Kraut filtring absinthe during a recent lunch
Photo: WritersClearinghouse News Service/Richard Carreño
In Praise of Tour Guides
By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Paris
On my first trip to Europe, to London as a teen-ager in the early-60s, my father had arranged for our family to be guided about the city, my first experience with a touring service. We settled comfortably in a big car, shepherded by stoic 'right-you-are,-guv'ner' type driver in the buttoned-up standard uniform of that period and our guide, long-legged blond in a micro-mini. (Also standard issue. Remember Swingin' London?)
 
Sitting in the back seat, trying to ignore my younger sister, Roberta, I had the best view of London possible. Her legs.
 
In the fifty-odd years since, I haven't had much use for guided tours (long-legged blonds are another story); rather, navigating my way around the world under my own steam. Strictly do it yourself, you see. Some notable exceptions have involved visits to Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Israel.
 
Recently, I've changed my mind. About guided tours, that is.

Used Rare Antiquarian New Books via philabooksbooksellers.blogspot.com

Used Rare Antiquarian New Books via philabooksbooksellers.blogspot.com
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