October 24, 2012

Old Friends (from the permanent collection)

Last week I took a day off work. I was not traveling and I did not spend the day on the playground. Instead I headed for the National Gallery of Art. As I made my way through the galleries, I visited some old "friends" and spotted some new works.

I have the softest of spots in heart for Andre Derain's Charing Cross Bridge. I had a print of this work years ago in my very first apartment. Of course no print can convey the vibrant colors and beauty. The pink sky still takes my breath away.

Andre Derain Charing Cross Bridge
André Derain, Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington, John Hay Whitney Collection

Just feet away, hangs Tugboat on the Seine by a chum of Derain's, Maurice de Vlaminck. Did friends ever imagine some hundred years ago that their works would hang side by side in museums?

Maurice de Vlaminck Tugboat on the Seine
Maurice de Vlaminck, Tugboat on the Seine, Chatou, 1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney

Robert Delaunay's work has a striking resemblance to the style of his wife Sonia Delaunay.  The same flat vibrant color. The same spheres. Surely today they would run a design studio and have their own Target product line.

Robert Delaunay Political Drama
Robert Delaunay, Political Drama, 1914 Gift of the Joseph H. Hazen Foundation, Inc.
On a wall just over is a portrait by the great Pablo Picasso, before he went off the deep end into cubism (I get it, just don't love it). A search for Petrus Manach, an art dealer, doesn't reveal much except this portrait that forever immortalized his likeness. Money well spent, Sir.

Pablo Picasso Petrus Manach
Pablo Picasso, Pedro Mañach, 1901 Chester Dale Collection

Despite the gentle colors, I have always found this work heartbreaking. It is their faces full of sorrow, the thought of what these haunting eyes have seen, their closeness and distance (Gorky's mother died of starvation long before this work was started).   Beautiful, fragile, and tragic.

Arshille Gorky The Artist and his mother

Arshile Gorky The Artist and His Mother Alisa Mellon Bruce Fund
I confess, I have not heard of Lyonel Feininger before this visit, but the movement of this work, drew my eye immediately across the gallery. Dynamic and bright, it shook me out of melancholy of Arshile Gorky.
Lyonel Feininger The Bicycle Race, 1912 Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Yes, I know what I said about cubism, but this work takes breath away (literally, holds you still so to not make too much noise). For its diminutive size it packs a lot in, creating a feeling of standing in the middle of a cathedral and expecting to hear echo. It is fantastic!

Max Weber Interior of the Fourth Dimension, 1913 Gift of Natalie Davis Spingarn in memory of Linda R. Miller and in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art

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