Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A taste for modernism: The relationship of a painter, his canvas and the outside world

Henri Matisse / Woman With a Vail
(Oil on canvas, 1927)

"The essence of painting is the expression of certain relationships between the painter and the outside world, and a picture is an intimate association of these relationships with the limited surface that contains them."

~ José Victoriano González-Pérez, better known as Juan Gris, early 20th century Spanish painter and sculptor.

Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of visiting "A Taste For Modernism," an exhibit of more than 60 paintings, drawings and sculptures from the William S. Paley Collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that is currently on display at the deYoung Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park through December 30, 2012.

The CBS media titan, who was a patron of the New York City arts scene and a devoted philanthropist, amassed an impressive collection of modern art during his lifetime (1901-1990) that dotted the walls of his tony Fifth Avenue mansion. It included paintings, sculptures and drawings from the late 19th century to the early 1970s.

Paul Cézanne / Milk Can and Apples
(Oil and canvas, 1879-80)

The "A Taste For Modernism" exhibit of avant-garde masters of the French Post-Impressionism and Modernism period included artwork by Matisse, Picasso, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Among the featured works in the exhibit were Gauguin's The Seed of the Areoi (1892), which is an important female nude from Gauguin's first trip to Tahiti; Cézanne's Milk Can and Apples (1879-80); Degas' pastel Two Dancers (1905); Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse (1905-06); and Matisse's masterpiece Woman With a Veil (1927).

In his review about "A Taste For Modernism," San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker wrote that it "really is more about one collector's quite sophisticated taste in art than a capsule survey of a period or tendency." I agree with Baker's assessment. However, this exhibit made a good first impression on me ~ Matisse and Picasso always draw my attention ~ and, on this particular chilly autumn evening, it was time well spent.

For further information:

Photographs of the paintings "A Woman With a Veil" and "Milk Can and Apples" by Michael Dickens, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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