January 8, 2009

White Wine for the Soul

My friend Karen and I went on a fantastic day trip last Sunday to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. It's not too far from Albany and the scenery and weather was so lovely that I didn't notice the drive much at all. I'd never been to the Clark and I hadn't been to MASSMoCA in a long time but the Clark was free and MASSMoCA was not. I felt a little bad that Karen had already been to the Clark but she reassured me that the collection is amazing and it is comforting that you can return to pieces that you enjoy over and over again. MASS MoCA has much more of a transient art collection.

The Clark is really just a collection of pieces aquired in the first half of the 20th century by the heir to the Singer sewing machine empire, Sterling Clark and his wife Francine. If you know anything about Singers then you know just how much money this guy had to throw around. (Ahem, a crapload.) I was shocked at the pieces in their collection, well more like incredibly pleasantly surprised. He and his wife seemed to love the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists like Degas, Manet, Homer and Renoir. They also collected art from my favorite portrait artist John Singer Sargent. I was most surprised by his presence. I shouldn't have been since the rest of the collection was heading that way, but I was. That's how I live my life, oblivious to patterns until they smack me in the face.

Anyway, I am so glad Karen had the idea to go. I'd be happy to go over and over again. The collection hit the spot. There were artists whose work touches my heart and reaffirms the beauty in nature at the Clark. I want to share with you some of my favorites that I am so blessed to have seen in reality.

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Degas. This was cast in bronze in 1919-1921 after his death in 1917.

I commented to Karen that Degas must've been obsessed with dancers and slept with tons of them. This disturbed her greatly since so many of his subjects seem so young. I'm not saying I disagree that it was creepy but not all of his subjects were children. We found some other bronze statues that were obviously women of age (come to think of it, those statues were of curvy women so either dancers weren't so skinny back then or Degas hired prostitutes to stand naked in ballet poses. Of course, I'm speculating since I know NOTHING about Degas the man. He really could've just loved drawing dancers because they were pretty, interesting, and challenging to draw.)

The Fumée d'Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambergris) by John Singer Sargent. 1880.

Karen told me that the members of the museum voted this their favorite. She didn't tell me which was the favorite until we turned the corner and I saw this. I was so excited! This was the first Sargent we saw. There is something about the way he put the paint on the canvas that makes the portraits so sensual and, for lack of a better word, succulent. They are all like butter. I could look at them all day.

West Point, Prout's Neck by Winslow Homer. 1900.

Mike and I both enjoy Homer. I always liked the idea of retiring on the coast of Maine. The coast of the Northeast is unlike the rest of the Eastern seaboard- the sea seems more alive up there than anywhere else. Homer's work only reaffirms that idea.

The Women of Amphissaby Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1887.

I'd never seen this piece before. This image doesn't do it justice because the canvas is so large but the composition of the women is so theatrical I was drawn to it.

I don't get to go to many straight-up art museums as much as I would like. Mike and I naturally gravitate to museums of a more historical nature. Not to say we don't both love a good art collection it's just we see art in more of a historical context and not in an artistic context. No matter, I'll take it any way I can get it.

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