Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Cool Cats --- Day 9/340

Walk: Short Hood 

Distance: 2 miles, yoga stretches for back

Nicolas de Stael (French, born in Russia, 1914-55), Sicily (View of Agrigento), 1954, o/c

Not quite this blazing hot today, but warm enough for Ciwt's San Francisco cats to spend all day under the bed in the cool shade it offered. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Women's Backs --- Day 9/339

Walk: Hood for exercise

Distance: 3 (aching back) miles, yoga here and there

Berthe Morisot, Lady at her Toilette, 1875, 23 3/4 x 31 5/8", oil on canvas

So, it's been coming for a while, and finally Ciwt's back went a bit kaput on the pickleball court.  Ouch.

This put Ciwt in mind of the many, many works of art portraying women's backs, entire behinds really. And most were a (covert) form of erotica, often privately commissioned by men and kept in their own private quarters.

Even Berthe Morisot moves discretely into erotic territory with her Woman at her Toilette.  But Morisot, the first and only - save Mary Cassatt - original female Impressional artistalso lends the woman a sense of worldliness. She's feminine, but there's no languidity or passive allure here. This woman with her back to us seems modern, some one who moves among men, someone going knowingly about the business of putting herself together, perhaps to earn her own livelihood. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Taking Its Time --- Day 9/338

Walk: Brief Sunday Hood

Distance: 2 miles

de Young Museum, partial facade, March 2021

So the architect and designers of the latest de Young Museum chose to clad its facade in perforated, textured copper.  Ciwt thinks it is warm and quietly dramatic but that's not everyone's reaction.  For detractors, it was explained that soon the copper would turn the color of those palm fronds in front of the building and blend in gracefully with the grass and trees of surrrounding Golden Gate Park.

That was  sixteen years ago.  It's taking its time....

de Young Museum, 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021

On the Way --- Days 9/336 & 337

 Walk: 1. de Young Museum (Calder-Picasso with friends/actual people interaction) 2. Presidio                             Pickleball, Hood

Distance; 1. 7.2 miles  2. 4.5 miles, a few games of pickle

Pretty soon this little girl or guy just down the block from Ciwt's home will be one of these (but in San Francisco of course):

And pretty soon the cherry trees around D.C.'s Tidal Basin will be in full bloom.  Three days ago the National Park Service reported the Yoshino cherry trees had entered phase four (out of six) of their blooming cyle.  So maybe even today.  You can't count on that, but you can count on the fact that there is enormous excitement around the NPS team.

And all over D.C. the annual Cherry Blossom Festival will soon begin.  The first Festival was in 1913 to commemorate the one year anniversary of Japan's gift of more than 3,000 trees to the United States.  Now, to honor the offering of good will and the renewal of spring the Festival continues when the trees bloom each spring.

Similar to D.C. Japan has a yearly flower-viewing celebration, hanami, a tradition that is over a thousand years old.  There cherry blossoms are especially meaningful.  Their short, but brilliant blooming season symbolizes the fragility and the beauty of life.  Additionally, cherry blossoms have long held an association with Japanese nationalism. A single fallen blossom symbolizes the brave sacrificial act of a fallen samurai warrior.

In either country this short time of feasts, games, celebrations, commemorations and comings together is breathtakingly gorgeous.

Sakura Tunnel, Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tulips Gone Wild --- Day 9/335

Walk: Nails

Distance: 1/5 miles, Small yoga

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ooops --- Day 9/336

Walk: Routine Bone Scan (annals of aging)

Distance: 5 miles

So, Ciwt was sooo busy (ha!) she forgot to publish her CIWT Day 9/333 about an art collector extraordinaire..  It's there now and she thinks she remembers basing the following post on it in case you were confused by Ciwt's confusion. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Already?! --- Day 9/335

Walk: Goldman Tennis Center GG Park

Distance: 2 miles, 90 minutes pickle, stretching

Rene Magritte, Spring, 1965, oil on canvas

Oh my goodness, it's spring already!   Has been in the Northern Hemisphere for three days.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Courage of the Collector --- Day 9/334

Walk: Presido Pickleball

Distance: 2.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle, Yoga

Henri Matisse, La Dance, 1910, oil on canvas, 8'6" x 12' 10"

Yesterday Ciwt referred to the "scary thresholds" collectors who endeavor to assemble an important art collection are often called on to cross.  Availability of a pivotal and essential work is one.  The collector has no idea when such an offering might be made or what their financial circumstances might be at that time.  They must act quickly, sometimes facing the prospect of selling a beloved and rare work to raise funds, as was the case with Jacques Doucet who needed to sell Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to raise the purchase price of van Gogh's Irises.  

There's also the matter of authenticity.  One Texas oilman was aghast to learn that 41 of the 59 'grand master' paintings he had acquired were fakes, and his stituation is far from unique through history.

In some ways, particularly in more socially restrictive societies, the scariest threshold is across norms of public opinion. No one knew this better than THE premiere collector of early modern art, the Russian businessman, Sergei Schchukin.  

Schuchukin wasn't concerned about forgeries because he usually dealt directly with the artists as he did when he commissioned Henri Matisse to paint enormous panels for the main staircase entrance to his Moscow mansion. But, bold as he was, he did have to contend with the highly morally restrictive social norms of Russian society.  Accordingly, when he saw Matisse's first drawings of naked dancers, the Count responded "I cannot at this time place nudes in my staircase...(please) manage to show the same round danse but with the girls in dresses."  After several back and forths about how to avoid nudes, he finally wrote Matisse a letter saying "...your panel of La Danse is so noble that I have decided to fly in the face of bourgeois opinion and place a subject with 'nudes' over my staircase..."

But then a few months later Schuchukin travelled to Paris to see the panel in person.  Just before his arrival, Matisse had entered it in the Salon d"Automne and Paris was abuzz with the scandal it caused.  One art critic even suggested that Matisse was a victim of mental illness.  Stunned speechless when he saw the painting and then (understandably) destablized by reading the reviews, Schchukin canceled the commission.

The demoralizing effects on Matisse of this cancelation along with the scathing reviews threatened to derail the career of one of the most important of all modern artists.  Luckily, and bravely, Schchukin reconsidered during his two day trip back to Moscow and cabled Matisse to send Danse with all speed.
A few days later he wrote Matisse a letter which included "...I've thought things over and I'm ashamed of my weakness and lack of courage.  One should never flee the battlefield without putting a fight.  For that reason I have decided to hang your panels.  People may shout and laugh, but since I'm convinced that your path is the right one, perhaps time will be my ally and I shall claim victory in the end."

About that last, time has indeed been the collector and artist's ally: La Danse is commonly recognized as a key point in Matisse's career and in the development of all of modern painting.

Dimitry Meinikov, Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin (1854-1936), 1915

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Collector Extraordinaire --- Day 9/333

Walk: Joe's and Presidio Pickleball (yes)

Distance: 4.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle, general stretching

In just a matter of a few years, from this:

To this:

Or, better yet in the same time frame, from this:
to this:

You know how you can live with things in your home looking one way for years, and then realize, oh, if you just move the sofa there and that table across the room, the flow will work much better.  Changes in taste, if they come at all, take most people many years.  And this in a fluid society where changes are accepted - even to be expected.

Now, take your mind to Paris at the end of the 1800's.  Socially acceptable decor was perhaps less rigid than in previous times,  but Parisians still refused to buy 'upstart' Impressionist art and fussy, over-crowded and formal was still the way to go.  Except for a few with discerning eyes and the courage to step forward into modernity, the most remarkable of whom was fashion designer, art collector, Jacques Doucet (1853-1929).  

That's his living room at top, the very epitome of Parisian interior decorating and likely he envy of most of Doucet's visitors.  Who knows what they thought a few years later when they saw his art nouveau studio with a 'primitive' Rouseau painting above the couch, a large Picasso cubist painting on the wall, right near a Modigliani portrait of a woman in a pink blouse.  Doucet could not have gotten more shockingly modern - and, as art history played out, more brilliantly right on.

Actually you could have, and Doucet did.  He was the first buyer of one of - perhaps the - the most famous paintings in all early modern art, Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon pictured above.
Demoiselles was so ahead of its time and so defiant of all art traditions that Picasso did not present it to the public for nearly nine years after it was painted.  And during that time, he invited only a few trusted and art savvy individuals to look at it.  Even Matisse, the star of the Parisian avant garde at the time, was appalled enough to warn Picasso to keep it from the public.  So, how did Doucet react?  He bought the painting!

In terms of being tuned in and able to discern greatness, this is astounding.  As were others of Doucet's 
purchases, including:  Irises by Vincent Van Gogh (this at a time when Nobody would buy a Van Gogh), 

The Circus by Georges Seurat ,

On the Beach by Edouard Manet 

and many more that now grace the walls of museums such as the Getty, the d'Orsay and the Musee Angladon in Avignon which houses the many notable works still in Doucet's collection and inherited by its founders. 

Pioneer of haute couture, informed amateur artist, patron of artists, writer and collector extraordaire, Jacques Doucet had an eye and a purse for masterpieces from the Renaissance to the now greatest masters of the early 20th century.  This without art advisors and dealers who usually guide most important art collectors and help them over the many frightening thresholds encountered while assembling a great art collection.  To Ciwt this is truly awesome.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Fabric Language --- Day 9/333

Walk: M. Stone's for sushi
Distance: 1.8 miles

Henri Matisse, Still Life with Blue Tablecloth 1909 oil on canvas, 34-5/8 x 46-1/2 inches The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg 

Ahhhh, back to Ciwt's great art love, Henri Matisse, and his beloved - and huge - collection of fabrics and textiles.  

He was besotted with each one of them, kept them close and displayed them all over his studios and homes.  He was a descendant of generations of weavers and raised among weavers in Bohan-en-Vermandois, which in the 1880's and 90's was a production center of fancy silks and major supplier to the fashion houses of Paris.  Bohain was a hard working, competitive environment where innovations of pattern, design and color were matters of pride and survival. 

Matisse took in these energies deeply.  So deeply, that he essentially invented a new painterly "language of decoration."  In this radical new tongue Matisse transformed the patterns and colors of flat fabrics of all types far beyond their reality and into new boundless, harmonious, joyful entities.

One piece of printed cloth he used reguarly in his paintings was a blue on white length he had spotted in a junk shope window and immediately got off the bus he was riding to purchase.  This is what it actually looks like 

and the painting above is what Matisse's imagination, skills, inventiveness and daring transformed it into.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Exercise Plus Annoyance --- Day 9/332

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 4 miles, 80 minutes pickle

Might be time for Ciwt to say goodbye to pickleball.  So much etiquette stuff along with the exercise.

Yes, yes, you've heard this before from Ciwt.......

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Master of So Much --- Day 9/331

Walk: No, Rainy Day😊 (we need it)

Distance: n/a, yoga

Pablo Picasso 1-4* (partial views)

So, CIWT readers might remember that Ciwt happens to be taking a sort of symposium on Picasso at the same time a Calder-Picasso show is on exhibit at our de Young Museum.  If they have exceptional memories they might remember that Ciwt's first modern art love was Picasso about whose Guernica she did her senior thesis. 5* It has been nice to be remnded of what her initial excitement was all about.

Art historians, museums and art books usually break his numerous painting styles into periods: Boy Genius realist, Blue Period, Rose Period, African Period, Cubist, Neo-classical, Surrealist to most.  This gives the impression that in each period Picasso concentrated on a certain style, stopped that style and then went on to another.  You might not be attracted to any of them, but the immense variety of styles he mastered, many totally invented by him, is in itself a wonder and a reason he is regarded as a genius.  Beyond that is the remarkable fact that in a single year he might produce a masterpiece in one style one day and in another style the next (or on the same day).  And some of those might be sculptures, or prints in a variety of techniques, stage design, ceramics, even poetry and writing.  

Such was his near endless talent and prolific artistic virtuosity.  Unique virtuosity.  Throughout an artist's lifetime, changes in approach, subject matter and style are to be expected.  But the extent to which Picasso's style changed in each discipline, particularly painting stands alone among the history of artists.

1. The Alter Boy, 1896

2. The Old Guitarist, ca. 1903-1904

3. Girl with a Mandolin, 1910

4. Untitled (from Musee Picasso, Paris), ca. 1927

5. Guernica, 1937

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Happy Saint Patrick's Day --- Day 9/330

Walk: Very short, Trapped by Turbo Tax

Distance: So little, Yoga

Ciwt is wearing green today even though she's not Irish.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

It Was Too In! --- Days 9/328 & 329

Walk: 1. Monday errands  2. Hood & Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 1. 3.5 miles, Yoga  2. 5.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle

Discussing Pickleball Line Calls

Sunday, March 14, 2021

First Morning --- Day 327

 Walk: Hood and Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 4.3 miles, 90 minutes pickle

So dark this first morning of Daylight Savings.  Were all your clocks set?

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Young and Old Master --- Day 9/326

Walk: No (again!)

Distance: n/a, Yoga

Michelangelo age 15-16, Madonna of the Steps, 1490-1492, bronze.  First sculpted work.  Created while studying in the household of the Medicis in Florence.  The piece's sensitivity and multi-dimensionality was already ahead of the accepted practice of the day. 

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to release it"  

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free."

~ Michelangelo (Italian, 1475-1564)

Leaving the 1900's of Calder and Picasso, both of whom are celebrated for their sculptures, Ciwt's thoughts move to arguably (if anybody actually would) the greatest sculptor who ever lived: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, best known simply as Michelangelo.  And to a few things Ciwt learned about him recently.  

First, biographically, she didn't know that he grew up, after the death of his mother, with his nanny and her husband who was a stone cutter.  Or that Michelangelo's father owned a marble quarry so that the young boy spent a great deal of time watching stone being quarried and carved as well as acquiring hands-on experience with the stone at an early age.  He also sought out the company of significant artists and worked in his early teens as an apprentice to one of the master painters who had been hired by the Vatican to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

Second, in terms of his technique.  Like many people Ciwt is familiar with the two famous quotes from Michelangelo above.  Because of them she has carried an image of the sculptor standing in front of a block of marble and artfully chipping away until he began to sense a presence inside.  And then gradually, carefully, laboriously continuing until, OMG, David!  Or, secondarily, that Michelangelo looked at a block of marble, sensed what figure was in it, and carved away "until he set it free." In both cases, the figure inside would have been a revelation to Michelangelo.

Turns out, yes, Michelangelo saw sculpture as the art of taking away to bring the form below into existance. But, no, the look of the form was not a surprise to him. Even before, and certainly in the multi year process of  actually carving, he produced detailed sketches -  over 900 of them remain.  The drawings are imbued with technical skill but, beyond that, with his own spiritual passion and desire to work with the marble to bring the soul of his subject to life. 

No higher goals for himself can be imagined, and the wonder is that he actually achieved them - at an early age.  During his twenties! he produced two of the world's greatest sculptural masterpieces, Pieta and David.  At the time the life and emotion he had brought to the grieving mother and the depiction of the human form he achieved with David were beyond ground breaking, beyond a revelation.  Nearly 450 years after his death in 1564 his work is as wondrous as it was at the time, remains ground breaking and is still the gold standard sculptors aim for.

Micheangelo, Pieta, 1498-99, Carrara marble

and then the very next year he began David

Michelangelo, David, 1501-1504, Marble

Friday, March 12, 2021

Tulip Swoon Begins --- Day 9/324 & 5

Walk: 1. Hood  2. No

Distance: 1. 3.5 miles, Yoga  2. n/a

Jan Philip van Thielen (Dutch), Tulips, Yellow and Pink Roses in a Glass, 17th c., oil on canvas

Tulips, Ciwt's favorite, are starting to show up at Trader Joe's!  Lovely to see in any case and interesting since she is reading about the Dutch beginnings of New York City as tulipmania was capturing them back home.

The Dutch Masters seemed to favor the multi-colored, 'wild' Parrot Tulips while Ciwt prefers the single color ones.  But any tulip is just wonderful to her. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Out and About, Lockdown Style --- Day 9/323

Walk: Legion of Honor

Distance: 2.4 miles, Yoga

So, today/Wednesdays Ciwt needs to be out of her place for a few hours while it is being cleaned for her and her cats.  Thunderstorms were predicted, but she wasn't concerned because she had a confirmed reservation at the Legion of Honor.  She'd had the de Young Museum nearly to herself last week and was looking forward to something similar at the Legion today.  Just her, quiet, and all that art. 

When she arrived, oh boy, empty parking lot.  Things were looking good for a totally private, art-communing experience!

She was a bit early for her confirmed reservation so she walked around to the rarely viewed back of the Beaux Arts building.  Beautiful.  The entire museum is a three-quarter scale adaptation of the Palais de la Legion d'Honneur in Paris. Permission needed to be given by the French Government for it to be built on its site in San Francisco in the early 1900's.  A local architect then incorporated the most advanced ideas in museum construction, including thick walls with hollow tiles to keep temperatures even.  

A major renovation in the mid-1990's that included seismic strengthening and a large underground expansion added a wonderful cafeteria and increased visitor and program facilities without altering the historic facade.

This is the current the rear facade of the National Museum  of the Legion of Honor and orders of Chivalry in Paris. 

Then at the appointed hour, she went back front to the grand entrance, walked up the ramp and..... 

LOCKED!  No more lockdown but still locked out. Apparently, someone had forgotten to press the online reservation system's  'off' switch.

So there was Ciwt, in a coming and going thunderstorm, unable to go back into her home.  What to do??  Oh,...turn her car into a library reading room with a view for a few hours.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Delicate Dig --- Day 9/322

Walk: 1. Union Square

Distance: 1. just a mile

Another 'home movie,' The Dig.  Ciwt thinks not bad because of the excellent acting and cinematography, but kind of a mess and thus a disappointment because it concerns one of the most important archealogical finds in English history. Still nice to learn a little, see the great Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan and to go to the flicks on a rainy day.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Some Show Favorites: Picasso --- Day 9/321

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 2.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Le Taureau, December 1945- January 1946, lithograph, wash, pen, scrapings on stone, printed on paper, 11 states

This series of lithographs is iconic, perhaps his most famous.  But Ciwt never tires of seeing the way Picasso takes The Bull, so close to the Spaniard artist's heart and identity, from a fully traditional ink drawing to its essence, as concise as a cave drawing.  Each state with its own character, but still the same bull.  For those who doubt or have forgotten Picasso's genius, Ciwt says Look Here.

She's also fascinated by the story told on the Norton Simon Museum site about the conditions under which Le Taureau and others of Picasso's highly original and accomplished lithographs were printed:  

 On Nov. 2, 1945, with France still under a provisional government and groceries still rationed in Paris, Picasso walked into the Mourlot Frères print shop in the rue de Chabrol. “He arrived as though he were going to battle,” the firm’s director, Fernand Mourlot, later recalled, and indeed the demands Picasso would place on Mourlot’s master printers were without precedent. He had produced only a few dozen lithographs in the 1910s and 1920s—all more or less conventional in their approach—but the designs he brought to Mourlot’s shop were far more daring, incorporating grattage, collage and mixed media. “How could anyone possibly print from that?” demanded Gaston Tutin, one of Mourlot’s master printers, calling the artist’s disregard for proper lithographic technique “a monstrosity.” But, cajoling his reluctant collaborators, Picasso swiftly and decisively transformed the practice of lithography, producing 185 plates over the next three years and more than 400 by the end of the 1960s.

Pablo Picasso, Femme, June 8, 1946, oil on plywood

Such a dear painting. Sometimes Ciwt forgets the way Picasso can somehow use hard lines and geometric forms to capture utterly the tender softness of love. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Some Show Favorites: Calder --- Day 9/320

Walk: 1. Presidio Pickleball  2. Sunday stroll

Distance: 1. 2.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle  2. 2.5 miles, yoga

Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Scarlet Digitals, 1945, sheet metal, wire, paint


It's hard for Ciwt to settle on favorites in the visually alive and pleasing Calder-Picasso show currently at the de Young.  All Calder's mobiles float like gently captivating happy clouds.  This unexpected little flower or bird or playful fingers waving winked at her on the way by, so she is choosing it.   

The signage for Scarlet Digitals is also her choice to illustrate the ongoing (and unhelpful) 'art speak' throughout the show:  "...set in motion, this sculpture expands the implied spacial volumes encompassed by its projecting and rotating elements..." Did that excerpt help you to enjoy the work more?  Or did it detract, like it did for Ciwt?  Every piece in the show is very able to speak for itself.

Alexander Calder, La Grande vitesse (1:5 intermediate maquette), 1969, sheet metal, bolts, paint

At the end of his career Calder focused on large scale public sculpture.  You've probably seen several of them them.  They brighten up life in such places as Chicago, Montreal, M.I.T.,  JFK Airport and numerous other places around the world.  This one is one fifth the size of the final sculpture in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Ciwt thinks it is quite adorable at the end of the gallery where it is shown.

Many of Calder's sculptures are red.  She's never known why and enjoyed reading what Calder had to say about his use of the color: "...It's really just for differentiation, but I love red so much that I almost like to paint everything red. (So the show signage isn't all bad; there are some great quotes by the artists themselves as well as other cultural luninaries).

Friday, March 5, 2021

Quiz Answer --- Day 9/319

Walk: Moscone Center (for last covid shot) 

Distance: 2.5 miles

Three metal sculptures by Calder and Picasso

So, back to Ciwt's quiz  about the three metal sculptures above (Day 9/319).  If you answered that the middle one was created by Picasso and the two on the ends by Calder, you are CORRECT🏆.

It is interesting to Ciwt that the two artists' very different temperments seem to influence the look and feel of their works.  Alexander Calder (American 1898-1976) was by nature joyful, mirthful, playful, outer directed, a rare happy artist*.  And these qualities suffuse all his art, including the two works below, both from 1927 when he was living in and enchanting Paris.

Alexander Calder,Ballplayer, 1927, wire
 ca 8" x 8" 

Alexander Calder, Acrobats, 1927, wire
ca 10" x 10"

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) was complex: by turns genial, ego-centric, mercurial, playful, ferocious, cruel.  Above all probably, intensely bound up in himself, much like the little work below.

Pablo Picasso, Figure, 1931, iron and wire, ca .5"x 3"

* See CIWT Day 9/260, Yes Happy Artist