Sunday, December 25, 2016

Review: A Bloggers List

I am closing in on my 8th year of writing Missives from the Art World.  That is a total of close to 400 Missives.  I understand there are bloggers who make money at this … any suggestions? Maybe that is why most blogs only last 3 years.

My Missives stretch over a very wide gamut of material revolving around my interests and travels over half a century.  We have discussed experiences in some of the great art centers in England, France, Germany, The Netherlands and this country, New York, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, etc.  including great art exhibitions and art fairs.  Coming from the European Old Master world to that of past and current Native America has represented culture shock for me, which I have, I believe, explored in detail through experiences we have had with the Native American artists and friends we have met.  I have even written on lighter fair such as parties we have been invited to and given.


Waddesdon Manor (link to blog post)

A Chocolate Party (link to blog post)

It is near the end of the year and I am tired.  This blog has continued without interruption through all kinds of crises including a number of my operations as well as one recently for my wife.  Happily, the only time they were life threatening was when we were in the hands of the capable surgeons we have found in this part of the world …  even though they are expected to all be in New York!!!

David Bradley (link to blog post)

I have been asked often how and why I do it every single week.   I guess on some level I enjoy it.  I learn as I write and I can explore different areas and ideas.  I am also lazy and scared of stopping, not sure if I will pick up the pen … I mean open the computer again!

Link to blog post

The director of a major American museum and one that I consider a personal friend has recently suggested that I repeat some of my blogs so I can take some time off.  At first I thought that was anathema.   Then it began to sound more and more appealing.  In any case, the concept that I could repeat a Missive and not write for a week is kind of liberating.

Thomas P.F. Hoving, “In the Presence of Kings”
(link to blog post)

Therefore, I am going to turn the tables and appeal for my readers’ help and at the same time find out who is paying attention!  Would you review some (all is a lot) of my missives and let me know which you think were the most interesting, illuminating or just fun.  Who knows you may see them again!

Ms. Frick’s della Robbia (link to blog post)

To the right on the first page of this blog is a list of years and dates.  When you click on a year it shows you the months of the year and you click on those and get the blogs you can scroll through for that month.  Alternatively, there is a small search box in the upper left hand corner.  Put in any word and every blog that had that word will show up and you can scroll down that group.  I just tried film, then theater.  You can put in Indian or Native American or Museum or Freud and you will find something.  Also, if you click on the random photos throughout they will take you to the Missive they come from.

A posthumous portrait at the Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth
(link to blog post)

I am looking forward to hearing from you… who knows you might give me an idea for a brand new Missive.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Collecting Quotations

I have always enjoyed quotes.  I used to sit down with Bartlett’s Quotations and just start reading.  Lately I have read a column of quotes in the magazine “The Week”, a publication I highly recommend.  It reminds me of other quotations that made me think in a new way about a specific subject such as art.

"If there isn't (a) vision it is hard to get others to follow" John D. Rockefeller on accepting an award from the World Monuments Fund, 2009.
Art critic Michael Kimmelman reviewing the Christo Gates in New York’s Central Park wrote, "Art is never necessary. It is merely indispensible."  The Gates were a project by Christo and Jeanne-Claude completed in New York’s Central Park in 2005.

The same writer reviewing a show “Manet/Velazquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting” at the Metropolitan Museum wrote, “The loot Napoleon took from Spain was an epiphany for artists at home.”  The other side of the coin. A European art dealer, Grete Ring said, "Why should one talk about art, if not to open the eyes of others to it"

Often that is difficult because of the “art speak,” jargon, that many art historians use which makes the following comment by a German/Swiss mother and son team of dealers and art historians amusing.  When Marianne Feilchenfeldt read articles written by her son Walter, "This is not art history. This is interesting."

A quote that recently opened my eyes was about the art of cooking, by Chef Fernando Olea at the restaurant Sazón in Santa Fe "The enemy of the taste is the eye and the mind".  If you think of the word taste as one’s preconceived notions about what art “should” look like it goes for art as well. 

In an art exhibition quotes sometimes help us understand the character of the artist either through a direct quote or from someone who knew her/him or even from an observer.

Georgia O’Keeffe said in 1921 "I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then".  A lady from the Philippines sitting next to me on a flight said as if in response to Georgia, "Georgia O'Keeffe reminds me how profound simplicity can be".   Here is an image of a painting called. “Gerald’s Tree 1 ” done in 1937 and can be seen at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.  No, it is not named after me but an Irish writer, Gerald Heard who was visiting Ghost Ranch and brought the tree to O’Keeffe’s attention.  On a tour of the ranch a couple of years ago we saw the tree was still there.

O’Keeffe also had something to say about photography in 1922, “Photography is able to flatter or embarrass the human’s ego by registering the fleeting expression of a moment.”   I would put it slightly differently,  Photography is translating the image that you see in you mind’s eye into an image that everyone can understand.  The grand master in this regard was the photographer Alfred Stieglitz whose muse and greatest model was Miss O’Keeffe.

In a comment about his art Picasso wrote, “I don’t search (for inspiration), I find (it)”.  Similarly an interior decorator told me, “As good as new is easy, as good as old is talent.”  It all depends where you are coming from.

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597-1664) was a painter of the Dutch Golden Age, "He created images of space pervaded by calm" from a museum label of Rijksmuseum pictures at the Portland Art Museum. This is the perfect description of this painting by Saenredam in the Rijksmuseum as well as most of the artists other paintings, “Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk in Assendelft, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam,” 1649.

In my opinion the ultimate comment by an artist regarding his craft was by the American portraitist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) who created iconic portraits of George Washington. "What a business this of a portrait painter - you bring him a potato, and expect he will paint you a peach.”   Here is one version of  his portraits of “The Father of our Country” painted in 1796 and now in the Brooklyn Museum.

As the British Poet and Writer Jeanette Winterson  wrote, "Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.”  I will never forget my cousin and senior partner in our gallery, Saemy Rosenberg , saying, “Hear the honeydew from my lips.”

As I finished writing this missive I read the annual Christmas letter from  a friend abroad that includes a few of his favorite quotations. I look forward to learning some of yours.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Who is Mabel Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan (1879-1962)?

The answer can be found in the exhibition “Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West” currently at the Albuquerque Museum.  In a nutshell she was the “hostess with the mostest".

The show was organized by the Harwood Museum in Taos where it opened traveling to the Albuquerque Museum.  The guest curators for the show are Lois P. Rudnick and MaLin Wilson-Powell. Lois is a professor emerita of American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston and has written voluminously on Mabel Dodge.  MaLin is an art historian, independent curator and author who has concentrated on the art of the Southwest.   Their show has been 36 years in the making since MaLin applied for an NEH planning grant in 1980.  It never came to anything, however, since museums had no particular interest in Mabel Dodge.  According to Rudnick until relatively recently no museum would have considered doing a show about someone who “was not an artist but a cultural catalyst”.  The world changes and when it is ready it will come.

I am sure that one of the exhibitions that opened up this possibility was a show at the Metropolitan Museum in 2012 called “The Steins Collect” about the incredible collection that Gertrude Stein and her family put together.  Of course, Gertrude Stein is far better known on an international basis but as far as opening the southwestern United States to the art world Mabel Dodge was a major figure.  She had a relatively simple methodology.  She just asked everyone who was anyone to come stay with her.  To quote Mabel Dodge, herself in 1913, “I wanted to know everybody and … everybody wanted to know me”.  They were not just painters and sculptors but included writers such as D.H. Lawrence.

Here is Mabel’s story. She was born to a wealthy family in Buffalo New York  (the final venue for the show will be at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo starting at the end of June, 2017).  In 1902 she marries her first husband, Karl Evans, who dies in a hunting accident the following year leaving her with a son.  In 1904 she moves to Paris, meets and marries Edwin Dodge and the couple establish a salon in their villa near Florence.

Meeting Leo and Gertrude Stein and seeing their fabulous collection of paintings including Cézanne, Matisse, van Gogh and Picasso transforms Mabel’s taste and changes her view of art.  She had felt suffocated by the art of the past.  (As an art dealer I can tell you that children rarely like the art that their parents collected.)

In 1912 she moves with her husband and son to New York City where she established a salon in her Greenwich Village apartment and participated in organizing the famous 1913 Armory Show.

She divorces Dodge and marries the artist Maurice Sterne.  He establishes a painting studio in Santa Fe and entices Mabel Dodge to come out and soon after they move to a town north of Santa Fe, Taos. Here she becomes involved with Tony Lujan, an Indian from Taos Pueblo, who advises her on building a home (now a bed and breakfast). She divorces Sterne to marry Lujan in 1923.

The current exhibition revolves around the artists and writers who Mabel brought out to Taos In another way, however, the show is a view of the history of art in New Mexico in the 20th century.  Thanks to her final marriage she became a great defender of the Indians and brought all her artist friends to the dances at Taos Pueblo.  She wrote about and expanded the market for the Native American artists.  Here is a watercolor by the artist Velino Shije Herrera (1902-1973) from Zia Pueblo.  It was lent by the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe.

A key work in the exhibition representing Mabel’s patronage and role in introducing Modernists to the West is “Abstract Arrangement of Indian Symbols” (1914-15), oil on canvas by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)  which she bought and today is in the exhibition Courtesy of Yale American Literature Collection, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Mabel left her archive of photos, letters and manuscripts said to weigh 1500 pounds to the Beinecke.

In 1927 Mabel Dodge had her portrait painted by, Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), a Russian émigré who had arrived in Taos the year before.  He portrays her as the Grand Dame she believes she is.  Today the Nicolai Fechin House is a tourist attraction in Taos. The portrait, however, was lent by The Museum of Western Art, Denver.

One of the paintings I find the most effective in the show in its empathy for the Hispanic culture of Northern New Mexico is “Mexican Wake” 1932 by the Hungarian-born Modernist  Emil Bisttram (1895-1976.  It was a gift of the artist to the University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque.

Another amazing painting possibly the best one the artist ever did is one called, “Hunger”  1919, by Walter Ufer (1876-1936) lent by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa Oklahoma. Ufer, an Anglo artist became something of a hero on the Taos Pueblo as he worked night and day side by side with the doctor ministering to victims of a devastating flu epidemic 1918-1919.

You will have to forgive me but now that I am a Santa Fean I cannot end without mentioning Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986).  She herself said to Alfred Stieglitz in 1929, “…the whole world comes to Mabel’s” as she did herself.   Of her painting  “Gray Cross with Blue”, 1929, she wrote “… the cross stood out-dark against the evening sky … I saw the Taos mountain-a beautiful shape.  I painted the cross against the mountain …”  It comes from the Albuquerque Museum’s own collection.

The show is so rich with material I do not have room to include the Spanish Colonial material, the decorative arts or the wonderful photographs that include Weston, Adams and Stieglitz.  So I hope you will be able to go before the show closes on January 22, 2017.

*Images of the Fechin, Hartley,  Ufer and O’Keeffe are courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters

We went to Los Angeles to spend Thanksgiving with our son, Hunter and his girlfriend, Mallory.  Hunter knows we always want to visit museums and he insisted it be the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA).  Why? Because he wanted to see an exhibition on fantasy and monsters.  Not exactly the reason my wife and I go to museums!  Hunter, however, as a child was into comics and later Zombies and has recently scripted a horror film short, so I figured we had to keep an open mind.

The exhibition,  "Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters" was organized by The Art Gallery of Ontario, Minneapolis Institute of Art and LACMA.  What a surprise we had!  At each venue the host institution has added to del Toro’s personal collection from their own holdings including a number of Old Master paintings and prints. Of the more than 500 works in the Los Angeles presentation 60 were from LACMA’s collection.

For those as ignorant as I, Guillermo del Toro (1964 - ) is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. In his filmmaking career, del Toro has created Spanish-language dark fantasy pieces, such as, his most famous, Pan's Labyrinth (2006), which we had seen when it came out but had not put it together with his name before we saw the show.  In contrast he also had worked on the Hobbit series.  For a filmography see,

The exhibiition explores del Toro’s creative process by bringing together elements from his films, objects from his vast personal collection of sculpture, paintings, prints, photography, costumes, ancient artifacts, books, maquettes, and film. His "libraries" of objects are installed much as they are in his suburban Los Angeles home which he has appropriately named "Bleak House".  The organization is by themes such as innocence and childhood, magic, occultism, horror and monsters, with visions of death and the afterlife.  Since del Torro thinks of his collection as a source of continuous inspiration and devotes sketchbooks to his thoughts some of these are incorporated into the exhibition.

The show is peppered with effective sculptural vignettes of famous people and characters in del Toro’s world.  In one we see a sculpture of Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) a visual effects creator, writer and producer.  Another shows on the wall an illustration of Boris Karloff as the monster in Son of Frankenstein,1993 by Basil Gogos as well as a sculptural scene for the film. Both sculptures are by Mike Hill.

Though they come from different eras LACMA’s Rosa Bonheur  (1822-1899) of “The Wounded Eagle, 1870, and a print by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1728) from a series of imaginary prisons, 1761 fit in perfectly.

Finally a painting of Lady Beatrice Sharpe from the film Crimson Peak, 2015, by Daniel Horne and a portrait vignette of del Toro himself with some of his characters.

In the excellent book published in conjunction with the exhibition there is an interview with del Toro where he says, "The relationship we have with art is very fetishistic because art is a spiritual phenomenon.  Art is explaining to you all the things you can't put into mere words."  After reading this I asked our son what drew him into a similar devotion, though in a different realm of the fantastic. He replied that he was interested in, "where the imagination can go if reality is one step removed."  That is an excellent description of the exhibition we saw.  We were drawn into another world.

We saw the exhibition on its last weekend so you will need to content yourselves with the book and its many color illustrations at what I thought was a reasonable price at a bit over $30 for a non museum member.