Urban Exploration 12
This was part of an Art installation with various Safari animals decorated by Non-profits and Local organizations. this was taken in the spring of 2013.
Just posting this for fun…
I was intrigued to see this artist as a sculptor. The name Matisse usually brought up thoughts of paintings and drawings for me. So it was quite intriguing to see some of his sculpting pieces. This was part of a series, four female figures seen from the back, emerging slowly from the stone. Even though this is a different medium, you can still get a sense of the artist’s “flavor” and style. (Nude from the back stage 1, Henri Matisse 1909)
I was intrigued by the heavy line work of this piece. The outlines were anything but subtle. Even the lines in the face were hard, heavy lines. Something about the contrasting black, yellow and white made this painting stand out. (Nini, dancer at “Folies Bergeres”, Kees VonDongh, 1907)
I liked the stylized figures of this artist. You could also see the progressing and simplification he was moving towards. The left hand sculpture predates the one on the top. You can almost see the creative process at work here.
(Series of Nudes, Henri Laurence, clay 1930-1947)
Here was another example of an artist having more than one specialty Andre Derain made a series of nude figurines (see previous post) but is obviously quite capable with a brush. Some of the facial features were similar between the two, but still. The similarities between sculpture and painting are not as clear as with Matisse. (Alice Derain portrait, Andre Derain, 1920)
Modern artists also used the female body as a means, integrating concepts and allegories in their pieces. Here, the artists is making a statement about reality contrasting with dreams and illusions. The female body is morphed and transformed. These last few slides present some of the strangest pieces I saw, a little puzzling and odd, some quite disturbing really but still original uses of the female form in their art. (“You shouldn’t see reality as I am”, Max Ernst, 1923)
Giacometti’s style was quite intriguing, pitted, rough surfaces, elongated and unnatural figures. Here is a woman, easily recognizable by her female attributes, but still in such a unique representation that I felt it was worth sharing.
(Woman from Venice V, Alberto Giacometti, 1956)
This portrait grabbed my attention and I ended up standing in front of it for quite some time. This gave me a chance to see some of the reactions of over viewers. Some were disgusted, perplexed, curious or scoffing. But no one really understood. Reading the nearby sign I discovered that the artist Balthus loved to make a ruckus He was an innovator, promoting erotic art. Claiming that eroticism was different than obscenity. He wanted to shock his viewers and make them ponder the question of nudity and eroticism in art. However this piece was quite disturbing. The model was the wife of a close friend of Balthus. They had a rather ambiguous relationship. Another dimension was the title “Alice” referring to the child’s book. She is wearing little ballet shoes, like a little girl, yet her body is that of a full grown woman. Her blank, blind stare makes her particularly unnerving.
(Alice, Balthus, 1933)
Bacon’s perspective was also a little off. A woman in a provocative pose, contrasting with the pure black darkness behind the doorway and seemingly melting away. He face was decomposing almost, the mismatched eyes and devious grin only added to the uncomfortable feeling you had when view this painting. (Female Nude Standing in Doorway, Francis Bacon 1972)
This was the last piece I wanted to share. An ephemeral ink and acrylic painting. There was something eyrie but fascinating about her. There was no story or interpretation offered here, leaving us free to imagine who this ghost like woman is, and to wonder what she might be thinking, staring back at the hordes of viewers passing by. She seems almost amused, with a slight grin, hiding some kind of secret we will never know. (Labeled, Marlene Dumas 1998)
The Pompidou center offered a very different perspective on the female figure. I also found that women were one of the most common themes in the art here. There’s something to be said about the fascination of artists with the female body, trying to represent it, change it and mold it into something new, but still expressing the natural beauty of the women in their lives. After the advent of photography, the art world changed completely. Artists were seeking a new meaning to creation, a new inspiration, and women played an important part in that search for a new art.
(Naked woman sitting, Georges Braque 1907, Fauvist movement with outrageous colors.)
Picasso’s vision of the world has always fascinated me. I simply marvel at the variety of his works, and so there are quite a few of his works here. The cubist movement was scorned and mocked, but I find it to be a show of technical prowess. It’s a much more challenging piece to admire and decipher, but definitely worth the effort.
Woman’s bust, 1907
Woman sitting in a chair, 1910
Girl with a hoop, 1919
Naked woman with Turkish hat, 1955
Women by the ocean, 1956
I liked this series of sculptures, marble and stone women, standing with tilted heads. The one on the top in embracing a lover. The perspective is a bit odd, it almost seems like the breasts are in the wrong spot, I was a little puzzled at first, but it was in the cubist exhibit, so perhaps it is just a different point of view than what we are used to. The figure on the bottom gives of a gentle softness with a smile.
Andre Derain, 1907-08 collection of nudes
Otto Dix’s works are always a little perturbed. But this one was especially so. The main characters are reflected multiple times throughout the pieces as if they are surrounded by mirrors, each reflection focusing on a different part of the strange couple. The strangest part of the piece is how the artists identifies the female here as a nun, making this representation of vice and hubris all the more shocking. (Soldier and Nun, Otto Dix 1916)
We continue with the theme of allegories in the second empire. This large bronze piece was carefully constructed. Each element having a specific significance and symbolism. It’s a nationalist piece, the center female figure representing France herself. (France is always personified as a woman) She is surrounded by artistic muses and symbols for the Roman empire and supremacy.
Here are two another bronze allegories, personifying poetry and the art of creation. They are placed in front of Paris’ “Hotel de Ville”, the main city hall of the city, a stunning piece of architecture, covered in sculptures of great men of France, authors, politicians and of course, some of the more important mayors and city officials. She is one of three only female presence on the building (the other is France herself above the clock.)
The portraits of the second empire, show the fashions of the time, something I love to see. Following the different trends in clothes and fashion through art would be another great topic to study more in depth.
But they also reflect a sort of genteel feel, calm, soft images and a feeling of delicate elegance that I found charming.
In 1622, Marie of Medici was crown Queen of France and commissioned 24 painting from the painter Rubens to decorate her new palace. Its a series of big oil paintings, representing different important scenes from the queen’s life. Each is elaborate and very detailed, with allegorical and mythological additions. The aim is to glorify the Queen and her rule, but each piece reflects the golden age of classicism.
Here is a good example of what I meant. We can clearly see the queen at the center of the piece as the main focal point, in light clothing to contrast with the other characters. But surrounding the queen are figures from Greek and Roman mythology, such as Naiads and sea nymphs, but also cherubs and angels. The renaissance period was a revival of all the old myths. The ancients also provided artistic instruction as artists copied and studied their works, compositions and anatomical studies. I also found it interesting that the pagan characters are always naked or very little dressed, whereas the proper ladies of society are shown in full regalia. It certainly makes for an interesting contrast.
Again, portraits of ladies and noble women are all dressed in fine garbs with jewels and accessories This shows Rubens wife and son painted around 1640, showing the elegance and refinement of their status.
We have a portrait of an Italian Noble woman, painted by Antoon Van Dyck around the same period. I loved the attire and complicated gown. I think this models the saying “One of the best ways that status can is conveyed is through impracticality.”
The Classical artists were fascinated with myths, collecting them and digging through to seek out the raw materials of creation. The female forms here are voluptuous and round, miles away from the ideal of beauty in our generation, of stick thin skeletal models. But at the same time, the dressed women of this same period are wearing corsets and dresses that curve their forms to the extreme to have narrow waists. (Rembrandt, 1654 Bathsheba holding David’s letter)
This contrast is fascinating to me. The differences between the ideal of the naked women and the ideal of the “clothed” women. (A mortal catching a glimpse of sleeping Venus)
The classical artists were also fascinated by allegories and personifications. Something probably inspired from the Romans. The female body becomes a means, not only is it an object of beauty but it represents something more than that. The game of symbolism hunting is quite fun also, trying to understand why the artists picked certain objects or creatures as metaphor and symbols. (Religion destroying Heresy, Jean Hardy 1653)
Union of Painting and Sculpture, Jacques Burette,1677
Allegory of Spring, Pierre LeGros 1629. I love these allegories, showing how the artist would envision how the person incarnating Spring would look. It’s part of a series of four (obviously) each woman holding attributes of each season.
This sculpture was interesting, portraying an actual person dressed as the goddess Juno. It’s like a reversed allegory. An actual person representing a concept, an immaterial goddess. (Marie Leaszczuncka as Juno, Guillaume Coustou 1677)
This photo might seem a little strange. But I visited the “Conciergerie”, the prison where Marie-Antoinette spent the last few months of her life before being executed by the new regime. This photo is a restoration of her cell (with added mannequins). And I felt like this was an interesting perspective on the theme of this project. Here is the place where one of the most famous, frivolous women in world history spent her last few days, in austere conditions, having lost everything.
I had the opportunity to visit the Cluny Medieval Museum, which I had never been to. It was a wonderful experience to see the different art work of that era (650-1400 c.e.) as I feel like this is a somewhat forgotten aspect of art history. The craftsmanship and talent of the Middle-ages surprised me greatly, changing my outlook on the so called “Dark Ages” completely.
What fascinated me the most were the massive tapestry panels. The sheer size of them alone is awe-inspiring. But they are so rich in detail and pattern that one truly has to wonder about the time and care an artist puts into these beautiful fabric masterpieces.
This elaborate scene showed the baptism of a French prince and showed the divine blessing on his future reign. I found it fascinating as nearly every person of the prince’s entourage was female. Beautiful noble women dressed in their finest, surround and supporting the future sovereign. Each lady has a small caption, naming each also. The occurrence of text and words in tapestries was unknown to me and I found it a little out of place but of great historical importance. It leaves little room for misinterpretations. The scene takes place in an elaborate background, nature, especially flowers and plants had great symbolic values and you can find them in nearly every piece.
Another slightly surprising thing I found at Cluny was this strange pose of the Madonna. I’d never seen them in this tilted pose, holding the baby on their hip with such a pronounced curve. Usually Madonnas are much more stiff and standing straight. But I feel like this pose made her seem more human and approachable. Religious art was THE most important theme to be found here. The sheer quantity was staggering. 9 out of ten pieces, if not more, were depicting some kind of Christian scene, character or event.
The wood carving ability of medieval artisans should definitely be mentioned. This piece struck a chord with me. Saint Madeleine’s statue was slightly smaller than true size, but her presence compensated for it. Her dress was a complicated mess of folds and creases and it was hard to believe she was made of wood at all.
The most famous series of tapestries is beyond a doubt the Unicorn collection. It is a five piece series, each showing a noble maiden in a fantastic, imaginary place filled with plants, flowers and small animals. Each scene presents her with a lion and a white unicorn and each represents a different sense. This one here, shows the sense of sight, symbolized with the mirror. It was interesting to see the different representations of these senses throughout the room. And for once, to not have a major Christian theme in these pieces.
This large mosaic is entitled “Amazonmachie”, which in French means massacre of the Amazons, (the same suffix is used to describe bull fighting). The violence of this piece caught my attention.
The story of the Amazons is quite sad, strong, independent women, ultimately subdued by men. The details and colors of this piece made it all the more memorable. (Turkey, 400 ce)
I wanted to include as many different mediums as I could also, just to show the diversity of the female figure in different Art forms. Here is a bas-relief, showing a Greek hero, Heracles welcoming the personifications of Charity, Hospitality and Generosity. The details of the women’s attire caught my attention with this piece. Sadly, empty studs in the stone showed tantalizing signs of more elaborate ornamentations (jewelry and embellishments) that we can only guess at today. (Island of Thasos, 480 bce)
Here we have another glimpse at funerary steles. This time in the Egyptian culture. What struck me here was the way both figures, man and wife, are placed on the same level as equals, gently embracing for eternity. There is no superiority of one over the other, regardless of what the situation was in life, in death, they are equals. This was a surprisingly reoccurring theme.
Scribe Ounsou and his wife, Imenhetep, 1450 bce
The beauty of this sculpture struck me. It’s a two tone marble and bronze statue of Artemis, the Huntress. I loved how they incorporated the marbling of the stone into the folds of her clothes and the striking black and white contrasting materials.
This marble sculpture of one of Apollo’s muses is a Roman copy of a Greek piece, created in the second century c.e. However, in the 18th century, a fanciful restoration, added the comedy mask and caused an ongoing commotion about the true subject matter of this piece.
Here is another roman re-creation of an original Greek statue, reconstructed from fragments. The Romans took the pose and features of this character but adapted her to suit their needs, placing her in a different tale of mythology altogether. In Greece, she was Diane, and in Rome, she became Atalante, one of Ovid’s metamorphoses. But her dynamic posture caught my eyes, she seems ready to come to life at any second and run right past us.
200 c.e. restored in the 18th century.
This was the most impressive marble statue I saw in the Louvre. The presentation and location are the perfect backdrop for this monumental 10 foot tall statue of Athena (Pallas of Velletri). Her face is stern and her features almost masculine, shown as a figure of strength and victory. This is a Roman reconstruction from the 2nd century. The original Greek statue was a ten foot bronze of the goddess, this piece was apparently recreated from plaster molds of the Greek original, a piece that was never found.
Facing the Pallas Athena, is a long hall, filled with statues and busts of the goddess Athena/Minerva, showing her in different poses and dress.
You guessed it, more funerary steles. I was rather surprised to find one more example of this reoccurring theme in Roman culture. It was a surprise to see the similarities in each of these Mediterranean civilizations. Once more, we have the couple, man and wife, side by side, seated as equals, together, facing the afterlife. I think it is an important reminder of the position of the woman in the family structure, not as inferior, but as a partner. And it would seem that each culture added their own touch to this idea.
Stele of Zabdibol and Haggai, Syria 240 c.e.
During my Paris vacation, I had a lot of fun simply absorbing the atmosphere and being surrounded by art and beautiful things to look at. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this topic. Women have been a major theme and inspiration in every aspect of art and creation since the dawn of human kind. This topic is rather vast and I didn’t want to do something bland or impersonal. So I decided to go on a “Treasure Hunt” of sorts through the city and different museums to simply record the different women I would encounter, photographing the ones that struck me or spoke to me. And this is how I hope this project will be read, as simply an exploration, a walk through the figures that captured my attention. Enjoy!
(I tried to be as thorough as possible, but some pictures are blurry and some dates are missing, but I still wanted to include the image nevertheless because of its beauty or uniqueness.)
The Ancient World
This ancient sculpture was apparently the stereotype of the female form, made around 6000 bce, this was one of the oldest I found. She has a generous, curvy figure sign of abundance and is comfortably seated with her legs crossed.
This figures date back to 2,700 bce from the Island of Keros. We saw similar things in our book, the stylized, recognizable but impersonal figures of these women. They all have the same poses. The museum also mentioned finding very slight paint residue on the Marble faces of these anonymous women.
The Mediterranean Basin in Ancient Times
This funerary stele was moving to me. I saw a lot of funerary art during my couple trips to the Louvre, and it should be a topic on it’s own. These grave markers are a snapshot of past lives, and I found it touching to find this couple, husband and wife, carved in stone side by side for eternity, or at least, as long as the stone would last. Testament to this ancient love. (130-140 C.E. Lebanon)
These figures were magical talismans, promoting protection or healing. They fascinated me since they represented Egyptian, Greek and Semitic deities but in outrageous, caricatural and crude forms. These little figures were meant to attract the anger of supernatural forces being mocked, in order to distract them from plighting the owners instead.
These intricate female heads caught my eye. They were meant to be bodiless, representing a Greek ritual of sacrificing locks of hair. Little wonder since each and every one has an elaborate and carefully fashioned hair style. Most of these were found in burials, and are assumed to represent the sacrifice of loved ones to insure the safety of the passing soul. They are an appeal and a prayer to female, mother-like deities such as Isis and Aphrodite. (Found in Egypt and dating back to the 2-3rd century c.e.)
This third century bronze embodies a culture much different from ours, where female goddesses were praised, worshiped and depended upon. Here we have a statue, blending the features of Isis and Aphrodite, showing a Mother figure with gentle curves, open arms and a soft smile. The Isis-Aphrodite cult was quite important in the ancient world and spread from Africa to England, all the way up the Middle East, showing a passion and love for the female aspect of the divine.
Linen and fabrics
Some of the most impressive pieces were the fabrics, and woven baskets. It was mind blowing to be admiring these fabrics that survived over 3,000 years.
This pleated linen suit was found in an ancient grave and is of the typical Egyptian style. It was a sign of some wealth, and was apparently worn by a woman.
What an adventure the past few months have been. I did in fact return from my trip to Paris. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately my grand plans of massive blogging fell to the wayside once I realized that I had no internet access and too much socializing to do. Returning was a difficult process on its own, since I was very very ill for my flight back and had to stay in bed for a while to recover. One thing leading to another and here we are several months later and still no Parisy posts from me.
Deepest apologies, I will try and upload a few tips I found useful and share with you some of the beautiful art I saw. Things might not be posted in the order they happened, but hopefully you will find some of this information to be of interest. Or at least enjoy the pictures…
Finally the last stretch.
After Weeks of planning and a considerable amount of stress and mishaps. I’m thrilled to announce my up-coming trip to Paris, France.
Indeed my favorite place in the world. I have been there before and it is truly a place filled with beauty and history. Not to mention pastries to die for.
My plans include extensive museum attending and castle exploring. But still leaving enough flexibility to turn off my path and explore to my heart’s content. I’m trying to do some new things that I haven’t done before, so not the same old things, Eiffel Tower, Bateau Mouche, Versailles… nope! hope to explore a whole new side of Paris.
(Museums reviews to come…)