Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Organizing Art Books

I recently posted on Instagram that it was time to get my art books in order, and judging by the responses I received, it seems there are many of us who have a large collection of books and not enough space.

These are my bookshelves in their original messy state.  They weren't too bad, and then this winter during one of our snow storms, I was looking around Amazon and suddenly there were a bunch of Dutch still life books available.  Of course I was all over that and bought them all.  A week or so later, I was wandering around the Strand and happened upon another bunch of Dutch still life books.  Again, I bought them all.  I'd been looking for these books for months and suddenly a bunch cropped up.  What could I do, right?

Once they all arrived, they did not fit on the shelves so I just started shoving them in everywhere.  It was messy to begin with and now things were really out of control.  Aside from that, I could not find anything.  When I saw a book on Amazon I was interested in and could not remember if I already owned it, it was time to take action.

I started by taking everything out of the shelves and throughly cleaning them (what I really mean is my hubs did that part).  There were books everywhere, but I wanted them all out for two reasons.  One, I wanted to go through them and get rid of what I was not using and two, I wanted to group them into categories.

I have a bit of a bookshelf obsession fueled by decor blogs and Pinterest, but arranging the books by color or mixing in decorative items is not practical for me.  I don't have a bit of extra room, and I need to be able to find specific books when I need them.

We piled the books all over, then I began the task of separating them into categories.

I kept all of the art books, but ended up getting rid of three shopping bags of cook books that I was not using.  That made some extra room which really helped.

I ended up with a few categories.  One shelf of technical/instruction books, one shelf of Old and New Masters, two and a half shelves of Impressionist art and one shelf of American artists and a mix of biographies and historical fiction.

One of the first art books I ever bought.  I still look at it today.

And here are the finished shelves...

This reorganization not only looks so much better, but now I can find everything I need right away.  For instance, two weeks ago I was going bonkers over my sunflowers and really needing inspiration, so of course I wanted to look through my Van Gogh books.  I knew right where they were and could pull them out immediately instead of rummaging all over the place.

Of course, I've recently acquired another pile of books, but as many Instagram commenters told me, there is no such thing as too many art books, and I completely agree!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Irving Penn At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

Last week, I popped over to the Met to see the Irving Penn Centennial Exhibition.  The show is billed as the most comprehensive retrospective to date of Penn's work, following the announcement of the promised gift from the Irving Penn Foundation of more than 150 photographs by Penn to the Met.

Photography was my first love, especially fashion photography, so I was very excited to see this exhibition.  Including the 150 photographs previously mentioned, there are more than two hundred on display.  This is one of the most exciting exhibits I've seen in some time.

The photos are categorized into groups in the various galleries.  In addition to fashion, Penn traveled the world photographing people, sometimes setting up a makeshift studio to achieve the look he wanted.  He also did portrait and still life photography.

Here are a few photos from the exhibit.

Ballet Society, New York, 1948

One of my favorites from the show.  It's so artistically done.  Penn often posed people in a small corner of the studio and to great effect if I may say so.

Dior Dress (Dorian Leigh), New York, 1949

Here is what I really wanted to see, the fashion.  These photos are amazing.  If you are a lover of fashion, especially vintage fashion, this is the show to see.

Balenciaga Rose Dress, Paris, 1967

Christian Lacroix Duchesse Satin Dress, Paris, 1993

Black and White Fashion with Handbag (Jean Patchett),1950

Cocoa Colored Balenciaga Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Paris, 1950

The Twelve Most Photographed Models, New York, 1947

Because of his talents with both still life and portraiture, Penn was tasked with Vogue's group portraits.  It was at this shoot that he met Lisa Fonssagrives, who became his wife three years later.

Ungaro Bride Body Sculpture (Marisa Berenson), Paris, 1969

Some of Penn's many Vogue covers, back when Vogue actually knew how to do a cover.  These were high fashion models in designer clothes.  Today we have various reality tv show dingbats who are running around in yoga clothes in real life.  Extremely disappointing and not likely to go away any time soon.  And while I'm on my soap box, what is it with these so called celebrities and their naked dresses at the Met Ball?  I used to eagerly await the Ball every year, but I've given up on it.  There are a few people who are actually into fashion and the rest are celebrities with stylists, who in my humble opinion, should be fired immediately.  Yes, this subject gets my dander up!

Anyway, back to the exhibit, Penn also did portraits of many famous people and it was said that to be asked to sit for him was a great privilege that was not easily turned down.

Yves Saint Laurent

Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes, 1957

There was a funny caption accompanying this photo.  Apparently when Penn arrived at Picasso's house, the artist pretended he was not at home.  After Penn's assistant climbed over the locked gate, Picasso granted Penn ten minutes!

Dora Maar, France 1948

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New York, 1993

Mouth (for L'Oreal) New York, 1986

Penn did print work, including the famous Mouth photo.

Single Oriental Poppy, New York, 1968

In the 1960's Vogue asked Penn to photograph flowers.  He was not interested in them before, but they became a passion for him.  He wrote that his preference was for flowers considerably after they had passed the point of perfection.  The images were published in special Christmas issues from 1967 to 1973.

Peony 'Silver Dawn', New York, 2006

After the fashion, the flower portraits were my favorites of the exhibit.  I have one more photo that I have to post.  I was unable to get a good shot, but I'm going to show it anyway as the subject matter is so interesting.

Theatre Accident, New York, 1947

Obviously, a woman has spilled her bag, but take a look at the contents.  A cigarette, a pillbox and three different kinds of pills!  I love it.  A woman's bag probably has the same contents today, but in our sanitized culture, you would never see it.  And if you did, there would be a big to do about bad influences, inappropriate content and all that nonsense.

This is a great show.  If you love photography or fashion, I urge you to get to the Met to see the show before it closes on July 30th.  If you are not local, the show catalog is very well done and I believe contains everything in the exhibit.

Just for fun, here are the wiki pages for a few of the models.  They are not well known today, but they were really the first supermodels.

Lisa Fonssagrives

Jean Patchett

Dorian Leigh

Marisa Berenson

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Visit To The Matilda Browne Show At The Florence Griswold Museum

I recently made a return trip to the Florence Griswold Museum to see the Matilda Browne exhibition, Idylls Of Farm And Garden.

Matilda Browne was known for her paintings of flowers, farms and cattle.  She worked in Old Lyme and was the only woman accepted by the male artists in the Old Lyme colony and the only woman asked to paint a door in Miss Florence's boardinghouse.  Browne's work was considered acceptable because she was described as having a "masculine" stroke, and had studied with masterful painters and won many prizes before coming to Old Lyme.

Browne was a gardener herself and often set up in her backyard to paint.  Houses were often included in her garden paintings.  Here are some of the paintings included in the show.  I saw the exhibition in the middle of two weeks of gray, dreary skies here in New York, and it was lovely to see these sunny, summer scenes.

In The Garden, 1915

Browne often painted women or children in her garden scenes, and broke with tradition by painting older women rather than the young beauties featured by her male colleagues.

Peonies, 1907

Miss Katherine Ludington's Garden, 1914

In Voorhee's Garden, 1914

Clark Voorhee's House, 1905

This is an earlier painting of Clark Voorhee's home.  I love the topiary duck.


Summer Blossoms

The Garden

August Morning, 1913

August Morning was the first work by Browne to enter a museum collection and one of eight paintings purchased to launch the permanent collection of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.

Matilda Browne was also a still life painter.  Her florals are beautiful.  She often painted the flowers without a vase or downplayed the vessel if she had one, preferring to let the flowers take center stage.


Roses, 1985

Vase Of Flowers, (Laurel), 1905


The blurb next to the painting referred to this as a "casual arrangement", but to me, there is nothing casual about it!

Staffordshire and Roses

I immediately recognized the vase as Wedgwood, a porcelain I have never painted before, but will definitely add to one of my paintings in the future.

Miss Florence's

And to finish the post, a painting of the Florence Griswold house, known as Miss Florence's.  Until Browne bought her own house on Lyme Street, she stayed at the Old Lyme Inn or Miss Florence's boardinghouse, where she was one of the only female artists accepted by the predominantly male art colony.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the exhibition.  Though it is now closed, there is a very nice exhibition catalog available here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Taking A Painting Break

Hi All!  So, it's been a little bit.  Things got a little crazy here.  I've been out of town so have not been painting.  And, for the first time ever, I needed a painting break.

As you all know, I love painting flowers.  They are beautiful and mostly fun to paint, but the down side is that you are on a time crunch with them.  That is okay if you paint quickly, but I am an extremely slow painter.  When doing a still life with objects and fruit, that is not a problem, but with flowers it is a whole other ball game.

This was my set up.  Pretty straight forward, right?  I thought this would go pretty easily, but it was difficult from the beginning.  The peonies were pretty closed up when I bought them, and that is how I started the painting, but after a day or two, they really opened and became much bigger.  Of course, I was expanding them on the canvas as they were opening in order to try and really capture them.  Nothing I haven't done before, but this time it just wasn't working.

As you can see, this is where the problem started.  The peonies were too big, the vase was too big, the flower in front was too big.  Everything was just off.

This was turning into peonies on steroids.  But the main problem here is that I had been working so intensely on this painting that I couldn't see the problems with it at all.  Luckily for me, a very good friend messaged me and told me everything was way too big.  After that, I took a good look at it and saw that she was so right.

Of course, being an artist, I had to go through a lot of mental grief.  Painting sucks, I suck, I hate this, I should give up and go back to working in an office.  The usual nonsense we tend to put ourselves through when things go wrong.  The good news is that I had a trip of a few weeks scheduled and would not be painting.  It turned out to be the best thing for me.

Now that I've been out of my studio for some time, I'm missing painting and can't wait to get back to work.  I just saw some flowers Katie Whipple painted on her Instagram and I was immediately envious that she was getting to paint florals.  A good sign for sure.

I don't know if I'll go back to the peonies.  I may or I might just let it go and start something new.  Two weeks ago I was making myself crazy and now I don't really care one way or the other.  I'll see how I feel when I get back.

This was so strange for me because I have never needed a painting break before, but I guess the time comes for everybody.  The good news is that taking a break is not the end of the world and now I'm completely ready to get back to the canvas.

Has this ever happened to you?  Leave me a comment!