Thursday, February 25

A Day to Visit an Art Museum

Today’s Image
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Photo copyright 2009

I admit it. I’m a fine art junkie. Whenever an exhibit of a famous artist comes to town, or I am visiting where there is an exhibit of a famous artist, almost any famous artist will do, I have to go.

Today I visited the (John Singer) Sargent and the Sea exhibit that opened at the MFAH last week. Now, mind you, this is almost the exact same exhibit that I went to last October when I was in Washington, D.C. Remember? I even blogged about it.

Let me tell you, it was great to see it a second time, and I think I enjoyed it as much or even more than the first. There were his numerous graphite drawings of ship’s riggings and boats and ships, and I’m still awed by the very, very fine graphite lines he used in these drawings. I don't know how he could draw so small and so precisely.

There was the whole room full of his landscapes in both oil and watercolor, which I’m pretty sure were the same ones in the exhibit in Washington. His most famous oil painting, En Route pour la Peche (Setting Out to Fish), was there, of course, and it took center stage. It hangs on the big wall with spotlight on it so that you can’t help but notice it’s the main attraction.

I had forgotten he did several other paintings similar to it as studies and that he was only 22 years old when he painted them in 1878. Talk about making a a big debut. I think En Route pour la Peche is one of the most beautiful paintings ever.

The other reason I wanted to go was to see even more of Sargent’s paintings, which were added for this exhibit. There was a whole other room of his paintings exhibited under the title Houston’s Sargents. These are at least 30 of his paintings, mostly in oil, which are owned in private collections in Houston.

The majority of these paintings are portraits. I didn’t realize he was probably the most famous painter of portraits of his day. In the information provided on wall panels, it called him the ‘VanDyck’ of his day. There were portraits of men, women, children, and families. His huge portrait of Madame Ramon Subercaseaux, who, I think it said, was the wife of the Chilean ambassador, is featured.

Lucky for us who live in Houston, it has the third largest number of Sargents available for viewing after New York and Boston.

As a major museum, there are always several exhibits running concurrently at MFAH in addition to the permanent collection. So I also saw the exhibit, Prendergast in Italy. I didn't really know anything about Maurice Prendergast or his work in oil and watercolor. He painted during the same era as the Impressionists, give or take a few years. The MFAH flyer said “featuring more than 60 picturesque views of Venice, Rome, Siena, and Capri, the exhibit also includes the artist’s personal sketchbooks, letters, photographs, and guidebooks from his two trips to Italy in 1898 and 1911.” Definitely worth it.

I believe Houston was the last stop for the Sargent exhibit, but if Prendergast in Italy comes anywhere near an art museum close to you, you should go.


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