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Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso at Met Brauer

The Met Breuer Museum in New York City has been putting on great exhibitions in the last few years, and its latest exhibition, Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso, is no exception. Residents and guests of the city are invited to enjoy about fifty world-class watercolors, prints, and drawings that usually form part of the Scofield Thayer Collection.

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The Met Breuer, New York City, Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso

According to Will Heinrich of The New York Times, “Thayer was a heir to a New England woollen goods fortune and while based in Vienna from 1921-23 to undergo psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, he collected more than 600 pieces of art, among them erotic drawings by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Pablo Picasso”. On his death in 1982, he left a bequest for this part of his collection, donating it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Scofield Thayer, 1889 – 1982

Although each of these artists has their own, distinct style and at first glance, there is little direct connection between Schiele, Klimt and Picasso, Heinrich judiciously observes that this trio is “as neat as any geometry lesson, with Picasso’s sense of the human body as a mass in space, Klimt’s fixation on gauzy planes and surfaces and Schiele’s potent, monomaniac line”. It is fascinating to see how these three artists are put together in the same venue, and how there works are communicating with each other, highlighting commonalities and overlaps between their visions that are otherwise not obvious. It is truly the unique context of this exhibition and their direct juxtapositioning that encourages us to appreciate their differences while at the same reminds us that the three artists were part of the global change of artistic ethos and modes of expression in the early 20th century.

Schiele Self-Portrait
Egon Schiele, Self Portrait, 1911, watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, 20 1/4 x 13 3/4 in

The New York Times’ events platform, NYC Go, referred to the artworks on display as “nudes with attitude”, and this summarizes well the pertaining look and feel of this unique exhibition. Some of the works presented are underdrawings or preparatory studies, and for me as an artist it is fascinating to see how these blockbuster artists painstakingly planned their seemingly spontaneous artworks, in addition to enjoying their powerful presence. The exhibition is available to visit through October 7, 2018, at The Met Breuer Museum, 2nd floor. While boarding my flight to go to Ireland, where I will be taking part in a painting workshop with Andrew Lattimore, I couldn’t help but look forward to returning back to New York City and visiting this exhibition.

Klimt Reclining Nude
Gustav Klimt, Reclining Nude With Drapery, Back View, 1917-18, graphite, 14 5/8 x 22 3/8 in

 

Picasse Bather
Pablo Picasso, Reclining Bather with a Book, 1921, graphite on paper, 8 7/8 x 11 in

Award in Watercolor Painting

My watercolor rendering of a New York landmark that I submitted to a group exhibition this month was awarded third prize in Watercolor Painting category last weekend, which was a lovely surprise given that this painting is my first serious work in watercolor. I was delighted to receive the award and feel inspired to continue watercolor alongside my other endeavors henceforth.

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Watercolor painting has a fascinating history, and it was during the Renaissance that it was into the spotlight. Unlike pre-Renaissance artists, who used watercolor mainly to illustrate manuscripts, Renaissance artists like Durer and da Vinci took the versatility of watercolor to a completely new level by using it for sketches and drawings. The medium became particularly popular amongst Romantic artists like Turner, who used it to create his legendary vortex effects, and was amongst the first to exhibit full-scale watercolor works and to earn commercial income from selling watercolor paintings.

 

Tom Hoffman in his book “Watercolor Painting” describes the beauty of this medium and suggests that it “lies in its diaphanous layers, delicate strokes, and luminous washes”, and I fully agree with him. Leading artists like John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’ Keeffee, Leon Bonvin, and Mary White enjoyed the technical possibilities and effects of watercolor, and like myself, evolved their art through using watercolor to expand their skills and the emotional range of their works.

 

Speaking of evolving my skills, my next project for the future is to study sculpture techniques, which will help me to get a stronger connection to shapes and textures. My credo is “do the things you don’t know how to do, and don’t worry about mistakes”! Making success out of mistakes, that’s what I call true creativity!

 

With love,

Lauren

My Spring Whereabouts

In April, I went to Italy to visit my daughter who is expecting her first baby this summer and used this opportunity to explore the magic museums and galleries of Milan to get inspiration for my planned works. One of the most fascinating exhibitions I had a chance to visit was the Durer and Renaissance Between Germany and Italy shown at the Palazzo Real.

Durer Exhibition

Cleverly curated by the Renaissance expert Bernard Aikema who currently also teaches the History of Modern Art at the University of Verona, the exhibition offered access to some of the most intriguing paintings, drawings and graphics by Durer and other contemporary artists such as Altdorfer, Cranach, da Vinci, Bellini and Mantegna. It was a great opportunity just to see these wonderful works, but also to compare and contrast the artistic solutions that Northern and Southern Renaissance artists took, and ponder on how they inspired one another with their differing visions.

 

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Bernard Aikema

 

Visiting the exhibition, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Northern Renaissance artists considered it to be a must to go on a so-called Grand Tour to Italy as part of their training, which made me smile at the parallels of me being in Milan and deriving ideas and inspiration from the very same artworks the artists would have seen and admired on their tour. Durer himself travelled extensively from very early on in his professional career, and it was lovely to imagine that he could have stood where I was five centuries ago. It was a magic moment.

 

 

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Albrecht Durer, Selfportrait

 

At the same time, although I was in Italy and admired Italian Renaissance art in all its manifestations, I also felt encouraged by the fact that there is an increasing trend to recognize the historic and social significance, and the equal standing of the Northern Renaissance art, which used to be considered inferior to the Italian Renaissance art because it is so distinctly different. The Durer exhibition brings us one step closer to appreciating Northern Renaissance art on its own terms, without measuring it against the golden canon of the Italian Renaissance art.

 

Van Eyck's Madonna
Jan van Eyck, Madonna with Canon Jorisvan der Paele

Northern Renaissance gave us artists as diverse and talented as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Durer and Hans Holbein, who shared with their Italian contemporaries their drive towards an increasing naturalism. However, it was a naturalism characterized by minute attention to detail, based on fascination with the natural world and the individual, rather than on the revival of ancient art. The sometimes breathtakingly realistic detail of the Northern Renaissance art is inextricably linked with advances in the oil painting technique in the 15th century. For more information on the Northern Renaissance art, please visit this excellent website: https://mymodernmet.com/northern-renaissance-art/

Edmund de Waal’s Porcelain and Netsuke Tales

De Waal is known as a successful British potter who regularly exhibits at the world’s leading museums and galleries and has published the award-winning bestseller The Hare with Amber Eyes.

Edmund de Waal

 

At the back of the book, it states that its cover design is by Nancy Harris Rouemy, it was printed in New York, and just above the barcode one finds the genre classification of the book: Biography/Jewish Studies/Art. And this is exactly what it is, an engaging story of a 264-piece Japanese netsuke collection preserved by four generations of De Waals, against the background of their experience as a successful Jewish banking family that is humiliatingly stripped off their identities, lives and assets by the Nazi in the early and mid 1900s. It is an intelligent story, and its 354 pages are seasoned with clever references to G Elliot, Montmartre, Proust, Coleridge and Vienna.

The White Road book cover

 

For someone who is interested in art, however, it is De Waal’s second book, The White Road, that makes one giggle out loud, re-read some paragraphs, daydream, and long to read another few pages despite being late everything. In that book, De Waal envelopes the reader in his hypnotising love for porcelain while travelling around the world to visit pottery landmarks renowned for their white porcelain production: China, Germany, France, Italy, England and the USA. In this book De Waal’s style matures, and he willingly shares his remarkable intelligence, biting wit, and appreciation of pottery.

SS Nazi Allach Porcelain

 

Every page of the book offers a little treasure: Some pages have cunning references to great works of art, poetry, literature, and mythology:

 

“I keep thinking of the story of Theseus’ return from killing the Minotaur, and why he forgets to hoist the correct sail as he approaches home…The coming home in triumph is a return to loss, to grief. Theseus forgets”

 

Other pages pick one’s interest by relaying something new that changes one’s perspective and experience of pottery forever:

 

“The word carp, li, is a homophone for li, profit, and this suddenly makes sense of the ubiquity of these bowls with their strenuous fish, unstoppable in their need to swim higher”

Chinese Porcelain Ware

 

Other pages show De Waal’s well-educated, ironic and quirky sense of humor:

 

“I’ve written them down and I thought I could pronounce this in Mandarin, but I’ve met with busy incomprehension, and a man is trying to sell me turtles, jaws bound in twine. I don’t want the turtles, but he knows I do”

 

You start the book with planning to read for half an hour before going to bed, which unexpectedly stretches to hours, and becomes an all-night reading marathon. One wants to google more and more things with each page. More importantly, De Waal’s story provides a meaningful context to the under-esteemed porcelain ware. Often depreciated as handicraft and disregarded by an average museum visitor in favour of the Old Masters, Terracotta Warriors, novelty displays, and other popular photography opportunities, pottery is usually on the radar of only those who moved past Art 101 with its Pre-Raphaelites, Impressionists, Berninis and Michelangelos years ago.

 

De Waal’s fascinating book brings pottery back on the art lover’s agenda and awakes one’s curiosity about the intricate world of porcelain and its captivating history, and by contextualising porcelain, provides a meaningful reference for consideration and interpretation of porcelain. In conclusion, it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a book so thoroughly. Suggested book classification: Wonderfully Exciting/Intellectually Stimulating/Personable Art.

An Artist’s Christmas Day

As snow and cold weather are taking Bronxville by storm, I am enjoying the abundance of lovely and distinct Christmas colors and smells, and got inspired to paint a number of new artworks! At the same time, I continue working on finalizing the many beautiful landscapes I started in Italy last summer, which makes my heart smile every time I touch the canvas and see those beautiful rays of sunlight cross the peaceful Florentine landscape.

So, I decided to share with you a short video so that you can see what my typical day looks like at the moment! Happy holidays and I hope you are having a great time with your family and friends, and remember to be creative and enjoy the beauty around us! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wethersfield Amenia, the magic country estate of Mr. Chauncey Stillman

The painting workshops at Wethersfield are my favorite, not only because they scheduled for when fall colors start touching the leaves, but also for their unfailingly breath-taking locations. This time, we were enchanted by the charms of the Wethersfield Amenia, a stunning Stillman family country estate. http://www.wethersfieldgarden.org

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Chauncey Stillman (1907-1989) was a grandson of James Stillman, the Head of the First National City Bank (now CityGroup), reputed to be the 12th richest man in America in his time. Rather unsurprinsgly then, his two uncles were married to Rockefeller sisters. http://www.leadersmag.com/issues/2013.2_Apr/Homeland/LEADERS-Homeland-Chauncey-Devereux-Stillman-Wethersfield.html

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His beautiful estate is surrounded by rolling hills and features 20 miles of pathways that are decorated with life size limestone statues. The majority of them are either by the Polish born Josef Stachura (1923-2001) or by the English sculptor Peter Watts (1916-2002). The gardens and shrubs surrounding the property are beautifully maintained, and visitors can even enjoy seeing peacocks on the property. In the house itself, the avid collector and art lover Stillman has amassed a variety of impressive artworks, from centennial Chippendale furniture to paintings by the regarded Impressionist artist Mary Cassatt.

Thus, this stunning estate has many views to choose from where an artist would be inspired to set down his or her easel and start painting. One of the most interesting features that really caught my eye, however, were the Pietro Annigoni frescos. My guest writer Mr. Andrew Lattimore is preparing next blog on Annigoni work.

One of the paintings I started at Wethersfield was this landscape, which instantly caught my eye because of its magnificent pond view, which leads on to a lovely rustic barn. As I was painting, I enjoyed the views, the sky pierced by geese families, and the wonderful sounds and smells of Wethersfield autumn. It was such a great workshop, and I hope to return to Wethersfield next year!

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    Alexander Calder at Whitney Museum

 


Calder: Hypermobility exhibition closed at Whitney on October 23rd, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend it on the very last day of the event. It was a great afternoon out and it was an interesting experience discovering this legendary museum in its new quirky location, the meatpacking district in the lower Manhattan.. With 8 floors of stylish display space, gorgeous outdoor terraces, and airy outdoor galleries, the setting provided a great backdrop to Calder’s exhibition and framed it powerfully.

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The exhibition was held in the small hall on the top floor and at the time we arrived, the performance of the Calder statues in motion was just beginning. It was fascinating to watch museum staff, with their gloves, pushing a hidden button which made the figures come alive, which visualized that the kinetic nature of Calder’s work is closely related to the concept of performance. Unsurprisingly, Calder’s work attracted interest of filmmakers, and is featured in a number of films, including the movie Dreams That Money Can Buy, which explores the unconscious, and features a number of Calder’s objects and drawings.

 


This exhibition provided a rare opportunity to experience works as the artist intended the to be experiences, namely in motion that is provoked by human touch or air currents. The artist’s devotion to setting abstract objects in motion started in the 1930s, when in 1931 Calder used motors to mobilize them, aiming to help people reimagine the spatial and temporal relationships of compositional elements. Using motors helped Calder to control each individual element of his installations, generating what he described as “infinite combinations”

 

The genesis of Calder’s artistic focus lies in his 1930 visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio, which inspired him tremendously. Other artists he admired are evident in his work and include Leger, Arp, Duchamp, Klee and Picasso. Moreover, many shapes Calder used in his art were influenced by Miro. Notably, Calder’s interest in composing unique forms of motion also extended to his balanced bronze sculptures.

 

Calder’s art can be experienced in many museums and galleries, including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C

 

Did Chihuly Steal His Student’s Ideas?

 

 

I am very excited to write about this topic. As an artist, I have often found myself in situations where I asked myself in how far the interactive process of teaching and working with students influences the perceptions and ultimately the work of the master. Like in any learning process, there is a lot of exchange of ideas and collaboration that takes place in the art studying process. Theoretically, the teacher, instructor or team leader is a trove of knowledge and experience, an idol for emulation, and often also a source of inspiration. In reality, ever so often it is the students of, and assistants to the big name artists who help breathing a new life to their master’s work or even complete works for their masters.

A very powerful and hence a much debated example of this phenomenon is the Rembrandt’s now infamous painting The Polish Rider, which is a portrait of a young man traveling on horseback through the landscape which is owned by and on display at the Frick Collection, New York. The Rembrandt Research Project, an international art initiative which was established to track, authenticate, and research Rembrandt’s works, questioned the authenticity of its authorship in the 1980s, suggesting that the painting was not by Rembrandt but by his talented student Willem Drost. The jury is still out on this question, and the discussion amongst Rembrandt scholars continues to this day.

The Arts section of a recent edition of The New York Times dated 22 August 2017 features an article titled “Chihuly Art”, A Legacy Under Siege, which once again raises the issue of authenticity and the difficulties related to distinguishing works of prominent artists from their students’. The article discussed the case of Dale Chihuly, an American glass sculptor, glass blowing master and author of installations and environmental work, whose work was recently exhibited at the New York Botanical Garden. The article states that the artist is facing a court battle initiated by his former team contractor, who is seeking compensation “for millions of dollars of paintings that the contractor says he created or inspired, but for which he said he was never properly credited or compensated”.

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Dale Chihuli
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New York Botanical Garden, 2017

A couple of years ago, I remember visiting the breathtaking Chihuly Garden and Glass Art Museum in Seattle. Ironically, looking admiringly at his incredible large-scale work, I recall thinking during my visit that it would have been impossible for Chihuly to create works on such a scale without significant assistance from others, and I was wondering who those others might be.

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Lime Green Icecle Tower,2011. Height x width: 42 1/2 x 7 ft. MFA museum

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Crimson and Chestnut Fiori Boat, 2017
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The Sun and Black Niijima Floats, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, 2010
Three Graces Tower, 2016, 84 x 96 x 96″, Atlanta Botanical Garden
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Boathouse 7 Neon, 2016, 8 x 27 x 16′, Seattle

On a related note, back some years ago Roland Barthes in his essay The Death of the Author argued for a separation of the creativity or creative idea (or content), and its mechanical execution (or form), and art scholars later recycled this idea stating that there no original art left in terms of its content, and that the only innovative or original contribution an artist makes is related to the form. The issue of copyright and intellectual property is as poignant as ever in the arts world, and it will be interesting to see how cases like Chihuly’s are treated from the legal, ethical and social perspective moving forward.

A Painting Trip to Italy

Having survived a very eventful first half of the year that included highlights like my graduation with a Bachelor in Arts and my participation in the New York ArtExpo 2017 as well as in the SUNY Annual Art Exhibition 2017, a couple of weeks ago I headed to Florence, Italy, to join a landscape painting workshop with my fellow artists.

On arrival in Florence, all the wonderful memories of the last year immediately hit me because I painted so many lovely landscapes here last year, many of which were selected for the SUNY exhibition a couple of months ago:

As I hoped, this trip has been equally prolific in terms of advancing my painting skills and creating a variety of new oil landscapes, but this time the trip was more than that. Suddenly I realized how important it is to use all of our senses – to feel the sun warming our skin, to stop for a few seconds to listen to the wind and to cicadas in the evening, to listen out for the lovely local shepherd dog barking in the distance not out of boredom but out of happiness…

Florence is a perfect place for letting go of the everyday treadmill of life, getting off it for a while, and to just feel, see, hear, taste, and touch. This has changed my perception of the landscapes I was painting, which has hopefully translated in my art:

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting a number of wonderful places, for example, the Lars Thorsen’s studio in Florence and meeting this incredible sculptor there, as well as visiting the Villa Reale in Monza, the Palazzo del Bargello in Florence, and the sculptor and painter training studios at the Florence Academy of Art – what a treat!

My husband Paul helped throughout in spirit and hands-on, and now we are packing and heading back to Milan, and then from there to visit our dear friends Angelika and Ernst in Switzerland, to enjoy the wonderful views of the magnificent Lake Maggiore and to paint some more landscapes there!

Last but not least:

  • Saatchi Art have listed two of my paintings, The Bill Cunningham Corner and The Dreamer (both exhibited at the New York ArtExpo 2017):  https://www.saatchiart.com/laurenstrock
  • FineArtAmerica are now using my artworks to create lovely customised gifts: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/lauren-strock.html
  • I now have an Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/laurenstrock/
  • I have a dedicated Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/laurenstrockart/

Thank you all for all your support and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, listen to the rustling of leaves, watch the clouds in the sky, and touch the rain when it runs down your umbrella for inspiration!

Receiving my BA in Arts

This week was a very special week as my family and friends attended my Graduation Ceremony at the Lincoln Center. The long anticipated event was even better than I expected and my university, SUNY, did a great job selecting the venue, decorating it, choosing suitable speakers, and awarding the degrees – I was very proud and moved at the same time.
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After four years of hard work, attending lectures, working through heaps of very diverse study material, participating in workshops, figuring out how VLE works and learning the lingua franca of my degree, as well as meeting amazing professors and tutors and establishing great friendships with my fellow students, I was awarded a BA in Arts, and had a great sense of achievement and satisfaction sharing this moment with my family who arrived from so many different cities and countries to celebrate with me – as close as New York and San Diego, and as far as Italy and Vietnam!
I genuinely feel that my experience of studying towards my degree not only transformed my artistic perspective and vantage point, but also enriched my every day life – and also it was very challenging at times to persevere, I am very glad I did.
Now I am looking forward to heading to Italy in just a few days, for another insightful workshop with Andrew and the rest of our peripatetic ‘gang’ of artists joining us this summer, and with my husband Paul joining me on the trip, I will no doubt return to New York in July with many new paintings, ideas, impressions, and interests!
Thank you all for your ongoing support, and I will update you from Italy soon!