Category Archives: exhibitions.

EXPO Chicago 2016, 22-25 September. International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. (42 Photos).

Photographs and text by John P. Walsh.

Expo Chicago/2016 is the 5th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. It took place from September 22 to September 25, 2016. Expo Chicago/2016 presented 145 galleries representing 22 countries and 53 cities from around the world. In alphabetical order, countries represented included Argentina, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

This post’s 42 photographs are of that event.

Jeff Koons' 17th Art Car.

Jeff Koons, BMW M3 GT2, Expo Chicago/2016.

Alfredo Jaar, Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible, 2015 neon edition GALERIE THOMAS SCHULTE DSC_0742 (1)

Alfredo Jaar, Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible, 2015, neon, edition 3/3 + 3AP, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany. Expo Chicago/2016.

At Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin (resized).

At Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin, Germany includes artwork by Klaus Jörres and Julian Charrière. Expo Chicago/2016.

At Cernuda Arte Coral Gables FL. (resize)

At Cernuda Arte Coral Gables, FL. Manuel Mendive (foreground) Este Lugar Sagrado/This Sacred Place, 2009, acrylic on canvas. Expo Chicago/2016.

Art+Language Made in Zurich 1965-1972, London.

Paintings I, Art+Language, Made in Zurich 1965-1972, London. Expo Chicago/2016.

Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden.
The Art + Language group’s Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden in Chicago. Founded in the mid1960s in the United Kingdom by Terry Atkinson (b. 1939), David Bainbridge (b. 1941), Michael Baldwin (b. 1945) and Harold Hurrell (b. 1940), artist Mel Ramsden joined in 1970. Throughout the 1970s Art + Language dealt with questions about art production and attempted a shift from conventional forms of art, such as painting and sculpture, to theoretically linguistic (text)-based artwork. Art + Language remains active today in several collaborative projects. 
At Galerie Thomas Schulte (resize).

Jonathan Lasker, The Handicapper’s Faith, 2011, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany. Expo Chicago/2016.

Gallery MOMO, South Africa (resize).

At Gallery MOMO Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa. Artwork by Mary Sibande. Expo Chicago/2016.

Dialogues.

Dialogues programs. Expo Chicago/2016.

Margot Bergman, Agnes, 2016.

Margot Bergman, Agnes, acrylic on canvas, 2016, Corbett vs. Dempsey. Expo Chicago/2016.

Shannon Finley, Googol, 2015.

Shannon Finley, Googol, 2015, acrylic on linen, 4 panels 95 x 189 in., Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.

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Euan Uglow, Sue Wearing a Blue Swimming Cap, 1978/80, oil on canvas 19.5 x 27.5 in., Browse & Darby London. Expo Chicago/2016.

Deborah Butterfield, Hala, 2016.

Deborah Butterfield, Hala, 2016, cast bronze with patina, Zolla Lieberman Gallery Inc., Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.

at Álvaro Alcázar Gallery, Madrid (resize).

At Álvaro Alcázar Gallery, Madrid. Art of Juan Garaizabal. Expo Chicago/2016.

April Martin, The Sun had not yet Risen, 2016.

April Martin, The Sun had not yet Risen, 2016, copper, thread, glass, vinegar, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.

Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild (Shaped Image), 2013.

Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild (Shaped Image), 2013, Acrylic on Canvas, Marc Straus Gallery, New York City.

Dialogue with Miguel Aguilar and Chris Silva.

Dialogue with Miguel Aguilar and Chris Silva, Conversation Pieces. Expo Chicago/2016.

Pace Gallery, New York City. (resize)

At Pace Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

Louise Bourgeois, Girl with hair, 2007. (resize)

Louise Bourgeois, Girl with hair, 2007, archival dye on silk, edition of 12, Carolina Nitsch, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

Carolina Nitsch labels.

Labels, Carolina Nitsch, New York. Expo Chicago/2016.

Genieve Figgis, Half Gallery, NYC (resize)

Genieve Figgis, Half Gallery, New York City. Genieve Figgis is an artist from Ireland who began her artistic career on social media. Expo Chicago/2016.

Buddha's tight ringlet curls by Qi Yu.

Buddha’s tight ringlet curls by Qi Yu. Ceramic cinnabar mineral mounted on canvas. Expo Chicago/2016.

Qi Yu, Beijing, China.

Artist Qi Yu of Redbrick Art Museum, Beijing, China.

North Cafe.

Coffee break, North Cafe. Expo Chicago/2016.

Art Catalogs. (resize).

Art Catalogs. Expo Chicago/2016.

Amy Sherald, Monique Meloche Gallery.

Amy Sherald, Listen, you a wonder. you a city of a woman. you got a geography of your own., 54 x 43 in., oil on canvas, 2016, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Sherald’s painting title quotes American poet Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) – “listen, you a wonder. you a city of a woman. you got a geography of your own. listen, somebody need a map to understand you. somebody need directions to move around you. listen, woman, you not a noplace anonymous girl; mister with his hands on you he got his hands on some damn body!” Expo Chicago/2016.

Sandro Miller, American Bikers 1990-1995.

Sandro Miller, American Bikers 1990-1995, Catherine Edleman Gallery, Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.

Bettina Pousttchi, Rotunda, 2016.

Bettina Pousttchi, Rotunda, 2016, photographic print on textile, 25′ diameter, Buchmann Galerie, Berlin/Lugano. Expo Chicago/2016.

Raffi Kalenderian, Sekula Benner Street, 2016.

Raffi Kalenderian, Sekula Benner Street, 2016, oil on canvas, Buchmann Galerie Berlin/Lugano. Expo Chicago/2016.

Kate Werble  Ernesto Burgos (resize).

Artwork of Ernesto Burgos, Kate Werble Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

Sims Reed Gallery London (resize)

At Sims Reed Gallery London. Expo Chicago/2016.

Ann Agee, Negishi Heights 1957, 2015, (resize)

Ann Agee, Negishi Heights 1957, 2015, acrylic on Thai Mulberry paper, P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

At the Expo.

At the Expo. Expo Chicago/2016.

Artistic performance. (resize)

Artistic performance outside Zwirner Gallery, New York City. Behind: Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Manhattan rising, advancing—), 2010, ink and acrylic on paper, 59 x 118 inches. Expo Chicago/2016.

Mel Bochner and Aloyson Shotz.

Mel Bochner, Blah Blah Blah, 2016 and Aloyson Shotz, Flow Fold #3, 2015, Carolina Nitsch Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

Alicja Kwade, Hypotheisches  Gebilde, 2016 (resize)

Alicja Kwade, Hypotheisches Gebilde, 2016, König Galerie Berlin, Germany. Expo Chicago/2016.

Bernar Venet, Indeterminate Line, 2013.

Bernar Venet, Indeterminate Line, 2013, rolled steel, 75 1/2 × 80 × 62 in. Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

Richard Norton Gallery (resize)

Richard Norton Gallery.

Jannis Varelas, New Flags for a new country, (resize)

Jannis Varelas, New Flags for a New Country, The Breeder, Athens, Greece. Expo Chicago/2016.

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Rodney McMillian, Carpet Painting (Bedroom and TV Room), 2012, carpet and ink, Maccarone, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.

Lucia Gonzalez Botello, Portrait #3, 2015 (resize)

Lucia Gonzalez Botello, Portrait #3, 2015, oil on canvas, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.

Expo's end.

End of the day. Expo Chicago/2016.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

 

EXPO Chicago 2015, 17-20 September. International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. (41 Photos).

Featured Image is Ewerdt Hilgemann’s Habakuk (Homage to Max Ernst), 2014, stainless steel, Borzo Gallery and The Mayor Gallery. In/Situ Outside 2015.

Photographs by John P. Walsh. 

Expo Chicago/2015 is the 4th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on September 17 – 20, 2015. This year’s exhibition featured 140 art galleries representing 16 countries and nearly 50 major international cities including New York City, Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, Rome, Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.

This post’s 41 photographs are of that event.

expo-chicago-2015

A. George Miller (American, 1905-1984), Untitled (City Nocturne), ca. 1950s, 16 x 24 in. Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago. A. George Miller attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago starting in 1923. and was one of three official photographers for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago.

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Lucian Freud (German-born British painter, 1922-2011), Head & Shoulders of a Girl (detail), 1990 etching, edition of 50, Browse & Darby, London.

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Hung Liu (Chinese-born American, b. 1948), Untitled (Dandelion), 2015, mixed media, 60 x 60 in., Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York. While she has a foot in both cultures—China and the United States—Hung Liu’s paintings are steeped in Chinese culture, contemporary and ancient.

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Sergio Carmargo (Brazil, 1930-1990), Untitled #504, 1970 and Anish Kapoor (India, b. 1954), Untitled, 2014, Fiberglass and paint (“Yellow Void”), 160 x 160 x 56 cm. Lisson Gallery London Milan New York.

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Hunter Reynolds, Survival AIDS-ACT UP Chicago – A Revolution, 2015. Photo weaving, 8′ x 30′ Courtesy of artist & P.P.O.W. NY and Iceberg Projects Chicago.

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Hunter Reynolds in collaboration with Elijah Burgher and Steve Reinke conclude Survival AIDS Mummification Performance presented in partnership with PPOW and ICEBERG Projects for Survival AIDS Chicago Act Up a Revolution.

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Expo Chicago/2015.

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At Kate Werble Gallery, NY.

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Chantal Joffe (UK, b. 1969), Green Strapless Dress, 2013, oil on board, 72.5 x 48.5 in., Galerie Forsblom, Finland. In a 2009 interview, Joffe said, “I really love painting women. Their bodies, their clothes – it all interests me.”

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Vik Muniz (Brazil, b. 1961), Album: Over There, 2014. digital c-print, edition of 6, 71 x 105 in., Rena Bransten Projects, San Francisco.

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Suzanne Martyl (American, 1917-2013), Asclepias, oil on masonite, 14 x 11 in., Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago. Suzanne Martyl or Martyl Langsdorf – or Martyl. According to the artist, her approach to composition is that she …”always found it fascinating to look and look and look, and spend all kinds of time until something would just ring a bell, and I would know how to rearrange nature to make a good composition.”

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Conversation among books whose subjects are British photographer Darren Almond, Chicago Social Practice installation artist Theaster Gates, English artist Damien Hirst and German photographer Andreas Gursky.

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VMU Gallery 101 / Art Fund curated by Rimas Čiurlionis, and coordinated by photographer Alex Zakletsky, presents a video installation of artists from the conflict zone in Ukraine including the work of Bella Logachova, Andriy Yermolenko and Ivan Semesyuk.

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Victoria Gitman (b. 1972, Buenos Aires; lives in Hallandale, FL), Untitled, 2015. Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. Gitman creates sensuous and conceptually sophisticated oil paintings that are naturalistic looking.

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Andy Warhol, Love in the spring, 1955, watercolor and pencil on paper, McCormick Gallery, Chicago and Vallarino Gallery, New York.

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At the Central Academy of Fine Arts School of Design, Beijing, China.

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DETAIL Marc Sijan ( American, b. 1946), Kneeling, resin and oil paint, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012), Reclining Woman, bronze, 1959. Behind, left to right: Charles Howard (American, 1899–1978), Friedel Dzubas (German-born American, 1915-1944) and Michael Goldberg (American, 1907-2007). McCormick Gallery, Chicago & Vincent Vallarino Fine Art, New York City. An ensemble in black and white of abstract and figurative painting and sculpture in the Modernist tradition.

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Chilean artist Carlos Costa with one of his “Wind Studies,” 2015, a conceptual project based on structuring basic natural elements. Local Arte Contempoeáneo, Santiago.

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Josh Garber, Ourselves, 2015, welded bronze, detail, complete artwork: 30 x 15 x 14 in., Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago.

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Expo Chicago/2015.

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Rimas Čiurlionis, special exhibitions.

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At Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida, specializing in Cuban art.

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In/Situ Outside. Ewerdt Hilgemann’s “Habakuk (Homage to Max Ernst), 2014, stainless steel, Borzo Gallery and The Mayor Gallery.

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At Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York.

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Marc Sijan ( American, b. 1946), Kneeling, resin and oil paint, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sijan’s super-realistic sculptures are, by the artist’s own words, “homages to humanity’s fascination with its own forms — a fascination which has compelled artists throughout the millennia to mirror life in virtually every medium.”

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At Forum Gallery New York: Gaston Lachaise, Woman Walking, 1919, cast in 1968, polished bronze, 19 1/2 x 10 x 7 1/2 inches, Edition 6/6.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Gregory Scott, Van Gogh’s Bedroom, 2015, pigment print, oil on panel, HD video, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago.

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Part of the Expo Chicago/2015 experience is the opportunity to view temporary public art installations on the Chicago lakefront and elsewhere in the city. Starting with Expo Chicago/2014, these “In/Situ” works provide artists and galleries to showcase large-scale installation art and site specific works. This is Giuseppe Penone’s Idee di Pietra-Olmo (“Idea of Stone-Elm, 2008, Marian Goodman Gallery. It is a 30 foot tall bronze tree incorporating a precariously-placed boulder conveying the possible effects of human interaction in the natural world.

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David Allan Peters, Untitled #24, 2015, acrylic on wood panel, Ameringer McEnery Yohe, New York.

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Berthe Morisot, detail, femme et enfant au bois, pencil on paper laid on card stamped ‘B.M’ and numbered (lower right), Browse & Darby London.

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Camilo Restrepo (1975, Medellín, Colombia). Bowling for Medillin I, 2014, Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York. Since 1999 the artist lives and works in Paris, France.

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Dealers, Expo Chicago/2015.

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Jan Matulka (American, 1890-1972), Seated Nude with Eyes Closed, oil on canvas, c. 1922, 48 x 34 1/2 in., Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago.

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Augustus John, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1923, charcoal on paper, Browse & Darby, London.

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Dayron Gonzalez, Momento de Gloria, 2015, oil on canvas, Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida.

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At Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, a contemporary art gallery in Culver City, California.

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Foreground: Matthias Bitzer, Revolving Future, 2014, Metal, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York.

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In Situ: Sung Jang, Mobi, 2015, injection molded plastic, Volume Gallery, Chicago.

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Expo Chicago/2015.

 

 

 

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14 to May 10, 2016.

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Van Gogh’s Bedrooms at The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14 to May 10, 2016. This is the exhibition’s penultimate gallery featuring the three versions of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom.” Left to right: from the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (1889), The Art Institute of Chicago (1889), and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (1888). The three masterworks are gathered together in North America for the first time.

By John P. Walsh. May 6, 2016.

I saw the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago (February 14-May 10, 2016) on the last Friday afternoon before the show closed. The museum that day was drawing a large crowd and it was challenging to navigate through the multi-room art show in a mass of frequently immobile art lovers. Exactly for what cause some stationary patrons might be transfixed could only be speculated upon but often no art was present. No one I think comes to art shows to be caught in a logjam of people yet that recurrent phenomenon in Van Gogh’s Bedrooms soon became one of its unpleasant features. The expansive exhibition space—striking for its illogical reasoning to display three relatively small masterpieces—proved impractical, or at least a two-edged sword, in terms of containing its throngs.

Those three featured paintings are this show’s raison d’être and prove a marvelous highlight after reaching them by way of a dozen or so high-ceiling galleries. Once arrived to the show’s penultimate room, my eyes settled on the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam’s version as the most intriguing of the three superficially identical works. The other two versions are from the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

When 35-year-old Van Gogh painted his The Bedroom series starting in October 1888, the Dutchman had been an artist only a short while: about 7 years. This had followed a variety of other occupations, although Van Gogh began his professional life as an art dealer.  By late 1888—less than two years before his death by self-inflicted gunshot in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890—Van Gogh had traveled long and far from his beginnings in North Brabant. He arrived into Paris in 1885 to paint and join his brother Theo who was an avant-garde art dealer in the Rue Montmartre. Looking to sell more of his artwork, he began painting in the bright Impressionist style for which Van Gogh is probably most famous today.  By February 1888 Van Gogh relocated to Arles in the South of France on account of his health and to possibly start an art colony.  Still quite poor and alone, this roughly 15-month period in Arles proved to be prolific for the artist’s production when Van Gogh completed 200 paintings, and over 100 drawings and watercolors. Many of Van Gogh’s most famous works were created in this fecund period—for example, his portraits of Eugène Boch (Musée d’Orsay), Postman Joseph Roulin and Augustine Roulin (both Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)  and Madame Ginoux (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) among several others; sunflowers and irises such as Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (National Gallery, London), Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (Neue Pinakothek, Munich) and Irises (Getty Museum, Los Angeles); 15 canvases of cypresses; and his iconic Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin in the Harvard Art Museums.

None of these contextual artworks were in the Chicago show but demonstrate the range and depth of Van Gogh’s artistic vision in the same time period that The Bedrooms—which shared his body of work’s intoxication with color and decorative strategieswere painted. Despite its title—Van Gogh’s Bedrooms—this show is not content to let their presence in Chicago suffice. Instead, much of the other parts of this massive show were from the Art Institute’s permanent collection of mostly Barbizon and Impressionist artwork.  Perhaps if they had been left on whatever museum walls from which they had come, these fine artworks might have maintained an even greater impact for themselves and this show’s ultimate purpose than crowding them onto walls into this special exhibition space.  That said, the condensed interpretive curatorial exercise of parts of the permanent collection in this show could prove interesting for visitors who are not willing or able to visit other parts of the museum. In a show that took on the formula of a typical Regenstein Hall blockbuster, its propensity for Impressionist rehash (“delve” was the museum’s word) had a boring art textbook’s sensibility. Recognizing that the show dipped into the museum storehouse to retrieve the life-size maquette of the Yellow House from AIC’s vastly superior exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South in 2001, produced a dispiriting effect on at least one viewer who recognized it. But so far I am quibbling: this AIC exhibition brings together the powerful canon of all three versions of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom for the first time in North America which is very special and undoubtedly sufficient to any museum goer’s time and interest. I don’t believe, however, that their full artistic power was best served by being able to see these objects intensely advertised in the media markets and then only hung at the show’s virtual end following a cacophony of mostly extraneous art historical resources however severely earnestly presented. Instead, a surfeit of front-loaded artistic riches labors to obscure these significant Van Goghs that finally appear in the second to last gallery, all of which are jam-packed with art, people, various filmic explorations, somewhat bloviating wall texts, whole house reconstructions, etc.

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Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam,  October 1888. 72.4 x 91.3 cm.

CHGO Vincent van Gogh. The Bedroom, 1889. The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.exh_vangogh_bedroom_main_480

Chicago, 1889. 72.4 x 91.3 cm. The version Van Gogh first painted in the asylum at St. Rémy.

PARIS FINAL exh_vangogh-bedroom_Paris_main_480

Paris, 1889. 57.5 x 74 cm. Destitute bachelor Van Gogh gave this version to his mother and sister.

It is certainly obvious that Van Gogh’s Bedrooms possibly could have benefited by not pulling out all the stops (AIC: “in-depth study”) but to focus on the three colorful masterpieces uniquely gathered in their essential power. If one wants to read blow by blow explanations of virtually every curatorial application in the show, one might turn to other reviews cited in “Further Reading” below. The equitably in-depth appreciation of this trio of Van Gogh worksand minus the Disney World trappingsmight be advanced using timed tickets (as done for Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South) and within a pared down and simpler exhibition scope. The way things are constructed by the show’s curator Gloria Groom, Chair of European Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition transmits encyclopedic knowledge while largely missing a tangible evocation of bachelor Van Gogh’s humble petit boulevard persona who produced in Arles in 1888 and in Saint-Rémy in 1889 these bold canvases of his simple bedroom and even gifting one of the versions (the one now in Paris) to his aged mother and sister to reassure them in his destitution. For Van Gogh the motif of his private and hard-featured bedroom in Arles continued his bold self-expression in a tightly woven and complex painting composed in broad outlines using a many-hued post-impressionistic palette in thick impasto. Despite Van Gogh’s reputation as madhe mutilated his ear in this bedroom in December 1888he soon carried on painting two more versions of The Bedroom (the last one slightly reduced) with the apparent added intention to express to his family and friends that the artist was as stable and restful as his artistic subject.

What should an exhibition advertised as Van Gogh’s Three Bedrooms wish to have its spectators looking for and come away with? By the time a visitor reaches Van Gogh’s three paintings after plowing through the aforesaid gauntlet of people and well-known Chicago art resources, the exhibition almost runs the danger of displaying these highly-prized artworks not as denouement but incidental. These Van Gogh paintings are hardly allowed to speak freely for themselves. Of course they have a fascinating history but to what degree should these particular artworks’ written history be simultaneous to their exhibition? Thinking of the viewer, does the display of three paintings of an artist’s bedroom (albeit Vincent Van Gogh’s) that when placed side by side measures the whole of about ten feet across merit thousands of cubic feet of mostly academic groundwork before a viewer can even see them? To what degree are artistic exhibition and their intellectual exposition necessarily complementary since many museum art shows follow this tactic?

The final gallery after the display of the three bedrooms continued Van Gogh’s Bedrooms’ devotion to comprehensive information and theatricalityalthough a side-by-side blow-up of the bedrooms’ diverging painterly details was perhaps the most useful techie display so to appreciate the artist’s handling of the individual paintings. Yet it begged a question: could this orientation to detail, to seeing the painting, somehow serve as the exhibition’s primary or sole introduction, such as in a film theater? This last gallery then led directly to the ubiquitous and depressing gift shop hosting the galleries’ multitude disporting themselves basically as they did in and among the art. Hearing its timbre I wondered if a unique opportunity to view together these three Van Gogh bedroom paintings“the first time in North America”had under- or overplayed its hand? As its elemental objective had the exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms rightly oriented and imparted to its viewers an intimate and perhaps personally revealing look into these three sensitive treasures of Van Gogh’s oeuvre? Or had the artist Van Gogh merely omitted to paint into his own scene the proverbial kitchen sink?

FURTHER READING:

http://www.artnews.com/2016/03/14/domestic-dreams-van-goghs-bedrooms-at-the-art-institute-of-chicago-offers-a-rich-look-at-three-masterworks/

http://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment/art-institute-explores-van-goghs-bedroom-and-a-sense-of-home/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/van-goghs-bedrooms-review-1455750210

http://chirontolife.com/2016/review-of-a-view-van-goghs-bedrooms/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/museums/ct-ent-0204-van-gogh-bedrooms-art-institute-20160210-story.html

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2016/03/blockbuster-art-shows

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Savagery In Civilization: Paul Gauguin And His Tahiti-Inspired Graphic Work In Paris, 1893-1895.

 

self portrait  1893-94 oil on canvas Dorsay 18x15 in 46 x 38 cm FIXED

Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait, 1893-1894. Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in. (46 x 38 cm), Musée D’Orsay, Paris. The artist portrays himself in his new studio in Paris painted in bright colors with exotic decor including a blue and yellow sarong at the lower right. Behind him is his Manau Tupapau (The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch, Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery) painted in the South Pacific in 1892.

By John P. Walsh

In May 1894 during a working visit to Brittany filled with nostalgia, a 45-year-old Paul Gauguin broke his leg above the ankle in a scuffle with sailors in broad daylight. In France just nine months after being away in French Polynesia for over two years, Gauguin was spotted playing the role of bohemian artist in Concarneau, an old fishing port which had become a busy international art colony. Gauguin made an attractive target in his outlandish attire and shoulder-length hair huddled with a coterie of young art disciples, a pet monkey, and a Ceylonese child mistress whose dark skin offended late-nineteenth-century social norms as much as her age.1  

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Map of Brittany in northwestern France showing the principal sites where Gauguin and other avant-garde artists lived and worked in the late 1880s and 1890s.

Exhibiting his penchant for questioning prevailing assumptions and bringing to Brittany the easy sexual standards he experienced in Tahiti, a dissolute Gauguin now paid for his personal freedom with serious bodily harm. The violent incident added to the changed relations Gauguin found for himself in France since his return to his homeland in late August 1893. After his 27-month artistic exile in the middle of the South Pacific starting in April 1891, the midcareer artist strove to re-establish ties among dealers, critics, collectors and artists in Paris. He had a misguided anticipation for sales of his new Tahitian paintings based on his past artistic triumphs and the handful of new Tahiti work he sent ahead of his arrival into France for exhibition in Paris to carry his objectives forward.In Brittany Gauguin’s injury required him to be hospitalized and put on morphine and alcohol as pain killers for a two-month recuperation. By late August 1894 Gauguin’s leg had healed where he traveled to nearby Quimper for his assailants’ trial. The artist had sued the ruffians for 3,000 francs, but local justice meted out a small fine.3

Gauguin did not rest on his laurels or his recent injury. Rather, since his return to France, Gauguin engaged himself almost nonstop in self-promotion on behalf of his new Tahitian art portfolio. During his recuperation Gauguin found he was unable to paint in his first full summer back in France in 1894. This was a hard irony since in his Tahitian work between 1892 and 1893 Gauguin was primarily a painter. In summer 1894 he turned to work exclusively on wood cuts and monotypes (the latter art form also called transfer drawings, watercolor transfer drawings, printed drawings, and traced monotypes). Working alone and with other artists from the Pont-Aven group, Gauguin experimented with new images, new arrangements and new applications without committing anything to oil. These print techniques ―different from etching which Gauguin found too dainty― afforded him the painterly effects, unusual textures and distorted forms that he sought and which his opponents in the modern art world vocally despised. For the sake of this post’s length and logic, a fuller presentation of four of these “savage” prints which Gauguin finished in Paris between 1893 and 1895 (among scores of others) can be discovered in a separate blog post. Excluding the collective power of his ten large and earliest woodcuts made for Noa Noa, no works of graphic art by Gauguin in this Paris period are more mysterious than the ones this article will consider – namely, Tahitians Fishing (involving Savage Eves), Tahitian Landscape (blood sacrifices), Tahitian Idol – The Goddess Hina (vying spirits in the natural world) and Oviri based on Gauguin’s ceramic sculpture.

#1 TAHITIANS FISHING

TAHITIANS FISHING, 1893/5 – watercolor and black ink, over pen and brown ink, on vellum laid down on brown wove paper, 9.84 x 12.48 inches (250 x 317 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.

#2 TAHITIAN LANDSCAPE

TAHITIAN LANDSCAPE, 1894 – watercolor monotype, with brush and watercolor, on cream wove paper, 8.66 x 9.72 inches (220 x 247 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.

#3 TAHITIAN IDOL-THE GODDESS HINA

TAHITIAN IDOL – THE GODDESS HINA, 1894-95 – woodcut in black ink, over ochre and red, with touches of white and green inks, on tan wove paper, 5.78 x 4.72 inches (147 x 120 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.

#4 Oviri Savage

OVIRI (SAVAGE), 1894 – woodcut printed in black on cream Japan laid paper, 8.03 x 4.56 inches (204 x 116 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection.

In November 1894 when Gauguin was able to return from Brittany to Paris he opened the door to his studio to find that its two rooms had been ransacked save for own art work. It had been the undertaking of Gauguin’s Ceylonese mistress, called Annah la Javanaise, who had exacted her sense of savage justice on the man from France for her services.4

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Gauguin’s Studio at 6 rue Vercingétorix in Paris. Gauguin is seated at left in the broad brimmed hat. Behind him is artist Paul Sérusier with Annah la Javanaise. Standing in the black hat is painter Georges Lacombe. The two musicians are Fritz Schnedklud (center) and Larrivel (right). Photograph: Musée Gauguin, Papeari.

Following his passage from Tahiti into France on August 30, 18935, Paul Gauguin, virtually penniless, stayed in Paris with art historian Émile Schuffenecker with whom he had been estranged and by more than the High Seas.6 From fall 1892 into early spring 1893 Gauguin had been sending to Paris his new work from Tahiti ―nine canvases in total – including his first portrait of a Tahitienne, namely, Vahine no te Tiare of 1892 which today hangs in Copenhagen. Displayed in the Boulevard Montmartre gallery of Boussod, Valadon & Cie (the former Goupil & Cie),7  critical reaction to the portrait which was so important to Gauguin turned out to be mixed.8 The portrait might have served as a bellwether to Gauguin and those who paid attention to his work. Its tepid, divided response would mark the reception he received for his much larger Tahitian oeuvre in Paris between 1893 and 1895.

vahine no te tiare

Gauguin, Vahine No te Tiare (Woman with Flower), 1891. Oil on canvas, 70 x 46 cm, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

While Edgar Degas spoke well of and invested in Gauguin’s work, the two were not personally close.9 It was in conversation with younger artists and one older artist, Odilon Redon, that in January or February 1890 Gauguin was inspired to pursue the idea of a “Studio of the Tropics.” Although Redon by late summer of 1890 told Gauguin he was against his leaving France – whether to Madagascar, as first entertained, or as it happened, to Tahiti in April 1891, Gauguin was clearly not persuaded. Redon was convinced that Gauguin’s artistic development in Europe would be significant and appealed to Gauguin to reconsider.10 Gauguin wrote to Redon from Le Pouldu in September of 1890:

“…The reasons you give me for staying in Europe are more flattering than they are likely to convince me. My mind is made up…I judge that my art, which you like, is only a seedling thus far, and out there I hope to cultivate it…Here, Gauguin is finished, and nothing more will be seen of him…”11

In Tahiti Gauguin made his home in Papeete and soon after in Mataiea before he returned to Paris two years and three months later in August 1893. He stayed in the French capital  for twenty-two months until a second departure for Tahiti in June 1895 when this time, indeed, nothing more would be seen of him (“My design, Gauguin wrote, “(is) to bury myself in the South Sea Islands.”)12 It could not be known until December 1894 that Gauguin had decided to return to Tahiti – although in 1894 his letters expressed longing for it.13 His time in Paris possessed a “liminal” quality in that he occupied a position at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold of Tahiti. From 1893 to 1895 in Paris Gauguin had two distinct worlds to draw on and consider for his art – one, an echo of Redon’s advice in 1890 to develop artistically in Europe and two, his memory of Tahiti from 1891 to 1893. The South Seas had imparted to Gauguin new images for him to paint that he could not find in France – and he worked to promote these discoveries and ruminate on them in current work. Unlike Brittany of which the artist was fond, Tahiti surrounded Gauguin with a strangeness that allowed his imagination to take greater hold of the mystery, savagery, and otherness that he increasingly sought to express in his artistic work. Both worlds can be found in Gauguin’s  art of this Paris period –  Tahiti in the new images based on primitiveness and savagery and France in the forms of Symbolism and Synthetism that Gauguin learned and helped lead after 1888. Each of these worlds – one definitely savage and the other civilized or also savage based on one’s art critical perspective in early 1890s Paris – informed the other in formal terms and the impressions inspired by the artist’s dreams, exaggerations and inventions.

Paul Gauguin had come back to France actually intending to stay14 but as time passed his connection to the faraway islands became too strong to forsake. At Café Escoffier in Paris on December 7, 1894, Gauguin announced his return to Tahiti and left France forever the following year. In those 660 days in France Gauguin worked to force rapid public acceptance of his work and ended up being all but shunned by the French public. Gauguin brought to Tahiti in 1891 the experience of all the art he had made in the late 1880s with Vincent Van Gogh in Arles and with Émile Bernard and Paul Sérusier in Brittany as well as his deep admiration for Redon’s noirs.  Primitive culture in Polynesia, while truncated and absorbed into French rule, appealed to him and in the Paris interlude Gauguin obsessed about the island in his literature and art.15

Paul_Gauguin-_Manao_tupapau_(The_Spirit_of_the_Dead_Keep_Watch)

Gauguin. Manao Tupapau (Spirit of the Dead Watching), 1892. Oil on canvas. 28 1/2 x 36 3/8 in. (72.5 x 92.5 cm), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Gauguin took the initiative to woo the French art-buying public and even the State to embrace the sixty-six paintings that comprised his Tahitian portfolio. His failure to take Paris by storm in this period― book-ended by a two-week commercial exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s in November 1893 and a Drouot auction on February 18, 1895 ―is blamed for his leaving for Tahiti the second and final time. These disappointments had a financial bearing – he sold only eleven of forty-one paintings from Tahiti at Durand-Ruel’s and just nine out of forty seven works at the Hôtel Drouot – but their apathetic reception affected more than a mercantile Gauguin. It is a historical irony that one of Gauguin’s unsold Tahitian paintings from this period – his 1892 double portrait “Nafea Faa Ipoipo” (When Will You Marry?)” – was sold in February 2015 by a Swiss family foundation to a group of state museums in Qatar for a record nearly $300 million. In 1893 the artist priced it at no higher than 3,000 francs or about $15,000 in 2015 dollars.

101.5 x 77.5 cm; Öl auf Leinwand; Inv. Dep 105

Gauguin, Nafea faa ipoipo (When Will You Marry Me?), oil on canvas, 101 by 77 cm (40 in × 30 in.).

In art work Gauguin was preparing for the public and for his private rumination he continued his “searching deep within himself”16 begun in Tahiti with its exotic theme being paramount. Throughout the period of 1893 to 1895, in Paris and in Brittany, Gauguin escaped into a Tahitian world of his own imaginings by way of his highly experimental graphic work.17 Gauguin brought to Paris with him his notes and sketch books from Tahiti and meditated on them during the course of his Paris sojourn. He thought of these mementos as “my letters, my secrets”18 and one wonders about his intention to commercially exhibit these trial works. In summer 1894 Gauguin gave away some of his watercolors19 and while this action may serve as a memento or payment to a friend, it points to a tentativeness with which Gauguin viewed these first works. “The world I am discovering,” Gauguin wrote in a letter months later, “is a Paradise the outlines of which I shall have merely sketched out and between the sketch and the realization of the vision there is a long way to go.”20

Aside from around fifteen paintings he did in France from 1893 to 1895, Gauguin’s work is mainly (with some overlap in art forms) in the graphic arts and literature, including Noa Noa, Ancien Culte Mahorie, and Cahier Pour Aline. Starting in Paris during this period and until his death in May 1903, Gauguin worked to transform himself from an artist to an artist and writer. The general idea for this effort was not original to Gauguin; it may even be a reaction to his critics who derided him as a “writer’s painter” – that is, one who obscured his instinctive painterly talent with literary or ideal concerns. Criticism of Gauguin’s art for this specific reason was deep and extensive in 1890s France by many leading intellectuals who favored the prevailing Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist art forms which promoted a naturalist and modernist art and that Gauguin had abandoned in the late 1880s. Gauguin angered and annoyed artists and critics and they derided his current work forcefully. According to Félix Fénéon Gauguin’s art was unnatural, irrational and illogical and constituted a step backwards for modern art which had staked a secular, democratic, and progressive course. For Camille Pissarro and Impressionist artists such as Paul Signac – Gauguin’s Synthetist and Symbolist styles and forms were retrograde and should be actively resisted. “Let us study Delacroix, Corot, Puvis, Manet and leave those (other) humbugs to their own devices,”21 wrote Signac in 1895 about Monsieur Gauguin.

GAUGUIN DR 001FIXED

Gauguin, three wooden sculptures exhibited at Durand Ruel’s in November 1893. Photography Georges Chaudet. Gauguin’s commercial exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s included 41 Tahitian paintings, 3 Brittany paintings, 1 ceramic and wood sculptures called “tiis.”

Although brief and contentious, Paris turned out to be a productive time for Gauguin’s art.22 In December 1893 following decent sales after his exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s, Gauguin wrote from Paris to his wife Mette in Copenhagen and pointedly did not discuss his earnings which likely netted him about 10,000 francs – or $50,000 in 2015 dollars.23 Gauguin talked around the money issue to reflect on his attitude for any future art world gambit which would likely be undertaken immediately. “My show,” Gauguin wrote to his faraway spouse, “has not in fact given the results that might have been expected but we must look facts in the face…The most important thing is that my exhibition had a very great artistic success, has even provoked passion and jealousy. The press has treated me …rationally, with words of praise. For the moment I am considered by many people to be the greatest modern painter.”24

Many viewers, however, were perplexed by the artist’s refusal to translate into French the Tahitian titles found in scores of his paintings. Others were amused by the bohemian role he had assumed for himself in astrakhan hat and gilet. Gauguin was obsessed with exhibiting his major Tahitian paintings, continuing to produce that kind of work in Paris and trying to explain this portfolio to the public through his studio invitations, writings, and “image translations.” He wanted to see his Tahitian work conquer the Paris art world.25 While many Parisians did not accept or understand Gauguin’s Tahiti art they were fascinated by it. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago opened in May 1893 and closed just ten days before Gauguin’s Tahiti show opened at Durand-Ruel’s. The Chicago Fair, inspired by the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, showcased ethnological “villages” that attracted nearly thirty million people. Despite a set course for Impressionism as the parameter for modern art, Gauguin’s cutting-edge Tahiti art could not be ignored completely by Parisians who felt an intense curiosity about exotic locales, especially French Polynesia.26 In Paris Gauguin showed himself to be tireless to capitalize on this current passion. In his letters he ceaselessly complains, justifies his every action, demands extraordinary things of others and lays grand plans for himself because he believed his artistic career was on the verge of greatness but frustratingly incomplete. He poured his energy into his several artistic exhibitions in Paris and elsewhere, produced critical articles and letters for journals, and began to pull together his Tahiti adventures to write Noa Noa with his occasional friend Charles Morice. Morice added a preface, a chapter entitled “Songeries,” as well as the poems. Portions of  Noa Noa (“pleasing fragrance”) appeared for the first time in La Revue Blanche, between October 15 and November 1, 1897, more than two years after Gauguin returned to Tahiti. Yet Gauguin used the writing project in late 1893 to excuse himself from traveling to Copenhagen to see his wife Mette.27 

charles morice 1893 Eugene Carriere

Eugène Carrière, Portrait of Charles Morice, 1893 Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 38.5 cm, Clemens Sels Museum, Neuss, Germany.

Gauguin, portrait of Mette, 1877, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

Gauguin, Portrait of Mette, 1877, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Paris Gauguin produced a slew of graphic work and some painting and sculpture. His message from the French capital to his far off wife was interchangeable with what it had been from Tahiti: “I am up to my neck in work!” and that he needed money.28 Regardless of his committed efforts at self-promotion and artistic expansion in Paris – including all aspects of publicity, catalog production, and stock preparation for his Tahiti exhibitions as well as mending fences with old friends and rejoining social networks such as Stéphane Mallarmé’s “les jeudis”29  – criticism and sales receipts did not fulfill the artist’s hopes for his new art. Following Durand-Ruel’s, Gauguin in January 1894 rented a two-room studio on Rue Vercingétorix and fills it with his unsold art that amounted to dozens of paintings and sculptures as well as his current work, some flea-market exotica, and an ethnographic collection. He famously decorated the walls in chrome yellow and olive green―reminiscent of Pierre Loti’s residence in western France with its valuable Far Eastern art collection30― and invited friends to share in his les mardis where they played music, told travel stories, and the host read from his work-in-progress, Noa Noa. 31

GAUGUIN DR 001 FIXED

Courtyard apartment, 6 rue Vercingétorix, in the Montparnasse section of Paris, around the time of Gauguin’s residence. The location is difficult to imagine in modern Paris today.

One question asked about Gauguin’s Tahitian and Tahitian-inspired oeuvre was which of it is strictly Tahitian and which is western influenced – or, what is direct observation and what is artifice? Exceptional global coordinates did not prevent Gauguin’s first Tahitian experience from 1891 to 1893 to have a European and specifically French flavor. At Durand-Ruel’s exhibition one critic traced the origins of Gauguin’s Ia Orana Maria of 1891, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to a late-1870s work by Jules Bastien-Lepage. In the French press he scoffed at Gauguin’s canvas as “nothing but a Bastien-Lepage done Tahitian style.”32 This sort of critical charge underscores the ground-breaking nature of Gauguin’s art as it introduced primitivism into the European cosmopolitan avant-garde at the turn of the century. Tahiti was an official French colony since 1880 and like most Frenchmen Gauguin had little to no knowledge of its indigenous beliefs and customs. Further, he found no indigenous cultural artifacts during his first stay although he did late in his stay discover published sources for indigenous objects and practices that influenced his art by way of a Belgian scholar.33 In addition to Gauguin’s main artistic threat at “terrorizing reality” and creating ugly art as Fénéon and others strongly postulated, the challenge to Gauguin’s lack of direct observation of Tahitian subject matter or overall Tahitian expertise helped to dismiss his new art as “inauthentic.” Gauguin’s personal life was also fodder for criticism by his artistic enemies. For instance, that it was discovered that Gauguin procured his exotic mistress, Annah la Javanaise, only after his return to Paris stealing her from a French singer after meeting her possibly through art dealer Ambroise Vollard lent an almost boorish air to his art-world bearing. That after 1895 Annah la Javanaise became Alphonse Mucha’s mistress in the same building in which she ransacked Gauguin’s studio in August or September 1894, was a further curiosity.34  

Perhaps to be expected from leading Impressionists such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac, each balked before Gauguin’s forty-one Tahitian canvases during his one-man show at Durand-Ruel’s in November 1893. Two days before the show closed Pissarro wrote to his cher Lucien: “I saw Gauguin; he told me his theories about art and assured me that the young would find salvation by replenishing themselves at remote and savage sources. I told him that this art did not belong to him, that he was a civilized man and hence it was his function to show us harmonious things. We parted, each unconvinced. Gauguin is certainly not without talent, but how difficult it is for him to find his own way! He is always poaching on someone’s ground; now he is stealing from the savages of Oceania.”35 Yet during that two-week show Gauguin received a complimentary review from Octave Mirbeau, his old champion, and a reported verbal endorsement from major Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé.  While some new paintings done by Gauguin in Paris are clear aesthetic hybrids of Europe and Polynesia―such as Portrait de Upaupa Schneklud and Aita Parari te Tamari Vahine Judith, both from 1894―Vaïraumati tei oa (Her Name is Vairaumati), a painting he started in Tahiti in 1892 based on his new-found knowledge of  indigenous gods, received its mystery and savagery out of French Symbolism and this trend of inculcating his Tahitian iconography with contemporary if controversial European influences would significantly deepen in Paris.

Le violoncelliste (Portrait de Upaupa Schneklud) Baltimore

Gauguin, Upaupa Schneklud, 1894, oil on canvas, 92.5 x 73.5 cm (36 x 28 5/8 in.), The Baltimore Museum of Art.

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Gauguin, Aita Tamari Vahine Judith Te Parari, 1893-1894, oil on canvas, 116 x 81 cm (45 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.), private collection.

The argument over whether Gauguin’s Tahitian oeuvre was either authentic, exploitative colonialism or the condition for an artistic sham continued during his Paris stay. After it was revealed that Gauguin was returning to Tahiti in spring 1895, the regular art critic for Mercure de France ridiculed his decision based on the artist’s published contention that his rendering of the unnatural and the ideal were his muses. “Why must he leave his Breton digs,” Camille Mauclair wrote, “and exile himself in Tahiti to execute his painting which could, as Gauguin himself said, be done without leaving his room?” Even the artist traveling to Tahiti could be viewed, under certain critical conditions, as inauthentic to Gauguin’s own Tahitian-inspired modern art.36

Paul Gauguin. Vaïraumati tei oa (Her Name is Vairaumati). 1892. Oil on canvas. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia.FIXED

Gauguin. Vaïraumati tei oa (Her Name is Vairaumati). 1892. Oil on canvas. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia.

Lagging sales in Paris and in Copenhagen of Gauguin’s Tahitian art portfolio remained a sore point for the artist. Whatever the date or venue― Durand-Ruel’s from November 10-25, 1893; an auction of Père Tanguy’s art collection with six works by Gauguin on June 2, 1894; a sales-exhibition in his atelier of Gauguin’s woodcuts, monotypes, wood sculptures and Tahitian paintings from December 2-9, 1894; or a February 18, 1895 Drouot auction of 47 works of art – sales performance for the “greatest modern painter” consistently underwhelmed. Such headwinds pushed Gauguin to “face facts” in a changed manner. In December 1893 he had bragged to Mette about bidders at Durand-Ruel’s going as high as 1,500 francs on his asking price of 2,000 to 3,000 francs for a Tahitian canvas and he conceiving a potential fallback price of 1,000 francs for each of his paintings. A year later, hungry for cash and wanting to unload his 4-year-old stock, Gauguin offered the same dealer thirty-five Tahitian canvases for 600 francs each.37

What might have occurred for Gauguin if he had stayed in Paris instead of going back to Tahiti, while impossibly speculative, is hinted at by his choice of Swede August Strindberg to write his catalog introduction for the February 1895 Drouot auction. While Strindberg could be simply viewed as another national hybrid – that of the Nordic lands and France – by the mid 1890s there could be no more propitious moment for Gauguin to interact with this avant-garde literary figure. About Gauguin’s age, Strindberg had also broke with naturalism around 1890 and subsequently was in personal and artistic crisis as he sought new arts forms in an emerging Symbolism. For his proposed catalog introduction Strindberg recognized Gauguin to be a savage and what defined a savage, according to the playwright, novelist and poet, is that he created art work that is neither beautiful nor harmonious but original and unique.  

August-Strindberg-self-portrait-1892-1893-©-National-Library-of-Sweden

August Strindberg, Self Portrait in Berlin, 1892, National Library of Sweden.

In mid1890s Paris the city was in the midst of a technological revolution. It was in color lithography and that mechanical art form proliferated among artists like wildfire which a competitive Gauguin could not have failed to notice. His reaction to the popular modern modality was to remain undeterred in his pursuit of the low-tech woodcut. The savage, Strindberg wrote, is independent and uncompromising. In the rush to technology, Gauguin’s defiance – or what Mette called his “most monstrously brutal egoism” –contributed to the woodcut’s revival at this time. More important, in the graphic arts no contemporary French artist could approach Gauguin’s power and vitality.38 In the Paris period from 1893 to 1895 – and extending to 1900 – Gauguin had no dealer representation. Gauguin broke and then drifted away from the security of Impressionism that Degas, Monet, Renoir and Cassatt enjoyed.39 Strindberg, an artistic visionary, could bring little to Gauguin by way of collectors or patrons.  Like Gauguin, he brought the integrity of his artistic experience which around that time was regrettably bordering on insanity. Three months before leaving France, Gauguin, resigned or relishing his social and artistic isolation, wrote to writer-artist Maurice Denis in March 1895. Gauguin wrote to congratulate the younger artist on an article he published on Armand Séguin, Gauguin’s print-making comrade in Brittany in summer 1894―and includes this short line on a modern artist’s role that might serve as Gauguin’s epitaph in France:

“What prompts me to write you is the pleasure it gives me to see painters looking after their own business….Go on all of you fighting with the brush as well as the pen, and in my retreat (in the South Seas) I shall cherish this fervent hope.”40

1. self-portrait-with-palette-1894

Gauguin, Self-Portrait with Palette, winter 1893-94 or 1894-95, 92 x 73 cm (35 7/8 x 28 1/2 in.), private collection . His new friend Armand Séguin (1869–1903) described the older Gauguin at this time with “his astrakhan hat and his huge dark blue overcoat buttoned with a precious buckle, in which he looked to the Parisians like a sumptuous, gigantic Magyar, or like Rembrandt in 1635.” (Séguin 1903a, 160).

The Paris interlude for Gauguin was about reworking and reinterpreting his first Tahitian experience. Whether Breton coifs or Tahitian pareos, Gauguin uses them to express his themes of distant memory, savagery, mystery, darkness, androgyny, sensual melancholy, exoticism, and the hieratic. His art united disparate objects and themes but under a veil of mystery and ambiguity. As a craftsman he uses symbolical objects to express a deeper idea than the surface meaning of the artifacts that a viewer can identify. Along with his unsold canvases Gauguin filled his Paris studio with Tahitian fabrics, wooden sculptures, weapons, trophies, and photographs and then advertised for collectors to come and steep themselves in the new language of modern art.41 Through hard work and artistic vision in France involving Synthetism, Symbolism, and from 1893 to 1895, Tahitianism, Gauguin remained an avant-garde leader. Gauguin’s art divided critical opinion but ever the passionate individualist who possessed an optimistic expectation for himself he saw much of his ambition realized in Paris in those short months. His wife Mette was responsive to his interests and he received his share of critical praise and sales for his exhibitions. In his art Gauguin combined fact and fantasy, reality and imagination and used a variety of artistic media and innovative techniques.42 In Paris by way of his re-workings of his Tahitian experience Gauguin deepened his vision of the islands and served his appetite to be, as Gustave Flaubert might arrange, “violent and revolutionary” in his work. Between 1893 and 1895 Impressionist Paris is artistically lost in the background to Paul Gauguin: there is no more than one canvas of its snow-covered roofs out of a courtyard window that was painted by him. The importance of Tahiti in Gauguin’s psyche in this Paris interlude cannot be overstated – and it becomes increasingly evident after his return there which soon resulted in his second (and final) Polynesian sojourn.

NOTES:

*In 1890 one French Franc was the equivalent of about 20 U.S. cents. $1 today had about $20 of buying power in 1890. http://www.fisheaters.com/forums/index.php?topic=3458337.0

  1. Mathews, Nancy Mowll, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 205.
  2. Ibid. p.193.
  3. Malingue, Maurice, Paul Gauguin: Letters to his Wife and Friends, The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1949 (Letter 150, Gauguin to William Molard), p. 193.
  4. “First Tahitian period Gauguin primarily painter…” Brettell, Richard, et.al., The Art of Paul Gauguin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and The Art Institute of Chicago, 1988, p. 297; “exclusively on watercolor transfers and woodcuts” – Ibid., p. 293; “print techniques” – Boyle-Tuner, Caroline, in collaboration with Samuel Josefowitz, foreward by Douglas Druick, The Prints of the Pont-Aven School: Gauguin and His Circle in Brittany, Abbeville Press, New York, 1986, p.106; “atelier…plundered…”, Bretell, p. 294.
  5. For Gauguin’s return date, August 30, 1893 according to Gloria Groom in Brettell, p. 291 and August 23, 1893 according to Nancy Mowll Mathews in Mathews, p. 193.
  6. Mathews, p. 194.
  7. Mathews, p. 300; Thomson, Belinda, Gauguin, Thames and Hudson, New York, 1897 (reprinted 1997), p 138.
  8. Thomson, p 138.
  9. Mathews, p.195.
  10. Rewald, John, Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Third Edition, 1978, p. 414.
  11. Thomson, Belinda, Gauguin By Himself, Chartwell Books, Edison, NJ, 1998, pp.122-3.
  12. Malingue, (Letter 157, Gauguin to Maurice Denis), p. 200.
  13. Mathews, p. 207.
  14. Salvesen, Britt, Gauguin, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 2001, p. 57.
  15. Thomson, Gauguin, p.156.
  16. Ibid., p.140.
  17. Brettell, p. 300.
  18. Exhibition Pamphlet, “Intimate Encounters Paul Gauguin and the South Pacific,” The Edward McCormick Blair Collection, September 6, 2003 to January 11, 2004, the Art Institute of Chicago.
  19. Mathews, p. 203.
  20. Malingue, (Letter 154, Gauguin to August Strindberg), February 5, 1895, p.197.
  21. see Georges Lecomte (1867-1958), “Salon XX, conférence de M. Georges Lecomte,” L’Art moderne, 28 February 1892, p. 67 and Francois Thiébault-Sisson (1856-1944), “Les Petits Salons” in Le Temps, December 2, 1893. “What artist would be more gifted if exclusively literary friendships did not cloud his judgment and paralyze the instinctive sense of painting that he has?” -quoted in Mathews, p. 203. For Félix Fénéon, Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac quote, see Marlais, Michael, Conservative Echoes in Fin-de-Siècle Parisian Art Criticism, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA, 1992, pp. 98-101.
  22. see Brettell, p. 297; Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York, 1982, p. 159; Stevenson, Lesley, Gauguin, Gallery Books/W.H. Smith Publishers, Inc., New York, 1990, p. 56; Crepaldi, Gabriele, trans. Sylvia Tombesi-Walton, Gauguin, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1998,  p. 92.
  23. Mathews, p. 197.
  24. Malingue, (Letter 145, Gauguin to Mette), pp. 187-88.
  25. “image translations” –Brettell, p. 330; Druick, Douglas W. and Zegers, Peter Kort, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, Thames & Hudson, New York 2001, p. 342.
  26. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/history.html – retrieved May 20, 2015 and Mathews, p. 196.
  27. Salvesen, p. 52; Druick , Zegers and Kort, pp. 292 and 345; https://library.temple.edu/scrc/charles-morice-papers.
  28. Malingue, letter 142, Gauguin to his wife, September 1893, p.186.
  29. Mathews, p. 195-196.
  30. Ibid., p. 197.
  31. Brettell, p. 301.
  32. Thomson, Gauguin, p.146.
  33. “European sources” – Ibid., p. 143; “little knowledge of indigenous beliefs and customs” and “by way of a Belgian” – Ibid., p.156; “found no indigenous cultural artefacts” – Ibid., p. 161.
  34. Salvesen, pps. 50-51.
  35. Pissarro, Camille, Letters to his Son Lucien, edited by John Rewald, Peregrine Smith, Inc., Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1981, p. 280.
  36. Mirbeau – Mathews, p.197; Mallarmé reportedly said: “It is extraordinary that one should be able to put so much mystery into so much splendor.” – Dorra, Henri, Symbolist Art Theories: A Critical Anthology, University of California press, 1994, p.209; Mauclair – Mathews, p.210.
  37. “bragged about bidders..” Malingue (Letter 145, Gauguin to Mette), p. 187-88; “thirty-five canvases for 600 francs each…” -Brettell, p. 294.
  38. Stringberg –Mathews, p. 207; color lithography and woodcuts revival – Shapiro, p. 133; “brutal egoism”-quoted in Claire Frèches-Thory, “The Exhibition at Durand-Ruel,” in Gauguin Tahiti, George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, MFA Publications, 2004, p. 84.
  39. Ibid., p. 200.
  40. Malingue, (Letter 157, Gauguin to Maurice Denis), pp. 200-201.
  41. Brettell, p. 300; Crepaldi, p. 92.
  42. Druick and Zegers, p. 344.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

 

 

 

 

EXPO Chicago 2014, 18-21 September. International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. (43 Photos).

Expo Chicago/2014 is the 3rd annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on September 18 – 21, 2014. The following 43 photographs are of that event.

Featured Image is Jessica Stockholder (American, b. 1959), Once Upon A Time, 2014, plastic, paint, mirrors, stools, carpet, chain, cables, staircase, resin, cords, light, bowls, lamp shade. Kavi Gupta Chicago/Berlin.

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Rosalyn Drexler (American, b.1926), Marilyn Pursued by Death, 1963, Garth Greenan Gallery New York and Fredericks & Freiser New York.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Ramiro Gomez (American, b. 1986), American Gardeners, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 120 in., Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Nicholas Krushenick (1929-1999), Grill, 1977, Garth Greenan Gallery New York and Fredericks & Freiser New York.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Rene Portocarrero (1912-1985), Ornamental Figure in Brown Background, 1968, mixed media on paper laid down on board, 28 3/8 x 20 in., Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003), Rad Lad IV, 1962, ed. 2 of 8; Beast XX, 1956, ed. 6 of 9; Boy and Girl III, 1959, ed. 2 of 9. Bronze. BlainSouthern.

Wesley 2014

John Wesley (American, b. 1928), Untitled, 2012 and Nicholas Krushenick (American,1929-1999), Wire Mill Road, 1972. Garth Greenan Gallery New York and Fredericks & Freiser New York.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Alex Katz, Ena and Roberto, 1988, oil on linen, 41 x 62 in., Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Sandro Miller (b. 1958), Andy Warhol/Green Marilyn (1962), 2014, 29 x 29 in., Edelman Gallery, Chicago.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Leonardo Drew (American, b. 1961), Number 34S, 2014, 31 x 41 x 11 inches, wood, Anthony Meier, San Francisco.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Minako Abe, Scene 29, 2011, oil on canvas, 35.8 x 92 in., Base Gallery, Tokyo.

Expo Chicago 2014.

David Hockney, Montcalm Pool, LA, 1980, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 in., Richard Gray Gallery Chicago .

Expo Chicago 2014.

Simon Edmondson, The Reader, oil on paper, 48 x 59 9 inches.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Philip Pearlstein (b. 1924), Two models with four geese decoys, 1993, watercolor on paper, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Manolo Valdés (Spanish, b. 1942, works New York City), Hojas II, 2014, Marlborough.

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Fuck It (detail), Michael Bouchet, 2013, Marlborough Chelsea.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

EXPO Chicago 2013, 19-22 September. International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. (16 Photos).

Expo Chicago/2013 is the 2nd annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on September 19 – 22, 2013. The following 16 photographs are of that event. 
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1-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Michele Pred, TARGETED, 2012, Vintage hat bag, birth control pills, 24 x 1 x 6 inches. Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York. Pred incorporates aspects of contemporary culture and politics in her art. 
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2-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Robert Natkin (American, 1930-2010), UNTITLED, 1957, McCormick Gallery Chicago & Vallarino Fine Art New York.

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3-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Hung Liu (American, Chinese b.1948), DA FA CHE II, 2013, mixed media, 82 x 82 in., Nancy Hoffman Gallery, NY.

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4-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- William T. Kennedy, WARHOL HOLDING MARILYN ACETATE 1, executed 1964, 2010. When Warhol was not yet famous but at the center in a shift in the culture of the art world.

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5-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012), STAR GAZER, 1997, black marble, 14.5 x 32 x 11 in., signed. Jonathan Boos LLC. Catlett known for depictions African-American and Latin American working-class women forms simple shapes in wood, stone, bronze or clay.

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6-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Die Galerie, Frankfurt am Main.

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7-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Aimé Mpane (Congo, born 1968), IC CONT SERIES, 2011-2013, acrylic and mixed media on wood panel, 12.5 x 12 x 2 in., Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

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8-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

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9-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Die Galerie, Frankfurt am Main.

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10-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Larry Rivers (American, 1923-2002), SMALL DRUGSTORE, 13.5.x.15.25 inches, oil on canvas mounted on board, 1959. Techniques of color-field painting, gestural abstraction, and calligraphy together in an objective and abstract picture.

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11-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Bruce Dorow, BLACK SHAPE SPACE, oil on canvas, 2012-2013. R.S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago.

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12-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Patrick Strzelec, American sculptor. Garth Greenan Gallery, Chicago.

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13-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000), THE LOVERS, gouache on paper, 21.5 x 30 in., signed & dated lower right. Jonathan Boos, LLC, New York.

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14-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Jonathan Boos, LLC, New York.

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15-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Long–Bin Chen (Taiwan, born 1964), EDVARD GRIEG, 28x29x15 inches. New York-based Long-Bin Chen transforms paper products into sculpture. Books are constructed so that parts fit together seamlessly.

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16-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Siebren Versteeg (American, b. 1971), GOOD TIMES_1081_2003_05_09, 2012, Algorithmically generated archive inkjet output to paper, tape. 92 x 56 inches, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. New York-based artist educated at the SAIC and UIC mines digital content presented as painterly abstractions or monitor displays.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

“Picasso and Chicago”: The show is over but some of its best parts are still on display. (It’s called The Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection.)

Featured Image: Minotaur and Wounded Horse, April 17, 1935; detail; pen and brush and black inks, graphite, and colored crayons, with smudging, over incising, on cream laid paper; signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper right, in graphite: “Boisgeloup–17 Avril XXXV; The Art Institute of Chicago.

Armory Show, Art Institute of Chicago, March 24–April 16, 1913.

Armory Show, International Exhibition of Modern Art. The Cubist room, Gallery 53 (northeast view), Art Institute of Chicago, March 24–April 16, 1913. On the longer wall are three of the seven Picasso artworks included in that landmark exhibition (though not in “Picasso and Chicago”).

Picasso and Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, February 20 – May 12, 2013.

By John P. Walsh

How Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and the centenary of the landmark 1913 Armory Show are linked for Picasso and Chicago is tenuous. Bragging rights on Picasso by others have always come to the Catalan artist from the beginning. Media talk in 2013 revolves around American collector “firsts” associated with Picasso. Which institution collected Picasso first? – The Art Institute of Chicago in 1923. Which institution collected Picasso most? – the Chicago Renaissance Society by 1930. Which institution had the first exhibition? – The Arts Club in 1923. Which institution first mounted a Picasso retrospective? – The Wadsworth Atheneum in 1934. By 2013, and “Picasso and Chicago,” The Art Institute of Chicago is able to quote itself. This is because many of the same artworks by Picasso in this show were assembled and displayed in the same chronological order in a previous exhibition called “Picasso in Chicago” held here from February 3 to March 31, 1968. According to the museum’s director writing at the time, that exhibition was inspired in part by the dedication of the Picasso sculpture in 1967 and that remains one of Chicago’s icons in today’s Daley Plaza.  If attention is what Pablo craves, there are no worries.

Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher, summer 1906.

Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher, Gósol, summer 1906, oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (100.6 x 81 cm), Signed, l.r.: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago. Picasso painted Fernande Olivier (French, 1881-1966), his mistress at the time, during a sojourn to Gósol in the Spanish Pyrenees in the summer of 1906.

nude-with-a-pitcher-detail-summer-1906-gosol-spain-2

Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher (detail), summer 1906, Gósol, Spain. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author.

Picasso Nude with a pitcher summer 1906 Gosol Spain

Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher (detail), summer 1906, Gósol, Spain. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author.

fernande-1905

Fernande Olivier and Pablo Picasso in 1905 in Paris.

Picasso Two Saltimbanques 1905
Pablo Picasso, The Two Saltimbanques, 1905, printed and published 1913. The Art Institute of Chicago. Drypoint on ivory wove paper 120 x 91 mm (image/plate); 193 x 129 mm (sheet)

Picasso, Study for La Coiffure, 1906.

Picasso, Study for “La Coiffure,” 1905-1906. Pen and brown ink, with colored crayons and charcoal applied with stump, over graphite, on blue-gray laid paper 184 x 307 m. Signed recto, upper right, in graphite: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago. The pairs of figures are related by both involved in intimate activities, but represent two different subjects Picasso studies months apart. The first dates from 1905 and the second from 1906. The pair on the right is a study for a major painting, “La Coiffure, ” in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There are several good things about Picasso and Chicago although it doesn’t always revolve around his art. It is satisfying to know that Chicago possesses the resources to showcase a chronological and comprehensive Picasso show within its own collections. In these tight economic times there is kudos owed to a major museum that recognizes its and others’ extant holdings. This chronological exhibition of Chicago’s Picasso collection—and it includes works from The Art Institute, The Arts Club of Chicago and The Renaissance Society—is front loaded providing immediate pleasures. To be greeted nearly at the door by The Old Guitarist painted by Picasso in 1903/04—a revered painting in the Art Institute—and to be edified by its blue presence is worth the exhibition’s price of admission although there was no special exhibition fee.

Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903–1904.

Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903–1904, oil on panel, 48 3/8 x 32 1/2 in. signed, l.r.: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago.

Does a front-loaded show spell overall superficiality or frivolity? The answer is: yes and no. For any future Picasso show curators should find every possibility — as I am doing already for this review — to whittle away at the volume of artwork on display for Picasso and Chicago to present its interesting parts. It is precisely this show’s downsizing opportunity that intimates a shortcoming: by giving display to some less compelling and increasingly commercial artwork by the Spanish master during a lengthy career, the Art Institute’s holdings of around 500 Picasso works in all media begin to reveal challenges inherent to building a collection of contemporary art even when the artist is Picasso.

Picasso woman with her hair up 1904

Picasso, Woman with her hair up, 1904, Gouache on tan wood pulp board, 427 x 313 mm, Signed and dated recto, upper left, in blue gouache: “Picasso / 1904.” The Art Institute of Chicago.

Picasso, "Beggar with Crutch," 1904.

Pablo Picasso, “Beggar with Crutch,” Barcelona  1904, pen, brown ink and colored crayon on paper. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author.

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Pablo Picasso, “Beggar with Crutch” (detail), Barcelona 1904, pen, brown ink and colored crayon on paper. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author.

Picasso, Crazy Woman with Cats, 1901.

Pablo Picasso, Crazy Woman with Cats, 1901. Oil on pulp board 17 7/16 x 16 1/16 in. (44.3 x 40.8 cm). Signed. l.r.: “Picasso.” Amy McCormick Memorial Collection, 1942. The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Picasso, “Crazy Woman with Cats” (detail), early summer 1901, Paris, oil on cardboard. Amy McCormick Memorial Collection, 1942. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author. Picasso came to Paris in late May 1901 with three weeks to prepare for an exhibition at Vollard’s gallery arranged by a Catalan dealer who roomed with Picasso on the Boulevard de Clichy. Crazy Woman with Cats is one of 64 paintings and many drawings Picasso prepared for the show. Photograph by author.

Sketch young woman detail pen and brush and black ink on paper Paris 1904

Picasso, Sketch of a Young Woman (detail), pen and brush and black ink on paper, Paris 1904, gift of Robert Allerton, 1924, The Art Institute of Chicago. Allerton, a museum trustee since 1918, began in 1923 to acquire Picasso drawings with the sole purpose of donate them to the museum. Sketch of a young woman was Allerton’s first Picasso drawing purchase and museum donation in 1923. It was purchased in Chicago from Albert Roullier Galleries. Photograph by the author.

Picasso, Study of a Seated Man, 1905

Picasso, of a Seated Man, 1905. Black chalk on cream wove paper, laid down on cream Japanese paper, 329 x 216 mm, Signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Picasso.”Gift of Robert Allerton, 1924. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Picasso, Study of Four Nudes, Paris, 1906-07.

Picasso, Study of Four Nudes, Paris, 1906-07, black crayon paper, Johnson Family collection. When 1906 ended, Picasso stopped painting instead filling sketchbooks for a new major composition: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907; The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Picasso, Female Nude, 1906.

Picasso, Female Nude, 1906. Fabricated Black chalk with graphite and smudging on paper, 31.8 x 23.5 cm. Gray Collection Trust.

Picasso, Fernande Olivier, summer 1906

Fernande Olivier, summer 1906. Charcoal, with stumping, on cream laid paper, 610 x 458 mm. Signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined), Gift of Hermann Waldeck, 1951.

Picasso, Peasant Girls from Andorra, late summer 1906.

Picasso, Peasant Girls from Andorra, late summer 1906, Pen and brown inks, over traces of charcoal, on cream laid paper, 635 x 435 mm. Signed and dated verso, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso / 1906”; inscribed verso, lower center in graphite: “Paysannes d’Andorre.” Gift of Robert Allerton, 1930. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906

Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper (detail). Photograph by author.

Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906.

Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper 630 x 469 mm Signed verso, upper left, in graphite: “Picasso.” Gift of Mrs. Potter Palmer, 1944. The Art Institute of Chicago.

When Chicago in the 1920s began a Picasso buying frenzy another young Spanish painter twelve years younger than Picasso arrived into Paris and was immediately overtly critical of the great Picasso’s work at that time. That younger painter was Joan Miró (1893-1983) and his criticism of Picasso (more a kind of disgust)—and also of Henri Matisse (1869-1954)—was that the pair were making all their art for their dealer. In other words, they were making art primarily for a paycheck. Miró knew at first look—and history has proven him correct—that the future of contemporary painting did not rest with Picasso after about 1920. This is partly why Miró turned to the “nonsense” of the Dadaists for the future of his modern art. Keeping Miro’s judgment in mind during a visit to Picasso and Chicago one realizes rather quickly that with notable exceptions an earlier Picasso painting—that is, on the chronological spectrum of the Blue Period after 1901 to Picasso’s period of synthetic cubism until around 1920—offers intrinsically cohesive artwork that contains the germ or seed of progress.  The art collection in Picasso and Chicago mostly bears out Miró’s critical judgment of Picasso.

nessus-and-deianira-juan-les-pins-september-22-1920-graphite-on-papere-with-white-ground

“Nessus and Deianira,” September 22, 1920, Graphite on tan wove paper, prepared with a white ground ,signed recto, upper left, in pen and blue ink: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper left, in graphite: “22-9-20.” Just before leaving Paris in September 1920, Picasso made a series of drawings of the Greek myth of the abduction of Hercule’s bride Deianira by the centaur Nessus. Following this, Picasso became fascinated with Greek mythology to continue to make artwork using its themes. Photograph by author.

Picasso head of a woman 1909-10

Picasso, Head of A Woman (Fernande), Paris winter 1909-10, brush and gray wash on paper. Private Collection. Paintings and drawings by Picasso in winter 1909-10 continued to explore Cubism as it related to the human face and figure and its surroundings. Photograph by author.

Picasso studio Horta de Ebro summer 1909.

Picasso’s studio at Horta de Ebro (now Horta de San Juan) in Spain between May and September 1909. The painting of a Head of a Woman (at left) is one of the early Cubist artworks in “Picasso and Chicago.”

Picasso, head of woman sum 1909

Picasso, Head of a Woman, summer 1909, Oil on canvas 23 3/4 x 20 1/8 in. (60.3 x 51.1 cm), Winterbotham Collection, 1940. This painting dates to one of the most productive and inventive periods of Pablo Picasso’s career, a stay in the town of Horta de Ebro in Spain from May to September 1909. In these spring and summer months, Picasso produced artworks that rank as some of the earliest achievements of Cubism. Fernande Olivier (French, 1881-1966), Picasso’s mistress at this time, was the model for the series of heads that the artist produced.

Picasso Bust of a Woman, late 1909

Picasso, Bust of a Woman, late 1909, Watercolor and gouache on cream laid paper, laid down on buff laid paper, 363 x 278 mm overall; signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Picasso (underlined)/ 09” Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy J. Friedman, 1964. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Picasso, Head of woman cast 1910

Head of a Woman (Fernande), fall 1909, bronze, 16 1/8 x 9 7/8 x 10 9/16 in. (40.7 x 20.1 x 26.9 cm), cast 1910, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949. This work is Pablo Picasso’s first large Cubist sculpture and represents the distinctive physiognomy of Fernande Olivier, who was the artist’s model and mistress from 1905 until 1912. Before making the bust, Picasso produced countless drawings and gouaches to explore the specific form and structure of his subject’s facial features – her hair in a coil and a topknot; a bulging jaw; a well-fined depression in the center of her upper lip. The Art Institute of Chicago. Increasingly, the Fernande series’ mechanics evolved from the agility of facial expression to its individual features that became fixed signs.

Picasso, Artist and Model, 1933.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), “Artist and Model,” Cannes, July 24, 1933, watercolor and pen and black ink on paper. Gray Collection trust. Photograph by author.

artist-and-model-cannes-july-24-1933-watercolor-and-pen-and-black-ink-on-paper-1

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), “Artist and Model” (detail), Cannes, July 24, 1933, watercolor and pen and black ink on paper. Gray Collection trust. Photograph by author.

artist-and-model-cannes-july-24-1933-watercolor-and-pen-and-black-ink-on-paper-2

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), “Artist and Model” (detail), Cannes, July 24, 1933, watercolor and pen and black ink on paper. Gray Collection trust. Photograph by author.

Picasso signature

Picasso, “Artist and Model,” Cannes, July 24, 1933, artist signature. Photograph by author.

kahnweiler 1910

Picasso, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, autumn 1910, Oil on canvas, 39 9/16 x 28 9/16 in. (100.4 x 72.4 cm) Gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman in memory of Charles B. Goodspeed, 1948. The Art Institute of Chicago. German-born Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) opened an art gallery in Paris in 1907. The next year he  began representing Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and introduced him to Georges Braque (1882-1963). Kahnweiler championed these artists’ revolutionary experiment with Cubism and purchased most of their paintings between 1908 and 1915. Kahnweiler sat for Picasso up to thirty times for this portrait.

Portrait_de_Picasso,_1908

Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908.

Picasso Harlequin 1916

Picasso, Head of Harlequin, 1916, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author.

Picasso Harlequin Guitar c. 1916

Picasso, Harlequin Playing the Guitar, c. 1916, Elden collection. Photograph by author.

Picasso Head Arts Club

Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1922, The Arts Club of Chicago, purchased 1926. Photograph by author.

Olga_Khokhlova_in_Picasso's_Montrouge_studio,_spring_1918 (1)

Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) in Picasso’s Montrouge studio, spring 1918. Olga married Picasso on July 12, 1918, at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris. On February 4, 1921, she gave birth to their son Paulo (1921-1975). After that, Olga and Picasso’s relationship deteriorated though they never divorced. Olga died in Cannes in 1955.

Picasso still life 1922

Picasso, Still Life, February 4, 1922, Oil on canvas 32 1/8 x 39 5/8 in. (81.6 x 100.3 cm), Dated, u.l.: “4-2-22-.” Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1953. Picasso produced a series of Cubist still lifes in 1922 that are simplified to flat planes in a patterned framework. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) bought this canvas in 1923 to add to her collection of more than 30 Picasso paintings and even more of his drawings and watercolors. This still life was Stein’s last purchase of a painting by Picasso.

Picasso flute and nude, 1932

Picasso, Double Flute Player and Reclining Nude, October 22, 1932, pen and ink with brush and black wash and scraping on paper, Shapiro collection, 1992. The Art Institute of Chicago. In the late summer and fall of 1932, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter (French, 1909-1977), the artist’s mistress from 1927 to 1935, were together in Boisgeloup. Picasso made three drawings on the same day on a theme of lovers serenading one another.

Picasso_marietherese

Marie-Thérèse Walter and Pablo Picasso. Their relationship began when she was seventeen and he was 45 years old and married to Olga Khokhlova (Ukraine, 1891-1955).

Picasso, Minotaur and horse, 1935

Picasso, Minotaur and Wounded Horse, Boisgeloup, April 17, 1935, Pen and brush and black inks, graphite, and colored crayons, with smudging, over incising, on cream laid paper, 343 x 515 mm Signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper right, in graphite: “Boisgeloup–17 Avril XXXV” The Art Institute of Chicago. Picasso transmogrifies the theme of bullfighting where the Minotaur – half-man and half bull – is the aggressor in the bullring terrorizing the horse.

Picasso Minotaur and Wounded Horse 1935

Picasso, Minotaur and Wounded Horse, 1935 (detail). Photograph by author.

 

The Red Armchair of 1931 is hung at what is about the show’s halfway point. At this point, I might have exited. Yet where Miró’s critical judgment lags for me is that Picasso’s art is always competent and never really boring. His art is perceptibly linear and, despite its erotic themes, often contains qualities which cleanse and satisfy a critical eye. Picasso’s art is ever ancient and ever new, and distinctly European. For me, seeing a Picasso connotes a stroll in Paris or feeling a sunburn on the face after revelry and reverie along the Mediterranean coast. One could have a vicarious experience of it strolling The Art Institute’s Regenstein Hall to soak up Picasso’s later and mostly lesser work. There are 250 items on display in Picasso and Chicago—and this includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics— which only begin to manifest Pablo Picasso’s profligate artistic genius. Picasso and Chicago may be closed now, but each of these works lurk in Chicago’s domain to be savored and treasured one at a time as they are made available for display. A visitor may do no better than to make their beeline to The Art Institute of Chicago to see The Old Guitarist and The Red Armchair and begin one’s own absorption and critique of his work.Picasso

The Red Armchair, December 16, 1931

Detail of “The Red Armchair,” December 16, 1931; oil and ripolin on panel; signed, u.r.: “Picasso”; The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author. 
Picasso Head of Woman (Dora Maar) 1939

Picasso, Head of Woman (Dora Maar), Paris, April 1, 1939, oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm. Private collection. Maar met Picasso in 1936 at the Cafe des Deux Magots in Paris. Her liaison with Picasso ended in 1943. Photograph by the author.

weeping woman dora maar 1937

Weeping Woman I, July 1, 1937. Drypoint, aquatint, and etching, with scraping on copper in black on ivory laid paper, 695 x 497 mm (plate); 774 x 568 mm (sheet). The Art Institute of Chicago. Explaining his penchant for making portraits of his mistress weeping, Picasso explained: “For years, I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism and not through pleasure either – just obeying a vision that forced himself on me.” By the end of their relationship Picasso confessed, “I can only see her weeping.”

Dora Maar Picasso Lee Miller 1937

From left: Dora Maar, Picasso, Lee Miller in 1937.

1951 Villa in Vallauris

Picasso, Villa in Vallauris, Vallauris, Feb., 4, 1951, oil on panel. 88.9 x 116.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Picasso large vase 1950

Picasso, large vase with dancers, Vallauris, 1950, red earthenware clay, ground painted in white engobe, 71.2 cm. Crown collection.

picasso-gilot-madoura-pottery

Picasso and Françoise Gilot (b. 1921) at Madoura pottery, Vallauris, 1953. Gilot was lover and muse to Picasso from 1943 to 1953. They had two children, Claude and Paloma. On a personal note, I heard and met Françoise Gilot who was accompanied by her husband Jonas Sauk, in the early 1990’s at a speaking event in Chicago at the Alliance Française.

Picasso Jacqueline 1962

Picasso, Portrait of Jacqueline, Mougins, Dec. 28, 1962, graphite with smudging and black ballpoint pen on paper. 34.9 x 25 cm., Gray Collection Trust.

Picasso Jacqueline 1959

Picasso, Jacqueline, Cannes or Vauvenargues, October 17, 1959, Linocut in colors on paper, 63.8 x 53 cm., Crown collection. Jacqueline Roque was the muse and second wife of Pablo Picasso. Their marriage lasted 11 years until his death, during which time he created over 400 portraits of her, more than any of Picasso’s other loves.

Jacqueline and Pablo Picasso.

Picasso and Jacqueline, his second wife. Pablo Picasso met Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) in 1953 when she was 26 years old and he was 72. He romanced her until she agreed to date him. Only in 1955, when Picasso’s first wife Olga Khokhlova died, did Picasso decide to marry Jacqueline in Vallauris in 1961. They were married until Picasso’s death in 1973.

Picasso Chicago

Picasso and Chicago.

 

SOURCES:
Miró, Janis Mink, Taschen, 2006.
Je suis Le Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso, 1986, Arnoldo  Mondadori Editore, Verona, Italy.
Picasso and Chicago 100 years, 100 works, Stephanie D’Alessandro, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2013.
Picasso in Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1968.
http://michiganavemag.com/living/articles/aic-opens-picasso-and-chicago
http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780300184525http://chicagoist.com/2013/05/11/last_chance_to_see_picasso_and_chic.php

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