Category: Uncategorized

What was good about 2016?

Art, art & art: exceptional art shows!

 

Exceptional art exhibitions around the world faced down ugly politics…

jbosch6Panels of the “Visions of the Hereafter” by Hieronymus Bosch, ca. 1505-1515

During the traditional “feel good” New Year’s Concert in Vienna on the first day of the year, I want to remember  what inspired me in 2016, rather than what depressed me. Without a doubt three exceptional art shows (amongst many more) spring to mind!

First, the Hieronymus Bosch show in the painter’s hometown of ‘s Hertogenbosch in Holland. Every Bosch painting demands hours of attention, an impossible task at a very busy show, and it is nearly impossible to fathom how a man living in a provincial town in Holland in the late 15th century could have had such fantastical and  unparalleled visions of, well: everything!

I was most intrigued by the last polyptych in the exhibit, the mysterious “Visions of the Hereafter”, as shown above with in the middle the panel of the “Ascent of the Blessed”. The most puzzling thing was the way the backsides of the panels that were painted in mysterious splatters, one orange red, the other black… Jackson Pollock would have appreciated. I could find nothing on these back panels, what they mean, they seem very deliberate…most intriguing…

Second, the Klimt and the Women of Vienna’s Golden Age, 1900–1918 show in my favorite New York museum: the Neue Galerie! These near life size portraits, shown close to the “Woman in Gold” portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer were phenomenal. Amongst them, an earlier portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the only woman he painted twice.

klimt6Portraits of Elisabeth Lederer, Adele Bloch-Bauer and Mäda Primavesi

Thirdly, the Sir Lawrence (Laurens) Alma-Tadema show in the picturesque capital of Friesland: Leeuwarden, in Holland. Proud to be of Friesian descent, it was a joy to drive with my mother over the longest dyke in Holland in a magical wintery landscape to the Fries Museum. Why is the show there? Well, Alma-Tadema was born in 1836 in Friesland, that quaint province of Holland famous for the oldest Planetarium in the world (in Franeker), friesian cows, the 11-town skating race (weather permits) and courageous resistance during WWII!

atmoses“The Finding of Moses”, 1904 – Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

This show is phenomenal and will go on to Vienna and London, the town where Alma-Tadema became one of the most celebrated painters of the late nineteenth century. His historical and orientalist paintings were highly appreciated and fetched enormous prices. What makes his painting enduring is their historical accuracy and evocative atmosphere of life in ancient times. Every detail of hair styles, robes, furniture, objects and architecture was historically accurate, to a point that Alma-Tadema’s paintings were templates for the set and wardrobe designs of most famous Hollywood peplum movies!

In the show you see scenes from these films projected above the paintings that inspired the art directors of the films the Ten Commandments, the Last Days of Pompei, Quo Vadis, Exodus and Gladiator!

It turns out that the young Gustav Klimt was very inspired by Alma-Tadema’s paintings!

klimtalmatleft: Alma-Tadema “Venus Esquilina”, 1877 – right: Klimt “Roman Women’s Bath” 1890

Much will be written about the year 2016, with all it’s momentous twists and turns, but luckily (judging by the huge crowds) ART is still the universal language of the human race!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Strike for Solidarity!

On February 25, 1941 an exceptional stand by outraged workers in Amsterdam against the Nazi occupation!

Tram

By early 1941 it became increasingly clear that the Nazi’s were determined to speed up their persecution of Jews and other people they deemed “undesirable”.

Februaristaking

The outlawed Communist Party decided to call for a large scale strike in Amsterdam. On the evening of  February 24 a manifesto was prepared calling for a general strike. That manifesto writes: “STAAKT!!! STAAKT!!! STAAKT!!!” – STRIKE!!! STRIKE!!! STRIKE!!!”.

Staakt

On February 25, 1941 Amsterdam came to a virtual standstill when the tram workers engaged in a general strike to show their solidarity for their fellow Jewish citizens.

The strike quickly spread to other cities, but was brutally countered the next day by the Nazi forces: 427 strikers were arrested, only 2 survived deportation and execution.

Razzia_feb41_amsterdam

This general strike was the only one conducted during the war in any of the countries occupied by the Germans and an exceptional act of courage and solidarity.

 

 

A show of hands…

The very particular way the Italian painter Bronzino portrays hands….

Bronzino5Portrait of Marie de’ Medici (1573-1642)

I visited the charming exhibit “Florence: Portraits at the Medici Court” at the Musée Jacquemart André in Paris and was immediately drawn to several Bronzino portraits. By 1540, Agnolo Bronzino (1503–1572)  was the leading artist and court painter in Florence to Cosimo I de’ Medici. His opulent yet restrained portraits of noble men, women and children are as vibrant and fascinating today as they must have been during his lifetime.

Bronzino9Portrait of Ludovico Capponi (1551)

The most striking thing is the way Bronzino depicts the hands of his sitters. He was ofcourse a “mannerist” painter and that style took Italy and the rest of Europe by storm in the mid 16th century.

Bronzino2Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni (1544-45)

Bronzino paints the hands in a very particular manner:  a large gap between the index and middle finger, a smaller gap between the ring finger and pink…this is quite an unnatural pose for a hand, what is he trying to say?

Bronzino8Portrait of Lucrezia di Cosimo de’ Medici (1560)

The positions of the hands are also intriguing, as if just lightly caressing the objects they hold or shield…what are they saying, are they just symbolizing the fact that those aristocratic hands were delicate and had never seen hard work? Or were the hands secret messengers?

probably 1550-5

Full title: Portrait of a Young Man Artist: Bronzino Date made: probably 1550-5 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

The French art critic Hector Obalk made a short film shown at the exhibition about the difference in the way the Florentine painters painted hands, but I find the Bronzino “hands” the most fascinating.

Bronzino4Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi (1545)

The faces in the portraits are never smiling, always a little solemn and distant, the eyes gazing, mostly sideways, but sometimes fixing themselves at you, with a mixture of disdain and wariness…

bronzino3Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo as a Young Woman (1539)

These portraits never fail to amaze and enchant me, these people could just jump out of their frames and stand in the room with you, you can nearly smell the perfume on the women’s clothes and feel the touch of their hands…

bronzino7Portrait of a Young Man with a Book (1530–39)

“If the hands of time were hands that I could hold,
I’d keep them warm and in my hands,
They’d not turn cold!”

Lyrics “The Hands of Time” by Michel Legrand

 

One woman, one courageous act.

How Rosa Parks defied racism on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama.

“All I was doing was trying to get home from work.”

rosaparksbus120110

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913 – 2005)

On the first of December 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for civil disobedience. She had refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a crowded bus in the racially segregated town of Montgomery, Alabama. Her defiance sparked the push for racial equality, which brought civil rights superstars such as Martin Luther King Jr. into the public eye and changed the world forever.

On December 1, 2005, President George W. Bush directed that a statue of Parks be placed in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

RosaParks

The President stated:

“By placing her statue in the heart of the nation’s Capitol, we commemorate her work for a more perfect union, and we commit ourselves to continue to struggle for justice for every American.

Traveling in Style

Where are the days when traveling required dressing up and great luggage?

Is there anything more depressing than the huddled masses you encounter shuffling through airports and train stations? What happened to dressing smartly when traveling? Have we given in to comfort over style all together? Here a few reminders what we could look like when on the move:

Jane+Fonda-Chanel+1965Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim in the 1960’s, Jane is wearing Chanel

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Belle de Jour

The iconic shoe that never went out of fashion.

In the 1967 French film “Belle de Jour” directed by the great Luis Buñuel, the actress  Catherine Deneuve plays a rich bourgeoise who secretly works in an elegant “maison close” (a brothel) during the day when her husband is at work. Her demure and elegant look is still so compelling today, but the most enduring part of her look are her killer shoes!

PBDLUBU EC006Luis Buñuel directing Catherine Deneuve in “Belle de Jour” in 1967

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