6.29.2014

MODIGLIANI PORTRAITS IN THE DALE COLLECTION

Like Andrew Mellon, Chester Dale made his millions as a banker and on the New York Stock Exchange. His wife, Maud, who was a painter and art critic, introduced Chester to the idea of collecting modern art. They built the bulk of their collection rather quickly, putting the majority of their collection together between 1926 and 1933. In 1929 alone they purchased an astonishing 130 paintings. The Dales collected an amazing number of paintings by their favorites artists: 17 by Renoir; 15 by Picasso; 25 by Toulouse-Lautrec; 11 by Monet; and 21 by Modigliani.

Once the National Gallery opened in 1941, the Dales began to lend and donate paintings to the museum. When Chester Dale died in 1962, he bequeathed the remainder of his collection to the National Gallery. The Dale collection is comprised of over 300 works, mostly modern French art. The gift nearly tripled the gallery's 19th-century French collection, but the dazzling quality of the gift was even more noteworthy than its quantity. Virtually every major artist who worked in Paris from the  mid-1800s to mid-1900s is represented.

Portraiture dominates the Dale collection, largely owing to the influence of Maud. She felt portraiture, more than any other genre of art, was a reflection not only of the artist and the sitter but also of the era in which they lived.

Maud Dale favored portraits painted by Amedeo Modigliani. She organized exhibitions featuring his work and published one of the very first monographs on the artist in 1929. The Dales eventually collected 21 of what critics considered to be the finest works by Modigliani. Thirteen of these works are now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art. Four were on display during my visit.

Nude on a Blue Cushion (1917)
Modigliani was renowned for his languorous nudes. An exhibition in 1918 in Paris was closed by the police on the grounds of obscenity.

Gypsy Woman with Baby (1919)

Madame Amédée-Woman with Cigarette (1918) 





































It is very easy to recognize a work by Modigliani. The subjects of both his paintings and sculptures feature elongated faces, necks and features.

Chaim Soutine (1917)




























































Modigliani painted several portraits of his artist friends such as Maurice Utrillo, Pablo Picasso and Chaim Soutine.

Modigliani's use of drink and drugs contributed to his early death at age 35 in Paris of tubercular meningitis.

I will continue to show more of the spectacular Dale collection in my next blog post.

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets along Constitution Avenue.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Open Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Open Sunday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25 and January 1. 
All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.

6.24.2014

THANK YOU JOSEPH STALIN???

Now I know that Joseph Stalin was not the most likable person in world history. However lovers of the National Gallery of Art should give thanks to him for ordering the sale of over 250 masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum in 1930 and 1931. The Russians needed American currency to finance their industrialization, so Stalin ordered the Hermitage to sell some of the museum's most important paintings, some of which had belonged to both Czar Nicholas I and Catherine II, empress of Russia.  Andrew Mellon took advantage of this amazing opportunity to purchase 21 of the world's greatest masterpieces for nearly $7,000,000. These paintings became part of the collection that Mellon donated to the museum as his founding gift. How ironic that Andrew Mellon, the archcapitalist, would purchase paintings from the archcommunist, Joseph Stalin.

Several of those paintings are part of the museum's superb Italian collection:
The Alba Madonna (1510) by Raphael
St. George and the Dragon (1510) by Raphael


































By purchasing these two Raphael paintings, the Alba Madonna for $1,700,000 (surpassing the price he paid for  the Niccoli-Cowper Raphael) and the St. George and the Dragon for $745,000, Mellon became the only American to have purchased three Raphael paintings.  

Venus with a Mirror (1555) by Titian
























Titian made the depiction of the female nude his quintessential subject. Some 15 copies and variations of this painting are known, either by him or his assistants, but this canvas is by Titian’s hand alone. However, for some reason he painted this portrait over another completed painting.  

The Adoration of the Magi (1478/1482) by Botticelli



















Like Titian and his Venus paintings, Italian Renaissance painter Botticelli painted several versions of the theme of the Adoration of the Magi. This version was probably painted in Rome because Botticelli was there at the request of Pope Sixtus IV to fresco part of the Sistine Chapel, along with other leading Florentine masters of the day.

The Finding of Moses (1570/1575) by Veronese
























Along with Titian and Tintoretto, Veronese was one of the great trio that dominated Venetian painting in late 16th-century Renaissance. He was known for his large biblical paintings, commissioned for monasteries and churches in Venice and Verona, plus he was the leading painter of fresco ceilings in Venice including in the Doge's Palace. 

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets along Constitution Avenue.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Open Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Open Sunday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25 and January 1. 
All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.

6.21.2014

A CHANGE IN PURCHASING STRATEGY

During Andrew Mellon's visits to London in the mid-1920s with the famous art dealer, Joseph Duveen, they would frequently visit the National Gallery in London, a state-funded art gallery that was free to the public. It is probable that during these visits Duveen pointed out to Mellon that the United States did not have a national art gallery. So it is in the winter of 1927-1928 that Andrew Mellon began to seriously plan his creation of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. This is when Mellon's art purchasing strategy totally changes. He would no longer purchase English and Dutch portraits and landscapes to decorate his personal homes; he would now purchase European Old Masters, Italian Renaissance paintings and religious paintings to complete a great collection that would become his founding gift to the museum.

Niccolini-Cowper Madonna (1508) by Raphael




































In 1928 Mellon purchased through Duveen this exquisite Raphael (so-called for its former owners, the Niccolini family and the Earls of Cowper) for over $836,000, which at that time was the most ever spent for a painting. It is the first purchase Mellon made after his decision to create a national gallery. Raphael was considered the most highly-esteemed artist for rich American collectors at the time.

In 1930-1931 an astonishing opportunity would present itself  to Mellon which would allow him the opportunity to purchase 21 of the world's greatest masterpieces that would become the core of the collection that began the National Gallery of Art. I will write about that amazing story in my next post. 

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets along Constitution Avenue.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Open Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Open Sunday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25 and January 1. 
All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.

6.10.2014

A FEW REMAINING DUTCH MASTERPIECES

It seems as if the Dutch collection at the National Gallery of Art is never ending.

In this masterpiece, purchased by Andrew Mellon in 1921, and given to the museum as part of his founding gift, Rembrandt portrays Lucretia in utter anguish, right before her act of suicide.

Lucretia (1664) by Rembrandt van Rijn



























The painting below is unusual in that the costume is executed in a manner quite different from the face; whereas the facial features are modeled with delicate nuance, the costume is hinted at with a variety of bold techniques. Rembrandt’s portraits generally do not show such markedly different techniques in the face and the costume. This and other stylistic considerations are sufficient to remove the painting from Rembrandt's own oeuvre, but instead consider it painted by one of his students.

Portrait of Rembrandt (1650) by Rembrandt workshop




























Jan Lievens is among the most fascinating, but least known Dutch artists of 17th-century Leiden and Amsterdam. He was a child prodigy, creating outstanding paintings before the age of 12. Many of his paintings have been attributed to his colleague Rembrandt which may explain why Lievens has not received the same acclaim now as he did during his own lifetime.

Bearded Man with a Beret (1630) by Jan Lievens
















































Below is yet another privately-owned painting gratefully on loan to the museum. Jan Lievens was born in 1607 which means he was only 22 or 23 years old when he did these two paintings.
 
Self-Portrait (1629-1630) by Jan Lievens
























 


As the most important of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, the name given to Dutch painters who traveled to Italy to study Caravaggio's chiaroscuro technique, ter Brugghen was instrumental in bringing the Italian artist’s style back to the Netherlands. This painting was another work that was restituted back to its original pre-WWII owners in 2008. The purchase of this painting by the museum in 2009 was a highlight since became the first Caravaggisti painting in the museum's permanent collection.
 
Bagpipe Player (1624) by Hendrick ter Brugghen
























NOTE: The museum's website recently launched their NGA Online Editions, beginning with Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century by Gallery curator of Northern Baroque paintings Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. NGA Online Editions will ultimately document more than 5,000 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts in the nation's collection. Check out more at: 

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/online-editions.html

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets along Constitution Avenue.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Open Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Open Sunday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25 and January 1. 
All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.

6.06.2014

DUTCH STILL LIFES AND GENRE PAINTINGS

17th century Dutch genre paintings show individuals in scenes of everyday life such as letter writing, eating, drinking, or making music.

Pieter de Hooch, the most highly regarded genre painter of all, excelled in the depiction of people going about their daily lives, be it inside their houses or in urban courtyards. His use of light and color in interior scenes has been compared to the work of Johannes Vermeer, his Delft colleague.

The National Gallery of Art has two of his paintings:

A Dutch Courtyard (1660) by Pieter de Hooch


































The Bedroom (1660) by Pieter de Hooch



























































During the nine years he spent in Haarlem, Jan Steen created many of his greatest paintings, including a number of large, complex scenes of families and merrymakers that contained lessons in morality.

 The Dancing Couple (1663) by Jan Steen


















































Despite the ongoing merriment in the painting above, Steen used subtle references such as cut flowers and broken eggshells to warn the viewer about the transience of sensual pleasures.

The Prayer Before the Meal (1660) by Jan Steen
 

































The Jan Steen painting above is actually privately owned. In 2012, this painting was sold for over $9,000,000 as part of the Old Master paintings sale from the private collection at England's Sudeley Castle. At the time it was considered one of the finest paintings from the Dutch Golden Age remaining in private hands. Thank you to the buyer who lent it to the National Gallery for the public to see.

Banquet Piece with Mince Pie (1635) by Willem Claesz Heda
































When the National Gallery purchased this still life painting at auction in 1991, the curators thought the painting may have been cut because of the close proximity of the oyster to the left edge of the painting. After receiving the painting the curator decided to take the painting out of the frame to check to see if the painting had been cut and surprisingly discovered not only had the painting not been cut, but it had also never been relined. This is a rarity in a painting this old.

Three other Dutch still lifes:

Still Life with Fruit (1675) by Jacob van Walscapelle



































Although there is little known about his career, Jacob van Walscapelle was an accomplished still life painter. This painting measures just 16 inches by 14 inches, but it shows an elaborate composition that is usually found in larger still life paintings.

Van Walscapelle’s abundant still lifes reflect the influence of Jan Davidsz de Heem, who is considered one of the greatest Dutch still life painters. De Heem’s compositions were even more complex with large compositions of bouquets and garlands of flowers, baskets of fruit, and various motifs such as glasses, insects, and drapery.
 
The painting below is another privately-owned painting on loan to the gallery. Thank you to all private collectors for allowing the public to see the beautiful paintings you own when you lend them to public museums.

Still Life with Fruit,Oysters and Wine (1655) by Jan Davidsz de Heem

Little is known about Adriaen Coorte except that he created about one hundred paintings between 1683 and 1707. In contrast to De Heem’s elaborate compositions, Coorte's paintings were small and simply composed.

Still Life with Aspargus and Red Currants (1696) by Adriaen Coorte








































































I have one more blog post with a few remaining paintings from the Dutch collection.

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets along Constitution Avenue.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Open Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Open Sunday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25 and January 1. 
All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.