Sunday, April 11, 2010

Three exhibitions at the National Gallery

When the Interval meeting ended it was about 10pm in St. Petersburg but only 2pm in DC. I decided to go to the National Gallery where I knew there were two exhibitions I was interested in. The NGA is open until 6pm on Sundays which makes Sunday a perfect day to go there if you work Mon-Fri.
I first went to see The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700, the exhibition that
showcase[s] major paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Francisco Pacheco, with painted and gilded sculptures carved by Gregorio Fernández, Juan Martínez Montañés, and Pedro de Mena, among others. The exhibition […] reveal[s] the dynamic and intricate relationship between two-dimensional pictures on canvas and painted sculptures. Many of the sculptures have never been exhibited away from the Spanish churches, convents, and monasteries where they continue to be venerated and to inspire the faithful.

Gregorio Fernández (1576–1636)
and unknown painter
Ecce Homo
before 1621
painted wood, glass, and cloth
Museo Diocesano y Catedralicio, Valladolid
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC
Juan Martínez Montañés (1568–1649)
and Francisco Pacheco (1564–1644)
Saint Francis Borgia
c. 1624
painted wood and cloth stiffened with glue size
Church of the Anunciación, Seville University
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC
Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
Saint Serapion
oil on canvas
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut,
The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

I then walked from the East Building where the Spanish exhibition was located to the West Building to see Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age.
In the first exhibition devoted to Dutch landscape artist Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634), scenes of skating, sleigh rides, and outdoor games on frozen canals and waterways bring to life the lively pastimes and day-to-day bustle of the Golden Age. Displayed in the intimate Dutch Cabinet Galleries, some 14 paintings and 16 drawings capture the harsh winters of the period and the activities they made possible. Avercamp—the first artist to specialize in painting winter landscapes that feature people enjoying themselves on the ice—made the “ice scene” a genre in its own right. Within these winter scenes is a social narrative as well: unencumbered by status, all classes formed one community on the ice. Avercamp was also an outstanding draftsman who made individual figure studies that he utilized not only in his painted work but also in compositional drawings.

A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle
c. 1608–1609
oil on panel
The National Gallery, London
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Colf Players on the Ice
c. 1625
oil on panel
Mrs. Edward Speelman
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A Winter Scene
c. 1610–1620
oil on panel
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Whenever I go to the National Gallery I always pay homage to two paintings: Rembrandt's Self Portrait and Dalí's Last Supper. The Rembrandt is at the Gallery 48, right next to the Dutch Cabinet Galleries where the Avercamp exhibition is installed. Sometimes the painting is away, on loan to another museum, but fortunately this time it was there. I always feel a sense of a family member missing whenever this portrait is traveling.
I then headed downstairs to the Concourse between the West and the East Buildings, turned to the little corner by the elevator where I expected to see the Dalí and was stunned to find an empty wall there. I went back to the Information at the West Building and was told that the painting has been moved to the Mezzanine level at the East Building, by the huge elevator there. I turned back and finally found the The Sacrament of the Last Supper … hanging just opposite to the entrance to The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700 exhibition where I had started today!

There was still about an hour before closing. I checked the list of exhibitions and took the Concourse back to the East Building to see From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection on the first floor. What a surprise this was! In my ignorance I had no idea that a vast majority of my favorite 20th century artworks at the National Gallery have come from the Chester Dale's collection.
Diego Rivera
Chester Dale, 1945
oil on canvas
Chester Dale Collection
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Chester Dale's magnificent bequest to the National Gallery of Art in 1962 included a generous endowment as well as one of America's most important collections of French painting from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This special exhibition, the first in 45 years to explore the extraordinary legacy left to the nation by this passionate collector, features some 83 of his finest French and American paintings.

Among the masterpieces on view are Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's Forest of Fontainebleau (1834), Auguste Renoir's A Girl with a Watering Can (1876), Mary Cassatt's Boating Party (1893/1894), Edouard Manet's Old Musician (1862), Pablo Picasso's Family of Saltimbanques (1905), and George Bellows' Blue Morning (1909). Other artists represented include Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and Claude Monet.

Dale was an astute businessman who made his fortune on Wall Street in the bond market. He thrived on forging deals and translated much of this energy and talent into his art collecting. He served on the board of the National Gallery of Art from 1943 and as president from 1955 until his death in 1962. Portraits of Dale by Salvador Dalí and Diego Rivera are included in the show, along with portraits of Dale's wife Maud (who greatly influenced his interest in art) painted by George Bellows and Fernand Léger.
My jaw dropped to the floor and remained there as I was walking from room to room to room filled by my favorite masterpieces. And get this: that Dalí painting that I had just gone to see? It was none other than Chester Dale who urged Dalí to create The Sacrament of the Last Supper, which he later purchased and bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art!!! Isn't it fascinating how everything has tied together at my visit to the museum today?
Chester Dale and Salvador Dalí at the preview of The Sacrament of the Last Supper
on Easter weekend

March 30, 1956
National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

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