REMBRANDT AT THE MUSEUM–NOT AN ALL FOOLS’ DAY JOKE

Here are more museum postings, which I will continue to do in order to give you the flavor of all we saw. Please keep in mind that there were many unavoidable light reflections, not only from the skylights and track lighting, but also from the surprising fact that many of the works were covered with glass; and no matter how good the museum quality of that glass, there were still added light aberrations in a few of the photos.

Today is Rembrandt’s day:

An Old Man in Military Costume, About 1630-31, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel

“This fantasy portrait belongs to the type known as a tronie, or a character study of a head. These pictures were created for sale on the open art market in Holland. Rembrandt frequently dressed the models for such portraits in fanciful costumes, as in the case of this man in military garb. The attire probably symbolizes Dutch fortitude and patriotism during the struggle for independence from Spain.”

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The Abduction of Europa, 1632, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel (2 photos)

From the Getty:  “In the Metamorphoses , the ancient Roman poet Ovid told a story about the god Jupiter, who disguised himself as a white bull in order to seduce the princess Europa away from her companions and carry her across the sea to the distant land that would bear her name.

During his long career Rembrandt rarely painted mythological subjects. Here he conveys a narrative story through dramatic gesture and visual effects. Bewildered, Europa grasps the bull’s horn, digs her fingers into his neck, and turns back to look at her companions on the water’s edge. One young woman falls to the ground and raises her arms in alarm, dropping the flower garland intended for the bull’s neck into her lap, while her friend clasps her hands in consternation and watches helplessly. The carriage driver above rises to his feet and stares at the departing princess in horror. In the background, a city shrouded in mist extends along the horizon, perhaps serving as an allusion to the ancient city of Tyre as well as to contemporary Amsterdam.The dark thicket of trees to the right contrasts with the pink and blue regions of the sea and sky. Sunlight breaks through the clouds and reflects off the water, but the sky behind the trees is dark and foreboding.

A master of visual effects, Rembrandt took pleasure in describing the varied textures of sumptuous costumes and glittering gold highlights on the carriage and dresses.”

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A Portrait of a Rabbi, About 1640-45, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel

“Rembrandt painted and drew numerous elderly male subjects in contemplation throughout his career. Here, strong light illuminates the man’s chest and face, which is energetically modeled with fine, textured brushstrokes. In contrast, the heavy folds of his gown and soft material of his hat are more loosely executed. Rembrandt was sensitive to Jewish tradition, and sought to capture its character through the representation of physical appearance and an internal spiritual state.”

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Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold Trimmed Cloak, 1632, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel

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And from the Getty http://www.getty.edu/art/installation_highlights/rembrandt.html:

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn‘s Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak is on temporary view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. The work, which has not been on public view since the 1970s, is on loan from a private collection in New York.

The sitter, an unknown woman, is richly dressed in the fanciful costume Rembrandt favored for biblical and mythological paintings. He scratched in the thick, wet paint to create the pleats of the subject’s white shirt, and rendered gold embroidery on her black gown with almost an abstract series of daubs. Light from the painting’s upper left creates atmosphere behind the sitter and strongly illuminates one side of her rounded face, along with the strand of pearls in her hair and one of her large pearl earrings.

Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak inspired the facial types of many of Rembrandt’s heroines in the early 1630s.

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We’re off on a three-day job, so more photos in a few days….

Note: All text in quotes is taken from the Getty or de Young museum placards posted beside paintings.

MORE ON THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUES

Excerpt from French Art: Classic and Contemporary Painting and Sculpture by W. C. Brownell, 1901. Download and read the book for free from the University of California Archive, http://archive.org/details/frenchartclassic00browrich

Manet‘s great distinction is to have discovered that the sense of reality is achieved with a thousand-fold greater intensity by getting as near as possible to the actual, rather than resting content with the relative, value of every detail. Every one who has painted since Manet has either followed him in this effort or else has appeared jejune (a.k.a. simplistic, superficial, dry, uninteresting).

Take as an illustration of the contrary practice such a masterpiece as Gerome’s “Eminence Grise.” In this picture, skilfully and satisfactorily composed, the relative values of all the colors are admirably, even beautifully, observed. The correspondence of the gamut of values to that of the light and dark scale of such an actual scene is perfect. Before Manet, one could have said that this is all that is required and the best that can be secured, arguing that exact imitation of local tints and general tone is impossible, owing to the difference between nature’s highest light and lowest dark, and the potentialities of the palette. In other words, one might have said that inasmuch as you can squeeze absolute white and absolute black out of no tubes, the thing to do is first to determine the scale of your picture and then make every note in it bear the same relation to every other that the corresponding note in nature bears to its fellows in its own corresponding but different scale.”

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HOMAGE TO MY TEACHER AND MENTOR, FRANK COVINO

There is a difference between instructors and teachers–instructors show you how, but teachers provide the “who, what, where, why,” and “how” of a subject.  A teacher teaches you the theoretical aspects of the subject, helps you understand where you are going, why you’re going, and what to do when you get there. To me, that makes a tremendous difference.

All too often, I read articles by painters that parrot my teacher, Frank Covino, but fail to thank him for all they learned.  Since I have been taught by him, I recognize his phraseology instantly. Well, to quote Frank, “It’s never too late to ameliorate,” so, as not to become one of those painters who forgets where they came from, I want to say that Frank’s giving, unselfish nature has truly been a gift I will forever cherish. I learned more about painting in my first week’s study with Frank Covino than I learned in all past workshops (that shall remain nameless), put together. What I learned from him way back then (and continue to learn) led me to see art and painting as truly a process and not a haphazard accident, with logic and a systematic method that removes the guesswork. This allows me to concentrate on creating and making fine-tuned judgments on value and color in my paintings. I will be always grateful to Frank for starting me on this path, as his dedication and striving for perfection in all aspects are inspirational and a great model to emulate. I wonder if he realizes how much so many of his students hold him in awe, and love and respect him for all the lives he has affected in such profound ways.

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Photo of Frank Covino

Is there some kind of knowledge transference at birth? Perhaps there is, given that Frank Covino has been painting portraits since he was six years old. His mission: “To pass on the classical academic system of painting to the young so it doesn’t get lost.” This craft has been in the Covino family for centuries and, with over fifty years of teaching experience, Frank has made it his life’s work to impart the secrets of the Old Masters.

He reflects, “I teach because I was given an extraordinary, innate gift which revealed itself very early in my life.  History has proven that the most extraordinary artists and musicians were also the best teachers and I like to think that I stand on the shoulders of those giants. Therefore, to exploit that gift would be a sacrilege. Thus, I will continue to teach as long as there are students who seek my guidance as it is my obligation to preserve this ancient tradition of my Italian ancestors.”

In this blog I’m writing, A Pigment of Your Imagination, I hope to pass on some of what I have learned as well.

ANOTHER VERMEER, JUST DOWN THE ROAD…

well, almost.  I just found out about it so we have decided to visit the Getty Center as well, on our way to the deYoung in San Francisco.  Here are some of the details:

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/vermeer/index.html

Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (ca. 1663-64), on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, is being exhibited at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, daily through March 31, 2013.  It will then go back to its home for the grand reopening of the Rijksmuseum on April 13, 2013, after extensive renovation.

From the Getty Museum site:

“Woman in Blue Reading a Letter represents one of Vermeer’s most enigmatic depictions of a new theme in Dutch genre painting (subjects from everyday life): well-to-do women in domestic settings, often so preoccupied that they are oblivious to the viewer’s gaze. This special installation highlights the variety of artistic contributions to the popular theme of the intimate interior in the 1660s to complement Vermeer’s quiet, harmonious reader. Gerard ter Borch’s Music Lesson, Jan Steen’s Drawing Lesson, Pieter de Hooch’s Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy, and Frans van Mieris’s The Doctor’s Visit from the Getty Museum’s collection, as well as Gabriel Metsu’s An Elegant Lady Writing at Her Desk with a Dog beside Her (on loan from a private collection in New York) share refined brushwork and dazzling illusionism in the rendering of highly-constructed private spaces.”

In addition, they are exhibiting a pair of large Franz Hals‘ paintings which will also go back to Amsterdam on March 31st.

Lucas de Clercq by Frans Hals (ca. 1635)

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Feyna van Steenkiste by Frans Hals (ca. 1635)

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Here is more info from the Getty:

“About the Sitters–Lucas de Clercq (about 1603–1652) was a wealthy Haarlem merchant who dealt in potash (an alkaline material used in bleaching), bleached linens, and linen yarn.  Lucas married Feyna van Steenkiste (1603/4–1640), whose family was also involved in Haarlem’s linen and bleaching enterprises, in 1626.  Lucas de Clercq and his wife were prominent members of the extensive Mennonite community in Haarlem, most of whom were involved in the city’s textile industries. Proponents of non-resistance, Mennonites strove to follow the example of the apostles and to live a modest life. Both Lucas and Feyna are dressed modestly in sober black garments that do not ostentatiously display their wealth and social standing.”

Apparently, these paintings have never been in the Western United States until now, and who knows when they will return.