Throwback Thursday

I thought I’d take one final look at that magnificent Bronzino exhibition that so fascinated me back in 2011. Though initially I was touched by the painting of the Holy Family with St John I find now the image that I recall in my mind’s eye is that powerful and simple Crucifixion that he did for the Panciatichi. Perhaps because I feel it sums up the religious strife that defined so much of the history of that time in that place.

March 14 is – yes I know Pi Day but more importantly it’s National Potato Chip Day! Let’s get our priorities straight here.

Willy Or Won't He

I thought I’d posted more of the enchanting observations on a few of the paintings that were in the Bronzino exhibition that just closed in Firenze. You may recall that Italian author Roberto Piumini wrote doggeral verses in the style popular with the painter and his friends at the Academia and Konrad Eisenbichler used them as his inspiration for English verses. They thought of them as “ways to look at Bronzino”.

I think this is perhaps one of the loveliest paintings I have ever seen of a sleeping child – you almost feel John’s kiss awakening his little cousin.

*“Dear Mary,” Joseph says, “if in a while,
Our little Jesus should awake
And want to eat, I’ll light this little pile
of sticks so you might cook a meal or bake,

But note,” then Joseph adds, “his cousin John
has come to play with him, and when they’re done

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Throwback Thursday

I was reminded of this post from my second visit to the Bronzino Exhibition back in 2011 when Nicky woke me at 0714 this morning with one sharp bark. This is the norm around here and like Bartolomeo Panciaticchi’s fine hound he is simply reminding us that he is here. Though in Nicky’s case we are being advised that the morning toilet has to be seen to and that canine hunger must be assuaged. Nora allows him to do the dirty work and then she, as senior dog around here, will then partake of his efforts.

February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day!

Willy Or Won't He

The second visit to the Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi was as delightful as the first. It was a chance to examine closer many of the paintings and related works and to read, more extensively, the fine explanations (in Italian and English) that put the works in context. An added feature was the burlesque verses in the style of Bronzino, again in both Italian and English. As a member of the Academia the painter was expected to excel in more than one of the arts. He was a writer of poetry – serious, burlesque, doggerel and limerick poetry all of which circulated among his friends and some of which was published. The exhibition included a display of his literary works including this page, at the right, from a book of his burlesque poems.

In the spirit of this really remarkable exhibition curators Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali – to…

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Throwback Thursday

Again as I go through books, catalogues and programmes I stop, more often than I should, to leisurely look, dwell and read. And in the dead of what has been a long winter thumbing through the catalogue from Sunlight on the Side of a House, a stunning retrospective of the work of Edward Hopper mounted in Rome back in 2010 made me feel a little less tapped by the snows and winds of winter.

February 21 is Global Information Governance Day..

Willy Or Won't He

I was first fully aware of who Edward Hopper was back in 1981 when I fell in love with Pennies From Heaven, a musical film fantasy with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters based on Dennis Potter’s successful BBC TV Series. The settings for several scenes were right out of Hopper paintings – and the one I recognized immediately was his most famous: Nighthawks. A bit of investigation – the library, yes Virginia we went to the library back in those days – revealed more about him and his work and I number him amongst the 20th century artists that I adore.

When the Hopper exhibition at the Museo di Roma was first advertised on billboards throughout town I made a note to myself that I really had to catch it. And finally I did last weekend – further note to self: try to catch these things other than…

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Summer maybe

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The Massacre of the Innocents modelled after Rubens – by Kent Monkman.
Shame and Prejudice – Confederation Centre Art Gallery until September 15, 2018.

I was going to write something about the new Summer Exhibitions at the Confederation Gallery but Laurent has already done so and there is no need to repeat. Both exhibitions are fascinating and the Monkman will need repeated viewings to tease out every message that is in them. A great but disturbing show.

Larry Muffin At Home

We had a funny Winter with little snow, much icy rain, fog and very high winds, our Spring was cold and wet. Yesterday 22 June finally warm weather and warm enough for us to take our Summer clothes out and put the Winter stuff away.  Today is 24 June, Saint Jean Baptiste day in French Canada or La Fête nationale as it is called in Quebec and it is the beginning of the of the week long Canada day celebrations.

This weekend was also the opening of the Summer Show at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, two artists are featured this year, Marlene Creates and Kent Monkman.

Creates has a 40 yr retrospective of her work in 5 parts, she describes herself as an environmental artists and lives in Portugal Cove on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland on a 6 acres plot of wood land. Her work is about her…

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The Colours of Music

Marc Chagall – a master of turning music into colour.

chagallUnlike Edith Piaf I do have regrets – but much like Frank Sinatra’s they really are too few to mention.  However (you knew there would be a however didn’t you?) one of the few is not buying that lithograph by Marc Chagall (right) that sat in the window of the gallery downstairs from our office on Bloor St back in the late 1970s. It was a toss up between it and a sage-coloured Dodge Dart and someone, very wisely,  advised that it would be difficult to drive the Chagall to work.  Mind you as an investment the Dart was definitely on the short term.

My love affair with Chagall began when I read about the ceiling he was painting to replace the original Jules Lenepveu 19th century allegory of The Muses and the Hours of the Day and Night at the Palais Garnier.  The story goes that in 1960, while attending a gala performance of the ballet  Daphnis et Chloe designed by Chagall, a bored André Malraux looked up at Lenepveu’s academic work and hit upon the idea of having the riot of colour he saw on stage transferred to the Opéra ceiling.  De Gaulle’s minister of culture was use to getting what he wanted and despite the general outcry commissioned Chagall to design a replacement.

Rolling your mouse over the image will contrast the Lenepveu and the Chagall ceilings.

Even Chagall himself was leery of the commission and was subject to much criticism in the press and throughout the French art world.   A few compromises were made – rather than destroying Lenepveu’s canvas Chagall’s work was created on removable panels that were stretched below it.  Nevertheless passions ran high and French Nationalism and Antisemitism reared their very ugly heads.  In an interview the painter said:  They really had it in for me… It is amazing the way the French resent foreigners. You live here most of your life. You become a naturalized French citizen… work for nothing decorating their cathedrals, and still they despise you. You are not one of them.

“Who am I? I am neither Michelangelo, nor Mozart, nor Haydn, nor Goya, but just someone called Chagall from Vitebsk.” – Marc Chagall

Chagall was forced to produce the work at a secret workshop in the Gobelins neighbourhood and the canvases were assembled in Meudon under military protection.  When it was unveiled in September of 1964 it made the international news and it was then I read about it.  My fascination with all things Chagall and the desire to own a piece of his work had began.

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Marc Chagall expresses his well-known love for Mozart and his intentions for the Met production.

In 1966 the Metropolitan Opera moved from it’s famous – or infamous depending on your point of view – home at the Yellow Brick Brewery to the glitteringly modern Lincoln Centre.  General Manager Rudolf Bing was an old friend of Chagall’s and asked him to design the two murals that can be seen through the enormous glass facade and a new production (one of a record nine that season) of Die Zauberflöte.  Chagall created over a 100 costume, masks and set designs for Mozart’s magic singspiel.  He was to paint many of the drops himself and in an article in Vogue magazine it has been suggested that Valentina (Vava) Brodsky, his wife, may have overseen the construction of the costumes.  Though the cast and direction were amongst the best in the operatic world at the time  – Lucia Popp, Pilar Lorengar, Nicolai Gedda, Herman Prey and Jerome Hines conducted by Josef Krips under the direction of Gunther Rennert – it was Chagall and Mozart’s night. More than one reviewer and many in the audience felt it was a very personal Zauberflöte that gloriously reflected the painter’s viewpoint on the opera and his often expressed love of Mozart.  And that didn’t sit well with everyone – some felt that it left no room for the audience to form their own personal feelings. And perhaps that is another one of my regrets – that I never had the chance to see the production, which was used until 1991 when it was replaced by painter David Hockney’s designs, and form my own opinion .

However it looks like I may get a chance to see at least a handful of the costumes and many of the set designs that Chagall created for one of my favourite operas. The Musée des beaux arts de Montréal has recently opened Chagall: Colour and Music. A major exhibition it examines the profound influence of music on Chagall’s work and his creations for the stage – theatre, ballet and opera.  It follows his work from the State Jewish Chamber Theatre (though in reproduction only as the originals from the Tretyakov Gallery were entangled in legal paperwork) through his stage work in Mexico, New York and Europe.  It ends with video close-up views of that now much loved ceiling of the Palais Garnier.  Several friends have assured me that it is more than “vaut le voyage“.

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A left click will take you to the MBAM website and further details and photographs of the exhibition.

From the sounds (and looks) of it this I should not let this be added to my “few regrets”.

On this day in 1954:  The first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine begins in Pittsburgh.