Friday, October 9, 2015

Respite --- Day 252

Walk: Union Square, Fillmore Street, Best Buy, ATT
Distance: 5 miles

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881, o/c, 4/ 3" x 5' 8"

Respite time. When she lived in Washington, DC, Ciwt used to visit Luncheon at least once a week on her walk home from work on Capitol Hill.  The painting never failed to provide that respite.

At least for Ciwt.  A friend recently reminded her there are others who don't respond as Ciwt does to (in her words) 'Poor Rennie.'   More on that another day.  Meanwhile, enjoy the festivities if they relax your heart.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Miss Ciwt Regrets She's Unable to Lunch.... Day 4/251

Walk: JCC, Corte Madera
Distance: 2 miles and yoga class

Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga - Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya, Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga, c. 1787, oil on canvas, 50" x 40"

Ciwt is no scholar of Goya.  She respects some of his beautifully executed art, but from what she has seen, she doesn't think she would have liked him as a person.

For one thing he seems self-involved, perhaps arrogant and certainly demanding of attention. In the portrait of the Count and Countess of Altamira's young son Goya has placed his own calling card in the pet magpie's beak.  And, even more overtly in another work, he placed himself visibly in the midst of the Spanish Royal Family 
                                                               The Family of Charles IV, 1800, oil on canvas, ca 9' x 11'
(That's him over in the left corner).

But then over a century earlier, in 1685, Velasquez painted himself into an earlier Spanish royal family in the much more charming 1685 La Meninas .
So the deeper reason why Ciwt would not have wanted his company was that she finds him untrustworthy, subversive.

What are those cats doing in that child's portrait?  And look at their eyes, riveted menacingly on the 'little red boy's' pet bird.  Under the guise of capturing the purity and youthfulness of this young royal Goya has put the bird he loves (and by extension his innocence and protection) close to mortal danger. Clearly Goya is referencing the fleetingness of life.   Some scholars have speculated that the portrait was painted after the child's death, but why he included this line of thought is only known to Goya.

Even more subversive it seems to Ciwt is his portrayal of the royal family - for whom he is the Court Painter.  In other words, King Charles IV was his employer.  Traditionally royals are commemorated as ideally as possible - in many cases essentially falsifying their real looks in favor of more beauty, more height, more gracefulness, fairer skin.  But not Goya in this painting which includes a large mole on the face of one royal Image result for goya royal family, shows another's head turned away from the canvas, positions the Queen more prominently than the King Image result for goya royal familyand gives the finery and glitter of the royal jewels, silks and adornments more artistic attention than the very ordinarily painted humans.

The wonder to Ciwt is that Goya got away with these things which makes her think he must have had great personal charm and charisma.  So, maybe she would have enjoyed meeting him after all...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Here It Begins (?) --- Day 4/250

Walk: No, Fall Closet Caper Day
Distance: 0 and day of rest from yoga 

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish 1746-1828), The Shooting of the Third of May, 1808 in Madrid,* 1814, 
Oil on Canvas, 8' 4 3/8" x 11' 3.7/8", Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Ciwt has not personally seen this famous painting by the equally famous Spanish artist, Goya, nor was she aware until recently of the historical circumstances it depicts*.  But The Third of May** (it goes by several titles) transcends its circumstances and is extremely moving even in pictures.  She can only imagine how she would feel if she stood face to face in its nearly 8.5' by 11.5' presence.

(Probably like she felt after writing her Sr. thesis on Picasso's Guernica (1937)from hundreds of images in art history books.  She had 'seen' and written about nearly every inch of the canvas and thought she 'knew' it until she encountered it in all its emotional enormity and outrage at MoMA.  She'd forgotten it was there, and nearly lost her breath when she looked up at its prominent position immediately upon entering MoMA)***

Guernica is absolutely related to The Third of May, 1808 - as an impassioned statement by a great Spanish artist about the abject bestial cruelty of war.  A Modern statement.  Like Guernica, The Third of May is acclaimed as one of the great paintings of all time.  But it stands alone as what many art experts have deemed the first modern painting.

The Third of May toppled many traditional art pillars.  One wonders if Guernica could have been received without The Third of May already being in the world. Goya's painting was not welcomed - might have even been hidden by the King of Spain rather than display a painting that fearlessly depicted the brutality and human suffering of war.  Up until this painting, it was traditional in Spanish painting to depict war as a bloodless affair with little emotional impact.  But here was a painting that, not only displayed blood but dared to mix Christian iconography with 'mere mortals' - common laborers at that.  (The lantern that is the sole source of light in the painting was traditionally associated with Jesus and the removed powers of the Church, and certainly the main figure is a crucifixion symbol - even including a nail hole in his right hand Image result for detail of hand in goya's third of may painting).

Just contemplating this groundbreaking artwork is a lot for Ciwt. So, more soon The Third of May, 1808  and the complex artist who painted it.

*Napoleon had tricked his way into Spain on the pretense of passing throug hin order to engage Portugal.  When he got his French troops across the border, he executed his original plan of occupying Spain and installing his older brother, Joseph, as King of Spain.  On May 2, 21.000 Spaniardsr ose up against the French military, but faced brutal and merciless retaliation the next day.  Goya painted both events within a six month period in 1814.

The Second of May, 1808, o/c, 105" x 132"

** The painting is also known as The Shootings of May 3, The Executions, The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid.

***Guernica was exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition and in 1939 was sent to New York on tour for the benefit of the Spanish Refugee Committee.  When World War II broke out later that year, Picaso requested that it and a number of his other works be held at MoMA on extended loan.  When the war ended, most of the works were returned to Europe, but Picasso asked that Guernica and its preliminary studies be kept by MoMA until 'reestablishment of public liberties.'  It was returned to Spain in 1982 under heavy guard; there is ongoing agitation about where its permanent exhibition home should be.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Revolutionary? --- Day 4/249

Walk: JCC, Trader Joe's, Hi-Tech Nails
Distance: 2.8 miles, yoga class

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793, 0il on canvas, 65"x52.5" (Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels)

Ciwt has four more episodes of Season Two left in her Ray Donovan binge, so she still has a mind for crime.  Or, in the case of The Death of Marat, murder.

The painting (or its image) is well-known and respected in art circles and beyond for many reasons: its size    Image result for the death of marat original, the quality of the brushwork in the softly painted but indeterminate background.  In contrast the foreground with its striking, horrendous and historically accurate details is deeply dramatic.  The details are all there, painted sparely, rationally.  Painted exceedingly rationally,  we see Marat in his tub, the wounds, the blood, the fatal knife, the letter sent by Charlotte Corday which gained her entry in order to murder him.  The tragedy of the death of this important leader of the French Revolution is made even more poignant by the simple spareness of his homely furnishings and body language that likens him to Michelangelo's Jesus in Pieta Image result for pieta . David clearly makes of Marat a secular martyr at the highest level.

Much more could be said of Death of Marat's technical triumphs; it is a truly great painting by a highly talented artist.  But what interests Ciwt today is its political aspects; first and foremost an image of propaganda promoting the democratic, secular ideals of the Jacobean revolutionaries.  David was a major force in this most zealous and violent overthrowing party. He came to act as its minister of propaganda and was commissioned by the new French Republic to commemorate Marat as a hero of the people's revolution.  As painted it is instantly obvious that Marat was a good, innocent, noble victim of a duplicitous, scheming woman. By extension noble too was all that Marat stood for: the New Republic, publishing, moving power into the rational hands of the democracy and away from the brutal and heedless aristocracy as well as the superstitious Church.

Clearly David, the artist, shows himself in this painting to be deeply engaged in  the principles and ideals of the Revolutionary party. But was he?  This is the question that interests some art historians and Ciwt.  It arises because nearly as soon as the New Republic failed and Napoleon became Emperor of France, David became Napoleon's court painter.  That is, within a matter of a couple of years, David went from being essentially Minister of Propaganda for the Revolutionaries to having that exact same position within Napoleon's Empire.  This is a truly shocking reversal and causes many to question whether David was at heart an artistic and political mercenary aligning himself with whoever was in control at the moment.

Ciwt thinks it is more probable that David was a survivor, and siding with Napoleon was the only way to ensure his life.

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793, oil on canvas, 65 x 50-1/2 inches (Royal Museums of Fin

e Arts of Belgium, Brussels)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Never Open Your Mouth** --- Day 4/248

Walk: Presidio, Clement Street Farmer's Market, Sloat Garden Center
Distance: 4 miles and home yoga

As luck - and movie distribution - would have it, Ciwt has been keeping some pretty rough company these days.  Here are a few of her screen 'pals' along with quotes from some actual Mafia men.

Johnny Depp/Whitey Bulger/Black Mass
“This life of ours, this is a wonderful life. If you can get through life like this and get away with it, hey, that’s great. But its very, very unpredictable. There’s so many ways you can screw it up.” ~ Paul Castellano

Benecio del Toro/Alexjandro/Sicario
“The United States of America versus Anthony Spilotro.’Now what kind of odds are those?” ~ Anthony Spilotro

Liev Schreiber/Ray Donovan/Ray Donovan
“It takes many steppingstones, you know, for a man to rise. None can do it unaided” ~ Joe Bonanno

Jon Voight/Mickey Donovan/Ray Donovan
“There are three sides to every story. Mine, yours and the truth.” ~ Joe Massino

**“Never open your mouth,unless you’re in the dentist chair” ~ Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

Saturday, October 3, 2015

From Mars to Oscar? --- Day 4/247

Walk: Sundance Kabuki (The Martian)
Distance: 2 miles and small yoga

Ciwt fears The Martian may be the movie to beat for Best Picture Oscar this year.  Lots of good here: acting, huge cast of well-known actors, scenery, visuals, yay-rah-rah, special effects.  All the Oscar ingredients.  But for Ciwt it is too long and lacks pith or soul or whatever it takes to make the viewer really care.

On another Martian note, it was Matt Damon's movie Image result for the martian, and he did a terrific job.  Ciwt guess he'll get an Oscar Best Oscar nomination and would be pleased if he won (but personally has other favorites).

But the 2015 movie year is young (even though it is October) and many other possible contenders are counting down to blast off.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I Think That I Shall Never See....* --- Day 4/246

Walk: CPMC, AMC Van Ness (Pawn Sacrifice)
Distance: 4 miles

Looked unimaginably soft today.
All pinky-grey 

And look at that pure blue sky.  Lovely.

* Published 1914 in Trees and Other Poems. Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fine(ish) Art --- Day 4/245

Walk: Driving Day
Distance: Couple of blocks, home yoga

BFA.  Bachelor of Fine Arts. Fine Artist.  Ciwt finally got around to researching the term Fine Art.
And she wasn't particularly satisfied with the results.

At some point (undetermined) in the history of art a distinction was made between objects produced for their usefulness (crafts) and those produced solely for aesthetic purposes (fine art). She can only imagine all the academic debates that have gone on regarding those distinctions ever since.

What about fancy type set which is beautiful put also serves a purpose? What about other cultures beyond Europe and the US where arts and crafts are revered for their intertwining of art and craft and nature?  Japanese gardens come to mind along with Chinese ceramics, jade carving, weaving and embroidery?  What about cave paintings which are thought to be loving depictions of nature as well as ceremonial hunting invocations?

And in a totally modern sense, what about the work of rock star cinematographer Roger Deakins Ciwt was discussing yesterday?  His technical precision with his cameras is certainly useful, essential actually to movie making. So, it is craft.  Yet his cinematography intentionally rises to the level of pure aethetics, becomes integrated into the artistic look and effectiveness of the entire movie.  So, it is fine art.

The murkiness and questions go on and on to the point where Ciwt imagines Fine Art is now a left over term used nearly exclusively in Western academic settings.  So, there you have it - sort of.....