Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Henry Ossawa Tanner: the Boundary Breaker

Recently, an artist's retrospect broke all opening night attendance records at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. That artist was Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937).

Tanner was the child of African Methodist Church Bishop Benjamin Tanner and the former slave Sarah Tanner, came North via the Underground Railroad.

By age 13, Tanner was completely smitten with the idea of becoming an artist. His father could not discourage him of the idea. His talent was such that at age 19, he was accepted to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (Right: Tanner's bust of his father.)

Tanner was well regarded by his teachers for his skills. However, this slight somewhat frail black man suffered immeasurably from other students as the only African-American. In his words:

I was extremely timid and to be made to feel that I was not wanted, ... caused me sometimes weeks of pain. Every time any one of these disagreeable incidents came into my mind, my heart sank, and I was anew tortured by the thought of what I had endured, almost as much as the incident itself.

In spite of all the cruelty directed at Tanner, he completed his studies and gained a reputation as an exceptional painter, photographer and sculptor. It should have been enough, but this was after the Civil War and the Supreme Court's "separate but equal" ruling.

Tanner was frustrated at being described as a "Negro painter." Even when sympathetic patrons arranged an exhibit for him, he could not sell his art. Tanner decided to go abroad to further his training.

Being a man of courage and fortitude, Tanner raised the money to go to Paris. There, he studied the Masters and flourished as an artist. Europeans did not confuse his talent with his race. Tanner was able to create and thrive in that environment.

Today as the history of brave and determined blacks is noted during Black History Month, let's give a shout out to this extraordinary pioneer.

Here are some of his paintings: (click image to enlarge)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eve Arnold, Marilyn Monroe and Iconic Images

When photographer Eve Arnold (1912-2012) died at age 99, she left a legacy of iconic images of postwar 20th century. Quoting her obit in the New York Times, Arnold photographed "images of subjects as diverse as Marilyn Monroe and migratory potato pickers." Diverse indeed.

In the golden era of photojournalism reflected by magazines such as LIFE and LOOK, Arnold was a star photographer. Arnold gained the trust of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich. This sense of trust allowed Arnold to photograph them at their most relaxed.

Ms. Arnold's life was filled with kudos. She wrote several pictorial books of her photographic experiences, received world-wide recognition and even received the OBE (Order of the British Empire).

Below are some of her iconic images. Do you recognize any of them?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jewels, Furnishings and Furniture at the Orsay

This is the third and final blog in the Musee d'Orsay series. We've shared a trip to the museum, a look at the visual arts and now it's the "Decorative Arts."

The collection covers 60 years of some of the most innovative times for furniture, furnishings, ceramics, glass and jewels. It spans from Neoclassicism to Industrial (Arts & Crafts) to Art Nouveau.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Art at Orsay, Paris

Last week's blog was about the wonderful Musee d' Orsay. I wrote that this week would be about the art. Instead of lots of text and a few examples of the art, here is an art feast for your eyes.

REALISM:(L-R): Amaury-Duval (1808-1885);Ingres,(1780-1867); Courbet,(1819-1877)

IMPRESSIONISM: (L-R):Degas, (1834-1917) ;Morisot, (1841-1895) ; Sisley,(1839-1899)

POST-IMPRESSIONISM: (L-R): Signac, (1863-1935); Cezanne, (1839-1906); Van Gogh, (1853-1890) ;

NATURALISM-SYMBOLISM: (L-R): Mondrian, (1872-1944) ; Homer, (1836-1910) ; Vuillard, (1868-1940)

I'd like to add two of my favorites that I visited each time I went:

Jan Toorop (1858-1928)
Desire and satisfaction , 1893
Pastel on two sheets of beige paper pasted on cardboard
I was drawn to the Art Nouveau style of the Crucifixion

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer (1865-1963)
The Woman with the Mysterious Medallion, 1896
Pastel on Paper
I looked everywhere for a reproduction showing the actual colors, but no luck. Actually, her bonnet is a dark blue and the background is turquoise. I stared at it because of the gorgeous colors and for being one of the most refined portraits I've ever seen in pastel.

Your thoughts on this week's blog?

(Next Week: Decorative Arts at Orsay - beautiful jewelry, furniture and furnishings. PLUS winner of the "Name the Art" contest. Don't miss it! )