The Frick Collection, New York

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In the Sculpture Garden at The Frick Collection

It has been a while since I’ve had any art on the blog! Visiting The Frick Collection was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to New York. The collection is located on Fifth Avenue, across the road from Central Park, in the mansion of industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919). The collection opened to the public in 1935 and visiting it is a wonderful experience, as it is still designed to look like the Fricks’ home. It is a Gilded Age mansion, and the richly decorated interior complements the artworks perfectly. Objects from the silver collection and the decorative arts collection are also  on display, giving a sense of the domestic life of this mansion. There are no cordons or barriers, making for a very intimate and very relaxed atmosphere. The fact photographs cannot be taken (except in the Sculpture Garden) also adds to this sense of calm. I think it also encourages visitors to look at the paintings and enjoy the experience of seeing the works in person.

The museum is small enough, which really gives the visitor the chance to enjoy the works on display, and it is easy to cover the collection in a single visit, unlike some of the larger art institutions in New York! The Boucher room is beautifully laid out, with works on the theme of the Arts and Sciences – they have such subjects as Painting and Sculpture, Poetry and Music and Architecture and Chemistry. The paintings are oil on canvas, but appear like wall paintings. In another room there are four beautiful paintings by Boucher depicting the seasons. He uses a woman as an allegory to represent each season, winter wears a cloak and a muffler and is seated in a sleigh. As well as wonderful 18th century paintings like these, the collection features much 18th century French furniture. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of paintings and sculptures with decorative arts throughout the museum.

Among the Impressionist works on display is La Promenade by Renoir. Visually similar to Les Parapluies, this work depicts a governess out walking with two young girls. Renoir’s light feathery brushwork is distinctive in one of his many depictions of the Parisian bourgeoisie. Another Impressionist work I enjoyed seeing was Degas’ The Rehearsal. One of the artist’s many depictions of dancers this painting shows a group of ballerinas practising, with a violinist playing in the foreground.

The Sculpture Garden in the centre of the Frick is beautiful; the statuary, fountain and greenery making a very calm space. In this garden, and really in the Frick in general, it is easy to forget you are in such a busy city!

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Seeing the three Vermeers in The Frick Collection was definitely a highlight of my visit. Mistress and Maid (the last painting purchased by Henry Clay Frick) reminds me of Woman Writing a Letter with Her Maid, the Vermeer in the National Gallery of Ireland. Letter writing is a frequent theme in Vermeer’s work, and indeed in Dutch genre scenes of this era. This work also shows Vermeer’s fascination with light – in the reflections captured in pearls, glass and silverware. There is also an ambiguity so often found in Vermeer’s work, as we wonder about the contents of the letter.  Officer and Laughing Girl  also features subtle storytelling. It seems that the girl is entertaining a suitor, and the map on the wall hints to the officer’s profession and his travels. The setting is familiar from other works – it is Vermeer’s studio. Having written an essay on Girl Interrupted at Her Music, I was delighted to see it in person. The theme of music is also prominent in Vermeer’s work, featuring in 12 of his paintings. There are many interpretations of this painting – the man may be the girl’s music teacher, or her suitor ready to partake in a duet with her. However, the empty chair and the way the girl gazes out of the painting could suggest that she is waiting for someone to arrive.

I would highly recommend a visit to the Frick Collection. With its opulent interiors, fascinating collection and very calm atmosphere, it has been one of my favourite galleries. Find out more about the collection here.

 

 

 

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

MOMA was the first art gallery I visited on my trip to New York. We took advantage of the UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, which gives visitors free entry to MOMA between 4.00 and 8.00pm. Of course this meant it was very busy, but that added to the atmosphere and I feel I got to see the works on display well, and enjoy them.

The collection is very impressive, and includes works by Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, to name but a few! Below are some of my favourite works from the collection.

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night (1889)

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night (1889)

This was the painting I was most looking forward to seeing on my trip to New York, and it was definitely the highlight of my visit to MOMA. There was quite a crowd around this painting, but I managed to get to the front and spent a while admiring Van Gogh’s brushwork. It was amazing to see this familiar artwork in person, to see how richly textured the paint is in some places, while in other parts of the painting the canvas is still visible. The sense of movement created by the swirling brushwork makes this a powerful and expressive image. Seeing this painting in person was a very emotional experience, and I was quite moved.

Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat, Evening, Honfleur (1886)

I enjoy Georges Seurat’s pointillist technique, and I loved that it was used here not only for the painting but for the frame too! The application of tiny dots gives the painting an interesting, shimmering technique from afar, the dots are only visible up close. I love the technique of pointillist works, but I also enjoyed the use of colour in this work – particularly the pale sky and the pink tones in the clouds.

Pablo Picasso Desmoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Pablo Picasso Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon (1907)

Another painting with a big crowd! It was great to see this famous Picasso painting in person, especially as it has played such a pivotal role in the development of Modernist styles. A key Cubist work, it highlights the fragmentation and flattened perspective that were to become so characteristic of the movement. Picasso’s interest in African art can also be seen in the use of masks, which give an eerie atmosphere to the painting.

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Naum Gabo, Head of A Woman (c.1917-1920, after a work of 1916)

This was one of the works I spotted wandering around the gallery, and thought was very interesting. At first glance, I thought it was sculpted from paper but it is actually composed of celluloid and metal. It is displayed high up in a corner, giving the impression that this woman is looking down at the viewer.

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Frida Kahlo, Fulang-Chang and I (1937)

I greatly admire Frida Kahlo’s work, and this was the first work of hers I have seen in person. I love the intensity of her self-portraits, and how distinctive her style is. I feel her self-portraits are very striking and unusual, and give a real sense of her inner life. There was a quote from the artist on the information panel that I feel sums up her work very well: “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” The frame was also very unusual, it was made some years after the painting, from glass which was then painted.

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Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl (1963)

Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein’s works and their use of Ben Day dots are a familiar part of pop culture. I was surprised by the large scale of this work, but not by the melodramatic subject matter! This is an early work, and is based on imagery from a DC Comic. This use of popular imagery increased the appeal of his work. He not only sourced subject matter from comics and advertisements, but also copied commercial printing techniques creating a playful style.

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Anselm Kiefer, Wooden Room (1972)

This large scale work caught my eye in one of the galleries for its masterful rendering of the texture of the wood. The unusual medium – charcoal on burlap – also added to its tactile appeal. The ‘wooden room’ is the artist’s attic studio, and this added to the interest of the work for me as it is such a personal and creative space. This, combined with the high level of skill evident in the work, made it very memorable and engaging.

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Edward Ruscha, OOF (1962)

I enjoyed this work because it is good fun, something Ruscha has acknowledged when speaking about his work at this time: “I was interested in monosyllabic word sounds that seemed to have a certain comedic value to them.” It was another work that I just came across in the gallery – but it is certainly one that makes an impact!

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Andy Warhol, Campell’s Soup Cans (1962)

It was really interesting to see two works by the famous Pop Artist Andy Warhol. The Campbell soup cans are so iconic and recognisable that it was strange to see them in person. Created using screen printing techniques, they offer a critique of advertising and commercialism. There are 32 canvases, each depicting a different soup flavour.

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Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962)

Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe is also on show, playing on the popularity of the star and how often her image has been reproduced. He creates her likeness in a Pop Art style, against a gold background.

Mark Rothko, No.3/No.13 (1949)

Mark Rothko, No.3/No.13 (1949)

Mark Rothko’s work makes striking use of colour, and the large scale gives an enveloping effect. It is one of many works the artist created using these hazy rectangular bands of colour. The softened edges of the different blocks of colour gives an effect of blending or blurring.

This is only a small selection of the works on display at MOMA. It is a very interesting and varied collection, well worth a visit!

Bookshops of New York!

I am just back from a fantastic holiday in New York, where I had a lot of fun adventures. I will be posting soon about the wonderful art galleries I saw there, but first here is a little bit about the bookshops I visited!

The Strand Bookstore (http://www.strandbooks.com/)

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18 miles of books! Established in 1927, this bookshop is a haven for book lovers, packed with new and old books and much more! What an amazing shop…there are many towering shelves, packed with books. It is also the setting of the wonderful YA novel Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I could spend hours browsing the shelves – and there is a huge selection of art books too!

I managed to resist buying all the wonderful books in The Strand, but I am delighted with my new owl tote bag – can’t wait to use it.

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Books of Wonder (http://www.booksofwonder.com/)

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Books of Wonder has an excellent selection of children’s and YA books, but what I loved most was the exhibition of illustration. It is a fascinating selection – with prints by artists such as Oliver Jeffers, Chris van Allsburg and Steve Light, works based on the Wizard of Oz, some fantastic illustrations of the Narnia books and much more! It is an enchanting exhibition – and they have so many great books to browse too.

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I bought Dangerous by Shannon Hale in Books of Wonder. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I have read a lot of Shannon Hale’s other books and really enjoyed them. Goose Girl is one of my favourite books, and I am looking forward to reading Dangerous – it seems quite different from her other work. Expect a review soon!

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I would highly recommend both of these shops to any bookworms in or visiting New York City!

 

Barcelona Art & Architecture

I recently travelled to Barcelona for a few days with two very wonderful friends, who put up with my ravings about Gaudí and Picasso and all the other amazing works of art the city had to offer. This is a round-up of the attractions I visited, there are many more I hope to see on another trip to this beautiful city!

Sagrada Familia – Antoni Gaudí

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The Sagrada Familia is arguably Barcelona’s most iconic building. Begun in 1883 by Gaudí, an architect whose modern buildings are among the best of what Barcelona has to offer, it is estimated that it will be completed in 2026 or 2028. Work was going on when I was in the church, which was an interesting experience. Before I visited, I was unsure about the idea of completing the church, rather than leaving it at the stage Gaudí had brought it to. My experience there made it clear that Gaudí intended the work to be continued by the next generations of sculptors, architects and artists, and I am excited to see the church when it is finished.

Lizards on the side of the church

Lizards on the side of the church

You may have to queue up a while for this one (I waited 50 minutes) but it is well worth it, as is getting the audio guide. But when you’re waiting outside, take a good look at the exterior. It’s wonderfully detailed. I spotted some snakes and lizards on the side, as well as some star-shaped openings, horseshoes and organic mouldings. There’s so much to see! But of course there’s also the spires, and the richly sculpted facades. So far the Nativity facade is complete, and work is continuing on the Passion facade. What really surprised me, was that the main facade (the Glory facade) hasn’t even been started yet! Judging by what’s already there, it should be stunning.

Presently, you enter the church through the Passion portal. The sloping columns and blocky sculpture are really modern, as are the metal doors by Josep M Subirachs which are decorated with the gospels of St Mark and John in blocky letters, reminiscent of a printing press, telling of Jesus’ last days.

Passion facade, with angular sculptures

Passion facade, with angular sculptures

The stained glass inside is really luminious, the colours are dazzling. Gaudí was very specific about the light, and how important it was that it be just right. Too much or too little light would blind the viewer. At the Passion entrance, the stained glass windows have themes of water and light. Joan Vila Grau was responsible for the windows, closely following Gaudí’s instructions.

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The columns are really interesting, they’re like tree trunks that then branch out into a ceiling which is like a cover of leaves. The columns are encrusted with medallions, of glass and gems, some with evangelist symbols. The medallions are like knots in the trees.

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The Nativity facade is more traditional in terms of sculpture, not as blocky as the Passion facade. This is more naturalistic, but also extremely rich and symbolic. It is packed with sculpture – I loved the figure playing the harp, who can be seen on the right of the image below.

Sculpture on the Nativity facade

Sculpture on the Nativity facade

I’m so glad I went into this building, it was absolutely stunning. I’m definitely going back to see it when it’s completed!

Park Guell – Antoni Gaudí

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This is a great place to spend the day, wander around and relax in the sun. It’s free in, and there are many exciting things to see. The main entrance is flanked by buildings that have been described as ‘gingerbread pavilions’, and they really are like something out of a fairytale.

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Up the sweeping staircase is the market or the Hall of 100 Columns (which actually has 86 columns). Inspired by classical temple architecture, it uses an abstracted version of the Doric. The ceiling is beautifully decorated with shimmering medallions. Also – there are great views from the roof, and a lovely bench (see below).

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The frieze is really interesting – I love the teardrop shapes. These water droplets echo the function of the columns in collecting rainwater.

Loved the details of this abstracted frieze!

Loved the details of this abstracted frieze!

There’s a cave, with wonderful bugnated columns, and this caryathid. This is the only human figure in the sculpture in the Park.

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The Park Guell has many examples of Gaudí’s trencadis or mosaic technique – including the famous dragon, another iconic aspect of his work. The long serpentine bench on the roof of the market has lots of colourful mosaics, and again some great views.

A bit of mosaic that reminds me of Ireland!

A bit of mosaic that reminds me of Ireland!

With Gaudí's famous dragon at the Park Guell

With Gaudí’s famous dragon at the Park Guell

Casa Batló – Antoni Gaudí

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I didn’t get into this house, but the exterior is amazing. It is designed to look like a dragon, echoing the legend of St George (the city’s patron saint). Take a look at the windows in the picture here, the columns are like bones. And the surface of the walls are beautiful, they shine like scales.

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Picasso Museum

This was really interesting as it houses a lot of Picasso’s early work. It was fascinating to see how his work developed, from studies in art school, to the influences of movements such as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, to the consolidation of his own style. I was surprised to see a Pointillist influence in a few of the works, and overall I really enjoyed my visit. There was plenty to see, and lots of great information panels. A really interesting insight into the development of one of the most recognisable artistic styles.

Postcards from the Picasso Museum

Postcards from the Picasso Museum

Barcelona Pavlion – Mies van der Rohe

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I studied this building during my first year of college, so I was really excited to see it in person! What I love about this building is the materials and the continuity. The lines are really crisp, and the colours inside are amazing. The cruciform piloti (columns) are also really interesting, as is the open plan and the minimalist structure.

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I really enjoyed my visit, there were lots of students sketching and I got talking to some architects from Hong Kong. There was a real sense of wonder and enjoyment, it’s a very special building and as the pictures show the bright day enhanced the experience. The glass allows a lot of light in, and the onyx and marble really gleamed.

Calder Sculpture (outside the Fundacio de Joan Miró)

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I didn’t go in to the Miró museum, but I did spot this great Calder sculpture outside! His work is quite distinctive, but I was still proud of myself for recognising it. There is a Calder sculpture on the campus of the university I attend (Trinity College Dublin) , and I have also seen his sculpture (and his mobiles) at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. Has anyone else spotted his sculptures? I’d love to see more, I love the curving lines, and the bright colours, and how recognisable they are.

It was a great trip; plenty of art, architecture and sun. Barcelona is a fascinating city, and one I would definitely recommend visiting!