Saturday, November 30, 2013

Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Frick Collection

Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis

Frick Collection, New York City

October 22, 2013, through January 19, 2014

Reviewed by Ed Voves

When I recently visited the Frick Collection in New York City, there was a line of visitors "queuing-up" as the English say, at the entrance. The line stretched nearly a block long and was continually reinforced with new art lovers anxious to get in.
The exhibition at the Frick, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis, is certainly worth the wait. But I suspect that very few people in the daily throng at the door to the Frick come to see Nicolaes Maes' genre masterpiece, The Old Lacemaker, or even the clutch of major works by Rembrandt.

The majority of the art lovers in the line at the Frick come to pay homage to one of the true "beauties" of Holland. They are there to see Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring.

This celebrated character study or tronie is given the honor of its own separate gallery. It is a sensible curatorial decision because many visitors approach Girl with a Pearl Earring with a sense of visible anticipation, even with awe, and most want to linger. Some come back for a second or even a third look. Girl with a Pearl Earring exerts a magnetic force, drawing people to her, making it difficult for them to break free.

There are a number of reasons for the magnitude of the attraction of Girl with a Pearl Earring. We know absolutely nothing about this beautiful, enigmatic woman. For that matter, we know very little about Vermeer himself. The painter from Delft kept to himself, holding the world - and his creditors - at bay, while painting one masterpiece after another.

There is also the legend of Girl with a Pearl Earring. The painting lingered for decades, unremarked and unrecognized as a work by Vermeer until the mid-1800's. It was purchased for the princely sum of two guilders and change by Arnoldus des Tombe in 1881. Des Tombe was encouraged by the art historian Victor de Stuers, a passionate advocate of the work of Vermeer, whose reputation had earlier been eclipsed by Rembrandt and Hals.

Girl with a Pearl Earring was donated to the Royal Collection of the Netherlands. It is housed in the museum known as the Mauritshuis, currently being renovated. Girl with a Pearl's visit to museums in the U.S., of which the Frick is the last venue, is a result of this museum rehab. We probably will not be seeing her again in the U.S. any time soon.

Who is this young woman in the improvised turban, this "Mona Lisa of the North" as some now call her? Was she a serving girl in Vermeer's household? His daughter? A professional model? We are unlikely to ever know.

I think it fair to say that Girl with a Pearl Earring is the perfect symbol of the Dutch Golden Age. During this burst of creative energy spanning the seventeenth century, the people of the Netherlands beat back the armies of the Spanish Empire and Louis XIV of France, while creating the first recognizably modern, free market society in the Western world. These political and economic deeds were complemented by a remarkable degree of religious tolerance, major scientific innovations and soaring achievements in the visual arts.

Examples of the rich artistic heritage of the Dutch Golden Age are on view in the second gallery of the Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals exhibit - provided you can tear your gaze away from Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The selection of works from the Mauritshuis testifies to the diversity of Dutch art during the seventeenth century. The incredible range of genres and of technical virtuosity produced in such a small nation is sometimes hard to fathom.

Consider the paired portraits by Frans Hals of husband and wife, Jacob Olycan and Aletta Hanemans. With her plump, flushed cheeks offset by the neck ruff and headpiece which were the height of fashion in 1625. Aletta Hanemans conforms to the stereotype of female beauty of the Dutch Golden Age.

Frans Hals, Portrait of Jacob Olycan

Hals' portrait of Jacob Olycan, presents an altogether different image. Olycan's dark piercing eyes and sallow skin are the features that we associate with the Spanish enemies of the Dutch during this period. Yet Olycan was a brewer from Haarlem and an officer in the St. George Militia Company. Hals painted Olycan in a group portrait of the St. George Militia officers at a banquet in 1627. A more Dutch scene could hardly be imagined.

Vincent van Gogh praised Hals, commenting that he painted with twenty-seven different shades of black. Where did this Spanish-style obsession with black originate? Frans Hals (1582-1666) was born in Flanders, present-day Belgium, which remained under Spanish control after the Dutch revolted, led by the indomitable William of Orange in 1568. But Hals' parents fled from Antwerp to escape the Spanish in 1585 when he was a young child. Any Spanish influence upon his painting, therefore, could only have been indirect and marginal.

Hals was one of the greatest portrait painters in the history of art. He needs no chain of influences to explain his grasp of color and form, his "rough style" or his insight into human character.

Artists of the Netherlands during seventeenth century, however, did possess unrivaled access to the material culture of the entire globe. Thanks to the intrepid - and aggressive - outreach of Dutch maritime trade, all manner of things - Chinese porcelain, lacquerware from Japan, art prints from Italy - were easily attainable to Dutch artists. So vast was the Dutch control of world trade that the English, who had fought as allies against Spain, were infuriated at being locked-out of colonial trade zones and European markets. Warfare broke out between England and the Dutch Republic, with a heavy loss of ships and lives. Samuel Pepys, in his famous diary, records the exasperated comment of a fellow advisor to King Charles II, "By God, says he, I think the Devil shits Dutchmen."

The Dutch themselves were apprehensive about the effect of the unprecedented wealth flowing into their nation during the 1600's. This was particularly true during the first half of the seventeenth century when the strict commandments of Calvinist religious doctrine still dominated Dutch society.

Pieter Claesz, Vanitas Still Life.
Pieter Claesz was a German-born artist who settled in the city of Haarlem. Claesz specialized in still-life paintings. His Vanitas Still Life from 1630 reinforced the Sunday preaching of Calvinist ministers that life is short and worldly pursuits are ultimately in vain. The toppled wine glass, the dying flame of the oil lamp and the cracked, pitted skull are obvious reminders of such sermons.

Perhaps the most notable feature of this superbly crafted work is the way that Claesz treated the pages of the large folio. These are so jagged and brittle that they would crumble at the merest touch. With this master stroke, Claesz affirms that even knowledge and scholarship, major concerns for the scientific Dutch, will pass away.

Rembrandt's "Tronie" of a Man with a Feathered Beret was painted in 1635, during a decade of bravura portraits and major biblical scenes. The term "tronie" is derived from the Dutch word for "face." Tronies were smaller works, character studies or depictions of people in exotic garb. Rembrandt, flush with funds from his portraits, invested in all manner of hats, clothing and gear which he could use as props in his paintings. The fantastical hat and gleaming armor in this tronie were no doubt part of his collection, later auctioned-off after his bankruptcy in 1656.

Rembrandt, "Tronie" of a Man with a Feathered Beret

A close look at Rembrandt's "Tronie" reveals that it is a cautionary work like Vanitas Still Life by Claesz. The dashing beret, worthy of one of Hals' cavaliers, strikes a hollow note when we examine the puffy features and creased brow of Rembrandt's protagonist. Is he the recipient of bad news? Has he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and realized his own mortality? Whatever the case, there is real fear in the eyes that flash at us from the picture. Here we can begin to see the origins of the introspection and self-knowing that were to transform Rembrandt's later portraits and self-portraits into the most insightful evocations of human character ever painted.

The fleeting nature of life is further attested to by another astonishing painting on view at the Frick, The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. This wondrous painting is a trompe l’oeil masterpiece. Fabritius delicately balances brilliant handling of the feathery plumage of the goldfinch against an equally expert depiction of the wall plaster. Is that a real bird posed on a sunlit wall or is it a "trick of the eye" that we are looking at?

Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch

Tragically, Fabritius, Rembrandt's most brilliant pupil, was killed the same year as this amazing work of art was created. On October 12, 1654, a gunpowder factory in the city of Delft, where both Fabritius and Vermeer lived, exploded. Hundreds of people perished, including Fabritius. His studio was burned and much of his work was consumed in the flames.

A year later, another talented pupil of Rembrandt, Nicolaes Maes, painted The Old Lacemaker. It is a sentimental genre work, but also one liberated from allegorical or didactic content.

Nicolaes Maes The Old Lacemaker

In the last decades of the seventeenth century, Dutch taste favored comforting images of hearth and home. The long years of constant warfare led to a reaction against grand visions of life or preachy moralizing. It was, perhaps, the beginning of the end of the Dutch Golden Age. But Maes' The Old Lacemaker also testifies to the patient, industrious and quietly courageous character of the Dutch people who had made the Golden Age possible in the first place.

Of course, we want to see Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring more than a picture of an old lady making lace. But if there is one lesson to be learned from these masterpieces from the Mauritshuis, it is that beauty can be found almost everywhere we look. Living as they do, in a small corner of Europe hemmed in by the North Sea, the Dutch have nurtured this faculty for appreciating the world around them to a remarkable degree.

And so, when the Girl with a Pearl Earring turns her gaze upon us at the Frick Collection, we are transfixed by that gleam in her eyes. It conveys a visible, lively sense of humor and humanity, pouring out from the soul of Girl with a Pearl. It beams from her eyes, turning the space beyond the picture plain into a place of wonder.

It is the look that defined the Dutch Golden Age - and perhaps ours as well.


Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved

Images Courtesy of the Frick Collection, New York City
Introductory Image: Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665. Oil on canvas: 44.5 x 39 cm. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Frans Hals (1581/15851666). Portrait of Jacob Olycan (1596–1638), 1625. Oil on canvas: 124.8 x 97.5 cm. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Pieter Claesz Vanitas Still Life, 1630. Oil on panel: 39.5 x 56 cm. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669). "Tronie" of a Man with a Feathered Beret, c. 1635. Oil on panel: 62.5 x 47 cm. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Carel Fabritius (1622–1654). The Goldfinch, 1654. Oil on panel: 33.5 x 22.8 cm. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Nicolaes Maes The Old Lacemaker, c. 1655. Oil on panel: 37.5 x 35 cm. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium at the National Gallery

Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collection


National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. October 6, 2013–March 2, 2014

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, April 9 through August 25, 2014

Reviewed by Ed Voves

The display of Byzantine art on view at the National Gallery of Art is a small wonder. This modestly-sized exhibition details the complex evolution of one of history's most misunderstood civilizations.

In the space of five thematic galleries, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections evokes the culture and religious life of the realm centered upon the fabled city of Constantinople. This was the Eastern Roman Empire, known to later ages as Byzantium. Drawn exclusively from museums in Greece, many of the exhibit’s 170 paintings, mosaics, sculptures and objects from daily life have never previously travelled to museums in the United States.

Heaven and Earth is a story over one thousand years in the making. It begins in 330 AD with the momentous decision by Constantine I to relocate the capital of his empire from Rome to the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Constantine's choice was the city called Byzantium, located on the Bosporus straits that separate the two continents. With a genius for survival and self-promotion, the Roman ruler encircled the city with impregnable defensive walls and renamed it for himself: Constantinople.

This long enduring citadel withstood many sieges. Clear-sighted strategy - a word much used by the rulers of the Eastern Roman Empire - enabled Byzantium to endure for over a millennium. The walls of Constantinople were only breached by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, with the aid of artillery manned by European mercenaries.

The depressing details of wars and upheavals are kept to a minimum in this profoundly moving exhibition. Upon entering Heaven and Earth, one immediately beholds an imposing wall-sized image of the interior of a Byzantine church. This sets the scene for the Adrianople Cross, striking in both its beauty and simplicity. Dated to the late tenth century, the Adrianople Cross reinforces the central fact of cultural life in Constantinople and the other cities of the Eastern Roman Empire. Byzantine art was Christian art.

The Adrianople Cross

Initially, the attitude of the early Christians toward art was very hostile. Most of the art of Imperial Rome was based upon the gods of classical Greece or the practice of emperor worship. Until Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, granting legal recognition to Christianity, there was little force behind the opposition to "graven images" among the followers of Jesus. Then, as Christianity was embraced as the official state religion of the Roman Empire, the cult statues of the Greek and Roman deities were targeted by puritanical Christians for destruction.

Head of Artemis
The Heaven and Earth exhibition illustrates this purge of "pagan" art with a severed head of a statue of the goddess Aphrodite, defaced by having a Christian cross chiseled onto its forehead. An exquisite head of the goddess Artemis or Diana, about the size of a child's fist, is almost certainly another victim of Christian violence. It is one of ten fragments from a mid-third century statuette, treated with particular scorn, as there is evidence of scorching on the top of the head.

The third and fourth centuries - the period when Christianity was gaining the upper hand - witnessed a final flourishing of portrait sculpture in the Roman world. The exhibit has an impressive portrait bust, only recently unearthed in 1982 at Chania on the island of Crete. Sculpted in white Phrygian marble from Asia-Minor (modern-day Turkey), this bust shows a young woman with elaborately arranged braids wrapped around her head. According to the exhibit catalog, traces of rose-colored glass paste were found in the indentations made for her irises. This feature would have given an even more lively presence to this vivid work of art.

Unknown Artist, Bust of a Lady
The really remarkable feature of this wonderful portrait bust, however, is that it was one of the last of its kind. Not until the age of the Medici in fifteenth century Florence would sculptors like Donatello attain such an astonishing proficiency in depicting the human form or probing the inner spirit of mankind.

The Bust of a Lady is now dated, after much discussion, to 410. In that year, Visigoth mercenaries, unpaid by the Imperial government, sacked the city of Rome. This event shocked the civilized world and led St. Augustine to write his theological masterpiece, The City of God. St. Augustine urged rich and poor alike to direct their attention to the next world, to the Heavenly City, rather than be concerned with the affairs of this world. His message found a wide-spread audience. As a result, few people, even among the fabulously wealthy Patrician class, cared to have images of themselves preserved for posterity - at a time when the world was coming to an end.

A new type of art came into being, one that stressed the mystical theology of Christians in Syria, Egypt and points further east. The naturalism of depictions of the old gods enjoying the pleasures of Arcadia was rejected in favor of an ascetic treatment of Christian themes. The great British scholar, Sir Steven Runciman, described this eastern influence as the "Aramaic conception of art" in his path-breaking book published in the 1930's, Byzantine Civilization. Runciman remarked:

The triumph of Christianity inevitably meant the furthering of this Aramaic conception of art. Christ could not be depicted as Apollo had been. He was the God that suffered, the Great Judge, the Redeemer. His worshipper ought to feel Him at once in one of these roles; the lines of suffering, of sternness, or divine benevolence should be emphasized on His face. Religion demanded an impressionism unknown in the Greco-Roman world.

This "New Art" was revolutionary and, Runciman goes on to say, "was direct, but was not simple." In another of his books, Byzantine Civilization and Style, published in 1975, Runciman expanded on this theme. The aim of Byzantine art was to put the citizen of the empire "in mystical contact with Christ and the saints whose glances were fixed so searchingly upon him."

Susanna and the Elders
These forces can be seen at work in Susanna and the Elders, an early 5th century fresco. This rare survival of ancient painting comes from a vaulted tomb in Thessaloniki, the second most important city in Byzantium.

The story of Susanna from the Old Testament would be frequently painted by European masters in later centuries. Painters like Rembrandt emphasized the early part of the story, when Susanna is surprised while bathing, as an exercise in painting the nude. Here, Susanna is clad in a type of leather, fur-trimmed coat from the province of Dalmatia in the Balkans. Susanna is praying for God's help against the lecherous elders, who will be judged and punished by the Prophet Daniel. It is an image of piety, chastity and faith.

The "New Art," described by Runciman, extended event to the Imperial coinage. Roman coins in earlier centuries had featured lifelike renderings of the features of the Caesars. These were always depicted in profile. Around the same time that the fresco of Susanna was painted, the position of the Byzantine emperors on their coins was shifted to a frontal vantage point.

Solidus of Theodosius II

We can actually witness the change taking place in a coin from the reign of Theodosius II, dated to around 430. Some of Theodosius' distinctive features are still apparent. The inscription hearkens back to the arrogant bombast of Imperial Rome, far removed from the ineffectual personality of Theodosius II: "Our Lord Theodosius Pious Fortunate Augustus."

As the impressive display of gold coins in the exhibit shows, later depictions of the emperors were entirely stylized, showing archetypes rather than portraits. The gold coinage of Byzantium did have the merit of remained secure, enabling emperors like Justinian I to pay their troops and to build an astonishing range of palaces and churches, the greatest of which was the domed Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

Nothing, not even a well-paid army, could prepare Byzantium for the emergence of Islam. Over the course of the seventh century, following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, Islam gained control of much of the Byzantine Empire, including Egypt, the primary source of its grain supply. The sudden onslaught of the Arab armies was halted only after bitter fighting and the expenditure of vast sums of money on fortresses and weapons at the expense of building new churches and commissioning works of art. But an even worse fate awaited the artistic heritage of Byzantium after the repulse of the Arab invaders.

In 726, Emperor Leo III removed the sacred image of Christ above the main gate of Constantinople. Leo, a soldier from Armenia, shared the aversion to "graven images" of his Muslim enemies. The earlier Byzantine defeats at the hands of the Arabs could be explained as a consequence of failing to properly worship God. According to this view, superstitious Christians had venerated icons - religious paintings, statues or mosaics - rather than worshipping Jesus or the saints depicted on them.

Leo ordered a campaign of destruction of religious icons. Iconoclasm, as the attack on these images was called, was renewed by subsequent emperors. Most of them came from the Asian provinces of the empire and shared Leo's disregard for religious imagery. Iconoclasm only came to an end a century later, in 843. The almost complete lack of art works from the seventh through ninth centuries in the Heaven and Earth exhibit is proof of the levels of destruction reached during this tragic episode.

The return of icons coincided with later Byzantium's most prosperous and powerful era. The hauntingly beautiful icon, the Virgin Hodegetria, dated to the last quarter of the twelfth century, exemplifies the continuity of the religious sensibility of Byzantine society. This depiction of the Virgin Mary and Jesus was used as a processional icon. Like a battle flag, it was designed to be held aloft for use in the impressive ceremonies of the Orthodox rite, with the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Byzantine emperor often in attendance.


Processional Icon of the Virgin Hodegetria
Hodegetria means "the guide who shows the way." Here the Virgin Mary directs the viewer's gaze to the child Jesus, whose status as redeemer of humankind is emphasized by his mature countenance. Mary's worried expression testifies to her foreknowledge that Jesus will save the world by dying for it. On the back of this icon is another image, the Man of Sorrows, showing the lifeless Jesus, who has paid that ultimate sacrifice.

The Virgin Hodegetria was based on an ancient painting of Mary, the mother of Jesus, supposedly done from life by the Apostle Luke. This image was brought to Constantinople in the fifth century. The many copies of this beloved work, lost during the Turkish conquest of 1453, helped create a misleading idea in Western Europe that Byzantine art was derivative, "static" and lacking in skill and narrative power.

Hostility to Byzantine culture has a long, poisonous pedigree. Giorgio Vasari, the sixteenth century Florentine art historian, bears a major share of the onus for creating false impressions about Byzantine art. In his book, Lives of the Artists (first edition, 1550), Vasari set himself the task of proving that Italian painters, chiefly from Tuscany, had rescued art from the rigor mortis of the Byzantine style. A number of works included in the Heaven and Earth exhibition conclusively refute Vasari's contention.

Fragment of Fresco from Vlatadon Monastery

A small fragment of a fresco from the Vlatadon Monastery in Thessaloniki is especially noteworthy. Painted between 1360 to 1380, a century before Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, this fragment demonstrates the unknown artist's exceptional ability to delineate the characters of the apostles at this sacred event. The moment depicted, the washing of the feet of the apostles by Jesus, is different from Leonardo's painting. But the effect of establishing the individual characters of the apostles is brilliantly handled. The skillful use of contrasting colors for the apostles' garments further underscores the fact that the painter of this scene was a very accomplished artist.

That the artists of Byzantium were masters at evoking the psychological and spiritual complexity of their subjects, human and divine, is clearly established by Icon of the Archangel Michael, painted during the first half of the 14th century. This is an undeniable masterpiece, a superb illustration of the cultural renaissance that took place in the diminished, impoverished realm of the Byzantine emperors as the Ottoman Turks prepared for the final, fatal siege of Constantinople in 1453.

The Heaven and Earth exhibition, which will later be shown at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, establishes beyond doubt the virtuosity of the Byzantine masters. It shows that the art of the Eastern Roman Empire influenced the rising artistic traditions throughout Western Europe during the Middle Ages and also Russia, converted to Christianity by Byzantine missionaries in 988. Yet, there are important differences between Byzantine art and the Tuscan masters who were championed by Vasari. Heaven and Earth enables us to see these points in a new light.

The National Gallery in Washington D.C. is one of the few American museums fortunate to have a work by Giotto di Bondone (c. 1266 - 1337). Kenneth Clark regarded Giotto's cycle of paintings in the Arena Chapel in Padua as "one of the holy places of the world." Giotto's Madonna and Child, painted between 1320 to 1330, is not included in the Heaven and Earth galleries. But it should be studied in detail after viewing the exhibition.

Giotto, Madonna and Child.

Giotto's Madonna and Child clearly shows the influence of the Virgin Hodegetria tradition. In Giotto's work, however, the religious symbolism is entirely different. The Virgin Mary is not pointing to a "boy-man" who will die on the cross to redeem humankind. Here the infant Jesus, clearly a child, reaches for a carnation in his mother's hand and, in a particularly touching gesture, wraps his little hand around Mary's finger. With these humanistic details, Giotto sought to establish an appreciation of God's loving presence in our daily lives. In the work of later Italian masters, Luca della Robbia and Raphael especially, this Madonna and Child theme would assume a dominating, almost obsessive, presence.

The Heaven and Earth exhibit includes a Byzantine "Madonna and Child" that serves as a perfect point of comparison with the National Gallery's Giotto. Painted perhaps a decade after Giotto's Madonna and Child, this icon displays many similarities. Jesus, more clearly a child than in the twelfth century Virgin Hodegetria, reaches up to touch his mother's face. Mary clasps Jesus in her hands in one of the most tender evocations of maternal love in any artistic tradition, East or West.

Icon of the Virgin and Child, Church Feasts, and Saints
For all that it shares with Giotto's painting, Icon of the Virgin and Child, Church Feasts, and Saints is a tour de force of Byzantine art. The vital concept of Byzantine art, of the transcendent importance of the human soul, is powerfully expressed here. The mortal body perishes, as do human empires. Mary's all-encompassing love will not save Jesus from death on the cross. But the human soul is imperishable and this poignant work of art from the mid-fourteenth century positively radiates such spiritual reassurance.

So too does Byzantine art as a whole. Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections is a magnificent reminder that, though the Eastern Roman Empire was destroyed amid fire and sword in 1453, the art and spirituality of Byzantium endures.
Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved

Images Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Introductory Image: Icon of the Archangel Michael, first half 14th century. Egg tempera and gold on wood, overall: 110 x 80 cm (43 5/16 x 31 1/2 in.) Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

The Adrianople Cross, late 10th-early 11th century. Silver, iron core, partial gilding, and niello, overall: 51 x 30 cm (20 1/16 x 11 13/16 in.) Benaki Museum, Athens ©Benaki Museum, Athens, 2013

Head of Artemis, mid-3rd century or later. Marble, height: 12.1 cm (4 3/4 in.) Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth

Unknown Artist, Bust of a lady, c. 410. White Phrygian (Dokimion) marble, overall size: 56 × 34 cm (22 1/16 × 13 3/8 in.) Chania Archaeological Museum

Susanna and the Elders, early 5th century. Fresco, overall 170 × 127 × 5 cm (66 15/16 × 50 × 1 15/16 in.) Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki

Solidus of Theodosius II, 408 – 450. Gold, diameter: 2 cm (13/16 in.) Numismatic Museum, Athens

Processional icon of the Virgin Hodegetria (front) and the Man of Sorrows (back), last quarter of 12th century. Tempera and silver on wood, overall size: 115 × 77.5 × 3.5 cm (45 1/4 × 30 1/2 × 1 3/8 in.) Byzantine Museum, Kastoria

Fragment of a wall painting of the washing of the feet, 1360-1380. Fresco, overall: 92 × 78 × 6 cm (36 1/4 × 30 11/16 × 2 3/8 in.) Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki

Giotto, Italian, probably 1266 – 1337. Madonna and Child, probably 1320/1330. Tempera on panel overall: 85.5 x 62 cm (33 11/16 x 24 7/16 in.) framed: 128.3 x 72.1 x 5.1 cm (50 1/2 x 28 3/8 x 2 in.) Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.256

Icon of the Virgin and Child, Church Feasts, and Saints, mid-14th century. Egg tempera and gold on wood, stucco, gold glass (verre églomisé) overall: 42 × 30 × 1 cm (16 9/16 × 11 13/16 × 3/8 in.) Benaki Museum, Athens ©Benaki Museum, Athens, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Art Eyewitness Review: Art and Architecture in Mexico

Book Review: Art and Architecture in Mexico


                                                                                                                                       Art and Architecture in Mexico 
By James Oles Thames & Hudson/432 pages/$26.95

Reviewed by Ed Voves

If the art of Mexico may be defined with a single word, the best choice would be grandeur. Given the central role of the visual arts in defining the Mexican national character, no other individual term really suffices. Mexican art is very grand, indeed.

James Oles' brilliant work of scholarship, Art and Architecture in Mexico, emphasizes the visionary nature and the self-conscious importance of Mexican art. The sense of its own greatness certainly came early in the development of Mexican art. Oles quotes a poem from 1604, La grandeza mexicana, extolling Mexico as "center of perfection" and "hinge of the world."

This is a trick reference, however. Mexican "grandeur" as praised by the poet, Bernardo de Balbuena, was the grandeur of Mexico City. The country of Mexico did not yet exist, being at that point the jewel of the Spanish colonial realm known as New Spain - which also included the West Indies, most of Central America, Florida, California and the faraway Philippines. Even after Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821, the identity crisis was protracted between the Mexican core of the new nation and its diverse, disparate provinces.

Art was often the deciding factor, as Oles shows, in determining the outcome of that struggle. The result of such cultural conflict usually resulted in favor of "official" Mexico. This was a trend dating to the Spanish conquest in 1521 of the powerful state known today at the Aztec Empire. The "Aztecs" called themselves Mexica. In a strange turn of events, the Spanish conquistadors renamed the charred ruins of the great city of the Mexica, Tenochtitlan, after their vanquished adversaries: Mexico City.

From Mexico City, the Spaniards launched what Oles rightly calls "one of the most terrible iconoclastic campaigns in history." After destroying virtually all the art works, religious buildings and manuscripts of the native peoples, the Spanish initiated a vast campaign of church building, the creation of religious paintings and sculptures and, curiously enough, the compilation of manuscripts such as the Codex Mendoza, which preserved the few traces of the native cultures that had survived the bonfires of the conquistadors. It was a huge enterprise and a tremendous success.

This marked the birth of "Mexican Grandeur."

To build their great churches, the Spaniards utilized craftsman from the native peoples, many of whom had fought alongside them against the Aztecs/Mexica. Elements of the suppressed pre-Conquest culture emerged during the process of creating the new social order of the Spanish empire. This can clearly be seen in the facade of the massive, fortress-like church of San Augstín built between 1555 to 1560 in Acolman, an important town a few miles north of Mexico City.

Church of San Augstín, Acolman

St. Augstín was built with stones from a demolished Aztec temple. Around the entry to the church, an intricate facade was carefully constructed with statues of Christian saints positioned among symbols of food carved in the tradition of the native peoples. Oles calls the facade of St. Augstín "an assertion of up-to-date Renaissance sophistication in a truly reborn world."

Oles also raises the question of how the newly baptized native peoples interpreted these details of the church facade. They may have viewed the garlands of sculpted flowers and food - a roasted pig is on display - as symbols of the bounty of Christianity or as recollections of "ritual offerings from the pre-Conquest period."

The Christian clergy who masterminded the "spiritual conquest of Mexico" were astute manipulators of human psychology. The interior decoration of the new churches contained carefully integrated assemblages of statues, paintings and tapestries. Called retablos, these multimedia art works related the themes of Christian theology in a way that the native peoples could appreciate - and ultimately come to understand.

Retablo, Church of Santo Domingo

Retablos, positioned around church altars, often attained staggering dimensions. A particularly imposing example of these retablos was created in 1688-90 by the Mexican artist, Pedro Maldonado, for the church of Santo Domingo in the city of Puebla.

The church architecture and religious art that arose in the valley of Mexico spread throughout the provinces of New Spain as far as California and New Mexico. Local adaptations to suit the culture and climate of these regions were skillfully created.

Church of San José de la Laguna, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico

The mission church of San José in Laguna, New Mexico, demonstrates the skill and determination to bring the rule of the Spanish crown - boastfully known as the "Planet Kings" - and the Christian religion to remote locations around the world. The stark, austere presence of the church of San José also drives home the survival ability of human spirituality in contrast to the swiftly disintegrating earthly power of "planet kings," whatever their nationality or power base.

The religious paintings that formed part of the retablos of the 1500s to the 1700s gave rise to an influential school of Latin American art. Long dismissed merely as "folk art," paintings with devotional or grandiose historical themes were created on a large scale throughout New Spain. In Mexico, such works were often painted on screens called biombos, an art form that had been imported from Japan on board the celebrated Manila Galleon, which sailed each year across the Pacific Ocean to Acapulco. These colonial era paintings, which Oles analyzes with great insight, fused European art techniques with elements of Native American and local Spanish (or Criollo) cultures to create an emotionally powerful art.

After Mexican independence, the reality of Mexico's vulnerable position in relation to the rest of the western world soon intruded on the proud tradition of la grandeza mexicana. The newly independent nation was rich in land, natural resources and population. But Mexico lacked internal unity and was short of ready cash. It was woefully ill-equipped to begin modern industrialization and - worst of all - was nearly bankrupt in the supply of capable, clear-sighted leaders.

Mexican art during the 1800's is an almost unknown subject in the English-speaking world. Oles' chapters covering this period of Mexican cultural history are therefore of particular interest.

The career of the great landscape painter, José Maria Velasco (1840-1912) is very instructive. Velasco was a gifted student of medicine and science, particularly geology. He was a noteworthy example of the nineteenth century Mexican progressives known as "cientificos."

As an artist, Velasco could match the contemporary American "Sublime" painters like Frederic Edwin Church. Velasco captured the inspiring beauty, diversity and vast scale of the Mexican natural environment, winning wide-spread acclaim and gold medals at international exhibitions such as the one held in Philadelphia in 1876.

 Curved Bridge of the Mexican Railway on the Metlac Ravine, 1881. José Maria Velasco

Several of Velasco's landscapes, like Curved Bridge of the Mexican Railway in the Metlac Ravine, painted in 1881, were assertions of Mexico's ongoing campaign of modernization. Once again, there is a problematical element to the use of "Mexico" or "Mexican." The steam engine that Velasco depicts here belonged to the British firm that built and owned this railroad line. Velasco's landscape proclaimed that Mexico had indeed found a place in the modern, industrial world - but also conceded that it did so as an economic colony of Europe and the United States.

Mexico has long prided itself on the racial blending of its main demographic groups. Mestizaje certainly is a hallmark of Mexican society, in contrast to the extreme racism of the United States during much of its history. However, the modernization symbolized by the puffing locomotive in Velasco's painting exacted a crushing human toll of the lowest social classes of Mexico and in 1910, the steam engine exploded.

Printmaker José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) and photographer Agustin Victor Casasola (1874-1938) were the primary artists who documented the Mexican Revolution. Their highly influential work also set the tone for the great cultural renaissance that followed.

More immediately, the prints and photos of Posada and Casasola represent early examples of the misuse of art as propaganda.

Calaveras of the Masses, Number 2, 1910. José Posada

Posada was a political conservative, though he sympathized with the suffering of the Mexican poor. The skeletal "Day of the Dead" figure shown above is in fact a satirical representation of Francisco Madero, who first raised the banner of revolt. Posada died in 1913 before the worst of the fighting. The Vanegas Arroya print shop, where Posada had worked, then reissued this image in support of the Revolution. In time, Posada's image would find a more appropriate theme - as a symbol for the estimated one million Mexicans who were killed or died from starvation or disease during the ten years of bloodshed.

According to Oles, Agustin Casasola took over 2,000 photos and the other photographers who worked for the news agency he founded produced 400,000 negatives. This made the Mexican Revolution the most visually documented conflict of the early twentieth century except for World War I. These images could be easily manipulated, however, making them "as subject to speculation as the most fictive paintings."

Women in the Buenavista Train Station shows a group of bare foot women in 1912, arriving with food parcels. By most accounts they are bringing food to the fighting troops, though which of the contending forces they are supplying is hard to establish.

Women in the Buenavista Train Station, 1912. Archivo Casasola (Gerónimo Hernández)

Eventually, the issue was decided by cropping the women on the right out of the photo, leaving only the dramatically-posed figure on the left who is gripping the handrails. With her intense gaze, this woman became the woman of the Mexican Revolution.

The use and misuse of the works of Posada and Casasola reveal the deep political roots of the next - and most familiar - stage of Mexican art. This was the age of the Mexican muralists, los tres grandes - José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros, the photography of Tina Modotti and, of course, the autobiographical paintings of Frida Kahlo. It is the special merit of Oles' treatment of these famous figures that he manages to assert their importance within the actual history of the era, rather than the subsequent mythologizing of it.

Nor does Oles neglect other major artists from these crowded decades of Mexican cultural achievement. Architect Juan O'Gorman, artists like Rufino Tamiyo and Manuel Álvarez Bravo and the enlightened political leader, José Vasconcelos, who guided and supported the great mural projects, all get their due in this exceptionally well balanced narrative.

It was during Mexico's great period of the 1920's and 1930's that the national, "official" Mexico and the Mexico of diverse regional cultures achieved the greatest degree of balance in the nearly five hundred years since the arrival of Cortes and his conquistadors in 1519. Mexico's cultural success during these decades, however, attracted a new European invasion. Political exiles, most notably Leon Trotsky, cultural theorists like André Breton and refugee artists such as Mathias Goeritz chose Mexico as a safe haven and a place for new beginnings.

Bamboo Palace, after 1962. Edward James

The results of this Surrealist "discovery" of Mexico were decidedly mixed. The strange sculpture garden created by the eccentric English artist, Edward James, looks like - and is - an alien structure set down in the lush landscape of Mexico.

The infusion of fresh blood, new ideas and unforeseen challenges to the established identity of Mexico is ultimately for the good of this great nation. Mexico is no longer an intellectual colony of Europe or an appendage of the United States. It is a dynamic, independent cultural force on the global stage and James Oles' book is a masterful summation of how this transformation took place.

Orange Lush I, 1995. Melanie Smith

One of the images in the last chapter of Oles' book is Orange Lush I by Melanie Smith, a British-born artist who represented Mexico at the 2011 Venice Biennale. This, as Oles notes, was "something that would have been unimaginable in the 1950's."

Melanie Smith and other foreign born artists of today, like Francis Alys and Thomas Glassford, have chosen to live and work in Mexico because it is a country no longer entrapped by its past. Their embrace of Mexico is a huge step toward the realization that the Mexican people will become a "cosmic race," as envisioned long-ago by José Vasconcelos.

Mexico the nation - not merely Mexico City - has finally achieved at least part of what was envisioned in the 1604 poem, La grandeza mexicana. If not a "center of perfection," twenty first century Mexico certainly is a "hinge of the world."

Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved

Images Courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Introductory Image: Art and Architecture in Mexico, 2013 (cover) Image credit: Thames & Hudson

Church of San Augstín, Acolman (Mexico), façade completed 1560. (page 33) Photo Dr. Charlotte Ekland/

Pedro Maldonado and others, main retablo, church of Santo Domingo, Puebla, 1688-90. (page 74) Photo Angelo Hornak/ Alamy

Church of San José de la Laguna, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, c. 1699. (page 105) Photo LatitudeStock/Alamy

José Maria Velasco, Curved Bridge of the Mexican Railway on the Metlac Ravine, 1881. (page 188) Oil on canvas, 47 5/8 in x 5 ft ¼ in. (121 x 153 cm). Private collection. Photo Arturo Piera.

José Guadalupe Posada, Calaveras of the Masses, Number 2, 1910. (page 225) Etching and letterpress on paper, 16 x 11 5/8 in. (40.5 x 29.5 cm). Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C

Archivo Casasola (Gerónimo Hernández), Women in the Buenavista Train Station, 1912. (page 228) Photograph, from gelatin dry-plate negative, 4 x 5 in. (10 x 12.7 cm). SINAFO-Fototeca Nacional-INAH, Pachuca.

Edward James, Bamboo Palace, after 1962. (p. 311) Xilitla (San Luis Potosí). Reinforced concrete with paint. Photo Amanda Holmes.

Melanie Smith, Orange Lush I, 1995. (p. 389) Plastic objects on wood support, 96 x 48 x 10 in. (244 x 124 x 25.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Avant-garde Art of the 1920’s & 1930’s at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Léger - Modern Art and the Metropolis 
October 14, 2013 - January 5, 2014

The Surrealists: Works from the Collection 
 November 3, 2013 - March 2, 2014

Reviewed by Ed Voves

Modern art came of age during the aftermath of World War I, during the troubled decades when the dragon's teeth were sowed leading to World War II.

Two insightful exhibitions currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art reveal the range and impact of avant-garde art during the 1920's and 1930's. Léger - Modern Art and the Metropolis and The Surrealists: Works from the Collection are complementary exhibitions, as well as first rate presentations of art on their own terms. Together, these exhibits demonstrate that modern art's power - to challenge, to contradict and to inspire -was still very much in evidence during the pause between world wars.

Fernand Léger (1881-1955) is one of the great names in modern art and his 1919 painting, The City, is one of the masterpieces of Modernism. Yet, Léger is a difficult artist to classify. It is impossible to assign him to any particular "ism." Fascinated by Cubism when he arrived in pre-war Paris, Léger never became a Cubist painter. Most surprisingly - for a man who spent three years on the Western Front and was badly wounded in a poison gas attack - Léger was energized by his wartime experiences. There are some elements or echoes of Surrealism in his painting. Yet, Léger never was a Surrealist either.

Léger might well have joined the ranks of traumatized "Lost Generation" survivors for whom the rising art movement, Surrealism, became something approaching a religious creed. Léger was anything but disenchanted. He found renewed faith in the people of France and was intrigued with modern technology as can be seen in a vibrant painting from 1918, Disks.

A year later Léger he painted his masterpiece, The City.

The City, 1919. Fernand Léger
Set on a vast, horizontal canvas, The City shows two figures on a flight of steep steps. From such a height, they will have a vantage point to survey the surrounding urban landscape. Instead of merely viewing the city, however, they are engulfed by it. A tidal wave of images of 20th century Paris, street signs, neon lights, glimpses of steel girders, faceless people from the teeming, faceless crowds on the boulevards emerge and confront the viewer in quick succession.

The key elements of modern urban life are the immense variety of visual imagery that city life provides and the speed at which these "moving pictures" come, go and are succeeded by a fresh set of images. A third element is the dizzying array of colors that surround a city dweller by day, followed by the polarizing effect of harsh artificial light vs. the ink black shadows of night in the city. All of these "facts" of modern life are depicted on Léger's The City.

Léger came as close as any artist ever did to evoking the sense of movement of the modern urban environment. The City achieved the same effect as did the flickering images displayed on film screens. A few years after he painted this pivotal work Léger wrote of the swift ebb and flow of urban existence, stating that "a ‘slice of life’ seen from a café terrace is a spectacle."

The images in The City, however jarring the effect of seeing them, are all identifiable. The street signs and the steel girders shown in the painting are not dissolving into a more elemental structure as in Cubist painting. Léger endeavored to comprehend urban life, in modern visual terms. He was celebrating The City - not dismantling it.

In painting The City, Léger might well have been answering the call in 1918 by the French poet and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau, for le Rappel a l’ordre. Cocteau's "Call to Order" summoned the civilized world to its senses amid the shell-torn insanity of trench warfare. Artists, from Pablo Picasso to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, looked back to Europe's classical past and began to reconfigure their paintings, statues and architectural plans in the spirit of néoclassicisme.

By imparting elements of representational art to his painting, Léger could be said to have answered this "call to order." In fact, Léger was charting his own, inimitable course. Léger described his personal philosophy and approach to painting:

To be free and yet not lose touch with reality, that is the drama of that epic figure who is variously called inventor, artist or poet. Days and nights, dark or brilliantly lit, seated at some garish bar; renewed visions of forms and objects bathed in artificial light... He fills himself with all this, drinks in the whole of this vital instantaneity which cuts through him in every direction. He is a sponge; sensation of being a sponge, transparency, acuteness, new realism."

At that the same time that Léger explored his personal path to a "new realism," a group of poets and artists pioneered a parallel path, Surrealism. Based in part on the iconoclastic art movement founded during the First World War, Dada, the Surrealists rejected rationalism and conscious perception as the proper vantage points for exploring life. Instead, they probed deep within the human unconscious state.

Surrealism as a literary term can be traced to the play, Les mamelles de Tirésias by the poet, Guillaume Apollinaire. One of the literary lions of "left bank" Paris, Apollinaire was recuperating from a head wound sustained on the Western Front, when his play was performed to a storm of criticism in June 1917. The play's anti-authoritarian stance was not well received as France braced for the final show-down with the Germans.

Apollinaire died during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918. Once the war ended, previously suppressed disgust with its senseless brutality soon surfaced. Cocteau might urge a return to classical order and artists like Léger discover an individualistic path to creative expression. For André Breton, a young poet who had served in a psychological hospital during the war, Surrealism provided the conceptual basis to comprehend the incomprehensible.

André Breton (1896–1966) was a doctrinaire, generally humorless intellectual. But he did have the great ability to get his point across and it was a message with widespread appeal. In 1924, Breton's "Manifesto of Surrealism" set forth the following definition:

SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

Indestructible Object, 1963 (replica of destroyed 1923 original). Man Ray
 "Or in any other manner ..." applied to the many artists who embraced Surrealism as the ideological foundation for their work. Surrealism - at least initially - gave wide scope to many forms of artistic creation. From Man Ray's metronome bearing the image of an all-seeing eye to Giorgio de Chirico's blank-faced, blank slate, The Poet and His Muse, artists could create works "dictated by thought," their own thoughts. It was a powerful premise and Surrealism spread to artistic circles in Latin America, the United States and Japan.

The Poet and His Muse, c. 1925. Giorgio de Chirico
Surrealism made a powerful impact in Spain. Having escaped involvement in the slaughter of World War I, Spain began to disintegrate politically during the 1920's, a downward spiral that led to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. It was a threatening climate in which alarming images and irrational thoughts were bound to surface. Picasso, never a formal member of the Surrealists, Joan Miró and Salvador Dali all painted major works of Surrealist art.

The collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, from which the present exhibition is entirely drawn, is richly endowed with the work of Miró. Several of the signature paintings from his early years are on view. Miró was a native of the province of Catalonia and Hermitage and Barking at the Moon fondly recall boyhood experiences. Then came a period of personal crisis in the late 1920's when Miró declared that he wished to "assassinate painting."

Painting, 1933. Joan Miró

In 1933, Miró produced several oil paintings, each simply called Painting. They are major works and are entirely open to interpretation. Do they merely reflect Miró's use of collage during this period or are they indicative of deeper, more personal issues, lurking unresolved in his subconscious? Miró's biographer, Roland Penrose, discovered no sure answer to these questions, but he did write quite movingly that Miró created symbols in these works "that speak to us in a way that is timeless and universal."

We are on firmer ground with Salvador Dali's Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War). This grim fantasy on war clearly pointed to the looming strife that would wreak havoc upon Spain. But this work also underscores the previously hidden fault lines running through Surrealism. One man's dream might be another's nightmare. The political principles of one artist could well be heresy to the ideology of the group.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936. Salvador Dalí

Breton, after initially welcoming Dali to the ranks of the Surrealists, turned against him by 1936, the year that Premonition of Civil War was painted. Breton, an avowed Marxist, expelled Dali from the group because of Dali's conservative, pro-Franco stance.

Given the repellent, Fascist nature of the Franco regime, one can sympathize with Breton's position. But Surrealism was defined in Breton's own words as being "dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern." Once Breton the Marxist ideologue started dictating in place of unconscious thought, Surrealism's days as a constructive force in the arts were numbered.

Given its aim to showcase the worldwide dimensions of Surrealism, the exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is not the proper forum for discussing the ramifications of the Breton-Dali controversy or the other disputes that convulsed the Surrealists. The exhibition based on Fernand Léger's The City, by a fortunate turn of events, provides an excellent opportunity to test the "group think" of both Surrealism and Cocteau's "Call to Order."

Composition with Hand and Hats, 1927. Fernand Léger

Léger, like Breton, was a Marxist. Like Cocteau, he tried to construct a meaningful foundation for Modernism after the horror of the First World War. In both cases, he acted as an independent artist, as an individualist rather than a cultural commissar. If we look at Léger's 1927 painting, Composition with Hand and Hats, we could be viewing an icon of Surrealism. If we re-read Léger's words, quoted above, we are confronted with a manifesto as bold as anything that Breton or Cocteau uttered.

Fernand Léger, by virtue of his individualism, did not make an impact on the art scene of his time comparable to that of Breton the "Pope of Surrealism." The superbly mounted exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art suggests that Léger has much to offer to the contemporary world, starting with his inspiring vision, "To be free and yet not lose touch with reality..."


Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved

Images courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Introductory Image:
Disks, 1918. Fernand Léger, French, 1881 - 1955. Oil on canvas, 105 1/2 × 81 7/8 × 1 9/16 inches (268 × 208 × 3.9 cm). Musée d'Art Modern de la Ville de Paris.

The City, 1919. Fernand Léger, French, 1881 - 1955. Oil on canvas, 7 feet 7 inches x 9 feet 9 1/2 inches (231.1 x 298.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Indestructible Object, 1963 (replica of destroyed 1923 original). Man Ray, American, 1890 - 1976. Metronome with photograph, 8 5/8 x 4 3/8 x 4 1/2 inches (21.9 x 11.1 x 11.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1971. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

The Poet and His Muse, c. 1925. Giorgio de Chirico, Italian (born Greece), 1888 - 1978. Oil and tempera on canvas, 35 7/8 x 29 inches (91.1 x 73.7 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

Painting, 1933. Joan Miró, 1893 - 1983. SpanishOil and aqueous medium on canvas, 51 3/8 x 64 1/4 inches (130.5 x 163.2 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936. Salvador Dalí, Spanish, 1904 - 1989. Oil on canvas, 39 5/16 x 39 3/8 inches (99.9 x 100 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Composition with Hand and Hats, 1927. Fernand Léger, French, 1881 - 1955. Oil on canvas, 97 3/4 x 73 inches (248.3 x 185.4 cm). Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d'art moderne/Centre de création industrielle.