Sunday, November 28, 2010

Other Projects

Visiting Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
During a recent visit to Kansas City, I spent a lovely rainy afternoon visiting the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.  Among the most iconic of the works at the Nelson Atkins are Claes Oldenburg's Shuttlecocks, as in the small object that one bats around when playing badminton.  In this case, however, the shuttlecock stands 18 feet high on the front lawn of the museum.  The museum is also home to the Block Building a new addition designed by Steven Holl Architects.   

During my visit, I mainly wandered through the galleries of American Art and was delighted and enlivened by the many beautiful works of art.  I thought I would share a few of my favorites here. 
"Venus Rising from the Sea-A Deception," oil on canvas, 29 1/8"x24 1/8", Raphaelle Peale, 1822
This figure covered in cloth in Raphaelle Peale's painting is actually based on a painting by James Barry's: "Venus Rising from the Sea."  Peale's painting was a commentary on the contemporary practice of covering paintings of nudes.  I'm always memorized when an artist is able to paint something so simple as a plain white cloth in a way that makes you feel that it is masterpiece.  
"Mrs. Cecil Wade," oil on canvas, 66"x54 1/4", John Singer Sargent, 1886
Mrs. Cecil Wade was the 23-year-old wife of an English stockbroker, looking very proper and aware of her elevated social status.  A bit of the magic of this painting is lost in the photograph, of course, but the texture of everything is just extraordinary: the delicate beads on her dress, the fabric on which she sits, the light reflecting off the wood floor.  I stood before this painting absolutely captivated by the beauty of the way Sargent had painted Mrs. Cecil's skin, so lovely.
"Francis Eakins," oil on canvas, 24" x 19", Thomas Eakins, 1870
I love the subtle drama of the this painting of Thomas Eakin's sister Francis.  The figure is a bit lost in the background, a bit foggy.  Using the crisp, drama of her sash, the artist is able to really capture my attention and get me wondering.  What was the mood and circumstance that caused him to paint his sister this way?  A single clear piece of information amide dismal or confusing period, perhaps?
"Crapshooters," oil on canvas, Thomas Hart Benton, 1928
The Nelson Atkins has a large collection of beautiful paintings by Thomas Hart Benton.  Benton was a midwesterner, who taught for a time at the Kansas City Art Institute.  A lot of his paintings depicted everyday people in Missouri.  I love the way his paintings feel very fluid as though things are somehow melting in a very subtle way.  I'm captivated by the beauty of his honest depictions of everyday events.

What are some of your favorite works of American Art?
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