On Sunday I took a drive to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco to see an excellent show, Arthur Szyk: Miniature Paintings and Modern Illuminations. Arthur Szyk was an Early 20th Century illustrator from Poland and is best known for his highly detailed, miniature paintings that were created for books and medieval manuscripts, using transparent/opaque watercolors.
Also exhibiting at the Legion was Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave. De Borchgrave is known for using paper as a medium for recreating historic dresses worn by Elizabeth I, the Medici family, Marie-Antoinette, and many others. To construct these costumes, paper was delicately painted by hand and meticulously sewn together as if it were real fabric. The finished gowns were then posed on manikins in the same manner as the old master paintings that inspired them, recreating the painting and bringing it to life in three dimensions.
After viewing the exhibition, I felt my trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete unless I did some sketching, so I exited the museum and looked around for a good place to draw. After walking the grounds, I decided on the museum itself as my subject, with a lion statue in the foreground. But soon after I was settled, a soft rain from the greying sky above rendered my marking pen useless, and with my sketchbook getting wet, I decided to head back home.
Walking back to my car, I paused for a moment to admire an impressive view of the Golden Gate Bridge almost obscured by the rapidly changing weather. It would have been a shame to pass up an opportunity like this so I looked around for a place I could sketch without getting wet. Not far behind me, I saw a stump under a tree on which I could sit, paint, and be sheltered all at the same time. Pulling out my art supplies once again, I painted watercolors wet-into-wet in order to capture the mood of the hazy bridge. Although I stayed relatively dry under the canopy of trees, a breeze carried the little droplets of rain that dotted my drying painting and made it look like snow.
My wife Marilyn and I had a great time at the Birth of Impressionism show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco yesterday. The exhibit, containing paintings from the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, travels in the footsteps of one of the most celebrated art movements in history, Impressionism. Included in the show are paintings by Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Sisley and many others. It was interesting to see the transformation of the art world from the classical style of Bouguereau to the modern style developed by Degas, Monet and the others.
We also saw a companion exhibit at the Legion of Honor called Impressionist Paris: City of Light. This show mainly focuses on the graphic arts in the form of etchings, lithographs, and wood engravings from artists Gauguin, Degas, Daumia Mary Cassatt, Loutrec. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of etchings in the show and being an etcher myself, delighted in the detail and craftsmanship of the prints. Some of the best prints highlighted the narrow city street of Paris lit up with eclectic gas lamps. But one of my favorite pieces in the show was a small oil painting by Renoir called “La Loge,” which portrays a fashionable Parisian couple sitting in a theater box. It depicts a lavishly dressed young woman gazing at the viewer while a gentleman in the background looks through binoculars at another balcony above. By the end of the show I felt like running off to Paris for an extended vacation or more likely, snuggling up at home on the couch watching old black and white french movies wishing I was in Paris drawing and painting the narrow city streets.
Another special exhibit we saw was Paris sans fin: Alberto Giacometti’s Paris. These lithographic sketches of Paris’ city streets were especially inspiring for their looseness and lively impressions modern Paris of the mid twentieth century.
After viewing the special exhibits, Marilyn and I breezed through the permanent collection and another exhibit called Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine. This is where I finally had a moment to park myself on a bench and do a quick drawing of a sculpture called Saint James the Less. Although I didn’t get to draw much today, it was inspiring to see the work of the Impressionist movement.