Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Illustrators Club "Sketch Day" at the National Gallery of Art

On Sunday March 13, 2011 a group of illustrators and friends met at the National Gallery of Art for another Illustrators Club "Sketch Day".  After meeting in the museum's rotunda our group of about fifteen broke up and explored the museum looking for places to draw.  Along with a few others I ended up in the European Sculpture Galleries which features twenty magnificent rooms filled with hundreds of sculptures from the time of the Renaissance to the 20th century.  My favorite rooms feature the work of Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin.


The National Gallery of Art's Rotunda.


Sayeh Behnam sketching Rodin's "Sphinx".

After sketching for two hours we all met up in the museum cafe for sharing of our experiences, artwork and refreshments. As usual the work was varied and inspiring! IC member and drawing professor Jason Axtell drew fluid and energetic sketches from the sculptures. Meredith Nelson ventured outdoors to sketch the St. Patrick's Day Parade, while Web Bryant spent his time doing an amazing toned paper drawing of Augustus Saint-Gaudens' "Shaw Memorial". The youngest members of the group Lily Dunlap, age 11 drew Rodin's "Morning", while high school junior, Samatha Bryant sketched from a Ingres painting.


Jason Axtell with his drawings.


English professor and IC friend Sam Przybylowicz shows her lovely drawing of Paul Manship's sculpture.


IC President David Labrozzi with his sketches from the sculpture galleries.


IC friend Lily Dunlap and her sketch of Rodin's "Morning".

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Web Bryant's sketch of the "Shaw Memorial".

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Marie Dauenheimer's sketch of "Morning" by Rodin.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals at the National Gallery of Art

Last Saturday I attended an educators seminar about the Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals exhibition at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC. I have attended these seminars in the past and they are excellent.

The program began with a lovely breakfast and introduction to the program. Our first speaker was Eric Denker, Senior Lecturer at the NGA, giving an overview of the exhibition and putting it into context. Denker began the lecture by reviewing the geography of Venice. Venice is made up about 110 small islands all connected by about 450 bridges. The Grand Canal which weaves its way through Venice is 2.5 miles wide. In all Venice is only 3 miles long x 2.5 miles wide. Of course it seems much larger, especially when you are lost in its labyrinth.

In the 18th c. Italian painters started following in the Dutch tradition of painting cityscapes. The first documented "view painting" or vendutismo of Venice was painted in 1697 by Dutch artist Gaspar van Wittel called Gaspare Vanvitelli. He painted in his Rome studio from large, detailed sketches.


The Molo from the Bacino di San Marco, 1697 by Gaspar van Wittel.

Giovanni Antonio Canal called "Canaletto" was born in Venice in 1697. His painting style developed and matured quickly and by the 1720s he was painting commissioned views of his native city. Canaletto's early works are large, atmospheric works, often including genre scenes.

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The Piazza San Marco, looking East, 1723 by Canaletto.

Within a few years art dealer Joseph Smith was commissioning Canaletto to create paintings for British patrons who were traveling to Italy on the Grand Tour. Smith wanted the paintings of Venice to be bright, sunny and detailed. In a sense these paintings were high end sourvenirs of the Garnd Tour, which included travel to Rome, Florence and Venice.

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The Entrance to the Grand Canal, with Santa Maria della Salute, 1729 by Canaletto.

As Canaletto's commissions increase he brought his talented nephew Bernardo Bellotto under his wing. Starting at age 16 he created 55 paintings of Venice.

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The Piazetta, looking North, 1743 by Bernardo Bellotto.

It is interesting to note that many of Canaletto's paintings of Venice are 'spliced" together. They are scenes that don't exsist in life, but are idealized views of an amazingly beautiful city. I highly recommend The Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. The exhibit closes May 30,2011. There are films, lectures and concerts in conjunct with this exhibit:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rembrandt Exhibition at the Frick Collection In New York

Last week, while in New York, I went to the "Rembrandt and His School" exhibition at the Frick Collection. I first visited the Frick many years ago and fell in love with the intimate setting and beautiful collection. When ever I find myself at the Frick I make a point of spending some time with my favorite Rembrandt painting "The Polish Rider". This dark and ominous painting is unlike most Rembrandts and always gives one pause, thoughts about who the young man is and where he is going.

I was delighted to see "The Polish Rider" featured prominently in the exhibition along with three other Rembrandt paintings from the collection. As part of the exhibition there are numerous pen and ink drawings by Rembrandt and his students. The drawings are from the Lugt Collection in Paris.

I highly recommend a visit to the Frick at any time, but especially before May 15, 2011 when the exhibition closes. If you visit the collection make sure to spend some time in the permanent collection and take a few minutes to enjoy the lovely indoor courtyard garden. My cousin Diane's favorite painting is by Hans Holbein and it is a stunning portrait of Sir Thomas More.

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"The Polish Rider" by Rembrandt, 1655, Frick Collection, New York.


Interior with a Woman in Bed, 1639-41, Pen and ink with wash, The Lugt Collection, Paris.

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"Sir Thomas More" by Hans Holbein, 1527, Frick Collection, New York.