Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Heads Up or Should I Say, Heads East?

 March 13 - 21, 2015
GuanyinSong Dynasty (960-1279),
Wood, traces of polychromy and gilding
Ht: 52 3/4 in.(134 cm) 
Gisèle Croës s.a., Brussels, Belgium
Photo Studio Roger Asselberghs - Frédéric Dehaen
Photo:  Asia Week New York Web site

From March 13 - 21, 2015 New York will be filled with Asian artworks in what is the seventh edition of Asia Week New York.  Hundreds of collectors, curators and art enthusiasts from all over the globe come to view the myriad of artworks showcased at New York's annual event. This year's participants include more than forty dealers, five auction houses and over twenty museums and institutions. 

Portrait of Emperor Farrukhsiyar (r.1713-19),
Mughal India, circa 1715,
opaque watercolor with gold on paper
Folio: 17 3/4 by 12 3/4 in. (45 by 32.5 cm)
Painting: 7 5/8 by 4 3/4 in.  (19.5 by 12 cm) 
Photo:  Asia Week New York Web site

Gallerists, from Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland, and the United States present specialized shows of Asian art from China, India, the Himalayas, Southeast Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, and Korea.  Lectures, symposiums, discussions, tours and even family activities round out the week-long happening.  

Sitatapatra, Central Tibet, eighteenth century,
mercury gilding, 19.9 in. (50.5 cm)
Photo:  Asia Week New York Web site

Whether you're interested in statuary, paintings, ceramics, jewelry or contemporary art, there is something for you.  For those unfamiliar with Eastern wares, the exhibits offer what amounts to a graduate-level course in Asian art.   

Gandhara head of Buddha, c. 2nd. century AD, 
grey schist,  H: 9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm)
Galerie Christophe Hioco, Paris, France
Photo:   Asia Week New York Web site

This coming weekend, March 14 - 15, is Asia Week's "Open House Weekend."  Galleries will be open and many will have refreshments on hand.  In addition, the Japanese Art Dealers Association (JADA) organizes a collaborative exhibition on view for only three days, March 14 - 16, at the Ukrainian Institute of America.   

Visitors will find dealers as well as seasoned Asian aficionados friendly and eager to impart knowledge.  Those new to this art and those in the know will  be equally enlightened.  

Minjung Kim, Pieno di vuoto, 2005
mixed media on rice paper,
59.1 x 82.7 in. (150 x 210 cm),
Photo:   Asia Week New York Web site

Much buying and selling takes place during the week.  Many objects enter private collections, never again to be on public display.  So now is the time to see them.  Go to the Asia Week New York 's Web site. There's an excellent map and calendar of events to help plan your visit. Who knows, you may start your own collection.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coypel's Tapestries: Don Quixote Transformed

Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory (French)
under the direction of Michel Audran (French, 1701−1771)
and his son Jean Audran fils (French, d. 1794)
Main scene after Charles Coypel (French, 1694–1752);
alentours after Claude Audran III (French, 1658−1734),
Jean-Baptiste Belin de Fontenay fils (French, 1668−1730),
and Alexandre-François Desportes (French, 1661−1743) 
Don Quixote Delivered from Folly by Wisdom, 1773,
 wool and silk; modern cotton support straps and lining
12 ft. 2 in. x 12 ft. 8 in. (370.8 x 386.1 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (82.DD.66)
Photo:  The Frick Collection Press Image

Want to feel regal?  Step into the Frick Collection's Oval Gallery where three wall-size tapestries are beautifully installed.  Products of the Gobelins Royal Manufactory, makers of the French king's furnishings, these colorful artworks along with paintings, prints, books and two other tapestries made in Brussels are part of the exhibition Coypel's Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France.  

The story of these sumptuous hangings begins in 1714 when the artist Charles Coypel was asked to create scenes for a Gobelins tapestry series based on seventeenth-century Cervantes's Spanish novel Don Quixote. The book had been an immediate success quickly becoming popular throughout Europe, particularly in France.

Charles Coypel (French 1694 - 1752), The Distressed Countess Trifald, 
Afflicted by Her Beard, Implores Don Quixote to Avenge Her,
probably 1716, oil on canvas,
48 3/8 x 51 in. (123 x 130 cm),
long-term loan from the Musée du Louvre, Paris (3575)
Photo:  © RMC-Grand Palais/ Art Resource, NY

For the commission, Coypel created twenty-eight paintings, called cartoons, used as full-scale models for the weaving.  Five of these are in the show.  The cartoons gave weavers the size, figuration, settings and coloration of each tapestry's central scene.  Compared to the tapestry's total area, the Don Quixote scenes are quite small.  The painter had to create forceful imagery that would hold its own against their elaborate surrounds. Copley succeeded and the Don Quixote tapestries based on his designs became the most repeated Gobelins series of the eighteenth century.  Over 200 panels were woven.*  

The exhibit's placement of tapestries next to cartoons highlight the different visual impact each medium makes.  The paintings appear flat with figures enacting in a shallow space while the woven scenes have more three-dimensionality and depth.   In fact, the Coypel models resemble stage sets with some scenes framed by theater-like curtains with characters looking directly out of the picture plane to an implied audience beyond. 

By the time Coypel began to work on the Gobelins project, the errant-knight's tales had been transformed into many plays, operas and ballets.  The artist himself had written two plays with ballet about the knight.  Keeping this in mind, that his tapestry designs resemble theatrical scenarios is not surprising.  Such settings would have been recognizable to the public and, possibly, added to the series success. There is a certain comfort level looking at things one is acquainted with. 

Charles Coypel (French 1694 - 1752), 
Don Quixote at Don Antonio Moreno's Ball,
1731, oil on canvas,
65 3/8 x 105 1/8 in. (166 x 268 cm),
long-term loan from the Musée du Louvre, Paris (3566)
Photo:  © RMC-Grand Palais/ Art Resource, NY

The tapestry's decorative border, called an alentour, could be modified while the work's central image remained unchanged.  The variability gave the tapestry makers enormous flexibility.  Orders could accommodate a patron's wishes by changing the surrounds. The size could be made bigger or smaller to fit into a specific location; the style could evolve to reflect up-to-date taste; and, accessories could be amended.  Indeed, the borders were refashioned six times during the eighteenth century.  The golden yellow background of earlier tapestries, for example, was replaced by a crimson color in 1760 when the Gobelins Manufactory created this hue which simulated rose damask wall coverings.   The earlier works were filled with references to classical art in a light, delicate curvilinear Rococo manner.**  In contrast, the later Gobelins panels like those in the exhibit here have a strong sense of  weight, robustness and materiality.

With dazzling trompe-l'oeil effects, and an abundance of flowers, animals, birds and more, these tapestries practically burst off the wall. Their complex layering challenges perception -  distinguishing what comes before what both confounds and delights.

Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory (French)
under the direction of Michel Audran (French, 1701−1771)
and his son Jean Audran fils (French, d. 1794)
Main scene after Charles Coypel (French, 1694–1752);
alentours after Claude Audran III (French, 1658−1734),
Jean-Baptiste Belin de Fontenay fils (French, 1668−1730),
and Alexandre-François Desportes (French, 1661−1743) 
Sancho Arrives on the Island of Barataria, 1772,
 wool and silk; modern cotton support straps and lining
12 ft. 1 in. x 13 ft. 7 in. (368 x 414 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (82.DD.68) 
Photo:  The Frick Collection Press Image

A word about technique:  Almost all the tapestries from the set were woven on what is called high-warp looms.***  In this method, the cartoon was hung behind the weavers and loom.  Weavers  reproduced what they saw in a mirror facing them which reflected the cartoon's image. The result was a woven scene which did not reverse the initial design.  The high-warp process was slower, more labor intensive and costlier, upward of two-thirds more, than low-warp weaving.  The procedure resulted in tapestries of very fine quality.  Most importantly, the full-scale model could be exactly copied.   

What was produced was enormously expensive.  Tapestries were more costly than master paintings and other fine arts.  Only the very rich could afford them and as such, they were seen by few.  Yet Coypel's Don Quixote tapestry scenes came to dominate all eighteenth-century illustrations of the novel.  

 Louis Surugue père (French, 1686–1762)
after Charles Coypel (French, 1694–1752)
Don Quixote, Led by Folly, Sets Out from His Home to 
Become a Knight Errant1723–24, engraving
Plate:  15 5/8 x 12/ 3/8 in. (32.1 x 31.4 cm),
The Hispanic Society of America, New York (LQ 1679)
Photo:  George Koelle

This came about through the circulation of prints, an affordable art form, available to a large audience.  For artists, prints, black-and-white engravings, were a source of income and a means to international fame.****  Between 1723 and 1734, Coypel had 25 of his 28 Don Quixote cartoons engraved by the best print makers in France. Thousands of prints based on Coypel's designs were sold.

Pierre Tanjé (French, 1706–1761)
after an engraving by Marie-Magdeleine Horthemels (French, 1687–1774)
made ca. 1723−24 after Charles Coypel (French, 1694–1752)
The Entrance of Love and Treasure at the Wedding of Camacho,
Plate 13 of De voornaamste gevallen van den 
wonderlyken Don Quichot (The Hague:  Pieter de Hondt, 1746)
Plate:  8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (21.6 x 16.5 cm),
Photo:  George Koelle

In reduced form, these prints were used to illustrate eighteenth-century editions of the Cervantes's novel.  Published not only in French but also in English and Dutch, book images were re-engravings of the original Coypel prints.  As such, we are dealing with original paintings transformed into prints by a particular engraver then transformed again into smaller plates by another engraver.  This is why the first printed sheets may reverse the original design but the book images based on the reversed designs would revert back to the original paintings's orientation.  Think about it.

Workshop of Peter van den Hecke (Flemish, 1680–1752)
after Philippe de Hondt (Flemish, 1683–1741)
Arrival of the Shepherdesses at the Wedding of Camacho
1730-45 (before 1748), wool and silk, 
10 ft. 3 in. x 18 ft. 3 in.  (313 x 555.2 cm),
The Frick Collection, New York (1965.10.20)
Photo:  Michael Bodycomb

Coypel's Don Quixote designs would once again be transformed back into tapestries.  His engravings became a source for other woven works. Between 1730 - 45, the Brussel's tapestry workshop of Peter van den Hecke completed a series of eight Don Quixote panels. Six were derived from Coypel's designs. Two from the Brussel tapestry set belong to the Frick and are displayed in the museum's East Gallery along with the exhibit's eighteen prints and books.  The  Frick's works are rarely on view due to space constraints.  Their appearance adds to the specialness of this exceptional exhibition. 

These tapestries are quite different from the Gobelins series.  Scenes are spread out across the whole woven surface.  Borders are simple:  an imitation of a carved and gilded frame. Background landscapes are relatively large and evoke the manner of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. 

The Flemish artist did not reproduce out right Coypel's designs. Figurations or elements of different Coypel prints were combined and used in a variety of scenes.  For example, in the Arrival of the Shepherdesses at the Wedding of Camacho, the central female dances and wedding guests derive from Coypel's scene of the same name but the seated figure of Don Quixote on the right and Sancho on the left are quotes from Coypel's The Entrance of Love and Treasure at the Wedding of Camacho.  

The Van den Heckes tapestries were very much admired abroad. Even the French court acquired seven of the series including the two Frick panels.  This was at the same time the court was ordering Gobelins manufactured Don Quixote panels.  The French royalty seemed to have had a prodigious desire to acquire woven hangings. They wanted them, of course, to adorn their palatial residences as well as for impressive gifts to other royals and nobles.*****

With the the Frick's tapestries, the exhibit returns to its beginnings - from paintings, to tapestries, to engravings, to book illustrations and back again to tapestries.  Along the way, the wondrous tales of Cervantes's man from La Mancha are transmitted and transformed.  

Visitors may judge for themselves how Coypel captured the essence of the errant-knight.  The exhibition catalogue includes the novel's stories corresponding to the artist's designs.  Copies are available in the galleries.

Make a visit to the Frick.

*The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection includes one of Coypel's Gobelins Don Quixote tapestry, The Memorable Judgement of Sancho Panza, 1752-54, wool and silk,  147 x 189 in. (373.4 x 480.1 cm), accession number: 52.215.  Currently, not on view.  Tapestry weavings were signficantly used as diplomatic gifts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Coypel Goebelin Don Quixote tapestry has been identified as part of an expensive Gobelins set given to the Grand Chancellor of Russia during the Seven Years' War in the hope of encouraging Russia to side with the French.  The Chancellor also received a large some of money (250,000 livres) called a "loan."  His Gobelins pieces had included four hangings, six smaller panels, sofa and armchairs and screens.  The total payment to the Gobelins Manufactury was 31,810 livres which was about a third what the material cost.  This was just a book keeping payment from one French royal department to another.  The king could pay what he wanted and often owed workers their salaries.  

**The alentour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Coypel Goebelin Don Quixote tapestry has a golden yellow background.  See below for a sample comparison of two border fashions:

Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory (French)
under the direction of Michel Audran (French, 1701−1771)
Main scene after Charles Coypel (French, 1694–1752);
alentours after Pierre-Josse Perrot (French, act. 1724 - 1735)
Don Quixote Guided by Folly1756 - 1757
wool and silk,
11 ft. 10 in. x 10 ft. 6 in. (360.7 x 320 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia
Photo:  Artstor

Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory (French)
Main scene after Charles Coypel (French, 1694–1752);
Don Quixote Guided by Folly Setting Forth to be a Knight-Errant1780 - 1783
wool and silk,
12 ft. 2 in. x 11 ft. 8 in. (370.8 x 355.6 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photo:  Artstor

Research limitations prevent complete label information for above illustrations.

***With high-warp looms, weavers could easily see how the work was progressing by stepping in front of the loom.  Weavers using low-warp looms could not see the front view of the weaving unless they went under the loom.  Furthermore, the cartoons were reproduced in reverse. By the second half of the eighteenth-century, a mechanism was invented to improve the ability of low-warp weavers to view their work in progress. In addition, a new procedure ensured the tapestry scene would be identical to the cartoon.  This greatly enhanced the quality of low-warp woven work.  The Don Quixote tapestries utilized the low-warp looms only in their seventh weaving.

****The revenue from print sales was important to artists.  Coypel's compensation for the tapestry paintings had not amounted to much considering what other artists involved in the tapestry design earned.  Coypel was paid 200 livres for each of the first set's cartoons while Jean-Baptiste Belin de Fontenay, one of the border designers, received 1100.  Lowly but highly skilled weavers earned, of course, far less - from 7 to 15 livres a week.   

*****Given the state of the French royal finances in the mid-eighteenth century, the Gobelins Manufactury welcomed private outside orders.  After the end of the Seven Year's War in 1763, the English swarmed to France.  The sixth Earl of Coventry was among the English visitors.  He had come with a purpose to buy furniture, tapestries and other wares for his country seat Croome Court in Worcestershire, England.  The Gobelin tapestries decorating the walls and the furniture of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Croome Court room are the outcome of the Earl's visit.  A further note:  when the Earl of Coventry visited the Gobelins factory, he may very well have seen some Don Quixote tapestries in various stages of completion on the looms.  These would have had the new crimson background of the surrounds and could have been the inspiration for the Croome Court color scheme.  The Duke of Richmond had already purchased a Don Quixote panel with the crimson ground the same year as the Earl's French visit.  The influence is conjecture but possible. 

Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries: 
Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France
February 25, 2015 to May 17, 2015
1 East 70th Street, Manhattan

Tuesday through Saturday, 
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Closed Mondays and holidays

Don Quixote Night 
Friday, May 1, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
A special free program of talks, performances, readings and after-hours viewing of 
Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France
Visitors will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Reservations not accepted.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Late and Great:

Exhibitions Highlight Late-in-Life Creativity
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), The Jewish Bride, c. 1665 - 1669,
oil on canvas, 47.8 × 65.6 in. (121.5 × 166.5 cm)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Photo:  Wikipedia Web site

Recent exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic highlight the artist as a creative force in old age.  Works by Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Moroni, Picasso, Matisse and even Egon Schiele drive home the idea that the so-called declining years, from old age or illness, may produce a wealth of originality.  

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), Self Portrait, 1669, 
oil on canvas, 25.8 x 23.7 in. (65.4 x 60.2 cm),
Mauritshuis, The Hague 
Photo:  Mauritshuis Web site

The National Gallery's exhibition Rembrandt: The Late Works includes some forty paintings, twenty drawings and thirty prints dating from the early 1650s until the artist's death in 1669.  The show provides convincing evidence that Rembrandt may be unsurpassed in late-in-life artistic exploration and inventiveness.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
The Conspiracy of the Batavians Under Claudius Civilis, Claudius Civilis
c. 1661 - 2, oil on canvas, 10.1 x 6.4 ft. (309 x 196 cm),

Subject matter is catholic encompassing biblical and mythological scenes and figures, officials, family, friends and colleagues, self-portraits as well as landscapes, animals and current events.  The cornucopia of scenarios convey Rembrandt's skills in depicting anything from close intimacy to imposing grandeur. 

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
A Young Woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels)
c. 1654, brush and brown wash with some white bodycolour;
ruled framing lines in pen and brown ink on paper,
9.7 x 8 in. (24.6 x 20.3 cm), 
chain lines vertical, .95/.98 in. (2.4/2.5 cm) apart
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
Photo:  The British Museum Web site

A case in point is the artist's drawing of a woman curled up in sleep. With few brush strokes varying in ink, the artist captures a private moment of what is thought to be his common-law wife, Hendrickje Stoffels.  The brevity and  virtuosity of  lines recall Eastern calligraphy.
Small but impactful, the image exemplifies Rembrandt's confidence and economy of means.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
The Entombmentc. 1654,  first state of four
etching on "Chinese" paper, 
8.3 x 6.3 in. (21 x 16 cm), 
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
Photo:  The British Museum Web site

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 - 1669), 
The Entombmentc. 1654,  third state of four
etching and drypoint on Japanese paper, 
8.2 x 6.4  in. (20.7 x 16.2 cm), 
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
Photo:  The British Museum Web site

Prints in their various states demonstrate Rembrandt's bold experimentation. Etched and drypoint lines, ink modulations and use of different papers produced impressions of exceptional individuality. 

From the begginning to the end,  show demonstrates the artist's continued creativity.  It is a must see for anyone interested in art. 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851), The Visit to the Tomb
exhibited 1850, oil on canvas, 
36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm), 
Tate, London
Photo:  Tate Web site

The EY Exhibition:  Late Turner - Paintings Set Free concentrates on J. M. W. Turner's works from the mid-1830s until his death in 1851 at the age of 76.  Many of the work border on total abstraction and set the stage for much later art.  His last four paintings, The Visit to the Tomb among them, are visionary experiences.  Their vigorous inventiveness belies the fact that they were made by an aged artist whose health was faltering.  

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851), The Blue Rigi, Sunrise
1842, water colour
11.7 x 17.7 in. (29.7 x 45 cm), 
Tate, London
Photo:  Tate Web site

The watercolours, displayed along side the paintings, rival the oils in creativity and innovation.  Often combined with pen and pencil, the they capture in pure colors the dazzling display of light at different times of day.  Turner's originality extended to his marketing methods.   He created "sample" watercolours which he presented to collectors for possible commissions into more expansive works.  

For those who can not see the show, the Tate's online catalog is an excellent visual source with some 41,862 Turner entries. (on the Tate Web site, click on "Find art, artists and archival material").   Take a look.

John Constable (1776 - 1837), The Leaping Horse (full scale study), ca. 1825,
oil on canvas, 4.2 x 6.2 ft. (129 x 188 cm),
Photo:  Victoria and Albert Museum Web site

The Victoria and Albert Museum's show, Constable: The Making of a Master, makes a good case for John Constable in the Turner versus Constable discussion.  Although long overshadowed by the popularity of his colleague, Constable may now come into his own.  Rooted in capturing an exact moment of time, committed to an honest rendering of reality, he may be the more influential artist of the two.  

His full-size oil sketches such as The Leaping Horse, are full of raw energy.  Exuberant brushstrokes and thick layers of paint yield a variety of textures and a sense of immediacy.  

Constable's oil sketches were initially reworked into a tidy final version. Later in life, however, his finished works retained the wildness of the preliminary oils.  

John Constable (1776 - 1837), Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, 1831,
oil on canvas, 5 x 6.3 ft. (153.7 x 192 cm),
Tate, London
Photo:  Tate Web site

Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows, one of Constable's most highly regarded paintings,  is a tour de force of unrestrained brushstrokes.  This was the artist's last rendering of the great Salisbury Cathedral, a subject which had occupied him throughout his life. 

Although the mood of the painting is overall threatening as some tempest is about to take place, the painterly technique is one of self-assured freedom.  Note the clouds and the handling of paint about the rainbow. Flicks of white pigment illuminate the sky and highlight the stream indicating the presence of sun off to the right.  On the left, the storm dominates with darkness and flashes of lightning.  For an enlarged view of some of the painting's details,  go to the National Museum Wales Web site.  (On the National Museum Wales's Web site, click on "Explore," "Art," then in the search box type in Salisbury Cathedral From the Meadows 1831.  Click on view page for this painting.  Scroll down to "Explore the Painting" and click on links.)

Constable's paintings such as these, bring to mind the landscapes of the British artists David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.  The work of Anselm Kiefer and Lucien Freud also seem to look back to Constable.  In fact, the exhibit makes this point.  Freud's etching after Constable's elm oil study is included in the show.  

Seek out Constable where you can and his connection to modernity will certainly be evident.

Giovanni Battista Moroni (c. 1520/24 - 1579), Portrait of a Young Lady, c. 1575,
oil on canvas,  20.1 x 16.5 (51 x 42 cm)
Private Collection
Photo:  The Guardian Web site

The Royal Academy of Arts exhibition of Giovanni Battista Moroni paintings marks the first survey of this artists work to take place in the United Kingdom.  The show of over forty works includes religious themed paintings and the supurb naturalistic portraits by which the artist is known.  

Those unacquainted with Moroni are in for a treat.  This sixteenth-century Italian painter renders his sitters with such intense characterization, their physical existence is palpable.  Clothing, jewelry, coiffures and accessories are represented with jewel-like splendor combining Venetian coloristic artistry with in down-to-earth realism. No less than Titian admired him as Moroni's biographer Carlo Ridolfi recorded. 

Giovanni Battista Moroni (c. 1520/24 - 1579), 
Portrait of an Elderly Man seated with a Book
c. 1575 - 79, oil on canvas,  38.6 x 31..5 (98 x 80 cm)
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy
Photo:  Royal Academy of Arts, Web site

Works completed near the end of Moroni's life such as Portrait of an Elderly Man Seated with a BookAccademia Carrara, Bergamo, affirm the artist's continued competence in humanistic portrayals. The thesis of considerable creativity in what is defined as old age holds here too.  

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Squatting Female Nude, 1910,
black chalk, gouache, opaque white on paper, 16.4  x 12.2 in. (41.7 x 31 cm),
Photo:  The Guardian Web site

Two shows, one in London and one in New York, illustrate how Egon Schiele continued to provoke up to his death.  The exhibition Egon Schiele:  The Radical Nude at The Courtauld Gallery, London, is particularly notable.  Thirty-eight outstanding drawings and watercolours from museums and private collections make clear the artist's exceptional abilities to transform line and color into revolutionary tools of human expression.  

Schiele, who died at age 28 in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, may be seen as an artist cut off in youthful vigor or as someone whose artistry was compressed in a few years.   

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Two Women Embracing, 1915,
pencil, watercolour, gouache on paper, 19.1 x 12.9 in. (48.5 x 32.7 cm),
Photo:  Museum of Fine Arts Web site

His direct depictions of sexuality and expressive representational style broke with contemporary conventions.  With bold foreshortening, unusual perspectives and unorthodox cropping of figures, he created unique imagery.  After some 100 years, Schiele's work continues to disconcert.  Try to catch the London show.

Three more exhibitions in New York add more support.  One, at the Museum of Modern Art, focusses on Matisse's cut-outs, an art form he created in the late 1940s and continued to work with into his last years.  Two shows, at the Gagosian Gallery and the Pace Gallery, focus on Picasso. The first addresses the artist's involvement with the camera - his experimentations with the medium and artwork relating to it.  The second is a two-part gallery exhibit of Picasso's late work created when he was with his second wife and muse Jacqueline Roque.  

These end-of-year exhibitions illustrate that an artist's prowess, originality and explorations may never wan or cease until, of course, the end.  Think about it.

Rembrandt:  The Late Works*
15 October 2014 - 18 January 2015

The EY Exhibition:
Late Turner -
Paintings Set Free
10 September 2014 – 25 January 2015
Tate Britain, London

Constable:  The Making of a Master
20 September 2014 - 11 January 2015.

Giovanni Battista Moroni
25 October 2014 - 25 January 2015

Egon Schiele:
The Radical Nude
23 October 2014 - 18 January 2015

Egon Schiele:  Portraits
October 9, 2014 - January 19, 2015
Neue Galerie, New York

Picasso and the Camera
October 28, 2014 - January 3, 2015
Gagosian Gallery, New York

Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style
October 31, 2014 - January 10, 2015
Pace Gallery, New York

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
October 12, 2014 - February 10, 2015

*Rembrandt:  The Late Works exhibition will be at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, February 12 2015 to May 17 2015.